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Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Lens Review Roundup

2013-03-06 13:23
3/5/2013: Add review by ePhotoZine.
9/12/2011: Add review by PR.
3/24/2011: Add review by PB.
7/22/2010: Add review by TechRadar.
6/25/2010: Add review by PhotoZone.
5/26/2010: Add review by LetsGoDigital.

The M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 (35mm equivalent 18-36mm) lens is designed for the Micro Four Thirds System, and it's significantly light and compact. The Micro Four Thirds System standard meets the telecentric requirements of dedicated digital design. Light rays strike the imaging element nearly head-on for optimum edge-to-edge image reproduction. It also enables much more compact design than the Four Thirds System standard (or other interchangeable lens systems) because it reduces the outer diameter of the lens mount by 6mm, and the distance from the lens mount to the sensor (the flange back distance) by approximately half. As a result, M. Zuiko Digital Micro Four Thirds System lenses offer uncompromising professional quality for capturing both still-images and High-Definition (HD) videos, and the lenses are exceptionally compact to make capturing your life more fun. 

The new lens, made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass for superior image quality, complements the design of the PEN cameras. It offers a 100 percent angle of view, and overturns the rule that super wide-angle zooms have to be big and heavy. With a length of just 49mm and a weight of just 155g, it is less than half the size and 60 percent of the weight of the ZUIKO Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6. The inner focusing mechanism uses a light, compact, single-element unit to enable exceptionally fast, quiet autofocusing for smooth, superior operating ease during still and video capture. The 9-18mm lens also offers quieter and more responsive AF performance. It is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds System Olympus PEN cameras, and all other current and future cameras that comply with the Micro Four Thirds System standard. Below is the technical specifications:

  • Focal Length: 9-18mm (35mm equivalent focal length 18-36mm)
  • Lens construction: 12 Elements in 8 Groups, including 2 DSA lenses, Aspherical lens, ED lens & HR lens
  • Angle of View: 62 Degree
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m
  • Maximum Image Magnification: 0.1x (35mm equivalent Maximum Image Magnification 0.2x)
  • Minimum Field Size: 173 x 130mm
  • Number of Blades: 7 (Circular Aperture Diaphragm)
  • Maximum Aperture: F4 (9mm) - F5.6 (18mm)
  • Minimum Aperture: F22
  • Filter Size: Diameter 52mm
  • Dimension: Diameter 2.22 x 1.95 in. (56.5 x 49.5mm)
  • Weight: 5.29 oz. (155g)

The lens is currently selling at around $599 via Amazon.com (drop from $650 about 7 months ago). Here is the review roundup of the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4-5.6 Micro Four Thirds lens:

ePhotoZine, gave a rating of 4/5: "At 9mm and maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent and clarity towards the edges of the frame is very good. No real gains in clarity are to be had in the centre of the frame by stopping down at this focal length, but sharpness towards the edges of the frame improves to just below excellent levels with the aperture stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/8. At 14mm, the same high levels of sharpness are maintained in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture, but clarity towards the edges of the frame fall to fairly good levels. Stopping down to f/8 improves sharpness towards the edges of the frame to very good levels, whilst maintaining outstanding sharpness in the centre of the frame. Finally, at 18mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame remains excellent at maximum aperture and just like at 14mm, clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat, achieving fairly good levels. Stopping down to f/8 improves clarity towards the edges of the frame to good levels at this focal length.

This lens is currently the cheapest ultra-wide angle zoom lens available for the Micro Four Thirds system, costing around £450. The closest equivalent is Panasonic's 7-14mm f/4 lens, which retails for around £830. This lens provides a wider angle of view and a constant maximum aperture of f/4, but isn't collapsible like this Olympus lens. Those looking for a compact ultra-wide angle lens for a Micro Four Thirds system camera can't go far wrong with this lens. It does have some weaknesses, but so long as you are aware of these this lens is more than capable of delivering very good quality results. As it stands in the range, it is currently the best value ultra-wide for MFT and the collapsible, lightweight design means that it is perfect for taking on your travels."... [Source]

