M.ZUIKO 14-150mm Lens Review with Test Shots

I’ve recently got my hands on the Olympus 14-150mm M.ZUIKO Micro 4/3 camera lens for the Olympus PEN series of cameras. The lens is being used on the Olympus E-PL1 and so all video/photo content will have been produced using this badass camera & lens unless otherwise stated.

To start, I’d like to point out that I’m not a professional photographer (as many of you will know), but I am picking it up quickly as a hobby. With that in mind, I’m not going to get into all the nitty gritty details that only a camera/photography expert will understand but I will talk about it as the general consumer and technology lover.

Here we go! This lens is a 14-150mm zoom lens, however, as the camera it’s being applied to is of the Micro 4/3 system and is not a full frame (35mm) sensor, we can effectively double the focal length on each lens, making this lens the equivalent to a 28-300mm zoom lens.

Size?

It’s tiny. Compared to an actual 300mm zoom lens, Olympus has done a cracking job of fitting it all into such a nice package. Obviously it is bigger than their compactable 14-42mm kit lens that comes with the camera, in fact, it’s almost double the size when closed, but still not too big at all. Here’s a couple of photos I took on my phone.

It’s a good size and it’s firmly made. It does have a slight plastic feel to it, but it still feels very solid, even at full zoom there is very little give on the tube. The zoom ring itself is quite firm. I personally like it like that so it doesn’t accidentally move if slightly knocked or shook. It also means that there is no zoom creep (when the lens unexpectedly starts to “fall” out of itself when you’re walking around with it on a strap or such. This tends to happen to larger zoom lenses).

A con on the lens being as big as it is in comparison to the camera, and more importantly, the positioning of the cameras flash is that when the lens is closed, it can cause a shadow. Allow me to show you with a photo taken just under 2 meters away from the wall.

This is really only  a minor flaw and it only occurs when no zoom at all is applied, but it’s seemingly unavoidable in the design of the lens and an external flash with use of the E-PL1’s hot-shoe should rectify the problem if you’re into flash photography.

Lens Performance.

This lens is advertised as a good video lens for this camera due to the highly reduced auto focus noise (which is very noticeable on videos with the 14-42mm kit lens). It has a very nice 10.7x optical zoom, but it doesn’t have in-built image stabilisation and though the PEN bodies do (in-built), Panasonic owners will have to use a tripod.

To give a direct comparison between the 14-42mm and 14-150mm lens, I’ve prepared a couple of videos that will (hopefully) show you the difference in zoom length/noise, autofocus noise and the autofocus speed between the two lenses [First Video]. The second video shows focusing from a close object to afar and back with the lens at full extension.

As for image quality; it’s very good. It copes better in low light conditions over the 14-42mm and I think it looks better at a higher ISO. I’ve compiled a set on Flickr here where you can see eight test images ranging from ISO100-3200. It’s important to point out that these were taken in fairly low light conditions indoors with only natural light on a very cloudy day.

Now, due to the lens being a “compact” super zoom, it makes a great lens for street photography or just catching candid photos in general. The left image is outdoors so the light was a lot better than the image on the right, which was taken indoors from another room with a small hallway between.

You can start to see it’s versatility for indoor, badly lit, fun shots as well as in well lit areas.

The next photos are 100% crops. They are taken of the same subject at close range using both ends of the zoom with no use of tripod and using manual focus to obtain the lens’ closest point to the subject.

Firstly; a mouldy pear being eaten by red ants. Here are thumbnails of the original images so you can get a rough idea of the distance.

Pear – No Zoom:

Pear – Full Zoom:

Now for the relaxingly scented flower known as Lavender:

Flower – No Zoom:

Flower – Full Zoom:

The close up image quality is good. It’s not macro good, but for a zoom lens, this is not disappointing at all, especially for quick snaps in the garden. Studio based photography would likely come out a hella lot crisp.

General Usage & Overall Thoughts

Because of the lens’ size, people who buy into the PEN’s for their compact design may not consider it, however, the 14-150mm (28-300mm equivalent) is very small for the type of lens it is and I’ve had no problems going out and about shooting with it. The significant zoom on this lens makes framing shots and close ups extremely easy and would be perfect for the street photographer to the family man or the guy that just wants a do-it-all camera to hand at all times.

The manual focus ring on the lens rotates very, very smoothly and using it is easy to get your focus just right quickly, though saying that, a viewfinder may shave a few seconds off the job with it’s added precision and stability.

Overall, it feels good to hold and to use. If you had to choose one lens for your camera, this should definitely be it as it’s convenient and highly versatile. Of course you may need to upgrade your carry case to accommodate the lens and if size isn’t an issue whatsoever it makes the perfect upgrade to the 14-42mm lens. No doubt there will be more photos, videos and artwork from me produced with this lens so I’ll post them up as and when they happen. If you want to be the first to see the photos that I take you can add me as a contact on Flickr or you can follow my Tweets.

I hope this has cleared a lot of stuff up for anyone thinking of purchasing this lens. I very much recommend it to anyone with an Olympus PEN body, but not so much to the Panasonic users PURELY because of the IS.

If you have any questions or feel I have skipped over an area of importance in this review – feel free to comment below.

UPDATE: Now for the FUN STUFF!

Check out a moon shot with this lens here.

Check out a little nature video I made here.

Check out some Hoverfly action shots with full zoom and a fast shutter speed here. (These are my favorite ones so far)

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