An anti-coup protestor in Bangkok. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom. 150mm (effectively 300mm on full frame), ISO200, f2.8 @ 1/800 of a second.
There was a discussion about the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro Zoom on one of the photography web sites I visit. The person who started the discussion asked if the 12-40 is a "transformative" lens.
I don't think it is. It is an excellent lens, a class leading lens in all ways, but not transformative. It was not the first of its type (the Panasonic 12-35 f2.8 was released years ago) and similar lenses have long been popular on full frame bodies. The Canon 24-70 f2.8 and Nikon 24-70 f2.8 zooms have been mainstays in professional photographers' kits for years.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
A Bangkok cityscape. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom and matched 1.4X teleconverter, 210mm. (Effectively a 420mm on full frame). ISO200, f4 @ 1/1000 of a second.
What I think is a transformative lens is Olympus' excellent 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom.
First what I don't like about the 40-150.
It's big. By Micro 4:3 standards it's huge. It's about the same size as the Canon 70-200 f4 L series zoom. The Oly lens is 79mm X 160mm and weighs in at 880 grams*. The Canon is 76mm X 173mm and tips the scales at 760 grams.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom and matched 1.4X teleconverter, 210mm. (Effectively a 420mm on full frame). ISO200, f4 @ 1/640 of a second.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom and matched 1.4X teleconverter, 115mm. (Effectively a 230mm on full frame). ISO200, f4 @ 1/640 of a second.
So what makes the 40-150 special? First off is the performance. This is a great lens. I think it may be the best zoom lens I've ever owned. It's stunningly sharp, very well corrected for optical aberrations and focuses near instantly (on the E-M5 Mark II).
The lens features Olympus' excellent weather proof construction. Rain showers, snow or dust don't bother it.
Then there's the flexibility the lens offers. It's the equivalent of a 80-300mm f2.8 in full frame terms. Think about that. An 80-300mm f2.8 zoom in a package the size of a 70-200mm f4. No other lens on the market can even come close to that. Throw in the tiny 1.4X teleconverter and you have a 420mm f4 lens in your bag.
Couple this lens with the silent shutter on the E-M5 Mark II and you have the absolute killer combination for certain sports, like golf. (In full disclosure, I'm not sure the autofocus on the E-M5 Mark II is up to many sports, but it should be great for golf.)
During the procession for the city pillar shrine in Mahachai, I was able to stay on shore and still make frame filling photos of people on the boats. I could photograph people praying in the temple from a distance, which is a little less intrusive. During anti-coup protests in Bangkok, I was able to make frame filling portraits of protest leaders from the back of the media pack (top photo).
Praying in Mahachai. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom. 142mm (Effectively a 284mm on full frame). ISO1600, f2.8 @ 1/250 of a second.
This lens easily fills the role of two workhorse lenses in photographers' kits. It replaces the ubiquitous 70-200mm f2.8 and a 300mm f2.8. Combined weight of those two lenses (on the Canon side) is 3.85 kilos (~8.5 pounds**). The Olympus lens weighs in at 880 grams (1.9 pounds) or less than 1/4 the weight of the Canon lenses. All of a sudden the Olympus lens doesn't seem like quite the behemoth.
It gets better though. Combined price of these two Canon lenses is $8,200. The 70-200 is $2,100 and the 300mm f2.8 is $6,100. The Olympus lens cost $1,500. So not only is it comparatively lightweight, it's also comparatively cheap. Weight and price are relative, and while the 40-150 is neither tiny nor cheap, it's remarkably small and affordable compared to the full frame competition.
Thai police at an anti-coup protest. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom. 150mm (effectively 300mm on full frame), ISO250, f2.8 @ 1/250 of a second.
Despite all this 40-150 is not a lens I carry every day. There are a couple of reasons for that.
The principal one is the size. Again, by M4:3 standards this is a big lens.
The other reason I don't carry it every day is that I work almost exclusively with prime lenses.
Olympus' Micro 4:3 primes are beautiful little lenses. The longest lens I typically need is the 75mm f1.8, which equals a 150mm. Sort of an odd focal length falling between 135mm and 200mm, more common lenses in full frame terms, but I like it. The 75mm f1.8 is another outstanding lens, equal to Canon's legendary 135mm f2 L lens.
In some ways I don't consider the 40-150mm f2.8 a zoom at all. Instead I use it as a 300mm f2.8 lens that I can zoom out from if it's a little too tight.
People praying on the street in Mahachai during the procession for the city pillar shrine. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom. 150mm (effectively 300mm on full frame), ISO200, f2.8 @ 1/800 of a second.
The 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Zoom enables me to make pictures I wouldn't have been able to make with full frame gear. Because it's relatively small I can carry it during protest marches or on assignments when I would not normally carry a 300mm. That, to me, is transformative.
* For an interesting discussion of size vs system and limits of design take a look at Thom Hogan's blog.
** Weights and prices are taken from the BH Photo website. You may not get the same prices from local vendors.