M.Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED - Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Lens Roundup
M.Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED
The M.Zuiko 9-18mm F4-5.6 ED produces an ultra-wide to normal angle-of-view, equivalent to 18-36mm in 35mm terms. This range of focal-lengths finds uses in architecture, landscape and indoor photography.
This ultra-wide lens has good build quality including a metal lens mount. This small 9-18mm lens uses a collapsing mechanism to shrink for transport. Once expanded to its widest focal-length, it almost doubles in length. Zooming-in causes it to retract a little from there. Both zoom and focus rings move very smoothly. This is the only current lens in the lineup to use 52mm filters.
Center sharpness is good across the entire zoom range and at all apertures wider than the diffraction limit. At wide-angle, F/4 is noticeably soft. Stopping down to F/5.6 improve things but does leave slightly visible softness. Stopping down barely improves anything. At telephoto, only F/5.6 shows noticeable corner softness but only enough to be seen in large prints. Stopping down to F/6.7 removes this problem.
Ultra-wide angle lenses are prone to distortion and the M.Zuiko 9-18mm is no exception. There is noticeable barrel distortion on the wide-angle side and just a semblance of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. At 9mm, vignetting is pronounced at F/4 and goes down to a noticeable but not so disturbing level from F/8. At longer focal-lengths, vignetting is constantly there but not too strong.
The performance of this lens is quite good for its class. Things stay sharp enough from corner to corner for common print sizes at most settings. Distortion is not much of a problem. Only the two brightest apertures at 9mm should be avoided due to vignetting. Keep in mind that vignetting is one of the easiest problem to correct in software. Unlike distortion correction, removing vignetting does not drastically reduce image quality.
What is shown below are 5 crops taken from a photograph, repeatedly captured for each combination of focal-length and aperture. The smaller pieces are cropped from the extreme corners of the image, while the middle wide crop comes from the center of the image. Select an aperture in a row for a desired focal-length to see the crops from the corresponding image. When judging quality, keep in mind that these crops come from a 12 MP image which is normally used to print an image up to 16x12". On a computer display, these may appear much larger which magnifies image defects.
M.Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6 ED Sharpness
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