The new Zuiko Digital 12-60 mm lens with SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive).
With the new Zuiko digital SWD lenses and the E-3, Olympus claim to have the fastest auto focus system on the market. Again, I didn’t yet compare it directly with the competition, so this are just my impressions. Hopefully, these achievements will cause the competition to improve on their own AF systems. I tested the two new SWD lenses, the Zuiko Digital 12-60 mm SWD and the Zuiko Digital 50-200 mm SWD, and the old Zuiko Digital 300 mm lens.
Focus speed with the new Zuiko Digital 12-60 SWD was nothing short of explosive. I think that the “fastest AF on the market” is not just something that the PR bunnies came up with - it might be actual fact. However, this was an extremely unscientific test, so take a grain of salt and put it in your mouth. However, I was more interested in another aspect.
One of the competitive advantages of the 4/3 system is its smaller lens size for the same field of view compared to the competition. So, it could be that this amazing speed is also due to lighter lens elements in Zuiko Digital lenses.
I mounted the new Zuiko Digital 50-200 SWD lens on the camera. At close range, I was astonished. The thing is really, seriously, properly quick. However, for far away scenes, things weren’t quite as rosy. The lens hunted quite a bit, to be precise, meaning it went from maximum to minimum focus distance a few times. Another thing to compare with the competition.
The Zuiko Digital 300 mm proved its worth years ago, when it was introduced - high quality in a relatively small package.
Often enough, though, focus speed is not the most important thing - accuracy and tracking performance tend to be more important. In this regard, the Olympus E-3 performed well enough, but still, it needs to be tested in a head to head race with other cameras.
The image above with five consecutive shots shows that while tracking is OK, it still misses a few shots. Whether this was my error or a shortcoming of the camera, well, that’s impossible to say after so little time with the camera. However, Olympus made a giant leap forward when it comes to auto focus.
Let’s try to demonstrate this with 100% crops. Most shots are pretty sharp ...
... then there are two out of focus shots ...
... and then, the camera is back in business.
The Zuiko Digital 300 mm f/2.8 doesn’t yet have SWD drive, however, it offers excelet sharpness and bokeh.
Despite shooting at ISO 800, the Zuiko Digital 300 mm and the Olympus E-3 produced excellent results.
The Olympus E-3 is, to put it shortly, head and shoulders above the average level in its class. Unless you’re looking for the best performance at high ISO, this camera should be on the top of your list - and if you are looking for the best high ISO performance, make sure you (don’t) tell your wife, because it’ll cost you a lot more.