Testing the new Zuiko Pro lenses (Olympus Hellas product presentation and hands-on event)

Testing the new Zuiko Pro lenses (Olympus Hellas product presentation and hands-on event)

Last Wednesday, 27/05,  Zegetron S.A., the new Olympus dealer for Greece, organized a presentation and "hands-on" event for Olympus' newest products. The event was held in a great venue: Hellenic Motor Museum in Athens. An astonishing building in terms of design as well as photographic interest, ideal for such an event.

Mr. Tomas Victoria from Olympus Czech Republic was the speaker, and managed to present both Olympus' philosophy as well as the new products in a very clear and concise fashion.

So, let's have a look at what we've seen and tried. Speaking of new cameras, most interesting was of course the E-M5 mk2, which is starting to gain popularity in the Greek market (check out my initial review of the camera for more). Most interesting though, were the newest lenses of the Zuiko Pro lineup.

Although it's been in the market for a few months now, the 40-150mm f/2.8 (and teleconverter) is a relatively new lens and the first I got my hands on. All lenses were shot with the E-M1.

Everybody knows by now that the 40-150mm is a fabulous piece of photographic equipment, easily on par with any pro level lens out there, and better than many of them. Top build quality, which reflects in field use, great balance (even without the E-M1 grip) and flawless performance, all make up for a truly professional lens. Aided by the IBIS, it can be shot at outrageously low shutter speeds and is sharp as a blade even wide open. I couldn't help but thinking what a great combo it makes, with the E-M1, for photojournalism type work. Really, I believe there is no other photographic combination in this category, offering the mixture of performance, IQ, ease of handling and flexibility.

Here is a small gallery with this lens:

Next up, was one of the stars of the presentation, the new 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro lens. Although I'm not a particularly "wide angle" photographer, I could easily be a convert with such a lens. Build quality is similar to the 40-150mm, giving a sense of robustness and precision. On the camera, it is somewhat bulky, but not that different than, say, the Zuiko 75mm f/1.8. Details like the push back manual focus ring and the customizable Fn button, only help to make it more desirable. It has to be noted that, with the permanent lens-hood, there is currently no option for an add-on filter holder, although we had word from Olympus that they are considering something for the near future.

And then there is the image quality.

The lens displays top distortion-free and flare resistance characteristics (which is crucial for a wide angle) and is very sharp, even at full open aperture. Of course, it focuses almost instantly, as is usual with practically all modern Zuiko lenses. But it's the sharpness, minimal vignetting and low distortions that will make this lens a must for architecture and landscape photographers. What's even more impressive, is the ultra-short focusing distance, which can provide for shallow DoF. And, as can be seen by the samples below (note the wristwatch photo, for instance), the bokeh is excellent for a lens of this kind:

Finally, it was the turn of the most entertaining example of the line-up, the marvelous 8mm f/1.8 fisheye.

Experience with this lens is loads and loads of fun. Because, for starters, it gives you the opportunity to do this to your friends and colleagues:

But wait! This lens is definitely not a toy. Please check out the shallow DoF and rendering of out of focus areas, esp. in the last photo. This is a very serious lens, with really top performance. You see, most fisheyes are f/2.8 or f/3.5 and are shot most of the time stopped down a couple of stops. This way, everything in the Universe is in focus. Rendering a fisheye perspective with shallow DoF gives added creative capabilities and was, up to now, possible with only a couple of lenses on FF systems.

Needless to say, it shares the same high build quality with the other Pro Zuikos, but being the smallest of them, is also the easiest to handle. There are several applications I could use it extensively: concert and performance photography, for one, documentary and travel photography (with a more artistic perspective) and several indoor wide-angle photographic projects. Fisheyes are not that much of a niche product as many people think.

The following samples, give an idea of the capabilities:

Beautiful girls and vintage cars, always the best combination (shot with the 40-150mm f/2.8)

In conclusion, although we didn't have a lot of time, it was certainly quality time we had with the Pro Zuikos. Only one lens remains to be introduced in the Pro line: the 300mm f/4 telephoto. With this, Olympus completes what is the most mature lens lineup among mirrorless systems, with a full line of professional offerings. All Pro lenses are really superb, both in use and as regards the results they are capable of. And, as everyone knows, lenses is what makes or breaks a system. All these lenses are ready to perform even better should Olympus offer a newer higher IQ camera in the medium-term future. Hope to have the opportunity to test all these lenses further, especially in real world conditions, and as soon as this is possible, I'll make sure to report back.

The new dealership also seems committed and eager to promote Olympus in an aggressive and fully professional manner, which raises hopes for the brand in our market. We wish them best of success and hope to see fruit of their determination as soon as possible.

Special thanks go to Mr. Sakis Ageridis, product development manager for Zegetron, as well as all the people from the company, for their helpful, polite and professional attitude; Markos Stavrinakis for their shop's continuing support, and, of course, my friends and colleagues, Nikos Vitsilakis and Dimitris Kaioglou.

Especially for letting me turn them into cartoon characters.


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