Telephoto options for E-M1

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by jamespetts, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Having been burgled recently, and having a helpful new for old policy on my insurance, I am starting again building a Micro Four Thirds system having had an E-P3 plus a number of fixed focal length lenses as a system that I had built up over about two years. I have not yet made up my mind which camera body to buy to replace the E-P3, but one that I am seriously considering (pending actually holding and trying it in the shop) is the E-M1, in large part for ergonomic reasons.

    I have narrowed down my selection of lenses somewhat (I definitely want the 12-40mm f/2.8, the 60mm macro and the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, and probably the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, too), I am still very much undecided about what to do for a telephoto lens. Having spent two years working with a collection of fixed focal length lenses, I am leaning now rather towards the premium zooms for flexibility without significant loss of image quality. The overall remaining budget is about £1,000 for the telephoto lens. My various thoughts have included:

    Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8

    A well regarded lens with a good maximum aperture, good sharpness and, from what I have seen, good out of focus rendition, this lens is also wonderfully compact. However, its range is somewhat limited. In my previous system now gone, I had an old 135mm f/3.5 and on occasions found that to be quite a useful length, although that particular lens had serious chromatic aberration problems.

    Panasonic 45-175 X f/4-5.6

    According to at least one review that I read, this lens is as sharp as the 35-100 (although I should be interested in people's views on this); its longer range is, however, balanced by a much lower maximum aperture.

    Olympus 40-150 f/2.8

    This yet to be released lens promises an excellent combination of fast maximum aperture and zoom range, but it could well cost significantly more than £1,000 and the release date is uncertain. Further, this lens will be very large and heavy compared to the Panasonic lenses described above, and I like Micro Four Thirds because I like to travel light. On the other hand, I could, as I did with my 135mm f/3.5, take this lens in a separate bag and only carry it when I think that I am going to need it.

    Olympus 75-300 f/4.5-6.7

    A somewhat slow lens with, from what I understand, moderate optical quality, this would have a lot of reach at the long end but would be less useful (owing to reduced optical quality and maximum aperture) at the shorter end where it would be likely to be most useful. I am unlikely to use something as long as 300mm, so this is probably not the lens for me.

    Olympus Four thirds 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 SWD

    These older lenses focus with a reasonable speed on the E-M1 according to a few reviews that I have seen, and are well regarded. Large and heavy, they do come with their own carrying pouch (making it easy to carry them separately and therefore only when needed; the 60mm macro is, after all, a decent medium telephoto), and have the great advantage over the Micro Four Thirds 40-150 f/2.8 that they are available now (and possibly even secondhand for a good price), as well as an extra 50mm at the long end. But just how good is the optical quality really on these (a Lenstip review did not think that these were the greatest, and showed a picture with a decidedly unpleasant out of focus rendition)?

    I should be interested in hearing from people with experience of these various lenses or any of them as to their handling and optical quality under various conditions, as well as how good that they are at various different sorts of applicaitons.
  2. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    My advice is to go with the 35-100 2.8. This is a truly excellent and incredibly small for its specification. Because it is fast and sharp you actually have reasonable room to crop to make up for its limited length. I would guess that perhaps some of the other lenses are just as sharp if you are prepared to use a tripod to make up for the slower aperture. My feeling is that the longer a lens, the greater the need for a fast aperture.

    The 40-150 m2.8 is an interesting spec but it is big and has both an unknown price and arrival date. I cant really comment on the 55-200 although the lens is simply too large to suit me.
  3. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    I have not shot the 35-100mm head to head with 50-200mm lens. But the 50-200mm is an outstanding lens which you can probably pickup used for considerably less than the 35-100mm including the needed MMF-3 adapter.

    Here is a crop of 1,000 x 750 (should present here as 1:1) from a recent photo taken when I was testing the lens on the EM-1. The riders were about 1,000 feet from me. The photo was taken with EM-1, 50-200 f/2.5-3.5 at f/3.5, 200mm, 1/400, ISO 640, with no sharpening applied to image.

    When you check out the size/weight of the lens remember the perceptual focal length is 100-400mm!

  4. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    For two more samples - in my "Test Shots with EM-1" album there are two other photos taken with the 50-200m lens at 200mm and 25,600 ISO One is the tomatoes on a dying vine and the other the cactus.
  5. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you both for your feedback - that is most helpful. You have interestingly both focussed (no pun intended) on the two lenses that interested me the most.

