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Conclusion - Pros

  • Small size and light weight, perfectly matching Olympus's compact dSLRs
  • Proper manual focus ring and non-rotating front element
  • Deep petal-type lens hood included as standard
  • Consistently good image quality across all focal lengths, even wide open

Conclusion - Cons

  • Some chromatic aberration wide open at the telephoto end
  • Limited control over depth of field

Overall conclusion

When Olympus unveiled the Four Thirds standard as the first purely 'designed for digital' DSLR system, one of their promises was that it would allow smaller and lighter cameras and lenses, enabled by the relatively small sensor size (for those who still think in terms of film, the 17.3 x 13mm frame is almost identical in size to 110). The Digital Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ED delivers on that promise as a kit lens which, for its angle of view and aperture range, is smaller than anything else on the market. The good news is that it's also optically as good as anything else in its class; resolution is consistently high, chromatic aberration generally low, and distortion and falloff similar to other kit lenses. It's also pretty resistant to flare, helped in no small part by the effective hood which comes as standard. Macro performance is also very respectable, if not quite as good as the Canon or Nikon 18-55mm kit lenses.

The one area where this lens does fall short, however, is in control over depth of field, and this is a direct consequence of its miniaturization. For any given angle of view, the small size of the Four Thirds sensor requires a shorter focal length lens when compared to other DSLR formats, and at any given f-number, this results in a smaller aperture diameter, and consequently increased depth of field. Generally Olympus have compensated for this effect in their other lenses by offering larger maximum apertures, but with the 14-42mm they have chosen to use the same f-number range, in order to reduce size. This in turn reduces the lens's flexibility when the user wishes to isolate the subject from the background using a large aperture, one of the key image controls of creative photography. So not surprisingly, there is a price to pay for the increased portability of this small lens.

That aside, this really is one of the best budget standard zooms currently available, and the ideal complement to Olympus's compact DSLRs such as the E420, where the trade-off between portability and flexibility makes most sense.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 6.5
Ergonomics & handling 7.5
Features 6.5
Image quality 7.5
Value 8

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Olympus 14-42mm F3.5-F5.6 Review Samples

24 images • Posted 7 April 2008 • View album
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