Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED Specification Review

The Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED is the standard kit lens which Olympus supply with their lower-tier DSLRs, including the E-420 and E-510. Announced in September 2006 to accompany the launch of the E-400, it shares that camera’s defining characteristic, being remarkably compact in size. Indeed it takes advantage of the relatively small size of the Four Thirds sensor to be comfortably the smallest and lightest DSLR zoom lens currently available, great for those users who wish their camera systems to be as portable as possible.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm

However despite its diminutive size, the 14-42mm still packs in some fairly exotic optics to deal with aberrations, in the shape of one extra-low dispersion (ED) glass element and two aspheric elements. It also incorporates a circular aperture diaphragm, which Olympus claim should provide ‘beautiful rendition’ of defocused areas of the image, and indeed consider to be one of the big advantages of this lens. The icing on the cake is an internal focusing system with a proper manual focus ring and a non-rotating front element, always a positive point for those photographers who like to use filters.

Olympus have long had a reputation for the quality of their lenses, plus a proven track record in the design of small but highly capable cameras and lenses (exemplified by such 1970s classics as the OM system SLRs and XA rangefinders), so the 14-42mm comes with a solid pedigree behind it. But as always with kit lenses, the biggest question is whether Olympus have cut corners unacceptably with either the optics or mechanics, in a drive to keep costs to a minimum. Let’s find out.

Key Features

  • 28-84mm equivalent focal length range
  • ‘Focus by wire’ manual focus system
  • Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic dSLRS

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Body and Design

The most stunning part of the 14-42mm is certainly its small size; indeed it’s hardly greater than many Negatives structure primes, and extremely light. However, construction doesn’t seem to have experienced considerably as a result, and in some regards even seems excellent to counterparts from other producers. Like most kit contacts, the install and all of the noticeable exterior covering is made from light and portable, but quite solid-feeling nasty.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Body And Design
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Body And Design

The zoom capability band has a simple, if a little bit irregular action, and the focus band is particularly well-damped. Concentrating is inner (uniquely for a kit lens), and the top side factor therefore does not move, which will be welcome news to narrow customers. Finishing the program is an in-depth petal-shaped lens bonnet, which is likely to be far more effective at defending the top side factor and fighting surface than the superficial bowl-shaped hoods which are used by Nikon, Cannon and Sony models, due to the spinning front side factor styles of their kit contacts.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Images Quality

Sharpness

The lens provides continually great outcomes at all central measures, and compared with most of its opponents even gives great outcomes start up at telephoto. The best possible efficiency (unsurprisingly) tends to be around F5.6-8, although it’s not at all bad start up either. There’s a recognizable loss in sharpness due to diffraction at F11 and more compact apertures, but Olympus has properly restricted the lowest aperture to F22 at all central measures.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is kept as good as under control, and indeed overall is probably just about the smallest of any kit lens. The only adverse is that CA is also noticeable start up at the telephoto end, although here it vanishes easily on avoiding down.

Falloff

We consider falloff to start becoming a prospective problem when the area lighting drops to more than 1 quit below the center. Falloff is only likely to be a problem with this lens start up at 14mm, and basically vanishes on avoiding down to F6.3 (there’s also minor falloff start up at 18mm). The falloff design on the examined example was clearly decentred with regard to the indicator.

Distortion

As regular distortions is most recognizable at wideangle, with 1.4% gun barrel at 14mm. This gradually decreases at more time central measures, and becomes basically imperceptible from 25mm to 42mm. Yet again, a completely appropriate efficiency.

Flare

The 14-42mm reveals outstanding control of surface, especially if you make a routine of using the bonnet in uncertain illumination circumstances. It does well in both of our ‘real-world’ surface assessments, with the sun in most of the structure at wideangle, or out of the structure but impinging straight on the top side factor at telephoto.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Images Quality
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Images Quality

Bokeh Quality

One truly suitable, but difficult to evaluate part of a lens’s efficiency is to be able to provide efficiently blurry out-of-focus areas when trying to separate a topic from the, usually when using a long central duration and large aperture. Olympus make a promoting feature of their round aperture design, and consider the version of blurry background scenes to be ‘one of the big benefits of this lens’.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Images Bokeh Quality
Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm Images Bokeh Quality

On one level they are indeed correct; this lens delivers quite eye-catching bokeh under the right circumstances. The problem is simply in getting a blurry background in the first place; for any given position of perspective and topic range, background cloud is depending essentially on the actual dimension the aperture, and at 42mm F5.6 that’s just 7.5mm (in perspective, even an average APS-C kit lens at 55mm F5.6 has an aperture of 9.8mm). In exercise this gives the 14-42mm the least control over detail of area of any present conventional zoom capability for DSLRs; this is essentially the price you pay for such a lightweight.

The best results are usually acquired in macro photos, with the very best comparative separating between topic and background. At a little bit longer topic ranges, the lens can provide specular features in a harsh-edged band design, which isn’t fairly (although to be reasonable, fairly common for a kit lens).

Example variation

Somewhat uncommonly, we were able to run a complete set of assessments on two different duplicates of this lens during the course of this review. We found that, whilst there were minor but considerable (and reproducible) variations in the forms of the quality forms across the structure, these were generally insignficant. Differences which might be recognizable in real-life capturing were restricted to the largest aperture configurations, where one lens conducted a little bit worse than the other at wideangle, but on the other hand a little better at the telephoto end; outcomes at all central measures were equalised by avoiding down to F8. The data provided in the gadget above is from the (marginally) excellent overall entertainer of these two contacts.

Specific picture quality issues

As always, our studio room exams are secured by taking many pictures with the lens across a variety of topics, and analyzing them in depth. This allows us to validate our studio room findings, and recognize any other concerns which don’t show up in the assessments. Overall this lens is an excellent entertainer, providing continually great outcomes across a variety of capturing situtions and infrequently putting a foot wrong.

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Street price • US: $250
• UK: £169
Date introduced September 2006
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 14-42mm
35mm equivalent focal length 28-84mm
Diagonal angle of view 75°- 29°
Maximum aperture F3.5-5.6
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 10 elements / 8 groups
• 1 ED element
• 2 Aspherical elements
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus 0.25m
Maximum magnification 0.19x at 42mm
AF motor type DC Micro motor
Focus method Internal focus
Image stabilization No
Filter thread • 58mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
• Petal-type lens hood LH-61C
Weight 190g (6.7 oz)
Dimensions 65.5mm diameter x 61mm length
(2.6 x 2.4 in)
Lens Mount Four Thirds