In this part of the review I will focus on the 7-14mm F/2.8 Pro zoom. In Part 1 of the review we looked at the smaller 9-18mm lens. The 7-14 takes everything up a couple notches. Everything about this lens is bigger. Physically larger, heavier, larger front element, huge lens cap, huge quality, huge aperture (relatively in comparison), and huge field of view. The field of view is 102-degrees at 7mm and 63-degrees at 14mm. 102 degrees is ultra wide. This is a 36mm equivalent to 14-28mm.
The lens cap is a large cup like unit that goes over a fixed lens hood. There are no front threads on a lens like this!
You can see how large and exposed the front glass of this lens is. It looks almost like a fisheye…actually it is more bulbous than Olympus’ fisheye.
In these previous two images you can see the bulb actually moves forward and backward as you zoom. The lens itself stays the same size. A word of caution…When storing and handling the lens, keep it zoomed to 14mm so the bulb is retracted into the barrel. This shifts the weight of the lens more towards the center and makes it much more balanced to hold. At 7mm the lens is very front heavy without a body attached. You don’t want to risk dropping a lens like this! I would also make it a habit to keep the lens zoomed to 14mm while not shooting but still out in the field. This moves the bulb into the barrel so it is also protected from accidental bumps or anything touching or scratching it. Be warned!
In this image from left to right we have the 8mm fisheye, the 7-14mm, the 12-40mm, and then the 40-150mm. As you can see the 7-14 is about the same size as the 12-40. It is wider in diameter though so it feels like a heftier lens in hand. Take note of how tiny the fisheye is!
Overall the body of the 7-14 is up to Olympus Pro lens standards all the way around. Weather sealed, metal, focus clutch, lens button, etc… It feels wonderful in use, very smooth, and incredibly solid. All lenses should feel like this!
Olympus has done a remarkable job. This lens is basically a 7-14mm version of the 12-40 Pro. If you know that lens…it’s an unbelievably good lens. Everything is well controlled, distortion is a non-issue, edge quality is fantastic, and fine rendering is excellent. Olympus did it again. Sure, if we nitpick on charts and scientific measurements, we can find incremental differences and the like. Guess what… it doesn’t mean much. I know some people want to ensure they are getting the best lens and compare this lens to that lens, and this system to that system. Toss it all out the window. If you want to use an Olympus camera and want an ultra wide lens that is the best you will get, this is it. We don’t have many other options really at this focal length, but Olympus does not disappoint. I took the lens untested onto several assignments and my clients actually selected many shots made with this lens right along side the best medium format digital equipment. Let’s see some shots.
Both of these interiors are wide. However, they are also slightly cropped and perspective corrected since the lens does not shift. I wanted to show something vast in the scene so I used this lens. However, for architectural images that need to be straight, I had to correct perspective and keystoning. For architecture, this lens is impressive. As an architectural photographer I much prefer perspective control and shifting on the back or the lens. There is no lens this wide that shifts, so this is our only option. Both images have a creative toning done, it might not be your taste but see past that to the rendering and ability. On the second image I was able to capture the eerie light of another room leaking in and frame the main room with the ceiling.
This image has a little bit of halation around the lights, but I am point right at them. This is also an HDR image made from three exposures. Honestly pretty good. This shot is not cropped either, so the wide angle distortion from close perspective in the corners is actually pretty nice on this shot. Nothing looks unnatural to me.
Wide lenses are great for unique perspectives. This shot was straight up towards a chandelier. The woodwork and framing all turns into a very unique play on lines when seen at this focal length.
Notice how wide the towels look on the bottom left compared to the center ones. This is just the nature of wide views.
Even a shot like this one above has excellent sharpness in the lower corners. There is a bit of pull, as expected on such an extreme field of view, but it is not nearly as bad as many SLR lenses of like focal length. In fact the pull and smearing at the extreme corners on this lens are a lot more usable and pleasing than the corners of the Canon 24 TS-E shifted for similar view.
In these two shots of the tree, I just love the wide perspective. See how the close parts of the subject just feel as if they are coming at us. This lens can focus extremely close, just as all Olympus lenses seem capable of. Use this to your advantage. Get as close as you can at the widest setting and see what amazing perspectives this can create. Very cool views you could not make otherwise.
This next series of images were all taken in a cavern. I shot them all at F/2.8 and ISOs generally between 1000 and 5000 handheld.
This image was shot in two parts. The sky was one exposure of 20 seconds at ISO 3200 wide open. The building was ISO 200 for .8 second at F/7.1. I combined the two in photoshop. The sky and the stars look great. This image was printed for my client and looks breathtaking on the wall.
In this part of the review I really tried to focus on the strengths of the lens for a typical use for this kind of lens. Most of the images I have shown I was commissioned images from my assignments. I was not paid to use this lens, I was paid to deliver what my clients wanted. I chose this lens based on what it offers and it did not disappoint. The corner quality is amazing for a lens this wide. A lot of people scream and shout, but until you show me a lens this wide that has a corner that looks like it’s center, i’m sticking to what I’ve seen. And what i’ve seen is that this is one of the best out there. Period. Most of the shots were also shot at F/7.1. When I shoot this wide I want deep focus. I want everything sharp. That is the whole point. I want a lens that tells the story with everything in focus. At least for these kinds of images. Even at F/2.8 there is not much out of focus unless you get close. Still that is the nature of a 7mm lens. Most of the shots are at 10mm or wider. That is typically how I use a lens like this. If I needed 12 or 14mm I would have just used my 12-40 Pro. Why bring another lens? I brought this to use wide. If you only occasionally go really wide, then this lens might not be worth it. If you shoot real estate, or love super wide perspectives, there is something really special about this lens. I never expected a 7mm lens to be this good. The lens is kind of chunky but not overly large. Just remember to set the zoom to 14mm to balance the weight during handling and storage. It makes a very noticeable difference.
I really have no downsides to this lens. Olympus made a winner at this focal length. The only downside if I needed to find one is how often do I really need something this wide? For me at least, anything wider than 12mm is a specialty use. In my work that is usually tight bathrooms or other scenarios where nothing else will really do. Especially if I need to get close. 7mm can really be immersive. You have to remember to get close though. Too far back and all your subjects can get distant and small in the frame. Get too close and things can exaggerate quickly. It is also a difficult focal length to use without perspective control. Modern tools like transformation in lightroom help. And have gotten much better at corrections. You can always setup for the perspective of a tighter focal length and then zoom out. Crop the area you would have wanted with a shift lens. Done. Yes this involves cropping, but it works as needed.
In the next part of this series I will directly compare and show some crops of the 9-18 and the 7-14 in the same scene. As a control subject I also throw the 12-40 in there a bit where applicable. Be sure to check it out, this is where things get interesting. And if you are a pixel peeper, this is probably what you have been waiting to see anyways. If you aren’t a pixel peeper, than hopefully these images have shown you a taste of what this lens is capable of when put to good use.