The Olympus Micro 4/3 12-50mm Real Use Lens Review – The misunderstood kit zoom.

The Olympus Micro 4/3 12-50mm Real Use Lens Review – The misunderstood kit zoom.

So I recently acquired a silver OM-D and 12-50 Kit Zoom. You know, the kit lens everyone has just about panned and trashed. Well, not really e v e r y o n e but many reviews and users have said it is just average in optical quality, has awful distortion, and of course aperture speed, or lack of it. I wondered how Olympus could be selling this guy for $499 when it looks HUGE in pictures and everyone is panning it off as soft, slow and lacking in micro-contrast!

Well, the fact is that it is indeed slow when it comes to aperture. With a variable aperture of 3.5-6.3 it is as slow as molasses on a cold winters day as it drips from the spout in a house without heat…BUT with the amazing 5-Axis Image stabilization inside of the OM-D E-M5, I was able to go out at night and get handheld shots on the wide end with no issues. The ISO would get jacked up but the E-M5 has really good high ISO performance so it is not that huge of a deal (samples below). Let’s face it, OM-D users are mostly enthusiasts and hobbyists. The big wig pro’s go with Nikon and Canon and having a weatherproof 12-50 zoom WITH good Macro capability and video capability can be a good lens to have, even with its shortcomings.

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Yes, I feel this little lens is misunderstood.

I think this lens had HIGH expectations from most people. I feel many thought this would be a “pro” quality lens because the 4/3 format Olympus 12-60 lens is a gorgeous lens and many thought that this lens would be the Micro 4/3 optical equivalent of that lens so right from the get go this lens had everyone talking! When cameras started to ship the reports came back that this lens was not so sharp or impressive. But again, we all had super high hopes here. A $499 lens SHOULD be damn good but Olympus sees it as a small, light, and versatile lens and that is how I see it as well. I also think it should be $350 instead of $499 but when you get it with the camera body it is a good buy at $300.

I admit though, I never really wanted one of these 12-50’s due to the size it appeared to be in the photos online. The lens looks huge in pictures but in person it is quite slim and skinny and yes, LIGHT. It is indeed on the long side but it is MUCH thinner than I expected. You can see the pic below of the lens next to the Sony 18-55 Kit Zoom and the Nikon 10-30 Kit Zoom. It is a loooooong lens but in reality and in use it is not offensive at all, unless you walk up to a cute girl with it..then she might think your camera is getting a little excited 😉

Left to right: Olympus 12-50, Sony 18-55, Nikon 10-30

I bought this lens as part of a silver OM-D body kit and had planned to sell it because I kept hearing it was just “OK”. Selling the lens for $300 would allow me to have paid “body only” price for the camera but nope, I decided that I am keeping it! As much as I am NOT a zoom guy, I will keep it for the teeny amount of Macro I do and for an all around vacation or family lens. I can see taking this setup to disneyland or the grand canyon even, and it will give good results. Buying it with the camera also saves you some cash…to the tune of $200 and that brings the price of the lens with the body to $300, which is about the right price. I can see this lens being used by your kids or wife as it is simple and versatile.

The test snapshot pics I have shot with it so far show me that the IQ is pretty sharp (you can see crops below) and much sharper than I expected after reading the doom and gloom reports on this guy. No it will not be as crisp as the 12mm prime but for a kit lens this one is worth having over the 14-42 (in my opinion).  I have had no softness issues or contrast issues or any issues really and because it is so light it feels great on the camera. There is some distortion at the wide end that I do not get with the 12mm f/2 but it is to be expected in a kit zoom (but not in s $499 lens) and in real photos (not test charts) it’s not a deal breaker at all.

One thing I like about this lens is the way it goes to macro mode. You just hold the Macro button down on the lens barrel and flick up the lens barrel. The lens will automatically engage macro mode and go to the correct focal length. That focal length is 43mm and the aperture is f/6.

Here is a shot at 12mm, wide open at f/3.5 – so this is the lens at it’s worst, and I have seen much worse than this! You must click to see the 100% crops embedded in the image!