    Clint - how do you find the handling and usability of the larger Four Thirds lens? Edit: Also - how accurate do you find the focussing compared with Micro Four Thirds lenses such as the 35-100?
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Really depends on how long you want vs how fast. I have both the 35-100 and the 75-300 (as well as the 75 f1.8. I haven't really tested the 35-100 for candid portraits in low light extensively (this holiday season should be the acid test), but if I like it enough, I may sell the 75mm. If that extra stop and a half (roughly) ends up really mattering, I'll keep both. But for more general telephoto use, the combination of the 35-100 and the 75-300 is a nice combination. I don't shoot a lot of telephoto so I don't end up carrying either very often, let alone both, but for specific situations, I like both of them. Last weekend there was a Veteran's Day parade in my town. I shot a bunch of the parade with the 35-100 and some of the ceremony afterwards (where I couldn't get close) with the 75-300. I think the 75-300 is actually pretty good optically (though obviously short of a pro-quality lens) - just not very fast. But in any sort of decent light, AF with an EM1 or EM5 (or any of the other newer m43 bodies) is still lightning fast and accurate. And with the view stabilized in the evf in the EM5, EM1, and EP5, shooting at long range is really pretty easy these days. Here are a couple done with the 35-100 followed by a couple toward the long end of the 75-300. Obviously if you don't need the long range, you can avoid the 75-300, but if you do, you don't have a lot of choice - just that or the Pany 100-300. I don't shoot longer than 100mm very often and could get by without the 75-300, but I tried to sell the long one, didn't get offered very much, and decided for the value it currently has it's worth it for me to keep it. But if you like a lot of reach, it's tough to beat...


    mid range:
    Vets Parade-31-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Long end:
    View attachment 326754
    Vets Parade-57-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    75-300 (both between 200-300):

    Vets Parade-70-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Vets Parade-62-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

  7. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 25, 2012
    If you need longer than the 35-100mm. I'd just hold out and see how the 40-150 f2.8 pans out. Maybe get one of the slow and cheap oly or panasonic 40-150 to tie you through in the mean time. They can often be found second hand (or sometimes new) for $100-150
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  8. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    if you aren't looking to the 40-150/2.8 then the 35-100 makes a huge amount of sense to pair with the 12-40 (and the other 2 lenses you have discussed)

    whether a 75-300 suits your shooting, or not, should dictate whether it's added to your collection long term or not - it's not going to be much slower than the 45-175 @ 175, if at all, which leaves the balance of optical quality v usefullness (which will also relate to whether you have anything else that covers the FL range.

    the 50-200 has 2 versions which differ in terms of the bokeh, the latter, SWD, model has curved aperture blades that slightly shift the intermediate apertures as well as improving the bokeh over the older model (in some eyes). Personally I think it gets bad press because it's frequently used wide open shooting birds amongst nearby twigs = which can look terrible just OOF. I would submit this as an example of entirely reasonable bokeh with that lens above the head, but it also shows how grass strands low front and closer look poor -
    2168360041_e15b545a3a. . Optically (sharpness & clarity) it's stunning, even wide open. AF performance on an E-M1 is better from the SWD, but not really comparable to m43 lenses in practice from my experiences so far. Reasonable light and a static target and it's pretty sound, and a lot better than on a Pen. It is however big, heavy and extends when zooming, It has another trick - the old one mounts the RF11 and, with the EX25, makes an excellent large insect close up lens :smile:
  9. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you very much for your replies - that is much appreciated. One thing that does somewhat attract me about the 50-200 SWD is the relatively low price compared to the Panasonic 35-100, which has much less of a range: one can almost buy a secondhand E-PL5 with the change.

    The out of focus rendition appears on the face of it to be less than optimum with this lens, however, but I am wondering how it compares to others. Hmm...
  10. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    An update on this - I bought the E-M1 to-day, together with the 12-40mm f/2.8 kit lens (the focussing speed with which is exceptionally fast) and the 60mm f/2.8 macro lens. The 60mm aside, however, I am still undecided on telephoto (and still have a good bit of the budget left).

    I tried three telephoto lenses in the shop: the Panasonic 35-100, the Panasonic 100-300 and the Olympus Four Thirds 70-300 with the MMF-3 adapter. The 35-100 was a delight to use, and balanced very well with the camera, but I got the impression that the range might end up being disappointingly short in use. I was not particularly enamoured with the 100-300 (which I understand is not of the best quality optically, and is somewhat slow). I tried the Four Thirds 70-300 not because I was particularly interested in that lens in itself, but because I wanted to try a Four Thirds lens on the E-M1 and they did not have the Four Thirds lens, the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, in which I am interested, although the shop assistant had experience of that lens and was able to describe to me how it differed from the 70-300 so that I could have a rough idea.

