Native and Adapted Normal Zooms - a contrarian view: 12-35f2.8(X), 12-40f2.8(Pro), 14-54IIf2.8-3.5(HG), 12-60SWDf2.8-4.0(HG), 14-35f2SWD(SHG) I have had the pleasure of owning 4 of the "pro" walk around* zooms for m43. The Olympus 12-40 f2.8, 14-54II f2.8-3.5 and 12-60 SWD f2.8-4 (2 of these!), and the Panasonic 12-35 f2.8. They all share some common charateristics, the IQ is excellent, they are all weather sealed, and they are all in the useful range of 24-120. So why choose one over another? Why not own them all! Heck I did so this seems like the simple answer. If you don't want to buy and sell a bunch of lenses here is my take on these four lenses. I own 100% Olympus bodies, Pen: E-PM1, OM-D: E-M5 and E-M1. All these bodies have some level of Olympus IBIS (sensor stabalization). Size: This is really interesting. All these lenses (except the 14-35) are proportionately the same size given the amount of reach each lens has. For the 4/3 lenses this includes the m43/43 adapter! Macro: Three of the Olympus lenses (12-40, 14-54 & 12-60) have a pretty good closeup magnification (0.25x to 0.30x), this is not true Macro, but it will certainly work for most people shooting Macro casually. The Panasonic close up function is limited to 0.17x. The Olympus 14-35 is even more limited at 0.12x. To put this in perspective the Macro mode of the Olympus 12-50 kit lens is 0.36x and both Olympus and Panasonic Macro lenses are 1.0x. Stabalization: Only the Panasonic 12-35 has in lens stabalization. So if you need it this is a huge benefit. Build: Both of the modern m43 lenses have a jewel like feel. The older 43 lenses are well built but they have a more industrial feel. Test Images: Are you kidding? There are lots of pixel peeping reviews on these lenses. They are all excellent. The 12-40 and 12-35 are likely somewhat absolutely sharper than the 14-54II and 12-60 SWD but I can't believe anyone could tell the difference in real shooting. Don't believe me? Have a look at this comparison - http://fourthirds-user.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12808 - IQ appears to be a wash in the HG/Pro lenses. The 14-35 is in its own category and is clearly superior, but this lens is a bit of niche lens. *So is the 14-35 a walk-around zoom? I don't know but I do know I had one for a week and now I want one! 1. Olympus 12-40 f2.8 (Pro). $1000 (retail) 382g 62mm filter This lens seems like the "no-brainer" choice if you have an Olympus body. Sharp, fast, beautifully made and at retail the second cheapest option! I kept this lens for a week. There is nothing wrong with it but for me it was neither fish nor fowl. Analogies are great but what does this mean: a. This lense is very sharp at the wide end. I don't shoot wide a lot, it is nice to have but normally I would shoot at the tele end of these lenses and the 12-40 is not as sharp at 40. b. This is the second lightest lens, but it doesn't feel that way on the camera body. The front element is heavy and this make the lens feel heavier when mounted than the weight suggests. A camera with a grip is a good idea for this lens. Pros: Great IQ, beatiful build, excellent AF on all m43 bodies. Good value. Nice lens hood. Sharpest at the wide end. Cons: Sharpest at the wide end. Feels heavier than it is when mounted on the body. Price. Issues: There have been reports of some mount breakage but I strongly suspect this is mostly bad luck. Recommendation: If you don't have an Olympus E-M1, and the weight/size is not an issue then this is a great choice, if price is not the deciding factor. If you have an E-M1 the 12-60 would be my choice over this lens if total size is not an issue. These two lenses handle pretty similarly. 2. Olympus 14-54II f2.8-3.5 (HG). $630 (retail) + m43/43 adapter $180 (retail) 440g 67mm filter The bargain choice and no question the best value in these four lenses, especially at current used prices. A great mix of reach, weight and IQ. It feels lighter on a body than the 12-40. One of the things that may not be obvious with this lens if you haven't used it is that it hits its maximum aperture of f3.5 later than the 12-60. It also does not have the mustache distortion of the 12-60 at wide end. Pros: Great IQ, solid build, large range and fast variable aperture. Great value. Price. Cons: The least sharp in this set of amazing lenses. AF speed on m43 bodies is OK, but not as fast as the native choices. AF speed on the E-M1 is disappointing. Issues: None that I know of. Recommendations: The value winner in this group by pretty much any measure. The only body I would not bother using it on is the E-M1 (the 12-60 SWD focuses so much faster). 