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Conclusion - Pros

  • High image quality - decently sharp from centre to corner even wide open
  • Extremely low distortion
  • Essentially no falloff/vigmetting
  • Small and lightweight

Conclusion - Cons

  • Moderate chromatic aberration (although not excessive for an ultra-wide)

Overall conclusion

The Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm 1:4-5.6 is without doubt a very good lens indeed, especially for a relatively inexpensive ultra-wideangle zoom. It's sharp even wide open, has negligible distortion, and shows practically no vignetting. Indeed it's a delight for pixel-peepers looking for high levels of sharpness right across the frame; there's little of the drop in sharpness towards the corners that is often encountered with wideangle zooms. The only visible optical flaw is lateral chromatic aberration, but this is pretty well inevitable for this type of lens, and while red/cyan fringing is visible in many circumstances it's not really any worse in than we'd expect.

Operationally there's little to complain about either. The 'focus-by-wire' system sits very firmly in the 'love it or hate it' category, but chances are you won't need to use manual focus much anyway. The lens does have a rather modest maximum aperture, but while with other Olympus 'Standard' grade lenses this can lead to issues with depth of field control, wideangle zooms by nature tend much more towards pan-focus than selective-focus, so it doesn't really matter. Larger maximum apertures also have the advantage of allowing the use of lower ISOs for longer as the light fades, but again this isn't much of an issue with the 9-18mm simply because shutter speeds don't have to be very high to avoid camera shake. Of course the lens is sharp wide open, so even the largest apertures are eminently usable - you don't have to stop down for best results. And let's not forget that it's precisely the slow maximum aperture that allows the lens to be so compact and lightweight.

Quite simply this is a lens which does the job asked of it extremely competently with the minimum of fuss. We've long said that the great strength of the E-system lies in the lenses, with Olympus taking advantage of the smaller area of the Four Thirds sensor to produce optics which are simply more consistent in overall image quality and edge-to-edge performance than those of its competitors. The company also provides arguably the most comprehensive and coherent range of digital-optimised zooms currently available (however if you're a prime shooter you really need to look elsewhere). The 9-18mm slots neatly into the last real gap in the line-up, providing a relatively inexpensive wide angle zoom with the image quality Olympus users have come to expect. It has only one real weakness, lateral chromatic aberration, and even then this is relatively easy to negate in post-processing when necessary. So despite this flaw, it earns our top award.

Detail

Rating (out of 10)

Build quality 7.5
Ergonomics & handling 7.5
Features 7.5
Image quality 8.5
Value 8.5

Highly Recommended (just)

Highly Recommended

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Samples Gallery

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Olympus 9-18mm F4-5.6 Review Samples

25 images • Posted 20th February 2009 • View album
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