12.02.2013

Lens review. The Olympus .........../.........

12 mm

Ahhhh. Reviews on the web. Reviews on the lens review sites. Hmmmm. No. As most of you know I'm not much inclined to use wider angle lenses except out of necessity. Like those times that the paying client wants just a bit more in the frame. Or occasions when I want to make the client's 400 square foot "factory" look---interesting. 

Well I recently accepted an assignment to go to Fredericksburg, Texas and photograph a house for a national shelter magazine. Of course I decided to shoot the whole assignment on micro four thirds because, well.....I'm not sure why. It just seems like the fun thing to do. Then I thought back over thirty years of assignments for shelter magazines and remembered that many of the establishing shots we did depended on wider angle lenses. 90mm on my old Linhof 4x5. The 38mm Biogon on my Hasselblad Superwide, etc. and I realized that the widest optic I had for the new Panasonic GH3's (and that darling G6) was the 14-42 kit lens. Well, that just wouldn't cut it. So I started to go through my options. I could buy a Panasonic 7-14mm but that's a lot of cash for something I rarely want to use. I could save a few bucks by getting the Olympus 12mm f2 but, again, lots of cash. I started looking around at the other options. After all, this m4:3rd system is supposed to be powerful when it comes to the sheer amount of lenses available, right?

Well, I did find one option that was much cheaper and would give me the 12mm I was looking for but there were a few issues.....it must be the most maligned zoom lens on webdom today. Every site I went to for reviews talked about the vicious vignetting, the mediocre sharpness and the woefully dark aperture at the long end. I came away thinking the lens would make edge lines curvier than a Slinky at the wide end, with blackened corners from vignetting while the long end would be like there was a number 10 soft focus filter permanently attached. And all through the reviews I was given to believe that the 1/3 smaller f-stop would making viewing images at the long end of the zoom like looking through a beefy neutral density filter. I vacillated for a day and looked around for more bargains. Finally, I found the lens in question, used, for a little over $200 and thought, "I've made more stupid gambles so...why not?"

It thought this was pretty good for a handheld twilight shot at 12mm but I thought the 
image stabilization was a big help....until I realized that neither the lens nor the 
camera (G6) has image stabilization....

Not finding too much problem with flare...

 see the full 12mm frame below. This is a crop...


Start your pixel peeping engines!!!


And the Panasonic G6 even corrected the geometry of the lens...wide open at 12mm.

Confused that I might have gotten too sharp a version.....

 Nearly wide open @ 12mm. Still looking for the vignetting...

50mm wide open at f6.3

 Some topical holiday imagery from a scouting trip today.



Well, the lens in question is an Olympus 12-50mm, f3.5 to f6.3. I bought it assuming the reviews would be right and I'd be left with a lens that was, um, at least weatherproof. But now that I've gotten to know it a little better I'll be happy to shoot with it. Seems sharp at both ends and in the middle. The rival camera companies (Panasonic vs. Olympus) seem to have worked out some sort of truce that allows them to correct each other's lenses for geometry, vignetting and chromatic aberrations. And what I'm left with is a lens that's more than adequate for my intended use at a very agreeable price. Plus I have a 20 stop image stabilization device I'm just aching to try with this lens. It's called a tripod....

The lens is goofy. It has a motorized zoom. But you can turn it off and zoom it with your finders. It has a button on the side that doesn't do anything on Panasonic cameras and it's long and skinny and plastic. If you can get over those things it is actually a nice lens for general photography in good light. My quest is (for now) over. Almost forgot: it also kinda does macro. 

That's my review of the Olympus 12-50mm lens. It's been Tuck Tested and found to be more than acceptable.


Studio Portrait Lighting













21 comments:

Ananda Sim said...

LOL. I'm tired and my eyes are blurring. I misread Tuck Tested.

btw, you seemed to have disallowed comments on G+ on your posts?

Ash Crill said...

And now you own a weather resistant camera+lens, perfect for backpacking, tornado chasing, caving and all sorts of outdoor adventures.

Maybe a field trip to the Atchafalaya swamp is in order?

Gregg Mack said...

Although I have 4 excellent primes lenses for my Olympus OM-D E-M5, I use the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens 90% of the time. Only when I get into a low light situation and do not have a tripod with me do I start thinking about those prime lenses.

I'm not saying that it is "as good" as the primes, but unless you really pixel-peep, it really is "good enough" - and it is much more convenient to walk around with just one lens (the one one the camera).

The macro mode fixes the focal length at 43mm (86mm equivalent on FF), and I think it is a very handy bonus feature of this lens.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Gregg. I'm pretty darn happy with it.

Brad Calkins said...

You must not have read slrgear's review : "As the kit lens for the OM-D E-M5, you couldn't really ask for more; the lens offers excellent results for sharpness, corner shading and distortion.

Claire said...

