We live in times where the notion of human-like robots in our everyday lives is no longer an utopian vision, but will probably soon become a reality. Research in the area of artificial intelligence is highly advanced and milestones of success are being reached even quicker than expected. Just as unanticipated for researchers was the 0:3 loss of the Chinese world champion Go player to Google’s artificial intelligence driven Alpha Go, something hardly any of them had seen coming in 2016.
Similarly, some areas of photographic technology are also making quick advances. Five years ago, no one would have thought it possible to have a 1 second handheld exposure time – that is, until Olympus introduced the first 5-axis image stabilizer to the market in 2012. Since then, we have been able to take a photo in the wide-angle range with a 1 second handheld exposure time and get a sharp image. For doing so, Olympus didn’t build image stabilizers into the lenses, to save on material usage in order to produce lenses which are mostly lighter in weight. Although it wasn’t infallible, it did work most of the time.
Now- not even five years later – Olympus has introduced a new MFT lens, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-100 mm f/4.0 IS Pro. In terms of full-frame format, the lens covers 24 – 200 mm, which is a very coveted focal length range for many stock photographers.
Plus, its portability and versatility makes it the kind of lens you end up always having mounted on your camera. Above all, two aspects of this lens were of great interest to us. Firstly, we were eager to find out about the optical quality. We’ve typically warned our photographers to be cautious about superzoom lenses boasting an impressive focal range, because many end up delivering mediocre image quality. Secondly, we wanted to know how intelligently the camera interacts with the newly stabilized lens. Is it really possible to expose for longer than a second without using a tripod and still get totally sharp images – something which, up until now, has merely belonged to the realm of science fiction?
One of our photographers, Erwin Wodicka, got this lens shortly before Christmas and presented some of the images he’d shot with it within the Westend61 Community. Upon seeing his images, we were impressed. Erwin was able to produce sharp images with a focal length of 12 mm with 2 to 3 seconds of handheld exposure. Erwin assured us that this wasn’t merely an exception – overall he was able to achieve good results for every other image he’d shot. Even when viewed at 100%, no signs of camera shake can be detected. Check out these two sample images, along with a section from each in Adobe Photoshop’s 100% zoom level view & accompanying technical specs.
Of course you can’t handhold an exposure for 3 seconds in the telephoto range, but Edwin frequently achieves sharp images with a 1/10 exposure time when photographing at 100 mm. We couldn’t find any faults regarding the optical quality. It is, however, a lens from the pro series carrying a hefty price tag of roughly 1,300 euros, which puts it in a category where above-average quality is to be expected. Olympus doesn’t disappoint in this respect – the centers of the images are very sharp and even the edges look very good.
Our technical quality control also didn’t find anything faulty with the pictures produced with this lens. For this reason we can wholeheartedly recommend it, and we will continue to be astounded by images which have been captured with several seconds of handheld exposure for some time to come. But for today we’d just like to note that Olympus has created a technological marvel.
We don’t get paid by Olympus or any other brands for that matter, so our reviews are carried out entirely independently. As a photo agency, the resulting images are more important to us than the brand of equipment which was used to capture them. We’ll continue to report about photo technology when we come across something interesting ourselves or when our photographers share exciting developments with us.