Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
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Shooting with the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro
This versatile zoom lens is excellent across the board
by Jeremy Gray | Posted 11/16/2016
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro at 12mm (24mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/320s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image.
The Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro lens is a brand-new wide-to-telephoto zoom lens that offers a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-200mm, which is a very versatile and useful range. Additionally, the 12-100mm achieves this flexibility while maintaining a constant f/4 aperture. For right around US$1,300, you get a very sharp, reliable, weather-sealed lens.
When I first picked up the 12-100mm f/4 lens, it was immediately evident that I was using a pro-level lens. It has excellent build quality, including hermetic sealing in a dozen locations. The dust-proof, splash-proof and freeze-proof lens has a metal construction that felt solid in my hands.
Regarding the zoom ring, I found it to have a good amount of resistance. You won't accidentally move it, but it doesn't take excessive effort to rotate either. You can go from 12mm to 100mm in less than a one-quarter turn and the ring is marked at 12, 18, 25, 35, 50, 70 and 100mm focal lengths. The focal lengths are marked in white on silver, which can be somewhat difficult to see in certain lighting conditions due to reflections.
The focus ring, which is near the end of the lens barrel, rotates very smoothly. There's a focus scale visible when you pull the ring toward the camera body, putting the lens into manual focus mode. Additionally, the focus ring has built-in stops when the manual focus clutch is pulled, whereas you can rotate it indefinitely when it is in its AF-mode position.
I tested the 19.8-ounce (561 grams) optic on the E-M5 Mark II camera body, and the lens felt a bit front-heavy in that combination. It wasn't bad, but this is not a particularly small lens. However, given its focal length and aperture, it is pretty lightweight. The lens is 4.59 x 3.05 inches (116.5 x 77.5 millimeters) and has a 72mm filter thread. For filter users, the front element doesn't rotate as you change focal length, which is great. Speaking of focal length and the lens, however, it does gain about an inch and a half of total length when extended from 12mm to 100mm.
Despite being somewhat compact for its optical and physical qualities, the 12-100mm f/4 has built-in image stabilization which provides up to 5 stops of correction on its own. However, when paired with the new E-M1 Mark II's 5-axis sync image stabilization, the lens+camera combo can provide up to an impressive 6.5 stops of correction. In my experience using the optic with the E-M5 Mark II, image stabilization worked well, even when at the telephoto end of the focal length range.
Overall, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro lens has excellent physical characteristics, features and handling. The lens’ construction is robust, weather-sealed and comfortable in the hands.
The optical formula for the 12-100mm lens is quite impressive. It features 17 elements in 11 groups, including: one dual-sided aspherical, three aspherical, five ED, one HR and 2 Super HR elements. It also includes Z Coating Nano. While you will have to wait for our full lab testing for detailed results on sharpness and distortion results across the lens' focal length and aperture range, I am confident in saying that this is a sharp lens across the board based on my real-world experience.
Even at its telephoto limit of 100mm (200mm equivalent), the Olympus 12-100mm performs very well. Sometimes the performance of zoom lenses falls off quite dramatically at either extreme, but that's not the case with the Olympus 12-100mm, at least not to my eye. The same story holds true at 12mm, where the Olympus performs well. There is a slight issue with vignetting, particularly at 12mm, however, which can be partially sorted out by stopping the lens down to around f/8. At 100mm, light falloff is a minor issue as well; similarly, it is reduced by stopping down.
I had no issues with lens flare with the 12-100mm f/4 at any focal length, which I found very impressive. Although in high-contrast scenes, such as backlit scenes, there was evidence of aberrations, particularly when shooting wide open. The issue was more noticeable at the wider end of the lens, and at the telephoto end there was chromatic aberration as well. It wasn't extreme nor was it difficult to correct during post-processing. In fact, JPEG images didn't display the issue much at all with default camera settings.
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro at 100mm (200mm equiv.), f/4, 1/125s, ISO 800.
Click for full-size image.
In real-world use, the 12-100mm f/4 proved to be as versatile as it is optically impressive. The ability to cover the 24-200mm equivalent focal length range with a constant aperture is very useful. Not only that, but to do so with a lens that is reasonably compact and lightweight makes me believe that the 12-100mm f/4 Pro optic could be an excellent lens for travel photographers who demand the best in image quality.
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro at 100mm (200mm equiv.), f/4, 1/2500s, ISO 500.
As you can see from this 100% crop from a JPEG captured with default settings, even at 100mm, this is one very sharp lens!
Click for full-size image.
Although not a macro lens, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 can focus quite closely. At 12mm, the lens can focus as closely as 0.49 feet (15 centimeters), which is a 35mm-equivalent magnification of 0.6x. At the telephoto end of the lens, it can still offer up to 0.42x eq. magnification, which isn't bad.
