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Monday, 10 May 2010

Comments

Is that Lord British? Ultima I (the slow, original version programmed in Apple Basic) remains one of my best computer gaming memories of all time.

To the topic at hand, I'd loved to read an informed opinion of the 14-35 vs. the 14-54 Mk II, a lens I can't seem to find much detailed info about. At less than $500, it seems like little compromise over the 14-35 for a great deal less cash.

In any case, thanks for the great write-up.

I likewise own both of these lenses and insofar as what he wrote, I agree with Kirk almost word for word (except I haven't used them on an E-3 body, so I can't comment upon the focusing issue he experienced).

The only thing I would add is that through the end of this month, Olympus is offering rebates on both of these lenses, so if you act quickly, you can save a total of $500 ($200 on one, $300 on the other) if you buy the pair of them before then.

Lovely review. I have Kirks book Minimalist Lighting. (Great by the way).
From this and even more so from The Hot Shoe Diaries (both on lighting using small flashes) I got the impression that good portraits can only be taken with quite complex setups. I always found this hard to achieve and thought myself lucky not to be doing this professionally. How refreshing now to see these pictures, which look very much like they've been taken with available light only.

A timely review of the high end Olympus lenses with my recent E30 purchase and having the 35-100mm on my wish list.

I wonder if the detail issue is a problem with the 35-100 on the E-30 as well? I like to make BIG pictures some containing a fair amount of detail.

My son would like to get an E-PL1. He's the videographer in the family but does some event photography too.

A couple of things...


When you compare the photos from those two lenses with photos from other Olympus lenses, you immediately see the two are siblings. Must be the coating or something, because both give the same colour rendering, the same look. Funnily enough, the other SHG lenses don't have that look, not even the stellar 150/2.

And yes, the 35-100 is heavy. After an afternoon of shooting with it, my left arm starts trembling when I raise the camera up. So I have to take a break (or start exercising more :)). What I'd like to see on it is strap lugs, like Olympus had on their old OM 350/2.8 or 250/2. When I was trying 35-100 on E-410, I didn't dare leave the camera hanging off my shoulder, although I was told that the mount was strong enough to support even the biggest lens in the lineup. So I had to hold the lens in my hand, which is not exactly a nice way to walk around. (And given that the camera has probably the weakest AA filter of all E-cameras, it's otherwise a good combination.)

I didn't have focusing issues with the borrowed 14-35 on my E-3 in the way Kirk describes, but it ocassionally refuses to focus in some backlit or very-low-contrast situations. And a minute later, it will focus in very low light without problems. Peculiar.

So in short, these 2 Olympus lenses are really great at resolving fine details, but only if used on something other than an Olympus DSLR? And one of the 2 is incapable of properly focusing on their flagship?

Seems like some awfully big caveats if one wants to really benefit from such 'great' glass.

Nice review Kirk. Have you by any chance ever used the ZD 12-60? I'm just curious how it compares to the 14-35, given that it's only a "high grade" lens as opposed to a "super high grade". I don't know that I'll ever afford the 14-35, so I'm curious what I'm missing; And hoping that it's mainly the weather sealing and extra wide aperture, and not the sharpness or colors (although either way, I'm very happy with the 12-60).

Just to clarify: Both of the lenses are capable of very, very finely detailed results but....to see a superior rendition of that you'll need to use one of the cameras with the weakest anti-aliasing filters. Right now that means using the EP2 or, even better, the EPL. I'm certain that these sensors or even better ones will find their way into the next generation of Olympus DSLR's. With an e30 the sharpness and detail are convincing up to 100%. It's when you enlarge beyond 100% that the detail starts to fall apart. This is a good problem. It means the current lenses outperform the sensor. It's the obverse of the Canon and Nikon problem wherein a number of the lenses in their line ups resolve less than the current sensors.

In portrait work the camera/lens combo is really nice. The only times I feel the need for more megapixels and a reduced testosterone AA filter is when shooting products which will be used in double truck magazine or brochure spreads. I am convinced that it's not a limitation of the 12 megapixels. It's all about the AA filters. And I'm further convinced by my experiences with the EPL that this is being solved as we speak.

triplight asked about a comparison between the 14-35 and the 14-54. The feeling of clarity and sharpness of the 14/35 is much greater than the 14/54. While the 14/54 is a good and eminently workable lens, with a better range, the 14-35 is sharp right at f2 straight into the corners. The 14/35 is much bigger, much heavier and much more bulky but it's snappy and detailed in a way that the 14/54 is not. A lot of Olympus shooters have both. One for total performance and the smaller one because it is such a good walk around lens.