    The 70-300 was enormous by comparison to even the largest Micro Four Thirds lenses. Although it did not feel entirely out of place on the decently sized E-M1, the combination felt like toting a huge SLR with gigantic lens. It was heavy and somewhat unwieldy. The focussing speed was slow, although not glacial, and it did seem to lock focus correctly most of the time in the dimly lit shop. Focussing was also annoyingly loud, especially compared to the almost silent Micro Four Thirds lenses. The SWD version of the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 would, I am sure, focus more quickly and much more quietly, however: I have seen the videos on Youtube.

    The shop assistant told me that the 50-200mm was of similar length to the 70-300mm (perhaps a trifle shorter), but much thicker and about twice as heavy. That really made me wonder whether going out taking photographs with such a monster would be an enjoyable experience for more than five minutes. The 12-40mm is heavy enough, and the 70-300 felt quite seriously heavy: carrying something equivalent to two of those things seems a bit extreme (especially to someone like me who gets all of his exercise cycling and walking and whose arms are hardly built like Popeye).

    This all makes me wonder whether I should wait for the 40-150mm f/2.8 to be announced; but Olympus might think that they can sell it for £1,500 or so, which would be rather beyond budget, and it, too, might be rather on the heavy side, not to mention that I should have nothing longer than 60mm between now and then.

    This all leads me to wonder whether I should acquire a 50-200mm SWD with the aim of reselling it when the 40-150mm f/2.8 becomes available, if it is released at a sensible price and is otherwise decent. I am not sure, however, how much loss that I might make on such transaction. The prices of new 50-200mm f/2.8-4 SWD lenses on eBay vary (and I cannot for the life of me find any used ones), but the cheapest that I have found so far is a little over £700 including postage from Spain, which strikes me as a good deal. Does anyone know what these things go for when they do come up used, assuming them to be in good condition? I suppose that a release of a 40-150mm f/2.8 would rather dent their value, but it is hard to predict by how much. One small benefit of this approach is that it would involve obtaining an MMF-3, which could then be used with a very cheap Four Thirds 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6mm lens to get an ultra-wide rectilinear lens at less than half the price of the Micro Four Thirds equivalent.

    I also wonder about doing the same with a (possibly used) Panasonic 35-100mm: that, I suppose, is more likely to hold its value even after the release of a 40-150 f/2.8 because of its value to Panasonic body owners of the in-lens stabilisation and fact that it is an excellent, small compact lens usable on all Micro Four Thirds bodies easily without an adapter.

    Any other useful thoughts on this topic would be much appreciated!
  11. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    You should also keep in mind that since you'll be buying the 50-200mm lens (either version) 2nd hand, you can probably sell it for within 10% of what you paid for it. Hence, trying this lens is pretty low risk.
  12. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    I own the 50-200SWD, and will be purchasing the EM1 within the next month. Previously I owned the E-5, and with the 50-200 attached, it was one of my favorite combos, and I suspect it will be one of my favorite combos on the EM1. Don't forget you can add the EC-14 to it to extend the reach even further without really sacrificing quality. True it is a big lens, but I also used to shoot with it on an E-620, and it never bothered me. You can also take off the tripod ring to save a little weight.

    This link will take you to perhaps my most cherished shot this year of my kids (taken with the E-5 50-200 combo). All the outdoor shots in this gallery were shot with it. You can view the original file for all you pixel peepers.
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  13. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    That is an excellent photograph: it does look like something from a magazine or catalogue. Thank you for that insight: that is helpful.

    As to buying it secondhand - the trouble is that I can't find the thing secondhand, except the non-SWD version, which sounds like a miniature sewing machine when one tries to focus it. The only SWD versions that I can find on eBay are new ones.
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  14. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Both the 12-60mm and 50-200mm are very comfortable for me to use on the EM-1. As a side note - long ago I used the smaller OM-1 with larger lenses for years which may bias my opinion.

    I went back and looked at all of the photos I took with 50-200 and focus accuracy is extremely accurate. I believe I used the small focus targets when testing the camera/lens combination as I tried many shots focusing through branches, fences, etc.
  15. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I attempted a test yesterday evening: I took an empty plastic bottle and filled it with water until it weighed 995g (the weight of the 50-200mm f/2.8-2.5 SWD lens without the MMF-3 adapter, which I think is very light in itself) to feel what it was like holding something of that weight. 995g is seriously heavy! I can imagine getting aching arms carrying that weight around all day or even for a few hours. On the other hand, I wonder whether the forthcoming Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 will be much better; it will be smaller and lighter, certainly, but might it still induce arm ache? I rather suspect so. The mock-ups of it look large, and it is reportedly built like the 12-40mm (i.e., like a tank). If it is lighter than the Four Thirds lens, it may not be by orders of magnitude; it may not, in other words, be lighter enough to make a decisive difference as to which is the more suitable of the two. Other considerations, such as cost, reach at the longest and and ability to use a teleconverter might tip the balance in favour of the Four Thirds lens, rendering the issue not whether to wait for the 40-150mm, but whether a long but heavy fast telephoto zoom of any sort is a worthwhile thing.

