Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD Lens

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      Designed for general photography, the new Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm Pro lens is a high-performance standard wide zoom lens that is optimised for use with the E-3 DSLR camera. It features a splash-proof and dust-proof design and robust construction plus the Olympus Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) lens drive mechanism that supports an ultra-fast, quiet and high-precision AF system. . . [more]

      Full review


      Designed for general photography, the new Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm Pro lens is a high-performance standard wide zoom lens that is optimised for use with the E-3 DSLR camera. It features a splash-proof and dust-proof design and robust construction plus the Olympus Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) lens drive mechanism that supports an ultra-fast, quiet and high-precision AF system.

      Consisting of 14 Elements in 10 Groups, it includes one Super ED lens, three ED lenses (one of them Aspherical) and two Aspherical lenses, to ensure excellent colour reproduction and minimal image defects. Like other Olympus lenses, it has been developed specifically for digital reproduction and features a tele-centric style of design that should provide edge-to-edge sharpness, even at the widest apertures.

      The lens barrel is solid, with a large zoom ring closest to the camera and a similar-sized focusing ring towards the front. Between them is a distance scale with feet and meter markings for focusing but no depth of field or infrared indicators. The scale has only four metre markings: 0.25, 0.4, 1 and infinity. Both rings are rubber-coated, with the zoom ring having a coarsely-textured surface, while the focusing ring is finely ridged.

      Both zooming and focusing involve internal movement of lens elements and, although rotating the zoom ring causes the lens barrel to extend forwards, it does not change the angular orientation. This means angle-critical polarisers and graduating filters can be used without requiring constant re-adjustment when focus or focal length are changed.

      A petal-shaped lens hood is supplied with the lens. It reverses along the barrel when the lens is carried or stored. The clip-on lens cap fits onto the front of the lens, attaching to an internal screw thread, which also accepts 72 mm filters. Supplied with the lens is a soft carrying case, which has an attachable shoulder strap.

      The review lens was assessed on the Olympus E-3 body, which it complemented very well. It could be equally at home on the lighter E-410 and E-510 models. Both the focusing and zoom rings moved smoothly and positively and showed no tendency to ‘creep’ when the camera is held facing downwards.

      Moving from the 12mm to the 60mm focal length requires roughly a third of a turn, which can be easily handled. Setting intermediate focal lengths precisely is a touch-and-go exercise, although we were never more than a millimetre of the desired focal length setting. The focusing ring has a wider ‘throw’ than we like, requiring a little more than half a turn to go from infinity to the 25 cm setting. However, the focusing precision it provided was excellent.

      There is no need for a manual/auto focus switch on the lens as the focusing ring can be used with all settings, regardless of the shooting mode selected. You can even focus manually with the live view mode.

      Imatest testing showed the supplied lens to be a good performer at the centre of the field but resolution tailed off towards the edges. Best performance was at the widest and mid-range apertures, with a gradual decline in resolution from about f/7.1 onwards. The 25mm focal length setting provided the best overall resolution, with the 50mm and 60mm focal lengths delivering slightly lower quality, although overall resolution was high in the main. The graph below shows the centre-of-field results we obtained for six focal length settings.


      Lateral chromatic aberration was low at most focal lengths, as shown in the graph below. The green line indicates the border between a level classified as ‘insignificant’, while the red line delineates the border between ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ levels of lateral chromatic aberration. Best performance occurred with the 25mm and 35mm focal lengths at apertures smaller than f/4.0. Although most of the plot for the 60mm setting strayed into the ‘moderate’ band, we had no evidence that it would produce a detectable level of chromatic aberration in generally photography.


      Focusing was generally fast and no hunting was detected in low-light conditions. Distortion was also relatively low with a trace of barrelling at the 12mm setting but no further distortion at longer focal lengths. Contre-jour performance was also very good. We found little evidence of flare in shot taken with the lens pointing towards the sun ““ as long as direct light from the solar disk was prevented from entering the lens. Exposure accuracy was very good for contre-jour shots and the sensor’s extended dynamic range produced good results.

      Vignetting (edge darkening) was negligible at all apertures and focal length settings. Bokeh was generally attractive but, predictably, true out-of-focus backgrounds could only be achieved at longer focal length settings because of the small size of the image sensor. However, when detail was required in close-ups, it was delivered impressively, regardless of the focal length selected.


      Wide angle coverage with the 12mm setting.


      Taken with the 60mm setting from the same position as the shot above.


      Reproduction of detail was excellent.


      Bokeh was attractive, given the limitations of the sensor-plus-lens combination.


      Little flare was seen in backlit shots.




      Focal length range: 12-60mm (22-120mm in 35mm format)
      Picture angle: 84 to 20 degrees
      Maximum aperture: f/2.8 (12mm) ““ f/4.0 (60mm)
      Minimum aperture: f/22
      Lens construction: 14 Elements in 10 Groups
      Lens mount(s): Four Thirds System
      Diaphragm Blades: 7 (Circular Aperture Diaphragm)
      Minimum focus: 25 cm throughout the zoom range
      Filter size: 72 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 79.5 x 98.5 mm
      Weight: 575 grams






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      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9
      • Handling: 9
      • Image quality: 8.5
      • Versatility: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 8.5