The Underrated Kit Lens - Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3

I got the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 that came together with the first Olympus OM-D, the E-M5 many years ago. It has not received much love, since I do have the superior Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, and I use bright prime lenses for most of my photography needs, both for my work and for personal projects. Looking at the 12-50mm I personally believe Olympus was trying really hard to over-achieve with this kit lens - it is weather-sealed, it has dedicated macro function, it has versatile 12-50mm zoom range, it can switch between electronic zoom for smooth video shooting and mechanical zoom for those prefer quick response while shooting and also a built in L-Fn (lens customizable function button). Of course it is not the perfect kit lens, we have many options now both from Olympus/OM System and Panasonic, but I'd like to think that this 12-50mm is truly special, and I want an updated Mark II version!

This is one rare occasion where I do not feel like repeating what I have said in my video format here in this blog article. I shall just post my fresh images taken with the 12-50mm kit lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. I guess, less talk, more photos please!

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  1. Nice article Robin. I've purchased this lens about 9 years and I stop using it around 6 or 7 years ago. It's funny that I've decided to put it in the bag yesterday and I toke a couple of photos with it, and today I saw this article. My copy is not so good at the 12mm end (lack of sharpness and more prone to purple fringing), but starting at 20mm all along the way to 50mm it is very sharp. I've purchased it for the pseudo-Macro capability and for the 12mm end, so that's the reason I don't use it anymore (I've got the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro).

  2. It was an unusual lens. I remember it being offered as one of the E-M5 kits, with the other one being with the 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R. Moving up from a compact, and wanting at least one fairly small lens, it seemed just a bit too large. The salesperson in one store was quite eager to show off the fancy "clutch" mechanism while not actually communicating meaningfully about it, and that just put me off: surely "don't overwhelm the customer" as well as "understand the customer's needs" are fundamental rules of competent salespeople, but a lot of retailers are pretty inept at retailing. I also remember that reviews of it might not have been particularly enthusiastic, either.

    At that time, the E-M10 had just come out, and that was being offered with the ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens as a kit. I think that the 12-50mm lens was a higher-priced kit for the E-M5, but I think I could have spent just a bit more and got the pancake. In the end, I went for the non-pancake 14-42mm lens and added the 40-150mm plastic telephoto for about $100 extra, this possibly having been liberated from two-lens kits that I guess they couldn't sell.

    What is particularly odd about the 12-50mm lens is that seems to have had a short retail existence, at least where I live. I think Olympus must have decided that they needed a "do it all" water-resistant kit lens to match the E-M5, but then it didn't really fit in with their product roadmap.