The Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens is the “budget” ultra-wide angle offered by OM System for its micro four-thirds cameras.
With its all-plastic design and lack of weather-sealing, you won’t mistake this for a pro-grade lens. BUT it is good enough produce sharp, impressive images.
My my review offers a real world look AT how this lens works for landscape photography in particular. This lens is also viable for genres like travel photography and architecture photography as well.
Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens Specifications
- 35mm Equivalent: 18-36mm
- Minimum Aperture: f/22
- Maximum Aperture: f/4
- Format: Micro Four-Thirds
- Field of view: 100° – 62°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 9.8″ (24.89 cm)
- Elements/Groups: 12/8
- Aperture Blades: 7
- Weight: 5.5 oz (155 g)
- Approximate Dimensions: 2.2 x 1.9″ (5.65 x 4.95 cm)
- Filter size: 52mm
The Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens is small and lightweight wide-angle zoom lens that works on all OM System and Panasonic micro four-thirds camera bodies. As a “collapsible” lens, it indeed collapses into a smaller size compared to when it’s in use.
Also, remember that micro four-thirds is a 2x crop-sensor format, so the 9-18mm focal length does cover a good part the wide angle spectrum —the full-frame equivalent of a 18-36mm lens. However, 9mm in MFT isn’t that wide, so while it ventures into “ultra-wide” territory, it doesn’t quite go to the extreme focal lengths.
What I Like!
Small Size and Weight
While most ultra-wide angle lenses — even for mirrorless cameras — are hefty, the 9-18mm is insanely small. Even with knowing the specs and seeing photos of the lens mounted on cameras beforehand, I was surprised (in a good way) when I got this lens in my hands.
Weighing in at 5.5 oz (155 g), it feels good when attached to the camera, making walking about and hand-holding shots abnormally pleasant for a wide-angle lens. And of course, this lens is barely noticeable if stashed in a coat pocket, let alone stowed in a camera bag.
If your top reason for shooting on OM system (or MFT in general) is minimizing the size and weight of your gear, this is a great lens to consider!
It is worth nothing, as a collapsible lens, it does grow in size when in use, making it a little more front-heavy when actively taking a hand-held photo.
As a consumer grade lens, the 9-18mm doesn’t have the corner-to-corner sharpness of, say, the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro.
However, when shooting in the sweet spot (apertures f/4 to f/8) the lens is still very sharp in the center of the frame when shooting from 9mm to 12mm — with acceptable edges/corners. Sharpness does deteriorate slightly as you zoom out from 12mm to 18mm, but is still acceptable in my book.
As is typical of a micro four-thirds lens, diffraction starts taking away sharpness when stopping down past f/8, so its better to use ND filters if you need to slow the shutter speed. And know that wide-angle MFT lenses have great depth-of-field at f/7.1 and f/8, so you shouldn’t need to stop down for this reason.
For more discussion on the technical aspects of this lens’ sharpness, see the breakdown over on Optical Limits.
What I Dislike!
Focus Ring / Lack of Distance Scale
For ultra-wide shots, I’m old school and prefer manual focusing to hit the hyper-focal distance. For this purpose, the 9-18mm is not well-suited.
First, the focus ring on this lens turns way too easily for my taste. It’s doesn’t take long to dial in the right focal point, to be sure, but this focus ring certainly isn’t well-dampened.
It also feels like the focus ring can move rather easily in transport. So, for example if you have the hyper-focal distance dialed in for the 9mm focal length, the focus ring may move on you when you move the camera to the next location.
Second, the lens lacks a distance scale, which is a deal-breaker for me. Even if manual-focusing using the viewfinder, I find it essential to double-check the focus on a distance scale. When I was shooting ultra-wide shots with a close foreground and distant background, I just had to pray I was hitting the hyper-focal distance.
For a sharp manual-focusing adept lens in the budget price range, check out the Laowa 7.5mm f/2.
Twist to Unlock
Like the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R that comes in a kit with some OM System cameras, the 9-18mm features an unlock button and requires a twist of the zoom ring to actually unlock it. This means, you can’t just turn on the camera and start firing away, you must unlock the lens first.
The good news is (at least on the particular lens I tested), I could simply twist the lens about a quarter-turn to unlock it — without needing to touch the button. To collapse the lens back to its stowed position, however, pulling the lock button was required in addition to twisting the zoom ring back.
