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Olympus M Zuiko Digital 14-150mm F4-5.6 Zoom Lens Reviews Roundup

2013-10-08 07:25
10/8/2013: Add review by PCMag.
9/20/2013: Add review by ePhotoZine.
7/9/2011: Add review by PhotoZone.
11/23/2010: Add review by PhotographyBLOG.
8/9/2010: Add review by LetsGoDigital.

The M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 (35mm equivalent 28-300mm) lens is designed to maximize the performance advantages of the Micro Four Thirds System, and it's significantly lighter and more compact--easily fitting in a jacket pocket. The Micro Four Thirds System standard enables much more compact design than the Four Thirds System standard (or other interchangeable lens systems) because it reduces the outer diameter of the lens mount by 6mm, and the distance from the lens mount to the sensor (the flange back distance) by approximately half. As a result, M. Zuiko Digital Micro Four Thirds System lenses offer uncompromising professional quality for capturing both still-images and High-Definition (HD) videos, and the lenses are exceptionally compact. 

The lens is made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass for superior image quality. The inner focusing mechanism uses a light, compact, single-element unit to enable exceptionally fast, quiet autofocusing for smooth, superior operating ease during still and video capture. The manual focusing mechanism is designed to offer a responsive feel and precise operation, enabling you an affordable, high-quality means to capture your life in stills or HD videos. The high-power wide-angle to telephoto M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 zoom lens is 65 percent smaller and 70 percent lighter than the comparable 10x ZUIKO Digital ED 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, making it ideal for everything from portraits and indoor scenes to sports and landscape photography. The 14-150mm lens also offers quieter and more responsive AF performance, and provide professional image quality for capturing amazing still images and videos. It is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds System Olympus PEN cameras, and all other current and future cameras that comply with the Micro Four Thirds System standard. When mounted on an Olympus PEN camera, the lens is stabilized thanks to the camera's in-body Image Stabilization system and offer effective shake compensation at all focal lengths. 

The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 14-150mm F4-5.6 lens is currently selling at around $599, via Amazon.com. Here is the reviews roundup:

PCMag, gave a rating of 4/5: "I used Imatest to see how well the lens performed when paired with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. The results were impressive, when you factor in the ambitious zoom range. At 14mm f/4 the lens bettered the 1,800 lines per picture height we require for an image to be called sharp. It manages 2,400 lines using a center-weighted test, and the extreme edges of the frame are just a hair soft at 1,627 lines. Barrel distortion here is the worst you'll see, but it's only 2.2 percent. That's noticeable, but it's not as bad as we've seen from other zooms, and it's fairly easy to correct in software if you'd like to remove the slight curve from your photos. Zooming to 25mm narrows the maximum aperture to f/4.5, but the lens is plenty sharp wide open. It notches 2,466 lines using our center-weighted test, with edges that top 2,100 lines. At 45mm the aperture narrows to f/5.4, and the edge performance drops off just a bit. It manages 2,308 lines across the frame, with edges that hover around 1,625 lines. This is the first tested focal length where we saw an improvement in sharpness by narrowing the aperture. At 45mm f/8 the lens tops 2,500 lines, with edges that record 2,150 lines. Edge performance becomes an issue by the time you hit 70mm f/5.4. The average sharpness score is still good at 1,985 lines, but the very edges of the frame only manage 856 lines. Stopping down to f/8 offers only marginal improvement. That trend continues at 90mm f/5.5--the lens manages 1,884 lines, but the edges are only about half as sharp.

Things get a little better at 150mm. We see an average score of 1,893 lines across the frame, with edges that are noticeably soft--1,224 lines. Stopping down to f/8 is a good idea here. That improves the average score to 2,087 lines, with edges that score 1,425 lines. Distortion isn't an issue once you zoom, it's less than 0.5 percent from 25mm all the way through 150mm. Zoom lenses that are as ambitious as the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 often show compromises in image quality. It's the trade-off you make for the convenience of not having to change lenses. This one does an impressive job of minimizing those compromises. Edge sharpness is an issue at longer focal lengths, but distortion is kept to a minimum and the aperture only narrows by one stop from its widest angle to its telephoto extreme. The f/4-5.6 design isn't the best for low-light shooting, but if you're in the market for a zoom for travel, outdoor adventures, or other activities where you don't want to keep changing lenses, this is a good one."... [Source]

ePhotoZine, gave a rating of 4/5: "At 14mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already outstanding at maximum aperture. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 for this focal length where clarity is excellent towards the edges of the frame, while it remains outstanding in the centre. With the zoom set to 45mm, sharpness levels are still outstanding in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and the lens performs excellently towards the edges of the frame. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/8 for this focal length and sharpness is outstanding from edge to edge. Finally, at 150mm, there is a slight drop in performance, but sharpness is still excellent in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and very good towards the edges of the frame. Chromatic aberrations are well controlled at all but the widest end of the zoom when stopped down. At 14mm, fringing starts to exceed one pixel width at f/11 and gets more severe as the aperture is stopped down. Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is constant throughout the zoom range. Corners are one stop darker than the image centre throughout the zoom range at maximum aperture. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down by one stop from maximum throughout the zoom range. Distortion is very well controlled for a superzoom lens. Imatest detected 1.7% barrel distortion at 14mm and a negligible amount of pincushion at 150mm. This low level shouldn't pose many issues, but if absolutely straight lines are needed, you'll be glad to know that it should be relatively straightforward to correct as the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame.

