Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens
For anyone who wants to partner their OM-D camera with a single lens to cover almost any shooting occasion, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens ticks all the boxes. It’s not a perfect lens – that would be impossible at its size, weight and price point – but it’s a competent enough performer and a no-brainer for anyone who wants a really versatile lens for everyday snapshooting and video blogging.
As a travel companion, this lens is currently unrivalled in the M4/3 world. Neither Panasonic nor any of the third-party lens manufacturers has a lens to match its specifications.
Announced on 13 February, just before the CP+ show, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens appears to be the ideal partner for the overdue refresh of the popular OM-D E-M5 (which we hope will arrive this year). While not in the same class as the 12-100mm f/4 PRO lens, it is weather-sealed and covers a 16.6x zoom range (24-400mm equivalent in 35mm format) and is smaller, lighter in weight and lower in price, making it ideal for travellers and everyday photographers.
Angled view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens without the supplied lens hood and end caps. (Source: Olympus.)
The optical design of this lens, shown below, is quite complex, involving 16 elements in 11 groups. In the mix are three aspherical elements to control curvature of field and distortion and two Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and two ED elements, which are used to suppress chromatic aberration fluctuations across the zoom range.
There are also two HR (High Refractive Index) elements one Super HR and to correct refractive errors. ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) Coating has been applied to minimise ghosting and flare and ensure contrast remains high.
A cutaway view showing the positions of the various exotic elements and the location of the focusing elements. (Source: Olympus.)
1. Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens; 2. ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens; 3. Super HR (High Refractive Index) lens; 4. HR (High Refractive Index) lens; 5. Aspherical lens; 6. Focus driving lens.
Autofocusing is driven by a stepping motor using Olympus’ MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) technology, an inner focusing mechanism that provides fast, smooth, quiet, and accurate focusing. The design of this lens also suppresses peripheral light fall-off and minimises angle of view shift, even when the focal point is changed. This is particularly useful for recording videos.
This lens is supplied with the usual front and end caps plus a petal-shaped lens hood (LH-76C) that reverses over the barrel when the lens isn’t being used.
Who’s it For?
Going on specifications alone, this lens is ideal for travellers – and anyone who wants a single lens that can be used for a wide variety of subject types. The extended zoom range will cover genres as diverse as landscapes, cityscapes, portraits (groups and close-ups), street photography, sports and wildlife.
Its light weight (only 455 grams) and relatively compact size (99.7 mm in length at the 12mm position with the hood reversed) make it easily portable when attached to a camera. On the OM-D E-M5 Mark II the total weight of camera+lens is approximately 925 grams.
The close-focusing capabilities of this lens are also worth a mention. At the 12mm focal length, it can focus to within 10 cm, where it will provide one tenth life-size magnification. At the other end of the scale, the minimum focusing distance at 200mm is approximately 70 cm, with a magnification of 0.23 times (roughly one quarter life size).
The weather sealing isn’t as comprehensive as in the ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens, but it should be good enough for most users. This lens isn’t stabilised but that won’t worry owners of Olympus cameras, all of which provide sensor-shift stabilisation. However, it could be a problem for photographers who wanted to fit it to an unstabilised Panasonic M4/3 camera.
Build and Ergonomics
The differences in size and weight between the 12-200mm lens and the larger, more expensive and more highly-featured 12-100mm PRO lens are largely due to different lens designs; specifically, what’s omitted from the cheaper lens. Nonetheless, we found the build quality of the review lens to be up to the usual high Olympus standards and our 9.0 rating reflects its quality in its (non-professional) class.
While both lenses are weather-sealed, the PRO lens has more comprehensive sealing and includes an autofocus clutch mechanism and Lens-Function (L-Fn) button, both of which are absent from the cheaper 12-200mm lens. The 12-200mm lens also lacks a zoom lock, although we found no zoom creep while the lens was carried facing downwards, indicating tight construction standards. And there’s no locking button on the lens hood, although it’s quite strongly constructed and fits firmly into the bayonet mounting at the front of the lens.
Side view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens. (Source: Olympus.)
Only two control surfaces are provided: the focusing ring and the zoom ring, each with different widths and textures, making them easily distinguishable by touch and straightforward to operate. The zoom functionality is much as you would expect from a lens of this calibre, although zooming is not internal.
The focusing ring begins about 20 mm back from the front of the outer barrel. It’s roughly 10 mm wide, with fine ridging to provide a grip. Immediately behind the focusing ring is a 5 mm band that separates the focusing and zoom rings.
The zoom ring is 35mm wide, with a 5 mm wide untextured strip along its leading edge that carries focal length markings for 12mm, 25mm, 45mm, 70mm, 100mm and 200mm settings, which are lined up against a white mark on the band between the rings.
The front of the lens turns by a tiny amount as the inner barrel extends by about 68 mm when the lens is zoomed in from the 12mm position to 200mm. Unlike some variable-aperture zoom lenses, the minimum aperture stays fixed at f/22 during zooming, although the maximum aperture contracts as shown in the table below.
|Focal length||Maximum aperture|
The ridges on the zoom ring run around the outside of the lens, perpendicular to the ridges on the focusing ring. This texturing ensures a secure grip.