I didn't discuss the lens' function button in the physical characteristics section, but it's a pretty neat feature that has some good programmable options. You can customize the button to use focus peaking, AF Stop and Magnify. The button is located in a convenient place on the lens barrel, although it does have a somewhat odd feel to it that I didn't particularly like. The button action is quite squishy and imprecise, and doesn't depress well from many angles. Also, at times, you feel like you've pressed it in enough to trigger it, but then it doesn't and you have to press it even further.
Bokeh is a very subjective quality of a lens. What one person thinks is good bokeh, another photographer may consider to be bad for any number of reasons. With that said, in my opinion, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 produces pleasing bokeh and renders the background quite well. It isn't going to create the silky smooth backgrounds of a faster and/or longer lens, but provided you can create some distance between your subject and the background, it can do some impressive work at 100mm. Out of focus areas are rendered into quite pleasing circles despite the lens having only seven diaphragm blades.
Autofocus performance depends on the camera as well as the lens, but when shooting the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 with the E-M5 Mark II body, it offered fast, dependable autofocus performance. Beyond being speedy, it's also quiet, which is always nice.
As I discussed above, focus sounds are basically nonexistent with the 12-100mm lens. Additionally, when shooting video, you can zoom the lens without too much distracting noise being picked up by the microphone. If you'd like to manually focus, the focus ring is quite smooth and works well. This strikes me as a solid option for shooting video on your Micro Four Thirds camera, especially considering its image stabilization, which makes it easy to use handheld.
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro Zoom & Focus Test
1920 x 1080, 60fps, ISO 200
Download Original (109.9 MB .MOV File)
- Excellent build-quality: Weather-resistant, great rings, feels good in the hands
- Very good optical quality across the board
- Surprisingly good macro capabilities
- Versatile focal length range
- A bit heavy when mounted on smaller camera bodies
- Lens function button has a strange feel when pressed
- Focus ring clutch is easy to accidentally pull
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro at 75mm (150mm equiv.), f/5, 1/320s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.
Overall, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro lens is a very good option for a wide array of shooting situations. This is the travel zoom that Micro Four Thirds shooters have been waiting for. Its 24-200mm equivalent focal length range and constant f/4 aperture make it well-suited for landscapes, portraits and much more. If you're patient and lucky, it can even work well as a wildlife lens (although certainly not as well as something like the longer Olympus 300mm f/4 IS Pro lens would). It offers quick, accurate autofocus; sharp images at every focal length; and high-end build quality. If you're looking for a highly-versatile, general-purpose zoom lens for your Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 warrants a long look. At US$1,300, it's not cheap, but you absolutely get what you pay for and then some.
Look forward to our full lab test of this lens in the near future.
(Look for images with "12-100MM" in the filename.)
• • •
(From Olympus lens literature) Olympus once again challenges conventional lens design with the new Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO (24-200mm focal length in 35mm equivalent), a compact, lightweight, high-magnification zoom lens that maintains a constant aperture of f4.0 from wide angle to telephoto. The latest addition to the M.ZUIKO PRO series incorporates powerful image stabilization (IS) and covers a focal length range that typically would require two zoom lenses to deliver unrivaled mobility for professionals looking to capture outstanding images in an expanded array of handheld shooting situations.
The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO combines multiple special lens elements to produce a high magnification factor and excellent resolution packed inside a small body. DSA (Dual Super Aspherical) lenses, HR (high refractive index) lenses, and Super HR (super-high refractive index) lenses are combined to effectively correct aberration and minimize the number of lens elements in the configuration, reducing the overall length of the lens. By using multiple ED lenses, color fringing that tends to appear in telephoto shooting is thoroughly reduced, maintaining high resolution and edge-to-edge sharpness across the entire zoom range.
The in-lens image stabilization works in concert with Olympus' in-body 5-Axis Image Stabilization of compatible OM-D® and PEN® camera bodies to create 5-Axis Sync IS, the world's most powerful image stabilization with 6.5 shutter speed steps of compensation performance1. Camera shake commonly associated with handheld telephotography is eliminated, enabling users to capture sharp images and smooth video without the use of a tripod.
In addition to its broad focal range, this high-magnification zoom lens boasts outstanding close-up performance with a minimum working distance of 1.5 cm and a maximum shooting magnification of 0.6x (35mm equivalent) at the 12mm wide-angle setting.
The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO features lightweight, weatherproof construction, providing dustproof, splash proof and freeze proof (down to 14°F/-10°C) performance to meet the needs of professional photographers in any shooting situation.
1. Compact, lightweight, high-performance, high-magnification zoom lens
The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO has been added to the high-performance M.ZUIKO PRO series to meet the needs of professional photographers. Multiple special lens elements provide a high-magnification factor and superior resolution in a compact lens body.
The DSA (Dual Super Aspherical) lenses, HR (high refractive index) lenses, and Super HR (super-high refractive index) lenses have been combined to effectively correct chromatic aberration and minimize the number of lens elements in the configuration, reducing the overall length of the lens. The use of glass materials with a higher refractive index than that of previous DSA lenses has resulted in smaller lens diameters. This makes it possible to build a single lens that covers the focal length of two typical professional zoom lenses.
