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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI
Price : £240
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
4746_olympus_m-zuiko_ed-14-42mm_silver
The original version of Olympus' collapsible standard zoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds System costs around £240 on its own, but is often supplied as a kit with Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras. The collapsible design allows the lens to be made more compact when not being used, making it perfect for stowing in a small bag or camera case.

A newer MkII version is also available, which costs around £230 and is a little lighter and smaller in diameter than the older lens. The newer lens also sports internal focusing and is compatible with a range of accessories via a bayonet attachment around the lens barrel.

Panasonic's 14-45mm lens costs around £230, but lacks the collapsible design of the Olympus optics, although focusing is performed internally, just like on the MkII Olympus lens.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI: Handling and features

The collapsible design harks back to the collapsible 50mm lenses that were commonplace on range finder cameras and makes this lens perfect for stowing in a small bag or case when not being used. Weighing only 150g, it is incredibly lightweight also and it balances well on the Olympus E-PL1 used for testing. The lens is collapsed by sliding a switch and turning the lens beyond 14mm, which is very easy to operate.

The lens barrel is constructed from decent quality plastics, as is the lens mount, which probably contributes to the light weight of the lens. The zoom mechanism doesn't suffer from zoom creep and is smooth through much of the range, although there is a definite click at 14mm.

Focusing is performed by the rotating front element moving back and forth. Compared to other similar lenses, focusing is performed quite slowly, and the lens seems to hunt, even on subjects with good contrast. As the filter thread rotates, it may be troublesome using graduated or polarising filters via the 40.5mm filter thread. The minimum focus distance is only 25cm, which will allow frame-filling close ups to be taken at maximum zoom.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI: Performance

This lens produces images with excellent sharpness across the frame from maximum aperture at 14mm, and its performance seems to be limited only by diffraction. At this focal length peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/4, where sharpness is excellent from corner to corner.

Zooming to 25mm results in similar excellent sharpness across the frame at maximum aperture, which is where peak performance is also found.

Finally at 42mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame is outstanding, but the sharpness towards the edges of the frame has dropped to good levels. Stopping down to f/8 improves sharpness across the frame so that the clarity towards the edges is very good.

MTF at 14mm
MTF at 14mm
  MTF at 25mm
MTF at 25mm
MTF at 42mm
MTF at 42mm
 

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 an Olympus PEN E-PL1 using Imatest.

Imatest recorded some of the lowest levels of chromatic aberrations I've seen so far. At their worst they just about reach half a pixel width at f/22 and 14mm.

CA at 14mm
CA at 14mm
  CA at 25mm
CA at 25mm
CA at 42mm
CA at 42mm
 

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 an Olympus PEN E-PL1 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the image area is well controlled. Throughout the zoom range the corners are only 0.4 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture and illumination is visually uniform when the lens is stopped down just one stop.

Olympus Micro Four Thirds compatible cameras automatically correct distortion in camera, so the following won't be noticeable if shooting JPEG images, or if the software supplied with the camera is used to convert the RAW images. At 14mm distortion is quite pronounced with Imatest detecting 6.55% barrelling and at 42mm this is replaced by 2.29% pincushion distortion, which is a reasonably high level. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so it should be easy enough to correct in image editing software afterwards.

Although the lens isn't supplied with a hood, it is very resistant to flare and loss of contrast. Shooting directly into strong light sources may cause a slight loss of contrast in extreme instances, especially at 42mm and flare may be caused by very strong light sources just outside the frame.

Wide-angle - ISO200, 1/1000, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Wide-angle - ISO200, 1/1000, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
  Telephoto - ISO100, 1/800, f/5.6, 42mm (35mm equiv: 84mm)
Telephoto - ISO100, 1/800, f/5.6, 42mm (35mm equiv: 84mm)
1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
  Shooting into the light shows a little flare - ISO400, 1/6, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Shooting into the light shows a little flare - ISO400, 1/6, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
ISO200, 1/1250, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
ISO200, 1/1250, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
  ISO200, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
ISO200, 1/640, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
ISO200, 1/1600, f/5.6, 20mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)
ISO200, 1/1600, f/5.6, 20mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)
  ISO200, 1/1250, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
ISO200, 1/1250, f/5.6, 14mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI: Verdict

As this is the lens that was supplied as a kit with earlier Olympus PEN digital cameras, it will be one many owners of these cameras already have. Unless you require a faster maximum aperture, or a longer zoom range, the quality produced by this lens should be more than adequate for most photographer's requirements.

Unfortunately the slow autofocus speed and rotating front element design let this, otherwise fantastic kit lens down a little, but if you can cope with these quirks, then there should be no reason to upgrade in pursuit of better sharpness.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI: Pros

Excellent sharpness across the frame from maximum aperture
Compact collapsible design
Light weight
25cm minimum focus distance

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI: Cons

Slow AF
Rotating front element may make using polarisers or graduated filters tricky

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
  • Olympus 4/3rds
Lens
Focal Length14mm - 42mm
Angle of View28 - 84
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size40.5mm
35mm equivalent28mm - 84mm
Internal focusingNo
Focusing
Min Focus25cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
BladesNo Data
Elements9
Groups8
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens Caps
Dimensions
Weight150g
Height62mm

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