Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Lens Roundup Results
The M.Zuiko lineup is presently the most compact set of interchangeable lens. It only takes 3 lenses to cover the 9 to 300mm range: the M.Zuiko 9-18mm F/4-5.6, 14-150mm F/4-5.6 and 75-300mm F/4.8-6.7. These 3 lenses weigh 865g together with a combined volume of 841ml, an incredible feat for lenses covering the equivalent of 18-600mm in 35mm-terms!
When weight is a primary concern, this triplet delivers a set suitable for photographic subjects from landscape and architecture to wildlife and birding. Even a relatively small top-loading back can keep the entire set close at hand while on the field.
In terms of performance all is not perfect though, nor did we expect it to be for such extreme compactness. What we see is that is most M.Zuiko lenses are really strong performers at the center of the frame, even at their maximum aperture. Corners softness is a notable problem which is consistently more pronounced near wide-angle, probably a side-effect de designing lenses with such narrow barrels. It is important to know that any form of softness is visible in proportion to display size. So, corner softness which can be seen at 24x18" may not be visible at 12x9".
For improved optical performance, one may take on a bit of weight by replacing the 14-150mm ultra-zoom with the 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 and 40-150mm F/4-5.6. This gives a good jump in optical performance while covering the same range and even delivering an increased aperture range at some focal-lengths. The cost in terms of weight: 60g.
In some way, the M.Zuiko 17mm F/2.8 is the flagship lens of the Digital PEN series since it is both the smallest lens and one of the first two Micro Four-Thirds lenses available. Olympus even made a dedicated optical tunnel viewfinder for this lens. This is also the brightest lens in the lineup. At F/2.8 corners are soft again but stopping down a little produces acceptably sharp results for most uses.
The ultra-wide 9-18mm F/4-5.6 is particularly compelling. On any system, such ultra-wide zoom is difficult to design but Olympus managed to create a good performer which becomes reasonably sharp by closing down one stop.
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