Today the financially uncomfortable Olympus announced an interesting weather sealed zoom lens that seems to be dividing opinion. The most interesting aspect is no doubt the weather sealing if only because it is now inevitable that a weather sealed body is somewhere on the horizon! Another interesting feature is the power zoom similar to what has been seen on Panasonic's "X" range of lenses, this is a very welcome feature or those who shoot video as the zooming should be very smooth. From reading the press blurb it also seems this feature can be deactivated and that full manual control of the zoom ring can be activated, if this is true it's good news! In keeping with the traditional abuse of the term, the lens is advertised as having "macro" functionality and with a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.72X it can hold it's head pretty high among the "macro lenses that aren't really macro" crowd! The final feature I like the sound of is what Olympus refer to as the L-Fn (Lens Function) button, this temporarily disables auto focus which is great for preventing the camera hunting for focus if the subject is momentarily blocked by a person or obstacle moving through the frame whilst recording video!
There is some bad news and it's somewhat significant, the maximum aperture at the tele end is somewhat pathetic! This isn't going to be a particularly cheap lens and I can't really think of any reason why it couldn't have been at least f/5.6! This is not only going to result in slower shutter speeds but also diminish the ability to use shallow depth of field to isolate the subject from it's surroundings which is a shame because on paper at least this lens gets so many other things right.
Overall the pros (Good zoom range with a very wide starting point, weather sealing, power zoom, non rotating front element and good "macro" performance) outweigh the cons (sloooow aperture at 100mm)
As long as the image quality is high then it could become a popular lens even with the F/6.3 curse. It could go either way at this point, we'll have to wait till the reviews are in!
It looks like the lens will be out in January and will cost $499.99 so expect a suitably exchange rate ignorant conversion into your native currency soon!