Noise and fine detail are also intertwined in this system. If you work with post processing noise reduction you can increase fine detail by totally disabling the noise reduction in the camera at the time of shooting. Then you can surgically bring back noise reduction in a way that doesn't compromise detail as much.

As to the issue with the e3......I wish I hadn't had to write about that because I feel that it's a failing as well. But I've also lived through back focusing Nikons and heard many horror stories about back and front focusing Canons. I don't think Olympus is without good company. The e3 is an older camera (relatively speaking). The newer cameras, like the e30 have the ability to fine tune the focus of each lens. Up to 20 lens settings can be stored in memory. I suggest the e30 for DSLR shooters who are interested in the 14-35mm f2, it's a really good match.

Mr. KT is on a roll! I'm subscribed to his blog and this article for TOP must be one of the most enticing from this year. I've enjoyed it as much as his recent piece about Rene Zelwenger and Canon 135mm SoftFocus.
Two bits made me rock around my spot when I've read them:
"It’s dust- and moisture-resistant (I’ve spilled red wine on it and washed it off under the tap). " (helluva moisture resistant!)
...and "What I saw when I shot wide open on a tripod made me open my wallet. Wide open." (I nominate this as the best pun written on TOP)
----
And for a bit of measure: I've been lucky enough to have these two lenses on hand, but for the ones rationalising the investition, there's a fresh piece on LensTip analising all the technical measurements for 35-100 f/2, including the less-seen aspects of coma and astigmatism.

I think it makes a lot of sense to choose your camera based on the optics you own. Many people agree with this mantra, whether they voice it or not, which is why micro-4/3 are selling so well to photographers with no Panolympus glass, but who own lenses they know well and really like.

Having recently spent a lot of time with an Oly E-PL1, I can attest to the beauty of Olympus JPEGs. The images that were coming out of that camera could make me a JPEG convert if I ever owned one.

"I wish all camera companies had one uniform lens mount and lens coverage specification and that we could mix and match lenses with abandon. I’d have both of these optics superglued to either a Canon 5D Mark II or a Nikon D3x."

I would never suggest that someone as experienced as Kirk is engaging in post-purchase justification, but it is worth putting these lenses into the larger context with actual numbers. They aren't merely large; they're as large as their full-frame equivalents and cost as much or more, factors that should be considered by any Canon or Nikon photographer looking enviously at these two lenses.

Ironically (ironic because the 4/3 system was supposed to deliver "smaller and lighter" lenses), for the same money (rebates aside) one CAN superglue the smaller, lighter, and probably sharper Canon 70-200 2.8 II to the 5D2.

Ditto for the Canon 24-70/2.8, which is basically the same size and weight as the Oly 14-35, goes wider (24mm vs. 28 equivalent), and costs a heck of a lot less. No, the Canon doesn't have IS, but that may be coming very soon (if it does, it will probably push the price up closer to the Oly's).

I know the Olys are f/2, not f/2.8, but that stop is effectively neutralized by the Olympus cameras' lesser capabilities at high ISOs. In fact, one could argue that the best Nikon and Canon SLRs have measurably more than one stop advantage over the 4/3 cameras at high ISOs.

From where I sit it looks like the Canon pair of lenses (and maybe Nikon too?) might be more compact, cheaper, at least as sharp, and perhaps even stealthier than this pair of lenses for the "little" 4/3 format. The difference I notice is that unlike the Olys, the Canon (and perhaps Nikon) lenses can be glued on to the highest image-quality 35mm SLRs out there.

Kirk, could you say a few brief words about the Olympus' kit lenses for the E-520 and Pen series cameras? I'm curious to know how they compare to this more expensive glass.

Will

The Olympus lenses are consistently impressive. I once rented a 14-35mm lens and fell in love. Bought one that appeared to arrive DOA, returned for a second one that had the same problem. Neither would work on two separate Olympus cameras. I gave up.

I use a 12-60mm lens on the EP2 from time to time with the adapter. It is much better than the Olympus m4/3 lenses. Someday I hope we see m4/3 lenses equal to Olympus's best 4/3 lenses.

