Above - Olympus m.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 on a Panasonic GX8 and Olympus Air
I've seen reviews of the f/2.8 'pro-spec' lenses from Olympus and Panasonic that claim, in terms of image quality, they are somewhat similar to other slower zooms and suffer in comparison with primes. I'll be discussing that in more depth in a later article, but in terms of the Olympus m.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, I don't think thats true at all. In fact, I think it's a rather good lens.
Firstly, this is an almost unique optic. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 'full-frame' is the only other fast super wide-angle zoom that goes this wide. The Canon 'full-frame' version is 16-35mm. So it has it's obvious uses. That extra stop (the fastest other wide angle zooms are usually f/4) can make all the difference in a hand hand low light situation. Particularly with the benefit of Olympus and now Panasonic IBIS. Another advantage of a fast lens like this is that the 'sweet' apertures get wider. So this lens is performing best at apertures some zooms can only muster wide open and are at their poorest.
Construction wise. it's built like a tank. It feels significantly sturdier than the Panasonic 7-14mm, but then Panasonic polycarbonate is much tougher than it often feels. But this Olympus certainly gives the impression of a 'pro' standard lens in the hand, as does the 12-40mm f/2.8 which I also have. I don't have my OM-D E-M5 II anymore, as I sold it because of the annoying menus. Though to be honest the Panasonic GX8 is a far better camera for my needs and has more pixels anyway. And once I bought it I knew the Olympus would get used a lot less.
And the Olympus m.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 does perform really well on the GX8. While the IBIS isn't as good as on Olympus cameras, it certainly performs well enough. All of us will have different shutter speeds that we can hand hold, without camera shake and the GX8 gives me maybe one or two stops over what I can normally do. Not that much, but certainly very useful. Plus at the 7mm end I can manage some pretty slow shutter speeds. Only really suitable for non moving subject matter, but nonetheless useful.
I find the lens sharp and with no more distortion than would normally be expected, though at these wide angle focal lengths, eliminating all of that isn't really possible, plus that is part of the 'charm' of super wide angles, the ability to create images that have a different perspective on the world.
All in all this is an excellent lens and one that I can use creatively in a number of situations. I have no issue with it whatsoever and while I don't use it that much, when I do I'm always pleased with the results. And for me this is what m4/3 is all about. High quality, interesting and useful lenses that aren't particularly heavy or bulky. Though it has to be said that this Olympus is far from the smallest lightest lens in the m4/3 range. However compared with APS-C and full-frame 'equivalents' it's much easier to carry around for extended periods of time. For example, I really liked the Sony 16-35mm f/4 FE lens, in fact it was one of my lenses of the year for 2014. But I never enjoyed carrying it around. It was heavy and I've never liked the 'mismatch' between Sony FE bodies and lenses. The GX8 / 7-14mm combination is much more balanced and much more pleasant to use. Less pixels of course, but I'm happy to sacrifice those for a more enjoyable shooting experience, which generally results in me returning home with pictures I'm pleased with.
And that's an important consideration. It IS important to use gear that I'm happy with, for whatever reason. I've tried using cameras and lenses that give me the best quality or the largest files and I don't tend to stick with them that long and using gear I think I should rather than what I want, usually doesn't result in long term use. But I've stuck with m4/3 for years now and it does seem to give me more of what I want. The Olympus m.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 is a great example of that. It's nicely made, has great IQ and it feels good in the hand. It ticks a lot of boxes for me and lifes too short to put up with gear that I don't enjoy using, particularly when it makes little or no difference to my earnings. Nice lens and one of my better purchase over the last few months.