A more versatile, better-performing alternative to the standard Olympus kit lens.Released concurrently with the Olympus E-30 DSLR camera, the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II provides an alternative to the standard 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. It covers angles of view equivalent to 28-108mm in 35mm format, has multi-coated optics and a circular aperture and supports the new contrast-detection AF capability with Live View mode in the latest Olympus DSLRs. . . [more]
Released concurrently with the Olympus E-30 DSLR camera, the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II provides an alternative to the standard 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. It covers angles of view equivalent to 28-108mm in 35mm format, has multi-coated optics and a circular aperture and supports the new contrast-detection AF capability with Live View mode in the latest Olympus DSLRs.
The new lens is a second-generation product with improved dust- and splash-proof sealing and floating elements to provide internal focusing, allowing angle-critical attachments like polarisers and graduated filters to be used without needing re-adjustment if focus or focal length is changed. The minimum focusing distance of 22 cm (measured from the sensor plane) is maintained across the entire zoom range.
Three aspherical glass elements are included in the optical system, which comprises15 elements in 11 groups. The minimum aperture is fixed at f/22, while the maximum aperture varies with focal length as shown in the table below.
In use, the aperture changes in increments of 0.1 of an f-stop as you zoom in and out. So, at a focal length of, say, 20mm, the effective aperture would be f/3.0, while at 41mm it would be f/3.3.
The build quality of the review lens was generally excellent, with a well-balanced mixture of metal, plastic and glass components. The mounting plate is stainless steel and the main barrel felt as if it has a metal base with a tough plastic covering. A double metal ring (blue and chrome) at the front of the barrel reinforces the smart Olympus trademark.
The Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II on the E-30 body that was used for this review.
Measuring 88.5 mm in length at the 14mm focal length, this lens extends by just under 25mm when the lens is zoomed to the 54mm focal length. The focusing ring, which is approximately 15mm wide, is just behind the lens hood. It is only usable when manual focus has been selected in the camera's AF sub-menu. The zoom ring, which is approximately 25mm wide, is closer to the camera body.
Both rings have ridged rubber coatings to provide a secure grip. The ridges on the zoom ring run parallel to the lens barrel right across the width of the ring. They are deeply cut to provide a good grip. The zoom ring's rubber coating is blocky, resembling the tread on a tyre. It, too, provides excellent grip security.
A distance scale between the two rings provides four settings in metres and feet, the covering 0.22, 0.4 and 1.0 metres plus infinity. The focus ring turns through almost 270 degrees, requiring just over 180 degrees of turn to go from 22 cm to infinity. No 'click stops' are provided.
Engraved on the leading edge of the zoom ring are the following focal length settings: 14mm, 18mm, 25mm, 35mm and 54mm. One the review lens, we found the intermediate markings to be slightly off the mark, with the 18mm setting corresponding to 17mm, the 25mm mark corresponding to 22mm and the 35mm mark corresponding to 31mm. This shouldn't be an issue unless precise magnification is required. No additional controls are provided.
Supplied with the lens is a petal-shaped lens hood, which is bayonet-mounted and has a ribbed inner surface to subdue reflections. It adds roughly 40 mm to overall length when it is fitted but reverses over the lens barrel for storage. End caps and a soft carrying pouch are also provided.
Weighing 440 grams, the review lens was a good match for the E-30 body we used for our tests. It would be equally comfortable on other Olympus DSLRs, particularly the larger E-3 and E-520 bodies. Zooming from the 14mm setting to 54mm requires a turn of approximately 80 degrees and the zoom movement was smooth and positive.
There's no lock on the lens barrel but we found no tendency for the lens to extend when the camera was carried with the lens pointing downward and no unwanted changes in focal length as focus was adjusted. The lens hood was easy to fit and remove and provided good flare suppression in most situations.
The review lens turned in a competent performance in Photo Review's Imatest tests, which showed highest resolution to be between f/4.5 and f/11 for all focal length settings. Imatest showed significant edge softening, particularly at the shorter focal lengths and wider apertures. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration ranged from negligible at 54mm to moderate at 18mm and 14mm. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests, with the red line marking the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA and the green line the boundary between 'low' and 'moderate' CA.
Autofocusing was generally fast and accurate and hunting only occurred in very low light levels and with subjects that had very low contrast. A low-intensity whirring could be heard when you moved from close focusing to infinity but, otherwise, the only discernible sound was a soft beep when focus was achieved.
Some barrel distortion was noticeable with the 14mm setting but by about 18mm this had been largely corrected and by 25mm the lens was effectively distortion-free. Examples are shown below.
14mm focal length
54mm focal length
Vignetting (corner darkening) was apparent at the widest apertures for all focal length settings. It was most noticeable at 14mm, where it equated to approximately 0.7EV, and still visible at 54mm. By f/4.5 the corner darkening at all focal lengths was reduced to the point where it would be irrelevant to most photographers. Examples showing vignetting at the widest aperture for three focal lengths are shown below.
Flare was very well controlled. While it was certainly possible to force the lens to flare, extreme backlit shots required little in the way of post-capture editing and moderate backlighting required none at all. Some examples are shown in the Sample Images section below.
Bokeh wasn't spectacularly attractive - but that's to be expected for an ultra-wide lens with aspherical elements. However, it was better than we expected for a lens with the specifications of the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II. In general, use of this lens for close-ups is restricted by the close-focusing limit of 22cm.
Although this can produce some worthwhile images at the 54mm focal length, with wider angles of view, it tends to include more of the subject than required. The relatively small size of the Four Thirds System sensors will further restrict differential focusing, making it difficult to obtain out-of-focus backgrounds with shorter focal lengths.
Despite its relatively high price point, overall we feel this lens represents a worthwhile purchase for owners of Olympus DSLRs, particularly when it is included in kit format with a camera body, which represents a saving of $199 on the RRP of the lens itself.
Buy this lens if:
- You want a compact and relatively lightweight general-purpose zoom lens with excellent build quality and above-average performance.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You want close-up versatility and performance.
- You require a lens that is free of chromatic aberration.
14mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/11.
54mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/8.
Forced flare:54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
Backlighting: 14mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
Close-up:26mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/180 second at f/4.5.
Close-up: 54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/3.5.
Close-up: 54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/4.
Jacky lizard: 54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/350 second at f/6.7.
Bokeh: 54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/4.
14mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/16.
Picture angle: 75 degrees to 23 degrees
Maximum aperture: f/2.8-3.5
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 15 elements in 11 groups (includes three aspherical glass elements)
Lens mount: Four Thirds System
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum focus: 22 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.26x
Filter size: 67 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 74.5 x 88.5 mm
Weight: 440 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 9.0
- Image quality: 8.5
- Versatility: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9.0