    My previous longest lens that I used regularly with Micro Four Thirds cameras was the Pentax Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5. That weighs 343g (not including Micro Four Thirds adapter). I used to carry it in a separate hard case with its own strap, outside my normal camera bag (into which it did not fit after I bought the 60mm f/2.8 - before that, it was included in the bag), and would often not take it with me at all, depending on the sort of photography that I was doing (although it was almost always carried before I bought the 60mm f/2.8, I suppose, when it fit in the bag). When I did take it, I sometimes found it a bit on the heavy side to carry if I had had it with me a good few hours. It was somewhat awkward to use being an all manual lens (which was not helped by the fact that the adapter was made such that the lens fit on the camera upside down, with the aperture and focus information pointing downwards), and, although sharp, it was very prone to severe chromatic aberration. I did have an optically superior Canon FD fit Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4 (which is a lens that I used quite a bit when I used 35mm film, and found satisfactory), but I did not use that with my previous camera because it was so heavy, it balanced poorly with the E-P3 and I was even worried that the unsupported weight might damage the mount. According to this website, that lens was 670g or thereabouts, without the Canon FD to Micro Four Thirds adapter.

    On the other hand, on the occasions when I have used the 135mm f/3.5, it was often not long enough for what I was trying to do. Whilst this photograph taken with it is tightly framed:

    Lamp standard by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    (it is in black and white because the chromatic aberration was especially extreme on this photograph - one can still see that some of the twigs appear to have two completely separate images of themselves; I really should have used only one colour channel for the conversion, I think),

    photographs such as these could have done with more reach:

    Robin on tree by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    Two squirrels on a tree by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    Duck repelling pigeon by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    So, I am somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I do love being able to wonder around a place restfully, taking photographs without having to think too much about the equipment itself (which is easy when the equipment is relatively light and when lenses do not need changing very often); on the other hand, I do like the idea of being able to take the sorts of photographs that have been beyond my reach before: pictures of small wild birds or even zoo animals on the other side of their enclosures. The 50-200mm lens has the option of a 1.4x or even 2x teleconverter (as mentioned by DoofClenas above), which the forthcoming 40-150mm f/2.8 will not have (a 2x Micro Four Thirds teleconverter would be an excellent thing - just imagine using it with the 75mm f/1.8; indeed, that is an option that I should seriously consider instead of the zooms if it were available), taking it to 280mm f/4.0 or 400mm f/4.5 respectively, which is well beyond anything that any of my equipment has been able to achieve before. It could be excellent for taking to wildfowl and wetlands centres, taking to the local park to take birds in trees, or taking photographs of urban foxes. But would this use really justify the price? I suspect that I should leave it at home more often than not when using the camera (for many situations, 60mm is telephoto enough, and that lens is also an exquisite macro and very light). In my 35mm days, I used to have a 500mm f/8 mirror lens; I did not often use it, although that was largely because the results were murky and indistinct most of the time owing to the very poor contrast exhibited by that lens; but it was also because the sort of subject requiring such a lens is far less common than the sort of subject requiring a moderate wide-angle, standard or short telephoto.

    I wonder sometimes whether I should be better off with the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, which is very light and handles very well with the E-M1, but then I have doubts that the difference between 60mm and 100mm is really worth £1,000 or so, even if one adds to that the convenience and flexibility of a zoom and the coverage of intermediate focal lengths (the latter of which benefit is probably marginal in any event).

    The ultimate conundrum appears to be that anything that is long enough (at a good maximum aperture) to be meaningfully longer than the 60mm is so heavy to make me want to think twice about carrying it and make me wonder whether going out with it to take photographs will be more like hard work than fun. Perhaps I should just give in and get a slower zoom such as the Panasonic 45-175mm f/4.0-5.6 or even the Olympus 75-300 f/4.5-6.3? But the longer focal lengths require a fast aperture more than the shorter, and there is the issue of image quality, too.

