I received an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens from B&H Photo for testing on Serious Compacts.
As many reading this review are aware, the M.ZD 9-18mm is a native Micro Four Thirds with the same focal length and aperture range as the well regarded ZD 9-18mm lens for regular (non-Micro) Four Thirds. The M.ZD 9-18mm is the second ultrawide angle zoom for the Micro 4/3 system, the first being the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm lens.
The Olympus M.ZD 9-18mm is an impressively small lens. Like the Olympus 14-42mm "kit" lens, the M.ZD 9-18 remains extended for use and collapses for storage.
For the purposes of this review, the M.ZD 9-18 will be compared with the Panasonic 7-14 and Panasonic 14-45 lenses, since those are lenses I own. Here's how the three lenses compare in size when collapsed:
Here are the lenses extended (the Panasonic 7-14mm lens does not change in length when zooming):
The M.ZD 9-18 comes with the usual pinch-style front cap. Olympus does not include a hood with this lens, whereas the Panasonic 7-14mm lens has an integrated hood to protect the bulbous front element:
Though lightweight and unabashedly plastic, build quality on the Olympus 9-18mm zoom seems very good. The manual focus ring is a bit smoother than that of either of the Panasonics. The zoom ring has a very short travel and reasonably smooth, damped feel. There is no significant "play" (wobble) in the barrel when extended, and the mount is metal.
The Olympus lens covers the traditional focal length range of an ultrawide zoom, providing the same angle of view as a 18-36mm zoom for the 35mm format. The Olympus lens zoom range better suits my "walkaround" needs, from ultrawide to wide normal, than does the more specialized Panasonic 7-14mm lens.
Here is a comparison of the wide field of view provided by these three lenses at their shortest focal length setting in 3:2 aspect ratio on a Panasonic GH1 (Pan 7-14 at 7mm, Oly 9-18 at 9mm, Pan 14-45 at 14mm):
The same three lenses at their longest focal length settings (Pan 7-14 at 14mm, Oly 9-18 at 18mm, Pan 14-45 at 45mm):