Superzoom lenses are not usually known for delivering excellent quality images, and are instead, normally considered a bit of a compromise. This 14-150mm lens from Olympus bucks that trend, delivering excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame throughout the zoom range. This is achieved in a lightweight, compact design that doesn't compromise on convenience either."... [Source]

PhotoZone: "The image distortions produced by micro 4/3 images are auto-corrected either directly in the camera (JPEGs) or in most RAW-converters. The "exposed" distortions are therefore very moderate especially for an ultrazoom. They range from a moderate (~1.26%) barrel distortion at 14mm to marginal (0,15%) pincushion distortion at 150mm. This is nothing to worry about from a field perspective. However, the non-corrected raw images show a pretty different situation with an extreme (~5.71%) barrel distortion at 14mm as well as moderate (1.21%) pincushion distortion at 50mm. The "high-power 10.7x zoom" has a fairly mediocre vignetting characteristic. The following figures show the corresponding performance of auto-corrected JPEGs obtained straight from the camera compared to non-corrected raw files. At 14mm and f/4 the amount of vignetting is very pronounced at ~0,9EV which is easily noticeable in field images. Nevertheless, the situation improves when stopping down to f/5.6 and it's not really an issue anymore from f/8 onwards. There is only a slight to marginal light falloff at longer focal lengths. However, it's no surprise that the non-corrected (RAW) images show considerably worse results particularly at 14mm with a very heavy amount of vignetting of up to ~1.96EV at f/4 which is even beyond our normal scale for Four-Thirds tests.

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f/4-5.6 is an acceptable "high-power 10.7x zoom" but don't expect magic from it. The delivered center resolution is actually pretty decent across the range whereas the border and corner performance is not that impressive specifically towards the very long end of the range. The M.Zuiko suffers from a high degree of lateral CAs which doesn't seem to be auto-corrected. When analysing uncorrected RAW files the distortions are quite extreme at 14mm but mainstream users will only experience moderate distortions in their (auto-corrected) images here. The same applies to the vignetting performance of the lens. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 is a compact and light-weight ultra zoom lens for people who don't just want to carry around several lenses and accept the performance penalty that are associated with such lenses. A positive aspect is certainly the high-speed contrast AF which can also be recommended for movie shooting due to the very low focusing noise."... [Source]

PhotographyBLOG, gave a rating of 4/5: "The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 14-150mm f/4-5.6 ED is the first Micro Four Thirds lens tested by us, and it has left us with a favourable overall impression. While this lens is obviously not in the same class as the primes and high-grade zooms we have reviewed so far, it is actually pretty amazing for a superzoom. For starters, it's surprisingly tiny and lightweight for what it is, and this is no mean feat even if it does extend considerably when zoomed in. The lens has also earned our admiration for fast focusing even on an E-P2, a camera not particularly noted for its AF performance. Sadly, this seems to be true for stationary subjects only, as the lens did have problems tracking a few slowly marching soldiers in broad daylight. Optically, the lens isn't a top performer, but it's perfectly acceptable and actually better than we expected from a 10.7x zoom. At most focal lengths, you can safely use it wide open or stopped down by one f-stop (two if you want good edge sharpness at 14mm). Chromatic aberrations can be a bit of an issue at longer focal lengths, but they can usually be dealt with in post processing. Distortions are automatically corrected on both Olympus and Panasonic bodies. Close-up performance is better than you would think based on the published minimum focus distance figure of 50cm - in fact this lens almost doubles as a telemacro; something the Micro Four Thirds system currently lacks.