The OM-D E-M5 Camera is a perfect match for this lens

The more I use the OM-D the more I realize how it really has no compromises and this is pretty amazing for a small mirrorless camera. No compromise means no roadblocks when out shooting. Low light? No problem. Fast lenses available? No problem. Great video? No problem. Fast AF? No problem. EVF? No problem. Great design? No problem. With no compromises we can all concentrate on getting the shots AND enjoying ourselves at the same time. I am hoping to do a follow-up on this camera soon as it’s just so enjoyable to pack along and take everywhere. It’s solid, easy to use, hassle free and the IQ rocks. Just how I like it. Seeing that the E-M5 is weather sealed this 12-50 is a perfect match for it as an everyday lens.

Instead of going on and on about this lens, I have said what I needed to say. It’s a good lens though not a GREAT “wow” lens. It is sharp enough for 93% of users, it is light and slim, it is feature rich with Macro and the variable zoom options (you can use a mechanical zoom or an electronic type zoom), it doesn’t get any bigger when you zoom (it’s all internal action) and it’s versatile.  12-50 in Micro 4/3 equals 24-100, which covers a lot of ground. The distortion and edge softness (there is a little of that as well) really is not going to kill your photos but if you want perfection and are shooting in a pro situation, you may want to opt for some of the amazing primes available.

Me, I like it much better than the standard kit 14-42 so I gave that one to my son for his E-Pl1. If you are choosing an OM-D kit, I’d recommend this one over the 14-42 kit for the extra $200.

Pros and Cons of the Olympus 12-50 Kit Zoom


  • It is light and thin but made well
  • Weather Sealed just like the E-M5
  • Great for video with fast and silent AF
  • Good family or all-purpose lens
  • Doesn’t expand as you zoom
  • One button click to macro
  • I had no sharpness issues even wide open that others have had
  • Aperture is slow as molasses
  • By the time you hit 50mm you are already at f/6.3, so you need some light if you want ISO low
  • Some distortion at wide end
  • micro contrast is not up there with the 25 1.4, 45 1.8, or top quality primes
  • Too expensive at $499, buy it with the body at $300, which is about what it is worth
Image Samples using the OM-D E-M5 and 12-50 Lens

Take a look at the quick snapshots I grabbed in the 1st few hours of owning this lens. No complaints from me at all…at all! Oh, and BTW, in case you didn’t realize how much I like this camera…the OM-D is everything it is cracked up to be. A HUGE BIG FAT BRAVO to Olympus on this one. It’s a good time to be a photographer, camera geek or gear hound with G.A.S.! BTW, the new Olympus 75 1.8 is coming soon and it looks AMAZING!!!!


Click on the images for a larger and much better look, including some with 100% crops

and one shot taken by my iPhone..look how beautiful this is 🙂


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  1. It’s now 2017 and I just got myself a 2nd hand OMD EM5II, a 45mm F1.8 and a 12-50mm F3.5-6.3.

    I am currently familiarising myself with the 12-50mm and I find it easy to use. I have not really taken it out to shoot yet as I am trying to find the occasion to use it.

  2. Thanks for a great review Steve. I’ve actually just bought this lens on the stregnth of your info.
    Already have a lens of similar focal lengths, which is probably sharper. But wanted something a little different. The 12mm & macro mode were the deal breakers for me, but the fact that this lens is a little quirky, just adds to it’s appeal. Looking forward to a Norway trip with it.
    Keep up the good work !

    • It’s an extra ‘Function Button’ (LensFunction) which you can configure using the “Button Dial” section of the main menu in the camera.

      So you can configure it (..see pages 93 & 94 of the downloadable E-M5 manual, for instance..) to set – for example – a central AutoFocus target when you press it, or to stop down the aperture during focusing to see how much depth-of-field you have, or to magnify the viewfinder display, or to turn on/off the ‘digital 2x zoom’ etc, etc.

      You can set this Lfn button to any one of about 20 different purposes.

      The downloadable E-M5 manual, describing how to set this button, is here: ..and the downloadable E-M1 manual is here:

      • $299 water proof macro 24 to 100 mm equivalent and a function key …quite a nice packsge. I use it for my routine photos. Use three primes for special stuff.


        Bob gallagher

  3. Thanks for this. Though I don’t use the lens that often, using some good primes instead, I didn’t understand the trashing it took by so many. Yes, at $499 is is about $200 overpriced, but coming with the kit, the price is about right, as you said; it has some very nice features (12mm for one, and quite good macro capabilities); you can take out in the rain or to Niagara Falls and not worry about it. I shoot mostly 35mm EFL and up, so spending $800 on the Olympus 12 mm would be foolish on my budget. So unless I win the lottery this lens is my 12mm. I’ll get the 60mm f2.8 for macro because I love getting up close to insects; it will be worth the $500. The 12-50 frees me up to concentrate on the focal lengths where I do almost all my personally important work and still gives me a decent very wide angle. What’s no to like?

