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Design

The 14-150mm is a long slim lens, and very lightweight for its type due to the extensive use of plastics in its construction. On one level this is a good thing - the Pen system is all about light weight and portability - but it does mean that this superzoom doesn't quite feel like a $600 lens. The front extends substantially on zooming to 150mm, increasing the overall length by 70%, so not surprisingly there's a little play in the barrel at this point.

The design could scarcely be simpler - the barrel is dominated by the wide zoom ring, which is somewhat stiff in operation but stays firmly where you put it. In front of this is the slim manual focus ring, which turns nice and smoothly, and behind is a slim silver-accented grip for holding the lens when taking it on or off the camera. Right at the front is a bayonet mount for the optional LH-61C lens hood, and that's your lot.

On the camera

In terms of balance, the 14-150mm is arguably a better fit to Panasonic's SLR-style bodies such as the G1 shown here. You won't get image stabilization with this combination, and while this is mitigated to some extent by the deep handgrip (especially if you use the EVF or the swivel screen at waist level), you'll often need to boost the ISO to avoid camera shake when shooting at the long end of the zoom.

Move the 14-140mm onto a rangefinder style body like the E-P2, though, and the whole thing starts to get slightly out of proportion - it's not huge and bulky by any means, but you do lose some of the portability advantage offered by mirrorless systems (this particular combination's not going to fit on many coat pockets any more. Of course it's still smaller than an APS-C SLR with an 18-200mm superzoom (or indeed with an 18-55mm kit lens).

The long telephoto range also doesn't lend itself well to the less-stable shooting pose encouraged by these bodies: holding the camera out so you can see the LCD screen makes everything that bit more prone to shake, no matter how good your technique. This makes it advisable to use a clip-on EVF if you have one for a more stable pose, especially in less-than-perfect light.

Zoom creep

A perennial problem with superzoom lenses is zoom creep, or a tendency for the lens to extend under its own weight when carried normally. Our review sample seems almost immune to this; the trade-off is that somewhat stiff zoom action.

Compared to Micro Four Thirds kit zooms

Just to give another perspective on the 14-150mm's size, here it is between two lenses familiar to Micro Four Thirds users, the Olympus M ZD 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 and Panasonic Lumix G 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 kit zooms. The 14-140mm is obviously a bit bulkier than either, but while it's not huge by any means, it's about twice the size that the M ZD 14-42mm is when retracted for transport. However it is rather smaller and lighter than the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm F4-5.6 OIS telezoom.

Compared to Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS

Here's a brief comparison of 14-150mm's vital statistics with the other superzoom currently available for Micro Four Thirds - the Panasonic 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS. The Olympus has a marginally longer and faster telephoto end coupled with higher maximum magnification; it's also a bit more compact and markedly lighter. The Panasonic on the other hand has built-in optical image stabilization, which we've highlighted in the table because it's a major differentiator for owners of Panasonic bodies (Olympus users will of course get IS with the 14-150mm via the camera body). However this does make it rather more expensive. Both lenses are notably smaller than APS-C 18-2x0mm superzooms.

 
Olympus 14-150mm F4-5.6
Panasonic 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS
Price • US: $600
• UK: £630
• US: $800
• UK: £700
Focal length 14-150mm 14-140mm
Diagonal Angle of view 75º - 8.2º 75º - 8.8º
Maximum aperture F4-5.6 F4-5.8
Minimum focus 0.5m 0.5m
Maximum magnification 0.24x 0.2x
Image stabilization via camera body where available built-in optical image stabilization
Filter thread 58mm 62mm
Weight 280g (9.9 oz) 460g (16.2 oz)
Dimensions 63.5 x 83 mm (2.5 x 3.3 in) 70 x 84 mm (2.8 x 3.3 in)
Lens Hood Optional Supplied

Compared to DSLR with kit zoom

The 14-150mm may look long, but in comparison to a conventional SLR system this is substantially offset by the reduced thickness of the camera, especially for the 'rangefinder-style' bodies. This means that a Pen with the 14-150mm attached is still a little more portable than even the most compact DSLR fitted with a basic kit zoom, due substantially to the loss of the pentaprism hump (and the two combinations shown here are almost exactly the same weight, at about 1.3lb / 600g). However it's clearly not anywhere pocketable in the same way as a small-sensor compact 'travel zoom' with a similar lens range.

_detail

(Click here for a top view comparison showing the relative depths of these combinations.)

Autofocus

The 14-150mm employs an internal focus system that is designed for fast, silent autofocus, and is optimised for video use. In practice it delivers well on this promise; focus is impressively fast, quiet and accurate (certainly good enough for most purposes other than all-out sports or action work). In this respect it's a massive improvement over Olympus's 14-42mm kit lens.

Change in angle of view on focusing ('focus breathing')

The 14-150mm is an internal-focusing superzoom, and shows a trait very characteristic of this lens type, in that its angle of view gets noticeably wider on focusing closer. This results in a visible 'twitch' of the live view image when focusing, which is most obvious on the E-P1/E-P2/E-PL1.

'Focus-by-wire' manual focus

Like all Micro Four Thirds lenses the 14-150mm employs a focus-by-wire manual focus system, which drives the focusing group indirectly via the lens's autofocus motor. As a consequence, the feel of the manual focus ring never changes, regardless of whether the camera is set to auto or manual focus, or the focus has reached the limits of its travel (either close or infinity), and this lack of tactile feedback can be a little disconcerting in some situations.

Lens body elements

The lens features the Micro Four Thirds mount, currently compatible with cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. Communication with the camera is all-electronic, via the gold-plated contacts.

The molded grips on the slim silver ring adjacent to the mount aid in mounting and dismounting the lens.
The filter thread is 58mm, and does not rotate on autofocusing, which is helpful for photographers who like to use polarizers or neutral density gradients.
The bad news is that the lens hood is an optional extra, but the good news is that many Olympus SLR owners will already have it. The 14-150mm shares the LH-61C hood with the ZD 14-42mm Four Thirds kit lens.

It's a petal-type, bayonet-mount design that's fairly solidly-made from black plastic and reverses neatly for storage. We found it a rather loose fit though, coming off the lens too easily.
The ridged plastic grip on the zoom ring is 26mm wide, and smooth but somewhat stiff in action. It rotates 70 degrees anti-clockwise between the 14 and 150mm positions, with intermediate markings at 25, 40, 70 and 100mm.

The lens extends about 6cm on zooming, and not surprisingly the barrel has a slight degree of play at maximum extension.
The focus ring is just 7mm wide, and while its action is perfectly smooth, it gives no tactile feedback at all during operation due to the 'focus-by-wire' design.

Reported aperture vs focal length

Here we show the maximum and minimum apertures reported by the camera at the marked focal lengths. This behaviour is very similar to the Panasonic 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS.

Focal length
14mm
25mm
45mm
70mm
100mm
150mm
Max aperture
F4.0
F4.5
F5.4
F5.4
F5.6
F5.6
Min aperture
F22
F22
F22
F22
F22
F22
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