Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm F2.0 SWD Review

May 20, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2 SWD is doubtlessly one of the finest zoom lenses ever made. Its sharpness is admirable at f/2, excellent at f2.8 through f/8, and from f/11 onward it is only limited by diffraction (which does not become objectionable until you hit f/22, an aperture you will not really need to use with this lens anyway). The consistency of sharpness across the frame is remarkable at every tested focal length and aperture, with the edges being basically as sharp as the centre. Chromatic aberrations are a non-issue at 14mm, and generally very well controlled at the other focal lengths too. Light fall-off is easily noticeable at 14mm f/2, but the corners clear up very well by stopping down or zooming in. Close-up performance is poor; this lens clearly won't double as a macro, and is not compatible with the EX-25 macro extension tube either. The 2.5x zoom ratio might prove a bit limiting in actual use, but both the EC-14 and the EC-20 teleconverters will work with full dedication, giving you extra flexibility without having to carry a dedicated telephoto lens along.

In terms of build quality, there is little to criticise. The lens is as robust as you would expect from anything claimed to be "Super High Grade", the focusing and zoom rings are neither stiff nor loose, and on the whole the lens feels built like the proverbial tank. The environmental seals allow you to shoot in nasty weather and dusty locales; provided the lens is used in tandem with a similarly sealed body - the E-1 or the E-3 to wit. The only complaint one could have is that the lens is rather big and heavy - bigger, heavier and more expensive than the classic 28-70mm lenses made for 35mm systems; measuring, weighing and costing about as much as the wider 24-70mm zooms of today, but without going as wide (in terms of angle of view). The culprit is the f/2 maximum aperture - the Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm f/2 SWD is the only normal zoom in the entire SLR world to feature such a fast aperture setting, and there is a size, weight and price penalty to be paid for this, notwithstanding the fact that the lens is tailored to the smallest DSLR sensor size in use today.

Those who want a professional-grade, ultra-fast normal zoom for their FourThirds DSLR and can afford to pay the asking price for the 14-35mm f/2 SWD will not be disappointed. But those who do not need the f/2 maximum aperture have other, cheaper options to consider. The 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 (versions I and II) as well as the ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD are both smaller, lighter, cheaper and more versatile in terms of focal length range; while also being dust- and drip-proof. So as always, consider your requirements and your budget, then decide, based also on what you have read and seen in this review, whether you really need the 14-35mm f/2 SWD or not.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 3.5