Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 M.Zuiko Digital ED

 
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Updates:
03/25/2019: First Impressions & Gallery Images added

 

Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3: First Impressions

The new all-in-one vacation zoom for MFT stretches its legs

by Dave Pardue | Posted: 03/25/2019

My favorite lens in the Micro Four Thirds line-up (and in fact in most any line-up) is the uber-versatile Olympus 12-100mm f/4 Pro. I've found it to be the perfect beach-combing rig for its combination of size, price and performance, and my sentiments are certainly matched by many of my IR colleagues, as well as by some you readers out there given the popularity of the page on our site.

So we were naturally intrigued when Olympus informed us of this new 12-200mm offering, which, while not part of the Zuiko Pro series of lenses, is still weather-sealed and of course has a much farther zoom range. It's not as bright (at least when you zoom in) as the 12-100mm f/4, but it's both lighter in weight and lower in price, and so it's an enticing proposition for a travel zoom. As such, I was eager to get it into the real world and see what it could reel in!

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1000s / f/8 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

(Images have been resized to fit this page, cropped and/or altered in post-production, primarily to balance shadows and highlights as needed. Clicking any image will take you to a carrier page with access to the original, full-resolution image as delivered by the E-M1 Mark II. For additional images and EXIF data please see our Olympus 12-200mm Gallery page.)

I decided to pair this lens initially with the tried-and-true E-M1 Mark II, awarded our Best Overall Camera just a few years ago. Had an E-M5 Mark III been released, I would have certainly chosen it, as that price point and size would make the most logical pairing for this lens. So while waiting patiently for its arrival, the E-M1 II will certainly "make do in a pinch!" Some of you may opt for the capable E-M10 III, and that is indeed a very worthy camera, but the newer 20MP sensor in the E-M1 II will help us zoom into the images just a bit more for gauging the sharpness of the lens at varying focal lengths.

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/500s / f/7.1 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

In terms of initial handling, the lens feels terrific in the hands. It's very light for such a long-zooming lens, weighing in at just 16oz (455g). The 12-100mm Pro tips the scales at almost 20oz (561g) and that's with less zoom range, but of course that lens has on-board IS and a beefier build, not to mention the constant f/4 aperture, so we're talking about different animals here. And yet, for the 12-200mm to come in at 16.6x zoom and weigh only 1lb is, well, a neat feat for the Olympus engineers!

The zoom and focus rings are amply textured and certainly straightforward to operate. They don't rotate with the buttery smoothness of the Zuiko Pro lenses, but again that's not their intended market first and foremost, nor price point. It does feel quite well-built though, even if not a Pro lens. The zoom functionality, while not internal like some high-end zooms (meaning the lens doesn't change size as you zoom) is still smooth enough to be reassuring.

Autofocus operation with the E-M1 II proved quick and capable. No surprises to report here on this first impressions pass, and this combination locked focus quickly on my intended subjects. The only time this didn't happen was shooting the setting moon, as the combo struggled in twilight and I ended up using manual focus. But I've had that issue on many a camera and lens combo, including with some high-end full frame cameras, and virtually always manually focus the moon regardless of camera body, so this isn't a big deal at all.

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image

1/320s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

Not seeing in the dark: The combination of the 12-200mm lens and the E-M1 Mark II had trouble acquiring focus on this relatively dim moon, but in my years of camera testing I've found this to be more the norm than the exception. Manual focus came to the rescue just fine though, and this proved a good opportunity to test it out.

With lenses that don't fall into the "Pro" category, it's a good bet that our enthusiast readers will still want to know how much sharpness they are getting for their money with this new lens. For this reason I've tried to bring you a solid variety of focal lengths across the entire zoom range for this initial sampling of real-world images. I'll include a few 1:1 crops below as well for your quick inspection, but of course feel free to click any image, which will take you to a carrier page that will provide access to the full resolution file, as well as EXIF data. You can also access the RAW files for any of these images on our 12-200mm Gallery Page, so there are plenty of pixel-peeing opportunities to be found!

