Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO user review

Thought I would right a short review of my recent experience with the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO on a recent trip to Costa Rica.

I rented it from lensrentals.com and cant recommend those guys highly enough. Rented 3 or 4 lenses from them this year and the process is absolutely flawless. Received the lens on the Friday and had it for 10 days which cost around $160 inc postage and insurance (which included a 15% discount). I also rented the 1.4 TC but actually found not much use for it on this particular trip so I won’t be covering that here.

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Size & weight

At 880g it is definitely one of the largest native lenses for m43 and attached to my Olympus EM5 (mark 1) it makes quite a weighty bit of kit! If I am honest, it felt fine on a trip like this but on a purely practical level it is one lens that feels a little like it negates some of the benefits of size and weight that makes m43 so appealing. In fairness though, if you consider that coupling this with the EM5 plus battery grip you actually get a fairly unique setup for this type of trip which for me, justifies the weight. One thing I was acutely aware of was how much rain we might get in Costa Rica in October and I was not wrong. The EM5 plus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO was a perfect solution based on the options I had available to me as it gives you a weather-sealed body and lens which was perfect as I could use it in the rain and not worry too much about it damaging either the camera or lens.

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Image quality

I loved the sharpness and colors of the images you get with this lens. Particularly with shots where subject separation is desired. In Costa Rica there were numerous chances to capture all sorts of animals and insects. The snake above was a personal favorite. I cant remember exactly the type of snake but it was only about a foot long and apparently would poo on you as a defense mechanism which I would say is one of the less scary snakes you will come across. To get that shot I waited patiently for it to stick its tongue out and captured a few of them. The green background of the jungle below gives it a nice contrast.

I have previously used the likes of the 75mm 1.8 and the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8 Elmarit and I love the rendering of both those lenses (the Elmarit has something really nice about it that is hard to quantify) and I would say this would be pretty close to equal to the quality of either of those. The downside obviously being the weight and the upside being the flexible focal length which proved invaluable in a place where the animals move quickly and are often at very different distances.

Below are a series of White-headed Capuchin monkeys. There was a load of them as we walked through the national part in Manuel Antonio and they were pretty inquisitive, which made them very easy to capture.

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White-headed Capuchin

I also sometimes like using longer focal lengths for landscapes as they can provide quite an interesting look and feel, making a scene appear more compressed than it would with a wide angle. The below was taken on a boat transfer across the Arenal Lake on our way up into the Cloud Forrest.

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Low light

On one night during our stay in Monteverde we went on a night hike. That is definitely one of those things that you sign up for thinking “that sounds like fun”… but then when you are actually traipsing through the forest in absolute darkness with rain coming down you may question that decision! But in reality it was actually a lot of fun. Plus you are with a guide who you are perhaps too reliant on to make sure nothing untowards happens.

On the hike we saw a number of animals and insects. We did see some sloths from a pretty solid distance but none of those pics were particularly exciting so I will leave them out. The EM5 coupled with the 40-150mm f2.8 worked really well all things considered. I have always found around ISO 1600 is around the limit for me in low light. Above that and the grain starts to get a bit obtrusive. So the below were all shot around ISO 1000 or thereabouts. This lens is perfect for these types of things as they give you a fair bit of reach but also a very reasonable minimum focus distance so you can get some great detail shots. Below are a few of a couple of tarantula and another strange insect that I cant recall its name.

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Fast action

Below is a shot of a hummingbird feeding. I should say that on this day it was pouring with rain and there was hardly any light. If you combine that with the speed of a hummingbird you have yourself a bit of a challenging situation!! But I got a couple of passable pics when cropped. Not my finest, but passable online. I would say the biggest issue with this type of thing is the contrast detect AF vs phase. The other component that makes these things difficult with the EM5 is the evf blackout between shots which makes tracking that little bit harder. So overall, I think most people know that super fast action is still not quite the forte of contrast detect m43 compared with phase detect on something like my Nikon Df. But with a but of patience its entirely workable.

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In case you weren’t already aware, hummingbirds move IMPRESSIVELY QUICKLY!

Manual focus clutch

A good thing to be aware of when you buy this lens is the manual focus clutch mechanism that allows you to quickly switch to MF. The reason I say it is important as it is surprisingly easy to knock it into MF without realizing and if you are new to the lens you actually think the AF may have failed on you!! I did exactly this on our first day out. I tried everything I could think of to try and work out why AF wasn’t working, even sticking it on my girlfriends GX1 with the same issue. I then contacted Lensrentals to ask for advice and they were quite to respond with the clutch most likely being the cause of the problem. Considering I do have the 12-50 which has a similar method to switch between the ways of zooming and macro mode I should have thought of that… but i didn’t.

On a lighter note – top tip

If you ever find yourself in Manuel Antonio National Park and a guide tells you to be careful of your possessions whilst on the beach. And there guidance is not because of humans, but Raccoons! Apparently you shouldn’t take any food into the park if you intend to leave your bag unattended. Below shows what happens if you do happen to leave your stuff… the Raccoons WILL take it. 🙂 They were very clever and would literally just walk off with peoples stuff as they chased after them. Mildly amusing when it’s not you it’s happening to.

Conclusion

Overall I was quite impressed with the end results from the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO. Whilst it does significantly increase the weight of your gear, the focal length and constant aperture make it a worthwhile investment. I would however caveat that in my case where I was happy to rent it for this particular occasion but at its current price around $1300 I won’t be buying one purely because for that money, I wouldn’t get enough use out of it. But I continue to believe m43 is a wonderful compromise and really enjoyed using this alongside my Nikon Df with 24-85mm for the more wide stuff. The two complimented each other nicely and it would have been a very different story if I had tried to bring along an equivalent weather-sealed lens for the Df!

Below are a few more of the better photos from the trip with this lens. Enjoy and if you have any questions, let me know!

 

 

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