My experience - Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 and 40-150mm f/2.8

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Clint, May 30, 2015.

  1. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    I’ve owned the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens since 2008 and with the E-M1 and 3.0 firmware I have been reluctant to try or purchase the 40-150mm f/2.8.

    A couple of weeks ago I did a shoot with the SWD lens, one of two lenses used. It was a very bright overcast morning with a dense marine layer in the atmosphere – almost dreamlike. Contrast was negligible in anything over 50 feet away.

    I was having issues with the SWD lens focusing, but knew almost any lens would have some issues with the conditions. Yet as the marine layer burned off I just didn’t feel confident I was getting what I expected, no matter C-AF+TR, C-AF, or S-AF modes. The manual focusing modes are not an issue with this lens as it can be manually focused at any time, in any focusing mode, without the camera trying to refocus when the shutter button is pressed. But if you pause at the shutter press focusing point, the camera may fine tune the manual focus.

    Anyway, I was not enthused from the expected photos that morning.

    Right after the shoot I went down to Nelson Photo, one of the local camera stores, and they had a 40-150mm in stock. They were kind enough to let me play with it for about 40 minutes. When Paul pulled out the box - Wow, it is huge!

    The lens actually takes up a small portion of the box, felt extremely nice, lighter than expected, and in person it looks smaller than in photos on the internet. While comparing the lenses standing up, and flipping one lens top for bottom, the impression of size becomes very close. When adding on the lens hoods of both lenses, the 40-150mm does not seem near as large as in photos. With adapters/convertors added, the size and weight differences are negligible. The 50-200mm has a great nylon case while the 40-150m has a bag.

    Despite whatever I tried inside or outside the store, the focusing quickness was nearly indiscernible between the lenses. Handling of the two were different - one no better than the other, just different. I might really prefer the 40-150mm after a while, but the 50-200mm with all-the-time manual focusing without doing anything else is great!

    I ended up walking out without buying the lens, which was not my intent when I walked in.

    When I got home I processed the photos and was very surprised at what I got from the SWD lens. A lot more keepers than I had envisioned while shooting, and the contrast issues disappeared after some adjustments. I was again surprised when comparing images from the two lenses and the 12-40mm images. The IQ is on par with the 40-150 f2/.8!

    I didn’t have the 40-150mm long enough to find out where the strong points of the 40-150mm are – but I expect under extreme conditions the 40-150mm would perform better. And as stated before with the SWD lens, the ability to manually focus at any time, overriding or assisting the camera no matter the camera focus settings – again puts it on par with the quick manual focus ability of the 40-150mm.

    On the rest of the micro four-thirds cameras the focusing quickness easily goes to the 40-150mm. However with the fulltime manual focus capability of the SWD lens on all m4/3s – it easily becomes a viable, less costly alternative. Especially considering the cost difference - $1380 USD for the older lens/adapter vs $1850 USD for the 40-150 and 1.4x convertor (based on Olympus MSRP) and even greater when buying used.

    For those that already own a 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens, in my experience it has become an extremely hard choice to buy the 40-150mm f/2.8 with 1.4 convertor. If a good portion of my shooting involved 100-200mm I would jump at the new lens. But for now the choice will wait until I get a week or more with a 40-150mm lens.
    • Informative Informative x 2
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  2. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    I know you didn't have an in-depth comparison of the 40-150 Pro with the 50-200 SWD, but your observations were very helpful. I recently bought the 50-200 SWD used for use on my EM1, and for me the difference in cost was a big factor. Also, I could get the 200mm range without using a somewhat costly teleconverter. Thanks!
  3. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I have the 50-200 non-SWD and recently played a little with the 40-150 at an Olympus event. The 40-150 definitely focuses faster than the non-SWD version and it doesn't seem to suffer from the focus system going from one end to the other which is time consuming (and noisy on the non-SWD lens!). However, optically there isn't really a lot to chose between them. The 40-150 is probably a tad sharper, but there isn't a lot in it. There's not a lot weigh-wise either, but the non-extending 40-150 is certainly a nicer lens to use.

    All-in-all, if I used lenses at this sort of length often, then the 40-150 would be my choice. However, as someone who only uses long lenses infrequently, the 50-200 is more than good enough at a lot less than half the price.
  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    For the cost of a new 40-150 you can buy a used E-M1 and 50-200 SWD and 4/3 adapter. Makes you think, doesn't it?
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Thanks Clint for that bit of reassuring write up because I bought a nice (barely) used 50-200 SWD lens recently because of the cost factor & desired focal range (& also because I already have an EC14 that can be used with it). I also have the M.ZD75-300 lens (as well as the ZD70-300 that I used beforehand on the E-M5) & I found the PD-AF in C-AF Hi on the E-M1 with that lens to be less capable in indistinct situations (coastal waves etc on an overcast day), but was fine with S-AF (using CD-AF) so there are situations where the 50-200 SWD lens will have issues because of the limiting horizontal only PD-AF on the E-M1 (compared to using that lens the E-30 with twin cross PD-AF sensors), but, as you say, the constant direct MF ability is certainly a desirable & useful feature.
  6. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    You just mentioned the one thing I really do not like about the 50-200 on m4/3s. Initially I totally amazed the lens would not focus on horizontal only elements with m4/3s. However after verifying that, I not now slightly rotate the camera when necessary, focus and quickly recompose the shot. I'd swear the lens on an E-30 and E-5 was much better (not necessary quicker) but my results are not proof of that. I'm still more inclined to use S-AF than C-AF and just don't like C-AF+tracking due to the size of the focus target - although I'm surprised at how well both C-AF modes work. The one thing I know from the results - the lens works well with the camera, it is just my confidence level that suffers. But once I see the results I'm satisfied. I'm sure you will like the 50-200mm much more than either 70-300.
  7. Ross the fiddler

    Ross the fiddler Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The twin cross (horizontal & vertical) sensors in the E-30 & E-5 has to have a better chance of locking on a target than the single horizontal only (vertical detail) sensing of the E-M1 & as you say, rotating the camera to get that lock is some times needed, but if I'm using S-AF Low sequential, then it has to achieve focus lock on each frame & that can be where that workaround loses out. It is knowing the limitations & possibilities that's important to get enough keepers & especially that one off special occasion (that time you feel like cursing when you miss that beautiful moment because it didn't get focus in time).
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