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M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II MSC - Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Lens Roundup

M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II MSC

M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6
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This is actually the second edition Micro Four-Thirds lens covering the 14-42mm range. This one is MSC which means it focuses much more quietly than normal lenses. The range covered by this lens is akin to most DSLR kit-lenses with a 3X optical zoom starting at a wide-angle 28mm-equivalent and reaching 84mm.

The 28-84mm focal-range is quite suitable for general photography from landscapes and typical interiors to close ups and social snapshots. Note the narrow aperture at the telephoto end makes it not ideal for portraits as it may show more depth-of-field than is desirable and needs slower shutter-speeds or higher-ISO sensitivities.

The compact carrying size of this lens is achieved via a clever collapsible design. It needs to be extended by about 3cm to become usable and reach its widest focal-length. The M.Zuiko 14-42mm feels light and is mostly composed of plastics, other than the glass optics of course. Both the zoom and focus mechanism are very smooth and steady. This lens accepts 37mm filters which are not very common and do not come in much variety. A 37-to-58mm step-up ring exists to use more filter types.

Sharpness is good in the center at wide-angle and barely soft at the corners. Stopping down a ½ stop makes the corners nearly as sharp as the center. The diffraction limit at 12 megapixels is reached at F/13 which shows a slight amount of softness. Stopping down further blurs everything. At telephoto, center sharpness is excellent starting at the brightest aperture of F/5.6. Corners at 42mm show noticeably more softness than at 14mm. Stopping down helps, reaching maximum sharpness at F/9.5 and F/11. Still, the corners become acceptable but never reach the same sharpness as the center.

There is slightly visible barrel distortion at 14mm. It diminishes towards telephoto becoming minimal at 42mm. Vignetting is moderate wide-open to F/3.5 at wide-angle but improves by F/5.6 without ever disappearing. At the telephoto end, vignetting is slightly noticeable at F/5.6 and becomes inconsequential by F/11.

Overall, this lens should be considered a relatively good performer since sharpness starts high wide-open and remains steady until the diffraction limit. Vignetting is only disturbing for the first 2 stops at wide-angle.

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 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II MSC Sharpness


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