By using multiple ED lenses, the color fringing that tends to occur in telephoto shooting is thoroughly reduced, maintaining high resolution and edge-to-edge sharpness across the entire zoom range. Olympus Z Coating Nano lens coating technology provides sharp, clear image quality by virtually eliminating flare in backlit situations and maintaining resolution when strong light sources are present in the frame.
2. 5-Axis Sync IS, the world's most powerful image stabilization with 6.5 shutter speed steps of compensation performance
The Olympus M.ZUIKO 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO is equipped with a built-in image stabilization system for blur-free shooting across the entire high-magnification zoom range. By pairing the lens with a compatible Olympus OM-D or PEN camera, the lens stabilization works in sync with the camera's in-body stabilization to create 5-Axis Sync IS, the world's most powerful stabilization system providing up to 6.5 shutter speed steps of compensation performance. Because the in-lens image stabilization alone provides up to five shutter speed steps of compensation performance, the lens can even be used with other camera bodies unequipped with image stabilization.
3. Macro capabilities with a minimum working distance of 1.5 cm and a maximum shooting magnification of 0.6x (35mm equivalent)
The close focusing distance of 15 cm at the 12mm wide-angle setting makes it possible to take close-up shots up to 1.5 cm away from the end of the lens, while the maximum shooting magnification of 0.6x (35mm equivalent) opens up new possibilities of expression. The lens design features superb close-up shooting performance even at other focal lengths, with a minimum working distance of 27 cm and a maximum shooting magnification of 0.42x (35mm equivalent) at the 100mm telephoto setting.
- The lens features dust-proof and splash-proof construction, with hermetic sealing in 12 locations. When combined with dust-proof, splash-proof and freeze-proof bodies available in the Olympus OM-D series, users can take advantage of all types of shooting environments.
- This lens boasts the same high-quality metal exterior design as the other lenses in the M.ZUIKO PRO series. It is equipped with the Manual Focus Clutch mechanism, which makes switching to manual focus possible by pulling the focusing ring toward you. The lens barrel features the Image Stabilization activation switch and the L-Fn button to pause autofocus or assign other custom settings.
Lens Cap LC-72C (bundled)
The LC-72C is for lenses with a filter diameter of 72mm and can be attached and removed even with the lens hood attached.
Lens Hood LH-76B (bundled)
The LH-76B is specifically designed for the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO. It reduces unwanted light entering the lens in backlit scenes while also protecting the lens. The hood lock button has been improved to prevent unintentional removal.
Lens Case LSC-0914 (bundled)
The LSC-0914 is a three-layer construction purse-string-type lens case which securely protects the lens. The lens can be stored in the case with the lens cap, protection filter and lens hood attached to the lens.
Protection Filter PRF-ZD72 PRO
This protection filter incorporates ZERO Coating to reduce reflections and flare, black-edged glass, and a satin, glare-reducing black alumite aluminum frame. The filter can also be used on other lenses with a filter diameter of 72mm.
U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO will be available beginning in November 2016 for an estimated street price of $1299.99 USD and $1599.99 CAD.
1. As of September 2016, per CIPA testing guidelines, using Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Body and 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO, when correction is carried out on two axes (yaw and pitch) at focal length 100mm (35mm equivalent focal length: 200mm).
Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
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Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by RichardT (1 reviews)Pro build quality Very Sharp Great rendition VersatilityNone yet
I use all the Olympus Pro's and Primes (except the 25mm f/1.2) and have really been looking forward to trying this lens because when I'm hiking in the hills or travelling I don't like to carry a load of gear. I changed to Olympus because of the weatherproof construction and light weight make the whole system much more usable and all round less hassle. I have been more than happy with the change and I have always been amazed by the quality of Oly a Pany glass.reviewed November 23rd, 2016 (purchased for $1,367)
First outing, I put the 12-100 on my favourite travel camera the EM5 mk2. As soon as I started shooting I knew this lens was something special and by the time I had looked at the shots in lightroom I knew I had found my dream travel lens.
Sharp - Oh yes, very sharp across the frame, even shooting wide open.
Colour rendition - For me this is really the most important factor, it simply takes the most gorgeous images. Seeing is believing.
Background Blur - Well, MFT is different from a larger sensor and need different technique, use longer focal length, get in closer, open up the aperture wide and just watch the background disappear. Just like using the 75mm f/1.8 for portraits. It works brilliantly and the zoom range allows so much framing versatility.
Image stabiliser - With the sync- IS using lens IS and Olympus body IBIS together it's like having a built in tripod.
My travel kit - The 12-100 f/4 with the tiny Oly 9-18 f/4 - 5.6 and the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 prime. Thats it, thats all the kit I would take any trip now, such is the versatility and quality of this lens.
Value for money - Well, its not cheap, but it is very very good indeed and when you consider just how versatile it is covering a focal range from wide to med telephoto it represents very good value for money. Its definitely a professional or serious enthusiasts lens and anybody who buys it will not be disappointed.
I am loving it, if your photo life needs a lift then I highly recommend you try this lens. Happy shooting.