Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8: Wide-eyed in Low Light

 
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8 PRO is the first ever f/2.8 ultrawide zoom for the MFT mount. Shridhar Kunte tests how this unique lens performs.

Last month, we tested the Olympus 8mm fisheye PRO lens, which you may remember, is one of the two new high-end lenses introduced in the M.ZUIKO PRO family. This month, it’s time to put the 7–14mm f/2.8 PRO on the test bench.

Before going into the details about this lens, let’s quickly take an overview as to what the PRO moniker in Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses signifies. The PRO lenses are extremely sturdy and weather sealed. Coupled with weathersealed bodies like the OM-D E-M1 or the GH4, they are ideal for photographers looking to make pictures in extreme conditions like heavy rain or dust storms. Most of the PRO lenses boast of fast apertures, well dampened focusing rings, a push-pull focus clutch mechanism, and impressive optics.

Features
The 7–14mm f/2.8 gives a field of view similar to a 14–28mm (in 35mm parlance). Olympus have a 9–18mm wide angle lens, but this new lens is their widest rectilinear lens now. Panasonic does have a 7–14mm that we tested a few years ago, but that’s f/4, and thus, not as versatile.

Ultrawide lenses on MFT sensors offer a great DOF even while using fast apertures, so don’t expect to blur backgrounds much, unless you are shooting at 14mm and really close to the subject. So while there are only 7 blades in the aperture diaphragm, it shouldn’t be an issue, in practical use.

What the f/2.8 is useful for, of course, is low light shooting, which is, usually the Achilles’ Heel of the Micro Four Thirds system, so we see this lens being quite popular amongst street and event photographers and video shooters who need to work in low light. The minimum focusing distance (0.2m) is useful, considering the extremely wide nature of the lens.

Handling
The lens is a solid block made of metal and strong polycarbonate, with a non-detachable lens hood that’s a part of the structure. The problem with this kind of design is that one cannot use any filters with the lens. It’s a constraint that we have also seen in the Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8 full frame lens, for instance. This is unfortunate, as landscape photographers would have loved the focal length and the build and optics of this lens. The inability to use ND filters will also be a constraint for filmmakers who’d otherwise be attracted to the fast-aperture capabilities of the lens.

The edge to edge sharpness of the lens at f/8, along with in-body stabilisation of the OM-D E-M1, helped shoot in light that MFT systems would usually struggle in. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/8(ISO 6400). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The edge to edge sharpness of the lens at f/8, along with in-body stabilisation of the OM-D E-M1, helped shoot in light that MFT systems would usually struggle in. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/8(ISO 6400). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The lens barrel has a Fn switch that can be customised with a shooting function. The user can switch to MF at any given point of time by pulling the focusing ring inward, similar to the clutch mechanism seen in previous PRO lenses and in Tokina lenses. Sadly, there is no DOF scale. Even if the lens had DOF markings for one of the ends of the zoom, it would have been useful. The zoom ring is placed closed to the camera body and is wider than the focus ring. This is useful while shooting at slower shutterspeeds.

Performance
MFT lenses are usually good performers, and most aberrations are corrected within the camera. So, the JPEGs are usually aberration-free and so are the RAWs, if the RAW converter has been updated with the lens’ profile. The 7–14mm f/2.8 exhibits super distortion control, admirable for a lens this wide. Whatever little distortion is there has a uniform footprint across the zoom range, which makes it easy to correct in post.

Sharpness is very good in the centre at f/2.8 and the corners aren’t too bad. When stopped down to f/5.6, the lens is tack sharp from centre to edge. Colour fringing is well controlled, but the lens is prone to flaring, especially when shooting at 7mm, but unless the light source is directly in your frame, it won’t be a problem in real-world use. There is light falloff of about 1–1.5 stops while shooting at the widest aperture.

Conclusion
The 7–14mm f/2.8 PRO is priced at Rs 88,980. The closest competitor is the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4, which is less expensive, but not available in India anymore. If the use of filters is crucial in your picturemaking, you may want to avoid this lens. But for all others who enjoy shooting with a wide angle lens, and especially for architecture photographers and street chroniclers who work in varying light conditions, this lens is well worth its price.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Only f/2.8 MFT ultrawide, can’t use filters
17/20
Performance
Very low distortion, sharp, prone to flare
31/35
Build Quality
Metal mount, weathersealing at 11 positions
23/25
Ergonomics
Focus clutch mechanism, no DOF scale
11/15
Warranty & Support
Limited service backup, 2 year warranty       
2/5
MRP Rs. 88,980
OVERALL 84%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? MFT users who shoot a lot in low light, adventure enthusiasts and architectural photographers
Why? Useful close-focus distance, optically fast and distortion is very well controlled. Landscape shooters should look elsewhere as you can’t use filters.

 

Tags: October 2015, Olympus, olympus 7-14 lens, Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8, Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8 price india, Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7–14mm f/2.8 review, Shridhar Kunte