PhotoReview Australia, gave a rating of 8.8/10: "Imatest testing showed the review lens to be a good performer on the basis of JPEG files from the PEN E-P3. Best performance was at f/5.6 for all focal length settings, with the 11mm focal length providing the highest resolution. There was a gradual decline in resolution from f/5.6 on as apertures were reduced. Edge softening could be seen at wider aperture settings and this was expected as a result of our Imatest testing. However, it was barely visible from f/9 on for all focal lengths. Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly low, just dipping into the moderate level with wider apertures at the 9mm focal length. In contrast, chromatic aberration remained within the 'negligible' zone throughout the aperture range at 18mm. In the graph below, the red line marks the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA, while the green line separates 'low' and 'moderate' CA.

We detected a small amount of cyan fringing in shots taken with the 9mm focal length setting but none at other focal lengths. Barrel distortion was also apparent at this focal length, as you would expect, although the inherent distortion produced by such a wide angle-of-view is somewhat more visible. Vignetting (edge darkening) was undetectable at all focal length settings. Autofocusing was noticeably faster than the 14-42mm kit lens and very quiet. This makes the lens ideal for shooting video clips. Backlit subjects were generally handled well and the lens was quite flare-free as long as the light source was outside the frame. Bokeh was much as you'd expect from a Mirco Four Thirds format lens that isn't particularly fast. It was difficult to blur-out background details and strong contrasts subjects produced some choppiness in  out-of-focus areas."... [Source]

PhotographyBLOG, gave a rating of 4.5/5: "The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 is a positively tiny ultrawide-to-wide zoom lens that will likely impress most wide-angle enthusiasts in the Micro Four Thirds camp. Its sharpness is pretty good for its class throughout most of its zoom range, with only the extreme borders being somewhat soft for our tastes at the shortest focal length of 9mm. The essential absence of corner shading / vignetting at all focal lengths is impressive, and the close-up performance is also surprisingly good for a lens this wide. All is not rosy though, with chromatic aberrations in particular being too high, even by ultra-wide standards. The lens' "native" barrel distortion is also very strong at the wider end of its zoom range, although with the in-camera auto-correction being as effective as it is, most users will likely remain unaware of this issue. Impressively though, distortions are basically non-existent at the other end of the range, even in the uncorrected raw images.

As far as alternatives go, there aren't many choices. In fact the only other rectilinear MFT lens that goes this wide - and wider still - is the Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 7-14mm F4.0 ASPH. Optically superior and offering a constant f/4 maximum aperture, the Panasonic lens is considerably heavier and more expensive, and lacks the Olympus' ability to take filters. For the "regular" Four Thirds mount, there are more alternatives, including both a 9-18mm and a 7-14mm lens from Olympus, and a 10-20mm zoom from Sigma, but all of these lenses are bigger, focus slower, and require an adapter for use on Micro Four Thirds bodies - meaning they aren't really viable options unless you also own a Four Thirds DSLR camera. All things considered, we thoroughly enjoyed shooting with the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens, and can highly recommend it to any Micro Four Thirds user in the market for a wide-angle lens."... [Source]

TechRadar, gave a rating of 3/5: "The 2x times crop factor plays into your hands at the telephoto end but makes the manufacture of ultra-wide lenses even more of a challenge. The Olympus 9-18mm is not only physically the smallest lens in the group, but also has the shortest focal length. However, once you apply the crop factor, the effective widest-angle zoom setting is a less than impressive 18mm, so you simply can't get such a wide angle of view as you do with most lenses in the group.

