For me, it’s long been a dream that I could just have one lens that would do it all. Everything from very wide to long telephoto shots, in one compact piece.
I guess Olympus is now invading my dreams because they have devised such a lens. The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 is the answer for people who are on a budget, and want just one lens to use in a variety of situations.
In the old days, when I first got into photography, zoom lenses were garbage. They just didn’t perform anywhere near their prime counterparts. But people used them as they do now, compromising quality for convenience. After all, it’s a lot easier to carry just one lens than a bag full of lenses. Less gear to carry, watch out for, manage and fuss with is bound to give photographers a better chance to “SEE” what’s around them, rather than messing with gear.
The notion that I would live long enough to see a 16.6 X zoom that actually delivered good image quality was frankly not something I even dared to dream. Yet, the M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 has arrived and it does indeed deliver.
It’s important to remember that ALL zooms are, by their vary nature a compromise. You can’t have everything. But the M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 comes close to giving it to you anyway.
Let’s start with the size. It’s relatively compact given the focal range it covers. It only weighs one pound and will fit in even some of the smaller camera bags.
This lens has an insane close 8.7″ minimum focusing distance on the long end and less than four inches on the short end, and a sophisticated optical design, which includes a variety of aspherical, low dispersion, and high refractive index elements to produce well-corrected imagery. A ZERO coating has also been applied to help reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions. Additionally, this lens utilizes a Movie & Stills Compatible AF system to achieve smooth, fast, and near-silent focusing performance to benefit both photo and movie applications.
Since it isn’t the fastest lens in the world (aperture range is f/3.5 to /f/6.3 Olympus was smart to design this zoom with a rounded seven-blade diaphragm that contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality.
What really impressed me was the fact that with this versatility and reasonable price ($899) the lens is weather resistant.
So where are the compromises? Well the most obvious is the variable aperture. You’re not going to get a fixed, fast aperture in a 16.6X zoom without adding tons of size and weight, not to mention cost. That lens would have to cost thousands of dollars. We all know that would cause lots of complaints.
The other compromise is the lack of image stabilization on the lens. The Olympus camera bodies have in body, image stabilization (IBIS) so this isn’t a deal breaker for me. The 12-200 is both lighter and smaller than the 12-100. If space and/or weight limitations are your concern, then the 12-200 wins over the 12-100.
If you want a faster, constant aperture, and image stabilization, then you have to give up the second 100mm of reach. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO Lens (https://bhpho.to/2pqPo0t) costs $400 more and has an f/4 constant aperture plus on-board IS. Like I said – compromises.
Another lens in this range is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II Lens. (https://bhpho.to/2G1SUpT) The 12-200 is both slightly wider and longer, and a little faster on the f/3.5 end, but slower on the f/6.3 end. The 14-150 is an amazing value at $549 and if you don’t need the additional focal length, it’s a reasonable alternative to the newer 12-200 if you need to save money.
OVERALL FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The lens feels good in the hand, and while not of the same construction as the Olympus PRO lenses, it does seem well-built. The smaller size and weight make it a perfect walk-around lens.
I haven’t given it a proper field test, i.e., photographed birds with it yet. That comes in a few weeks as I travel to Florida to speak at Florida’s Birding & Photo Festival. I’ll be doing some shooting nearby and will add to this report then.
But for now, I’d say the lens seems to focus very quickly and there’s plenty of detail in the images I shot at both the wide and the long end of the 16.6X zoom lens range. Of course, with this sort of range, you will find the best image quality at the center of the lens.
When it comes to bokeh, users won’t see the same kind of pleasing bokeh you get from the 12-100. But as I’ve shared many times, the best way to get a pleasing bokeh is to just get closer to your subject. You will have to work a little more with this lens to achieve that given its relatively slow aperture, but that is one of the compromises one makes when working with such a big zoom range.
The new Olympus 12-200 f/3.5-6.3 is better than I thought it would be. I am pleasantly surprised. It’s important to remember that this lens features the highest zoom ratio available on an interchangeable lens for mirrorless systems at 16.6. There’s great image quality 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.
While it’s not one of the Olympus PRO lenses, 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 camera, it can function in the most punishing of environments.
And yes, it does come with a lens hood!
I’ll have more information in a few weeks after I put this lens through a vigorous field test. For now, I am highly impressed.
DISCLAIMER: I am an Olympus Visionary