The Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens — a user experience review

I recently picked up Olympus‘ new pancake kit zoom lens (formally, the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens) and its automatic lens cap. Rather than boring you with test charts and such, I thought taking it out on a walk would be more interesting (and help give everybody a better idea of its benefits and limitations).

OM-D compared

For starters, the lens’ big benefit is size (naturally, for a pancake) — at least for the time being, it’s the shortest pancake zoom for the micro-4/3 system, extending just 22.5mm from its mounting flange. Above, you see my E-M1 with an Oly 12-40mm f/2.8 lens mounted, next to my E-M5 hosting the 14-42mm EZ lens.  Even with the grip attached, the E-M5 is pocketable (well, in a decent-sized coat pocket) in this configuration.  The automatic lens cap isn’t exactly cheap, but that extra $30 buys you an impressive bit of engineering in a small slice of plastic — and makes this combo a potent and quick-to-use street shooter.

But on to the walk…

Communing with nature

While nobody is going to confuse the 14-42mm EZ’s images with those from it’s 12-40mm “big brother,” the pancake does a good job in all but the most stringent cases. For “walking around” use, it does quite well.

Shades of last Autumn

It renders nice, smooth bokeh too — and produces images that are sharp in the center of the frame (although as others have pointed out, sharpness and color rendition suffer at the edges of its field).

Near sunset

The pancake doesn’t seem to have any real flare issues — pretty impressive given the lens’ size. I did, though, notice some vignetting in certain situations, so pulled out some foam-core to get a better feel for this.  These are (reduced) full-frame shots of white foam core laid out horizontally on a sunny day (I shot these with automatic exposure, so the camera rendered the white scene as a nice, even 18% gray). The spot of green gaffer tape is just there to help the camera focus.

14mm f-5.6 14mm f-22
Lens at 14mm, f/5.6 and f/22
42mm f-5.6 42mm f-22
Lens at 42mm, f/5.6 and f/22

From what I can see, the lens always vignettes to some degree — but it’s particularly noticeable with the lens wide-open (or nearly so) and zoomed in.  For best comparison, here are 100% crops of three spots on each of the above images — top center, absolute center, and lower-right corner.

14mm f-5.6 3view
14mm f-22 3view
42mm f-5.6 3view
42mm f-22 3view

So in short — does the 14-42mm EZ lens produce top-of-the-line results?  No, of course not — but for many purposes, it produces images that are easily “good enough.”  And that, in a very portable, pocketable size.  If you shoot street scenes, or do travel photography, or just want to make sure your micro-4/3 camera is small enough to always have on hand, I’d highly recommend this lens as an addition to your toolkit.