For those of you in Malaysia, you can Pre-Order the new Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens now from OLYMPUS Malaysia! Go here to find out more.
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee.
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.
Olympus has recently launched two new lenses, M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO and 8mm F1.8 PRO Fisheye. I originally wanted to take both lenses out to shoot over the weekend, but decided against using two lenses at the same time, knowing it is best to fully concentrate using just one lens, so I can focus and plan my shots more carefully. I shall come back to the fisheye lens very soon.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens is highly anticipated, and with the official launch Olympus has now completed their "holy trinity" of PRO lens line-up, consisting full coverage of focal length with constant bright aperture from ultra wide angle all the way to super telephoto range (7-14mm, 12-40mm and 40-150mm). Many working professional photographers I know, have sworn by the importance of having the "holy trinity" equivalent lenses from Canon and Nikon counterparts, and many arguments have been made against mirrorless interchangeable lens camera system for the lack of serious, constant zoom lenses. This argument is no longer valid!
An ultra wide angle lens is not for everyone. The lens exhibits high chance of getting perspective distortion (nothing to do with lens flaw, this is a characteristic of a super wide lens), which will stretch and elongate subjects, looking disproportionate and unrealistic in many occasions. Nonetheless, ultra wide angle lens are must haves in many photography needs as well, especially for landscape, architecture, night sky (milky way) interior and even some street photography shooters. There are times when the standard wide angle coverage is just not wide enough and wider coverage is needed, in general shooting conditions. This is where the extra wide angle comes in to do what other lenses cannot.
Here are the highlights of the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens
1) It is a PRO lens
That means, the lens has a constant F2.8 bright aperture, a desirable capability of any zoom lenses. Also, all Olympus PRO lenses are fully weather sealed against water splash and dust, complementing the OM-D camera bodies such as E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II very well.
2) Super Sophisticated, Superior Optics
Olympus may not be ahead when it comes to camera race (high ISO performance, megapixel race, etc), but when it comes to lens technology and optical quality, Olympus is never short of excellence. Olympus has included 3 super ED, 2 HD, ED, EDA, and DSA lenses into the 7-14mm PRO lens to minimize all technical lens flaws (chromatic aberration, distortion control, etc).
3) Close Focusing Distance
The new 7-14mm lens also boasts superb close up shooting performance of 20cm, which is quite incredible for an ultra wide angle lens.
For full specifications, kindly visit official Olympus page here (click)
Over the past weekend, I have made a road trip to Kuantan, Pahang (East Coast of Malaysia) to find photography opportunities to test the new Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens. I used the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II for this series of test.
Ok, lets jump right in and get the obvious stuff out of the way. I know we all want to find out how sharp is this lens. The short answer: I am extremely impressed.
The Olympus 7-14mm PRO lens is VERY sharp, and the sharpness matches the other two PRO lenses, 12-40mm and 40-150mm. There is a minor increase of sharpness when stopping down from F2.8 to F4, but the difference is quite small, I am perfectly happy at what the lens produces at F2.8. The sharpness is also very good all across the range from 7mm widest all the way to 14mm.
There is almost no noticeable corner softness, and images taken, as shown below are sharp from corner to corner (edge to edge as well) even shooting at F2.8 widest aperture. I do not see light fall-off (vignetting) effect at any point of my shooting experience last weekend.
The sharpness of the 7-14mm PRO lens can benefit both the images taken of far away subjects (landscape, scenery, cityscapes), as well as near subjects. I have included plenty of samples covering both landscape as well as close-up shooting.
The ability of the lens to resolve good amount of fine details makes this lens highly suitable for use of the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II's High Res Shot feature to create 40MP images.
7mm, 1/20sec, F2.8, ISO200 High Res Shot
Crop from previous photograph
7mm, 1/20sec, F2.8 ISO500
7mm, 1/1250sec, F5.6 ISO200 High Res Shot On Tripod
Crops taken with various F-number stopped down, same image from previous.
Corner crops comparison
11mm, 1/10sec (handheld), F4, ISO500
100% crop from previous image
13mm, 1/80sec, F4, ISO200
100% Crop from previous image
CHROMATIC ABERRATION (AND COMATIC ABERRATION) CONTROL
One of the most annoying trait of any ultra wide angle lens is the excessive amount of chromatic aberration present in the images, which may occur in a few specific scenarios such as shooting a subject placed directly at the strong source of light (shooting against the sun), and areas in the frame with high contrast (light against dark background).
To torture the Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens, I went to the beach during sunrise and shot boats and people against the direct backlit condition of the strong sun.