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/500s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.
Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
[1:1 crop from above image]
Fine detail: Zooming all the way into this image shows the detail to be quite good for a zoom lens of this price. Naturally, we're not expecting "prime" performance, and given just how far this lens can travel we know that there will be natural trade-offs somewhere in the design process. For what it is, this is certainly a nice amount of detail upon close inspection for the price! Especially given that this is zoomed all the way to the maximum 400mm eq. focal length. There's also ample subject isolation, which generally isn't associated with an aperture as dim as f/6.3, but the generous zoom range certainly changes that equation.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/400s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 324mm eq.
Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
[1:1 crop from above image]
Once again we see plenty of fine detail given the price and overall versatility of this lens. This crop is getting a bit farther from the center of the image itself, and we generally see zoom lenses (and even some primes) decrease slightly in sharpness as we travel farther from center. In addition, the focal length is different from the cat image above. Our forthcoming lab analysis will give you a better picture of what to expect at varying apertures and focal lengths for overall sharpness potential.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1600s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 224mm eq.
Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
[1:1 crop from above image]
Even at base ISO we do see some evidence of noise-reduction processing going on in the above image. But this is not lens-related, per se, and the lens does a good job at this focal length with sharpness of the primary subject, which are fittingly sharp thorns!

Going Wide

Let's move now to a few wide-angle images from this lens at 24mm eq. view, and open up to several somewhat brighter apertures, as the versatility is the real trick up this lens' sleeve!

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/500s / f/5 / ISO 200 / 24mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/3200s / f/3.5 / ISO 200 / 24mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/4000s / f/3.5 / ISO 200 / 24mm eq.
Traveling: This lens is first and foremost a "vacation zoom" for times you want or need to travel light, and the focal length versatility is a strong enticement to taking only one lens along on your travels. At f/3.5, this is the brightest this lens is capable of going, so for your low light shooting you'll want to go as wide angle as you can!

 

A closer look at the 12-200mm's bokeh...

Background blur (also referred to by the Japanese term "bokeh") is an often-debated subject, especially where the "quality" of the bokeh is concerned. You may hear someone refer to it in a positive light as "smooth" or perhaps even "buttery" or "creamy" in nature. But just exactly what constitutes "good bokeh" is as hotly debated as what constitutes a "fine wine" and you'll therefore often get many differing opinions.

For my eye, this lens doesn't deliver the most pleasing of bokeh. It's not bad for the price, but it's a bit more frantic and jarring (at least in some of the images) than you'll find with many higher-priced lenses. Again, this is to be expected for the most part, and super-smooth bokeh is one of the things you pay for with higher-grade lenses. It begs a comparison article to be written on the subject, so that you can see apples to apples examples when doing comparisons. But those of you generally familiar with bokeh through years of experimentation and study will likely agree that the examples below are not the highest quality available in the overall lens world. (Taken from a few of the images from above and cropped in to get a better feel for the bokeh itself.)

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
[Cropped in from the first image above to examine the bokeh qualities]
Bokeh quality can be affected by more than just the lens, as things like noise processing can also affect the appearance. But for the most part the lens is the primary shaper of the nature of the background blur. In this one, it's a bit more mottled and splotchy than you'll find with higher-end lenses, but still isn't too bad when viewed at more normal viewing distances.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
[Cropped in from an image above to examine the bokeh qualities]
The bokeh in this image is not quite as good, and could be more aptly described as "ragged" in appearance. Again, it's not something the viewers of your images may notice depending on the viewing size, but if you're doing large prints it is something to bear in mind.

But as you'll see in some of the images down below, the bokeh quality from this lens can also be fairly good depending on the distances and background, so your mileage will vary accordingly.

** [Read much more about Bokeh Quality in this terrific article!] **

 

A few more zoomed in...

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1000s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 248mm eq.
Getting personal: For capturing wildlife imagery up close and personal, a capable zoom lens is a must-have!

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1250s / f/6.2 / ISO 200 / 188mm eq.
Your smartphone won't be able to reel in distant images like this in your worldly travels, so it's a good bet to bring a lightweight zoom along for the trip!