There are no controls on the remainder of the outer barrel, which curves inwards before meeting another band with two strips of wider vertical ridging that make it easy to grip the lens when fitting and removing it. Immediately behind this band the lens steps in to end in a solid metal mounting plate, which is chromed for durability. A line of 11 gold-plated contacts enables signals to pass between the camera and lens.
The front of the lens is threaded to accept 72 mm filters. It’s the same diameter as the 12-100mm f/4 PRO lens. The petal shaped lens hood is made from hard black plastic and attaches to the bayonet mounting at the front of the lens with a solid click.
We tested this lens on our OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, which has a 20-megapixel sensor that is more likely to show this lens at its best than the 16-megapixel sensor in the E-M5 Mark II or the E-M10 Mark III. Size and price-wise, it should be a better partner to the E-M5 Mark III, which is rumoured to be announced later this year and expected to have the same sensor as the E-M1 Mark II.
Our Imatest tests were conducted with all the in-camera corrections in our OM-D E-M1 II camera disabled, to reflect the basic capabilities of the review lens. We were unable to measure performance at the 200mm focal length because of a lack of space in our testing set-up, leaving us with only subjective assessments.
For all other focal lengths, JPEG files showed slightly lower resolution than would be expected for the 20-megapixel sensor in the review camera, although ORF.RAW files revealed resolution was able to meet – and at times exceed – expectations. The graph below shows the results of our JPEG tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly between negligible and low, straying into the moderate level from f/11 to f/22 at 12mm and f/22 at 12mm, 25mm and 45mm focal lengths. In the graph below, the red line indicates the upper limit of the ‘low’ band, while the green line separates the ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ bands.
We found traces of coloured fringing along high-contrast boundaries near the edges of the frame when the camera’s auto correction was disabled. Enabling auto correction eliminated this fringing.
In many ways our Imatest tests did not reflect the overall performance of this lens, which is very good when you take account of its ambitious design and extended zoom range. In the field, we found overall sharpness in the centre of the frame was very good, although it tended to decline as focal length was increased.
By 100mm we noticed a slight loss of central sharpness when files were examined closely and this became more obvious at 200mm. Edge softening could be seen at all focal lengths, increasing when the aperture was stopped down beyond f/16. This was confirmed in our Imatest tests.
Because aberrations like vignetting and distortion are corrected automatically in JPEGs in the E-M1 II camera, we had to assess raw files to determine whether they were significant. We found vignetting was effectively negligible at all focal lengths except 200mm, where it was visible, although not serious.
It’s common to see rectilinear distortion in kit zoom lenses so some degree of distortion was expected in uncorrected files. Fortunately, it was relatively low and largely limited to slight barrel distortion at 12mm.
The review lens surprisingly resistant to ghosting and flare, although we managed to force some veiling flare at both ends of the zoom range when a bright light source was included within the frame. Even then, flare artefacts were not generated. Normally backlit shots showed no loss of contrast.
As you might expect, bokeh was a mixed bag. At longer focal lengths and with evenly-lit backgrounds, bokeh at the maximum aperture was smooth and attractive. With shorter focal lengths, bokeh became choppy and outlining of highlights was common.
Autofocusing was generally fast and very quiet and the lens was able to take advantage of the camera’s IBIS system. Subject tracking was also competently handled.
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Picture angle: 84 degrees to 6.2 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 16 elements in 11 groups (including 3 aspherical, 2 Super ED, 2 ED, 1 Super HR and 2 HR elements)
Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Focus drive: High-speed Imager AF with stepping motor (MSC)
Stabilisation: Relies on in-camera IS
Minimum focus: 22 cm (wide) / 70 cm (tele)
Maximum magnification: 0.1x (wide) / 0.23x (tele)
Filter size: 72 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 77.5 x 99.7 mm
Weight: 455 grams
Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps, LH-76C lens hood
Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678, www.olympus.com.au
Based on JPEG files taken with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera.
Vignetting at 12mm f/3.5.
Vignetting at 25mm f/4.7.
Vignetting at 45mm f/5.4.
Vignetting at 75mm f/6.1.
Vignetting at 100mm f/6.2.
Vignetting at 200mm f/6.3.
Rectilinear distortion at 12mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 25mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 45mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 75mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 100mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 200mm.
12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/8.
25mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/8.
45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/8.
75mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/8.
100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/8.
200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/8.
12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/10.
Taken from the same position as the image above; 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/9.
Close-up at 12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/2000 second at f/3.5.
Close-up at 45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1250 second at f/5.6.
Close-up at 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/6.2.
Close-up at 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/6.3.
Close-up; 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/2000 second at f/6.3.
Slight veiling flare with light source inside frame at 12mm, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/8.
Veiling flare with light source inside frame at 200mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/8000 second at f/8.
12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/6.3.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% showing coloured fringing.
28mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/11.
Edge softening can be seen in this crop from the above image, when enlarged to 100%.
200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/6.3.
Backlighting; 12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/10.
Backlighting; 12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/11.
Moving subject(s); 125mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/6.3.
200mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/160 second at f/6.3.
200mm focal length, ISO 1250, 1/250 second at f/11.
200mm focal length, ISO 500, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
12mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/60 second at f/8.
200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/6.3.
200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/6.3.
RRP: AU$1299; US$899
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 8.9
- Image quality: 8.8
- Versatility: 9.0