It's pretty funny but I always thought these lenses were a mistake because of their size and price. The irony is that they may be the best optically in their respective focal ranges ever made (I have used both along with the Sony/Nikon/Canon equivalents).

Re: Giant lens hoods.

I love my old Domke bags, truly I do, but like other bag makers they haven't caught up to the immense size of current pro gear -- lens hoods in particular. (I love looking at the big f/2.8 zooms in various ads where they fit so perfectly inside the little backpacks -- oops, no hoods anywhere....)

Answer -- Think Tank Photo. Great bags, well designed, and they hold real professional gear. Usual disclaimer -- I'm just a happy customer who has far too many camera bags.

I have the 150mm f2 it is just unbelievably sharp. I bought a E3 body just for it, sold my Canon 300 f 2.8 pocketed the difference and have a hand-holdable 300mm equivalent that at 24X30 prints is at least as sharp if not just a touch better with wonderful bokeh. I was so taken with the 150 I ordered the 14-35 so that I would have an normal "just in case." The first one arrived DOA (it would not autofocus) A week later came the second one which was soft. A third example from another vendor was also very soft so back it went. I love my 150 its a great lens. Too bad about the other lenses, I just have more to do than try four or five examples of a lens to get one to work. As I read the comments it made me sad to hear that it wasn't just me.

As mentioned above, the real problem is that, with new releases, the Nikon 24-70, 70-200, and Canon 70-200 are all now freaking fantastic themselves. Only the Canon 24-70 has noticeable room for improvement in comparison. You lose a stop on the lens but gain more than that on ISO, so it's more than a wash, and gets more imbalanced when you consider the rest of the system. The newer Nikon zooms in particular are not only crazy-sharp, but the autofocus is ridiculously good.

But I have no problems with contrarians. In-body IS has its merits, and the smaller size of the system is awesome, but doesn't apply here.

It's when you enlarge beyond 100% that the detail starts to fall apart.

Wait, what?

There is no detail beyond 100%. That's why it's called that! If there were more, it'd be called 80%, or 90%, or something.

Modern software is pretty good at extrapolating detail, but that's all that's going on. One lens can't be better beyond 100% than another, because it's all imaginary, and the computer (having no imagination) is going to invent the same thing each time, whether from a $2000 lens or a $20 one. It's not like the nicer lens puts data between the pixels!

Matthew, That may be scientifically true but several art director friends swear that files from certain cameras go larger much more gracefully....I see it too. But I understand what you mean.

Agree every bit with Kirk. I have the 14-35mm f2. I compared it in an Oly E-P2 to my Leica M 21mm f2.8 aspheric, 35mm f2 aspheric, 50mm f2 summicron, 90mm f2.8 elmarit and 135mm f3.5 Apo Telyt using a Novoflex M4/3 to Leica M converter. At f2, the 14-35mm is sharper in the center than any of my Leica M lenses at any aperture, and is at f2.8 sharper in the corners than any of my Leica M lenses at any aperture. I'm just amazed of the image quality of this lens. As I said in a previous comment section, it is more than sharpness, call it micro-contrast, transparency, or whatever, but the image is plainly stunning. This lens is vastly superior than any of the digital camera that Olympus has placed into the market. I really hope some day they will come with a camera that truly show this lens quality. From my tests using the E-P2, I can clearly see it has image quality reserve to spare.

I have the lenses mentioned in the article, and am suitably impressed with both. The 14-35 is my "utility" lens, as I like to call it.

I mount mine on an E-3, and I am either not critical enough, or just lucky, but I have not noticed the focus problems with this lens-camera combination mentioned in the article.

I shoot a ton of shots in low-light concert situations, wide open much of the time, and everything looks tack-sharp to me. Even better than a lot of the film stuff I used to shoot with my old Leicas.

Got a fair number of shots I woulda never got in the old manual focus days ( I love image stabilization)...

My 2 cents:being a computer engineer and having seen the huge differences from exactly the same raw data between raw converters, I'd say it's due to the demosaic algorithm used.

If they see or feel more detail probably it's only
because a better fine tuned raw developer.

My experience: ACR sucks with Oly raws, but Capture One and Raw Developer deliver better detail, and thus enlarge better than ACR.


On top of that the uprez algorithm has a big influence too. Linear or Bilinear interpolation will never deliver the same results as a Fourier based method.

