M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ - Olympus Micro Four-Thirds Lens Roundup
M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ
The Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ is the first exclusively power-zoom lens for Micro Four-Thirds. Olympus experimented with a dual zoom mechanism in their Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F/3.5-6.3 ED EZ
Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F/3.5-6.3 ED EZ which offered a clutch system to switch between Mechanical Zoom and Power Zoom modes, although that made it larger than lenses of comparable focal-range. With the 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ, Olympus is offering a third kit lens which collapses down to a very small size.
This third-generation kit lens covers the a range similar to most DSLR kit-lenses, with a 3X optical zoom starting at a wide-angle 28mm-equivalent and reaching 84mm. It offers exactly the same aperture range, starting at a moderate F/3.5 and closing down to a rather dim F/5.6 at the long end. Given this narrow aperture and 2X crop-factor associated with Four-Thirds sensors, this is lens cannot produce blurred backgrounds seen in typical portrait photography. The focal-range though is suitable for general photography from landscapes to typical indoor scenes.
This lens is built of 3 concentric plastic barrels which remain completely collapsed when the lens is powered off. In this state, it barely exceeds an inch (2.5cm) in depth and takes virtually no space. Once the lens is powered by the camera it is attached to, it automatically extends out by just over an other inch. The lens collapses back immediately when the camera is powered off. Swapping this lens for another therefore requires to properly power off the camera first, which is the right thing to do anyway to minimize dust adhering to the sensor. Otherwise, the lens will remain in its larger extended position.
The base of the lens barrel is rather thin and it is followed by an unconventional fly-by-wire Electric Zoom ring which is ¼" wide. Unlike a standard fly-by-wire ring which rotates indefinitely, the zoom ring of the M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ can only rotate a few degrees in each direction from its resting position. Twisting to the left zooms in, while going right zooms out. The lens zooms in the set direction until it reaches the end of the zoom range or the ring is let go which causes it to spring back to its original position.
By twisting further in either direction, the lens zooms faster. There does not to appear to be any zoom steps, so zooming is quite precise, although the delay when releasing the zoom ring for it to return to its resting position can make exact framing error-prone.
An even slimmer fly-by wire focus-ring is found at the end of the fixed portion of the lens barrel. This is a more typical fly-by-wire ring which rotated indefinitely in both directions. Its movement is completely ignored until the camera is in MF or DMF mode. When manual focus is available, focusing is quite precise and responsive. There is a good amount of throw so that accurate focusing does not become too tedious.
The M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ is extremely light and composed of plastic, other than its 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.
There is some barely measurable barrel distortion near wide angle but it quickly dissapears zoom in. Vignetting is clearly more pronounced and easy to notice at anything wider than F/5.6 when it reaches about 1/2 EV. From F/8 onward, vignetting stabilizes at 1/4 EV yet never goes away completely.
The rather simply optical formula is particularly prone to chromatic aberrations with significant frinding around high contrast edges. Oddly, it becomes even more pronounced stopped at F/5.6 which is the maximum aperture possible towards the telephoto end.
The performance of this lens differs significantly at wide-angle than at telephoto. Near wide-angle, there is general softness throughout the image which gradually gets stronger towards corners. While the center is acceptably sharp wide-open, corners are truly soft and only show moderate improvement at F/8, without every becomeing acceptably sharp.
At the long end of the zoom, sharpness is quite acceptable and highly consistent throughout t he frame. Even wide open, images are usable corner-to-corner. F/9 maximizes corner sharpness which produces highly usable images while never delivering critical sharpness.
Overall, these results puts it around the middle of the pack of kit lenses, while admitedly being considerably smaller which is itself an acheivement. It would be more usable in the hands of photographers shooting long than wide. Interestingly, the previous M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 II MSC performs much better near wide-angle and worse near telephoto.
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 20x15". On a computer display, these may appear much larger which magnifies image defects.
M.Zuiko 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ ED Sharpness
This dimminutive lens is the most compact zoom lens among mirrorless cameras. As one would expect, it compromises optical performance to acheive this. Between this and the mechanical zoom kit-lens, it is a tough call since they are both identically specified and are quite compact. The electronic zoom makes operation less efficient and a little more difficult to use yet should provide smooth even zooming while shooting video.
Neocamera Blog is a medium for expressing ideas related to digital cameras and photography. Read about digital cameras in the context of technology, media, art and the world. Latest posts links:
Fujifilm X-T4 Review
Fujifilm APS-C flasghip mirrorless with 5-axis builtin stabilization mechanism using the same high-speed 26 MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor as the X-T3. New 15 FPS mechanical shutter and builtin HDR. Professional mirrorless with mechanical controls, dual control-dials, dual memory-card lots, a built EVF with Eye-Start Sensor and a huge feature set.
Canon RF-Lens Info
Info on all Canon native RF-mount lenses added to the Canon EOS R5 preview.
Canon EOS R5 Preview
Preview of the Canon EOS R5 flagship Full-Frame Mirrorless with 45 MP sensor on a 5-axis stabilization system effective to 8-stops. First 8K video capable digital camera. 20 FPS electronic and 12 FPS mechanical drive.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Review
Third-Generation OM-D that packs a 20 MP Four-Thirds CMOS on a 5-Axis Stabilization System. Fast 121-Point Phase-Detect AF, 30 FPS Continuous Drive, Cinema 4K Video and more in a weatherproof and freezeproof body. Features dual control-dials and a builtin 2.4 MP EVF with Eye-Start Sensor with 0.69X magnification and 100% coverage.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Review
20 MP Micro Four-Thirds Mirrorless with 7-Stop 5-Axis Image-Stabilization, 121-Point Phase-Detect AF 30 FPS Continuous Drive and Cinema 4K capability in a weatherproof and freezeproof body with dual control-dials and dual SDXC memory card slots.
M.Zuiko 12-45mm F/4 PRO Review
A review of the M.Zuiko 12-45mm F/4 PRO added to the Olympus Premium Lens Roundup.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Review
Review of the unique Peak Design Travel Tripod with its own ballhead and the universal ballhead adapter.
Nikon Z-Mount DX Lens Roundup
Review of Nikon Z-Mount lenses for APS-C mirrorless digital cameras. Covers all current Z-mount DX lenses available.
Nikon Z50 Review
The first Nikon APS-C mirrorless is built around a 20 MP BSI-CMOS sensor with ISO 100-204800, 209-Point Phase-Detect AF, 11 FPS Drive and 4K Video capability. Compact body with dual control-dials and 2.4 MP 0.39" EVF with 0.68X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor.
Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide 2020
The Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide was fully rewritten for 2020, including all new systems from Nikon, Canon and Leica joined by Panasonic and Sigma. This new extensive 2020 Edition shows in 5 simple steps how to choose a mirrorless camera.