Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
Lab Test Results
December 2, 2015
by William Brawley
Special update: The Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 Pro lens was awarded a Lens of Distinction in the Best Zoom Lens category of our 2015 Lenses of the Year awards!
Slowly but surely, Olympus is introducing more high-end M.Zuiko Pro lenses to their lineup. Announced as an in-development product all the way back in February 2014 and finally coming available in the summer of 2015, the Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 Pro lens is one of the widest rectilinear lens for the Micro Four Thirds system with a 14-28mm-equivalent focal length range -- but it's the widest one with a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture.
Offering similar, high-quality metal construction, weather sealing and the pull-back manual focus ring as the previous two M.Zuiko Pro lenses, the Olympus 7-14mm is a serious lens with a focus on quality and performance for the advanced and professional MFT photographer.
The lens, like many ultra-wide zooms, has a very bulbous front lens element and as such has a fixed, permanent lens hood -- and no filter threads. The lens retails for $1,299 and ships with a soft case and press-on lens cap.
For a bright ƒ/2.8 lens that's also an ultra-wide angle zoom, the Olympus 7-14mm comes through with flying colors in the sharpness category for the most part. Though the corners are noticeably soft at ƒ/2.8 the wider you zoom, the center sharpness throughout the zoom range is tack-sharp, even wide-open. As with numerous other lenses, stopping down some improves corner sharpness -- around the ƒ/5.6 mark was shown to be the sweet spot for the best sharpness across the frame in our testing. Diffraction-related softness is present, but it only really makes a notable impact at around ƒ/16-ƒ/22. Overall, sharpness is really great stopped down, just don't expect crisp corners at f/2.8, especially when zoomed out to 7mm.
The Olympus 7-14mm lens does a decent job overall at controlling chromatic aberration, particularly towards the center of the frame. Being such a wide lens, it's not all that surprising to find some CA present in the corners of the frame, and we do see some bright magenta fringing on high contrast edges in the far corners of our VFA test images. It's mostly noticeable at the wider focal lengths, but some CA is still visible in the corners at all focal lengths, both at ƒ/2.8 and stopped down. The center, on the other hand, looks great at all focal lengths and apertures in terms of CA control with very little to no visible CA.
For such an ultra-wide lens, vignetting, even at the widest focal length, is not all that severe. Yes, there is some vignetting, and at all focal lengths, too, with 7mm showing the most over the range of apertures. Wide-open, we measured a bit under 0.75EVs of light falloff in the corners at 7mm, with the other focal lengths displaying a bit less (10-14mm show at or under 0.5EVs, for example). Stopping down to ƒ/4, we see a noticeable drop in vignetting pretty much across the board. 7mm still shows more vignetting at this point than the other focal lengths, which are now hovering around 0.5EVs of light loss. Around ƒ/8, most focal lengths are displaying around 0.25EVs of light falloff, with a couple of the longer focal lengths dipping slightly under that amount.
Geometric distortion control is quite impressive, despite the lens' ultra-wide design. As with vignetting, some distortion was not unexpected, especially at the wider focal lengths, and indeed there's some barrel distortion the wider you get on the lens. We see the most "severe" distortion at 7mm with just a little over +0.5% at maximum, but we see a smooth decline in distortion as you zoom out to 14mm -- which shows little to no distortion at this point.
Like other Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lenses, the Olympus 7-14mm is very fast to autofocus, taking well under a second to slew from minimum to infinity focus. It features Olympus' MSC ("Movie & Still Compatible") electrical focusing mechanism, for full-time AF in both stills and video that's also very quiet so as not to introduce focusing noises in video recordings. The MSC system does away with a geared system for mechanically moving the lens elements when focusing, which can cause unwanted noise. Instead, it uses a linear motor drive system for fast, quiet actuation.
Manual focusing is also available on this lens, both as full manual focus as well as full-time manual focus override while AF is enabled. When using Olympus cameras, users can set the camera to "S-AF+MF," and after half-pressing the shutter and achieving AF, you can turn the focus ring and make manual focus adjustments. This also works with Panasonic cameras as well, when "AF+MF" is enabled. For full-time manual focusing, pulling back on the focus ring clutch engages manual focus (and displays focus markings).
The Olympus 7-14mm is certainly not designed for traditional macro photography, but with a close-focusing distance just shy of 8 inches, it's very good for dramatic close-up shots.
Build Quality and Handling
Designed for professional use, the Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 M.Zuiko Pro is built accordingly, with an all-metal construction that's splash-proof, dust-proof and freeze-proof. The front element is weather-sealed, as is the lens mount with a rubbery gasket to form a tight seal against the camera. In total there are 11 different weather seals throughout the lens.
In terms of size and weight, the new Olympus 7-14mm lens has a sizable heft to it compared to the average Micro Four Thirds lens, though we wouldn't go so far as to call it large or heavy. It's certainly a rock-solid, well-built lens, though. The fixed lens hood and larger, bulbous front element make it a bit longer than the Olympus 12-40mm, for example, but it's still rather compact for an ultra-wide, constant ƒ/2.8 lens -- especially considering its DSLR-sized equivalents. There's a slight front-heaviness to it, but otherwise it feels great in the hand and balances pretty well on larger Micro Four Thirds cameras like Olympus E-M1. For smaller cameras, like our Panasonic GX1 test camera, it's a bit off-balance, but a two handed hold is comfortable.
