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…

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Wide zooms (for micro 4/3 cameras) compared

For a brief period of time, I owned three wide zooms that worked well on my Olympus E-M1 body — so I thought I should take the opportunity to compare their performance on a quick walk around a neighborhood park.  Actually writing up this review took a bit of time, and was prompted by an excellent comparison of two of these lenses over on Small Camera Big Picture.

A warning to pixel peepers: what follows is a real-life experiential comparison.

Wide zooms compared

The lenses, as you can see, were the Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 (4/3 system) lens on an MMF-3 adapter, the new Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, and the Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 lens.  The 12-60 I’ve had for years, the 12-35 was a “gap-filler” purchase (for use while waiting for the 12-40mm to ship), and the 12-40mm my planned go-to lens going forward.

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Olympus 60mm Macro for micro 4/3 — an early review

If you have a micro 4/3 camera, and have any interest at all in macro photography, you’ve likely been waiting for the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lensto appear. It’s been teased on one site or another for months, but was only formally announced at this year’s Photokina in Cologne. So since I’m trying to track Olympus‘ fairly obvious momentum from 4/3 toward micro 4/3 (and have a more-than-passing interest in macro photography), I duly put in my pre-order for one as soon as Adorama would accept it.

Fast forward a few weeks, and my copy of this little gem was delivered to my doorstep.

Well in hand

DId I mention little? In spite of the time I spent looking over the lens’ spec sheet, I’m still blown away by how petite the thing is (my hands are big, but they’re not that big.

Side by side with stock lens

For instance, compare the 60mm on the right with the E-M5’s stock (12-50mm) zoom lens. They’re almost exactly the same length, but the 60mm is a bit skinnier still (sadly, since that means yet another expensive lens hood to buy…).

The focus limiter switch primarily helps speed up focusing when you’re working up close (0.19 – 0.4 meters) — but also lets you set the focus to its closest point (equivalent to 1:1 reproduction) by just flicking the switch to that extreme of its range.  Note that the 1:1 setting is spring-loaded, so you’ll need to have the camera set up for manual focusing to take advantage of it (otherwise the focus will change away from 1:1 when you depress the shutter release).  The lens also gives you a scale on its side, showing what the magnification factor will be given where it’s focused — handy, if you’re either manually focusing or have the camera on a tripod.

Ready for action

Fortunately this lens is perfectly sized to work with OlympusMAL-1 Macro Arm Light that was first released years ago with the early PEN cameras. Together with an E-M5 and grip (the grip is essential for my hands, at any rate), it makes a potent but still compact package.

So let’s put them to work.

Example images

For my first victim subject, I thought I’d pick something colorful and detailed that I had kicking around.  Lacking any interesting postage stamps, I grabbed a “souvenir” 10 Quetzales note.  Lots of art in a bank note that’s only worth about $1.25, so a perfect experimental subject — pay particular attention to the little Maya figure on the left side of the bill (BTW, the graph paper is ruled one line per mm).

Bank note

Here’s a full image of the figure, taken from about as near to the note as I could reliably get (I don’t have an adjustable “stage” for macro photography, so fiddled with my tripod height by hand).  As you can see, at very close to 1:1 the lens gives a nice, detailed image without any obvious distortion or vignetting in the corners.

Little Mayan

For real macro afficionados, here’s a 100% crop of 800×800 pixels roughly centered on the figure’s eye.  You can see lots of detail in the surface of the paper, again a good performance from the lens, camera, and macro lights (but the lights can be a bit fiddly this close to the subject).

Little Mayan crop

Since I’d heard this lens is also a good performer as a telephoto prime, I next left the macro light indoors for a little impromptu photography outdoors with the lens.  As you’d expect, it’s a stellar performer up close.

A rose by any other lens...

Further out, I couldn’t provoke it into displaying any CA, even pointed right at the Sun.  Oly has used a new low-reflection coating on this lens, and it shows — you have to work hard to get anything resembling a lens flare out of this gem.

Look, Ma -- no CA!

All the images I’ve taken to date have been nice and sharp where I want them to be, and the circular aperture results in good, smooth bokeh elsewhere.

Falling reflection

And yes, the lens is great for portraits!

Portrait subject


Summary and conclusions

If you’re shooting with micro 4/3, you now have a good range of options for macro photography.

If you’re on a tight budget and don’t do much macro shooting, Olympus’ macro converter (MCON-P01, $50 retail in the U.S.) along with a 14-42mm kit lens is likely all you need.

If you want super-close-up images, and have the money ($500), the Yasuhara Nanoha 5:1 macro lens is a good tool — but only covers a focusing range of 0.43 – 0.78″ (11 – 20mm).  It’s a powerful but very specialized tool.

But if you want a good, flexible macro lens that’s also good for portraiture and other telephoto jobs, the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 can’t be beat. It sells for less than Panasonic’s 45mm f/2.8 macro lens ($750 retail in the U.S.), and is weather-sealed to boot.  And while not quite as optically fast as the venerable Olympus 50mm f/2.0 4/3 macro lens, the 60mm f/2.8 focuses dramatically faster on a micro 4/3 camera.

In summary, what I see as the pluses and minuses of the lens…


  • Excellent build quality
  • Weather proof
  • Small and light, balances well on the front of an E-M5; should handle well on other micro 4/3 models with at least a modest grip
  • Not cheap, but reasonably priced at $500 (at retail in the U.S.)
  • Works well with Olympus‘ accessory-mount MAL-1 Macro Arm Light ($50 – $60 retail in the U.S.)
  • Very fast focus; focus limit switch helps out too


  • Doesn’t come with a hood or carrying pouch, and the hood is a bit pricey
  • Focus limit selector switch is a bit tricky to “grab,” and doesn’t work well with gloves
  • Lack of built-in image stabilization may be an issue for people with non-Olympus cameras