  4. Hi Steve,
    Im an amateur / beginner in photography, and Im set on buying the OM-D.
    Between the OMD + 12-50mm lens versus OMD + 14-42mm & 40-150mm lens, which one will you recommend? Both packages are sold at the same price. Main use is for travelling and occasional night outs.

  5. Which one you think is best paired with my 12-50 kit lens? Yes i want wide angle lens but at the same time has good performance in low light too.

    1) 20mm f 1.7
    2) 25mm f 1.4
    3) 12 mm f 2

  6. Thanks for the nice review! I am loving more my 12-50 mm! Ive use it in Europe trip for 2 weeks and it was great with my beloved OM D. Though i still need to learn a lot in using my camera….But ive been thinking if its worth it to get 12 mm f2? I got a little frustrated taking during low light condition, or maybe i just didnt get to know how to use my OM with the 12-50 kit lens?

  7. Im still deciding if i should go buy an OM-D with the kit lens or just the OM-D body and the 45mm f1.8 lens…

    • If you get just the 45mm, you’ll have, essentially, a very good “point-&-shoot”, which takes great pictures, especially in dim light, but is restricted to just that single ’90mm’ look: no wide views of anything, ever.

      The kit lens, which zooms from 12mm to 50mm (i.e; covers the same view as the 45mm, but offers so much more) will give you:
      (a) wide-angle views,
      (b) extreme close ups,
      (c) manual and smooth electronic zoom (for when you shoot video),
      (d) slightly longer ‘reach’ (max 50mm, instead of only 45mm)

      The kit lens WON’T give you:
      (x) extremely wide aperture, for blurring away backgrounds,
      (y) the very slightly sharper and very slightly contrastier look of the 45mm,
      (z) (nothing more to add!)

      So the kit lens gives you wide-angle to telephoto versatility; the 45mm gives you blurry backgrounds – but only with that one, fixed, ’90mm-equivalent’ view.

        • Thanks for the input. I go to a lot of car shows and also help out with a friend who is a car journalist, so this 17-50mm will be good for now and i will get the 45mm prime next year.

  8. There was a 12-50 for sale in the ads section of a m4/3 site. I bought the OM-D as a body only, the 12-50 never appealed to me. When a LN black version was for sale for $235, I decided to try it. It’ll be here in a few days, couldn’t pass that price up!

  9. My only real complaint about the 12-50 is that it pulls the E-M5 body out of balance because of its length. As a kit it’s a non-brainer all around lens, especially if you don’t want to take your primes out on the beach, kids’ sandbox/garden, rain, whatever. And the motorized zoom is mandatory for video without getting funny focusing issues + flickering during zoom.

    So to Olympus: Make it cheaper as a stand-alone.
    To everyone else: Get it as a kit.

  10. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the lens review (12-50mm kit zoom). It was useful to read that the lens has a good value for money when buying the kit. At the same time, I followed your advice to the Panasonic Leica 25 mm. A great combination with the Olympus OM-D. Thanks again.

  11. Steve, when I bought my OM-D, the price difference between body-only and with kit lens is so small that I decided to get the 12-50 as a kit. Having used it for quite some time, I totally agree with your statements above. It may not be a great lens, but it is pretty good and quite versatile. Definitely a lot better than the 18-55 kit lens that Sony uses on the NEX bodies. Weathersealing, video zooming, macro, and a 35mm equivalent of 24-100, when combined with the 20/1.7 or the 12/2, plus the 9-18, the whole set makes for a great lightweight travel kit.

  12. Steve,

    If you were to choose one lens from following along with 12-50 kit lens, which one would you pick?

    1. Oly 9-18mm
    2. Oly 12mm
    3. Panasonic 14mm
    4. Oly 45mm
    5. Panasonic 20mm




    So I was going to post this on dpreview but I like this site much more. I’ve found great advice here before.

    I have an OMD EM5. I just bought it to use in Paris and for street photography. I’m going to pick up the 45mm because I do not own any m43 lenses.

