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The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS Pro

Olympus Digital Camera
The Olympus 12-100mm F4 is pretty much up for anything. Like a good Port Douglas sunrise.
ISO 200 | 1/6400 sec | F4 | 47mm
Test and Review Report
OLYMPUS DIGThe Olympus 12-100mm F4 is pretty much up for anything. Like a good Port Douglas sunrise.
ISO 200 | 1/6400 sec | F4 | 47mmITAL CAMERA

Back in 2018, which feels more like two decades ago instead of two years, I took the Olympus 12-100mm F4 on a vacation to Australia for three weeks as my main lens alongside a single bright prime. Mounted on an OM-D E-M1 Mark II, it seemed to me to fit the bill of a reasonably sized solution for just about everything I’d want to photograph. Plus, I knew from prior experience that the Olympus kit would stand up to just about anything mother nature could throw at me.

Full disclosure: I organized and paid for this personal trip on my own, and the choice to bring Olympus gear was my own as well.

All images edited in Adobe Camera Raw 13 with adjustments limited to white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, white and black levels. Sharpening at ACR defaults; noise reduction at 25 luminance, 25 chroma.


Handling and design

The M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 joins Olympus’ Pro lineup of prime and zoom lenses, offering top-notch build quality, with claims of dust-proof, splash-proof and freeze-proof construction. It has a manual focus clutch mechanism, giving the feel and very nearly the response of a mechanical focus ring, even though it’s technically a focus-by-wire system. The large, metal-ribbed zoom ring has just the right amount of resistance to it.

There’s no denying it, hold this lens in your hand and it just oozes quality. Nearly everything is metal, though even the plastic IS switch on the side of the lens doesn’t so much ‘snap’ into place as ‘thunk’.

What you get in exchange for this feeling of solidity, though, is some heft. At 561g (1.24 lb), it’s very nearly the weight of an Olympus E-M1 Mark III, and significantly weightier than the E-M5 Mark III and E-M10 Mark IV. That said, the larger grips of the E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X mean it actually balances quite well on those bodies.

Autofocus and stabilization

Autofocus on the Olympus 12-100mm F4 is extremely quick, whether you’re shooting close-up or far away. The bokeh isn’t half-bad either, considering that’s fencing in the background. A more in-depth look at bokeh is coming up later in the review.
ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | F4 | 100mm

The Olympus 12-100mm F4 racks through the entirety of its focus range really quickly. It’s perhaps not quite as quick as some Panasonic lenses designed to take advantage of those cameras’ Depth-from-Defocus technology, but it’s more than fast enough for any wildlife I encountered, both inside and outside the Australia zoo.

The rapid AF speeds also make it easy to use the lens when you’re near minimum focus distance, allowing for easy capture of close-ups without necessarily needing to resort to manual focus.

The stabilization promised by the combination of the 12-100mm F4 and the E-M1 Mark II was part of the reason I could see past this lens’ F4 maximum aperture for general use. It wouldn’t be great for shooting fast action in failing light, but it was perfect for images like this travel snap of a crazy-colored hostel under warm sunset light.

And really, the nice thing about the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 is that unless you need to stop down for depth of field or another reason, the lens is more than sharp enough to just shoot wide-open all the time.

Image quality

Things stay nice and sharp even at 200mm (equiv.), and with a relatively close distance to the subject.
ISO 200 | 1/200 sec | F4 | 100mm

Olympus’ line of Pro lenses has a history of being renowned for their great image quality, and the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 is a strong performer in most respects.

Sharpness

The lens maintains a great level of sharpness throughout the zoom range, and it doesn’t get hazy or fall apart if you’re close to your subjects. So while there were times on this trip where I stopped the lens down, it was usually to get more depth of field, not to increase sharpness.

On the wider end of things, the 12-100mm is more than a match for the 20MP sensor in the E-M1 Mark II even at F4. This is great news for users that might be leery of a Micro Four Thirds lens that ‘only’ opens up to F4, as well as those users that want to take advantage of the high-res shot mode.


Conclusion

What we likeWhat we don’t
Sharp across the zoom rangeBuilt like a tank, weather-sealedResistant to flareIncredibly versatile rangeVery good stabilizationLow distortionBokeh can be busySunstars aren’t the bestSome CA present, even with built-in correctionsHeavyExpensive

And so, as happens occasionally on this site, I will be forced to eat some of my previously published words. I’ve said before that I don’t need a zoom on vacation. And I said I like cameras that are small and light, maybe even pocketable. Well, it turns out that I may have become a convert to zooms, depending on the destination.


The full report was published by DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY PREVIEW


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