Regardless, this is an extra step that can make for frustration if you need to get a shot off quick, or if you are walking around doing handheld shots and must constant unlock and lock the lens. And I did find myself leaving the lens unlocked to avoid this annoyance — but that does make the lens more vulnerable to damage if dropped.
Since this is something you don’t see much on other lenses, it’s easy to forget about and takes some getting used to. However, for landscape photographers that often shoot on tripods and camp out in a single location to shoot, “twist to unlock” may not be as much of a negative.
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think this lens is dramatically overpriced. BUT…the 9-18mm doesn’t check enough my personal boxes to like it for any more than $500 — well below its “list price” of $699.
If you want a sharp ultra-wide for under $500, check out the Laowa 7.5mm f/2.
What I am Neutral About
These are the things about the 9-18mm that I see as neither pros or cons — but things that may matter to you and are worth considering before buying this lens.
Considering the price of this lens, I think the build quality is acceptable. It’s mostly plastic, but does feature a metal lens mount. It DOES feels more solid than some of the all-plastic lenses at the very bottom of the OM system lineup. However, it’s certainly not built like a tank as you would see with a pro-grade lens.
Be aware the 9-18mm lacks weather-sealing, which is to be expected from a lens on the upper-end of the budget tier.
Also, with the barrel extended, there is a slight bit of give if you tug on the front of the barrel, at least in the copy of the lens I tested. This is a weakness that could be amplified if you use this lens frequently over a few years.
Overall, for the price the build quality is fine, but if you need weather-sealing or you’re just really hard on your gear, start looking at pro-grade lenses instead (like the M.Zuiko 8-25mm f/4).
While the zoom range on the 9-18mm is definitely nice to have, I’d gladly take an ultra-wide prime lens with a well-dampened focus ring and distance scale and skip the zoom capability.
Slow, Variable Aperture
Given the price point of this lens, its not surprising to find this lens with a f/4-5.6 variable aperture. For the typical landscape photographer shooting on a tripod frequently, this shouldn’t be a problem.
If you handhold shots a lot — especially in low light — then this might be a deal-breaker. If you are an astro-photographer that needs to collect as much light as possible, tbe slow aperture is likely a problem as well.
Extended Barrel at All Focal Lengths
After twisting the zoom ring to unlock the lens, the barrel extends a fair amount compared to its “locked” position. As a very small lens built to take sharp images, it’s not surprising to see — there has to be some sort of concession. And for me it’s the “twist to unlock” part that I have a problem with, not the extended barrel.
While this lens is billed as having super-fast autofocus (of course, aren’t all lens billed this way?), I did find it hunting quite a bit. It wasn’t so bad to be a negative for me (it seemed on par with most ultra-wides in this way), but it also didn’t strike me as an auto-focus top performer.
The Bottom Line
If these are the only things you really care about an ultra-wide angle lens, the M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 is for you:
- zoom capability
- small size & light weight
If any of these things are really important to you, then the 9-18mm is NOT for you:
- manual focusing capability
- fast aperture
- pro-grade build quality
- weather sealing
I do think this is a great lens for a certain segment of photographers, and is capable of producing sharp, professional quality image when used properly. The center sharpness in the. 9-12mm focal lengths is particularly impressive.
Check current prices on the M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens:AMAZON ADORAMA OM SYSTEM
If you buy from the above links, I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), which allows me to continue providing this site with honest reviews about landscape photography gear!
Lenses to Consider Instead of the M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6
If you’re looking for a manual-focusing capable lens closer to $500, take a look at the Laowa 7.5mm f/2, which is my go-to ultra-wide when going fast and light.
Now, if you need a wide-angle lens with better build quality and you’re willing to pay up for it, the M.Zuiko 8-25mm f/4 Pro is your best bet.
For more of my recommendations for OM System lenses, check out this article: Best Olympus Lenses for Landscape Photography
More Micro Four-Thirds Camera Resources from Mountain Tripper
- Best Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds Lenses for Landscape Photography
- Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R – Telephoto Lens Review
- Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R Lens Review
- Best Mirrorless Cameras for Landscape Photography
Disclosure: Mountain Tripper is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Images I Took While Testing the M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6
Note: Images are edited, resized, and compressed for web viewing. These samples are intended to show the end results possible with this lens, NOT the RAW images straight from the camera.
Do You Have Questions? Have You Used This Lens?
If you have questions about this lens, or your own personal experiences to share — please scroll down to leave a comment!