    Where I Need Help

    I don’t think the 12-50mm is that portable I don’t like how the lens sticks out when I wear the camera around my neck. I plan to keep this on me 7 days a week. So what im trying to figure out is,
    1) buy the 14mm Panasonic which is a little more then I wanted to spend and I feel that I want to have the 12-50mm for the weather sealed option.
    2) buy a small bag to keep with me. Which I really don’t mind, when I started in photography I used to carry a bag with my dslr all the time.
    3) Some kind of new sling?

    What do you guys think I’d like some help.

    • It get’s a lot of bad press due to the parts used to make it but I have to say, after trying three amps with these headphones the Grado amp by far has the best synergy, and it is the lowest cost amp by far. Highly recommended.

  14. Hi Steve,

    Make me think that I can’t wait for your review of the new Panasonic Lumix 12-35 F2.8…

  15. I totally agree with this review! But: it´s so hard to switch back to this lens once you have tried the primes by Panasonic or Olympus… 😉 All in all the zoom kit is a perfect buy!

      • Nope- Lake Erie. I don’t think I would go to the extreme levels of immersion I did there with ocean water. Even with fresh water, about 40 minutes of that is the limit- my E-M5’s rear LCD and EVF were a bit dodgy for a few days afterwards (interestingly, the camera still took perfect photos though). After a thorough drying out it is all back to normal working order.

  16. Hi Steve:

    I bought the OMD+Kit eventhough there were lots of trashing on the kit lens..”its slow”..”there’s no bokeh” (of course its a F6.3, but not the end of the world!). I was quite impressed with EPL2+14-42R, so took a leap of faith with the 12-50–it should be as good as the 14-42, plus its got macro, splashproof and good looking too.
    I do have assorted primes, but as a walkaround lens, this is perfectly competent lil’ setup! At OMD’s quality high ISO (I keep it at 4000), the 6.3 aperture isn’t an issue. I spent around a week in the Gulf where heat, dust and photographers are a no-no, the OMD+kit shines! Thought I’d share the samples:

    Here’s also a sample for “street photography”, even without the bokeh, some thoughtful composition one ought to be able to get away with it:


  17. I bought the 12-50 with my E-M5 because I thought that at $500 (or $300 with the camera) it should be something special. Most kit zooms are in the $100-$200 range.

    Turns out it’s just OK. Not bad, but nothing special.

    I mostly use the Panasonic 14mm, the 25mm f1.4, and the Oly 45mm, but the best m4/3 kit lens I’ve used, and the one I still use on the E-M5, is the 14-45 that came with the Panasonic G1. Small, sharp, contrasty, it’s a remarkable lens, especially for the price. Of course, samples vary, and maybe I got a good one.

    Last time I looked, they were still available at the big online stores for $200.

  18. I got the 12-50 as a kit with my E-M5 body, although it has recently been replaced for most things by the Panasonic 12-35mm. But I’m not going to sell the 12-50mm. A swift comparison between it and a Panasonic Summilux 25mm, and the 12-35mm showed me it does have a sweet spot, in fact many sweet spots, but they just aren’t at the very wide end or the very long end. So it isn’t a bad lens, and it probably just needs a photographer who looks for the good points and who doesn’t allow themselves to be hamstrung by a few bad points. I like it, and it’s great for macro.

  19. Hi Steve,

    It would be nice if you also posted a picture shot above the 3 kit lenses to show width differences between the Olympus, Sony, and Nikon kit lenses. It’s just to show how skinny the lens is compared to the others.

  20. I’m finding that the OM-D has the best handling of any camera i’ve used. Did I really just write that? I mean i have Leica and Contax which are really nice.
    Well, it’s true. I defy anyone to go out and take pictures with this camera and NOT enjoy using it. I wouldn’t have imagined that a camera like this would come from Olympus but I’ve got to give them credit for getting it right.And the 12 – 50 is a nice sharp optic that is perfect for traveling with.Get over the slow aperture thing and just get out and shoot even at the beach or in the rain. In the days of film and the dominance of Nikons and Canons the old OM system was loved by serious travel photographers for it’s lightness, compactness and versatile system including extremely good macro equipment. I can see the new OM-D system being a modern equivalent of that and it’s early days yet.For myself I’m really, really happy to find a camera ( at last ) that let’s me get on with photography and stop worrying about the gear.
    Well worth the money in my opinion. And for anyone thinking of buying, the 12 – 50 is a nice handling lens, capable of great shots.

