Top positive review
How did I miss this?
May 25, 2013
This is going to be a rave, five star review of a product, so let me get my complaints about the vendor out of the way up front. Amazon offered this through an outfit I never heard of before, Electronics Basket LLC, at 22.6% off list, which at the time I bought it was the only discount price I could find for this lens. The day after I got it, they started offering it from Sunset Electronics at 25% off, but such is life. The really annoying part is the packaging I received it in: only an unlabeled white box with no instructions and no guarantee card. The lens was wrapped in transparent blue plastic pressure tape, which might have been original from Olympus, I don't know. In any case, I have no guarantee on a lens that obviously has very complex construction! Fortunately, it operates flawlessly and it has more than lived up to my expectations.
I've been into M4/3 now for 11 months, with an E-M5 for 10 months (started with a Panasonic G3), and before getting this 12-50mm Olympus M.ZUIKO, I had acquired nine M4/3 lenses, so wound up with some redundancy and could sell off a couple without losing functionality, and here I am, getting more redundancy with this 12-50mm -- although not quite. There's really nothing else quite like this lens in the M4/3 arsenal and it is by far the most versatile lens I have. I have the incredibly fine Lumix 14-45mm but I'm often in a situation where I need to go wider and I knew this from the start, and so also bought the very flary 7-14mm Lumix, which I mostly use just for the 2mm below 14mm. Amazingly, I didn't even realize the M.ZUIKO 12-50mm existed until a few weeks ago, and I was blown away by the description of all its functionality, and so had to have it!
First IQ (image quality). From reading reviews, I was prepared to have second rate sharpness, compared to my Lumix 14-45. Well, maybe the 12-50mm is, but the 14-45mm is so exceptional, there's room to be really quite pleased with the IQ of the 12-50mm across its entire zoom range, in spite of the fact that it doesn't quite measure up to the 14-45mm. I'm a pixel peeper and I can see the difference between this lens and the 14-45 but for normal viewing, its more than acceptable. And that extra 2mm at the wide end is really quite spectacular, something I always knew from my SLR days and lots of experience between 24mm and 28mm FF lenses. Those extra 2mm are perhaps the main draw this lens had for me: it really makes a dramatic difference, and now my 7-14mm Lumix will very seldom be used. (The extra 5mm on the other end doesn't make much difference.)
Then there was the macro setting at 43mm. I'm a big macro fan and always have been, sporting 1:1 fixed focal lengths since 1990, and I have both the Lumix 45mm macro (which I never use and should sell) and the Olympus 60mm, which I use all the time and is one of my favorite lenses. Well, let me tell you: I was shocked by the quality of the 12-50mm in its 43mm macro setting! It is extremely sharp in that range, and it is so convenient to put the lens into that mode that I'm wondering how much this lens is going to cut into my use of the Olympus 60mm! I hardly ever use it to get all the way down to 1:1 anyhow and haven't yet found myself limited by the 0.72 magnification of the 12-50mm@43mm and have achieved some stunning results.
But remember, this lens came with no documentation! It took me a while of fiddling around with it before I figured out how to get it into its macro mode. First, it takes two hands, so it either has to be on a tripod or hanging around my neck with a strap. You have to press in a button on the side of the lens labeled MACRO, while at the same time, pushing the zoom ring forward two click stops. That's it. Now you're shooting in the lens's macro range at 43mm. This is less convenient than using my Olympus 60mm, which has a continuous focus range from 0.62ft to infinity. The macro range of the Olympus 12-50 is 0.66 to only 1.6 ft, which is a rather narrow range.
The last thing that really caught my eye once I discovered this lens is that it is splash and dust proof! I live in a rainy climate and until I got this lens, the only M4/3 lens I owned that had this feature was my 60mm macro. Hardly any M4/3 lenses have this feature! Apparently to get it, you have to have a lens with an internal zoom feature, a lens that maintains a fixed physical length at all zoom settings. I guess this was quite common with my Nikon SLR/DLSR lenses, because I remember using my zoom lenses for hours at a time in driving rain on my hikes without any damage to either body or lens. What's with M4/3? They should get with the program. Finally I have a KIT lens that delivers the splash-proof goods! I'm telling you, this is really a relief, because I actually LIKE to go out in the rain taking pictures, because I love the lighting and the tiny raindrops in macro shots.
One feature that the 12-50mm has that is not of interest to me is its zoom-by-wire (electronic). I played with this feature a little and it is very smooth, but probably of interest only to those interested in making movies, which hasn't interested me since I was a teenager about a century ago. The zoom ring has three positions. The middle position is for the zoom-by-wire. The inner-most position provides manual zooming -- without of course changing the length of the lens -- so sweet!
What else? Everyone talks about the "dark" f/6.3 wide aperture at maximum zoom. I'm simply not interested in this "limitation." Most of my photography is landscape work when I'm on a tripod, or if I'm doing macro work, I use the Metz 15 MS-1 macro flash at f/16. So the f/6.3 was actually welcome by me, because it enables the lens to be quite small: no bigger than the tiny Olympus 60mm macro lens.
Any negatives? Well, I've noticed moderate flare, which is surprising, because I've found Olympus M.ZUIKO lenses highly resistant to flare. And of course, being Olympus, it doesn't come with a lens hood. The flare isn't horribly offensive like the purple flare on the Lumix 7-14mm, and so I just have to be a little careful until I get the lens hood.