Lenses for the Olympus E-System Cameras

... and Four Thirds cameras in general

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

This is an annotated list of lenses and lens accessories available for the Olympus E-System and, in general, Four Thirds cameras.

Update of 2013: Looks like the Four Thirds line of Olympus (or any other) cameras is dead for good. Still, many users are happy with results they are getting from the E-5, E-30, or E-620, and there is still some demand for the Four Thirds line of lenses.

Secondly, the growing population of Micro Four Thirds EVF cameras accepts Four Thirds lenses via an adapter. Until recently, however, the autofocus functionality of FT lenses on μFT cameras was limited: most lenses would autofocus sluggishly and not precisely, except for those specifically designed to be compatible with contrast-detection (Live View) focusing; these are marked in the table below as "CD". For these lenses on μFT bodies, the AF performance was "sort of satisfactory".

This has changed for better with the recent introduction of the Olympus OM-D E-M1. This camera sacrifices some of the green photosites on the sensor for phase-detection AF. The result is that any FT lenses behave much better — I was able to verify it on all FT lenses I own, ranging back to 2004. Let us hope the new sensor will be retained in the μFT cameras to come.

Introduction

Upon introduction of the E-1 back in 2003, Olympus faced an ambitious task of coming up with not just the first digital, interchangeable-lens SLR designed from ground up as such (and not adapted from a film model), but also with a variety of lenses, designed to work well (mechanically, electronically, and optically) with the new body, and addressed at various layers of the market.

Olympus is not new to lens design. The Zuiko line for their legendary OM SLR series of 30 years ago were top performers. The company delivered three lenses with the E-1, and more followed at a steady and consistent pace.

With the introduction of more E-System models, aimed at enthusiast amateur market, there arose a need for less expensive lenses. This was addressed a number of "economy" lenses, starting from the 14-45 and 40-150 mm zooms. No miracles, they are not a match for the more expensive Digital Zuikos, but more than good enough for the intended use, soon recognized as better than kit lenses offered by other brands. Importantly, the price difference is reflected mostly in more modest specifications, not in significant sacrifices in performance.

The original kit lenses have been later replaced with the new, compact 14-42 mm and 40-150 mm ZD, amazingly light and compact, and capable of surprisingly good results.

Sigma started expanding their line of the Four Thirds lenses 2005, but with the end of the FOur Thirds SLRs these lenses, as of 2013, are no longer current.

Panasonic (including the Leica brand) also has given up on Four Thirds support, throwing its weight vigorously behind the μFT standard. Some good Panasonic/Leica FT lenses can still be found on the used market.

Lenses

This table lists all Four Thirds lenses currently available, as well as those already discontinued. In addition to the specs, it contains links to respective manufacturers' product pages, and, if known, U.S. prices, with links to B&H or Adorama online catalogs.

Note: Some of these links occasionally get broken: the Web designers move the contents around, and do not bother with URL redirection via .htaccess files. While I'm occasionally fixing those, this is not my primary goal. Tough luck. (Links last verified February 1, 2008.)

2013: While I recently cleaned up the list, verified most of the links and marked non-current lenses as such, some omissions may still stick around. Sorry.

Interestingly, most FT lenses which are still available, have listed prices visibly higher than back in 2009. A captive audience?