"a fresh piece on LensTip analising all the technical measurements for 35-100 f/2"

Sorry, Barbu, I think "analising" technical measurements beats out even KT's "wide open" wallet for best pun I've seen here in a while.

;)

Making a huge lens perform well on a small sensor doesn't sound difficult or expensive to me. They should be cheaper. Or smaller. Or both.

I am in the market for lenses for my first dslr with no baggage by way of old lenses. I dearly wanted to go 4/3 but the size and price of the lenses is off putting. I would want my 4/3 kit to cost no more than a larger sensor kit, be smaller and lighter, with equal IQ.

I could get a Canon 5D/II with mid range lenses and just use the middle half of the sensor. I bet the lenses will be spectacular around the centre, and my kit would be smaller, lighter, cheaper, and far more flexible (I could use the full frame when I want).

Dear Matthew,

I think you misunderstood what Kirk was getting at. If you look at a photograph (or a scan) and it's got detail all the way down to the single-pixel level, it's a safe bet that the source of the image has more detail than you've got in the file. When Kirk says the image doesn't fall apart until you get above 100%, what he's saying is "I don't know how good the lens is, but it's sure better than the camera."

pax / Ctein

Here's some pics.

The pole is 100-200m away. Shot with 14-35 @ 29mm (58mm-e) and F3.5 on E-3.

I think I already posted this one here. It was shot with E-410 and the original 14-54 @ 23mm (46mm-e) and F5.6. It's a bit more than 200m, too. That boxy thingy in the direction of the pylon is about 50m away.

The detail looks pretty good to me.

It is nice to see real life reviews of hight quality DSLR system that are not Nikon or Canon... Especially from a professional photographer.

However I have a (sincerely) naïve question.

Why you did not choose the Canon EF 70-200 F4 lens instead of the Olympus 35-100 f2? (35-100 F2 is equivalent to 70-200 F4 in terms of field of view and depth of field).

I mean :
Canon 5D mk II: 2500 US$ and 850g

EF 70-200 F4 IS: 1200 US$ and 760g

So the two combined are 3700 US$ and 1.610kg

Olympus E30: 850 US$ and 695g

Olympus 35-100 f2: 2500 US$ 1.8kg

So the two combined are 3250 US$ and 2.5kg

Basically the Canon system is slightly more expensive, smaller and lighter (and much much cheaper considering that you already own a 5d mk II).

Is the 35-100 F2 that much superior to the 70-200 F4? Or is it also because you want/like the Olympus camera and lenses? (BTW no problem with that, I also find the Olympus camera and lenses very good).

Also do you find the 14-35 F2 better than the Canon 24-70 F2.8 @ F4? Is so then the Olympus 14-35 F2 is a germ…

Thanks.

Cheers,

Tregix.

Do tell - what were you shooting that had Richard Gariott (Lord British) in attendance?

I may be a photographer, but I grew up on games ... :)

"(35-100 F2 is equivalent to 70-200 F4 in terms of field of view and depth of field)."

But not in terms of speed. The Olympus lens is two stops faster.

Mike

I rented both lenses last year and was highly pleased - so pleased I'm renting them again this year. I had no problems with focus with my E-3, so I can't comment on that beyond saying "no problems!" I was a little surprised to like the 14-35 better, because I thought I'd like the 35-100. (The 35-100 is huge and heavy, so a monopod might be a good companion, but I was lucky enough to always have a table or a railing to rest stuff on.) They're both optically excellent and there was really nothing to complain about. Here's one taken at 14mm f/2:
Vixen Violette, NYBF 2009

BTW, to anybody who says "Why are they so big? They should be lighter! They should be smaller! They should be cheaper!", let's take a look at who else offers an f/2 zoom of this quality, at any price. Oh, that's right: nobody. So to anybody bellyaching...go design a better, cheaper, lighter lens, and then we'll talk.

I always chuckle when I read somebody explain why they believe this camera or that is a better choice over another camera because this presumes that everybody has a similar set of tastes and preferences and are all using cameras in the same way. Although this forum is generally free of such posts, they nevertheless seem to appear like weeds after the rain whenever 4/3-format (and now micro-4/3 format) cameras are discussed and this time is no exception.

