Can't speak to the IS, but consider that with the wide angle, you won't have that much trouble with image stabilization as you'd have with a focal length of, say 100mm or so.
> "You mean set it once and it should work for all shots?"
Experiment a bit Of course, if you want to have a very close foreground object in focus only, vs the foreground object AND the background, you will have to work that focus ring a bit. But yes, if you take *similar* kinds of images (objects being roughly the same distance from you) then focussing once and leaving the focus ring there will do the trick.
Again, just experiment. Digital images don't cost anything, and learning a new lens is fun
It really depends on what you want out of the lens. I've found the O9-18 to be a VERY capable lens. When I bought it, I did some back-to-back comparisons between it on my E-M5 and the Canon 16-35L II on a 5D Mark II, and the Oly came out miles ahead. It's a very good lens. It's also tiny, relatively cheap, and super light. I used the hell out of mine for 5 years. I took it literally all around the world, have sold hundreds of photos taken with it, was rarely disappointed. HOWEVER...it also broke, which is pretty sad. They have a ribbon issue...after so many open/close cycles, the ribbon insidepartially dislodges itself and now I have a 9-13. It would cost as much to fix as the lens is worth, so it's sitting in the depths of my cabinet.
EDIT #2: Spurred on by this thread, I called Olympus. It's a flat rate of $172 USD or $228 CAD + taxes to fix the O9-18. I have to pay for shipping to them, but they'll pay for shipping it back. So, for $300 CAD, I could have it fully functioning and freshly serviced...I think I'll do that and either sell it or have it as a backup.
So...I replaced it with the PL 8-18. It's weathersealed, has a SLIGHTLY better range (hey, I'll take an extra mm where it counts), and it's a stop faster throughout the range. It's bigger and heavier, but not to the point where it's an issue, though you do lose that feeling that this is as tiny as high quality equipment gets. I read a LOT of reviews, and, for all intents and purposes, the PL is as good as the O7-14, only loses a maximum of 2/3 of a stop at equivalent apertures (at 14mm it's f3.5), and you get a very valuable extra 4mm on the long end.
EDIT: Purple ghosts were an issue with some older Panasonic lenses (such as the 7-14, as you point out), but I've had no issues with the PL8-18.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either one...but...for ultralight travelling/backpacking (which I was doing a lot of), the O9-18 is well worth a look. If you can afford a few extra grams and a few extra dollars, the PL is a fantastic choice!
I reasoned as such, pondering back and forth between the PL8-18 and the Oly9-18, that the price difference over here (the PL was about 1/3 more), at the time was such that if I bought the PL, I could always sell it and get a Oly, but that PL is not going anywhere. I am not using it very often, but it do have a certain something, which I also seems to find in the PL50-200.
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