Traditionally, a long fast telezoom with the longest reach of over 200mm (in full frame term), is something that belongs to the sports arenas or in the hands of a wildlife photographer. However, as a pro wedding photographer, I do, occasionally, need a longer lens just to compress a scene or capture something from afar.
Many professional wedding guys always lug around three main lenses, in full frame terms, 16-35mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8. These lenses form the basis of any professional setup because the range from these three lenses basically cover everything that you can ever imagine. So even we may not often use the longest end of the telezoom, it is essential to have it in our bag for that tight portrait, compressing a scene or even capturing running brides from distance.
When Olympus ditched their 4/3 DSLR range, they never bring back the legendary 35-100mm f/2 (70-200mm full frame equivalent), but instead, they bring us a even more interesting lens, a ultra zoom 40-150mm f/2.8! That's 80mm to, hang on there, 3-0-0 mm f/2.8!!! What?? Ok, we, wedding guys never use a 300mm 2.8 before, this really is a sports/wildlife territory. But this is the direct replacement to that 70-200mm range and I just have to have one in my bag.
Well, after a few reviews I've written on Olympus lenses, I am actually thinking I should even need to write this part any more. All Olympus PRO lenses have great build quality. They are all covered in metal and fully weather sealed. The only plastic bits are the lens caps and that super cool retractable hood, what an invention this is. You can basically slide it down, into the lens, during travel and simply pull forward, slide out and have a full size lens shade. You don't even need to detach or reverse mount it. This sliding mechanism is just wonderful. There's a little twist-lock to prevent it from accidentally slide down during use. Clever stuff.
But really, there isn't much to write here. Just excellent and I am sure it can withstand some abuse by professionals or careless photographer like me.
Well, when you spend a month salary to buy a lens, you will naturally expect some good thing from it. The 40-150mm does not disappoint. Image quality is excellent, super sharp across the zoom range. Vignetting is a non issue even when shooting wide open at 2.8. Any kind of aberration and distortion is very well controlled, optically.
It has very high micro contrast that resulting in super fine details to be displayed in full glory. Wildlife photographers will definitely appreciate the extra resolving power this lens delivers and it means that with proper processing, you can easily make large prints without sacrificing too much of image quality. Yet, your typical beautiful brides may not be as appreciated with the extra details on display. However, with more and more modern glass that out resolve any generic 24MP sensors and without AA filter, you won't be need a loop any more to check details.
Out of focus bokeh redenering is pleasing for a lens like this. It can act as a pretty decent portrait lens and with the extended range, you can compress a scene nicely too.
Of course, resolution is good but I am not sure if this lens has already reached its maximum resolution with the latest generation 20MP sensor. When this lens was launched a couple of years ago, all M4/3 sensors were 16MP. It remains to be seen if it can continue to perform in the future when higher resolution sensors become a reality. That said, this lens is as good as image quality goes on any M4/3 bodies. I can't fault it.
Handling and performance
Ok, first, I need to say something out loud. THIS IS THE SMALLEST 300MM 2.8 LENS IN THE WORLD!!! Ok this is in equivalent terms but still, this thing is tiny for what it is. One contributing factor is that this lens does not have any kind of optical stabilisation. It simply relies on the IBIS of Olympus and Panasonic bodies. But it works very well indeed. The fact is that there are now more IBIS M4/3 bodies in 2017 and you will not be short of choice if you are to get this lens for that reach and speed.
And because of this tiny size, it feels very natural and comfortable when used on pro M4/3 bodies like the OM-D E-M1 Mark II or smaller cameras like E-M10 II or E-M5 II with grips attached.
Focusing motor is silent and super fast. It works very well with the latest focusing system on the E-M1 II. Perhaps I am very accustomed to the traditional 70-200mm range and having a longer 300mm end seems very refreshing. Couple with the fact that this lens weights less than half of what I used to carried, it's just a godsend.
Final few words.
I am not denying it, I love this lens. It's the smallest 300mm I've ever used. True, you don't get the depth of field like a full frame at the same focal length but I can live with the trade-off by having a much smaller and lighter kit and spend my energy trekking further and higher to see the world than giving up half way up the mountain because of weight or hold the lens longer at weddings.
More over, depth of field is subjective and I don't always like that ultra 'pop out' look from a super thin depth of field look. Yes, indeed, I have gear that can do that but for majority of the time, I don't and I can say that this lens is great for my destination jobs, period. If I need bokeh, I have my full frame Leica and an adapted Canon FD 85mm 1.2 to play with!
Now, let's go and shoot some birds.