Brand Designation FL[mm] MaxAp MinAp MFD[m] EC CD El/Gr A/S Wgt[g] D×L[mm] Filter Year Price Rem.
Olympus ZD Fisheye 8 3.5 22 .135 Y - 10/6 0/1 455 79×78 - 2006 $800 [2]
Sigma EX DG Macro 24 1.8 22 .18 ? - 10/9 2/? 520 84×88 77 2006 $340 [8]
Leica D Summilux 25 1.4 16 .38 ? - 10/9 1/4 525 78×75 62 2007 $800 [5]
Olympus ZD 25 2.8 22 .20 Y + 5/4 1/0 95 64×24 43 2008 $250
Sigma EX DC HSM 30 1.4 16 .4 - - 7/7 1/2 410 78×64 62 2006 $400
Olympus ZD Macro 35 3.5 22 .15 Y - 6/6 0/0 165 71×53 52 2005 $200
Olympus ZD Macro 50 2.0 22 .24 Y - 11/10 0/1 300 71×62 52 2003 $500 [12]
Sigma EX DG Macro 105 2.8 22 .31 Y - 11/10 0/0 470 55×103 58 2006 $400
Olympus ZD ED 150 2.0 22 1.4 Y - 11/9 1/1 1610 100×150 82 2004 $2200
Sigma EX DG HSM APO Macro 150 2.8 22 .38 Y - 16/12 0/2 920 80×142 72 2006 $600
Olympus ZD ED 300 2.8 22 2.0 Y - 13/11 0/3 3290 129×281 112 2004 $7000 [1]
Brand Designation FL[mm] MaxAp MinAp MFD[m] EC CD El/Gr A/S Wgt[g] D×L[mm] Filter Year Price Rem.
Olympus ZD 7-14 4.0 22 .25 Y - 18/12 2/3 780 87×120 - 2005 $1800
Olympus ZD ED 9-18 4.0-5.6 22 .25 Y + 13/9 2/1 280 80×73 72 2008 540
Sigma EX DC HSM 10-20 4.0-5.6 22 .24 ? - 14/10 3/3 495 84×86 77 2008 $430
Olympus ZD 11-22 2.8-3.5 22 .28 Y - 12/10 2/0 485 75×93 72 2004 $675
Olympus ZD ED SWD 12-60 2.8-4.0 22 .25 Y - 14/10 3/4 575 80×99 72 2007 $900 [14]
Olympus ZD ED SWD 14-35 2.0 22 .35 Y - 18/17 2/3 915 86×123 77 2008 $2300 [11]
Olympus ZD ED 14-42 3.5-5.6 22 .25 * + 10/8 2/1 190 66×61 58 2006 $220 [6]
Olympus ZD 14-45 3.5-5.6 22 .38 M - 12/10 2/1 285 71×87 58 2004 ($200)
Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-50 3.8-5.6 22 .29 Y ? 15/11 2/2 434 75×93 67 2007 (K) [9]
Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 2.8-3.5 22 .29 Y ? 16/12 2/0 490 78×103 72 2006 $900 [5,9]
Olympus ZD 14-54 2.8-3.5 22 .22 Y - 15/11 3/0 435 74×88 67 2003 ($430)
Olympus ZD ED SWD 14-54 2.8-3.5 22 .22 Y + 15/11 3/0 435 74×88 67 2008 $670 [16]
Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150 3.5-5.6 22 .50 ? ? 15/11 4/1 520 79×90 72 2008 ($1100) [5,9,10]
Olympus ZD 17.5-45 3.5-5.6 22 .28 Y - 7/7 2/0 210 71×70 52 2005 (K) [3]
Sigma EX DC Macro 18-50 2.8 22 .20 ? - 15/13 2/2 525 79×91 72 2006 ($420) [13]
Sigma DC 18-50 3.5-5.6 22 .25 Y - 8/8 1/0 250 68×62 58 2004 ($110)
Sigma DC 18-125 3.5-5.6 22 .5 Y - 15/14 2/1 385 70×78 62 2004 ($280)
Olympus ZD 18-180 3.5-6.3 22 .45 M - 15/13 2/2 440 85×78 62 2006 $400
Olympus ZD ED 35-100 2.0 22 1.4 Y - 21/18 0/5 1650 97×214 77 2005 $2200
Olympus ZD 40-150 3.5-4.5 22 1.5 Y - 13/10 0/0 425 77×107 58 2004 ($230)
Olympus ZD ED 40-150 4.0-5.6 22 0.9 * + 12/9 0/1 220 66×72 58 2006 $280
Olympus ZD 50-200 2.8-3.5 22 1.2 Y - 16/15 0/3 920 87×157 67 2003 ($830) [4]
Olympus ZD ED SWD 50-200 2.8-3.5 22 1.2 Y - 16/15 0/3 995 87×157 67 2008 $1200 [4]
Sigma EX DG HSM APO 50-500 4.0-6.3 22 1.0-3.0 Y - 20/16 ?/4 1830 95×224 86 2006 ($1000)
Sigma DC 55-200 4.0-5.6 22 1.1 Y - 12/9 0/0 310 72×87 55 2004 ($150)
Olympus ZD ED 70-300 4.0-5.6 22 1.2 M - 14/10 0/3 615 80×127 58 2007 $400 [15]
Olympus ZD ED 90-250 2.8 22 2.5 Y - 17/12 0/3 3270 124×276 105 2005 $5500
Sigma DG APO 135-400 4.5-5.6 32 2.0-2.2 ? - 13/11 1/3 1280 84×189 77 2007 ($590)
Sigma EX DG HSM APO 300-800 5.6 32 6.0 ? - 18/16 0/2 5915 157×549 [7] 2007 ($8000)
Brand Designation FL[mm] MaxAp MinAp MFD[m] EC CD El/Gr A/S Wgt[g] D×L[mm] Filter Year Price Rem.

