Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED review
The Olympus 14-42mm does well in our studio tests, sitting distinctly towards the top of the class. Indeed it's something of a talented all-rounder, doing pretty well in all tests and showing no obvious weak points.
|Sharpness||The lens delivers consistently good results at all focal lengths, and unlike most of its competitors even gives good results wide open at telephoto. Optimum performance (unsurprisingly) tends to be around F5.6-8, although it's not at all bad wide open either. There's a noticeable loss in sharpness due to diffraction at F11 and smaller apertures, but Olympus has sensibly limited the minimum aperture to F22 at all focal lengths.|
|Chromatic Aberration||Chromatic aberration is kept pretty well under control, and indeed overall is probably just about the lowest of any kit lens. The only negative is that CA is also visible wide open at the telephoto end, although here it disappears quickly on stopping down.|
|Falloff||We consider falloff to start becoming a potential problem when the corner illumination falls to more than 1 stop below the centre. Falloff is only likely to be an issue with this lens wide open at 14mm, and essentially disappears on stopping down to F6.3 (there's also slight falloff wide open at 18mm). The falloff pattern on the tested sample was noticeably decentred with respect to the sensor.|
|Distortion||As usual distortion is most pronounced at wideangle, with 1.4% barrel at 14mm. This progressively reduces at longer focal lengths, and becomes essentially imperceptible from 25mm to 42mm. Yet again, a perfectly acceptable performance.|
Somewhat unusually, we were able to run a complete set of tests on two different copies of this lens during the course of this review. We found that, whilst there were slight but measurable (and reproducible) differences in the shapes of the resolution curves across the frame, these were generally insignficant. Differences which might be noticeable in real-life shooting were limited to the widest aperture settings, where one lens performed slightly worse than the other at wideangle, but conversely a little better at the telephoto end; results at all focal lengths were equalised by stopping down to F8. The data presented in the widget above is from the (marginally) superior overall performer of these two lenses.
Lens axis offset angle
One issue we did observe during the course of these tests (and a reason for requesting a second sample) was that the lenses did not project an image of what was precisely in front of the camera, but instead apparently pointed off at a slight angle. The practical effect of this was that we had to move the camera slightly out of line with the centre of our test charts in order to obtain a symmetric image; and by measuring this displacement could determine an apparent ‘offset angle’. The effect is largest at the widest angle setting, so this is the figure we report.
It's not clear what causes this issue, but at a guess it may be related to Olympus's extensive use of ED glass in their designs, which is required to minimise aberrations with these short focal length, highly retrofocal designs (ED glass requires extremely precise alignment during lens construction, and deviations from the ideal during manufacture could conceivably give a 'tilt' effect). We also assume that it is likely to vary between samples of any individual lens; the numbers we report should therefore be taken as representative only of the sample(s) we have tested. It's also important to stress that this was only observable due to the critical alignments needed for shooting our test charts, and had no obvious effect on real-world shooting (you'd only see it when shooting alignment-critical applications such as copy work).
The measured lens axis offset angles at 14mm were 1.3° and 2.0° for the two samples tested; the lens with the smaller offset angle gave slightly better overall performance, most notably wide open at wideangle.
Specific image quality issues
As always, our studio tests are backed up by taking hundreds of photographs with the lens across a range of subjects, and examining them in detail. This allows us to confirm our studio observations, and identify any other issues which don't show up in the tests. Overall this lens is an excellent performer, delivering consistently good results across a wide range of shooting situtions and rarely putting a foot wrong.
The 14-42mm shows excellent control of flare, especially if you make a habit of using the hood in difficult lighting conditions. It does well in both of our 'real-world' flare tests, with the sun in the corner of the frame at wideangle, or out of the frame but impinging directly on the front element at telephoto.
|14mm F8, sun in corner of frame||42mm F8, strong backlight|
Background blur ('bokeh')
One genuinely desirable, but difficult to measure aspect of a lens's performance is the ability to deliver smoothly blurred out-of-focus regions when trying to isolate a subject from the background, generally when using a long focal length and large aperture. Olympus make a selling point of their circular aperture design, and consider the rendition of blurred backgrounds to be 'one of the big advantages of this lens'.
On one level they are indeed correct; this lens can deliver quite attractive bokeh under the right conditions. The problem is simply in getting a blurred background in the first place; for any given angle of view and subject distance, background blur is dependant fundamentally on the physical diameter of the aperture, and at 42mm F5.6 that's just 7.5mm (in context, even a typical APS-C kit lens at 55mm F5.6 has an aperture of 9.8mm). In practice this gives the 14-42mm the least control over depth of field of any current standard zoom for DSLRs; this is fundamentally the price you pay for such a compact size.
The best results are generally obtained in macro shots, with the greatest relative separation between subject and background. At slightly longer subject distances, the lens can render specular highlights in a harsh-edged ring pattern, which isn't pretty (although to be fair, pretty typical for a kit lens).
|42mm F5.6, ISO400||50% crop, centre right of frame|
|42mm F5.6, ISO100||100% crop, centre left of frame|
Apr 7, 2008
Sep 14, 2006
Mar 31, 2011
Mar 31, 2011
|Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan by User9320321874|
|Yellow Warbler by LeeS|
from A Big Year - birds
|Waiting for the Parade by tcoker1103|
from - La Vida Loca - (Black and White Street Photography+ A Border)
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not known as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you know where to look. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.