Zuiko Digital 300mm f/2.8 ED And 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 Lenses
The Long And The Short Of It For The Olympus D-SLR System Page 2

Evaluation: Although a bit pricey for a 22-44mm equivalent zoom, this lens produced images with great clarity, sharpness, contrast, and definition of intricate detail at f/2.8-3.5. Light falloff was minimal so I found no need for the Shading Compensation feature available with the E-1. (That's just as well, because that option dramatically increases image processing time.) By f/5.6, edge sharpness and brightness qualified for a rating of 9.5. Since I often used f/16 to maximize depth of field, I was pleased with the high image quality that's also available at small apertures. Even at the shortest focal length, there is virtually no barrel distortion. All in all, this is one of the best sub-$1000 wide angle zooms that I have tested.

Olympus "Digital-Specific" Technology
Unlike lenses originally designed for film photography, all Zuiko Digital lenses are engineered to produce optimal image quality with the "Four Thirds" CCD with its three-dimensional surface structure. According to an Olympus rep, the digital optimization starts with higher resolving power, "to get the most out of the imaging element." The lenses also benefit from improved polishing technology, low dispersion or aspherical elements, and superior coatings to suppress internal flare caused by the highly reflective sensor. In addition, each barrel lens includes an Olympus exclusive, called "smart lens design." A built-in CPU and special firmware enables the lens to transfer data to the camera, allowing for correction of aberration and darkening at the corners of the frame. (For vignetting correction, the camera's Shading Compensation feature must be enabled; this is also unique to Olympus.) Any distortion can be easily corrected later using the Olympus Viewer software.

Short focal length lenses, such as the 11-22mm zoom, particularly benefit from the new design that causes all light rays to strike the CCD sensor at a near perpendicular angle. In older wide angle lenses, light entering near the edges strikes the sensor plane at increasingly oblique angles. That's not a problem when shooting film, but in digital photography it can produce softness and darkening at the periphery of the frame. (Some digital SLR camera manufacturers use microlenses to direct light to every pixel's active area to minimize the same problem; that's not necessary with the Olympus products.) A "corrected optical path" available with Zuiko Digital--and some other brands of "digitally-optimized" lenses--can improve edge sharpness and brightness particularly noticeable in images made at wide apertures.

Even at the maximum aperture that's often useful in low-light photography the Zuiko Digital 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 zoom produces very good image quality, with high central sharpness, moderately high edge sharpness, and even brightness across the frame. (An 11mm setting at f/2.8; ISO 100.)

Final Assessment
Designated as "pro" products, these Zuiko Digital lenses provide professional caliber performance. The telephoto may be too expensive for the majority of photo enthusiasts, but the same is true of the 600mm f/4 lenses. Nonetheless, I see many of those super telephotos during bird photography in Florida, most owned by well-heeled amateur shooters. The wide angle zoom is more affordable and it should appeal to many serious photographers. If you find the Olympus technology attractive but consider the professional E-1 body too complicated or too expensive, check out the new 8-megapixel E-300 EVOLT, the "consumer-grade" Olympus digital SLR with substantially higher resolution, greater ease of use, and an attractive price. Designed for hobbyists, that camera may be an even more suitable choice to begin exploring the full range of superb Zuiko Digital lenses.
For more information on these lenses, visit Olympus' website at: www.olympusamerica.com.

Technical Specifications
Zuiko Digital 300mm f/2.8 ED
Lens Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
Angle Of View: 4.2Þ
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Minimum Focusing Distance: 6.6 ft
Maximum Magnification: 0.19x
Filter: Rear; drop-in (four included)
Dimensions: 5.1x11.1"
Weight: 7.2 lbs with tripod mount
Compatibility: EC 1.4x and 2x tele-converter
Mount: E Digital
Street Price: $6999

Zuiko Digital 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5
Lens Construction: 12 in 10 groups
Angle Of View: 89Þ to 53Þ
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Minimum Focusing Distance: 11"
Maximum Magnification: 0.13x
Filter: 72mm
Dimensions: 3.7x3"
Weight: 15.6 oz
Compatibility: N/A
Mount: E Digital
Street Price: $799

A long-time contributor to "Shutterbug" and "eDigitalPhoto," stock photographer Peter K. Burian is the author of a new book, "Mastering Digital Photography and Imaging" (Sybex). Covering the relevant technology, equipment, and techniques, this book provides 270 pages of practical advice.