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Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 14-150mm f/4-5.6 Lens Review

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Amin Sabet, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    The new Olympus M. ZD 14-150mm f/4-5.6 lens joins the Panasonic Lumix 14-140mm f/4-5.8 as the second "superzoom" lens for the Micro Four Thirds system. The new Olympus covers the wide angle to super telephoto range, extending a bit longer than the Panasonic for a 28-300mm equivalent range in 35mm frame terms.

    The first thing I noticed when unboxing the Olympus lens was that there was no hood included. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm for Olympus Micro 4/3 lenses. Fortunately, this lens seems to be resistant to flare.

    The second thing which struck me was how small and light the Olympus superzoom is. It's a significant reduction in both respects from the Panasonic superzoom. Here are the two lenses side-by-side:

    P1060441.

    P1060442.

    The Olympus lens is roughly 40% lighter than the Panasonic (280gm vs 460gm). At current street prices, it's about 20% less expensive ($600 for the Olympus versus $760 for the Panasonic).

    The other significant difference in specifications between the Olympus and Panasonic superzooms is that the Olympus lens lacks in-lens image stabilization. The Olympus bodies offer in-body image stabilization, so it was not necessary to incorporate stabilization technology in this lens which has been designed for use on digital Pen bodies.

    The build quality of the Olympus lens seems very good. There is no significant barrel wobble when extended (the lens nearly doubles in length when zoomed). The focus ring is smooth. The zoom ring offers consistent resistance throughout the zoom range, and there is no zoom creep.

    Focus is quiet and fast (much faster than the Olympus 14-42 and comparable in AF speed to the Panasonic 14-140).

    Uncorrected, both the Olympus 14-150 and the Panasonic 14-140 have quite a bit of barrel distortion at 14mm. Fortunately, the distortion for both lenses is automatically corrected for in-camera JPEGs as well as by most of the popular RAW converters. You are unlikely to encounter this distortion unless you go looking for it.

    Color fringing is another story. The lateral chromatic aberration of the Olympus lens is not automatically corrected in-camera, nor is it automatically addressed by most RAW processing applications. In contrast, color fringing is automatically addressed when using the Panasonic lens on a Panasonic body, both for in-camera JPEGs as well as for RAW files processed in applications which support those corrections (eg, Lightroom).

    For the following 100% crop comparisons, I used an Olympus E-PL1 body and Adobe Lightroom 3.2RC. Thus, the color fringing for both lenses has been left uncorrected (due to use of an Olympus body), and the distortion has been corrected.

    We'll start with 14mm and f/4, center crop:

    Picture-1.

    Left upper corner:
    Picture-2.

    Right upper corner:
    Picture-3.

    Right lower corner:
    Picture-4.

    Left lower corner:
    Picture-5.


    14mm f/5.6:

    Picture-6.

    Picture-7.

    Picture-8.

    Picture-9.

    Picture-10.


    14mm f/8:

    Picture-11.

    Picture-12.

    Picture-13.

    Picture-14.

    Picture-15.


    ~50mm f/5.6, center crop:

    Picture-16.

    Left upper corner:
    Picture-17.

    Right upper corner:
    Picture-18.

    Right lower corner:
    Picture-19.

    Left lower corner:
    Picture-20.


    ~50mm f/8:

    Picture-21.

    Picture-22.

    Picture-23.

    Picture-24.

    Picture-25.


    ~140mm ~f/5.6, center crop:

    Picture-26.

    Left upper corner:
    Picture-27.

    Lower portion, left of center:
    Picture-28.

    Top:
    Picture-29.

    Right lower corner:
    Picture-30.


    ~140mm ~f/8:

    Picture-31.

    Picture-32.

    Picture-33.

    Picture-34.

    Picture-35.

    Overall conclusions of sharpness comparison:

    • The two lenses are close in overall performance.
    • The Olympus extreme corners are overall less sharp at 14mm.
    • Lateral CA is an issue for both lenses.
    • Sharpness is similar for the two lenses at 50mm and 140mm, with slight lens decentering issues giving the edge to the Olympus on the left side of the frame and the Panasonic on the right side of the frame.
    • Neither lens delivers high performance in the periphery of the frame at 140mm.
    Neither lens suffers from a great deal of light falloff (data not shown).

    Here are some bokeh comparisons of resized images made at ~140mm:

    Picture-36.

    Picture-37.


    In use, I've found the Olympus lens to be plenty sharp with pleasing bokeh. Here are resized photos of my wife and son using this lens wide open (f/5.6) at full tele (150mm):

    4886755878_416aeb0752_b.

    4886153459_da38da30f1_b.

    In the center, this lens is at least sharp enough wide open to show every bump and hair on my son's nose (100% crop):

    4891932888_52cee8e1d2_o.


    I recently took just this lens and the Olympus E-PL1 on a short family trip to San Diego, CA. The Olympus 14-150 is incredibly versatile, perfect for the occasion. A few images from the trip (all are in-camera JPEGs, resized but otherwise straight from the camera):

    4937225393_7c6bb68bae_z.