  21. Not a misunderstood lens, just a lens as long as a sausage and does not go well with m43 or any other kind of csc body. Olympus should stick to their mantra of compactness in their m43 system and stop doing things otherwise, like what they did with their 43 system. “ooooo, buy our 43 system cause its just as good as they other guys with a smaller sensor, but our cameras are just as big, and then once we dont sell enough 43 cameras we’ll just abandon them and make m43 cameras.”

    • I disagree, Steve is pretty spot on with his assessment compared to mine of this lens. the lens isn’t very big really, and the weight really is amazingly light. It’s 3.75″ long, that’s shorter than most hot dogs, let alone sausages outside of frozen breakfast ones.

      • I disagree with your disagreement because..I said sausage, not hotdogs. You got a thin body with a long sausage lens on it, is it hard to see that? Everything Oly’pompus’ does contradicts usually everything they market. They said their 43 sensors would alllow for quality in more compact bodies….uh wrong. Their best sensors will never be even as good as the best aps-c sensors.Their 43 cameras had literally no new benefit over dslrs, well, unless you count the 2 xcrop factor.They make 4 kinds of cameras..all of which are the same except in features and form factor.At least Canon or Nikon never claimed their dslr’s in their line were different cameras. I almost laughed my ass of my chair when i first saw the so called new OM-D.Oh please, are camera gear heads that naive now? What’s next, Olympus putting a m43 sensor into a lomo styled body and calle it a micro lomo? LOL.No wonder someone at Canon called Olympus a “loser ” camera company.

        These csc mirrorless cameras are like the ols rangefinder cameras of the past. How many ppl used any lenses that were past 135mm on those things back then? You just watch, sooner or later, Oly’pompus will start making big FAT 2.8 sausage melon zooms on those things and wonder why no one wants to lug around a fat heavy lens on a tiny body.Olympus only had some market because of the digital age, they were gone and dead during the last years of film.Once aps-c sensors become cheap to make and once they’re in all ps camera, what will Oly’pompus’ do then? Oly’pompus is living on borrowed time with their overpriced micro four turds.

        • Wow. Uh- ok: “that’s nice.” I’m not a fan boy of anything, I just simply like to use whatever it is I like to use, and this happens to be the camera I like and enjoy using: I simply like the system. I like cameras in general, and am excited by new things- not just from one manufacturer, I like the technology changes + improvements/progression overall in photography. I’m not interested in styling, retro styling is fine- I’m interested in usage and seeing what’s new. I carry 4 µ4/3 lenses around with me everyday, and a camera body with room to spare in my regular everyday bag- and it’s not heavy or a burden, with my old DSLR I had 1 camera + 1 – 2 lenses in the same bag, with no room to spare. Have you even handled one? You’d know it’s not a “sausage” if you did.

          There is more in the world than Canon or Nikon, if that’s the camera for you- that’s great- but they’re not the camera for me, and there’s no need to tell everyone who uses one that they’re essentially being foolish- I mean, what’s the point in that? Did Olympus run over your dog with a car or something? Because you seem to have a serious grudge with them. It’s a camera we’re talking about here.There is something pompous in this thread and it isn’t Oly. There’s always something about µ4/3 that brings out the cranks, and strange user defensiveness from other camera users, I mean- does it really matter to you that much?

          • Good for you, i never called you a fanboy either. Nor do I use Nikon or Canon. it seems that you must work for Olypompus, seeing as how you are so defensive.LOL. I dont have a grudge against micro four turds, I have mfour turds camera myself, I just call it the way I see it. But seeing as how you call me pompous over a CAMERA, or its COMPANY, you are the one who needs to book another appopintment with your shrink. You get all worked up because someone else doesnt like the camera you choose to use, it’s laugahble. The difference between you and me is that I use micro four turds as well and even I don’t defend their crap…do you know why? Cause unlike you, I know the faults of every system.. it’s called being HONEST with oneself. That’s why ppl like yourself are the first ones in the new camera lineup, the first ones to a Leica pajama party, the first ones to believe whatever a multi million dollar company claims.I have used nearly every name brand in cameras but at that doesn’t mean I have to run around wearing their logos as well. You …are a logo wearer. Honesty they say is the best policy, if you don’t like honesty, wy don;t you ask Steve Huff to call this the “LIES” instead of ” Responses” Geeez..laugable man….laughable.LOL

          • uh, so now you call me insane? you really are childish and laughable man…laughable.

