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Old Aug 28, 2012, 8:58 PM   #1
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Default The Perplexing 12-50mm M. Zuiko...

I have often been disappointed in this lens, having called it.....more than once.....a [email protected] lens.

Most of you know I purchased this lens shortly after it came out, at full retail price, not the $300 you can get it buying it coupled with the E-M5, and used it quite a bit with my Pens prior to buying the E-M5.
Often the images are just not good looking, with bad, I would even call them blurry edges. More than once I've taken this lens out, came home, looked at the files on my computer and back in the closet it went for another few weeks.

Then, I started thinking about the times it has worked well and what, if anything might possibly have been in common, and all I could even consider was, the WAY I used it, which about 90% of the time has been in manual zoom to avoid using the battery power.

Well, I have started using it again, but 100% of the time in electronic zoom mode. I don't know if it's the way the elements are shifted in electronic zoom mode or what, but image quality has been excellent since I started using it this way all the time. If you ever happen to pick up a body coupled with this lens, give it a try. Here are some images this evening I shot over in Lee Park, where I knew I could find late afternoon mixed light with both deep shadows, hard to control highlights, as well as LOTS of trees and tons of detail to try and resolve.

I spot metered the sunshine lit portion of the rock bridge in this image and raised the heck out of the shadows in Adobe Camera RAW. The sensor in the E-M5 is outstanding..







At this point, I have no complaints about sharpness or anything else using this lens..





Shot through a window in a conference room in our office, after 5pm and looking west, so this is a tough exposure to deal with that time of the day..







I don't think I could get any better sharpness across the frame than what I am seeing here at 45mm..

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Old Aug 28, 2012, 9:18 PM   #2
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In the past you have posted shots with this lens that have been quite sharp, and yet you still find it not up to snuff at times. These are back in the sharp camp. Interesting that the lens appears to perform better in the "electric" zoom mode, versus the manual zoom mode. Love the juxtaposition in the second shot
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Old Aug 28, 2012, 9:46 PM   #3
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Yes, the older building is a reproduction of Robert E. Lee's home, Arlington, and a high-end condo in the background beyond the park.

Believe me, in between the times I have posted other files from this lens, I have shot a lot of really, really baaaaaad looking images with this lens. I just dont post 'em anywhere that people can see them. This ones' typical. Click on it and take a look at a bigger version. It makes me cringe just looking at it..


Last edited by Greg Chappell; Aug 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM.
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Old Aug 28, 2012, 11:59 PM   #4
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Oh. Just looked at the full size image and wow, what is going on. To my late night eyes the image seems to go in and out of focus/clarity. The central lamp is nice and clear, yet the one to the left is drifting out. Top left and right regions almost look smeared. Fascinating. Can't blame you for wanting to leave this lens behind.

I've seen something similar at times with my M40-150mm where the focus fails on the left side of the image. The following image falls apart just to the left of the palace as one goes up into the elevated rose garden. It is just in this one area that the sharpness disappears. The other shots from that location at the full 150mm are fine.
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Old Aug 29, 2012, 8:47 AM   #5
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Boy, I can see what you are saying, even at that size file.

That other image I posted does not even look like an image that could have been taken with the same lens, does it! And I have a whole pile of files I have captured using the 12-50 that look exactly like that. Frustrating.

When you go into manual zoom mode, the best term I can think of to use as to how it operates is "scratchy". It has a grinding-type, not-smooth-at-all, loose action to it. Contrasting that is the electronic zoom, which is really smooth. It just "feels" like a better lens, and seems to operate optically (at least mine does) better when used with the electronic zoom.

The light was gorgeous this morning so I stopped back in the area where I took that image a while back and shot several images that look, on the back LCD, much, much better.

I had a four-thirds 40-150 that came with an E520 DSLR outfit a few years ago and it suffered from decentering where one side of the image never was really sharp, and I believe the 40-150 M. Zuiko I now have suffers from some amount of decentering too. Not nearly as bad, but bad enough I'm kind-of turned off to using it these days. That and the 75-300 I have is so sharp and still pretty darn lightweight.

