Not convinced

Started Apr 12, 2012 | User reviews thread
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Alan Ernst Regular Member • Posts: 115
Not convinced

I anxiously awaited the Olympus 12-50 in the hope of finally having a quality all-round lens for my GH1/2 and GX1. On paper, the specs looked very promising (with exception of the slow aperture at the long end, which I could live with, as I use the tripod a lot). I finally managed to get the lens two weeks ago and test it extensively in the field. The results are a mixed bag: stellar performance in some areas, marred by some serious deficiencies... Clearly not what I had hoped for, based on my experience with the Zuiko 12-60mm 4/3 lens, which has become my preferred but unfortunately very chunky standard zoom as its optical performance (and speed) are excellent.
I tested the 12-50mm lens on my GH1 and GX1, on tripod, using self-timer or cable release.
The pro’s as I see them:
- a much more useful zoom range than the existing Lumix / Olympus standard zooms, which would make it an ideal all-round lens
- good build quality and ergonomics and fairly compact (albeit 4x larger than the new retractable Lumix PZ X 14-42 and about 1/3 larger than the older Lumix 14-45, it is still reasonably small and light)
- excellent close focusing ability (very close and very sharp) in its macro setting, with minimal distortion and surprisingly good corner sharpness. Could almost back up as a macro lens.
- weather proofing
- smooth power zoom (but noisy!)
- good center sharpness throughout the aperture and zoom range
- finally a wide angle zoom which does not vignette when using filters at the wide end – GREAT
- internal focusing with non-rotating front element
- minimal light fall-off in the corners compared to the Lumix PZ X 14-42
Unfortunately, the lens does not meet my expectations, although it performs very well in some areas, especially close-up. Considering it is a fairly slow lens, I was hoping for something much better. Compared to the Lumix 14-140 megazoom, results were comparable with slightly less distortion but more fuzzy corners (being a mega zoom, the 14-140 is no stellar performer, although at the wide end it is quite acceptable. It focuses nowhere near as close but has a much longer zoom range). Compared to the old Lumix 14-45 standard zoom, performance of the Olympus 12-50 is poor, especially towards the corners and at wider angles.
Why is it, I ask once again, that m4/3 lenses simply cannot match the optical performance of high quality APS or full frame lenses by the major manufacturers???? As long as Panasonic and Olympus don’t put a serious effort into the optical quality of their lenses, their systems will never win over more serious photographers. I'd rather pay more for a top notch lens than keep buying mediocre performers...


On the downside (some of these issues may be less pronounced when using Olympus’ bodies, but as we have all come to know, compatibility of the m4/3 products from different manufacturers is more or less limited to the lens mount only...):
- a little slow (I would have preferred a slightly larger / heavier lens in the f 3.2-f4.5 range)
- significant barrel distortion at the wide setting
- noticeable chromatic aberration in the corners at wider angles
- no lens hood is provided with the unit so it has to be purchased extra as an accessory (SHAME on you OLYMPUS!!)
- when shooting jpeg on Lumix cameras, images have a distinct magenta cast (no problem if you shoot RAW or happen to like pink snow)
- no image stabilisation available when used with Lumix cameras
- AF is fast but appears even less accurate than with Lumix lenses. Need to use manual focus for best results.
- length of the lens results in incomplete flash coverage at wider angles
- significant loss of sharpness towards the edges and corners. Less pronounced at shorter distances and longer focal lengths, but otherwise marring the performance of what could have been a great lens throughout the entire aperture and zoom range, including what would normally be considered the sweet spot of a lens. This is the killer for me, as it means the lens simply cannot be used for serious architecture, landscape or industrial photography, enlargements greater than 16x20, where reasonable sharpness / resolution is needed corner to corner. I was allowed to try out another unit to see if my lens was a lemon, however the results were very much the same, so it is clearly a design issue.

 Alan Ernst's gear list:Alan Ernst's gear list
Panasonic ZS100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Panasonic GX850 Nikon D7500 Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 +19 more
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 EZ
Zoom lens • Micro Four Thirds • V314040BU000
Announced: Dec 14, 2011
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
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