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Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Lens Review

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Olympus Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm
Price: £999.99
Rating: 4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD - Gary Wolstenholme tests the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm lens which features a relatively bright maximum aperture and also has a silent SWD focusing motor.

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Features and Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
This 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens from Olympus covers a range equivalent to 100-400mm on a 35mm camera and costs around £1000. Besides having a relatively bright maximum aperture, it also has a silent SWD focusing motor.

A cheaper alternative covering a similar focal range is Panasonic's 45-200mm f/4-5.6 G lens, which is a much lighter and compact optic, thanks in part to the modest maximum aperture. This lens can be picked up for around £275.

Another interesting alternative is Sigma's 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro HSM II, which retails for around £660. Although this lens doesn't cover as wide a range as the Olympus optic, it does maintain the bright f/2.8 maximum aperture right through to 200mm.

In this review we will investigate how well this super-telephoto optic performs.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Handling and features

For a super-telephoto lens, this 50-200mm optic from Olympus isn't overly large or heavy, weighing only 995g. Very high quality material have been used in this optic's construction and it feels reassuringly sturdy as a result. As with all Olympus lenses at this level, this 50-200mm is sealed against dust and moisture.

The lens accepts 67mm filers on the front and as focusing is performed internally the filter thread does not rotate, making it easy to use polarising and graduated filters. Zooming the lens to 200mm extends it by about three inches. The zooming is very smooth throughout the range and there is enough resistance in the mechanism to prevent zoom creep when the camera is tilted towards the ground.

It is easy to make fine annual adjustments to the focusing as the manual focus ring is well damped. Auto focus is very quick on the Olympus E-3 used for testing and the minimum focus distance of 1.2 metres allows you to get quite close to your subject, for frame filling shots.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Performance

Shooting at 50mm, at maximum aperture, sharpness across the frame is already very good, and remarkably consistent from edge to edge. Peak quality for this focal length is achieved at f/4, where the quality approaches excellent levels across the frame.

Zooming to 100mm results in a slight reduction in resolution recorded at maximum aperture, but still the quality is very good across the frame here. Peak quality for this focal length is achieved at f/5.6, where again, the sharpness approaches excellent levels across the frame.

Finally at 200mm, sharpness in the centre of the image area is good at maximum aperture, and fairly good towards the edges. Stopping the lens down to f/5.6 results in very good sharpness in the centre and good sharpness towards the edges of the frame.

Resolution at 50mm Resolution at 100mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Resolution at 50mm Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Resolution at 100mm
Resolution at 200mm 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 ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Resolution at 200mm

Chromatic aberrations are remarkably well controlled, especially as this is an area where super-telephoto lenses like this generally suffer. Imatest was only able to detect fringing of 0.3 pixel widths at 400mm and f/22, which is the worst you can expect to see. This level should be invisible in normal images, even at very large print sizes and from very harsh crops.

Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm Chromatic Aberrations at 100mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Chromatic Aberrations at 100mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm

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 E3 using Imatest.
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm
Falloff of illumination towards the corners is very well controlled. At 50mm the corners are only 0.432 stops darker than the image centre, which is barely noticeable in normal images. At 200mm falloff is a little stronger, but the corners are still only 0.899 stops darker than the image centre. Stopping the lens down to f/4 results in images with visually uniform illumination.

Levels of distortion are mild at either end of the zoom range. At 500 Imatest detected barrelling of 1.19% and 0.712% pincushion distortion at 200mm. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame at both ends of the range, which should make it simple to correct in image editing software afterwards.

A deep circular hood comes supplied with the lens which can be reversed for storage. Light sources outside of the frame can cause flare and loss of contrast so it is a good idea to use the hood wherever possible. Shooting into the light also causes a slight loss of contrast.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Maximum magnification   Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Wildlife
Maximum magnification – ISO100, 1/125, f/8, 200mm   Wildlife – ISO200, 1/320, f/4, 200mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD wide-angle   Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD bokeh
Wide-angle – ISO100, 1/250, f/3.5, 50mm   Bokeh – ISO100, 1/200, f/4, 200mm

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Verdict

Very few lenses give as solid a performance in all areas as this lens. As it is sharp from wide open, it allows the relatively bright maximum aperture to be used to great advantage.

Although the price may be higher than other alternatives, this is a premium lens that provides premium performance and if quality matters, it may well be worth the extra money.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
An excellent performer in every area

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Pros

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Very good to excellent resolution
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Negligible levels of chromatic aberration
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Fast focusing
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Excellent weather resistant build
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Close focusing
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Low distortion

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Cons

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD A petal shaped hood may give better protection against flare

FEATURES Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
HANDLING Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
PERFORMANCE Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
VALUE FOR MONEY Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
OVERALL Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD: Specification

Price £999.99
Contact www.olympus.co.uk
Filter size 67mm
Format Four Thirds
Construction 16 elements in 15 groups
Angle-of-view 24 - 6.2°
35mm equivalent focal length (on Four Thirds body) 100-400mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No (Olympus boddies have stabilisation built in)
Minimum focus 1.2m
Maximum aperture f/2.8-3.5
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 995g
Size (lxw) 86.5 x 157mm
In the box Circular lens hood, Case, Lens Caps



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Comments

tonyt123
tonyt123  2
27 Apr 2011 - 11:18 PM

does this lens have manual aperture control?

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28 Apr 2011 - 7:14 AM

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Pete
Pete Site Moderator 1218416 forum postsPete vcard ePz Advertiser England96 Constructive Critique Points
28 Apr 2011 - 7:14 AM


Quote: Does this lens have manual aperture control?

not on the lens, you have to control the aperture through the body

Paolo57
Paolo57  2 Italy
23 Nov 2011 - 8:30 AM

I'm a Olympus and Zuiko photographer since I was 14 now I', 55!
During these long years I had the chance to "grow - up " as a semi pro photpgrapher along with Olympus/Zuiko brand and I have never hold on on them
By the way I have used and still use the 50-200 mm F/2.8-3.5 and believe it's an incredible lens
Portraits,nature,still-life and also street photography are simple great
Usually I use to convert RAW format in B&W and the result is similar to a film photo

Ciao

Last Modified By Moderator Team at 23 Nov 2011 - 8:58 AM
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