Just how good is the Olympus E-PL2 plus Zeiss 18mm?

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

I really want this combination to be good. It looks simply stunning to me. It also handles and feels great in the hand. Even the fact that its a manual focus lens isn't that much of a problem, with the improved layout of the E-PL and the excellent VF-2 electronic viewfinder. Its one of those combinations I want to pick up and use. But do the results match its looks?

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

The short answer is yes, just about. The lens is great, there's no question of that. It produced beautifully sharp images on my Leica M9, apart from problems with vignetting and colour casts. Since I'm going to be using one lens only on the Leica this is surplus to requirements. At least it was until I put it on the E-PL2 a few days ago and was immediately seduced by its looks on that camera. I know that shouldn't matter, but it does.

The Olympus sensor, is well, an Olympus sensor! Its got a bit too much luminance noise at ISO 200 for my liking and the colour is somewhat muted compared to a Leica M9 or Fuji X100. The Zeiss produces very nice looking files on it however. Somewhat surprisingly the lens seems to be sharpest wide open at f/4. Not something you encounter every day. f/4 isn't particularly fast but this lens at f/4 on m4/3 produces a similar result to a 35mm lens at f/8 on 35mm. A classic focal lens and aperture setting. So worth pursuing with. Particularly since no one seems to be inclined to buy it at the price I have it on ebay, and I guess if I don't use this combination to take many pictures I can always just look at it!

All following images shot at f/4.

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon