Evolution of the Compact System Camera (CSC) Kit Zoom

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by Amin Sabet, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Here you can see the standard kit zooms for several mirrorless cameras:


    From left to right: Olympus 14-42mm, Sony 18-55, Panasonic 14-45, Panasonic 14-42, Samsung 18-55.

    As you can see below, the kit zoom has a major impact on the overall size of the camera:


    Anyone browsing CSCs in a brick and mortal store is going to be influenced by the size and autofocus performance of the kit zoom. Kit zoom performance also weighs heavily in evaluations by the big review sites like DPReview, Imaging Resources, and DCRP. While enthusiasts bemoan the lack of fast zooms, it makes sense that manufacturers continue to focus their resources on developing the kit zooms that will make or break their high volume camera sales. It's interesting to see how each manufacturer has evolved their kit zoom over time:

    Samsung: The Samsung 18-55 isn't a bad lens, but it's not going to win them any accolades. It is the largest of the CSC standard zooms and not a standout performer in my testing at Serious Compacts. Credit to Samsung, though, for bringing out the 20-50mm zoom offering. The 20-50 has a collapsible design and is currently the most compact standard zoom available for a CSC. DPReview has a nice size comparison photo halfway down this page. Of note, the 20-50mm lens lacks stabilization, in contrast to the Samsung 18-55 and all kit zoom lenses from other manufacturers.

    Olympus: Olympus has been aggressive in its approach to the kit zoom. To begin with, Olympus introduced a collapsible design 14-42mm lens and quickly revised it to use a plastic lens mount for lower cost and weight. They then revised it again to bring out a version II lens with improved optics and performance optimized for video. Lastly, there is a strong rumor that a IIR version is coming soon (June 30 announcement) and will add extremely fast autofocus performance.

    Sony: Sony did a good job with the 18-55 zoom, creating a zoom that has very decent performance in a very compact size considering that it has to cover an APS-C sensor, is image stabilized, and is a non-collapsing design. That said, it is disproportionate in size to the tiny NEX bodies, and Sony would do well to find a way to make their kit zoom even smaller. In addition, this lens is not video optimized.

    Panasonic: Panasonic introduced the very first CSC kit zoom, the 14-45 OIS, and it is an outstanding lens in some ways while disappointing in others. It remains class leading in edge sharpness, probably the best landscape lens for our system at the 14mm focal length, and is a fast focusing lens. The Panasonic 14-42mm kit lens which replaced the 14-45 is slightly lighter and presumably less expensive to manufacture; however, it is also slightly longer and a touch less sharp than the 14-45. Unfortunately, both lenses are simply too big for the small CSC bodies (eg, GF series), and neither are video optimized.

    In order to compete in the mass market against APS-C offerings from Sony and Samsung, it is critical that Olympus and Panasonic find a way to capitalize on the strengths of the Micro 4/3 standard. I've seen marketing material from Panasonic in which they are pushing the better edge performance of the Panasonic lenses. In my opinion, they would have been better served by prioritizing lens size over edge performance as Sony did with their 18-55 zoom.

    With the rumored improvement in autofocus performance, Olympus will have a very strong standard kit zoom - small, sharp, and optimized for video. Most likely we will see the next iteration of the Panasonic kit zoom before year's end.
    • Like Like x 14
  2. pharaviel

    pharaviel Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 20, 2011
    Reggio Emilia, Italy
    Real Name:
    Daniele Frizzi
    I feel that Olympus is going in the right direction. We don't lose IQ but have a really compact camera.
    Sony's approach to a really slim camera and such a big lens is...disconcerting. The camera is highly pocketable but the lens? Where do Sony users keeps their big lenses?
    Standard Panasonic zoom is butt-ugly on GF cameras (like the one displayed in the comparison) but (I suppose) well balanced on G and GH models.

    Just my 2 eurocents
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I pretty much agree with your eurocents.

    All around the web, I see people who are disappointed that their kit zooms are being made devalued by the frequent introduction of new ones. For better or for worse, this is going to be the reality for CSC owners over the next few years. It is a rapidly advancing field, and the kit zooms will need frequent revision for manufacturers to remain competitive.
  4. st3v4nt

    st3v4nt Mu-43 Veteran

    May 26, 2011
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    I just hope the future Olympus 14-42 mk III kit lens will use metal mounting again, or at least give us the choice to choose. Every time I put my 14-42 mk I kit to my EPL-1 I always a bit concern about the longevity of the mount. May be it's a good news for 3rd party out there to produce replacement metal mount for 14-42 kit or any m4/3 lens with plastic mount. As for speed improvement I will need to see it in action, since my 4/3 14-54 mk I that said to be much slower than mk II seldom give me trouble in fast focusing.
  5. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    Around their necks to display the brand as a fashion statement. :rofl:

    • Like Like x 4
  6. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2011
    One thing that helps the Olympus lenses stay small is IBIS. I was very surprised when I started looking at the small cameras that the others used OIS, which pretty much guarantees no collapsable designs and more bulk/weight for a given lens.
  7. dcm1024

    dcm1024 New to Mu-43

    Jun 5, 2011
    I am thrilled to hear of the new lens developments by Oly! I sold my first E-P1 due to slow autofocus, then purchased a new E-P1 this year. I had already been planning to purchase the 14-42 II, but will now hold hoping to hear an anouncement of the IIR.
  8. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Keep in mind that we don't yet know to what extent the improved AF speeds of the new Olympus lenses may depend on the particular body they are paired with.

    Sent from my HTC Thunderbolt using Mu-43 App
  9. MP Burke

    MP Burke Mu-43 Rookie

    Jul 3, 2010
    DP Review recently ran one of their challenges which was an open competition for photos taken with the kit zoom. The winner was taken with the Panasonic 14-45 :43: lens while my entry, with the 14-42, came in a miserable 16th: which is proof that the 14-45 is a better lens.:smile:
    Despite being regularly maligned on forums, the 14-42 lens was recently used in Amateur Photographer magazine's test on the Panasonic G3, and returned similar resolution values to the Nikon D5100 with its kit lens. The role of the kit lens is to give an economical general purpose lens that does not let the sensor down, and from what I can see the Olympus and Panasonic lenses do that job well.
    With cameras like the GF3 and the NEX C3, the pancake lens (14mm or 16mm) is an important part of the marketing strategy. When I see CSC cameras in the shops in the UK, the Panasonic GF2 is often sold as a twin lens kit and the camera on display has the 14mm lens on it, thus emphasising the small size of that combination. The keenly priced twin lens kit gives buyers the option of the pancake lens and thus reduce the need for the the kit lens to be kept as small as possible.
  10. Jimboh

    Jimboh Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 17, 2010
    Creative Destruction

    Well do bear in mind the alternative would be NO innovation. That would likely destroy the platform.