One of the first things I wanted when moving over to a micro four thirds system was a telephoto lens, but I didn’t want to break the bank. Fortunately, Olympus makes a great consumer telephoto, the Olympus 40-150 mm f4.0-5.6. This lens gives you a versatile focal range to play around with (80-300mm equivalent on a full frame camera) as well as being super small and extremely light. Also, and maybe most important of all, it’s CHEAP. It can be found consistently for less than $200. If you’re shooting micro four thirds, it’s a no brainer to add to your kit.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the 40-150mm attached
That said, let’s talk about what this lens is and what it isn’t. This is a plastic consumer grade lens. The build quality is as good as it can be for a plastic lens body. Zooming the lens in and out is smooth. The lens has a manual focusing ring on it as well that’s smooth and, like most micro four thirds cameras, operates via focus by wire. It has a variable aperture. This means that as you extend the lens from 40mm to 150mm, the aperture changes from f4 at 40mm to f5.6 at 150mm. Olympus actually makes a lens in the same focal range, 40-150mm, but with a constant f2.8 aperture. That means at 40mm you can shoot at f2.8 and at 150mm you can shoot at f2.8 as well. The tradeoff? Cost, size and weight. The Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 goes for $1500. The optical quality is going to be better and if you’re shooting weddings, this is your bread and butter lens. For me, I’m photographing landscapes so most of time I’m shooting between f4 and f8 on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and I value the size and portability over the constant aperture found in the more expensive model.
I generally use this lens between the ranges of 40 mm and approaching 150 mm. It definitely shines in the lower focal lengths, between 40 and 110mm, but if I need the reach I won’t hesitate to extend it fully. In this day and age of sharing on Instagram and Facebook rather than worrying about poster sized wall prints, this lens is perfect.
“Great focal range, super small, extremely light and CHEAP”
Here are some quick snapshots of the same subject at various focal lengths between 40mm and 150mm. I kept the aperture at f5.6 even at the lower end to attempt to keep all variables the same throughout the test. Since I shoot RAW, these pictures have been run through Lightroom and basic contrast, exposure, saturation and sharpening have been applied.
Here are a few real world photos with this lens. As I said, I originally bought it mostly for landscapes, but have found it to be quite capable for photographing people in a pinch (provided you have enough light).
This is one of my favorite examples of how I didn’t think I’d use this lens. The HBO show Girls was filming in my town one day. I walked over to the set with my OM-D and the Olympus 40-150. I could get fairly close but having the telephoto reach helped. In my opinion I got better shots than I saw in the local paper. This is one of the times I had no problem using the lens at its longest setting. The funny thing is, no one bothered me. Using a camera and lens combo this small makes you look like an amateur, but not shoot like one.
If this lens was double the price I’d have a much harder time recommending it so much. If you have a micro four thirds camera and this isn’t in your kit, it really should be. You can’t go wrong having a little bit of reach and you can literally put this lens in your jacket pocket while you’re out for a walk. Would I love to have the more expensive version that Panasonic or Olympus makes? Sure. Maybe one of these days I’ll get one. But, I know if I do, I’ll always think back on how much I loved this tiny, cheap and light lens.
Do you have the Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens? Do you love it as much as I do? Do you think it doesn’t live up to its hype? Let me know in the comments!
If you enjoyed this review or it helped you out in any way, please consider supporting this website by using my Amazon links throughout the article or listed below to purchase equipment that was mentioned. Like I’ve said at the throughout this review, if you’re shooting micro four thirds and don’t have this lens already, it’s a no brainer!