Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm verdict
The Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm is quite simply one of the best quality zoom lenses we’ve tested to date. Its optical performance is superb, delivering very sharp results across the frame at all focal lengths. The SWD auto-focusing is very quick and quiet, and unlike the motor-assisted manual focusing of most Four Thirds lenses, the mechanically-linked system here feels tactile and responsive. The lens itself is well-built, dust and splash-proof, while its flexible 5x range and bright f2.8-4 aperture will satisfy most photographers for day-to-day use.
In fact it’s quite hard to think of any downsides to this lens. In our optical tests there was some geometric distortion, but no more than you’d find with comparable ranges from other manufacturers. Indeed it delivered lower distortion and vignetting than most premium general-purpose lenses we’ve tested including the Sony Carl Zeiss DT 16-80mm and the Canon EF 24-105mm (the latter tested on both full-frame and cropped bodies). The Olympus lens may cost about 20% more than the Sony, but is about 15% cheaper than the Canon, while beating both models on focal ratio; (although to be fair, the Canon does have built-in IS and is corrected for a larger frame).
Physically you could argue the Olympus 12-60mm is best-matched to the larger Four Thirds bodies like the E-3. It’s acceptable on the E-5xx series, but arguably too big for the smallest E-4xx series where it feels front heavy. You should also beware of the lens barrel casting a shadow with the popup flashes on the smaller bodies when zoomed-out – see our Features page for an example taken with the E-420 – although to be fair this equally affects other larger non-kit lenses on most bodies. Like all bigger lenses, you really should try it for yourself on your body to see if it’s a good match in terms of size, weight and balance.
We should also mention this lens, like all Olympus models, does not feature built-in optical stabilisation. So if you want anti-shake with it, you’ll need a stabilised body, like the E-510, E-520 or E-3.
So should you buy it? If you have either the 14-45mm or 14-42mm kit lens and want something superior for general use then the 12-60mm represents a significant upgrade in every respect, although again beware of the barrel casting shadows from the popup flash of smaller bodies.
If you already own the popular 14-54mm, you’ll enjoy a slightly wider and longer range, along with SWD auto-focusing. The only other lens higher-end owners might want to consider is the Olympus ED 14-35mm f2.0 SWD which might have a shorter range, but also boasts SWD focusing and a constant f2.0 aperture.
Ultimately like the Zuiko Digital 7-14mm, the 12-60mm is another lens which makes you want to buy into the Four Thirds system. It simply out-performs equivalent lenses from rival manufacturers to become the best quality general-purpose zoom we’ve tested. Suffice it to say it comes Highly Recommended and should be on the top of the list of any Four Thirds owner who wants a top-notch day-to-day lens. Owners of rival systems can only look on in envy.
(relative to other zooms)
23 / 25
23 / 25
22 / 25
20 / 25