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Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Interchangeable Lens Review

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Interchangeable Lens Review - A standard zoom for Four Thirds digital SLRs with a relatively bright maximum aperture.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II
Price : £582
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II
Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at this Standard zoom from Olympus for Four Thirds format digital SLRs.

This standard zoom lens from Olympus sits in their mid-to-high end range of lenses and costs around £580. The lens sports weather sealed construction and a relatively bright maximum aperture of f/2.8-3.5.

Alternatives include Olympus' 12-60mm lens, which costs around £940, but adds a little extra range at either end of the zoom and a fast, silent focusing motor. Panasonic's 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 Leica D Vario Elmarit may also be a suitable alternative, although it lacks a couple of millimetres from the long end of the zoom range.

Many who own this lens will have picked it up as part of a kit with their Olympus E-series digital SLR. In this review we'll investigate how well it performs.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Handling and features
Weighing only 440g, and being 88.5mm long, this lens is quite lightweight and compact for the range it covers. High quality materials have been used in the construction and the lens feels very solid as a result. Weather sealing has been applied and this lens is dust and splashproof as a result.

This lens accept 67mm filters and as the filter thread doesn't rotate, polarising filters can be used with ease. Zooming the lens to 54mm increases the length by about an inch and the zoom mechanism is silky smooth, needing only light force to move it through the range. Zoom creep isn't an issue as there is just enough resistance in the mechanism to prevent it from moving under its own weight.

Manual focusing is performed via a 'fly-by-wire' system, which means focus is adjusted electronically, rather than having a direct mechanical link between the focus ring and the focusing mechanism. This system takes a bit of getting used to at first, but is perfectly adequate for making adjustments. Auto focus is reasonably quick on the Olympus E-3 used for testing and the minimum focus distance of 0.22mm is useful for getting close to your subject.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Performance
Shooting wide open at 14mm, sharpness already approaches excellent levels in the centre and is very good towards the edges of the frame. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/4, where the sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and very good towards the edges.

At 25mm the centre sharpness at maximum aperture is still good and the quality towards the edges is fair. Stopping the lens down a little dramatically improves the resolution across the frame and peak quality is achieved between f/4 and f/5.6. Here the sharpness in the centre is outstanding and very good towards the edges of the frame.

Finally at 54mm, the centre sharpness at maximum aperture is very good, and the quality towards the edges is fairly good. Here, peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/5.6 where the centre is still very good and the quality towards the edges is approaching good levels.

Resolution at 14mm Resolution at 25mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Resolution at 14mm Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Resolution at 25mm
Resolution at 54mm How to read our graphs
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 E-3 using Imatest.
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Resolution at 54mm

Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled throughout the range and should not pose any issues, even in very large prints or harsh crops from the edge of the frame. The most fringing Imatest was able to detect was 0.49 pixels widths towards the edge of the frame at 14mm and f/22.

Chromatic Aberrations at 14mm Chromatic Aberrations at 25mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Chromatic Aberrations at 14mm Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Chromatic Aberrations at 25mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 54mm 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 E-3 using Imatest.
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Chromatic Aberrations at 54mm

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is reasonably well controlled. At 14mm and f/2.8 the corners are 1.23 stops darker than the centre of the image and visually uniform illumination is a achieved at f/4 at this focal length. At 54mm, illumination is more even at f/3.5, but the corners get dark very 0.67 stops darker than the image centre very abruptly. Here the lens needs to be stopped down to f/8 to eliminate these darkened corners.

Distortion is very well controlled. At 14mm Imatest detected 2.25% barrel distortion, which is noticeable, but not overly strong. Unlike many lenses which suffer from pincushion distortion at the telephoto end of the range, this optic displays very mild barrel distortion. The level of 0.657% is so low that is should rarely need correcting. At both ends of the zoom range the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so it should be simple to correct in image editing software afterwards if needs be.

Even when shooting directly into the sun, this lens copes remarkably well, retaining good contrast with little or no flare. A petal shaped hood comes supplied with the lens, which does a good job of keeping extraneous light from affecting images.


 
Maximum Magnification – ISO100, 1/125, f/8, 54mm   Shooting into the light – ISO100, 1/125, f/5.6, 14mm
 
Wide angle – ISO100, 1/320, f/5.6, 14mm   Telephoto – ISO100, 1/125, f/5.6, 54mm

In use this lens proved itself to be quite resistant to flare and ghosting, with only a slight loss of contrast becoming apparent when shooting directly into the light. A petal-shaped lens hood is provided, which does a grand job of keeping extraneous light out of the optical path, further reducing the chance of flare spoiling images.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Verdict
This standard zoom from Olympus is a very good all-round performer, capable of producing images with good contrast and resolution across the frame.

Its compact size and light weight allows the lens to balance well with both larger professional level bodies and smaller, more compact SLRs and its retail price is very reasonable, given its performance.

A good all-round performer for a reasonable price.
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Pros

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Compact and lightweight
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Very good optical performance
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Excellent weatherproof build quality
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Reasonably priced

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Cons
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Abrupt falloff of illumination towards the corners at 54mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II 'Fly-by-wire' manual focusing is an acquired taste

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II: Lens specification
Price £581.99
Contact www.olympus.co.uk
Filter size 67mm
Format Four Thirds
Construction 15 elements in 11 groups
Angle-of-view 75 - 23°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 28-108mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 22cm
Maximum aperture f/2.8-3.5
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 440g
Size 74.5 x 88.5mm
In the box Lens Caps, Lens Hood

The Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II costs £581.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II

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