Olympus announce firmware update for Pen cameras giving faster AF, plus a couple of reviews of the new Olympus 9-18mm lens

Written by Gary on April 16th, 2010

The Olympus Pen firmware updates for E-P1, E-P2 and E-PL1 has the following improvements:

  • faster AF speed in still image taking (with all lenses)
  • for E-P1 and E-P2, faster AF tracing capacity in C-AF of movie taking (M.ZUIKO 9-18mm & 14-150mm) to same level of the E-PL1
  • When using the VF-2, you get the flexibility to display the MENU and played image on the LCD (instead of on the VF-2)
  • Flexibility to display the REC-VIEW on the LCD (instead of on the VF-2)
  • Frame rate adjustment of the live view when used with the new M.ZUIKO 9-18mm
  • minor bug fixes

The much awaited super wide angle zoom Olympus M.ZD ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras has been reviewed by dpreview and also by Douglas Brown who also has had opportunity to use the new firmware update and comment on the improved AF speed.

In essence, this lens is a little beauty – it is sharp, flare resistant, almost silent but fast AF so that AF during video will not be heard on the video, and thanks to its collapsing design, it is the only lens to cover 18-36mm focal length range (in 35mm camera terms) which will fit in your pocket, and the camera-lens combination is MUCH smaller than an equivalent Four Thirds lens on a Four Thirds dSLR such as an Olympus E620.

As with all lenses, there are compromises Olympus had to make to keep the price and size down:

  • it is soft in the corners but sharpens significantly 1 stop down at f/5.6
  • it is not a constant f/4 lens as is the much more expensive Panasonic 7-14mm micro four thirds lens
  • it has significant red/cyan CA towards the edges at all apertures although this can be corrected in post-processing
  • it has mild barrel distortion in the 9-14mm range

It’s RRP is $US700 and other specs include:

  • 1ED element, 1 HR glass element, 2 dual surface aspherical elements, and 1 aspherical element
  • 7 rounded diaphragm blades (although ability to blur the background is not a priority with a wide zoom such as this)
  • minimum focus 0.25m giving 0.1x macro
  • 52mm filter thread so you can use your Cokin gradient filters for landscape work unlike the 7-14mm lenses
  • front element does not rotate so use of polarising filters is not an issue
  • weighs only 155g making it an ideal travel lens
  • 56.5 mm diameter x 49.5 mm length (retracted) (2.2 x 1.9 in)
  • and of course, on Olympus cameras it is image stabilised via the body – no Canon or Nikon super wide zoom has IS.

For comparison:

  • Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 pro lens weighs 780g and cannot use filters
  • Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 micro four thirds lens is not much bigger but more expensive and cannot use filters
  • Olympus ZD 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED lens weighs 280g and uses 72mm filters and will not AF as fast or as silently
  • Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED DX (18-36mm) uses 77mm filters
  • Tokina 12-24mm f/4 DX for Nikon or Canon (18-36mm on DX) uses 77mm filters, weighs 570g and is 84mm x 89.5mm
  • Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC for APS-C or DX (12-24mm on DX) is 106mm x 75mm
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 (16-35mm) uses 77mm filter, weighs 385g
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G are bigger, heavier and more expensive again but the Nikon in particular, has superb image quality and they are both f/2.8 lenses.

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