I wanted a wider angle lens than the “kit” lens. The difference between 12 mm
and 14 mm doesn't sound like much, but my prior experience with 35 mm cameras (24 mm
vs. 28 mm) was that it is significant.
The option of faster focussing was tempting, but not as important as being able to focus
at all. On several occasions, poor light made it almost impossible to take a photo with
the 14-42mm lens.
I wanted something with a wider aperture than the “kit” lens.
I had chosen the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED
70-300mm telephoto instead of the 40-150 mm
“kit” telephoto lens, and that left a focal length gap of 28 mm between
42 and 70 mm. The new lens reduces this to only 10 mm.
It focusses closer than the 14-42 mm lens. Given that things like extension tubes seem to
belong to the past, or cost a completely unreasonable sum, this is quite useful, though I
still use my old Pentax Super Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 lens for real closeups, in conjunction
with the extension tubes and bellows I had for my Spotmatic.
One thing that I wasn't overly interested in was an improvement in picture quality. In this
respect I've been quite happy with the 14-42 mm lens. I expect that the new lens is better,
but I haven't gone to the trouble to check.
It weighs more than 3 times the weight of the 14-42 mm lens it's replacing. That's not the
end of the world, of course, but it's worth considering that the small size was one of the
reasons I bought Olympus rather than something more mainstream such as Canon. To a certain
extent, that's gone now. Here a Canon 30D with standard lens on the left, and the Olympus
E-510 and 12-60 mm lens on the right:
It also means that the lens hangs down significantly when held by the strap. This is at
least partially a design issue with the E-510, since even the standard lens hangs down a
little. Here is the E-510 with each of the lenses, along with a Pentax Spotmatic for
The size is the only down side of the lens. I'm very happy with it. It focusses much faster
than the other lenses (that's particularly obvious in comparison with the 70-300 mm lens,
which is pretty slow), and the additional focal length range and aperture really do come in
handy. Here are some comparative shots of minimum and maximum focal length, first with the
14-42 mm lens, then with the 12-60 mm lens:
Click on the photos for up to 3 larger views; the largest is the original size.
A couple of things about this lens surprise me:
It has a manual focussing ring and a focussing scale, both unlike the other Olympus
lenses. The scale doesn't seem to be much use (it only has markings for infinity, 1 m,
40 cm and 25 cm), but it does show that it can focus way beyond infinity:
That doesn't do any harm, of course, and people tell me that this is one of the
“features“ of fast autofocus, but it looks strange. It also means that
Olympus' dubious feature of allowing the focus ring to turn in either direction won't
work for this lens.
Every week I take photos of the exterior
of my house in preparation for some time lapse MPEGs. A large number were taken
with the old lens at 14 mm. That's easy on that lens, but it requires setting with the
new lens, and as the photo above shows, there aren't many markings, certainly not 14 mm.
One problem with the Olympus system (at least the E-510) is that the system doesn't
indicate the focal length at which a photo will be taken. For that, you need to take a
photo, and then it'll report the focal length from the EXIF data, rather sillily with a
precision of 0.1mm, though all reported focal lengths have been integers.
Previously, many of the photos were taken at 14 mm focal length. On the ZUIKO DIGITAL ED
14-42mm F3.5-5.6, that's easy to set: it's the widest setting. But how do I set
it on the lens? I tried a series of test shots to compare the scale with the focal
lengths reported by EXIF. The results were interesting:
Not surprisingly, the shortest focal length was reported as 12.0 mm, and the
longest as 60.0mm.
Also not surprisingly, 14.0 mm is located about a third of the way between 12 and
Some integral values are missing altogether. Thus, although there are markings for
25 mm and 50 mm, there's no way to set these values: the following pairs of photos
were taken round 25 mm and 50 mm respectively. As they show, they're only minimally
different. But the EXIF reports focal lengths of 24.0 mm, 26.0 mm,
49.0 mm and 51.0 mm respectively, as the information to the right of
the larger images (click one any of them) shows.