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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6
Price : £477
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6

This compact ultra-wide angle zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds system cameras offers a 2x zoom range equivalent to an 18-36mm lens on a 35mm camera. It costs around £450 and sports a collapsible design.
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Handling and features

Weighing only 155g and being only 49.5mm long when collapsed, this lens is incredibly compact for the range it offers. The lens body is constructed from high quality plastics and the lens mount is made of metal. It makes a great compact combination with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 body used for testing, and would suit more compact bodies from the Micro Four Thirds range equally well.

As this lens sports a collapsible design, opening the lens virtually doubles it's length. Once extended the zoom ring is limited to the zoom range unless a switch on the side is activated, then the lens can be collapsed again for compact storage. As focusing is 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 very quick and the manual focus ring offers is well damped, which makes applying fine adjustments fairly straightforward.

A strange quirk on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 used for testing is that the lens cannot be focused all the way to infinity in manual focus mode. As this lens provides extensive depth of field, even at maximum aperture, then this shouldn't be an issue in practice. The lens has a silent focusing motor and is labelled as one of Olympus' MSC lenses, suitable for movies and stills. The minimum focus distance of 25cm allows reasonably close up images to be taken and is great for shooting in claustrophobic conditions.
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Performance

At 9mm and maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent and clarity towards the edges of the frame is very good. No real gains in clarity are to be had in the centre of the frame by stopping down at this focal length, but sharpness towards the edges of the frame improves to just below excellent levels with the aperture stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/8.

At 14mm, the same high levels of sharpness are maintained in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture, but clarity towards the edges of the frame fall to fairly good levels. Stopping down to f/8 improves sharpness towards the edges of the frame to very good levels, whilst maintaining outstanding sharpness in the centre of the frame.

Finally, at 18mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame remains excellent at maximum aperture and just like at 14mm, clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat, achieving fairly good levels. Stopping down to f/8 improves clarity towards the edges of the frame to good levels at this focal length.

Resolution @ 9mm
Resolution @ 9mm
  Resolution @ 14mm
Resolution @ 14mm
Resolution @ 18mm
Resolution @ 18mm
 

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-G3 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame are well controlled at 9mm, but increase to noticeable levels with the lens zoomed beyond 14mm. Care may need to be taken when photographing scenes with high contrast edges places near the periphery of the image area.

Chromatic aberration @ 9mm
Chromatic aberration @ 9mm
  Chromatic aberration @ 14mm
Chromatic aberration @ 14mm
Chromatic aberration @ 18mm
Chromatic aberration @ 18mm
 

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-G3 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is incredibly well controlled for a lens that covers such a wide field of view. At 9mm the corners are only 0.8 stops darker than the image centre and this decreases further to 0.45 stops with the lens zoomed to 18mm. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down by one stop from the maximum aperture throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is also extremely well controlled throughout the zoom range with Imatest detecting only barrel distortion of 1.8% at 9mm and 0.1% at 18mm. This low level shouldn't pose many issues for normal day-to-day photography. If absolutely straight lines are paramount what little distortion there is should be relatively straightforward to correct as it is uniform across the frame.

No lens hood is supplied as standard with this lens and this lens is quite prone to flare and hazing with a bright light source in the frame. Although a hood for a lens covering such a wide angle-of-view would provide little protection against this, it still would've been good to have one included.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Sample Photos

Value For Money

This lens is currently the cheapest ultra-wide angle zoom lens available for the Micro Four Thirds system, costing around £450. The closest equivalent is Panasonic's 7-14mm f/4 lens, which retails for around £830. This lens provides a wider angle of view and a constant maximum aperture of f/4, but isn't collapsible like this Olympus lens.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Verdict

Those looking for a compact ultra-wide angle lens for a Micro Four Thirds system camera can't go far wrong with this lens. It does have some weaknesses, but so long as you are aware of these this lens is more than capable of delivering very good quality results.

As it stands in the range, it is currently the best value ultra-wide for MFT and the collapsible, lightweight design means that it is perfect for taking on your travels.

 
  The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 performs well and has an excellent collapsible design.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Pros

Collapsible design
Lightweight
Fast, silent autofocus
Excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame throughout the zoom range
Low distortion
Good value compared to alternative

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Cons

No lens hood supplied as standard
High CA levels towards the edges of the frame beyond 14mm
Prone to flare

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length9mm - 18mm
Angle of View62 - 100
Max Aperturef/4 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalent18mm - 36mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus25cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades7
Elements12
Groups8
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens, Lens Cap, Rear Cap, Warranty Card
Dimensions
Weight155g
Height49.5mm

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Comments


Niknut e2
4 644 63 United Kingdom
6 Mar 2013 4:30PM
Mmmmmm....yummy !!!

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