For instance, I personally don’t like the 3:2 format at all, so suggesting that I would be better served by using a conventional DSLR instead of a 4:3 format camera is basically pointless. Sure, I can always crop the images to 4:3 after the fact, but does it make a lot of sense for me to buy a camera that doesn’t even meet this basic requirement of mine?

Likewise, for most of the photography I do, I need more depth of field, not less, so the FF camera body with its ability to do the selective focus/shallow DoF thing that makes some people all warm and fuzzy inside would only complicate matters for me.

In fact, most of the shortcomings that people complain about with regard to the 4/3-format and its micro-4/3 offspring are actually what I consider to be their strengths. Although I have my gripes about them as well, I do get tired of (presumably) well-intentioned people always trying to convince me their orange is better for me than my apple! Why can't they just be happy knowing that we’re both enjoying a nice piece of fruit and leave it at that?

"But not in terms of speed. The Olympus lens is two stops faster."

Mike, yes the lens is two stops faster but the sensor is “two stops slower” so at the end it the same thing.

An F2 lens means that the light INTENSITY is 4 times higher than a F4 lens. But the Olympus 4/3 sensor is 4 times smaller (surface) which means that (if you compare to make thinks simpler a Canon 5D to an Olympus E30, 12MP cameras) each pixel will capture exactly the same amount of light (number of photons).

So it is indeed it is two stops faster but it is perfectly "equivalent" to a F4 lens mounted on a full frame sensor. One cannot think in terms of F-stop without reference to the sensor size.

BTW, I own an m43 camera and I’m very happy with it ;-)

Cheers,

Tregix.

"yes the lens is two stops faster but the sensor is 'two stops slower' so at the end it the same thing."

It's true, they're pretty close, despite the wide disparity in sensor size. Still, you always lose quality At higher ISO settings even if the performance is very good. I'd rather shoot an E-30 at ISO 400 as a matter of course than a 5D Mark II at ISO 1600 because I have to for reasons of lens speed. I'd have to do actual print comparisons to draw any finer conclusion than that, and would certainly want to do so before I'd say they were "the same thing."

Mike

Evan, You wanted to know about the Richard Garriott shoot. I photographed my favorite astronaut at a TED Conference. He was talking about.....space exploration. He's a lot of fun!

The whole equivalence argument about big sensors versus small sensors is more about objective measures rather than subjective preference---how stuff actually looks.

I didn't touch on it in my lens review but one of the biggest attraction for me of the m4/3rd Olympus cameras, in conjunction with the EVF, is the ability to choose your aspect ratio. Mine is set to the square 99% of the time. I like composing and shooting in that format much more than any other. In many regards, these small cameras are more like my old Hasselblads than most others.

Someone asked me about the 70-200mm f4 on the Canon 5Dm2. I have one. It's different than the 35-100. Not better or worse, just different. Funny that people always presume reviewers are trying to justify their purchases. Having both lets one make better, real assessments.

Fun comments. Just wait till Olympus makes a sensor that is as good or better at low light than the best Canon and Nikon sensors. Then things will get really interesting......

Dear Tregix,

That's an incorrect analysis. It presumes that equivalent (in terms of image quality) ISO's scale in lockstep with sensor area. That is almost never, ever the case. There are, in fact, big differences in various image quality characteristics among different cameras of the same sensor size and even the same pixel pitch. Sometimes even the same manufacturer!

For the real world, just toss that presumption out the window. It's a theoretical construct that doesn't stand the test of reality.

So, then. An f/2 lens is two stops faster than an f/4 lens. That means for a given situation and ISO, you can use exposures 1/4 as long. Three of the four photos Kirk showed us required some degree of action stopping under low light conditions, so a fast lens was important.

It's exactly that simple. Compare apples to apples, don't attempt to construct apple-to-oranges comparisons through chains of theoretical equivalencies. The chain will usually break.

pax / Ctein

BY THE WAY TRY THE PANALEICA 25 f1.4 IT S A MUST!!!!

Full frame has some advantages, but corner sharpness is not one of them. I have the OLY lenses and the similar Nikkor lenses (one stop slower). What is being missed in this discussion is that the OLY lenses at f/2 and f/2.8 are simply better than the Nikkor versions at f/2.8 and f/4 in the corners ...probably the center as well, but most obvious in the corners. So, FF Nikon can do fine, but the OLY glass on 4/3 is better using similar ISO's. If you need to shoot at 3200, then go Canikon, If you shoot at 100, 200 or 400, the OLY Lens combo with an E-30 simply does better and you get in-camera IS for the 14-35mm (28-70mm equiv.) where the Nikkor doesn't have IS/VR. Same with Canon.

