The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R is often unfairly dismissed as just a kit lens, which does it a huge disservice.
Admittedly, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R was often sold in dual lens kits (along with the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ Pancake) with entry level OM-D and PEN series cameras. However, it shouldn't be dismissed as "just" a kit lens.
Not only is it smaller than a soda can, it only weighs about half as much as one – yet it delivers a full frame equivalent focal range of 80-300mm. Compare that to an equivalent DSLR lens like the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, which is over twice as long, three and a half times as heavy, and at least five times the price.
This makes the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R one of the best lenses for travel photography if you're looking to keep your setup light, compact yet capable. How does it fare in other shooting situations?
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R: Specifications
Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Focal length: 40-150mm (80-300mm full frame equivalent)
Aperture range: f/4.0 (40mm) / f/5.6 (150mm) - f/22
Angle of view: 30 - 8.2°
Lens structure: 13 elements in 10 groups
Aperture blades: 7
Min. focusing distance: 0.9m
Max. Magnification: 0.16x (0.32x full frame equivalent)
Filter thread: 58mm
Dimensions: 63.5 x 83mm
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R: Key features
The manufacturer offers a significantly larger, heavier, professional trinity version of this lens: the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro, which will set you back at least a grand more.
This lens is not that lens. The 40-150mm R is a budget alternative that offers the same focal length in a considerably tinier package, for a considerably tinier price.
Which means if you're looking for a take-everywhere telephoto zoom with an equivalent 80-300mm range – whether that's to shoot a school play from the back of a hall, a bird in a faraway tree on a hike, or even the action from the sidelines at a Sunday soccer game – this is an ideal option.
The MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) inner focus mechanism is swift and near-silent, meaning this is also a useful optic for shooting video footage. While its Pro counterpart is slightly snappier when it comes to autofocus, this R version is more than capable of keeping up with the action.
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R: Build and handling
In case you missed it, the Olympus 40-150mm R measures just 63.5 x 83mm – which shorter than a soda can – and weighs a mere 190g – which is just over half the weight of a can of soda.
Again, compare that to an equivalent DSLR lens like the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM (notwithstanding the additional size and weight from mounting that lens to a DSLR body) and this is the smallest and lightest 70/80-300mm lens we've ever used.
It's small enough to slip into a pocket – which isn't something you can say about most 70-300s – and you can even wield it one-handed if you want or need to. Indeed, it's ideal for those who shoot off the back screen, rather than the viewfinder, because it's so feather-light.
Obviously this isn't the optimum way to maintain stability, but lots of youngsters shoot this way rather than bracing the camera up against their eye – and it takes next to no effort to hold this lens up and keep it steady, even though it lacks its own image stabilization (though given that the best Olympus cameras offer between 4 and 8 stops of compensation, it's hardly a huge problem).
Because the construction here is extremely lightweight, the lens invariably feels quite hollow and plasticky – not in a cheap way, but it certainly doesn't feel like a sturdy professional lens. Accordingly, there's no weather sealing here.
The zoom ring is large, smooth and tactile, able to quickly and easily zip through the range when you're reacting to changing situations, though some may find the manual focus ring a little bit dainty.
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R: Performance
While you're not going to get pro lens levels of detail, the 40-150mm R delivers good sharpness across almost the entire zoom range. As you'd expect, things get a bit soft at the long and wide ends, with peak performance reached in the mid-range – though there's some weakness in the corners throughout.
The limited aperture means that this is a functional lens, rather than a particularly creative one, when it comes to subject separation and background blur – though as you can see, we've still shot some pleasing portraits with it.
The slow speed does mean that it's not optimum for birding or other fast action where there's limited light, so you'll want to look at the f/2.8 Pro lens if you're serious about sports and wildlife shooting.
However, if you're just dipping your toe into the waters of those genres (or you just want a tiny lens to keep in your bag on the off chance you spot a rare bird of prey), it does the job just fine.
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R: Verdict
The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R might just be the best lens you never knew you needed. Ideal for an everyday, walkabout or travel lens, it's equally handy to shoot the wildlife in your back garden or to keep in your camera bag for those occasions when you need a bit of extra range.
It's not going to replace your primes, but the quality is way above what you'd expect of what is still (when it's on sale) a 100-buck kit lens. It delivers sharp, contrasty images full of dimensionality and "pop", offers snappy autofocus performance and is even a good lens for shooting video. You don't think you need it till you have it, then you wonder why you waited so long to get one!