Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Zuiko Digital

 
Lens Reviews / Olympus Lenses i Lab tested

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
14-54mm $481
average price
image of Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Zuiko Digital

SLRgear Review
February 2, 2009
by Andrew Alexander

In its previous 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 lens offering, Olympus produced a versatile lens with respectable test results. The ''mark 2'' version of this lens has some notable changes, but on the whole bears an uncanny resemblance to the original. In particular, the lens now allows for the use of contrast-detection autofocusing in Live View; in the previous version of the lens, you were limited to manual focus. There's a claim of improved autofocus speed, and the lens now sports rounded diaphragm blades for more circular-shaped out-of-focus elements. Other than a new blue and chrome ring near the front, it's the same lens.

Since Olympus digital SLR cameras employ the four-thirds imaging sensor, any lens attached to the body will have an effective focal length (in 35mm terms) of double the listed length. Thus, for this particular lens, it will exhibit an effective focal length of 28-108mm.

This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, though the minimum remains the same. The following table reflects the changes:

Focal length 14mm 18mm 25mm 35mm 54mm
Max. aperture ƒ/2.8 ƒ/2.9 ƒ/3.1 ƒ/3.2 ƒ/3.5
Min. aperture ƒ/22 ƒ/22 ƒ/22 ƒ/22 ƒ/22

These figures just correspond to the focal lengths marked on the lens; in actual usage, the widest aperture adjusts quite precisely in conjunction with the focal length setting. As you zoom in and out at the widest aperture, you can see the aperture changing in one-tenth increments.

The lens takes 67mm filters, and comes with a petal-shaped lens hood. It's available now for around $600.

Sharpness
The 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 II, like its predecessor, is a very sharp lens, even when used at its largest apertures. Stopping down to just ƒ/4 produces excellently sharp images.

The lens, also like its predecessor, seems to be optimized more to the wide-angle spectrum for wide-open aperture performance. At 14mm and ƒ/2.8 the lens has a very sharp profile, slightly sharper than the mark 1 version of the lens, but with some corner softness in the extreme edges. As you move through the zoom range overall sharpness decreases - very slightly - but not exceeding 2 to 2.5 blur units.

Again, stop down to ƒ/4 and the lens is about as sharp as it can get, with a marginal improvement at ƒ/5.6. It stays sharp until diffraction limiting begins to set in around ƒ/11, but even at this point the lens doesn't exceed 1.5 blur units across the focal range. At ƒ/16 the lens is hovering around 2 blur units, and at ƒ/22 it hovers near 3 blur units.

Overall, excellent performance from this lens in terms of sharpness.

Chromatic Aberration
The chromatic aberration profile for this lens is almost identical to its predecessor, so I'm going to re-iterate those comments here: ''If this lens has any faults, they might be apparent in its performance with regard to chromatic aberration. In the lab we do record CA when this lens is set to its widest angle, but even here the effect is not incredibly significant (you'll see it if you zoom in, but on average print sizes, there aren't enough pixels printed to show it). Chromatic aberration virtually disappears as you approach 35mm in focal length, and returns as you hit the telephoto end at 54mm. One note to the chromatic aberration in this lens is that it is fairly static across apertures - changing to a faster aperture is not going to produce more CA (but changing to a smaller aperture isn't going to reduce it, either).''

Shading (''Vignetting'')
Light falloff is almost the same as well in the mark 2 version of the 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5, but if we are picking hairs, I would say the lens produces just slightly more corner shading when used at its widest apertures. It's still fairly controlled - by ƒ/4, every focal length is just a quarter-stop darker in the corners than in the center. But at the widest apertures (ƒ/2.8-ƒ/3.5) this light falloff can range from 2/3EV (at 14mm) to 1/2 EV (17-54mm).

Distortion
Distortion has been subtly improved in the mark 2 version of this lens: any wide-angle distortion is eliminated by the time you reach 17mm, where the mark 1 version of the lens showed some barrel distortion to around 23mm. It's still not perfect - zoom lenses have a natural disadvantage in trying to counter distortion - but it's very good, almost non-existent after 18mm.

Autofocus Operation
The 14-54mm autofocuses quickly, indeed somewhat quicker than the predecessor 14-54mm. It still makes a subtle whirring noise during focusing, but it's a small price to pay for excellent autofocussing performance. Point-to-point focusing is very quick and the noise is not so obvious in these cases; it's only when the lens racks through the entire focus range that the serious motor noise comes into play.

