In our worldly travels to test the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in Iceland, a requisite travel destination for anyone’s bucket list, I was fortunate to also demo a half-dozen M.ZUIKO PRO series lenses. Known for rugged, high-quality construction and superb weather-sealing, M.ZUIKO PRO Micro Four Thirds lenses are compact, light, and sharp enough to compete with much more expensive glass. In other words, world-class optics at relatively bargain prices.
Olympus dropped two new PRO lenses this year. The 25mm f1.2 PRO (reviewed HERE) has my vote for one of, if not the, best Micro Four Thirds glass Olympus has ever engineered. It’s an extraordinary portrait lens. But portrait primes aren’t for every shooting situation. And given Olympus’ habit of building weather-resistant camera bodies, when you’re, say, standing on a black sand beach in Iceland being pelted by a random hail storm, you don’t always have the time or necessary safety to swap lenses.
In these situations, you need a versatile lens that can give you as many options as your mind can come up with ideas.
You need a zoom lens like the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12‑100mm F4 IS PRO, which has my vote for most versatile M.ZUIKO PRO lens available today. With its ~$1300 MSRP, an incredible value for dollar spent, it’s basically the ultimate Micro Four Thirds kit lens… even though Olympus has no plans to market or sell it as such.
- Image Stabilization (up to 6.5-stops of exposure compensation with certain OM-D cameras)
- Excellent value-for-dollar
- 1.5cm minimum focus distance
- Constant f4 aperture
- Less contrast, color, and sharpness than some other PRO lenses
- Extending barrel design
- Focal Length: 12 – 100mm
- 35mm Equivalent: 24 – 200mm
- Maximum Aperture: f4
- Minimum Aperture: f22
- Minimum Working Distance 1.5 cm
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.15m (Wide) / 0.45m (Tele)
- Lens Construction: 17 Elements in 11 Groups
- Manual Focus Clutch
- Programmable Function (Fn) Button
- Dimensions: 16.5mm x 77.5mm
- Lens Hood: included
With a solid metal exterior, supple rubber focus and zoom rings, and weather sealing to keep out the wet and the cold, the 12-100mm f4 IS PRO is as rugged as the rest of the PRO series. On our trip to Iceland, we used our early production units in the rain, hail, sun, snow, and waterfall without worry. My only wish; that it was built with a contained-barrel, akin to the 40-150mm f2.8 IS PRO, to better avoid scenarios where dampness or grime has a chance to build up in the housing as one zooms in and out.
Ergonomically, the 12-100mm f4 IS PRO is very well sorted glass. Light, but well-balanced. Zoom and focus rings are buttery smooth. The programmable Fn (Function) button and Image Stabilization on/off switch are easy to find, tap, and click. The signature Olympus Manual clutch is an intuitive time saver. The only thing I don’t love, as I mentioned above, is the telescoping barrel; in close quarters, you can run out of space. But that’s a teeny-tiny nitpick.
SPEED & FOCUS
Here’s where things get interesting. The 12-100mm f4 IS PRO isn’t as fast to focus as PRO primes, naturally, and a couple of times it got hung up ramping back and forth to infinity (a feature that can be blocked inside the OM-D E-M1 Mark II), but it’s pretty darn quick and accurate. On top of that, you have an insane 1.5cm minimum working distance. No joke, when you push this lens, with its hood attached, against a subject, it can and will find focus. Hello, macro my old friend.
The 12-100mm f4 IS PRO produces above average still images and video recordings. Is it the fastest lens with the best contrast and the shallowest depth-of-field? Nope. That’s probably the 25mm f1.2 PRO.
But pair this lens with the new OM-D E-M1 Mark II and you can take clean 15-SECOND exposures… HANDHELD, which is just incredible. With this lens you have a constant f4 maximum aperture from a 24 to 200mm equivalent, so you’re set for wide angle landscapes and architecture, portraits and street photography, and telephoto for sports and nature. Add in the macro-focus we spoke about above, and you have a very capable lens for a ton of situations and environments.
It’s within the context of versatility in mind that I approach judging overall image quality. Even though I wish there was a little more sharpness and a little more color and contrast, the the 12-100mm f4 keeps up with and competes with the rest of the M.ZUIKO PRO series lenses. In the grey lighting of rainy Iceland afternoons, the images were a little flatter than I wanted, but it’s nothing you won’t be able to boost in Lightroom or by using an Olympus Art Filter.
Bokeh is also quite good for an f4 lens, where the added depth of field allows you to capture more of your subject before rolling foregrounds and backgrounds out of focus. It’s not extreme, but the look is pleasing, particularly as push towards maximum telephoto.
WHERE TO BUY
The M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm f4 IS PRO is available now with a $1,299.99 MSRP. Click HERE to purchase directly from Amazon.com or feel free to check out any authorized Olympus retailer.
While it may not be the fastest or the sharpest Olympus PRO lens available for Micro Four Thirds camera systems, the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12‑100mm F4 IS PRO is likely the series’ most versatile. With its constant f4 max aperture, incredibly close 1.5cm working distance, up to 6.5-stops of exposure compensation from image stabilization (with certain Olympus cameras), and an extended 24-200mm equivalent zoom range; this lens delivers a metric ton of value-for-dollar.
If you own an OM-D or PEN or any Micro Four Thirds camera system and need the simplicity and convenience of a single-lens setup while traveling or shooting in adverse or difficult conditions, this lens is…
It might not be the fastest or sharpest M.Zuiko PRO series Micro Four Thirds lens ever made, but the new 12-100mm f4 IS PRO might just be the most versatile Olympus lens on the market today, making it perfect for any shooting conditions where you can't quickly or safely swap lenses.