I did not observe any chromatic aberration (purple fringing), which was almost too difficult to believe. I understand that the lens may have superb optics and glasses included, to combat and minimize chromatic aberration, but the OM-D E-M5 Mark II may also apply some processing to completely eliminate any traces of chromatic aberration, hence the perception of chromatic aberration free image. I do not care how the camera and lens did it, I only care about the end result, and to have a full ultra wide angle shot, taken at widest angle 7mm and widest aperture F2.8 with no chromatic aberration was something unthinkable before this!
7mm, 1/15sec, F2.8, ISO200
14mm, 1/5000sec, F2.8, ISO200
100% crop from previous image
7mm, 1/1000sec, F5.6, ISO200
9mm, 1/1000sec, F5.6, ISO200
NIGHT SKY SHOOT TEST
One area of photography that an ultra wide angle lens is a must have, is night sky photography. The main reason I went to Kuantan was to capture some nice night sky images, and I was lucky to be able to shoot the Milky Way as well!
The 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens is just the right too for Milky Way shooting, with the wide coverage of 7mm it is easy and flexible to compose the sky with good foreground. The F2.8 wide aperture is super crucial to ensure that ISO numbers are not boosted too high, keeping at the range of ISO3200 highest (obviously to control noise), and able to gather sufficient light to achieve a good exposed image.
The common flaws of ultra wide angle lens resulted in a few undesirable results in night sky photos: 1) Chromatic Aberration - lots of purple fringing, since the lenses are normally used at their widest open aperture. 2) Comatic/Spherical Aberration - the appearance of "stretched" stars, which should look round or circular in reality, but in photographs, due to common flaw of ultra wide angle lenses, they appear ovul or out of shape.
I have shot a few photographs of Milky Way and night skies, battling the cloudly sky (waited for the sky to clear) as well as light rain earlier in the evening!
So how did the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens perform? Again, NO trace of chromatic aberration, and the stars appear as round as they could be! The sophisticated Super ED, ED and Aspherical lenses used must have done superb job in countering all the chromatic and spherical aberrations.
7mm, 30sec, F2.8, ISO2500
Crop from previous image (Noise Filter was set to Standard for this image)
7mm, 30sec, F2.8, ISO2500
7mm, 30sec, F2.8, ISO2500
A side note on the night shooting with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II as well as the E-M1 (after the latest V3.1 firmware upgrade), there is a "Live View Boost 2" function, while enabled, the camera's live view has high visibility even in near darkness situations. I find this to be extremely helpful, and I was the ONLY one who can clearly see what I was composing out under moon-less night, in a group of a dozen photographers all using other non-Olympus cameras. This Live View Boost 2 feature is a life-saver, it was a breeze shooting night sky on the OM-D.
BARREL DISTORTION CONTROL
Another big problem shooting with ultra wide angle lens is barrel distortion, where lines which are supposed to be straight will be slightly bent to a certain degree, depending on how severe the barrel distortion of the lens is.
Much like the chromatic aberration, Olympus cameras do apply correction digitally to minimize the barrel distortion in the captured images. I do not know how much the correction is applied, but as I have mentioned, I shall only inspect the final images.
In all my test images, straight lines (at any part of the frame) were all straight and I do not notice any barrel distortion. To test this, I have purposely sought after images with plenty of lines, as well as shooting interior of a restaurant. I believe the distortion control is especially important for interior and architecture shooters.
7mm, 1/25sec, F2.8, ISO500
7mm, 1/20sec, F2.8, ISO640
7mm, 1/10sec, F2.8, ISO640
7mm, 1/13sec, F4.5, ISO640
7mm, 1/40sec, F2.8, ISO640
CLOSE UP SHOOTING PERFORMANCE
One of the highlights of this new M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens, is the ability to shoot close up, as close as 20cm (measured from the image sensor of the camera to the subject). While the magnification is just a mere 0.12x, which is nothing special in comparison to many other Olympus lenses, for an ultra wide angle lens, this is very respectable. 20cm may found far, but if the measurement was taken from the front of the lens, it was actually just a few cm away.
Zooming in to 14mm (longest), going in close allowed me to do some simple close up shots, and I was amazed by what I could shoot with this. At F2.8 I could still render shallow depth of field, shallow enough to isolate my main subject and throw the background into blur. The bokeh (quality of blur) was quite good, smooth and pleasing, without being messy and harsh.
14mm, 1/25sec, F2.8, ISO200
Check out the BOKEH!!
14mm, 1/160sec, F2.8, ISO200
This was how the previous image was shot
14mm, 1/20sec F5, ISO800
7mm, 1/13sec, F2.8, ISO640
14mm, 1/200sec, F2.8, ISO200
Oh great news for Instagrammers this lens takes great coffee photos.
8mm, 1/50sec, F4, ISO200
The flare is very well controlled. Yes, I do see flare from time to time, particularly when I was pointing the M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO against strong light source (sun, strong spot light). The flare was minimal and not distracting. In fact, I had to move the lens around until I find the flare, and it can be easily avoided by choosing a different shooting angle or standing position.