          • Well, Dennis, it seems to matter to you enough for you to be so defensive about it, doesn’t it? You like progressions and improvement in technology? How about progressions and improvements with your photography? Now there’s a novel idea, right? LOL

  22. Hi Steve,

    Although a versatile lens, it requires much skills to make the most of. Am solely using (keeping it) it for purposes of video ….. IMO, its much too bulky (for a M43 system at least). I will stick with my primes !

    Btw, pls oblige with us a review of the 75mm f1.8 …. pretty pls !

    • Hi! Holding the camera with this lens in my hands now ( just prior to typing this, I’m not THAT skilled )
      and it does not feel or look at all bulky especially when compared to zooms for the other brands.
      My girlfriend who likes taking pictures but doesn’t have ‘much skills ‘ has been getting good shots with it and loves testing the macro function on the poor cat.There are shots that you can get with this lens that you can’t get with the primes.You. like a lot of folks seem to be obsessed with fast apertures like that 75mm 1.8 which is wonderful BUT isn’t weatherproof, can’t take a wide shot, isn’t as practical for video, and can’t get super close ups like the kit lens. Time to give that 12 – 5omm zoom more respect.
      Steve gets it!

      • Care to elaborate what shots I can’t get with primes vs the 12-50 ?

        And have read Steve’s OMD review and list of recommended (must have lens) ?

        • Elaboration.

          None of the primes are good for real close up work with very small subjects. The 12 -50 doesn’t get to true macro at 1.1 but it does get you close enough to get pretty good shots.
          Check Robin Wong’s site where he tests the OMD and this zuiko lens with excellent results. If you search Robin Wong Olympus OMD you’ll find his reviews. (You’ll be interested to see the reviews for the 12mm 45mm and 75mm
          lenses too if you like primes.)

          Another situation is a shot of something moving at a distance which you happen to see while your taking a wide landscape shot. If you have a prime like the 12mm fitted, by the time you’ve replaced your lens, re-framed etc. You’ll have lost that shot or the subject will have moved out of frame. In travel photography that is a realistic situation and with a zoom you can jump from wide to tele in less time than you can change lenses.You lose more quality by cropping than zooming.

          Also street photography shots where your back is against a wall with no room to move and you can only adjust the framing by zooming in or out.
          I’ll add that…..
          I love primes too, especially their compact size and wide apertures but experience has taught me that a zoom is sometimes useful. And if you’ve ever done mountain photography where you’re hanging on a ledge you might think twice about fumbling with a lens change when you have a precarious position and a sheer drop and cold hands. let me tell you a zoom is mighty useful in that situation if you want to adjust your framing.

          I’ve travelled all over the world taking photos with both zooms and fixed focal lengths and I honestly think both have a place in your bag. If you are a purist or perfectionist you’ll stick with primes whatever but zooms can be practical and sometimes that’s what you need.
          Also, specifically in the case of this zoom the weatherproofing is valuable any time you are near water or in the rain. That would not be my primary reason to get it but it’s a genuine benefit in rain or snow.Primes always have the advantage of a nice wide aperture as you know and will usually beat a zoom in terms of sharpness at the edges.

  23. Steve, when are going to ad a “donate” button to your blog? I mean, as you wrote it yourself: ” traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing”. Well that doesn’t surprise me at all as this is the best photography blog on the net, the first thing I do after starting up my PC is go and have a look on your site.
    But,as many o ther readers, I live in Europe and am not able to buy things at B&H or AMAZON US. (due to shipping costs, customs charges, etc)
    So why wouldn’t you give us the chance to show our appreciation via a Paypal donation for example.
    It certainly would make me feel better (and ease my mind :-)) , and I’m sure with me, many others…
    So why not take this in consideration?


    • I second Kris’ motion. Nothing is free. Especially a good one. Let’s keep this site going for the benefit of all.

  24. Steve,

    A piece of advice if you’re not using a neck strap and just use a wrist strap instead for your OM-D if you don’t mind me saying it.

    Get rid of those triangle lugs. They really annoy when gripping the camera and most wrist straps (and probably even neck straps) have their own lugs so you might be better off without them.

  25. Cheers Steve, you’re pretty much nailed the essence of the 12-50–jack of many trades, master of few, and an indespensible one-lens solution for everyday snapshooting. I’ll add the variable speed power zoom is handy, even for a very occasional video shooter (myself included). The zoom ring settings could be a lot more distinct, as I’m forever accidentally switching between manual and power.

