If you’re an Olympus camera body owner looking for a do it all lens, then the Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO could be just up your alley. By ‘do it all’, we mean a lens that covers the most useful focal lengths, going from very wide to medium zoom. Throw in good optics and image stabilization and you have a very useful package.
As the lenses are for the micro four-thirds format, in reality, the focal length is 24mm to 200mm, which is still pretty wide-angle and a good enough zoom range to give nice compression at the telephoto end. This lens clearly tries to cover a lot of bases, so let’s dig in and see what it’s all about.
To cover these focal lengths, there’s a lot of glass inside this lens. In total, 17 elements in 11 groups, with 12 of these having special coatings, four aspherical elements, and eight low dispersion elements. The front element also has a Nano-coating to control reflections. Yes, lots of glass, with the weight of the lens being a quite reasonable 561g.
There’s also a seven-blade aperture diaphragm, which we thought would have been at least a nine-blade version considering the rest of the lense’s specifications.
The build quality of the lens feels rock-solid, with a full metal construction and splash-proof sealing. Switch wise, there are two on the side of the lens for the image stabilization and an L-Fn button which can be programmed for different functions via the camera body.
Olympus says that the combination of the camera and lens stabilization gives up to 6.5 stops of stabilization, which is a high claim from any camera and lens combo.
The lens also has a push/pull clutch facility for manual focus, which shows distance markings. The zoom ring is also marked with different focal lengths, with only a short turn needed to go from the widest to the longest lengths. The lens also uses a 72mm filter thread at the front.
Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO in Use
First up, the manual focus clutch can be a mixed bag depending on what you are used to. The operation is very smooth and very reminiscent of old Olympus lenses, but the clutch can get easily disengaged if you’re not careful, which means constant checking that it’s in autofocus mode. On the flip side, the L-Fn and image stabilization switches are easy to reach and are well-placed.
For a lens that covers a large focal range, you almost expect some optical compromises along the way. When fully wide at 12mm, center sharpness is very good. Definitely better than at the longest end and it seems the sweet spot for all focal lengths is f/5.6.
As for edge softness, it’s definitely apparent at the furthest ends of the focal lengths, with around 50mm being the best. In other words, this lens seems to be at its sharpest in the middle of the road focal lengths and apertures. It’s not bad, but it is evident.
The focusing system is also very fast and accurate. It’s quite happy to pick out low contrast subjects against a dark background and is very good at tracking. Basically, no complaints in this department.
The IS system works extremely well. Plenty of scope for handheld shots with low shutter speeds, but edges start to suffer when you hit higher shutter speeds and it’s advisable not to be used when mounted on a tripod.
If you’re going to be using this lens to grab some nice background blur or bokeh, then the seven blade diaphragm can produce reasonable blur effects, but they are not outstanding. Basically, it’s better to use simple backgrounds if you want to blur out things.
As for lens anomalies, chromatic aberration starts to creep in at 100mm, with only minimal amounts at its widest on very high contrast areas. As for lens distortion, a zoom such as this one is expected to show some sort of barrel distortion, which is actually kept at minimum levels, at the furthest focal lengths. Also, pretty easy to correct afterward in software. As for vignetting, it’s definitely evident at 12mm and 100mm with two thirds of a stop when wide open.
On the whole, ignoring the edge softness and with image stabilization engaged, the Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO does a very good job nailing detail, with rich colors when you feed it enough light. The focal range is very useful and as a generic lens, it does cover a lot of bases.
How Does It Compare?
For the Olympus people, a comparable lens that can go just as wide is the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. This lens tends to be a touch sharper at the equivalent apertures, but it does suffer from slightly more chromatic aberration. However, the 12-100mm is clearly more versatile, which means it’s the constant weigh up of versatility versus overall quality.
Another option could be the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, which is definitely sharper in the center, but can still suffer from edge softness. It also doesn’t have the range of focal lengths as the Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO.
|Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO||Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8|
|Elements||17 elements/11 groups||14 elements/9 groups|
As a do it all lens, the Olympus M Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO has to cover a lot of bases and it does this respectively. It does have its caveats, like the edge softness, but it’s also trying to cover what you would normally use in the form of a few other lenses.
Like most things in life, something that wants to do everything well, will not be as good as the more dedicated units. That means if you specialize in the wide-angle realm, then the Olympus 12-40mm may be better suited.
The lens is also pretty good at close range, getting 1:3 at the widest and 1:5 when zoomed in, but we can also see this as an added bonus. On the whole, this lens is a good all-rounder, which will provide sharp images across the board, and should be seen as such – a stay on the camera, all-rounder. It’s not the cheapest lens out there, but for all the bases it covers, it could work as a good, generic workhorse.