7mm, 1/15sec, F22, ISO200
14mm, 1/400sec, F4, ISO500
7mm, 1.6sec (handheld), F2.8, ISO200
100% Crop from previous image
Referring to the above crop, the image was taken hand-held at 1.6sec, hence having roughly effective 5 steps stabilization. This is a crucial benefit of using Olympus OM-D system, the 5-Axis Image Stabilization helps greatly, and with wide angle lens, there is no need to use very high ISO. In some situations, a tripod can be left behind, and hand-holding is possible with the powerful built in camera stabilization system.
HANDLING AND CONSTRUCTION
The Olympus 7-14mm PRO lens, though smaller and lighter than competition (about half the weight and size of Full Frame equivalent counterparts), is still rather large and heavy by Micro Four Thirds standards. I have used the lens on the E-M5 Mark II without the HLD-8 grip, and I have immediately regretted this decision. The lens is larger and heavier than the 12-40mm F2.8 lens, hence the extra grip can greatly aid in balancing the lens on the camera.
The lens is well built, as expected from the PRO line of Olympus M.Zuiko lenses. The other photographers present with me during the Milky Way shoot at Kuantan have all commented positively on the lens build, and how robust and solid the 7-14mm PRO lens felt in their hand.
Generally I find the Autofocus to be very fast, on par with all other current M.Zuiko Olympus lenses, and there really is nothing to complain about the focusing at all at this point. The next point of improvement would be on continuous AF with tracking which has more to do with the camera, and not so much on the lens. Focusing was almost instantaneous and I can even shoot in very dim conditions with no hunting issues. Considering that this is an ultra wide angle lens with very large depth of field, chances of miss focus is almost non-existent.
7mm, 1/250sec, F2.8, ISO200
14mm, 1/200sec, F2.8, ISO200
100$ crop from previous image
14mm, 1/200sec, F2.8, ISO200
7mm, 1/1000sec, F6.3, ISO200
7mm, 1/6sec, F2.8, ISO200
7mm, 1/25sec, F3.5, ISO200
100% crop from previous image (notice some moiré pattern on the sleeve)
9mm, 1/4sec, F5, ISO500
Seeing is believing, do not take my words for it, download the full resolution images and do your own comparison and judgement. All images included for download are completely straight out of camera with no additional post-processing.
FOR FULL RESOLUTION IMAGE SAMPLES
(M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO)
CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
What I like about the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens:
1) Excellent Sharpness
I am confident that this is amongst the sharpest ultra wide angle lens out there
2) Miminal, Nearly Non-existent Wide Angle Flaws
Any technical flaws you can think about an ultra wide angle lens, Olympus somehow found their way to counter and mitigate the issues (perhaps including software correction in camera, but we are looking purely at the final image output here for this review). I notice minimal if no Chromatic Aberration, Comatic Aberration and Barrel Distortion
3) Surprisingly good close up shooting
I can do some superb close up shooting, even with an ultra wide angle lens!
What I wish could be improved:
1) No Filter Attachment Options
It was almost a let-down to many landscape photographers when they found out the Olympus 7-14mm PRO does not accept any lens filters at all. There has been a sharp rise of filter use popularity in the past several years, especially Neutral Density filters for long exposure shooting. At this moment there is no way to attach any filters and I wish Olympus could have come up with some kind of solution, like an attachment on the front of the lens to accept some kind of filters.
2) Lens Cap
I find the lens cap somehow detaching itself while the camera and lens were in my bag, and this happened a few times. This is extremely dangerous, considering the front end of the lens is completely exposed with no filter to protect it. What if there was a foreign object gliding (eg, the camera lens strap) and rubbing on the front of the lens?
3) .... could not think of anything else at this moment.
For Micro Four Third shooters, rejoice, the ultra wide angle Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens is indeed a stellar performer. The lens delivers sharp images, with plenty of detail resolving power. All technical flaws you can think of about a wide angle lens are well controlled and suppressed. There really is nothing much to not like about this lens. If you need a high performing ultra wide angle lens, there is currently no better option than this M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens.
If you currently own a 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses, you already know what to expect from the similar range 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens. Getting it will complete your set of "holy trinity" lenses, allowing you to have a super wide coverage from 7mm all the way to 300mm. Olympus is indeed making a very bold statement now with their complete series of amazing PRO lenses, and competition has lesser and lessers reason to attack the Micro Four Thirds system.
I shall work on the M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 PRO Fisheye lens review next.
After that, I wish to have extension for both the 7-14mm and 8mm F1.8 fisheye PRO lenses, to answer any questions from you beautiful people.
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