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Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 review

April 2008 | By Andy Westlake

The Digital Zuiko ED 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 SWD is Olympus's latest upmarket standard zoom, announced to accompany its E-3 flagship DSLR in October 2007. Firmly placed in what Olympus refers to as its 'Pro' lens lineup, this lens offers a near-ideal focal length range for a standard zoom (24mm to 120mm in 35mm-equivalent terms), combining a useful wideangle for landscapes and architecture with a telephoto extending nicely into the classic 'portrait' range. Hopefully this 5x zoom range isn't so ambitious as to introduce unacceptable optical compromises. The optical configuration is sufficiently exotic to offer great hopes in this regard; the lens boasts no fewer than three extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements, one of which is aspherical, coupled with two further aspherical elements, and as the icing on the cake one Super ED glass element. Clearly Olympus has adopted a "no holds barred" approach to lens design here, which can only be applauded.

This lens also sees Olympus finally adopting the now near-ubiquitous ultrasonic motor for focusing, here dubbed the 'Supersonic Wave Drive', and (according to their press material at least) offering the world's fastest autofocus when used with the E-3. This in turn allows the use of a mechanically-coupled manual focus ring, in a welcome contrast to the somewhat-unloved 'focus-by-wire' mechanisms on its previous lenses. Further headline features include dust and splashproofing for protection against the elements, a 25cm close focusing distance, and a circular aperture diaphragm promising pleasing background blur. On paper at least, this makes for a hugely compelling overall package.

Of course the 12-60mm has a hard act to follow, as the spiritual successor to the highly regarded 14-54mm F2.8-3.5, which was the standard kit lens for the E-1. In comparison, the newcomer offers extended range at both wideangle and telephoto, improved focusing, and even better macro performance, but at the expense of a slightly dimmer maximum aperture throughout the range. Of course this all comes at a price, and the 12-60mm is by no means cheap; so do the optics justify the price tag?

Use of the Panasonic L10 as Four Thirds test body

We have chosen to use the Panasonic L10 as our standard test body for Four Thirds lenses purely because it gives the highest numbers in our resolution tests (which we believe is most likely due to it having a relatively weak anti-aliasing filter); this is intended simply to provide the fairest comparison to other manufacturers' systems. The samples gallery contains images taken using various camera bodies (Olympus E-3, Olympus E-510, and Panasonic L-10).

Headline features

  • 24-120mm equivalent focal length range
  • Relatively fast 2.8-4.0 maximum aperture 
  • Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic DSLRs

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the focal length range from wide to telephoto:

12mm (24mm equivalent) 60mm (120mm equivalent)

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 specifications

Street price • US: $900
• UK: £630
Date introduced October 2007
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 12-60mm
35mm equivalent focal length 24-120mm
Diagonal Angle of view 84°- 20 °
Maximum aperture F2.8-4.0
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 14 elements/10 groups
• 1 super ED glass element
• 2 ED glass elements
• 1 aspherical ED glass element
• 2 aspherical elements
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus 0.25m
Maximum magnification 0.28x at 60mm
AF motor type Supersonic Wave Drive
Focus method Internal focus with floating mechanism
Image stabilization No
Filter thread • 72mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
• Petal-type lens hood LH-75B
• Soft pouch
Weight 575 g (20.3 oz)
Dimensions 79.5mm diameter x 98.5mm length
(3.1 x 3.9 in)
Lens Mount Four Thirds
Other Compatible with teleconverter EC-14 and extension tube EX-25

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

 

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