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Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED review

April 2008 | By Andy Westlake

The Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED is the standard kit lens which Olympus supply with their lower-tier DSLRs, including the E-420 and E-510. Announced in September 2006 to accompany the launch of the E-400, it shares that camera's defining characteristic, being remarkably compact in size. Indeed it takes advantage of the relatively small size of the Four Thirds sensor to be comfortably the smallest and lightest DSLR zoom lens currently available, great for those users who wish their camera systems to be as portable as possible.

However despite its diminutive size, the 14-42mm still packs in some fairly exotic optics to deal with aberrations, in the shape of one extra-low dispersion (ED) glass element and two aspheric elements. It also incorporates a circular aperture diaphragm, which Olympus claim should provide 'beautiful rendition' of defocused areas of the image, and indeed consider to be one of the big advantages of this lens. The icing on the cake is an internal focusing system with a proper manual focus ring and a non-rotating front element, always a positive point for those photographers who like to use filters.

Olympus have long had a reputation for the quality of their lenses, plus a proven track record in the design of small but highly capable cameras and lenses (exemplified by such 1970s classics as the OM system SLRs and XA rangefinders), so the 14-42mm comes with a solid pedigree behind it. But as always with kit lenses, the biggest question is whether Olympus have cut corners unacceptably with either the optics or mechanics, in a drive to keep costs to a minimum. Let's find out.

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

  • 28-84mm equivalent focal length range 
  • 'Focus by wire' manual focus system
  • Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic dSLRS

Angle of view

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

14mm (28mm equivalent) 42mm (84mm equivalent)

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED specifications

Street price • US: $250
• UK: £169
Date introduced September 2006
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 14-42mm
35mm equivalent focal length 28-84mm
Diagonal angle of view 75°- 29°
Maximum aperture F3.5-5.6
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 10 elements / 8 groups
• 1 ED element
• 2 Aspherical elements
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus 0.25m
Maximum magnification 0.19x at 42mm
AF motor type DC Micro motor
Focus method Internal focus
Image stabilization No
Filter thread • 58mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
• Petal-type lens hood LH-61C
Weight 190g (6.7 oz)
Dimensions 65.5mm diameter x 61mm length
(2.6 x 2.4 in)
Lens Mount Four Thirds

* 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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