An Update on Travel Zooms

I wrote a fairly popular article a while back entitled What’s the best M4/3 travel zoom? I have been updating that article as new lenses are announced and the last update was for the new Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. However, since there were no reviews yet for that lens, I couldn’t make any firm recommendations. One such review just came out at ePhotoZine. We’ve also seen a whole slew of reviews for the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-100 mm f/4 IS PRO.

According to the reviews, both lenses are superb performers, so how would you choose between one or the other? Well, it depends a lot on your needs and priorities and also what camera you have. If you own one of the latest Panasonic cameras with Dual IS, then the PanaLeica will give you better image stabilisation and faster focussing. If you have the Olympus E-M1 MkII then the M.Zuiko will give you an amazing 6.5 stops of stabilisation and also better focussing. If you have any other camera this becomes less of a factor, although in the M4/3 world there always seems to be a small advantage in focussing and optical corrections when using a lens of the same brand as your camera.

Another big factor is if you are serious about video or not. If you are, then having a constant aperture lens is quite important and that would favour the M.Zuiko. If you are mostly doing stills with occasional video clips as I am, than the constant aperture is not crucial.

If you read my previous article on travel zooms, you will know that for me having at least a 12mm (24mm eq.) wide-angle is an absolute necessity. When travelling I find myself photographing lots of buildings, monuments and landscapes and often within tight spaces so having a wide angle is really important and 14mm (28mm eq.) just doesn’t cut it. I’m not as concerned with the long end and find that 60mm (120mm eq.) is fine for a travel zoom. Of course, 100mm (200mm eq.) is better but it comes at the cost of a bigger, heavier, slower and more expensive lens. Since I tend to carry my camera with me 24/7 when travelling, those are important factors. I want my camera and lens combo to be as small and lightweight as possible and hopefully not too expensive as I like to go into poorer areas, which can be prone to theft.

So for me, despite having an Olympus camera, I find the PanaLeica very attractive as the M.Zuiko is nearly twice the weight, 30mm longer and $300 more expensive. The PanaLeica also has a 1 stop faster aperture at the wide end, the end I use more often than not.

So I will reserve final judgment until I can try both of them, but at this point, I find the PanaLeica 12-60mm to be as close to my ideal for a travel zoom as can be. I would prefer if it was f/2.8 through the zoom range, but then it would have to be a lot larger, heavier and expensive. Of course I could also go for the excellent M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, but it is a tad short on the long-end. Everything is a compromise and I think this new PanaLeica might be the right one for me.