Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED review


The Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 ED is the standard kit lens which Olympus supply with their lower-tier DSLRs, including the E-420 and E-510. Announced in September 2006 to accompany the launch of the E-400, it shares that camera's defining characteristic, being remarkably compact in size. Indeed it takes advantage of the relatively small size of the Four Thirds sensor to be comfortably the smallest and lightest DSLR zoom lens currently available, great for those users who wish their camera systems to be as portable as possible.

However despite its diminutive size, the 14-42mm still packs in some fairly exotic optics to deal with aberrations, in the shape of one extra-low dispersion (ED) glass element and two aspheric elements. It also incorporates a circular aperture diaphragm, which Olympus claim should provide 'beautiful rendition' of defocused areas of the image, and indeed consider to be one of the big advantages of this lens. The icing on the cake is an internal focusing system with a proper manual focus ring and a non-rotating front element, always a positive point for those photographers who like to use filters.

Olympus have long had a reputation for the quality of their lenses, plus a proven track record in the design of small but highly capable cameras and lenses (exemplified by such 1970s classics as the OM system SLRs and XA rangefinders), so the 14-42mm comes with a solid pedigree behind it. But as always with kit lenses, the biggest question is whether Olympus have cut corners unacceptably with either the optics or mechanics, in a drive to keep costs to a minimum. Let's find out.

Use of the Panasonic L10 as Four Thirds test body

We have chosen to use the Panasonic L10 as our standard test body for Four Thirds lenses purely because it gives the highest numbers in our resolution tests (which we believe is most likely due to it having a relatively weak anti-aliasing filter); this is intended simply to provide the fairest comparison to other manufacturers' systems. The samples gallery contains images taken using various camera bodies (Olympus E-3, Olympus E-510, and Panasonic L-10).

Headline features

  • 28-84mm equivalent focal length range
  • 'Focus by wire' manual focus system
  • Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic dSLRS

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