Like Olympus' other M.Zuiko Pro zoom lenses, the 7-14mm lens sports two metal rings, one for zoom and the other for focusing. Both rings rotate very smoothly. The zoom ring has a nice, solid, mechanical feel with a good amount of rotational resistance (but not too much). This lens, while an internally focusing lens, is not an internally zooming one. While the permanent lens hood protects the front element at all focal lengths, the front element does extend outwards the wider you get.
With its electronic focusing system, the focus ring will rotate forever in its "AF" position, but when pulled into Manual Focus mode, the lens helpfully reveals a focus distance scale and introduces hard stops at either end (with about 90 degrees of rotation).
In terms of the optical construction, the new Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 Pro is comprised of 14 elements in 11 groups, including 2 aspherical ED, 1 double-sided aspherical element, 1 standard aspherical element, 3 Super ED, 1 ED and 2 HR elements. It has a 7-bladed circular aperture that stops down to ƒ/22.
An interesting feature that this lens shares with other M.Zuiko Pro lenses is the programmable "L-Fn" button near the lens mount along the upper left side. Standing for "Lens Function", the L-Fn button can be configured using compatible Olympus cameras to set various options -- and options not even related to the lens itself. You can program it to toggle adjustments such as white balance or RAW, but it can also be set as an AF-stop button. The placement is convenient as it's right near or under your thumb when using the proper camera holding technique to support the lens in your hand. (Note: Despite being part of the Micro Four Thirds system, the L-Fn button won't function with Panasonic cameras, although you can mount this lens on those cameras.)
The Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 Pro is currently the widest rectilinear lens available for the Micro Four Thirds system with a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture, so there really isn't a direct competitor at the time of this review. The most similar alternative, however, would be the equally wide Panasonic 7-14mm ƒ/4. Though not as bright with its ƒ/4 aperture, the lens offers the same range of focal lengths. Sharpness is very good, though its CA, vignetting and distortion characteristics aren't as nice as the Olympus'. At around $700, however, it's much more affordable than the Olympus 7-14mm.
Another alternative is the very compact Olympus 9-18mm ƒ/4-5.6 lens. Though not as wide or as bright, the 9-18mm lens is pretty sharp, though not as sharp as the 7-14mm. It is, however, much smaller, lighter and also much more affordable with a list price around $700.
For other alternatives, you'd have to reach back for older Four Thirds-mount DSLR lenses and use an adapter. Olympus offered both a 7-14mm ƒ/4 as well as a less wide 11-22mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 lens. However, in addition to the need for an adapter, these lenses are much larger than comparable Micro Four Thirds lenses and will autofocus more slowly since they were designed for Four Thirds DSLR cameras.
Though it's still a small collection of lenses at this point, Olympus' M.Zuiko Pro line continues to impress with high quality performance and excellent build quality. The new Olympus 7-14mm ƒ/2.8 Pro lens steps in as the premiere ultra-wide zoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds system, offering performance and quality for advanced and professional shooters alike. The high cost of the lens -- at around $1,300 -- is certainly a discouraging factor for budget-conscious MFT shooters, but this is, at this point in time, a unique lens that offers a versatile ultra-wide focal length range, a bright ƒ/2.8 aperture, weather-sealing, great build quality, as well as excellent image quality.
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 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by kayaker3829 (2 reviews)Incredible image quality. I love the wide (14mm in 35mm equivalent terms) angle of view from something SO small.Some chromatic aberration and loss of sharpness at the edges of the frame.
Given the diminutive size, weather sealing and ultra wide focal length range of this lens, I'm more than willing to forgive it the slight optical shortcomings. This thing comes everywhere with me.reviewed February 4th, 2016 (purchased for $1,100)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by SteveHugh (3 reviews)accurate auto-focus, low light abilityheavy
I also have the Panasonic 7-14 and also acquired the Olympus because it is a much faster lens, which I need particularly in dark basements for real estate photography. (Why individuals firmly insist on painting their basements dark grey as well as then making use of 40watt light bulbs is beyond me:-RRB- The lens is likewise terrific at removing colorful aberrations especially I am shooting right into sunny windows. I utilize autofocus for stills and also hands-on emphasis for video and I truly like the manual concentration ring. It is likewise a focus mode switch (breaks back and also forth) as well as is less complicated to use compared to the GH3's concentration button. It makes this lens a great choice for any serious photographer in my opinion.reviewed December 22nd, 2015 (purchased for $1,149)
9 out of 10 points and not recommended by coma (23 reviews)sharpness, build quality, close focusfield curvature, too expensive, no filter thread
I was really excited when Olympus announced this lens. And what to say - it's really a good lens!reviewed December 7th, 2015 (purchased for $1,300)
It's sharp and the close focus distance is really nice on an ultra wide angle zoom. Build quality is (as with all pros) really good.
Chromatic abberations seems to be corrected well and so is the vignetting (but not the distortion). It seems that Olympus moved away from: "correct everything electronically" and now corrects a bit more optically (to the cost of size).
The problems with this lens that I have? Two small things: it has no filter thread and it's a very expensive lens.
And then there come two bigger drawbacks:
1. the field curvature is enormous. It can put some parts of your image out of focus. This is a really, really drawback and everyone should be aware of it.
The second thing is: I would take this over the Sony 16-35, but if you compare it to the Fuji 10-24 it's just not up there optically. The fuji is sharper (all across the frame), has a greater reach and is smaller, lighter and cheaper. (Of course the 7-14 is weather resistant, which the Fuji lacks).