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Olympus M Zuiko digital camera lenses

Small lenses with enormous capabilities

Olympus M Zuiko digital camera lenses

November 06 2010
Jonathan Margolis

Look at these two new camera lenses from Olympus. The smaller is a 9mm to 18mm wide angle, which equates to an 18mm to 36mm lens if you are from the age of the Nikon F and Pentax Spotmatic. That takes it from a near fish-eye to the kind of modest wide angle favoured by Cartier-Bresson. The second lens is a 14mm to 150mm. In old money again, that covers from a severely wide 28mm to a properly telephoto 300mm.

To give you an idea of how small these lenses are, I’ve shown them with my own Olympus E-P2 body, which I reviewed in March. If you still can’t quite grasp their compactness, the 9mm to 18mm is 56.5mm in diameter, 49.5mm in length and weighs 155g, while the 14mm to 150mm is 63.5mm across, 83mm long and weighs 290g. Both become rather longer in use, but I can fit them both, plus two E-P2 bodies, into a winter coat’s pockets with room to spare or, in warmer weather, into a tiny camera bag.

Now, I won’t need to explain to photography buffs how much pocket or bag you would need for two professional-quality camera bodies plus enough glassware to cover from 18mm to 300mm focal lengths. Whether for a modern DSLR or an old-fashioned film camera, we would be talking an enormous heap of kit weighing several kilos. Yet two E-P2s plus these lenses – an outfit with which you could tackle almost any photographic task, amateur or pro, and, remember, take HD video too – weigh a total of 1.12kg.

When Olympus and Panasonic started the trend towards mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC) not much more than a year ago, they weren’t taken as seriously as they might have been because of the lack of lenses. Now that other manufacturers are piling in with equally brilliant (although less beautiful, at least to a traditionalist like moi) MILC cameras, the lenses are starting to appear in profusion. And suddenly, entire camera systems that can nestle in a Barbour look like a proper option for the moderately to deeply serious snappeur.

If you’re not taken by the retro Olympus and its small but growing lens range, look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, Sony’s NEX series or the Samsung NX-10. All have growing forests of lensware, some of which can be used on bodies of different brands. This breed of camera is getting more interesting by the month.

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