Kirk I hope you're not referring to my comment as I didn't write "hypocrisy" anywhere. I was however amused by the dichotomy of your feelings this week, longing for larger formats on one hand, and singing praise of the smallest "serious" one in use on the other. I stand by my final comment that it really doesn't matter. I now have both APS-C and FF again and they pecefully cohabit in my photobag. However it does make me think of someting : a few weeks ago I drove to Paris, happy and anxious to see a small Nick Brandt exhibition held in an art gallery. It was nice to see those big images in the flesh, but I was appalled (the word is not too strong) by the infamous quality of the prints. I know Mr Brandt likes to make a mystery of the gear he's using, well whatever it is he should use bigger, as his 90.000$ full size elephant prints are either a joke, or an insult to the buyer. Gorgeous images, but horrendous final product quality. Whatever gear produces his files just cannot stand to be blown that large,period. That really had me scratching my head...

Tom said...

OK, I was on the fence on this lens, but if it's "Tuck Tested", it will do for this Kiwi! I can't justify the pro version. After all, m43 is all about being good enough, not being the best.

Ralph said...

Ive been happy with this lens since purchase and no one yet has stated my pictures are poor. Think because its called the lens out of the box with the camera it has to be poor without giving it a try.

Jim Tardio said...

Like you, I wanted the "wide" end of a lens without paying a premium for it, as I don't shoot wide often.

I finally got my hands on the new Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6. I'll be taking it with me on a Christmas trip to Rome attached to my GX7.

I've never had a problem with so-called "kit" lenses. I always thought they were more than adequate for most shooting. Sure, I have some primes for shallow DOF and a bit more sharpness and, of course, speed. But these kit lenses are a very useful range for what I shoot...and they're usually a bargain.

Michael Matthews said...

At last, the answer. Not to wide angle zoom quality, but to image stabilization.

I refer to the twilight 12mm shot in which you realized after the fact that neither the lens nor the camera provided stabilization.

That's why my E-PL1 Olympus in-body stabilizer always seemed to come up short. You have a very steady hand! More than you are aware of, apparently.

I have some sort of goofy low-level purpose tremor, noticeable only when fine control is required. As a result, the much-praised Olympus IBIS (early generation)was just one more frustration for me. 'Makes every lens a stabilized lens...'. Sure.

Drat. Back to the tiny camera on the big, heavy tripod.

Hmmm. Maybe one of the new, lightweight Steadicams would do the job. Wonder what they cost...

Ron Nabity said...

Good thing I missed all the negative reviews on the 12-50mm lens, or I may not have ever tried it out. Like Gregg mentioned above, this is a very handy lens. It covers my favorite range, is lightweight and the images are great. Sounds like you got a super deal on it.

I just took delivery of its new big brother, the 12-40mm 2.8, and can't wait to try it out. Compared to the 12-50, it's a beast, though.

John Crowley said...

Having used an OM-D E-M5 for about a year I find myself using the 12-50mm as a video lens especially for the 12mm view. However if interested in doing any semi macro work, the macro setting is really the best part of this lens I've found.

Mark Davidson said...

Thanks for posting this.
I use a number of lenses that have gotten the cold shoulder on the web but they do the job. Most importantly, my clients love the images and they sign the checks.
As you have often noted, clients look to see that THEIR goals were achieved and are not paying for your techno-porn indulgences.

Jeff said...

Kit lenses still get a bad rap, but today are better than the kit lenses in the AF film era. If they aren't 'good enough' the market eventually says so.

mshafik said...

Another gear post here, what's happened to Ripe Camera?

I bought the 12-50 as a kit with the EM-5, it is at least a versatile lens, wide end, good long end, very good macro-ish mode, the electronic zoom works quite well for video, and it is weather resistant. And it cost me $300 new.

However, it has quite some distrotion on the wide end that is easily corrected in lightroom. I use it only on trips when I need to shoot scenery, I used it on a trip to Stockholm and Poland, I shot mostly at f/8, and I came back with very good prints. It wouldn't have worked the same with my primes.

Good for you, and I agree with you on the thin profile and plasticky feel.

Andrea Costa said...

I bought it too with the E-M5 kit, and used it for many months. When upgrading to the E-M1 I had to sold the entire kit for the body-only option... But I missed its versatily and nice output so much that last week I've got another one from a brick-and-mortar shop. Mint new from a kit, with original paperwork, less than 240 USD including s&h.

Rich Gibbens said...

I never thought to read the reviews on the 12-50mm lens when I bought the EM5 last year. I guess that's a good thing as I have been very satisfied with the pics I've gotten from this camera/lens combo

Guy Rosa said...

Just awful.

I'll give you 180 bucks for it. :)

Alex said...

Claire, I read that Nick Brandt used Pentax 67, you can't go much bigger than that! Digital cameras wouldn't survive those harsh conditions. I've never seen his prints, so can't comment on their quality...

Jason Hindle said...

I've learned to take lens reviews with a pinch of salt. My latest Pen came with a mail in offer for the much maligned 17mm f2.8 (i.e. send in a copy of your receipt and get a free lens). I was gob-smacked at some of the images I got from it on my test outing, and I do view my photos as 100%.

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