3. Olympus 12-60 f2.8-4 SWD(HG). $1050 (retail) + m43/43 adapter $180 (retail) 575g 72 mm filter For most 4/3 shooters this was the go to lens in this category if weight and cost did not matter. Fast focusing through the SWD mechanism, great IQ and lots of range (24-120). This lens is an OK performer on m43 bodies but AF is only acceptable. The 14-54II while much slower to focus than the 12-60SWD on the E-M1 is faster on CDAF m43 bodies than the 12-60. This is a big heavy lens so a body with a grip is a good idea. Ironically the 12-40 feels very similar when mounted on the body and it appears that they share a similar heavy front element design. This lens is very fast to focus on the E-M1 with the 1.4 firmware. In low light it is on par or faster than the 12-40. The on chip PDAF coupled with the SWD motor is very effective. This lens also reaches its maximum aperture faster than the 14-54, in other words it is proportionately slower as the zoom range increases. Pros: Great IQ, very solid, super wide range, and a fast aperture on the wide end. Great value used. Cons: New this is an expensive lens. Heavy and large. Slower maximum aperture. AF speed on CDAF m43 bodies not great. Mustache distortion at 12mm. Issues: SWD motors appear to have issues and this seems to be made worse by use on CDAF bodies. The lens hood can bind over time causing the front element to come out if the user is too vigorous in removing the hood. Recommendations: If you are using the E-M1 and you value reach over weight and size this is the clear winner. Fast to focus and really versatlle. If you have a CDAF only m43 body I would avoid this lens. 4. Olympus 14-35 f2 SWD(SHG). $2300 (retail) + m43/43 adapter $180 (retail) 900g 77 mm filter. The Olympus 12-60 is large and heavy, but the 14-35 is huge, truly amazingly large for the focal length that this lens covers. So why would you want to shoot with this behemoth of a lens? Two words, image quality. The 12-35 is one of the sharpest zooms at 35 and the 14-35 makes it look poor in comparison. Colour rendering is better with the 14-35, and the image is sharper and more detailed. Easily as good as the best primes. This lens is not for everyone, but having had a chance to shoot with it for a week I am really tempted even though the price is very high and it is very large. This is one of those lenses that you look through even an EVF and think - "Wow - this is a fantastic lens!" This lens is a joy to use even though it is huge. Pros: Phenomenal IQ, very very solid, and a fast f2 aperture through the zoom range. Cons: Huge, hugely expensive, AF is OK (not as fast as the 12-60 AFAICT with the 1.4 firmware). It is not as sharp as it can be at f2, f4 is sharper. Is this a con? It outperforms the other zooms at f2 by a wide margin, and stopped down is even better but you lose some OOF subject separation. Issues: None that I can find. I assume the SWD motor may be at risk on CDAF only bodies. Recommendations: If you are using the E-M1 and you want the best image quality in a zoom get this lens, you won't be sorry. 5. Panasonic 12-35 f2.8(X). $1000 (retail) 305g 58mm filter This was the first high end general purpose zoom for m43. Like the new Olympus 12-40 this is a really well built lens. It is not metal like the Oly zoom but the plastics are very nigh quality and the overall feel is excellent. This is the only lens in the group with lens based stabalization, so if you have a Panasonic body without stability this is a good choice. This lens is not as sharp as the 12-40 at the wide end but sharper at the long end. It is not mugh lighter than the 12-40 but feels a lot lighter on the camera. IQ is fantastic, AF is fast and it is a great lens. But, it has the shortest reach of all the choices. Pros: Great IQ, well built, compact and light. Cons: Less reach. Price is high. Issues: There have been reports of poor weather sealing and bits of dust or other debris inside the rear elements of the lens. Recommendations: If you want a compact high quality zoom this lens is a winner. It is not out of place on the smaller m43 bodies. Conclusion: If you have an: E-M1 (on chip PDAF): If want a lot of reach, get the 12-60 SWD. The 12-40 feels nearly as big on the camera and you lose 20 mm of reach. If performance at 12 mm is the absolute priority get the 12-40. If you want a compact zoom, get the 12-35. If you want the absolute best image quality, get the 14-35. M43 CDAF only body: If you have a CDAF body and you want a lot of reach get the 14-54II unless AF speed is the absolute priority then the 12-40 gets the nod (or if you value wide over long). If you want a compact zoom, get the 12-35. If you have to have stabalization in the lens your only choice is the 12-35. What do I have? Today a 12-35, and I really want a 14-35f2. If I get a 14-35 I will still keep the 12-35.