With the introduction in December 2013, the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42 mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ was, according to Olympus, the flattest pancake zoom lens in the world. I think that is still the case. This small standard zoom lens is frequently sold for a small added price with an Olympus OM-D or PEN camera. The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ distinguishes itself from most other kit lenses with a silent electro-magnetic zoom, so that this lens can also be used well for video recordings. The EZ zoom can even be operated remotely with a smartphone.
This micro-43 lens can be used on Panasonic and Olympus cameras. The combination with Olympus camera bodies is optimal because you can then also use the very effective in-body image stabilization (IBIS) of Olympus. For the testing of the standard kit lenses, we find small differences in image quality, which for the target audience—primarily photographers who are purchasing their first system camera—are probably not that important. For that, the good image stabilization is a more important plus, so that you still make shots without motion blur in low light. Even so, there is another special reason why you could choose this small zoom lens.
Compact and light? Olympus 14-42 mm EZ Pancake
Build and auto focus
This is a very light lens, with a weight of less than 1 ounce. It is solidly built, has a metal mount and a miniscule (37 mm) filter mount. The Olympus 14-42 mm EZ is available in two colors (black and silver). It is a pancake lens, which means that the lens is very compact. But it is also a telescopic lens: before use, the lens first has to extend, so that it becomes a bit longer. There are no buttons on the lens: turning the image stabilization on or off and switching between manual and auto focus you do on the camera body.
This zoom lens uses an electro-magnetic zoom: with the zoom ring that is closest to the camera body, you make a movement to the left or right in order to change the focal length. If you again move the ring to the middle, the zooming stops. It takes some getting used to for those who are accustomed to continuing to turn a zoom ring. For video, it produces a great zoom movement. AF is very fast and accurate. The focus ring with which you can focus manually is very narrow.
3x zoom range: The field of view—what you can see on the photo—runs from wide angle at 14 mm (left) to medium telephoto at 42 mm (right). This is a very popular zoom range for various designs, from landscape to portrait. That makes this kit lens a suitable addition with the purchase of an Olympus camera. The biggest enlargement that you can achieve with this lens—converted to a camera with a full-frame sensor—is nearly 0.5. That means that you can also take great close-up shots with this zoom lens.
Vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberration
Both the RAW files that you open in Lightroom or Photoshop and the jpg files that you store in the camera will be automatically corrected for lens errors. Only at the shortest focal length are both vignetting and 0.8% barrel-shaped distortion still visible. The greater the glass surface, the less vignetting you have in the corners. The compact size of this lens means that a bit of vignetting remains at all apertures, as the Imatest results show. You will not be bothered by it in practice, because it is about half a stop. Chromatic aberration—colored edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image—is automatically corrected. For the target audience of this lens—photographers who are making the switch from smartphone or compact camera to an extremely compact system camera—all the corrections suffice perfectly.
Image stabilization on an Olympus camera
The darker it becomes, the longer the shutter time that the camera has to choose for a well-exposed shot. If the camera is not on a tripod, the chance of blurred photos is greater than at a longer shutter time. That can be solved with a bright lens (<f/2.8), but that is an expensive solution. With image stabilization, the movement that the camera makes during the shot is corrected at lightning speed, so that even at longer shutter times you get a sharp picture (unless the subject makes a sudden movement, of course). Whether a camera brand chooses in-body image stabilization, like Olympus and Sony, or in-lens image stabilization, we always show our test results with the lens tests. The Olympus 14-42 mm has no built-in image stabilization, but all Olympus cameras do. And that does not only work well for taking photos, but also for making video recordings. Because most Panasonic cameras do not have built-in image stabilization, you do not have image stabilization with this zoom on a Panasonic camera.
The highest sharpness will in general be reached after stopping down 1 to 2 stops. Above you see a partial enlargement of the practice shot shown here. In order to demonstrate the difference in sharpness between shots made at full aperture and after stopping down two stops (move your mouse over the shot above), we had to enormously enlarge the partial enlargement. They are differences that can keep pixel peepers awake, but they will be largely irrelevant for many photographers: you only see them at very big enlargements. The same applies for the picture below, in which an enlargement at 100% is shown of the sharpness in the corners at a focal length of 14 mm (left) and 25 mm (right). When you see the enlargements next to each other, you see the differences and you might want a more expensive lens. If you just take regular vacation pictures with it, then most photographers will be satisfied with it.
In our list of reviews, the image quality of lenses is assessed in the same way, regardless of the size of the sensor. Micro-43 cameras have a bit different ratio (4:3) than traditional SLR cameras (2:3). Resolution measurements count the number of lines per image height and because that ratio is more favorable for a lens on a micro-43 camera, a micro-43 lens would be benefitted.
The MTF50 is tested by setting the image ratio of the test camera to 2:3, so that the measurements can be directly compared with the measurement results of lenses on a camera with an APS-C or full-frame sensor. If you use the camera in the standard ratio of 4:3, the number of lines per image height is higher.
Winner: the automatic lens cap
As an optional accessory, a lens cap is for sale that automatically opens and closes when you turn on the camera. I think this is the ideal lens cap: it protects when it is needed, is not in the way if you want to take a quick shot (also see the video: The ideal lens cap, in which a professional photographer demonstrates how bothersome a regular lens cap can be), and you will also never lose this ideal lens cap. This lens cap is really a unique plus relative to all other brands, and it significantly increases the ease of use and the enjoyment that you have in photographing.
CLICK HERE to buy this lens cap (or something else). Then you help us to make CameraStuffReview possible.
Conclusion Olympus 14-42 mm EZ review with OM-D E-M1
- Sharpness starting at full aperture
- Silent and fast AF
- Silent, electronic zoom for video
- Compact and light
- Perfect image stabilization on Olympus camera
- Optional ideal lens cap
- First has to be extended before you can take a picture
- Less suitable for manual zooming
- No built-in image stabilization (for cameras without IBIS)
In terms of price/quality ratio, kit lenses like the Olympus 14-42 mm EZ are tough to beat
Experienced photographers are sometimes a bit dismissive about inexpensive kit lenses that you can buy with the purchase of a camera for an attractively low amount. Even so, the image quality of these lenses is quite good, and the ease of use is even very good. Focusing is fast and precise.
There are multiple compact system cameras for sale, but the lens usually means that the camera still won’t fit in a jacket pocket. That is different with this pancake lens from Olympus: together with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 II or an Olympus PEN-F, it fits perfectly. You therefore take your system camera along with you more often and you ultimately have more great shots that clearly beat out your smartphone as far as image quality is concerned.
Thanks to the good image stabilization and the electro-magnetic zoom, you can make a video just as easily, and you can even operate the zoom remotely with your smartphone. The optional lens cap that automatically opens and closes when turning the camera on and off is a unique plus. You definitely ought to buy that as well.