Bucking the Wisdom of the Web. Can cheap lenses be sharp? Yes, of course. Careful Dave, we're talking about those little sixteen megapixel cameras again...

I've been going back and forth about which cameras to use for a math conference. It's largely a silly self argument because I can rationalize equally well in either direction. But the one thing that was holding me back from enthusiastically embracing the Olympus EM5.2s was the fact that I sold the Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 that I used with good effect last year and I didn't replace it or get the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8. I looked around at less expensive alternatives but just about everything else has reviews that give me pause. That pull me up short. I wanted the Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 to be decent because it is affordable, lightweight and downright cute in its silver finish. 

But there were those reviews. "Okay at the lower focal lengths but quickly loses sharpness at the longer focal lengths..." Or, "Too soft at the long end..." Or, mostly, "Meh. What do you expect from a cheap lens?!"

But being a contrarian I bought one of the little zooms for $125 and decided to test it out for myself. I was pretty sure it would be fine at the shorter focal lengths but I wanted to see for myself if it turned to mush as it tromboned out toward its longest length. 

I had time to walk around today so I stuck the 40-150mm f4.0 to 5.6 onto a loitering EM5.2 body and went for a walk through downtown Austin. I stopped and shot whatever caught my eye and, of course, I shot all of it handheld. The camera focused the lens quickly. I used aperture priority to keep the lens wide open all the way through the focal length range. 

These are the images I got. The lens is quick and easy to use and balances well on the EM5 series cameras. The  images are a little flat (low contrast) but there's an easy fix for that in Lightroom. 

I think I'll keep mine. 

Look for a rebate!


Frank Grygier said...

Oly Lenses always impress.

Anonymous said...

Olympus kit lenses have always been very good no matter what you read on the internet about cheaper lenses. I would also keep it. It's just too good and probably beats a lot of more expensive lenses. Olympus makes very good lenses no matter what you pay for them. The difference in price usually shows up in built quality.

Anonymous said...

I think many of the "too soft at the long end" comments are due to negligence. Just because you have a body with IS and can get good results at higher ISOs doesn't mean it isn't a 300mm equivalent lens at the long end. I have a copy and have been very happy with the results at the long end if I.....

Use a tripod or monopod with shutter speeds below 1/200
Brace myself, camera, or lens against something solid (wall, tree, glass of the snake tank)
Don't extend the tripod center column 18" in the air in the Texas wind
Remember I'm not twenty with a rock steady anymore

Jeff in Waco

Michael Matthews said...

It'll be interesting to see how it performs without the advantage of bright daylight. I'm keeping mine, too, no matter how well yours works -- or doesn't -- indoors.

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Noons said...

I'm also on the bandwagon with this lens.
It's turned out a truly a great bargain: low price, excellent quality.
And for those times when I need a very long tele, the (very) old Canon FD 200/2.8 has proven fantastic!
Cheap on e-pay, with an FD/m43 adaptor it fits my EM5 perfectly and is incredibly sharp (and stabilized!) although a bit low in contrast. Which as you well mention, is dirt easy to correct nowadays with just about any image processing software.
Once again, m4/3 proves to have been a wise investment for me.

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Dave Jenkins said...


I had one of the Oly 40-150 lenses early on, and found to be surprisingly good. However, I eventually moved to the Panasonic 14-140-II f3.5-5.6. It's a really good walking-around lens and stays on one of my E-M5s most of the time.

Mike Marcus said...

A couple of years back I gave away my Pany 45-200 after I got and well tested a Pany 100-300 on wildlife in Africa. Subsequently, I found I really did miss the 45-100 range, so picked up a used Pany 45-150. My results with that on my EM5.1, GX1, and GX7 all compare similarly with your new Oly. I think we both made wise purchases. - Mike

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William Beebe said...

I picked mine up Christmas 2011 for $160. Here's what I thought of it at the time: http://www.thewsreviews.com/2012/01/mzuiko-digital-ed-40-150mm-f40-56-r.html

If you can get it for under $200 (and I mean reasonably so) then it's a no brainer to pick one up and just keep it around. My only gripe is the plastic lens mount. I don't care for plastic on any lens from any manufacturer.

Having said that, I think I'm heading out tomorrow with mine on my E-M10.

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Mike said...

Now you've made me dig mine back out.

Sorta related, but not: are you shooting primarily JPEGS or RAW files when you're shooting with the Olympus?

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