Mike's point in comparing 400 on an E-30 vs. the Canon at 1600 appears to make sense. I have compared the E-30 at 400 vs. the D-700 at 1600 ...E-30 wins every time even though the D-700 is clearly better at higher ISO's. The fact is that I shoot more often at 200 and 400 with these types of lenses. A D3S with 50mm f/1.4 is a better low-light alternative. However, with zooms in this range, OLY is flat out amazing wide open compared to the competition.

"I'd rather shoot an E-30 at ISO 400 as a matter of course than a 5D Mark II at ISO 1600 because I have to for reasons of lens speed."

I don't really understand this. If the quality is the same (and in my experience with the D700, the quality is actually a bit better than the nominal 2-stop gap), then why? Whatever the f-stop and ISO EXIF fields say, it's the results that count...

Ctein -- thanks for the explanation. I'll buy that. :)

It's really a shame that the E-3 /14-35 low light focus debacle had tarnished it's otherwise stellar performance.
I was one of the first to receive the preordered 14-35 when it was released to use with my E-3, and along with other 'early adopters' discovered the low light focus flaw. After a phone converstion with Oly HQ they generously exchanged it when other initial complaints started surfacing on some forums.
The unfortunate part is that the replacement fared no better in low light.
I luckily don't have the backfocus issue and I use the lens primarily outdoors for landscapes so I have learned to live with it's shortcoming.
I do hope the new iteration of the 'flagship'body will fare better but I'm so happy with my copy of the E-3 in general I'm not so sure I will even upgrade when it is finally released.

I to have been thinking about buying the 14-35 and have seen some comments about the focusing with the E3 but apparently a firmware update 1.3 has solved it? I'm still very tempted! saving my English pounds! Great article.

Fred said "try the Panleica 25 f 1.4"
I agree.. it's a stunner it's big, heavy and really sharp with great bokeh.
If it were the size of a Summicron it would be my first choice almost always. But it not small or light. The Panasonic 20mm f 1.7 is my first second and third choice these days, just a great piece of glass.

Andy,
E-3 firmware version 1.3 was supposed to improve focus issues on all the 'fast' lenses with the E-3. It hardly improved the issue of the 14-35 hunting a few times before finally locking focus, it did not totally solve the issue!
Curiously there have been no firmware updates for the 14-35 itself.
Don't let this dissuade you though if your main intended usage is not low, available light shooting.

Another vote for the 12-60 f/2.8-4. The most important thing about this lens, for me: wide open at 30-50mm equiv., it is at or near its optical peak (at 36mm-E, this means something like Nyquist MTF *seventy* on a 12 megapixel sensor, almost into the corners) , and in the corners still damned good).

But that's not all. In this FL range it has essentially *zero* distortion. And it has silent and nearly perfect 2-motor piezoelectric focus, weather sealing, and superb IS from 24-120mm equivalent.

May I know what is the purpose of current sensors in the digital cameras?

Both Kirk´s review and some posts in this thread make me optimistic in my quest for a good 14-35. I have yet to find one...

About the posts claiming the 14-35 beats the Leica M lenses, I am glad to hear. Olympus lenses have surely been inspired by Leica, and at the same time always been 20 years ahead of Leica. No matter if it is the OM lenses or the Zuiko Digital lenses - their glass is the best in my opinion. After using a OM 50/2, 100/2, 35-80/2.8, etc., there is no going back to Canon. The 35-80/2.8 is from 1996, the 50/2 a bit older, and the 100/2 from the middle eighties... and these lenses still set standards. Even the Leica lenses I owned were less, well, desirable. And with the ZD lenses, a totally new quality level has been reached. The 35-80 is fantastic, but it flares. Now, have you ever seen a zoom so resistant to flare and ghosts as a 12-60? With lenses like this, I don´t worry about the future of Four Thirds at all, because unlike in OM times Olympus has now a lot of unique lenses nobody else has. If they catch up with the latest sensor technology, great, the E-5 could be a game changer.

