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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Lens Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme gives his verdict on the 4.2x zoom Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ
Price : £349
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Olympus M Zuiko 12 50mm Macro Lens (3)

This 4.2x zoom lens from Olympus is compatible with Micro Four Thirds system cameras and provides an angle of view equivalent to a 24-100mm lens on a 35mm camera. Unusually for a lens covering this range the maximum aperture is rather slow at the telephoto end at only f/6.3. This lens costs around £300 and sports internal focusing and zoom, a choice of powered or mechanical zooming options, a dedicated focus lock button, a novel macro function and is splash proof. It is also available in a choice of black or champagne silver finishes.

There are currently no direct equivalents in terms of focal range or features to this lens with the closest being Panasonic's 14-45mm lens, which lacks the 12mm wide angle and 50mm telephoto, dedicated macro function and splash proof build of the Olympus lens, but does include optical stabilisation and is less expensive at around £230.

Olympus M Zuiko 12 50mm Macro Lens (1)

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Handling and features

The metal-like finish of the silver lens supplied for testing has an excellent high quality feel to it, which is complimented by the splash-proof build. The lens mount is constructed from metal and the lens balances well on the Panasonic G1 used for testing.

As focusing and zoom are performed internally the 52mm filter thread does not rotate during use, making this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Focus speeds are fairly quick, although in low light conditions the lens can sometimes struggle to find a lock, especially at the telephoto end of the range. The thin manual focus ring is fairly loose, which can make applying fine adjustments a little more tricky then with better damped lenses. A dedicated focus lock button on the side of the lens allows focus to be held quickly and easily.

The novel design of the zoom mechanism is unique. The zoom ring can be set to three positions, by moving it back and forth. The first position uses the electromagnetic zoom motor, which is great for smooth zooming during video recording. Sliding the zoom ring forward engages the zoom mechanism manually, which may be preferred for composing quickly whilst shooting still images. Finally if the macro button on the side of the lens is depressed, the zoom ring can be moved forward again. This reduces the minimum focus distance to 20cm and sets the focal length of the lens around 43mm (although it can vary slightly depending on the position of the zoom in the first place). Using this feature allows the lens allows a magnification of 0.36x to be realised, which is quite impressive when the 2x crop factor of the system is taken into account.

Olympus M Zuiko 12 50mm Macro Lens (2)

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Performance

At 12mm and maximum aperture sharpness in the centre of the frame is excellent, but only fairly good towards the edges of the frame. Sharpness reaches good levels across the frame with the lens stopped down to f/5.6 and peak quality across the frame is achieved between here and f/8.

Zooming to 27mm results in a decrease in sharpness in the centre of the frame, but the quality towards the edges exceeds good levels from wide open. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/5.6 for this focal length.

Finally at 50mm overall sharpness is decreased further just reaching very good levels in the centre at f/6.3. Although this performance is perfectly acceptable, it isn't up to the stellar standard set by other Micro Four Thirds lenses tested to date.

Resolution @ 12mm
Resolution @ 12mm
  Resolution @ 27mm
Resolution @ 27mm
Resolution @ 50mm
Resolution @ 50mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 using Imatest.

At shorter focal lengths, chromatic aberrations are well controlled. At 50mm, fringing of just below 0.75 pixel widths was recorded by Imatest, which shouldn't pose too many issues, unless you are creating very large prints or cropping harshly from near the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration @ 12mm
Chromatic aberration @ 12mm
  Chromatic aberration @ 27mm
Chromatic aberration @ 27mm
Chromatic aberration @ 50mm
Chromatic aberration @ 50mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is very well controlled. At 12mm the corners are only 0.86 stops darker than the image centre and at 50mm this level drops to 0.36 stops. At 12mm visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6 and f/8 results in uniform illumination at 50mm.

Distortion is well controlled throughout the zoom range. At 12mm Imatest detected 1.47 % barrel distortion and only 0.352% barrel disrtion at 50mm. These low levels of distortion shouldn't pose too many issues for general photography and the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, making it relatively straightforward to correct in image editing software afterwards.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Sample Photos


This lens is can be prone to flare, especially at 12mm. As no lens hood comes supplied as standard owners of this lens may wish to invest in one of the optional hoods available. Contrast levels also take a hit when shooting into the light, so care may need to be taken when shooting under these kinds of conditions.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Verdict

The novel design and unique macro feature of this lens making this optic a very interesting prospect. Although sharpness levels are good, there are not up to the heights attained by other lenses in the Micro Four Thirds line-up.

The compact size and excellent splash-proof build are both excellent features of this lens, but I can't help but feel a slightly larger lens with a maximum aperture of at least f/5.6 at the telephoto setting would be more appealing. For the price, it may be worthy of consideration, if only for the excellent macro feature and electronic zoom if video recording is one of your main concerns.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Pros

Novel design
Excellent macro feature
Good splash-proof build
Zoom switchable between powered and direct modes
Lightweight

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Cons

Slow f/6.3 maximum aperture at 50mm
Lower sharpness than many other Micro Four Thirds lenses, especially at 50mm
Prone to flare at 12mm and no hood is supplied as standard

HANDLING
FEATURES
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length12mm - 50mm
Angle of View24 - 84
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalent24mm - 100mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus20cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades5
Elements10
Groups9
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens Caps
Dimensions
Weight211g
Height83mm

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Comments


13 Jan 2013 6:31PM
I really like ephotozine's reviews on equipment and their use of Imatest for lenses. How about conducting the test on this Olympus lens (MFT 12-50mm) again using the Olympus E-M5 body? It would be very interesting to see what Imatest finds different on that match versus the original test on the Panasonic body. It would also be a data point for other reviews and perhaps provide another aspect to consider for us avid MFT users.

Also, when conducting tests, can we assume all the camera settings related to sharpness and noise are neutral? I see the ISO settings, but there are a bunch of other settings in the leading edge bodies offered by Panasonic and Olympus that might impact Imatest results. A few sentences in the reviews describing settings would be welcome. Thanks for the good reviews.

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