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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD : A Personal Review

Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm F2.0 SWD

To tell you the truth, I got this lens for a bargain. I bought it used! 

It was on sale at KEAT Camera, off Jalan Pudu just only 2 months after it was launched; thus, the condition was brand new. And the price drop was very good too, up to 25%. I guess the previous owner jumped ship, and this lens went on a quick fire-sale. Good news for me!!

This lens is just crazy, optically. Tip-top performance from F2.0 to F11. Superb!! It is like having multiple primes in one lens. I will not write much on it's optical performance, as there are many independent reviews raving about it. This lens really sets the benchmark on how a zoom lens should perform - flawless!

Considering the size factor, it is huge! Just look at how it attaches to the E-30!

Weighing in at 900g and sporting a 77mm filter thread, this lens is a behemoth. But don't let the size fool you. Remember that this is an F2.0 lens. It's supposed to be big. Somehow, the mechanics of design of this lens ensure the best balance; thus, it doesn't feel as heavy as it looks. 

Now imagine a bag full of prime lenses, such as 14mm f2.0, 17mm f2.0, 25mm f2.0 and 35mm f2.0. That will be much more of a pain to manage, right?

Put it on the E-3 or the E-30, it just purrs quality. Solidly built, just-the-right heft, tactile zoom and focus rings action, weathersealed, and pure beauty; this lens means business.

I really love this lens.

Initially, I shrugged it off as being too big and too expensive. Instead, I lusted for its little brother - the Zuiko Digital ED12-60mm F2.8-4 SWD. With more range and faster focusing speed, it really made me think deep. In the end, a bargain is still a bargain. When the offer came for the 14-35mm with such great value, I could not deny my lust anymore. 

Ever since I purchased this lens, this has been my "kit lens". Serious! Not that I am crazy to lug around a 900g lens, but it's the only normal zoom lens that I own. I sold off my Zuiko Digital 14-54mm a few months later as I found out that it was slowly "collecting dust" in the dry box.

E-3 @ 14mm, f/2.0, 1/60s, ISO1600

The real strength in this lens is its usability of F2.0 aperture at all focal range. Low light performance is at the top of the game. At ISO1600 and 1/60s, I can easily get high quality images in poorly lit scenes. The 4/3 system's depth-of-field is not very shallow; thus allowing the general use at widest aperture as being very easy, too. Not bad at all!

Another subjective aspect that I love about this lens is how it resolves the color and contrast. The clarity is very high, as evident in the MTF charts. With such ultra-low light transmission loss, the lens is able to render the color and contrast much more accurately with very fine details. I have to confess, it is as good as the Zuiko Digital ED50mm F2.0 MACRO lens - the current benchmark as stated by the guys at

While there is superlative performance on the optics, there is a minor flaw in the overall design of this lens with regards to the whole E-system. Similar to what is said about the 50mm lens by the guys, the 14-35mm suffers a problem with auto focus. It tends to jiggle and hasten to lock focus, especially at very low light - below EV4, which is very dim. Some suspect it's the problem with the SWD system. The rapid momentum of the lens is too much for the SWD motor to tame, the theory goes. Not that it's bad, but it could disturb my rhythm of shooting fast action scenes. 

E-3 v1.2 @ 30mm, f2.2, 1/250s, ISO640, +0.3EV

Olympus hasn't officially acknowledge this issue, but they are aware of it. So far, I have seen some E-3 firmware updates trying to address this. Though it couldn't solve the problem entirely, the performance of the E-3 with the latest v1.4 firmware update has closed the gap, and made shooting fast action with this lens a joy again.

I am very pleased with this lens, as it delivers. Boy, does it really deliver!!!

If you are contemplating of getting this lens, my advise is "Don't even wait for a second, just swipe your credit card. It's worth every sen!!!!!"

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