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Hands-on with the OM System 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II and 40-150mm F4 PRO

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Introduction

The 12-40mm F2.8 II Pro and 40-150mm F4 Pro aren’t the first lenses to appear with ‘OM System’ branding, but they give a bit of an insight into OM Digital Solutions’ thinking about the system, its strengths, and where it’s going.

We’ve had a chance to handle and use the lenses a little bit and are going to take a look at what they are and what they offer.

OM System 12-40mm F2.8 II PRO

The 12-40mm F2.8 II Pro is an updated version of the first lens in Olympus’ ‘Pro’ series. It’s a 24-80mm equiv zoom, with a fast maximum aperture. It’s a usefully small lens, even when compared with the closest-to-equivalent lenses on other systems, providing a top-quality do-everything zoom for Micro Four Thirds.

12-40 II specifications

The optical design of the 12-40mm II is unchanged from the original, with 14 elements arranged in nine groups. It retains the same ‘Movie and Stills Compatible’ micromotor focusing, which has proven to be as fast and quiet as promised.

What has changed in that the lens’s weather sealing has been updated to match the IP53 rating of the OM-1 body. The ‘ZERO’-branded multi-layer coating (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflection Optical, if you were wondering) is now used on several surfaces to reduce internal reflection and ghosting, and a fluorine coating to protect from dirt and moisture has been applied to the front element.

What it means

The 12-40mm F2.8 II Pro is a relatively minor update to a very well-regarded lens. In addition to being optically very good and covering a useful range, the 12-40mm has some nice features such as a snap-back focus ring that exposes a distance scale and engages manual focus with fixed (rather than speed-sensitive) focus response.

The updates, particularly in terms of weather sealing, are certainly nice to have, but they’re unlikely to prompt every existing owner to rush out to replace their 12-40 (you don’t need the version II lens to use the OM-1’s 50fps AF, for instance). But this suggests a degree of confidence on the part of OMDS: it will have cost money to rework the lens sealing and coating, and this investment will have been primarily made in the expectation of new customers wanting a standard zoom that makes the most out of the OM-1’s capabilities.

OM System 40-150mm F4 PRO

The 40-150mm F4 Pro is the latest compact tele zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system. It provides the fields of view equivalent to an 80-300mm lens on full frame (and an aperture diameter equivalent to F8 in such a lens).

It’s a more compact, more affordable alternative to the 40-150mm F2.8 and, like the 12-40mm, is rated to provide IP53 levels of environmental sealing. The combination of compactness and durability make it well suited for adventure and outdoor photography.

40-150mm Lens Specs

The 40-150mm F4 Pro features a relatively complex design with 15 elements in 9 groups. This includes two extra-low dispersion (ED) elements, one super extra-low dispersion (SED) element, one high refractive index (HR) and two aspherical lenses.

Focus is described as MSC, which usually denotes a small, gear-driven micromotor that delivers fast, quiet autofocus.

In the hand

When you pick up the 40-150mm, it becomes obvious that it’s been designed to act as a sister lens to the 12-40mm F2.8, sharing its appearance and its weight. The 40-150mm it a little longer (15mm/0.6″), but otherwise makes a good match.

The two are different, though. The F4 lens doesn’t include the pull-back manual focus ring to engage manual focus. Notably it’s also not compatible with the OM-1’s fastest shooting modes, which makes us wonder whether it’s using an onboard control chip that can’t communicate fast enough for AF at 50 fps. The 40-150mm F4 can’t be used with teleconverters.

What it means

OM Digital Solutions made clear that it sees the compact nature of lens/camera combinations as one of the core strengths of the Micro Four Thirds system, and the 40-150mm F4 is a great example of that.

Quite simply there aren’t any 80-300mm F8 lenses for full frame on the market, so there’s no way to match the size, weight and range that this lens brings. Our initial impressions of the lens’s characteristics are also extremely promising, with it appearing to deliver sharp results, even at close focus distances.

Summary

Both the 12-40mm F2.8 II Pro and the 40-150mm F4.0 Pro make interesting additions to the OM System lineup. Improved weather sealing and a focus on compact, high-quality optics points to OMDS knowing where Micro Four Thirds’ strengths lie, and a willingness to update one of the system’s core lenses suggests some faith in the future.


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