Legend

In case some of the acronyms I'm using in table headers are not quite clear:

  • FL is the actual focal length in millimeters. The EFL (35-mm film equivalent) is twice this value.
  • MaxAp stands for the maximum lens aperture (smallest F-number); MinAp — for the minimum aperture.
  • When two numbers are shown with a hyphen, the first one refers to the zoom at the widest setting, and the second — at the longest one.
    MFD is the minimum focus distance in meters.
  • EC shows the compatibility with the EC-14 teleconverter (see below): Y (yes, including autofocus), M (manual focus only), - (none). This is based mostly on Olympus data, with an asterisk denoting a positive based on users' feedback. (In such cases, AF may actually be working, if not up to Olympus specs, speed- and accuracy-wise.)
  • CD — lens compatibility with Contrast Detection AF, used in the Live View mode in E-520, E-420, and E-30 bodies. This is quoted after Olympus, and it needs clarification for Panasonic/Leica lenses.
  • El/Gr stands for the number of elements and element groups in the lens design.
  • A/S shows the number of elements with aspherical surfaces and using special (low or extra low) dispersion glass. Both kinds are usually a sign of quality (especially for wide-angle lenses), and may raise the cost considerably.
  • Wgt is the weight, as per manufacturer's published specs.
  • D×L are lens dimensions (diameter and length), rounded to the nearest millimeter.
  • Filter specifies the front filter thread (mm).
  • Year refers to when the lens became (or is expected to become) available on the market.
  • Price — as quoted by a selected merchant (usually B&H) at the time I last checked. Prices, obviously, vary with time and between merchants, so consider this column only as a rough guide.

For lenses no longer in production prices are shown in parentheses, like ($200), these are the latest I have seen while the lens was still current. (K) instead of the price means that the lens is (or was) available only in a kit with a camera body.

Lens Designation

Usually the lens name, as quoted by the manufacturer, contains of the manufacturer's name, focal length and aperture numbers, and then anything the manufacturer wants; sometimes meaningful and sometimes not.

  • In Panasonic/Leica the prefix Vario- denotes a zoom lens, a redundant information. The names Elmar, Elmarit and Summilux refer to some classic Leica lenses from the past (when such a name would be used only for one kind of design), but these are just empty sounds now.
  • Sigma includes some acronyms which describe the lens features and, to some extent, design:
    • DG — the lens has not been designed for the APS-C or Four Thirds format; it has a full 24×36 mm frame coverage; a film-era design adapted for digital (more effective multicoating?).

      For comparable results, the actual lens resolution for the Four Thirds system has to be twice as high as that for a 35-mm film frame. This means that if a DG lens is more than sharp enough for a film camera, it may be sharp enough for the smaller 4/3 sensor, but it may be not, especially wide open.

    • DC — the lens has been designed specifically to cover the APS-C frame. As the Four Thirds frame height is only 12% smaller, only the extreme peripheries of the designed image circle are rejected; actually, the lens may perform better on a Four Thirds body than on an APS-C one.
    • HSM (Hypersonic Motor) refers to Sigma's improved AF driver technology, quieter and faster than in non-HSM Sigma lenses. Some makers do not put this information into the lens name.
    • APO — derived from apochromatic; here the word only reflects a claim of improved chromatic aberration correction (as compared to non-APO Sigma lenses, that is).
    • EX denotes better external finish than in non-EX Sigma lenses.
    With some Sigma lenses carrying up to five such specifiers, no wonder than everybody tends just to ignore them, including Sigma, who often skip one or two when referring to a specific lens.
  • As of recently, Olympus lens designations contained only the letters ZD (Zuiko Digital), but looks like Olympus is adapting the common trend of ornamenting lens names with acronym sequences (which reminds me of Brezhnev giving himself a new order from time to time).
    • PRO denotes a premium lens line. Earlier premium lenses from Olympus did not carry this designation, so for a few years this will only add to confusion.
    • ED — low-dispersion glass used for some lens elements. Again, most Olympus lenses with such glass do not carry this designation, so it is not really meaningful; invented by some Einstein in the marketing.
    • SWD stands for Supersonic Wave Drive, yet another proprietary name for the ring technology of the in-lens AF driver, similar to that used by other manufacturers.

    (Canon uses their USM moniker for two very different AF solutions: a ring driver around the lens, and a regular micromotor driving the lens gears very much like a similar motor placed in the camera body. This gives the masses who buy cheap Canon lenses an impression of having the same technology as one used in the Canon upscale glass.)

  • Both Sigma and Leica sometimes put Aspherical or just ASPH into their lens names to denote the use of aspherical elements. Most often, however, they skip this designation when referring to such a lens, so I'm not bothering with it either. Number of aspherical elements, if any, is shown in the [A/S] column of the table.

