Olympus released this super-zoom in their Pro range at the end of 2016, and it was maybe a bit surprise to see a wide-range zoom in the Pro range. This also meant a hefty price tag – £1100. I was definitely not interested. Way too much for a hobbyist. And a boring lens. Who would want that? 9 months later I had the lens. How did it happen? And what do I think of it now after having it for 9 months or so?
This is not a real review of the lens, you can find plenty of those online, just a few thoughts about owning this piece of glass.
In general, super-zooms are known to be slow and mediocre quality. Small aperture tend to make them boring, not good in low-light and giving bokeh only at very long focal lengths. Many conceive Micro Four Thirds system (MFT) to only use with tiny fast prime lenses which fit the small form factor but also work nicely in dim conditions, also creating bokeh.
With Olympus’ Pro tag in this lens, decent optical quality was to be expected. However, a price tag of £1100 seemed way too much for this kind of lens. Also, it is one of the biggest and heaviest lenses in the system, drifting away from one of the main advantages of MFT system – size and weight. However, we are talking about a lens that can cover most of the photographic situations with excellent image quality. If not size and weight, that is very convenient. And considering the range and quality, it is not a huge lens after all when compared across systems.
Zoom vs. Primes
Some may still say all-covering zoom lens is boring. Sometimes it is, I used to think that way as well. However, I also have a set of primes if I am in a mood for that, or need more low-light performance. Besides size and weight that is one main advantage of Micro Four Thirds system – versatility. Let’s see a pair of photos below having the same camera with a small prime and this zoom giant. These kits fit very different situations.
Those are my largest and smallest lenses, the 12-100 and Olympus 17/1.8, although there are even smaller lenses available than the 17/1.8.
Sometimes you certainly need more light in than f/4 can deliver, want more lightweight setup, or just want to feel less obtrusive with your camera. I would not have one zoom as my only lens. Sometimes it is also fun to use primes, or it can be good for learning. But especially if I am on holiday exploring new places, I want to take photos from different angles and with different focal lengths. While using two bodies with primes is an option as well, I like the idea of high quality zoom from wide angle to quite long tele.
F/4 may feel like a showstopper to some but given Olympus’ excellent stabiliser system, which in this case means the Sync IS where in-body IS and lens IS work together (in E-M5II, E-M1II, and Pen F), this will not be an issue for me as I mostly shoot stationary scenes. It is not a lens for indoor events or action as you would need to bump up the ISO a lot.
Is It Worth It?
Yes, definitely. I actually bought mine off eBay second hand last summer but especially recently there has been some deals the lens selling for £899 or so. It is a lot of money, more than most hobbyists are willing to pay. But if you have the cash, investing it in a lens that covers probably 90% or more of all (or at least mine) photographic situations, why not. For example, I would like to buy a good wide-angle or good long tele but these lenses have similar price tags, while only covering small number of situations. I find it much harder to justify buying such lenses.
Like most Olympus lenses, this is one of those that you do not need to worry about image quality aspects no matter what is your aperture or focal length setting. It also has decent flare and ghost resistance, it is weather sealed, and have amazing stabiliser if used with E-M1 mark II, E-M5 mark II, or Pen F – or very good on any camera. This lens simply delivers. I have been swapping a lot of lenses around but with good confidence I can say this lens will stay.