    For those who use lenses of over 100mm, what do you use them for? For those who use heavy long telephoto lenses - how often do you take them with you rather than leave them at home? Do you go to a gym and exercise your arms often so that it does not feel so heavy in any event? Is 150mm enough for you, or do you find yourself needing 200mm, 280mm or 400mm as often as 150mm is useful?

    Edit: I also wonder whether there might be something to be said for getting both the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 and a cheap secondhand Micro Four Thirds Olympus 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 (which are very inexpensive indeed), but I also worry that the image quality of those lenses is so poor as not to be worthwhile: I quickly abandoned using my Olympus 14-42mm after seeing how unsharp and low in contrast the resulting images were (their lacklustre appearance being evident to me even when not zoomed in).
  16. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 5, 2013
    I like long focal lengths. I am always wanting something longer. Unfortunately, I am always on a budget as well and coming from Canon dslrs, the long high quality lenses were pretty much out of my budget. Personally, I have seen many photographs taken with the Panasonic 100-300 posted on this site (many in the bird thread) that I thought were fine images. So, that it is the lens I would like to have eventually. It is pretty cheap and the 600mm equivalent sounds great to me. For now I just have the cheap O40-150, and it is really not a bad lens. Cheap and light (but of course not fast). Not as nice at 150 as at 100, but still usable. It will do until I can get the 100-300. Besides the price, the size of the 100-300 appeals to me. Perhaps at some point I'll add the 35-100 as well, but it is out of my budget for now. I am not a small guy and have lifted weights all my adult life, but I still prefer a small, lightweight kit. Otherwise, I'd still be shooting Canon.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    welcome to the E-M1

    your considerations of the telephoto quandary seem to have most of the points covered - there is no one correct answer, and every user will have their own factors influencing their final decision.

    if it's of interest I have a non-SWD that is available to you for £375 (includes original caps, hood, tripod collar but no case) as I've now stopped shooting sports and am using the 35-100/2 much more (best you don't consider this if size and weight are your issues!)
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 15, 2011
    Aberdeen Scotland
    I currently have the 35-100 and 100-300 lenses.
    The 35-100 is a gem, very good IQ, compact and not too heavy, thoroughly recommended.
    The 100-300 is a very good lens, it's a 1/2 stop faster than the Oly 75-300 and the IQ between the 2 is going to be indeterminable. The 100-300 is cheaper and has AIS so all in all a much better value for money lens than the 75-300. For most part the IQ of the 100-300 is fine, I have some excellent shots from it but it's not as good as the 35-100.
    I use to own the 45-175 and while it's a good lens the IQ is not that wonderful, good for the price but again not as good as the 35-100.
    In my 4/3 days I owned the 50-200 SWD lens and a very good lens it is, the IQ is probably on par with the 35-100. I never had any issues with the bokeh. In comparative terms it is big and heavy and I don't know how good the focus would be with the EM-1, might be fine although probably not as fast as the 35-100.
    My recommendation is the 35-100 as I don't think any of the longer reach lenses fit your needs either IQ wise or size and weight.

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  19. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    It's somewhat rare, but I used to own a Sigma 135-400mm for 4/3...sold it last year as I was never using it (and I thought the quality of the 50-200 was better). It was a long lens...when fully extended, and was very prone to lens creep. If you find one it can be had for about $375-400
  20. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Yes - these are the difficulties! Life is such a complicated thing sometimes, photography more so.

    I was thinking about the non-SWD option, actually. Here is the video where focus speed is compared. The SWD version is noticeably faster and quieter (and I watched the video again with the sound turned off to make sure that the noise was not influencing my perception of speed, and it is still noticeably faster). However, given that it is unlikely that I should use such a lens more than occasionally (as noted before, most of the time, 60mm is long enough, and before the burglary, I only had one lens longer than 60mm, being an old manual lens), the cost of the SWD version seems a bit much for such usage (and, I should add, the same would probably apply to the Micro Four Thirds 40-150mm f/2.8 when that comes out, too). May I ask - when you were taking photographs of sports with your non-SWD version, how did you find it? That is perhaps the ultimate test of focus speed. As to the lack of case, I suppose that I could always find a secondhand case somewhere to fit it. Your price is certainly most tempting; I could use it for a while and see how much use that I had out of it and whether it was worth selling on eBay to buy either the SWD version if I found the focus slow or the Micro Four Thirds 40-150mm when it came out.


    As to the Panasonic 35-100, I worry that that will not be usefully longer at the long end than the 60mm; and the Sigma 135-400 is an interesting proposition, but if the quality is not as good as the 50-200, then it is perhaps less interesting.
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