Zoom and focus rings are silky smooth but, despite the focus ring rotating easily in autofocus mode, it's really only freewheeling, rather than enabling a manual focus override. The autofocus itself proved quite prone to hunting back and forth in our tests in situations where other lenses managed to lock on without any fuss. The lack of a focus distance scale seems a glaring omission too. Again, this is unique in the group. On the plus side, there's some high-quality glass here, including regular aspherical, ED glass-mould aspherical and DSA (dual super aspherical) elements, which help to maintain optical prowess despite the very compact build."... [Source]

PhotoZone: "The image distortions produced by micro 4/3 images are auto-corrected either directly in the camera (JPEGs) or in most RAW-converters. The "exposed" distortions are therefore very moderate especially for such an ultra-wide zoom lens. They range from a moderate 1.8% barrel distortion at 9mm and slight barrel distortion at 12mm to basically no distortions at 18mm. This is usually nothing to worry about from a field perspective. The resolution figures of the M.Zuiko are decent in absolute terms and pretty good for an ultra wide angle zoom lens. At the 9mm and 12mm setting the center resolution is very high from f/4 to f/5.6. The borders follow on a very good level at these apertures and the extreme corners remain easily in good territories. The global quality starts to decrease at f/8 and f/11 should be avoided due to the inherent diffraction effects. The quality increases slightly across the board when moving towards the 18mm setting but they don't fall apart for sure. All-in-all a very harmonious performance.

The Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED is an engineering masterpiece. It is the most compact and light-weight ultra wide angle lens that we've reviewed to date. Despite its small size and its retractable design it remains easy to use. Olympus managed to keep the build quality on high level which is a big step forward from the M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit zoom lens. The AF is basically silent and very fast and as such also very usable for videos. The optical performance, and that's of course the key aspect, is very decent for an ultra-wide zoom lens. It may not be able to touch the stars but it can provide sharp center-to-edge quality images especially in the lower part of its zoom range. Both vignetting and lateral CAs are nothing to worry about from a field perspective. That's also true for the distortion characteristic although that's primarily because of the system's auto-correction approach - the native amount of distortions is actually fairly hefty. The Olympus lens is offered for around 550EUR/700US$ so it's certainly not a budget item but it's also far more affordable than the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 ASPH. All-in-all an attractive lens especially for those who want to minimize their carry burden."... [Source]

LetsGoDigital: "What the Olympus 9-18mm ZUIKO lens is clearly affected by is chromatic aberration. Throughout the range of focus, the corners of the images are clearly affected by this phenomenon. Especially the middle focal point is quite affected by chromatic aberration, which is a disappointment, and some images may require further adjustments with photo editing software. The image sharpness is excellent to good at f/4 to f/11; especially the centre sharpness is fine. The wide angle is affected a bit by vignetting, but this is hardly a problem in practice. In general f/8 is most optimal as a 'working aperture'.  The Olympus m. ZUIKO digital 9-18m test results are certainly satisfactory. There are some points of criticism, for example the chromatic aberration, but in general the quality in combination with the very compact format of the lens, leaves a good impression. This is a typical lens for photographers and the prize example of the characteristics for which you actually chose a Micro Four Thirds System camera. "... [Source]

SLRgear.com: "When used wide open (f/4-5.6) the Olympus 9-18mm M.Zuiko provides nicely sharp results in the central portion of the frame, in the range of 1.5-2 blur units. There is some light corner softness, most noticeable at 9mm and 11mm: at the extreme, it's 6 blur units at the top right at 9mm. On the average, it's around 2-3 blur units in the corners. Stopping down improves both central and corner sharpness; it's still sharper in the center, but now we see results between 1-2 blur units across the frame. Stopping down further doesn't actually do much to improve image sharpness, and diffraction limiting sets in around f/11. If I were to pick, I'd say the optimum settings for this lens are 9mm and f/5.6. Fully stopped-down, the lens provides average performance - 3-5 blur units at 9mm, but improving as it's zoomed in towards 18mm, where it shows around 3 blur units on average. 

