Tested: Olympus Zuiko Digital ED14-35mm f/2 SWD

This four thirds lens sets a speed record.

It has both the hefty length and girth you would expect of an f/2 pro zoom¬—the prices you pay for speed.

With the new E-5, tested, Olympus turns back to the Four Thirds DSLR format after a two-year push for interchangeable-lens compacts (ILCs). A fitting example of Oly's commitment to the format, this 14–35mm f/2 (a 28–70mm equivalent) is the world's fastest standard-range zoom for DSLRs and well paired with the company's 35–100mm f/2 speedster. Among its strengths: a Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) autofocus motor, dust and moisture seals, extra-low dispersion glass, and updateable firmware. But it comes at a hefty street price: $2,300.

The lens is heavier than Sigma’s comparable f/2.8 full-frame lens, and it’s long enough to cast a shadow when used at the widest focal lengths with the E-5’s built-in flash. In the field, we liked its full-time manual focus with a long, 200-degree turn that practically forces precision focusing. The AF motor is very quiet, though not completely silent. Really nice? The lens shade’s finger port, which lets you adjust filter positions without removing the hood.

On our optical bench in the Popular Photography Test Lab, it produced uniformly Excellent-range sharpness and contrast—a slightly better performance than the Canon, Nikon, and Sigma 24–70mm f/2.8 full-framers. Among recently tested glass, the Zuiko took a back seat only to Sony’s 24–70mm f/2.8, a Carl Zeiss design. In DxO Analyzer 3.2 tests of distortion control, its numbers were stellar: Visible-range barreling at 14mm (0.34%) that compared very favorably to the Canon’s 1.7% Very Visible barrel distortion at 24mm. The Imperceptible pincushioning at 25mm and 35mm (0.04% and 0.03%, respectively) were remarkable and a tribute to Olympus’ nearly unsurpassed optical expertise.

In short, the lens is another fabulous Zuiko that could ultimately help draw a greater number of serious photographers to the Four Thirds format.

14–35MM (14.18–34.39mm tested), f/2.0 (1.83–2.00 tested), 18 elements in 17 groups. Focus ring turns 200°. Zoom ring turns 80°. Focal lengths marked at 14-, 18-, 25-, and 35mm.
DIAGONAL VIEW ANGLE: 75–34 degrees.
WEIGHT: 2.05 lb.
MOUNTS: Four Thirds.
INCLUDED: Lenshood, soft case.

DISTORTION: At 14mm, 0.34% (Visible) barrel. At 25mm, 0.04% (Imperceptible) pincushion. At 35mm, 0.03% (Imperceptible) pincushion.
LIGHT FALLOFF: At 14mm, gone by f/2.5. At 25mm, none. At 35mm, gone by f/2.5.
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO: At 14mm, 1:12.47. At 25mm, 1:8.25. At 35mm, 1:7.35.