Remarks

As marked within square brackets in the table:

  1. In addition to the internal filter slot the 300/2.8 ZD lens does have a front filter thread, contrary to the Olympus official information (thanks to Richard Pavek for pointing this out). Filters of this diameter (112 mm), however, are not easy to find and they are also quite expensive.
  2. The 8 mm ZD is a full-frame fisheye lens. Minimum focus distance measured from the lens front is 2 cm.
  3. The 17.5-45 mm ZD, no longer in production; it was sold only as a part of an E-500 kit on some markets.
  4. Lens weight quoted without the tripod collar.
  5. Some Panasonic/Leica lenses have an external aperture ring, but they remain compatible with Olympus cameras, in which the aperture is set electronically from the body.
  6. The 14-42 mm ZD lens also contains one element made of high-refraction glass.
  7. The 300-800 mm Sigma has a rear slot accepting 46 mm filters — at least a polarizer, probably also others are available.
  8. The 24/1.8 Macro Sigma has a maximum magnification of 1:2.7; with the Four Thirds image size this is equivalent to 1:1.35 for a 35-mm film camera.
  9. The lens provides internal image stabilization using the Panasonic Mega O.I.S. System. This feature can be used on Olympus bodies (the in-body IS has to be turned off then).
  10. The Vario-Elmar uses an XSM focusing motor (see HSM and SWD above).
  11. The 14-35/2.0 ZD lens is so far the only one for which Olympus has missed the originally announced release date; it is finally expected to be in stock in March, 2008.
  12. For the 50/2.0 Macro ZD lens the use of EC-14 is recommended only at apertures of F/4.0 and up.
  13. This is the second version of the Sigma 18-50/2.8 M lens; an earlier one, accepting 67 mm filters and focusing down to 28 cm used to be made for other mounts, but not for Four Thirds.
  14. According to Olympus, the 12-60 mm has one Super ED element, 2 ED ones, one aspherical ED, and two aspherical ones. Assuming that these numbers do not overlap, the count of special-dispersion glass elements would be four, and of asphericals — three (six "special" elements altogether, as one counts in both groups).
  15. Focuses down to 95 cm in MF mode. Probably re-branded Sigma lens.
  16. The 14-54 mm F/2.8-3.5 ZD II seems to be identical to its predecessor (without "II"), except for the capability of contrast-detection autofocus, used in the Live View.

Lens accessories

By this I do not mean filters, hoods, or lens caps, only those affecting the lens optics and/or geometry.

  • EC-14 Teleconverter provides a focal length increase by 1.4× at the expense of one F-stop in effective aperture. Consists of six elements in five groups; 140 g, 22 mm long.

    The converter is compatible (including AF) with most of Four Thirds lenses, Olympus or not; notable exceptions include two "economy" standard zooms (14-45 and 14-42 mm) and the "new economy" tele zoom (40-150/4.0-5.6); with these only manual focus is possible. For individual lenses (as per manufacturers' specifications, periodically updated) see the EC column of the table.

    (The compatibility is quoted after Olympus. Some users reported using the EC-14 successfully with "economy" zoom lenses in AF mode without problems.)

  • The EC-20 Teleconverter doubles the lens' focal length at the expense of two F-stops in aperture, therefore it will be really useful only with brightest lenses because of viewing and focusing problems. It consists of seven elements in five groups and weighs 226 g. I have not tried it yet.
  • EX-25 Macro Extension Tube adds an extra 25 mm lens extension (equivalent to 50 mm on a 35-mm film camera), allowing for closer focusing (greater magnification); 170g. Increase in magnification depends on focal length.

    According to Olympus, the tube is fully compatible (including autofocusing) only with the 50 mm F/2.0 ZD lens; with others it may work only in the manual focus mode, and that excludes (in some lenses, at least) shorter focal lengths.

    Note: A user from the U.K. reported that the EX-25 works just fine with his 300/2.8 and 50-200/2.8-3.5 ZD in the AF mode.

Web resources

Links for individual product pages at manufacturers' sites have been provided in the first column of the table above.

The Four Thirds Consortium maintains a section on lenses from Olympus, Sigma, and Leica/Panasonic. In particular, you can download from there a lens catalog brochure (PDF), although it does not seem to keep up with the actual product line. There is also a Lens Roadmap available, listing the current and planned releases.


This page is not sponsored by any particular manufacturer or vendor, and presents solely the views of, and information gathered by, the author.

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

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Posted 2004/06/26; last updated 2013/11/18 Copyright © 2004-2013 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak