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Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED Interchangeable Lens Review

An affordable compact ultra-wide angle lens for Four Thirds system DSLRs, giving an equivalent angle of view of an 18-36mm lens on a full-frame camera.

|  Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features

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Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED 
This lens costs around £480 and is possibly the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens available covering this angle of view.

Olympus also offer two other ultra-wide angle lenses. Their 11-22mm  f/2.8-3.5 isn't as wide, but offers a bright maximum aperture for around £735. At the top of their ultra-wide range is their 7-14mm f/4 lens, which offers an angle of view equivalent to a 14-24mm lens on a full frame camera and costs around £1500.

Sigma are the only third-party lens manufacturer offering lenses to fit the four thirds system. Their 10-20mm lens isn't as wide as this 9-18mm lens and is much larger in size, although for around £400 the lens offers a silent focusing motor.

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Handling and features

Describing this lens as compact and lightweight just doesn't seem enough. Weighing only 280g, and only 73mm long, this lens is exceptionally small for an ultra-wide angle lens, making it a perfect for Olympus' smaller E-series bodies such as the E-400, E410 or E-450.

The lens barrel is almost entirely constructed from lightweight plastic, with the only metal part being the mount. Despite the lightweight construction, the build is more than acceptable, striking a good balance between keeping the weight down and durability. The fit and finish is good, although this is certainly not a professional grade optic.

Auto focus is quick as you would expect with a short focal length lens such as this. The focus motor is clearly audible, but not so loud that it will be disturbing for most people. During AF the focus ring does not rotate, which is a nice touch as there is no danger of catching your fingers with it. The manual focus ring adjusts the focus electronically, rather than mechanically. I found the system easy enough to use when using the camera's AF system to confirm focus.

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Performance

For this review, the lens was tested on a 12Mp Olympus E-30 using Imatest.

At 9mm, this lens is capable of producing images with excellent resolution at moderate apertures. Wide open, the lens performs acceptably, but stopping down to f/8 produces images with excellent centre sharpness. Unfortunately the resolution towards the edge of the frame never exceeds good on our scale, and it just reaches this level at f/8.

When the lens is zoomed to 14mm, the quality across the frame improves at wider apertures. f/8 will still yield the best overall quality with excellent sharpness in the centre, and very good levels of resolution towards the edges. By 18mm the performance of this lens still holds up well with the best sharpness in the centre being achieved at f/8, but with the highest quality across the frame yielded at f/11.

In the scope of the four thirds format, f/8 should provide enough depth of field for most landscape applications, so the performance here is very good for these kinds of applications.

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Resolution at 9mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED resolution at 9mm
Resolution at 14mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED resolution at 14mm
Resolution at 18mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED resolution at 18mm

Between 9mm and 14mm, Chromatic Aberratons are extremely well-controlled, with Imatest barely being able to detect over a quarter of a pixel width of colour fringing during testing. As the lens is zoomed in further the performance in this area tends to deteriorate. At 18mm colour abberations exceed 1.25 pixel widths at f/5.6, which may start to become noticeable in high contrast scenes. Stopping down only makes matters worse, in fact I had to alter the scale on the CA graph to fit the reading toward the edge of the frame on there as it exceeds 4.25 pixel widths.

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Chromatic Aberrations at 9mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED chromatic aberration at 9mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 14mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED chromatic aberration at 14mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 18mm
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED chromatic aberration at 18mm

For an ultra-wide lens, the Olympus 9-18mm displays good peripheral illumination. At 9mm the far corners are only 1.4stops darker than the image centre and stopping down the f/5.6 results in pretty much even illumination. At 18mm, any sign of vignetting has decreased further, with the corners only 0.4 stops darker than the image centre at f/5.6.

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Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED wide-angle view
Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED zoomed in view

Barrel distortion at the wide end is typical for this kind of lens, with Imatest recording a value of 3.96%, which will be noticeable in images where straight lines are important. This should be relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards due to the uniform shape of the distortion. Zooming to 18mm reduces the level of barrel distortion to 0.59%, which is a more more acceptable level and shouldn't pose many issues for most.

Flare and ghosting is very well controlled by this optic. Neither strong point sources of light in, or outside the frame cause any issues. Contrast is retained even with a strong light source beside the front element of the lens and out of the image area and although a petal-shaped lens hood is provided, I feel it will rarely be necessary. This is exceptional performance for a lens of this kind.

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Verdict
These who like to travel light, but can't be without an ultra-wide zoom will love this lens. It's capable of producing excellent results at moderate apertures, is incredibly resistant to flare and ghosting and isn't priced too highly either.

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Pros
Compact, lightweight design
Excellent resolution at f/8 throughout the zoom range.
Excellent resistance to flare and ghosting
Fast AF

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Cons
Chromatic Aberrations at 18mm
Resolution towards the edge of the frame at 9mm


Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED: Lens specification
Price: £469
Filter size: 72mm
Format: Four Thirds
Construction: 13 elements in 9 groups
Angle-of-view: 100° - 62°
35mm equivalent focal length (on Four Thirds body): 18-36mm
Internal focusing: Yes
Image stabilisation: No
Minimum focus: 25cm
Maximum aperture: f/4-5.6
Minimum aperture: f/22
Weight: 280g
Size (lxw): 73mm x 79.5mm
In the box: Lens Hood

The Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED costs £469 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED

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Fluke 12 59 Wales
28 Apr 2010 9:19AM
My most used lens, even more than my 14-54 f2.8 Mk1 which is a stunner of a lens. The Olympus community know this lens well and is highly popular due its excellent value for money and image quality, if you are an 4/3 user and needs a super wide lens I heartily recommend this optic.

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