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Olympus Pen 14-42mm MKI vs 14-42mm MKII

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II
Price: £199.00

Olympus Pen 14-42mm MKI vs 14-42mm MKII - We put the old Olympus Pen 14-42mm MKI zoom lens against the newer 14-42mm MKII in our ultimate shoot out.

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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

When Olympus announced the Mark II 14-42mm lens for the Pen in Nov 2010 photographers who owned the original Mark I lens would no doubt be wondering if the new smaller lens is better, while those who're just moving into the format may consider picking up a cheaper old version. Peter Bargh puts them through their paces in an ePHOTOzine head to head.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MKI zoom range Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MKII zoom range
The M.Zuiko 14-42mm MkI (above left) is chunky in comparison to the newer M.Zuiko 14-42mm MKII (above right) Also notice the mechanism for zoom and the construction is improved resulting in a refined neater model. It, like the MkI, is also available in black.
Olympus 14-42mm MkI and MkII lenses

Zuiko 14-42mm Features

The new M.Zuiko 14-42mm II lens features an updated optical design with improved autofocus drive and smaller dimensions.

While the focal length and aperture range are the same as the MkI lens, the focusing mechanism has changed. The MKI lens has a traditional focusing method with a rotating and extending front section which lengthens the closer you focus, and the new version has a rear optical adjustment that's internal. Two clear benefits here are that the front doesn't rotate so if you're using a graduated or polarising filter it stays in the same desired position throughout the focus range.

And, more important for video users, the focusing on the new lens is the adoption of Olympus' MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) design, as seen previously in the M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 and M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lenses. Olympus MSC lenses have autofocus motors which focus quickly and accurately and are near silent, so the motor won't be picked up by the microphone.

The newer design has around 25% reduction in weight, so the old 150g is now a featherweight 112g. And a smaller barrel diameter of 56.5mm from 62mm makes it slimmer, with a filter size reduced from 40.5mm to 37mm.

The minimum focusing distance is unchanged at 25cm, but the maximum magnification is now 0.19x (equivalent to 0.38x on a 35mm camera), versus 0.24x (0.48x equivalent) in the previous design.
In my test I attached the camera to a tripod and moved as close as the focusing system would allow. This resulted in the following two photos. On the left the MK I was approx 10cm from the front of the lens to the face, while on the MkII it was 15cm away.

Olympus 14-42mm Mk I Olympus 14-42mm Mk II
Closest focus test - 0.5 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
Close Focus 0.5 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
0.3 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
Close Focus 0.3 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100


The lenses have seven-bladed circular apertures resulting in quite pleasing bokeh (out of focus background specular highlights).


Olympus 14-42mm Mk I Olympus 14-42mm Mk II
Bokeh test - 1/500 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
Bokeh test - 1/500 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
Bokeh Test - 1/640 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
Bokeh Test - 1/640 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200

Zuiko 14-42mm Handling

Both lenses are made in China and the MKI's metal mount has been substituted with a plastic mount. The metal makes that satisfyng chink as you connect body to lens, while the plastic one is slightly quieter. In terms of durability the metal is a bit more rugged but neither option should cause you any problems over the years.
lens mounts of Olympus 14-42mm Mk I and Mk II

Each lens has the same direction zoom adjustment - anti clockwise to extend focal length, and a light manual focus ring in front. They both contract into a smaller position using a locking release switch on the zoom barrel. The main difference in handling is the internal focus of the newer lens means that filters can be attached and set up and won't move when you zoom or focus so this gives it the edge.

The MkII lens has a smoother zoom adjustment. It glides whereas the MKI is slightly course and feels some resistance, due to the older design.

Zuiko 14-42mm Performance

We've previously tested each lens individually using the ePHOTOzine test bench. you can see results here: Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkI and Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MkII. Our results show that while both lenses are very good, the MKI has the better performance especially at the edges of the frame when shooting wide open. When you stop down the lenses equal out. So if low light shooting is important you'd be better looking out for the older lens.

