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Conclusion - Pros

  • Very useful wideangle to telephoto range
  • Superb optics
  • Excellent build quality, dust and splash-proof
  • Impressive resistance to flare
  • Decent macro performance

Conclusion - Cons

  • Pronounced and complex distortion at wideangle
  • Slightly sub-par lens hood
  • Shadowing of built-in flash at wideangle on smaller bodies
  • Expensive

Overall conclusion

Olympus were in a unique position when entering the digital SLR market; with no legacy 35mm autofocus mount, they were free (or depending upon your point of view, forced) to design a whole new system from scratch. Their chosen solution was to use a relatively small sensor size coupled with highly telecentric lenses, and their subsequent marketing has tended to emphasize the potential size and weight advantage of the E system. However this advantage only appears with relatively few of their lenses, most notably the long telephotos, and for most users the difference is marginal at best. And slightly perversely this marketing approach has tended to obscure a more telling benefit; Olympus appear mainly to have taken advantage of the Four Thirds sensor to deliver lenses which, for any given size, weight and cost, simply perform to a higher and more consistent standard than those optimized for larger formats, with the 12-60mm being a prime example.

Indeed the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD is quite simply a superb lens, which can lay claim to being one of the very best standard zooms currently available. This is a design which would have been almost unimaginable even five years ago; a 5x wideangle to telephoto zoom which, though the use of some exotic optics, manages to perform almost flawlessly across its entire range, and throws in some impressive macro performance too. The relatively fast maximum aperture (a half to a full stop faster than APS-C equivalents such as the Sony Carl Zeiss 16-80mm F3.5-4.5 or Nikon 16-85mm F:3.5-5.6 VR), coupled with the excellent wide-open performance, also allows the use of lower ISOs at equivalent light levels for maximum image quality.

There are a few minor caveats though; that macro performance is achieved at a very short working distance, which causes problems with lighting of the subject when the front element is as little as 5cm away, and the lens is also sufficiently bulky as to cause shadowing of the built-in flash with more compact DSLRs such as the E510 and E4x0 series. Also the distortion at wideangle is very pronounced, and unusually complex, which means users will have to reach for specialist software tools if they wish to correct it. But these really do have to be seen as relatively minor quibbles in the context of the overall performance of this lens.

Of course perhaps the biggest issue with this lens is its price; it's far from cheap for a standard zoom, but this is a case where you really do get what you pay for. Indeed Olympus have managed to surpass the already excellent 14-54mm with a lens which is demonstrably sharper at all focal lengths and generally shows less chromatic aberration, whilst extending the range at both ends. For anyone wanting to get the best possible results from their Four Thirds camera, it's therefore highly recommended.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.5
Ergonomics & handling 8.5
Features 8.5
Image quality 9
Value 7.5

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

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Samples Gallery

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Olympus 12-60mm F2.8-F4 D Review Samples

24 images • Posted 7 April 2008 • View album
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