Remember CES? Now try and think back before that – we know, it’s hard. It was just last month that Olympus announced the M.Zuiko 12-50mm power zoom. We scored some one-on-one time with the new Micro Four Thirds lens; take a look at a few sample images and first impressions.
In the 2x world of Micro Four Thirds, a 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens equates to a 24-100mm range in 35mm terms. It’s wide enough to take in most of a landscape, but will crop in far enough for portraits – and even macro shots (more on that later). This lens offers both a motorized “power zoom” mode and a traditional manual zoom mode. Olympus promises silent MSC (Move and Still Compatible) AF and zoom function, both important to those hoping to shoot video free of interference from a noisy focus or zoom motor.
Changing the zoom mode is done by moving the zoom ring forward and backward – it settles into each position with a nice ‘click.’ Motorized zoom is very smooth and essentially silent. I didn’t pick up any noise from the zoom motor in the videos I shot. In traditional, twist-the-lens-barrel zoom mode I wasn’t as crazy about the feel. It seems to be grinding slightly, traveling with a somewhat rough feel as I zoomed in and out.
The Macro function of the lens promises close focusing at distances as close as 8 inches. Switching into Macro is done by holding the “macro” button on the side of the lens and pushing the zoom ring forward one more notch. Macro focal length is fixed around 43mm – equivalent to 86mm in 35mm terms.
Macro mode on this lens feels like a bonus. Something extra to have around, you know, just in case. It’s a handy feature to have at your disposal, especially since your Macro lens options with the Micro Four Thirds system are pretty limited. Provided you’re working with enough light, Macro images are sharp.
Using a viewfinder accessory when shooting macro or extreme telephoto images with this lens would be a great idea. Bringing the camera to your eye would offer more stability. I shot the 12-50mm with the E-PL3 on default sharpening and color modes on a cloudy, dreary day in the Ohio River Valley. Not ideal conditions, but enough to give us a sense of what the new power zoom will be able to produce. Check out the full extent of the zoom range below:
Pretty impressive when you realize this lens basically fits in the palm of your hand. The telephoto image isn’t terribly sharp, but that seems to be more the E-PL3’s fault than the lens. Maximum aperture at full telephoto is f/6.3, so you’re quickly faced with the prospect of raising the ISO when available light starts to fade. Still, that’s something potential shoppers and available light photographers will want to consider when purchasing this or any telephoto lens for the Micro Four Thirds system. Around the middle of the focal range (and at lower ISO sensitivities), sharpness and contrast look very nice.
We’ve had just a short getting-to-know-you time with the 12-50mm power zoom, but look for a full review in the near future. For now, click over to our sample gallery and check out more of our preliminary images.