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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens Review

Olympus 12-200mm - John Riley reviews the new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ED Micro Four Thirds lens, giving 24-400mm equivalent zoom range. Find out if this all-in-one lens can deliver the goods.

| Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Olympus M Zuiko 12 200mm F3 5 6 3 ED (1)

One of the strengths of interchangeable lens cameras is, of course, the ability to change lenses as required. However, there are times when this is not so easy and a one-lens solution is needed, perhaps for travel, perhaps because the weather is bad and changing lenses in lashing rain would be a risk. In one sense, the wider the range of such a lens, the better, providing that the performance is up to the task. Here we have a huge range in a compact form in the Olympus 12-200mm, giving a "35mm-format equivalent" of 24-400mm. Let's pick up the lens along with a 20mp Panasonic Lumix G9 and see if the performance lives up to the potential.


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 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Handling and Features

Olympus M Zuiko 12 200mm F3 5 6 3 ED (8)

This is a very compact lens indeed, weighing in at a modest 455g. Construction looks impressive and the lens, although not designated a PRO design, is splashproof and dustproof.

A bayonet lens hood is supplied and this clips into place securely enough. Obviously, a hood that will allow the 12mm setting to be used without vignetting will be of little use at 200mm, but something is better than nothing. Hopefully, the Olympus ZERO coatings will be effective, the acronym being derived rather uncomfortably from “Zuiko Extra-Low Reflection Optical”. There is a conventional 72mm filter thread.

Immediately behind the hood is the manual focus ring, which operates electronically. It has Full-Time Manual Focus, so tweaks can be made whilst using AF. Focusing is down to 0.22m, or 0.72 feet, a maximum magnification of 0.46x. This is commendably close and adds enormously to the overall usefulness of the lens.

The only other control is the generously sized zoom ring, clearly marked with focal lengths in white. The zoom action extends the lens barrel significantly, but it remains solid, with no signs of wobble. The zoom action is firm and not entirely smooth, there being a slight change in friction as we approach 200mm.

Optical construction is 16 elements in 11 groups, with 3 Aspherical, 2 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 2 Super ED, 1 Super HR (High Refractive Index) and 2 HR.

Finally, we have the well-machined metal MFT mount, which mates positively with the Panasonic Lumix G9 body and without any sign of rotation once locked into place.

Olympus M Zuiko 12 200mm F3 5 6 3 ED (5)

There is no Image Stabilisation built into the lens, so in-body mechanisms will have to be relied on. This does keep the lens more compact so is perfectly reasonable considering its applications. Camera shake will need to be watched as, although a 12mm f/3.5 lens has plenty of scope, a 200mm (400mm equivalent) at f/6.3 does not. Huge magnification at small apertures is not a recipe for sharp images unless a tripod is used, a high ISO set or a high shutter speed dialled in. In body IS will help, but it does need to be watched to avoid disappointment.

Having said that, in actual use, with IS activated, there is a remarkable versatility in this lens, which is, of course, the point. It will cover everything we could possibly throw at it, offering incredible ease of use and reasonably good quality even with casual use. Used with a bit of photographic savvy, the results can be very good and crisp pictures are duly delivered. It is certainly better in this respect than many bridge cameras, although not having their even more amazing telephoto reach. The ability to focus extremely close, to almost half life-size, is also very impressive.

Olympus M Zuiko 12 200mm F3 5 6 3 ED (2)

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