Olympus Digital Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 ED SWD
Lens Reviews - (Micro-)Four-Thirds
Monday, 14 September 2009 17:19


The Olympus Digital Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 ED SWD is a pro grade tele zoom lens for four-thirds DSLRs. The principal optical design has been inherited from its predecessor but Olympus improved the AF by using its new SWD ("Supersonic Wave Drive") which is supposed to deliver fast and silent AF operations similar to Canon's USM or Nikon Silent Wave AF.

The build quality of the Zuiko is exceptional - it is based on a combination of high grade plastic and metal parts. Typical for designated Olympus "pro" lenses it features a sealing against dust and moisture. As you can observe in the product shot above the lens expends when zooming towards the tele end of the range. The size increases quite a bit and with an attached lens hood it's quite a sight. The lens features an internal focusing mechanism so the front element does not rotate. The mechanically linked focus ring operates smooth and precise. The weight of the inner lens tube is obvious during zooming but there aren't really any friction problems when turning the zoom ring.

As mentioned the Zuiko relies on Olympus' new SWD AF for focusing. Typical for such ultrasonic-driven motors the AF operations are virtually silent. Usually (although not always) there's also a AF speed advantage compared to conventional AF motors - this is certainly true compared to its predecessor. In absolute terms the AF is very good but not quite as fast as on the Zuiko 12-60mm and about comparable to competing products. Full time manual focusing in single AF mode is possible.

As you may notice it's a comparatively fast lens with respect to its max. aperture of f/2.8-3.5. However, please note that this applies to its light gathering characteristic. In terms of depth-of-field it behaves like a "f/5.6-7" full format (35mm lens). Let's do a brief cross format comparison between lenses of similar "output" specs:

Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 USM L IS Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED SDM
format Four-Thirds Full Format (Canon EF) APS-C (Pentax K)
equivalent focal length "100-400mm"
(50-200mm, 2x crop factor)
100-400mm "92-383mm"
(60-250mm, APS-C crop factor)
apertures in terms of speed (light gathering) f/2.8-3.5 f/4.5-5.6 f/4
equivalent apertures based on achievable depth of field "f/5.6-7" f/4.5-5.6 "f/5.6"
size 86.5x157mm 92x189mm 82x167.5mm
weight 995g 1360g 1040g
price 1150€ 1450€ 1150€

In this scope the Zuiko has an size and weight advantage over the Canon lens although they're not worlds apart. Compared to the native APS-C competitor (Pentax) there're only marginal differences all-in-all. Price-wise they're also quite close despite the smaller glass used in the Olympus & Pentax lens. At the end of the day the quality of construction imposes some limitations here. So in this lens class there's a bit of truth in the Olympus' statement that 4/3 products are smaller and lighter but it's not as pronounced as the differences in glass & sensor size may suggest.

Equiv. focal length100-400 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/5.6-f/7 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction16 elements in 15 groups inc. 3x ED elements
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance1.2 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.8)
Dimensions87 x 157 mm
Weight995 g
Filter size67 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodbarrel-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other featuresdust & moisture sealing, detachable tripod mount