Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm 1:4-5.6
Category: Superzoom Lens
Conclusion - Pros
- Relatively small and lightweight for its type
- Respectable image quality for a superzoom (very good indeed from 25mm to 45mm)
- Fast, practically silent autofocus
- Attractive bokeh (when you can get it)
Conclusion - Cons
- Rather high chromatic aberration at each end of the zoom
- Corners rather soft at wideangle
- Slightly plastic build for the price
- Flash shadowing at wideangle
- Lens hood not included
- For Panasonic camera users, no optical image stabilization
The M Zuiko Digital 14-150mm F4-5.6 sees Olympus extending its Pen series lens range into superzoom territory, providing an upgrade option for compact camera owners who've grown used to having 10x or greater zoom ratios. Typically it's distinctly small and light compared to analogous DSLR lenses, as Olympus continues to concentrate on delivering the portability benefits promised by Micro Four Thirds. Indeed in combination with a Pen camera it's more portable than even the smallest DSLR equipped with a basic kit zoom, although it's still by no means pocketable (unless you're talking about large coat pockets).
Optically the lens delivers pretty well what we'd expect from a superzoom, and that inevitably means some compromises. The chief optical flaws are distinctly soft corners and colour fringing due to lateral chromatic aberration, both of which are visible at the two extremes of the zoom; however it must be said that in the middle of the range the images are very good indeed. The lens also uses the Micro Four Thirds system's integrated software distortion correction to good effect, essentially eliminating the strong barrel distortion at wideangle and pincushion distortion elsewhere in the range that's typical of DSLR superzooms. (Of course if you're troubled by the CA, it can also be corrected fairly easily if you shoot raw.)
The autofocus performance is very fast and near-silent, and is therefore notably better than Olympus's M ZD 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit zoom; indeed in combination with the latest updates for the Pen series, speeds are now essentially on a par with the Panasonic G-series cameras. Handling on the camera is good too, and unlike many superzooms the 14-150mm isn't afflicted by zoom creep (the tendency to extend under its own length when carried around). Its length does however result in some shadowing of the built-in flash at wideangle, which is most pronounced on the more compact bodies (E-PL1 and GF1).
For owners of Panasonic cameras, though, probably the biggest drawback is the lack of optical image stabilization (due to Olympus's long-running use of body-based systems). This particularly becomes a problem at the long end of the zoom range, essentially limiting the lens's usefulness to bright weather outdoor shooting (at least without recourse to a tripod). For this reason alone we'd suggest they'll be better served by the Panasonic 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS instead, which delivers very similar image quality. But it's not necessarily all good news for Olympus owners either - we found the stabilisation systems of both the E-P2 and E-PL1 struggled to deliver truly sharp images at marginal shutter speeds towards the long end of the zoom.
Overall then the 14-150mm is superzoom that delivers a perfectly competent results in a small light package. Its image quality may not please the most critical of photographers, but unless you regularly examine your images at 100% or make large prints (A4 or bigger) its flaws are unlikely to be hugely apparent. In combination with a Pen-series camera it makes a highly flexible general-purpose package with image quality to match an SLR but without the associated bulk. So while it's perhaps not a lens for the purist photographer, for many others it will make a very agreeable travel companion indeed.
Ergonomics and Handling
Olympus's Micro Four Thirds superzoom is, typically, the smallest in its class, and has respectable image quality too. It's a fine general purpose and travel lens, although Panasonic camera owners should take note of the lack of optical image stabilisation
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