    I bought the E-M5 with backpacking in mind and my first trip with this combination featured comically bad weather, including 40mph winds and blowing mist. The camera+lens combination shrugged it off (even if I was soggy and freezing).

    Mission accomplished Oly, now give us our µ4/3 12-60, even if it’s big and expensive.

  26. “It is sharp enough for 93% of users”. LOL. No doubt that is a carefully researched figure Steve?

  27. Hi,

    I am planning to purchase the OM-D w/ the 12-50 kit. If you were going to purchase one other lens, such as prime to go with the camera, which would it be?


      • Hi Steve

        GREAT REVIEW AGAIN!!!!Thank you so much for all the tips!
        As an allsurround kit for beginners with a slight preference to portrait photoraphy which combo would you recommend?
        1) 12-50 + panasonic 20 + oly45 OR
        2) 12-50 + panasonic 20 + oly75 OR
        3) 12-50 + panasonic 20 + pana 45-140?

        I find your pictures anazing!!! I wish I could one day make pictures like yours, too. You dont offer by any chance online courses ???


        • OK, throw rocks at me, but I’m gonna disagree with Steve here.
          For a beginner with a “slight preference” for portraits, I think the 45 is a better choice, especially if cost is an issue.
          The 45 is absolutely brilliant, exactly the traditional length for portraits, and about half the cost of the 75. It’s also a great “walking around” lens, and probably easier for a beginner to use.
          I’m sure the 75 is a great lens, but it’s bigger, more expensive, and really a little long for portraits. I have lots of m4/3 primes, but unless I come up with a specific use for it, I think I may pass on the 75, especially at it’s rather high price. .

  28. Basically the only reason(s) I use the 12-50mm on my OM-D is the weather protection and the fact that it has a conveniently placed L-Fn button. The Fn buttons on the OM-D are both inconveniently placed and hard to reach (and hold down) while hitting the shutter release. One of the situations I often shoot are panning shots at a long focal length (45mm and beyond) with the IS set to Mode 2, spot metering, shutter speed around 1/25s and single point, centered autofocus. The easiest way to dial in these functions just for the moment I need them is via a custom mode assigned to the lens Fn button. If it wasn’t for that button, I’d stick with the 45mm prime for that shooting scenario.

    I really wish there was a true 12-60mm MFT version. I am seriously considering the two pro Panasonic zoom lenses, although they’re really expensive.

  29. What’s going on here?????!!!! It’s gone all DSLR, Zooms and Macro’s – If you start reviewing flash triggers I’m off! 😉

  30. Hi Steve,
    Thank you for this review.
    I discovered your website about a year ago and was happy to find ,at last, a different approach to photography :
    what you call real use in real situations.I find your approach direct and stimulating.
    So, about this 12-50 lens , I agree completely with what you are saying in your review.It can take very good pictures, especially in good light, and it can also perform fairly well in low light. My Nikon D300 and several pro lenses are feeling left behind ever since I got this little OMD5 with the 12-50…….
    Again, thank you for your enthousiastic and realistic approach to photography: yes it should be fun…

    Pierre Michel

  31. I hadn’t read any “doom and gloom” about it, and I pay only about 50% attention to what others think of things: my own opinion is what matters to me. I tried this lens in the shop when I bought my OM-D, and unhesitatingly bought it.

    It’s extremely sharp, and has that handy “macro” facility (also very sharp).

    Its “reach” isn’t quite long enough for me (24-100mm equivalent), so although the 24mm end is great, I’d really prefer 200mm at the other end. However, with the OM-D’s terrific 16mpxl low-light sensor (and stabilisation) pics can easily be cropped afterwards without losing too much resolution, giving the equivalent of a “longer” lens.

    Focusing is instantaneous and spot-on, manual focusing is easy – for tweaking if necessary; I don’t use the “auto zoom” facility (slow-ish, smo-oo-th zoom) except for video, but I’m constantly amazed by this lens’ bitingly sharp results! And it’s FAR sharper than the handy Panasonic 14-140mm lens, which would otherwise be my OM-D’s constant companion.

    I probably would pay $499 for this lens separately, but as a sharp and versatile packaged-with-the-camera “kit lens” it’s well worth the money!

  32. This lens is a perfect example of why I rarely pay much attention to ‘techie’ reviews and no attention whatsoever to ‘forum consensus’ opinions.

