M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO Tech Note

1240 and 1260
Concept: 5 out of 5
Execution: 5 out of 5
Yeah, but: This is not the review you're looking for.
The Long Version:

Matthew likes to produce the occasional counter review of equipment that he doesn't own but that instead comes across the counter-top of the camera store he works at. He at least gets to handle it before passing judgement. This micro-review, which I'm labeling as a Tech Note, is in that same spirit. I don't own the 12-40mm, but I did own the 12-60mm and used it extensively.

The only reason for writing this short blog post is to talk about the graphic at the top, where the test results of a Digital Zuiko 12-60mm f/2.8-f/4 (on the left) are compared to the new M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens on the right. I didn't make this comparison, but another photographer did on Flickr (click the image for a larger view and to go to Marty's Flickr stream).

Why do I care about the graphic? I have bellyached for some time about how Olympus isn't making native µ4:3rds versions of various 4:3rds lenses, in particular the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm. Turns out that maybe, just maybe, Olympus has decided to create newer µ4:3rds lenses that are superior to those two regular 4:3rds lenses. The charts show that the optical performance, at least via optical chart measurement, of the 12-40mm is superior to the older 12-60mm. When you compare the two lenses, you come up with the following points:
  • Constant aperture (f/2.8) of the 12-40mm vs variable (f/2.8 to f/4) of the 12-60mm.
  • Smaller and lighter 12-40mm vs 12-60mm.
  • Lower cost 12-40mm vs 12-60mm.
  • Native µ4:3rds mount of the 12-40mm, which means much faster focusing.
  • Silent operation of the 12-40mm, great for video.
The only downside (if you want to call it that) to the 12-40mm is the loss of the longer focal lengths beyond 40mm. It would appear Olympus made the engineering tradeoff to produce a shorter focal length range in order to achieve better optical and physical operation, producing by all accounts the successor to the 12-60mm. Given my personal druthers I'd trade a constant f/2.8 aperture across all focal lengths for 20 less mm in a cold New York minute.

Later this year Olympus will release its second PRO lens, a 40-150mm constant f/2.8 zoom, which just might be the superior replacement to the highly regarded (by me at least) 50-200mm. This will give the Olympus photographer an equivalent focal length range (in 35mm terms) of 24mm to 300mm in two zooms, with decent light gathering performance.

What is interesting is how those two lenses compete head-to-head with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 zooms. Now if Olympus can just stay in business long enough to make buying these lenses worth your while...

last updated 13 may 2014


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