Announced in June 2011, the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 lens is one of the three Olympus prime lenses for Micro Four Thirds System. The lens has a professional design complete with a light-weight, all-metal construction.The lens bears the MSC designation, which means that it is Movie and Still Compatible.
Design and Build Quality
The Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens has a classic retro look with a prominent Depth-of-Field scale. The lens is compact and light weight, considering that it is a large-aperture wide-angle prime. The lens appears rugged with a metallic finish. We presume, from the cold surface, that the exterior is largely made of metal including the focus ring (unfortunately, we were not at the liberty to verify it with a hammer). The lens is constructed with 11 elements in 8 groups including a DSA (Dual Super Aspherical) element and an ED element (Extra-low Dispersion). It does not have an auto/manual focus button; instead, the focus ring functions as an Auto/Manual switch. It can be switched to manual mode by pulling the focus ring back, which will also reveal the distance scale. It also features a metal lens barrel. The lens weighs approximately 130g. It has an approximate maximum diameter of 56mm, and length of 43mm.
The Olympus 12mm lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 24mm on a Micro Four Thirds body. The wide f/2 aperture allows you to capture images under low-light with higher shutter speeds without worrying too much about camera shake. The narrowest aperture is f/22. The lens focusses as close as 0.2m and provides a maximum magnification of 0.16x (35mm equivalent). It uses a 7-bladed circular diaphragm and has filter size of 46mm (dia). The MSC mechanism enables fast and quiet autofocus with both movies and still images. It moves a single element to focus the lens, unlike in most other lenses that move multiple elements to achieve focus. This precision mechanism make autofocus quiet and fast. The High Refractive index (HR) glass used in the lens helps to reduce spherical aberration, while the ED element is expected to reduce chromatic aberration significantly. The lens surfaces are coated with Olympus’ ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating, which prevents ghosts and flares by eliminating internal reflections.
The lens features a Snapshot Focus mechanism, allowing the focus ring to be used as AF/MF switch as mentioned earlier. This mechanism also shifts the focus point by a specific distance (Olympus has kept this vague in the lens documents), though we are not sure how it helps the user.
The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 is easy to use and comfortable to carry around. The depth of field scale is useful if you are very particular with depth-of-field control. When combined with light Micro Four Thirds camera bodies, the lens is a pleasure to use.
We mounted the Olympus 12mm f/2 lens on a PEN E-P3 body. AF was fast, precise, and so smooth that you do not feel any movement in the lens. The AF operation was absolutely inaudible and it locked on instantaneously to all subjects. Prominent darkening of corners was seen at the widest aperture, with the effect reducing progressively towards narrower apertures. Flare was observed with slight purple fringing in against-the-light images at the widest aperture. The lens produced slight barrel distortion. We are not overly concerned about these slight aberrations since the lens performed very well when used on the field (outside the test environment).
The sweet spot of the lens was found to be f/8, though it was very difficult to determine. All apertures except f/16 and f/22 produced images that were very close in sharpness.
Value for Money
The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 lens retails at an MRP of Rs.44,995. At this price, the lens is very good value for money.
+ Light and easy to carry
+ Compact design
+ Sturdy metal construction
– Slight refinement required in controlling optical aberrations
Design and Build Quality 18/20
Key Features 17/20
Distortion Control 3/5
Darkening of Corners 2/5
Extra Features 4/5
Value for Money 8/10
Grand Total 81/100
The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 is a compact prime lens for landscapes and interiors. Being a feather-light specialist lens, this is a great addition to your kit bag if you have a Micro Four Thirds ILCC and like to travel and trek.