Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 ED - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - (Micro-)Four-Thirds

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2011


The Micro-Four-Thirds (MFT) system is clearly the most mature micro-camera system on the market. Consumers can choose between a large variety of cameras as well as lenses. However, to date MFT covered primarily the budget to mid-class market segment only - possibly because the high-end approach of Four-Thirds (classic) failed so both Panasonic as well as Olympus were probably a little shy of entering again. The Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 created some buzz though so there is a market here after all. Olympus has now finally released its first professional grade MFT product - the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 ED. They've thrown in a couple of new technologies both in terms of optics and mechanical implementation. The pricing is quite brave with an MSRP of 800EUR/US$ although the usual street price is generally lower, of course.

The field-of-view is equivalent to 24mm in full format terms so it's a moderate ultra-wide angle lens. The max. aperture of f/2 is certainly fast with respect to light gathering but don't expect wonders in terms of depth-of-field - in the MFT scope you are are effectively "loosing" about two f-stops so it "behaves" like a "24mm f/4" here. This is still sufficient for quite shallow depth-of-field images if you move close enough though.

The Zuiko is absolutely beautifully crafted based on a metal lens body and a metal mount but no (explicit) weather protection. The physical length of the lens remains constant regardless of the focus operation. Thanks to an IF (internal focus) the front element does not rotate. A square-shaped metal lens hood is only optional ... which we think is either bizarre or insulting regarding the already high price of the lens.
The 12mm f/2 ED is the first Olympus lens featuring "ZERO" (ZUIKO Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating which is supposed to produce 50% less internal reflection than previous coating technologies and based on our field tests we'd concur that it is quite resistant against flare.

The AF motor of the Zuiko has been optimized for movies ("Movie-Still-Compatible" or MSC) resulting in fast and silent AF operations. Olympus also incorporated a new manual focusing system called "snapshot focus" which e.g. is similar to Tokina's "focus clutch" mechanism. You have to push/pull the focus ring to engage/disengage AF/MF which works very well. Mechanically it feels as if there's a direct linkage between focus ring and the focus gears. However, during the lab tests it became quite obvious that the focus ring does still trigger a "focus-by-wire" mechanism. The effective focus response is therefore somewhat more coarse than on conventional lenses but from a real-world perspective this is rather meaningless.

Equiv. focal length24 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/4 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction11 elements in 8 groups inc. 1xDSA, 1x aspherical, 1xED and 1 Super-HR element
Number of aperture blades7 (circular)
min. focus distance0.2 m (max. object magnification 1:12.5)
Dimensions43 x 56 mm
Weight130 g
Filter size46 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodoptional, square shaped-
Other featuresZERO coating, snapshop focus mechanism, MSC AF

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