M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO Review
Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO
The M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO offers an extremely wide angle-of-view. It spans a whopping 114° at 7mm and 75° at 14mm. This is one of the widest rectilinear field-of-view possible. No constant aperture zoom can match it on any sensor smaller than full-frame. Typical semi-professional DSLRs have to fallback to a slow aperture and non weather-sealed lens to achieve this.
This extreme angle-of-view is splendid for architecture and real-estate with very large buildings and tight spaces. It can make interiors seem vast. Landscape photography is also served by the focal-range of the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO. When composing sweeping vistas with close foreground elements, an ultra-wide angle is incredibly useful. Its bright F/2.8 maximum aperture helps it in low-light without producing a very shallow depth-of-field since the focal-length of this lens is always short.
The M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO is highly durable with a metal barrel and lens mount. At 534g, it feels heavy compared to many Micro Four-Thirds lenses due to a complex reverse-telephoto design which requires a high number of glass elements. While the overall length of the lens remains constant since it has a fixed lens hood, the front optical elements recedes as the lens is zoomed in. The hood, is completely fixed to the barrel, and is necessary to protect the bulbous front lens element from damage. It also makes it impossible to support filter which is common to all lenses with such wide angle-of-view.
Two relatively broad rings rotate around the lens barrel. Closer to the lens mount, the zoom ring rotates smoothly with notable resistance. The throw is about 90° which makes framing very precise. The other is a hybrid focus-ring which changes from fly-by-wire to mechanical by pulling it down 3mm towards the mount. In fly-by-wire mode, it rotates indefinitely without any stops. Since the control is electronic, focus does not change unless the attached camera expects it to. This is possible in traditional MF mode or in Direct MF mode after AF has locked. A camera setting can also change the direction of rotation for manual focusing.
When the focus ring is in mechanical possible, the lens behaves quite differently. First, it forces MF, regardless of which mode the camera is. Then, in one neat feat of engineering, the focus-ring gets hard stops at the closest focus-distance and slightly passed infinity. The through is roughly 90° here too. One oddity though is that when attached to an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, the focus distance resets when the ring changes from fly-by-wire to mechanical. This could be a bug.
There is a programmable button at the base of the lens to provide an additional customizable control. Its function depends on the attached camera. There is no way to configure the lens itself. As part of the PRO line of Olympus Micro Four-Thirds lenses, the M.Zuiko 7-14mm is weatherproof.
Designing an extremely wide zoom lens is a huge optical challenge. At 7mm, center sharpness is good regardless of aperture until the diffraction limit is hit around F/9.5. Corners though start quite soft and sharpen up a little from F/5.6 onward. They never quite match center sharpness but get reasonably close.
Optical performance is much improved once zoomed-in a little. Around 10mm, the center is very sharp while corners start off with noticeable softness. They sharpen gradually until F/5.6 where they remain slightly soft. At 14mm though, performance is excellent with only a little corner softness below F/4. Beyond that, the lens show very good and consistent edge-to-edge sharpness.
Distortion is normally expected with wide angle-of-views yet the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO shows very little. Vignetting is another story. Near wide angle, there is significant light fall-off until F/8. Beyond 9mm, things look much better with only a slight darkening near corners. Most photographers are unlikely to notice since this is well-corrected in-camera by recent Olympus mirrorless. Not sure if Panasonic cameras have access to the same correction profile though.
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 16 MP image which is normally used to print an image up to 20x16". On a computer display, these may appear much larger which magnifies image defects.
M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO Sharpness
The Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO is an impressive lens which produces the widest rectilinear angle-of-view on a mirrorless camera, only matched by the light Panasonic 7-14mm F/4 which is one stop dimmer. Optical performance is quite good with only corner softness to worry about near at extremely short focal-lengths. It makes fantastic lens to take in imposing architecture and monuments.
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