Macro
Olympus boasts a minimum close-focusing distance of 22mm (just over 8 1/2 inches), the same as the predecessor version of this lens, as is the magnification ratio: 0.26x (1:3.8). It's worth noting that the close-focus range is taken from the image sensor, not the end of the lens, as this produces a practical close-focus range (from the far end of the lens) of just under 2 inches.

Build Quality and Handling
The 14-54mm II is solidly built. It still seems to be finished with a fair number of plastic parts, but at 440 grams (just over 15 ounces, and five grams heavier than the mark I), there's a lot of glass and metal under the shell. The lens mount is metal, compared to the plastic of less expensive Olympus glass. The fit and finish of this lens is superb; there zoom and focus dials rotate with a velvety smoothness, and the textures have an excellent traction. Mounted on the E-510, the camera balances extremely well. Setting it apart from less expensive Olympus lenses is a distance scale. There are no other switches or controls on the lens.

The zoom ring is one inch wide, composed of a hard rubber and made up of a texture of square extrusions. A turn of around 75 degrees on the zoom ring covers the entire focal range, and extends the overall length of the lens by almost an inch at 54mm. The lens has just the right amount of stiffness to prevent zoom creep, but is still fairly fluid to use.

The manual focusing ring is slightly smaller, just over a half-inch in width, and it's composed of deep ribs, making it easy to distinguish from the zoom ring. The focus ring has a lot of ''turning room'' for manual focusing control, almost 270 degrees from closest focus to infinity. There are no hard stops in this focus range - you can just keep turning the dial - but the distance scale will stop at infinity and go no further.

Mounted 67mm filters will not rotate during focus or zoom operations, making polarizing filters a little easier to use. The lens ships with the LH-70D lens hood, a petal-shaped, bayonet-mounted hood that adds 1 1/2 inches to the overall length of the lens. The hood reverses to mount on the lens for storage and is ribbed on its interior to help prevent flare.

Alternatives

Update: yes, there are actually quite a number of options in this category...

Olympus 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 Zuiko DigitalThe ''mark 1'' version of the lens shows itself almost identical in performance to the mark 2 version, being just slightly edged out by the mark 2 in sharpness and distortion. Whether that's an improvement in design or just sample variation, I wouldn't want to say. But with rounded diaphragm elements and improved body compatibility to enable live view autofocusing, it's probably worth the slightly higher price.

Olympus 14-35mm ƒ/2 ED SWD Zuiko Digital ~$2,000
For a premium price, you probably won't get much better quality than this 28-70mm 35mm-equivalent lens. It won't zoom out quite as far, but with a constant ƒ/2 aperture, you won't get a faster lens in this focal range.

Olympus 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4 ED SWD Zuiko Digital ~$800
We haven't yet tested this lens, but it seems to have received universally rave reviews thus far.

Olympus 14-45mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital ~$139-200
This lens was the original kit lens for the Evolt E-330, which has arguably been replaced by the 14-42mm Zuiko. Corner softness is a problem with this lens, obvious at wide angles and apertures; chromatic aberration is also readily apparent until you zoom out further than 18mm. Vignetting and distortion are also worse, but not by much.

Olympus 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital ~$249
The original kit lens for the E-410 and E-510, this is the lens from which most Olympus dSLR users would be considering an upgrade. It's less expensive, but in this case you do get what you pay for as the 14-42mm isn't quite the wonder-lens with regard to sharpness, distortion and vignetting. It has a slightly better profile with regard to chromatic aberration, and it is much lighter (190g), but this shows off the fact that it isn't made with the same attention to fit and finish as you find with the 14-54mm.

Panasonic 14-50mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 ASPH Leica D VARIO-ELMARIT ~$900
With on-board stabilization and an aperture control ring on the lens, with 16 elements in 12 groups, this high-quality optic should be an excellent performer. Check this review from cameralabs.com for how the lens-based stabilization works on an Olympus E-510.

Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/3.3-5.6 EX DC ~$109 (ƒ/2.8: $419)
The only non-Olympus lens in this category, we haven't yet tested it but it has received above-average user reviews. For the budget option, this could be a strong contender. Sigma also produces a constant ƒ/2.8 version of this lens, which fits the four-thirds lens system.