    As someone who has longed for the perfect 2 lens kits that we had in 4/3 (in standard, high grade, and super high grade versions!) plus the near macro ability and weather sealing of most 4/3 lenses, this kit lens has been a very welcome addition to m4/3. No, it isn’t as fast or as sharp or as contrasty as the 4/3 versions, but it is actually a much nicer lens than what most reviews would have you believe. Really fun and convenient to use as a walk around lens or on family occasions (beach, camping, walking the dog, outdoor festivals, etc).

    And I realized over 4th July why many of these kit lenses can be so slow – you can’t shoot any brighter on a sunny day – when most kit lens owners are out and about – anyway! Yes, I know about ND filters, but how many kit lens shooters are going to be using ND filters?

  33. Hi Steve,

    nice positive statement. However, being a formerly proud 4/3 Pro User I know why it is like it is (ok, still think 4/3 is great and completely underrated -but due the Leica M9P I had no real use any more for my E5 and HG/SHG glas).

    And as you mentioned: It is the 12-60mm 2.8-4 SWD Zoom (24-120mm in 35mm Terms). And this 4/3 is a screamer. Ok it isn’t perfect, but try to find a Zoom that is able to match the Quality, Speed, Corner to Corner sharpness and relative low distortion etc. from Canon , Nikon and good knows. You simply wont find anything comparable by miles.

    And that is why every 4/3 user put so much hope into the 12-50.


  34. Nice. Grado labs. They make some good up front sounding cans. I’ve used the SR-60 and SR-80i. And you have a nice looking headphone amp too from the looks of it. Any recommendations in the portable headphone amps Steve? Something to pair with an ipod/phone/pad? I’m currently using a pair of Sennheiser HD558s – a little bit more laid back sound, but I love my Grados too.

  35. Interesting and informative writeup. I would only like to stress what was said above – contrary to most zoom lenses that offer a macro function – this one is at the long end of the zoom range what for macro photography is much more practical. I would also say that for video a zoom lens lens with this focal range makes a lot of sense.

  36. Excellent perspective about this lens. Before my OM-D arrived, I had already picked up the adapter that would allow me to attach all of the amazing Pentax glass I have carefully selected over the years. Well, I haven’t used the adapter yet because this lens on the OM-D is just too much fun. I’m shooting, and shooting, and shooting some more!

    Certainly I will get around to attaching the Pentax classics to see what that stuff can do on this amazing camera, but for right now I’m just having way too much fun with the kit!


  37. Even with a bag full of nice primes like the 12/25/90/75 I think it makes sense to own the 12-50 just for those casual times when you may not want to be a “photographer” and simply have a quick and easy way to take versatile snapshots without family members getting impatient while you changed lens back and forth etc.

    Likewise for a trip to the beach, Niagara Falls etc where there may be some mist in the air it would make more sense to subject a mere $300 weather sealed zoom to those elements than your expensive lenses not to mention trying to change lens with blowing sand etc.

    FInally, the fact its a pretty good macro also is icing on the cake. I don’t really do enough macro shooting to warrant buying a dedicated lens for it, but if I see a cool flower or something and I just happen to already own this lens and it can do macro pretty well, well that adds a bit of value as well

  38. Hi Steve
    What a great “real world” review. Just wanna go for silver OMD 5 too. Personally like it more than the black edition. It reminds very much to my beloved OM 2n.
    I will order it the kit lens too. 200 Euro. I fully agree that this a great bargain 🙂
    During my work I am quite often photo shooting in very dusty enviroments (technical documentation-no art!). Thanks to you I believe that lens is exactly what I need. BTW my kit lens from my EP 1 looks like a junk yard inside.
    Keep on going . Best photoside in the web?
    Best regards

  39. Thanks Steve for your article. I got the OM-D + 12-50 zoom kit one month ago and spend 10 days walking in the center of France with friend. This is really the perfect kit for such outdoor activities (including mountaineering); from landscape to portrait the images are really superb and without speaking of the macro (photos are so easy to take and the result is excellent).
    Best regards

  40. Couldn’t agree with you more, Steve! I’ve been using this lens for about six weeks now and it really is a fun little puppy. Nah; it isn’t perfect, but at the price when bought with the body it’s a versatile and enjoyable piece of kit.

    • ..but ONE really big issue is not considered: the rather cheap BUILDING of the lens: plastic all around… a bug disappointment compared to the well finished body.. isnt it?!?!!

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