For its size, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 provides impressive performance. While there are other lenses which provide similar or better performance, none offer the diminutive size and storage functionality of the 9-18mm M.Zuiko. While the retracting lens function may take some getting used to for some, it's hard to believe that this is a camera system that you can carry around in your pants pockets."... [Source]

dpreview, gave a rating of 75/100: "The biggest decision facing potential buyers is whether to choose this lens ahead of the Panasonic Lumix G 7-14mm F4. Our tests show that optically, there's little between the two, especially for owners of Olympus cameras that don't correct chromatic aberration (although for users of Panasonic bodies, automatic CA correction with the 7-14mm may well be an important factor). Instead the decision can safely be made on other criteria, with the Olympus winning on portability, the ability to use filters, and price. The Panasonic, on the other hand, has a significantly wider field of view, constant F4 maximum aperture, and more solid build. So in the end it comes down to personal preference and budget. The other most relevant comparison is with the Olympus Zuiko Digital 9-18mm F4-5.6 for Four Thirds, which can be used on Micro Four Thirds cameras with an adapter. In terms of image quality, again there's very little in it, with the similar optical designs of the two lenses resulting in near-identical performance. The biggest draw of the older lens is therefore the ability to share it with a Four Thirds DSLR system, while the 'Micro' lens's major advantages come in terms of autofocus and (again) sheer portability.

In summary, then, the M Zuiko Digital 9-18mm F4-5.6 is an impressive little lens that packs a lot of capability into a body that's sufficiently small you can carry it around with you all the time, and therefore actually use it. It's a great match for the rangefinder-style Micro Four Thirds bodies in particular, giving ultra-wide capability with unparalleled portability. It's a lens which, we suspect, will be especially attractive for landscape and travel work. Overall, it's a fine addition to the Micro Four Thirds system."... [Source]

User review by Stephen Wilesmith, gave a rating of 5/5: "I made an emotional leap and bought the Lumic G 7-14 right when I got my GF1 a while back. I had dabbled with wide-angle photography and found the images very compelling so I went for it. For a long time I only had the 7-14 and the 20mm pancake and I have to say it changed my picture taking. Limited to this range, with no long zoom, I began to seek wider perspectives, and ways to use depth of focus to pull out an object that would otherwise be lost in its surroundings. Soon, my portraits, especially of groups, started to swim in context, something so often lacking in portrait photography. But most notably both lenses produced fabulous images, rich and deep in color, crisp and worth taking time to really study, rather than glance at. I still longed for a telephoto, but was unsure whether the current 45-200 would meet the same optics standards as the 20 and 7-14 so I held off. 

Then came the Olympus 9-18. Initially I dismissed news of the lens as covering an area I already had well in hand, but then I read reviews and began to think about it. Deciding to take the plunge I ordered the lens pretty much the day it came out and was surprised when it came very quickly. It is stunningly small, not to pile on but it is something to remember because it takes BIG images. Sweeping shots that encompass the scene and deliver it in one big, satisfying mouthful to the viewer. At the end I could find little to differentiate the images from the 7-14 barring the added range at the bottom end, which should not be discounted. But soon I found I was not carrying the 7-14 anymore. It was larger, more specialised. The 9-18 with my GF1 would hang around my neck with my 20mm in my bag and I would find myself forgetting to switch to the pancake, as the 9-18 came close to touching its range anyway. 

So what am I saying? For those that enjoy wide angle shooting as a standard, the 9-18 is spectacular and will possibly become your go-to lens, especially during the day when you can keep your aperture as low as possible. For thiose that only dabble in big sky shots, the 7-14 has more of that fabulous bottom range and the images are a touch more vivid, crisper in the center, slightly more satisfying. They both have their place, depending on what your desires are, but ironically I would recommend the 9-18 to the true lover of wide angle, and the 7-14 to the big shot tourist, even though that may seem counterintuitive. 9mm is that sweet spot of 90 degree horizontal view, and really where you want to be before barrel distortion becomes the main theme rather than a feature. So pick your poison and enjoy."... [Source]

Sample Photos from Flickr:



Show full Press Release

Olympus Introduces Two New Ultra-Compact And Lightweight M.ZUIKO Digital ED Lenses  
Designed for Any Micro Four Thirds Camera, Including the New PEN E-PL1 Announced Today

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 3, 2010 - Olympus today announces two new additions to its Micro Four Thirds™ System lens lineup: the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 (35mm equivalent 18-36mm) and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 (35mm equivalent 28-300mm). Designed to maximize the performance advantages of the Micro Four Thirds System, the new lenses are significantly lighter and more compact - easily fitting in a jacket pocket.

