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Lens review

Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S.

24 September 2010
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The lens looks stylish and makes a very good impression. A huge front element sticks out at once; so does a clear distamce scale and two rings: the bigger for zooming and the smaller for manual focus control. Both works appropriately well – their movements are very smooth and even little damped but without any slack – so you can set precisely the parameters you want to get. On passing toward the metal mount we meet an aperture ring, especially important in such a lens because, joined with the control wheel of exposure time on the L1 reflex camera, it creates a perfect manual tandem. On the left side of the distance scale there is a stabilization switch.

Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S. - Build quality and image stabilization

Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S. - Build quality and image stabilization

The lens extends slightly on zooming from 14 to 50 mm but there's no wobbling of the inner lens tube which is very solid. You should expect, though, that this working mode might cause dust ingress inside the optical construction.

When it comes to the inner construction of the lens we deal here with 16 elements in 12 groups. Two elements are double-sided and aspherical. The combination of other two elements in the group right in the middle of the system is involved in the stabilization work. Apart from that we get an aperture with 7 diaphragm blades which can be closed down to f/22 and a non-rotating filter thread, 72 mm in diameter.

Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S. - Build quality and image stabilization


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Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S. - Build quality and image stabilization

MEGA O.I.S stabilization system uses built-in gyrosensors which allow the Venus Engine Plus processor to detect the movements of the camera with the frequency up to 4 000 times a second; that’s why the camera’s movements compensation is supposed to be exceptionally precise.

As the Leica 14-50 mm was tested using the Olympus E-510 body with the stabilization of the sensor we had an opportunity to conduct an interesting experiment – we decided to compare the efficiency of the lens’ stabilization, the sensor’s stabilization and both these mechanisms joined. Of course such a comparison makes sense for the 4/3 system only and any extrapolation of results to other systems would be baseless.

The picture below shows some scene crops which were photographed at 35 mm with the exposure time priority. We used speeds from 1/100 of a second to 1/3 of a second, taking for each of them 7-9 expositions and choosing an average result. Four series of photos were taken: with both stabilizations switched off, with the lens’s stabilization switched on only, with the sensor’s stabilization switched on only and finally, with both stabilizations switched on.

Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph. Mega O.I.S. - Build quality and image stabilization

Minimal traits of blur without stabilization we see already at 1/50 of a second. The similar effect you can get using speeds at the level of 1/6 of a second with the lens’s stabilization on. It means that the MEGA O.I.S. stabilization system is as efficient as a bit over 3 EV. In the case of the sensor’s stabilization the results are a bit worse and they oscillate at the level slightly over 2 EV, which is more or less in accordance with the results of 2.3-2.7 EV which we got during our E-510 test. What’s interesting, the joined forces of the sensor’s and the lens’s stabilizations give worse effects than using one or the other stabilization system separately. Anyway our results provide a quite substantial argument for the L1 + the Leica set compared to e.g. the E-510 + the 14-54 mm tandem.