As you saw above, the newer lens has a lower subject magnification making close ups appear less close. The focusing distance is supposed to be the same, but I found I could get as close as 21cm from the CCD to subject with the MkI whereas on the newer lens it was the stated 25cm. This resulted in a more magnified subject in the viewfinder (see head shot of statue above).

Also from the same position the older MkI lens gives a fractionally wider angle of view - see the photos below where they were taken from the same tripod mounted spot.

Olympus 14-42mm Mk I Olympus 14-42mm Mk II
Colour Test - 1/10 sec | f/4.2 | 22.0 mm | ISO 100
1/10 sec | f/4.2 | 22.0 mm | ISO 100
1/13 sec | f/4.2 | 22.0 mm | ISO 100
1/13 sec | f/4.2 | 22.0 mm | ISO 100


Next up was a test of lens distortion. While not pretty, one of the easiest ways to test for distortion is to photograph a brick wall and look for signs of bending in to the centre which would indicate pincushion distortion or bending out at the centre indicating barrel distortion.
Both lenses performed admirably. Just a slight amount of expected curvature at the wide setting and slightly more distortion on the MKII at 14mm that's most noticeable on the top line of bricks bending more in top middle.

Olympus 14-42mm Mk I Olympus 14-42mm Mk II
Brickwall distortion test - 1/250 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1/250 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1/250 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1/250 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Brickwall distortion test - 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100

 

You cant beat a good old newspaper test - performed to compare sharpness and chromatic aberration. You can assess sharpness by looking how the small type of a newspaper resolves. And look towards the edges of the frame at the type to see if it has colour fringing as a result of lens aberrations. Click on any of the small pics to view the full frame version.

Lenses set at 14mm MkI (left) MkII (right) Lenses set at 42mm MkI (left) MkII (right)
Newspaper Resolution test - 1/30 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1/30 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 1/25 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1/25 sec | f/3.5 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 1/10 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/10 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/8 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1/8 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 0.3 sec | f/11.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
0.3 sec | f/11.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 0.4 sec | f/11.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
0.4 sec | f/11.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 0.4 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
0.4 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
0.5 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
0.5 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 1.3 sec | f/22.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1.3 sec | f/22.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 1.6 sec | f/22.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
1.6 sec | f/22.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 1.6 sec | f/22.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
1.6 sec | f/22.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
Newspaper Resolution test - 2 sec | f/22.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100
2 sec | f/22.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 100


But it's just not optical performance that's different with these lenses. The main advantage of the MKII is the MSC technology...and in comparison that really does make a difference. If you amplify the sound of the older lens it would be like a train running over sleepers with that familiar da da da dum sound as it adjusts to focus each time you point at a new subject. The MkII is whisper quiet. It's also faster at making a decision too so the whole experience is better.

 

Verdict

Choosing which version of the 14-42mm to buy is swings and roundabouts and your choice should depend on what's most important to you. If it's optical quality when shooting wide open you should pick up the older MkI version. If you prefer a more sleek design with a slightly improved focusing speed and none rotating focus ring go for the MkII. One thing's for sure neither of these lenses will disappoint Olympus Pen users as a good all round lens. I will forgo that edge on sharpness for the more compact and faster / quieter performance of the MkII.


  14-42mm Mk I 14-42mm Mk II
FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL


Comparison Table

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6
ManufacturerOlympusOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
    • Olympus 4/3rds
    Lens
    Focal Length 14mm - 42mm14mm - 42mm
    Angle of View 29 - 7528 - 84
    Max Aperture f/3.5 - f/5.6f/3.5 - f/5.6
    Min Aperture f/22f/22
    Filter Size 37mm40.5mm
    35mm equivalent 28mm - 84mm28mm - 84mm
    Internal focusing YesNo
    Focusing
    Min Focus 25cm25cm
    Stabilised NoNo
    Construction
    Blades 7No Data
    Elements 89
    Groups 78
    Box Contents
    Box Contents M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II Black, LC-37B Lens Cap, Micro Four Thirds lens rear cap (LR-2), Operating Instructions, Warranty CardLens Caps
    Dimensions
    Weight 112g150g
    Height 50mm62mm
    View Full DetailsView Full Details


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