I'm just glad I think I've found the right way to use the 12-50. Very versatile set of focal lengths and pretty darn good optically.....now that I think I see how I need to use it. It's still not perfect in the corners at 12mm, but compared to capturing images before that made you wonder if your eyes couldn't focus right, it's a revelation.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Aug 29, 2012 at 9:51 AM.
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Old Aug 29, 2012, 11:18 AM   #6
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good lesson about finding the best way to use a lens. When I first purchased the 14mm f2.5 Panasonic pancake I had trouble figuring out what it was good for. I took shots with it that weren't soft or anything but just didn't do much for me. After shooting a bunch of stuff and found that landscapes and color were it's high points. By the time I got to the grand canyon (for which I bought the lens) I knew how and when to use it to achieve what I wanted.

That said I am really getting turned off of non-telephoto zooms. The primes, even manual focus legacy ones just perform so much better most of the time. I think I am going to sell my kit lens and use the funds towards a prime.
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Old Aug 29, 2012, 1:00 PM   #7
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That's why I've been using the 12, 25, 45 combination so much. The three different Olympus 14-42 kit lenses I've tried never did much for me, this 12-50 definitely was not the answer the way I was using it and I don't care to be using a superzoom like the Olympus 14-150mm or the Panasonic 14-140mm.

The only draw-back is, the number of lens changes as I often seem to have the "wrong" lens mounted. Assuming I see the same type image quality going forward, I see myself using the 12-50 quite a bit unless I am going somewhere I know I need more speed.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Aug 29, 2012 at 3:28 PM.
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Old Aug 30, 2012, 9:57 AM   #8
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Playing around with it some more, yes, my 12-50 does really seem optically to work consistently better with electronic zoom enabled. It is still weak optically at 12mm, the one focal length that really should sell the lens compared to the other kit lenses. Once you get to the 14-15mm setting it's great across the field of view, but 12mm still looks pretty weak well in from the corners, particularly with foliage where it borders on downright blurry. Hard to really like when I compare it to files I capture with the 12mm f2 M. Zuiko.

Most of the files I captured a couple of nights ago were in the 15-45mm range, which is definitely the strong part of the range. No doubt I will continue the like/dislike opinion I have about this lens. Other than optically, there's every reason to prefer using the 12-50. The zoom convenience is an obvious thing, and the extra fn button on the lens is really cool, but from a picture-taking standpoint, the 12, 25, 45 prime setup is going to remain my primary outfit. I may just complete my "Micro 12-60 SWD replacement program" some time the next few months by picking up the 60mm f2.8 and add native macro ability to my outfit, giving me the leeway to rid myself of one of my last four-thirds lens, the 50mm f2.

Oh, and Arlington Camera left a voice mail on my home phone last night. They have an HLD-6 in the store, just waiting for me to pick it up .

A couple of more images captured with the 12-50..

At 16mm, which is a strong focal length optically..



Here's a 12mm shot with an architecture subject where the weakness is not as evident and not really important based on where you really see the weakness in this file, which is on the left-hand side of the image. There were some folliage shots I chose not to upload last night that were simply not usable the sides were so blurry. This is "OK" for what it is, but I hate to even have to think about whether what I am shooting is going to be a weak subject or OK for the optical ability of the lens. If it requires 12mm, I just want to be able to shoot it and know it going to turn out well, like I always could with the 12-60 SWD zoom and like I can today with the 12mm f2 on my E-M5.



Back in the mid-range where the lens performs very well..




Last edited by Greg Chappell; Aug 30, 2012 at 1:03 PM.
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Old Aug 31, 2012, 2:41 PM   #9
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Most of the pics aren't too bad as far as sharpness but I would think for what the lens sells for they would be a tad sharper especially considering the sharpness of the 35mm macro for less money. I would think manual and electronic zoom should produce the same results. If not, what good is it if you have to manual zoom for every shot....not that it's a big deal, but.....You're good at what you do so I can just imagine the results I would get. No 12-50 for me.
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Old Sep 1, 2012, 4:43 AM   #10
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As a one time owner of a 12-60mm SWD lens, I can appreciate the expectation that you initially had for this lens and subsequent disappointment. I would have hoped that Olympus would have released a lens as good as the 12-60mm SWD.

As for your 50mm f2 macro, if and when you decide to part with it, I would love the chance to buy it.

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