The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 ($599.99 direct) is an all-in-one zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras. Its 10.7x zoom range covers an impressive 28-300mm (35mm equivalent) field of view, and its aperture only narrows by one f-stop as you zoom. Many lenses of this type are plagued by distortion and sharpness issues, but this one manages to keep distortion to a reasonable level, and aside from some issues with the edges at longer focal lengths, is impressively sharp. It’s not a lens for low-light shooting, but if you’re looking for a walkaround lens to use in good light, it’s a solid option.
The lens measures 3.3 by 2.5 inches, weighs 9.9 ounces, and features a 58mm filter thread. It telescopes as you zoom, doubling in length by the time you get to 150mm, but the front element doesn’t rotate so using a polarizing filter is possible. Aside from the wide zoom ring and narrower manual focus ring, there are no physical controls on the barrel. There’s also no image stabilization, which isn’t an issue for Olympus shooters as its Micro Four Thirds lineup includes that feature in the camera itself. But if you use a Panasonic camera, you’ll want to go with a stabilized lens.
I used Imatest to see how well the lens performed when paired with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. The results were impressive, when you factor in the ambitious zoom range. At 14mm f/4 the lens bettered the 1,800 lines per picture height we require for an image to be called sharp. It manages 2,400 lines using a center-weighted test, and the extreme edges of the frame are just a hair soft at 1,627 lines. Barrel distortion here is the worst you’ll see, but it’s only 2.2 percent. That’s noticeable, but it’s not as bad as we’ve seen from other zooms, and it’s fairly easy to correct in software if you’d like to remove the slight curve from your photos.
Zooming to 25mm narrows the maximum aperture to f/4.5, but the lens is plenty sharp wide open. It notches 2,466 lines using our center-weighted test, with edges that top 2,100 lines. At 45mm the aperture narrows to f/5.4, and the edge performance drops off just a bit. It manages 2,308 lines across the frame, with edges that hover around 1,625 lines. This is the first tested focal length where we saw an improvement in sharpness by narrowing the aperture. At 45mm f/8 the lens tops 2,500 lines, with edges that record 2,150 lines.
Edge performance becomes an issue by the time you hit 70mm f/5.4. The average sharpness score is still good at 1,985 lines, but the very edges of the frame only manage 856 lines. Stopping down to f/8 offers only marginal improvement. That trend continues at 90mm f/5.5—the lens manages 1,884 lines, but the edges are only about half as sharp.
Things get a little better at 150mm. We see an average score of 1,893 lines across the frame, with edges that are noticeably soft—1,224 lines. Stopping down to f/8 is a good idea here. That improves the average score to 2,087 lines, with edges that score 1,425 lines. Distortion isn’t an issue once you zoom, it’s less than 0.5 percent from 25mm all the way through 150mm.
Zoom lenses that are as ambitious as the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 often show compromises in image quality. It’s the trade-off you make for the convenience of not having to change lenses. This one does an impressive job of minimizing those compromises. Edge sharpness is an issue at longer focal lengths, but distortion is kept to a minimum and the aperture only narrows by one stop from its widest angle to its telephoto extreme. The f/4-5.6 design isn’t the best for low-light shooting, but if you’re in the market for a zoom for travel, outdoor adventures, or other activities where you don’t want to keep changing lenses, this is a good one.
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