I own ZD 12-60, 50, 50-200 and 7-14, they are all fully usable wide open and especially the 50 and 50-200 are very close to being diffraction limited - that is, no need to stop down for quality. The 12-60 improves a bit, nevertheless I shoot it wide open 90% of the time with outstanding results throughout the zoom range from extreme close-ups to infinity. If you compare this lens to a 24-105/4 L EF, the L seems to stand for „laughable“, because chromatic aberration is extremely high up to 35mm focal length whereas in the Olympus it is hardly noticeable even in extreme contrast situations.

Now, with the 14-35, I´m extremely frustrated, simply because I bought two samples and both were not good lenses at all. Yes, colour reproduction and bokeh is superb. As expected. But, the first sample was UNUSUABLE at 14/F2 infinity, and in 2m distance it was completely outperformed by the 12-60 at F2.9. The lens was extremely sharp in the center at 70/F2 in close-up though. The second sample was a bit better at 14/F2.8/2m distance than the 12-60, but the performance at infinity was outright HORRIBLE with no chance of getting an even decent performance outside the very center even stopped down to F4, whereas the 12-60 was impeccable from wide open... In short, no consistency whatsoever. And it is exactly this consistently good performance of my other ZDs which gives me peace of mind compared to shooting Full Frame.

I am going to put some hope into and pressure on Olympus Europe and hope they will solve this for me and finally send me a sample that fulfills both their and my standards. I just did not have the nerve to buy a third sample and play roulette and have my money spent and retransfered and and. But you see, I really want this lens very badly. Nevertheless, my advice to prospective buyers, the final quality control is your responsibility, no matter how renowned or expensive the lens is, no matter if it is a Canon, Nikon, Olympus. And I suspect, the 14-35 is a lens hard to manufacture within the specifications. Price reflects this. But my expectations are high, I mean, if you look at their MTF chart, 14mm at F2, marvelous, I can only hope this is not a purely theoretical value.

About Kirk´s remarks about the AA filtering being to strong in the Four Thirds cameras - I´d rather have a bit more AA than the aliasing I get with a 5DII for free.

Tobias, Now that I have the body issues (that sounds funny) sorted I'm having very, very good luck with the 14-35 and would suggest you try one with the e30 or whatever next gen camera Olympus brings out. I've been shooting mine next to a few Canon L lenses and it is superior in just about every way. Especially at f2 :-)

I've only ever seen or heard of focusing issues with the lens so your issues of quality control come as a surprise to me. I think wide, fast lenses must be technically a nightmare for manufacturers to make work with smaller autofocus systems.

I'll let you know how everything works with my next body upgrade but if you are willing to go to manual focus I think you'll be amazed at the 14-35's optical performance on the EPL.

Kirk, AF seemed to be ok on my E3, I have a GH1 for sensor technology, will try it on the next pro body, and yes, I really want this lens. I have been using the OM 35-80/2.8 for years and I want something in the same league (it´s pure magic). This lens alone blew the Canon 50/1.4 and 70-200/2.8L into the dust from F2.8 on, even on the 5DII, so no doubts from my side about the 14-35 doing the same to L lenses... (only, where is MY sample that will do it for ME).

Apart from the two 14-35 samples I have been using or testing 8 samples of ZD pro and one top pro lens, my set and a friends, and they were all 100% ok. Compared to my experience that for example 3 out of 4 Nikon wideangles were lemons I consider this a superb QC. I just hope this 14-35 disaster was just really bad luck. And that Olympus acknowledges it...

Anyway, it was great to find your review and all the competent comments, that is rare enough. Now I´m waiting for the third sample.

Got the same 14-35 back from Olympus, they allegedly adjusted the autofocus (service technicians probably have an autofocus reflex already when this lens is on the table). What a nonsense. The lens is superb at 35mm/2 and infinity, but outright horrible at 14mm/2 infinity. I sent it back with some harsher words then before...

Kirk, does your lens hold focus when you zoom through? This one completely loses focus. Why it should be called a zoom then, I
don´t know. Seems they built varifocals now and let autofocus do the rest. Or focal flange is wrong.

Tobias, Nearly every zoom lens from every manufacture now seems to be a varifocal lens. I've tested Canon and Nikon as well and they all change focus as they zoom. The new method is to zoom first then focus. The old was (in manual focus days) was to focus at the longest focal length for the best accuracy and then reframe via zoom. That doesn't work on most of the new cameras, regardless of cost.

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