Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED Lens

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      The compact, standard zoom kit lens for Olympus DSLR cameras.Usually supplied with the company’s DSLR cameras, the Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED is a compact standard wide angle zoom lens covering focal lengths equivalent to 28-84mm in 35mm format. This covers all kinds of general photography, including family snapshots, scenery and portraiture. . . [more]

      Full review


      Usually supplied with the company’s DSLR cameras, the Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED is a compact standard wide angle zoom lens covering focal lengths equivalent to 28-84mm in 35mm format. This covers all kinds of general photography, including family snapshots, scenery and portraiture.
      Built for affordability, this lens is largely made from plastic – right down to the lens mount. Build quality is good for a plastic lens – but not up to the standard of the more expensive Zuiko lenses. The small size and light weight of the review lens were a comfortable fit on the E-620 body we used for our tests and the combined camera-plus-lens felt well balanced.


      The Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED lens. (Source: Olympus.)
      Consisting of 10 elements in 8 groups, it includes one ED (extra-low dispersion) element plus two aspherical elements to provide edge-to-edge sharpness and minimise chromatic aberrations. The diagram below shows the positions of the various elements.


      The optical design diagram for the Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED lens. (Source: Olympus.)
      A seven-bladed iris diaphragm closes to a circular aperture that produces attractive out-of-focus elements in shots. Internal focusing supports use of angle-critical attachments like polarisers and graduate filters. The mounting plate carries nine metal contacts for transferring distance information to the camera body and signals from the camera to the lens, allowing focusing controls to be selected from the camera’s menus.
      A close-focusing distance of 25 cm allows this lens to be used for close-up photography – although 1:1 macro focusing is not supported. Supplied with the lens are the LH-61C petal-shaped lens hood plus front and rear plastic caps. The front element is threaded for 58 mm filters.
      Without the lens hood and front cap attached, the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED lens extends approximately 60 mm out from the camera body, reaching out a further 28 mm further at the 42mm focal length. The lens hood adds another 35mm.
      The focusing ring is a 10 mm wide band that is part of the outer lens barrel. Although not rubber-coated, it has thin parallel ridges which provide a reasonably good grip. The ring rotates through 360 degrees, regardless of which focusing mode is set but only moves the lens elements in manual focusing mode.
      Between the focusing and zoom rings is a narrow, non-moving band with an indicator mark for setting focal lengths. It also carries the name of the lens. The zoom ring behind it is 20mm wide with a ridged, rubber-coated band at the edge closer to the camera body and a narrow leading edge with engraved settings for the 14, 18, 25, 35 and 42mm positions. It turns through approximately 35 degrees as you move across this range.
      There’s no distance scale, no depth-of-field indicator and no markings for infrared focus correction. No zoom lock is provided – and the lens remains in position when the camera was carried with the lens pointing downwards. With image stabilisation built into the camera body, no stabilisation is required in the lens itself.

      Olympus claims this lens offers ‘class-leading’ performance in its price range at maximum apertures so we were interested to see how it shaped up in Photo Review’s Imatest tests. Imatest showed that at the 14mm focal length and f/3.5 aperture it was capable of matching the resolution of the E-620’s sensor. Resolution at the maximum apertures at the other focal lengths was only a little lower.
      However, Imatest also revealed significant edge softening at all focal lengths, particularly with wider apertures. Fortunately, our test results remained relatively consistent for aperture settings from f/4 to f/11 across all focal length settings. We doubt users would see much difference in the sharpness of actual photographs taken across this range of settings. Our test results are shown in the graph below.


      Resolution declined sharply at f/14 and continued to plunge with smaller apertures. We would not recommend using this lens at apertures smaller than about f/13 at any focal length setting. Both purple and green fringing could seen when outdoor shots taken under contrasty lighting were enlarged to 100%. An example is shown below.


      Lateral chromatic aberration ranged from low to moderate across all focal length settings. In the graph below, showing the results of our Imatest tests, the red line marks the border between negligible and low CA, while the green line separates low from moderate CA.


      Barrel distortion was evident at the 14mm and 18mm focal lengths but by 25mm it had disappeared. No pincushioning was detectable at the 42mm focal length setting. Vignetting (corner darkening) was quite pronounced at the widest aperture at 14mm but had become negligible by 25mm (see illustrations in the Sample Images section below). Closing the lens aperture by a couple of f-stops resulted in an even distribution of light across the frame, even at the shorter focal lengths.
      Backlighting was generally well handled and flare was surprisingly low. Bokeh was more attractive than we expected from a lens of this type, although it was difficult to obtain out-of-focus backgrounds with the relatively small maximum apertures available at all focal lengths. The best option was to minimise the amount of background detail and have it as far from the main subject as possible.
      The in-camera stabilisation system enabled us to take sharp pictures with shutter speeds as slow as 1/8 second at a focal length of 14mm.

      Buy this lens if:
      – It’s offered with a camera body. As a kit lens, it is a good match in size and performance for Olympus’s DSLRs.
      – You want an affordable, general-purpose standard zoom for an entry-level Olympus DSLR body.
      Don’t buy this lens if:
      – You don’t use a Four Thirds System DSLR.
      – You require distortion-free images that are sharp edge-to-edge.
      – You need images free of coloured fringing and chromatic aberration.





      ISO 100, 14mm focal length, 1/320 second at f/7.1.


      ISO 100, 42mm focal length, 1/200 second at f/9.


      Backlighting: ISO 100, 14mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/13.


      Backlighting: ISO 100, 42mm focal length, 1/100 second at f/14.


      Close-up showing the limited bokeh of the lens: ISO 100, 42mm focal length, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      Another close-up, showing the difference in bokeh when background distractions are minimised. ISO 400, 42mm focal length, 1/100 second at f/5.6.


      Vignetting at 14mm, f/3.5.


      Vignetting at 25mm, f/4.7.


      ISO 400, 14mm focal length, 1/8 second at f/14.




      Picture angle: 75 – 29 degrees
      Maximum aperture: f/3.5 (wide), f/5.6 (tele)
      Minimum aperture: f/22
      Lens construction: 10 elements in 8 groups, including ED Lens Element and 2 Aspherical Lens Elements
      Lens mount: Four Thirds System
      Diaphragm Blades: 7 (Circular aperture diaphragm)
      Minimum focus: 25 cm
      Maximum magnification: 0.19x
      Filter size: 58 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 65.5 x 61 mm
      Weight: 190 grams






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