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/2500s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 100mm eq.
Action: I found the C-AF performance with the 12-200mm paired with the E-M1 II to work just fine for a boy's soccer game. While zooming quickly back and forth, I forgot to open up the aperture here in order to further isolate the subject. That's not the fault of camera nor lens, but is something you need to keep in mind when you don't have a constant f/2.8 aperture at your disposal.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1250 / f/5.7 / ISO 200 / 100mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1600s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/1000s / f/6.3 / ISO 200 / 324mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/800s / f/8 / ISO 200 / 356mm eq.
Better bokeh: While some of the images from this piece had distracting bokeh, I found the background blur here to be rather pleasing to the eye, so your mileage will most likely vary depending on the subject matter, distances, and background involved.

We'll have a full technical review of this lens from our lab coming soon. This piece is primarily meant to pen some initial thoughts and get real world images into your hands for inspection as you await our technical review. So stay tuned for more, and in the meantime please see our Olympus 12-200mm Gallery for more images from this versatile new zoom lens from Olympus.

Olympus 12-200mm Sample Image
1/250s / f/6.3 / ISO 500 / 248mm eq.

 

Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Gallery

 

• • •

 

Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Overview

(From Olympus lens literature) Olympus is pleased to announce the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 (35mm equivalent 24-400mm) super telephoto zoom lens. Conforming to the Micro Four Thirds System Standard, this lens features the highest zoom ratio available on an interchangeable lens for mirrorless systems at 16.6x1. Users will experience excellent depictive performance across the entire focal length from wide-angle to telephoto, making it the perfect travel companion, packing high-speed and high-precision autofocus into an amazingly compact, lightweight form. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens features a dustproof and splashproof construction, making this lens durable enough to withstand the toughest shooting conditions, especially when paired with a weathersealed Olympus OM-D® camera body.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

When shooting wide, the closest focusing distance is approximately 22 cm (approximately 10 cm from the end of the lens) from the main subject for capturing the subject along with an expansive background. When shooting telephoto, the maximum magnification of 0.46x (35mm equivalent) for close-up photography and for significant background defocusing. This do-it-all lens is perfect for close-ups of children's expressions, indoor and outdoor situations and a variety of other subjects.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens features the same reliable dustproof and splashproof performance as the M.Zuiko PRO lens series. When combined with a dustproof and splashproof camera2, it can function in the most punishing of environments.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

This lens is equipped with the MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) mechanism, an advanced inner focusing mechanism providing fast, smooth, quiet and accurate auto-focusing, ideal for video shooters. Users will enjoy a short shooting time lag, so split-second photo opportunities are not missed. Amazingly high-speed, precise autofocus performance on this high-magnification zoom lens will provide comfortable, fun shooting.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating, Olympus' cutting-edge thin-coating technology, cultivated from multilayer film disposition technology used in microscopes, has been applied to the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens to drastically reduce ghosts and flares, contributing to a clear, high-contrast image.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

Separately Available Accessories

LC-72C Lens Cap: Equipped with a 72mm filter diameter that can be attached and removed without the need to remove the lens hood.

LH-76B Lens Hood: Protects the lens and reduces unnecessary light entering the lens when shooting in backlit conditions.

LSC-0914 Lens Case: A pouch-style lens case that protects lenses with three-layer construction. Lenses can be stored with the lens cap, protection filter and lens hoot (stored) attached.

ZUIKO PRF-ZD72 PRO Protection Filter: A lens filter equipped with ZERO coating and blackened glass edges, used to suppress flares and ghosting caused by reflections. The frame consists of a satin finish black aluminum. This filter is also compatible with other lenses of a 72mm filter diameter.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 Lens Review -- Product Image

U.S. Pricing and Availability

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens has an expected availability of late March 2019 with suggested retail pricing of $899.99 (USD) and $1,149.99 (CAD). The LC-72C Lens Cap will retail for $14.99 (USD & CAD). The LH-76B Lens Hood will retail for $49.99 (USD) and $64.99 (CAD). The LSC-0914 Lens Case will retail for $31.99 (USD & CAD). The ZUIKO PRF-ZD72 PRO Protection Filter will retail for $79.99 (USD & CAD).

Specifications are subject to change without notice. Company names and product names contained in this release are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

1. Highest magnification ratio on interchangeable zoom lenses for mirrorless systems as of February 2019.
2. Olympus OM-D E-M1X, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, or OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

Olympus 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 M.Zuiko Digital ED

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