Conclusion
Clearly, there are a number of options in this range of both focal length and price point. You do get what you pay for - the quality gap between the 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 and the 14-42mm Olympus lenses is noticeable. In this case however the more relevant question could be for Olympus users looking to upgrade to the 14-54mm category: do you spend top dollar for the latest mark 2 version, or if a deal were to be had on a clearance or used mark 1 version, is it worth it? Both lenses responded well to our tests, and so it really comes down to the small things: rounded diaphragm elements to improve bokeh performance, enabling live view autofocus, and a new blue ring on the front.

That decision aside, the 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 is still one of Olympus' best-performing lenses, especially considering the relatively reasonable price.

Sample Photos

The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Zuiko Digital User Reviews

9.7/10 average of 6 reviews Build Quality 9.7/10 Image Quality 9.7/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    Good zoom range and IQ, not too big for its class, fast phase-detect AF, reasonably fast CDAF, DxO support on MFT cameras
    currently nothing (DxO support for MFT just added)

    I have used it extensively on my old Olympus E-510 with excellent results. I guess it was supposed to be the "poor-man's 12-60" but it is far more compact than the 12-60 and it has a pretty similar zoom, maybe a tad more restrictive on the wide end. Additionally, it turned out to be a "future-proof" investment, as it works fine on the contrast-detect AF system (CDAF) on the micro-four-third (MFT) cameras.

    Meanwhile, I have indeed switched to micro-four-thirds (I already own my second MFT camera) and use this lens with a FT2MFT adapter, especially indoors and for events, where a longer zoom is not needed.

    Even though it seems a bit big for the tiny MFT cameras, I could not yet find any reasonable replacement (both in terms of size and price). The only thing I really need on MFT (e.g. on my Oly E-P3) is a custom grip, that helps me balance its extra weight.

    The focusing speed on MFT/CDAF is somewhat slower than with the classic phase detection AF (PDAF) or with the newest MSC (movie & still) lenses, but is not slower than some older MFT lenses, like the excellent Panasonic 20mm f1.7

    Update: 22.09.2014
    DxO has just added support for it on the MFT bodies (hooray!) so I am back in the "pro league" with it.

    It is a great lens, I really recommend it.

    reviewed September 8th, 2014 (purchased for $750)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    build, little distortion, zoom range practical
    distance window not very useful

    Image quality is very GOOD. The lens handles very well, zoom ring turns positively - not too easily. Good balance with E520.

    reviewed November 24th, 2011 (purchased for $650)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    Excelent build quality,sharp, fast AF, no distortion.
    No.

    Excelent for Olympus E-P3.

    reviewed November 1st, 2011 (purchased for $600)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    sharp, little CA´s, no distorsion, perfect ergonomy
    none

    One of my best lenses! Great resolution capacity, very sharp, nearly perfect. Not only from my side a 10!

    reviewed May 16th, 2010 (purchased for $500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (13 reviews)
    All over exellent
    not any

    I bought this lens to replace my 12-60 after having issues with 12-60 focusing problems. I am very happy with this standard zoom lens which I use with E3

    reviewed January 10th, 2010 (purchased for $670)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (31 reviews)
    Sharp, fast AF, CDAF support, weight, Closest focus distance, price
    none

    After having issues with my 12-60 SWD on my E-30 i decided to switch to the 14-54 II. I already owned the 14-54 Mk1 previsouly and i was happy. The 12-60 was an improvement over the old 14-54.

    On the E-30 the 12-60 looses AF speed in LV and hunts in low light. This lens here does solve this perfectly.

    The focus distance of 22cm is almost the length of the lens. A bit hard to get the light on the subject, but perfect to do some nice macro shots.

    CDAF is fully suported, fast and accurate.

    Only 430g weight is perfect to carry around.

    I haven't found any difference in the IQ between the 12-60 and this lens.

    The price in Europe for the 12-60 is so exagerated that buying this lens, you can even afford to get a 50F2

    With the money i got for my 12-60 i was able to get a LNIB 50mm and an LNIB EC-14 + this nice lens of course.

    The 14-54 II matches my day to day needs in terms of focal length. I don't miss the 12mm of the 12-60. For panorama i would prefer wider anyway. I prefer a dedicated lens to that.

    it is an improvement over the 14-42 and as good as the 12-60 SWD

    The SWD speed is IMHO no argument for this focal length. SWD advantages comes into play when talking about the telephoto and fast moving targets.

    From my side -> highly recommended

    reviewed March 2nd, 2009 (purchased for $600)