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Review of the Olympus Zuiko 12-200mm, the all-purpose super zoom of the Micro 4/3

Guest Ronald Van Wadeinkle

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Guest Ronald Van Wadeinkle

Review of the Olympus Zuiko 12-200mm - In photos, it's all about balance and any strength can become a weakness. And vice versa. Often criticized (a little wrongly) for its "small" Micro 4/3 sensor, Olympus takes advantage of these reduced dimensions to offer unique optics, prohibited by large full-frame type sensors (24 x 36 mm) from Sony, Canon and other Nikon. The latest offshoot of Olympus is a Swiss Army knife zoom, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f / 3.5-6.3. An optic that offers an optical range from 24 mm to 400 mm (in 35 mm equivalent). A zoom ratio of x16.6 which allows you to shoot landscapes as well as details. All with a nice macro potential and a featherweight of 455 grams.


Construction and openness

Designed around plastic shells, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f / 3.5-6.3 is lighter, but does not offer the “premium” metal feel of the 12-100mm F / 4 Pro. However, Olympus guarantees the optics as "tropicalized" and has selected high-end plastics for their resistance. This is undoubtedly not pure boastfulness, Olympus cases and optics being recognized for their robustness.

Who says zoom, says concessions: for an x16.6 zoom to remain light and not too expensive, you have to cut corners. The first element on which an optician can play is obviously the aperture: opening at f / 3.5 in wide-angle, this travel zoom is really not very bright at the end of the travel - f / 6.3 - which requires to go up quickly in ISO to maintain the sharpness in this equivalent 400 mm. If this is quite acceptable given the balance of the optics, it should however be noted that the closure of the diaphragm slides quickly: we reach f / 5.0 at 30 mm (eq. 60 mm) and f / 5.6 at 45 mm (eq. 90 mm).

But its main flaw, in our opinion, is the drop in optical quality from 100 mm (200 mm equivalent). What starts its interest not compared to its big brother the 12-100 mm f / 4 PRO (to read further).


Good at wide-angle, this lens suffers at the end of the zoom

At wide-angle, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f / 3.5-6.3 delivers very good results. Supported by the mechanical stabilization of the OM-D EM1X , OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Pen E-P5 with which we tested it, its f / 3.5 aperture allows you to shoot in all situations at 12 mm - 24 equivalent mm. Once you start zooming in, the brightness drops… and so does the quality.

Up to 100 mm (eq. 200 mm), this is maintained in the center while degrading at the edges. Beyond this limit, the dive drops seriously. And digital noise is increasing drastically: animal uses are reduced to immobile or slow subjects, and to daylight scenes. 

Considering the sum of the constraints (weight, price, etc.), Olympus did a good job. The problem being that Olympus has already done a great job with another lens: the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f / 4 IS PRO.


Suitable for small enclosures

The quality of the grip of a device is a question of balance and the 110 grams less of this 12-200 mm gives it the advantage over its big brother the Zuiko Pro 12-100 mm f / 4 . Not only in terms of general portability (that's always less in the bag), but also in terms of balance, especially with small cases.

If the delta of a hundred grams has little impact if you couple it with a large case such as the OM-D E-M1X which weighs 990 g, it makes the difference on a smaller case. like the Olympus Pen E-P5. As long as the latter is equipped with a small grip (here a Gariz XS-CHEP5), everything remains sufficiently balanced to be manageable. Not bad for a 922 g duo (case, battery, SD card, optics and lens hood).

With the Pen E-P5 we are, in our opinion, at the maximum weight limit that a case of such a format supports: below the 450 g of our Pen E-P5, the combo will be clearly unbalanced with the 380 g (with battery) of the Pen E-PL9.


Facing the Olympus 12-100mm f / 4

The worst enemy of this 12-200mm is, as we said, its big brother the 12-100mm f / 4, a zoom belonging to the higher “Zuiko Pro” range. Slightly heavier, 30% more expensive and zooming less, the 12-100mm f / 4 really hurts our super zoom. On the one hand, the difference in weight is not huge, but above all the Zuiko Pro 12-100 mm is brighter - and at constant aperture - while its optical quality is shown to be better. Much better even: at all focal ranges, the Zuiko Pro 12-100mm f / 4 largely dominates our 12-200mm. The zoom power argument is certainly to the latter's advantage, but the image quality of the 12-100 f / 4 is so good that the crop is also good (with a loss of definition, but no pique).

With the weight, for the smallest cameras, the main strength of the 12-200 mm compared to 12-100 mm f / 4 PRO is therefore its price: $ 363 cheaper, or $ 1088. But if you have the budget for the 12-100mm f / 4 Pro, go for it, it's a good cut above. The other enemy of the 12-200 is another Olympus lens, the ED 14-150mm 1 / 4.0-5.6 II, even lighter (300g), $ 423 cheaper and brighter at 150mm.



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Guest Islam Marevki

In the all-rounder category, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f / 3.5-6.3 is the one that offers the largest optical range in the Micro 4/3 world. If it is not very bright, its optical quality is very correct given the large gap it makes between the wide-angle and the telephoto. Perfectly suited to amateurs of optics to do everything on compact cameras, it has the weakness of not being as good optically as the 12-100 mm f / 4 nor as light and affordable as the 14-140 mm, two optics they also signed Olympus. But its “in between” character makes it an excellent compromise.

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Guest Alex Doumbia

Designed for use with stabilized Micro 4/3 sensor cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f / 3.5-6.3 zoom offers an optical range from 24mm to 400mm telephoto. Enough to produce good quality shots ... as long as there is light!

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