Four-Thirds lenses are always deceptive by virtue of their compact proportions. The Zuiko 14-54mm is no exception and is classified by Olympus as a pro-spec lens, which makes its relatively modest on-the-street price an even nicer surprise.
The broad zoom ring, which sits behind a narrower manual-focusing ring, is close to the camera body but not so close as to be cramped. More importantly, its rearward position means that the zoom ring can be used even when the lens hood is reversed over the lens for storage.
This could be important on occasions when the lens needs to be used very quickly and there is not enough time to remove and refit the lens hood. Some similar zooms do not have this advantage so this is an area in which the Zuiko clearly scores over its peers. Similarly, although there is no AF/M focusing-mode switch, manual focusing can be used at any time. Automatic focusing is both quick and quiet.
The Zuiko’s maximum aperture is a very impressive f/2.8 and drops only as far as f/3.5 but this is explained partly by the zoom’s unremarkable 3.9x zoom range, which lags some way behind that of competitor lenses. Minimum aperture is sensibly fixed at f/22, so avoiding the embarrassingly low MTF figures that other lenses return at smaller apertures.
Of course there is little point in offering an f/2.8 maximum aperture if optimum performance is only obtained several stops down. Olympus clearly recognises this fact because its 14-54mm zoom produces some very good MTF figures wide-open at short focal lengths. The MTF figures remain above 0.25 cycles-per-pixel at all focal lengths from wide-open down to f/16 except for a 0.245 result at f/16 for the 14mm setting.
The blot on the landscape is significant chromatic aberration that was observed in technical testing. This was also visible in real-world images but was not nearly as obtrusive.
Overall, this is an affordable and unobtrusive lens that has great ergonomics and resolution, but it is just a little bit disappointing on account of its chromatic aberrations.
These are tightly-bunched curves with a progressive decline that maintains good results down to almost f/16.