The new lenses, made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass for superior image quality, complement the design of the PEN® cameras, including the powerfully simple E-PL1, also announced today, making it the all-in-one package for consumers with any skill level, including those who are new to photography.

The Micro Four Thirds System standard meets the telecentric requirements of dedicated digital design. Light rays strike the imaging element nearly head-on for optimum edge-to-edge image reproduction. It also enables much more compact design than the Four Thirds System standard (or other interchangeable lens systems) because it reduces the outer diameter of the lens mount by 6mm, and the distance from the lens mount to the sensor (the flange back distance) by approximately half. As a result, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL Micro Four Thirds System lenses offer uncompromising professional quality for capturing both still-images and High-Definition (HD) videos, and the lenses are exceptionally compact to make capturing your life more fun.

The super wide-angle M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 zoom lens (35mm equivalent 18-36mm) offers a 100 percent angle of view, and overturns the rule that super wide-angle zooms have to be big and heavy. With a length of just 49mm and a weight of just 155g, it is less than half the size and 60 percent of the weight of the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6. With its wide angle of view, including background scenery in group photos is a snap, and it can be used to create unique images with a sense of dramatically exaggerated perspective.

The high-power wide-angle to telephoto M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 zoom lens is 65 percent smaller and 70 percent lighter than the comparable 10x ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 18-180mm F3.5-6.3, making it ideal for everything from portraits and indoor scenes to sports and landscape photography.

By maximizing the advantages of the Micro Four Thirds System design, compact size, low weight and amazing image quality, the two new lenses significantly expand the photographic potential of the system. The inner focusing mechanism uses a light, compact, single-element unit to enable exceptionally fast, quiet autofocusing for smooth, superior operating ease during still and video capture. The manual focusing mechanism is designed to offer a responsive feel and precise operation, enabling you an affordable, high-quality means to capture your life in stills or HD videos.

Both lenses offer quieter and more responsive AF performance, and provide professional image quality for capturing amazing still images and videos. They are compatible with all Micro Four Thirds System Olympus PEN cameras, and all other current and future cameras that comply with the Micro Four Thirds System standard. When mounted on an Olympus PEN camera, the lenses are stabilized thanks to the camera's in-body Image Stabilization system and offer effective shake compensation at all focal lengths.

AVAILABILITY
The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 will be available in early May, and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 will be available in early June 2010.

U.S. Pricing / Product Configurations
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 Estimated Street Price: $699.99
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 Estimated Street Price: $599.99

Journalists interested in more information, review units, product specifications and high-resolution images of the new Stylus Tough cameras should contact Jeff Hluchyj, Mullen Public Relations, 617-226-9939 or jeff.hluchyj@mullen.com, or Jennifer Lyons, Olympus Imaging America Inc., 3500 Corporate Parkway, Center Valley, PA 18034, ph: (484) 896-5350 / (800) 622-6372 or the Olympus Web site: www.getolympus.com.

ABOUT OLYMPUS IMAGING AMERICA INC. 
Olympus Imaging America Inc. is a precision technology leader, designing and delivering award-winning products for consumer and professional markets.

Olympus Imaging America Inc. works collaboratively with its customers and its ultimate parent company, Olympus Corporation, to develop breakthrough technologies with revolutionary product design and functionality that enhances people's lives every day. These include:
  • Digital Cameras
  • Professional Digital SLR Imaging Systems
  • Related Underwater Products and Accessories
  • Digital and Microcassette Recorders
  • Digital Media
  • Binoculars

Olympus Imaging America Inc. is responsible for sales in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. For more information, visit: www.olympusamerica.com.

*Specifications and design are subject to change without any notice or obligation on the part of the manufacturer. All trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective holder. ©2010 Olympus Imaging America Inc.


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