If you are a real stickler for image quality or want to keep your compact system camera compact enough to fit in a normal coat pocket, then this lens is probably not for you. If you want ultimate focusing speed, the Panasonic GH2 and Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm lens suits you better (although you do need to dig deeper in your pocket). And generally, if you have a Panasonic rather than an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the M.ZUIKO Digital 14-150mm f/4-5.6 ED is perhaps not the best choice, given the lack of image stabilisation. However, if you have an Olympus PEN digital camera and you need a one-lens solution, this lens fits the bill."... [Source]

LetsGoDigital: "The lens' sharpness is of excellent quality, especially in the center. Towards the corners we see some blurring come up, especially at the beginning of the zoom range (14mm). Zooming in more offers immediate improvement, but at the end of the zoom range (150mm), general sharpness goes down. The most optimal performance lies between f/5.6 aperture and f8. In wide angle it also suffers a bit of distortion, although this is effectively corrected by the software so that an acceptable distortion remains. Also here it appears that leaving the wide angle range ensures an immediate improvement. The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 14-150mm f/4-5.6's features are especially aimed at the photographer that is looking for a total solution for his or her PEN camera. What needs to be said is that this lens is certainly successful in achieving that. Of course there are points of criticism to be found that make one agree with those photographers that 'swear' by pure lenses, with fixed focal points. If you eliminate an important factor, namely user-friendliness, with that, is not so certain for us. The general image quality of the Olympus M Zuiko Digital 14-150mm is good, especially for an all-round zoom lens with a 10.7x range. 

It is especially the ease of the all-round zoom range in combination with the compact PEN system cameras that give the Olympus 14-150mm the advantage above the criticism. We actually only see one point of criticism, and that is the combination of the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds with this lens. The lack of stabilisation system weighs too heavily and is therefore not recommendable for Panasonic Micro Four Thirds system camera owners. For every other photographer, it is recommended for easy and relaxed photography!"... [Source]

dpreview, gave a rating of 73/100: "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).

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."... [Source]

SLRgear: "Generally, sharp images with this lens are best achieved with the lens in the middle of the zoom range (~50mm). Stopping down to f/8 provides optimal sharpness. Shot wide open at wide angle (f/4 at 14mm), the lens shows good results for sharpness, with a good sweet spot in the middle of the frame (~1.5 blur units) falling off to slight corner softness (~2 blur units). Stopping down provides only a marginal gain in sharpness at this focal length at f/5.6, and by f/8 diffraction limiting sets in. By f/11 the corners are creeping up to 3 blur units and the central sweet spot of sharpness is only a small point; by f/16, sharpness is average (~2 blur units in the center, 4 in the corners), and by f/22 the corners are reaching 6 blur units.

Zoomed in, the lens shows its flaws to some degree. Our sample showed some slight de-centering at 70mm and greater; performance wide open at f/5.6 is similar to wide-angle performance, a sweet spot of sharpness with corner softness. It's managed by stopping down; at 150mm and f/11, there's a good spot of central sharpness in the range of 1.5 blur units, and corners in the 3-4 blur unit range. Stopping down further doesn't produce any further gains, and by f/22 the lens produces images of around 4 blur units across the frame. For what it offers, the Olympus 14-150mm f/4-5.6 is a very good lens, not the sharpest we've tested but certainly very good for a superzoom. It's marred by some high chromatic aberration at certain focal lengths, but for the wide range of focal lengths the lens offers, it's probably a small price to pay for the all-in-one versatility."... [Source]

User review by TDKSP, gave a rating of 2/5: "Recently bought this lens with great expectation for use on my E-P1 primarily for video based on latest assertions from Olympus. Olympus makes great boasts about the speed of AF being optimized for video as well as still photos. Well, no problem with quick auto focus for stills performs is as good as Panasonic but not quite as accurate all the time. The real problems become apparent when you shoot video with the lens not so much with the auto focus, it is pretty good, but not even close to the Panasonic offerings (14-45, 45-200, 14-140)for speed, accuracy or SOUND feedback from the AF system. The sound picked up by the camera microphone of the constant AF operation is loud and ruins any video sound track. Maybe an external MIC would work on some models (E-PL1 or E-P2) but not my E-P1 as there is no such option. The second HUGE dissappointment is how terrible the in body IS treats video recordings especially at longer focal lengths. The in camera IS was set to Mode 1. When panning, Mode 2 IS may help some, however,Olympus ED 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 micro Four Thirds Lens for Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Third Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera the video warps the scene both horizontally and vertically trying to stabilize the camera/lens resulting in a quivering of the video totally destroying the quality. The only solution with this lens is to turn the body IS off and use a tripod for longer focal lengths. 

If you want to shoot video with the E-P series, use Panasonic lens based IS with trul silent AF operation. The Panasonic lenses are light years ahead of Olympus for video and truly warrant their substantially higher price. Be Cautious about using the new Panasonic 14-42, being shipped with the G2 and G10, on the E-P system because the lens IS does NOT work under the current Olympus 1.4 firmware. When I contacted Olypus Customer Service about how to activate the lens IS in the new 14-42, they were not even aware of the new lens. Hopefully, a future firmware upgrade will make the lens IS functional. However, I returned the lens as unacceptable and will use a Panasonic lens instead. "... [Source]

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