OLYMPUS M.ZUIKO 12-100MM/4 IS | Petr Bambousek | Wildlife Photography



16 Oct 2020, Posted by Petr Bambousek in Articles, Equipment, Olympus gear





Since shooting on the M43 format, I’ve had my share of various bodies and especially lenses in my hands. A lot of people ask me for help when choosing their best equipment and of course we get to cover a number of different topics. For the most part, it’s a major struggle between what people want, what they really need, and what they can afford. As a result, I decided to write something for each piece of equipment I had on my m43 in the scope of short practical observations. I scored all lenses on a scale of 1-10 in terms of processing, equipment and sharpness. I must admit that the quality of each lens that I had the opportunity to test or use for a long time is at a very high level and I can easily imagine having each of them as part of my gear. The uniform reviews allow you now to read a detailed evaluation for each lens reflecting exclusively my personal opinion. Each evaluation is based on actual in-the-field use and may therefore differ from, for example, lab tests available on the Internet. The page is divided into four logical segments – numerical rating | practical observations | sample of published photos from a given lens | FAQ, where you can find my brief responses to questions I received.






An almost perfect one-for-all



From the first touch, you can feel the quality typical for the PRO range. I love working with the lens, which is not showing any signs of wear and tear even after years of using. The only microscopic scratches you can find on the zoom ring that has rougher coating. Zooming in and out is absolutely smooth without any hicks, and so is the focusing, which allows for very precise focusing. As mentioned, the lens is designed to be resistant to dust, rain and freezing, which are not just empty claims. From my personal experience, I can vouch for an almost perfect waterproof seal. You don’t need to seek quick cover and a raincoat in the event of sudden rain, which is quite common in the tropics. The lens handles it without hesitation. Body-compatible lens stabilisation, allows for sharp images from the hand for extremely long times. The longest values can be achieved at the widest end (12 mm) when photographing for example landscape or waterfalls. This setting, for example, in combination with the Olympus E-M1X or E-M1 III bodies captures sharp photos even at times of around 10 – 15 seconds. For blurred water at waterfalls, somewhere around 1 – 5 second is usually enough, which is again more than okay without a tripod. Due to the fact that the lens focuses at a relatively short distance (again, the shortest at 12mm focus), I often use it in combination with a macro lens to capture nocturnal animals in the rainforest (lizards, frogs, insects). The lens is very sharp even on an open aperture reaching the sharpest details at F/ 5.6 – 6.3. I would welcome, if it focused at shorter distances on longer focal lengths, which would enable me to photograph even smaller species of animals such as spiders. From my point of view, this is a lens that I place in the imaginary hall of fame of m43 lenses. Plus, for people who travel light and want to have just one high-quality universal lens without the need to use a tripod all the time, this is the perfect choice.







Q: Why did you choose 12-100 instead of 12-40? Is it so much better?

A: I’ve been using the M.Zuiko 12-40 lens ever since I bought my first Olympus body. It’s a great lens. Compared to the 12-100, it is lighter, smaller, uses smaller (cheaper) filters and is one stop lighter. In the end, I went for the 12-100 due to one simple fact that it covers a wider range and its stabilization is absolutely perfect. Between the two, there is no noticeable fine-detail difference in the range of 12-40, and for the 40-100mm range, I do need to swap lenses. When shooting with the 12-40mm, sometimes I experienced the need to reach for the next one up much more often, which not only delays you a lot but is also quite impractical, for example, when shooting during rain at night in the rainforest. I don’t dwell much on the brightness of wide lenses, because I use greater depth of field and the loss of light is therefore more than sufficiently compensated by the aforementioned stabilisation. This is most beneficial for my style of photography and one of the top deciding factors why to use the 12-100 lens. I enjoy trying out new perspectives that I would otherwise need a tripod for. Despite my considering both lenses to be absolutely excellent, the 12-100mm is more useful for my style of photography.

Q: Are you not bothered that it’s so heavy compared to the 12-40/ 12-45?

Odpověď: There are more than 70 lenses compatible with the m43 format. Their mutual combinations are almost inexhaustible. At first glance, you could say that the 12-100mm goes way beyond the miniaturisation typical of the m43 format. Personally, I like to perceive the weight of the lenses relative to the entire gear. For example, if we stay with the PRO series, when you use the 12-40 as a basic lens, it is good to have a 40-150mm/ 2.8 lens on hand and ideally a 300mm. This used to be my go-to “Holy Trinity” when photographing animals with the m43 format. Over time, I found out that with the 40-150 lens, I mainly use both ends of the zoom – ie 40 or 150. On the contrary, the 300mm was too long for me in many situations (and my style). Therefore, instead of three lenses (12-40, 40-150 and 300), I finally set on a path with two lenses (12-100 and 200 mm). As a result, the weight of the lenses I most use has still been reduced to 1800g compared to the previous 2400g. Plus, the 2-lens setup significantly simplified my work.

Q: Is there a lens that you’d replace the 12-100m with? 

A: When I’m choosing a lens I don’t care that much if it fits exactly between the one before and after. What’s more important for me is that it brings something unique without the unnecessary gear overlap or range. Just because it suited me before doesn’t mean it will suit me now, and it is not set in concrete that it won’t change again. Currently, I don’t know of a lens that would replace the 12-100 for me. However, I can imagine that after the arrival of the 150-400mm lens, nature photographers will only need two lenses in their backpacks – the 12-100mm and 150-400mm.





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