I got a production sample of the new Olympus zoom lens, M. Zuiko 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3, the other day. It is the first weather sealed lens in Olympus PEN M.Zuiko series. A weather sealed lens among ordinary bodies, well, that means there will be soon a weather sealed body. I would guess that the waiting time is probably not even long. The new lens has attracted some net controversy since it´s release, so it is interesting to see what it is good for.
Above the new zoom in size comparison with 4/3 series 12-60mm 1:2.8-4 and m4/3 series 14-42 kit zoom.
The new lens is slightly larger than the 14-42mm kit zoom in shooting position. The lens has a solid feel, while it´s outer structure is plastic. Both zooming and focusing are internal, so the lens has no external moving parts other than the focusing and zoom rings. The narrow focusing ring is on the front of the lens. The zoom ring is fully electronic. When set for manual, it works like a normal zoom ring. In E-position, it works as power zoom switch. Zoom speed depends on the strength of the twist. Manual and e-mode are selected by moving the zoom ring back and forth. The selected position is shown on the right side of the lens frame. On the left side there are L-Fn and Macro buttons. When the latter is pressed, zoom ring can moved to a third position, which naturally is macro. The closest focusing distance in macro mode is 0.2 m and the minimum image area is 36x48mm. L-Fn in turn, is specially designed as AF lock for video shooting, in situations where you want to prevent the continuous focusing from locking on a wrong subject.
Half of lens elements are of special glass. DSA means Double Super Aspherical, a lens that can substitute a group of lenses in traditional design.
L-Fn and Macro buttons on the left side of lens.
Window on the right side of lens shows now that zoom ring behaves like a traditional zoom ring (while it actually is electronic). Moving zoom ring (on the right) to the right activates power zoom. Pressing Macro button and moving zoom ring another click sets the lens for macro shooting.
From Olympus provided data I would expect that this lens is in optical quality (contrast and resolution) between the kit zoom 14-42mm and the 4/3 series zoom 12-60mm 1:2.8-4. MTF curves can be found on Olympus' websites. They, too, show a relatively uniform quality throughout the image area. The new lens will not stand up, particularly in resolution, up to the 12-60-millimeter zoom in wide-angle position. However, the longest focal lengths should not differ at all in practice. That in turn means that the new lens should give in practice very visibly better image quality compared to the kit zoom at longer focal lengths.
The first impressions
Finland is not really a wonderland to test such a lens during this darkest time of the year. I shot yesterday the first batch of images to get an idea of handling and usage in practice. All images were now shot handheld, and then at full aperture out of necessity. ISO sensitivities when shooting outdoors with this kind of lens during the darkest time of the year are too high for verification of previous contrast/resolution estimates. That´s for the next blog. The first impression, however, is in favor of them.
It is noteworthy that the image when opened in Lightroom shows practically no vignetting at any focal length at full aperture. Distortion is notable at 12mm position, and disappears almost entirely by 17mm. Chromatic aberration is also strongest at the widest setting and decreases / disappears when the focal length increases. Distortion, and chromatic aberration are easy to remove with the Lightroom tools, and you can make a specific total correction preset per focal length.
Below are a few pictures, I will return to a more accurate comparison between those previously mentioned zooms after Christmas.
Focal length 20mm, F4.6, 1/60s, ISO 800
Focal length 50mm, F6.3, 1/100s, ISO 1600.
Focal Length 50mm, F6.3, 1/80s, ISO 1600.
Focal Length 12mm, F3.5, 1/60s, ISO 640.
I know the zooming is electronic but when it is set to manual, does it feel like a manual lens?