First Look at the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4 IS PRO
What a thrilling week, shutter-friends. Huge Photokina announcements from many of our favorite camera brands, and where our friend Steve Huff recently wrote that Olympus “stole the show.” I agree. Not only does the OM-D E-M1 Mark II look to be one of the most exciting Micro Four Third cameras available for this and the next few years, but Olympus has also added three new lenses to the M.ZUIKO roster.
The one I feel will have the biggest impact is the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO which, when paired with the E-M1 Mark II, will give shooters 6.5 EV stops of compensation during low light performance, all while boasting tack-sharp images across its entire 24mm-200mm zoom equivalence. This right here is the definition of versatility. You could travel around the world and never need a second piece of glass (though if you’ve tried the 300mm f4.0 IS PRO or the 8mm Fisheye PRO, you won’t be doing that). And the price?
At under $1,300 (MSRP), it’s a pretty significant value for anyone with a Micro Four Thirds camera system.
Now, we here at Steve’s will have to wait another month or so to get our hands on one of these out in the field, so to give you folks an idea how how this lens performs, I reached out to my good friend and Olympus Trailblazer, Alex McClure to check out his pre-production unit sample images as well as his first impressions of what it’s like to work with this new M.ZUIKO lens. Before we get there, let’s first dive into the lens itself.
M.ZUIKO 12-100MM F4.0 IS PRO FEATURES
Dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof (down to 14°F/-10°C), the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO combines 17 Dual Super Aspherical, High Refractive index, and Super-High Refractive lens elements to help reduce color fringing and correct aberration, all while using fewer elements to make this lens quite compact (77.5×116.5mm) and maintain edge-to-edge sharpness from wide angle to telephoto. There are seven aperture blades, which can be set to a maximum f4.0 or a minimum f22. Further, the new 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO boasts a minimum working distance of 1.5cm, a maximum shooting magnification of 0.6x (35mm equivalent), and built-in image stabilization that, as described above, works in tandem with the 5-axis IS in Olympus’ other OM-D camera systems. Like many M.ZUIKO PRO series lenses, the body features a physical ring-clutch for engaging manual focus, an Image Stabilization on/off switch, and a customizable L-Fn button. Lastly, should you need a protective filter, such as the Olympus ZUIKO PRF-ZD72 PRO, the filter diameter is 72mm.
INTERVIEW WITH OLYMPUS TRAILBLAZER, ALEX MCCLURE
Steve’s Digicams: Alex! Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us today to talk about one of Olympus’ most exciting Photokina 2016 announcements. When we last spoke, you were teaching classes and hosting photo walks in and around Phoenix, Arizona while doing commercial shoots, and serving as an ambassador (Trailblazer) for Olympus. What’s new with you?
Alex McClure: Nothing new really. I’m still doing all the same photography, but right now I’m really excited about the new lenses that are out from Olympus!
You were one of the first people in the world to get your capable hands on the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO. Understanding that you likely have a pre-production unit, tell us about your first out-of-the-box impressions.
Yes, this is a pre-production unit and the first thing I noticed was how small it is. In fact, it’s only about 1-1/4″ taller than the M.Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 Pro lens.
What did you shoot first and where?
The desert. As soon as I got it I headed out to the Superstition wilderness and photographed some places I like to hike. It was about a 110° that day, but like all my Olympus equipment it had no problem with the heat.
How did the lens perform in the field?
Flawlessly! With most wide range zooms you have a great end and a good end, meaning one side is super sharp and the other end is just sharp. That is not the case with the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 Pro IS lens. It is super sharp from 12mm all the way though to 100mm.
With such a long zoom range and constant aperture, this may very well become the most popular M.Zuiko PRO lens because of its overall versatility. Tell us about the image quality you’ve experience so far — color, sharpness, bokeh, etc. — and how it fits into the PRO Series lineup.
Yes, this going to be a great Pro lens for people who travel, hike, backpack or just want to lighten their load. It is also a nice macro lens. The sharpness is perfect, color is great.
Were there any drawbacks to the F4 max aperture, or any sign of fringing or chromatic aberrations?
Well at f/4 you’re going to lose some bokeh compared to a f/2.8 lens of course. Other than that, this is exactly what people expect from an Olympus Pro lens! You know, Olympus has been making amazing lenses for 80 year now!
What types of photographers should consider this lens?
Anyone who wants to lighten their load! This is a well built, light weight lens that’s ready to go to extremes for you!
Has it surprised you in anyway?
Yes! For macro photography, this thing is awesome! The high-magnification means you can shoot a subject at 12mm at the crazy range of 1.5mm. I don’t even know how to measure that. Also, at 100mm you have a focus range of around 10 inches, which is incredible. I have included a few macro shots and one of my PEN-F. The lens hood of the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 Pro is resting on the PEN.
How is the low-light performance? Could you do Astro-photography with this lens? Have you done any Live Composite light-painting?
This lens is great in low light. The PEN-F photo was shot in my kitchen at f/4, 2.5 second and a ISO200 hand held. The Elvis Church was shot at 1/6th second and was also shot hand held. I haven’t done any Astro-photography with it yet, but it will be great lens for Live Composite and light painting.
How many OM-D bodies have you tested with it? Were there any variances in the way the lens performed?
This lens has been on my Olympus E-M5 Mark II, my E-M1 and my PEN-F. If there are any variances, I haven’t noticed them.
Do you have any planned trips or projects where you plan to use this this lens? IE, what’s next for you and the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO?
Oh yes! I’m doing a photowalk out in the Superstitions with the AZ Photo Guild, before I head to the Bay Area. I’m speaking at Looking Glass Photo on October 8th. It’s a great store with amazing people in Berkeley, California. After that, I’m heading to Sedona, Arizona for a few days to shoot fall colors. In November, I head to the Olympus InVision Photo Festival November 4-6. I’m also hoping to find some time to head to Death Valley, once the weather here in the Southwest cools down.
Thanks again to Alex and Olympus for setting up this interview and for sending along some snazzy sample images! The M.ZUIKO 12-100mm f4.0 IS PRO will be available in late November with a $1,299.99 MSRP. We’re hoping to get our hands on one (and an OM-D E-M1 Mark II along with the other two new lenses) a little earlier, so stay tuned for that. If you’d like to know more about Alex or find out how and when join him on a photo walk, check out our previous interview with him, and look Alex up at AlexMcClurePhotography.com. Cheers!