    4937224993_dce3feca0e_z.

    4937224627_04108ed69a_z.

    4937224289_136f4bef85_z.

    4937223873_dec41099ab_z.
     
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  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    Conclusion

    Strengths:

    • Small size, low weight
    • Fast, quiet focus
    • Good sharpness for a superzoom
    • Distortion correction built into most RAW processing apps
    • Good flare resistance
    • Lower price than the Panasonic
    • Pleasing bokeh (subjective)
    • Good build quality
    Weaknesses:

    • Hood not included
    • Extreme corners less sharp than Panasonic at 14mm
    • Prominent lateral chromatic aberration
    • Prominent barrel distortion in uncorrected files (for those who use RAW processing apps which don't support the corrections

    Olympus Pen users
    looking for the versatility of a superzoom have a great option in the M.ZD 14-150mm lens. Its size and weight are well suited to the strengths of the Micro 4/3 system.

    Panasonic camera users will likely find the lack of in-lens stabilization to be a show stopper. Luckily, Panasonic users have a very good option in the Lumix 14-140mm lens.

    Prospective Micro 4/3 buyers may find the size, weight, and cost of the Olympus 14-150 to be a persuasive argument for choosing the Pen system. It's a terrific one-lens solution for travel, events, or a day out with the family.


    Thanks to B&H Photo for providing the Olympus lens for review. Direct links to check pricing and availability at B&H:


    Please help support Serious Compacts by clicking the button below before you make your next photography-related purchase from B&H Photo.





    RAW files for download:














     
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  3. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Now there you go, enticing me back into the new lens waters again. When I first read about this lens and saw some photographs by Brian Mosely, I really wanted to buy this lens but I held off. Now you've gotten me back to thinking seriously about this lens as a valuable and worth while asset.

    Many thanks Amin!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. arpoador

    arpoador SC Regular

    Hi Amin -

    This is really wonderful work on your part. I'm not in the market for a superzoom. (I'd rather have anything over about 50mm (100mm FF equivalent) in a bag rather than hanging off of my camera, and I already have the 45-200mm and a slew of long legacy lenses.)

    But I'm impressed with the continuing overall quality of these new lenses. Looking at your sample pix, it's clear that these new lenses lose nothing in their ability to capture beautiful images to the old legacy lenses.

    Thanks again for your great effort here. I find your reviews much more readable and personally applicable than the more traditional reviews in dpreview and photozone.
     
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  5. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Bill Shinnick
    Nice work Amin - I have the 14-140 which is great on both bodies - an advantage of OIS. Really looking forward to reviews of the 75-300 and the 100-300 when released.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    Nice review. I think it just comes down to the system at this point. I think panny owners will get the panny and OLY owners will get the OLY.
     
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  7. Boyzo

    Boyzo SC Veteran

    258
    Jul 14, 2010
    Great review Amin thanks for taking the time to review the 2 lenses.
    I was expecting the Pany to outperform the Oly but was pleasantly surprised.

    Aside from some uncorrected aberrations with the Oly its a beautiful lens and as I have the Pany 14-140 I have no need for it.

    Its an obvious choice for a Pen user tho' and it so compact and light and in practical shooting situations the faults are benign unless you are a CA freak ;-)

    Hope you review more lenses

    John
     
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  8. Hmm, I had been toying with getting the Panasonic but these two lenses are so close in performance I think I will save the extra money and opt for the Olympus. I like the size and it will be a great mate to my E-P1.

    Cheers

    PeterB666
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. cacau

    cacau SC Rookie

    11
    Jul 16, 2010
    Athens, Greece
    Impressive...

    I'm not in the mood to buy this lens, but it's good to know that is there if...
     
  10. Underneath

    Underneath SC Rookie

    22
    Jul 6, 2010
    Terrific Review!

    Great review, once again, Amin. Very user-focused and useful as per usual. And great news to see the Oly zoom so comparable. The Panny is a very nice lens, but for me really defeats my desires for the M4/3 system. Smaller is definitely better!
     
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  11. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Lili
    Zuiko 14-150mm lens hood

    Try using the Hood from the 4/3 14-42mm kit zoom, works a treat :)
    Excellent review, I really like my copy of this lens.
     
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  12. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    I have this lens, and it's one of the reasons I've stayed out of the NEX camp. EP1 + 14-150 is such a travel combo. I also don't typically shoot high ISO (which is the NEX's strength).

    I had the 9-18, which was similar quality, and may pick that lens up again.

    Thanks for the review!
     
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  13. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Just re-picked up the 14-150. Trying to build up my m4/3 collection, which is now the 20/1.7 for indoor and low light work, 14-150 as walk around, and 45-200 for extra long reach. Will likely add the PL45 and 14/2.5 as well. Just not totally convinced about the last two though, as I'd duplicate the lengths already provided by the 14-150. Although I'm sure the IQ from the PL45 and 14/2.5 would beat the pants off the 14-150 at the equivalent lengths ... decisions, decisions!