Which Prime Lenses Should Olympus Make Next for Its M.Zuiko Pro Professional Zoom & Prime Lens Series?

Micro Four Thirds rumours website 4/3 Rumors, sister site of Fujifilm rumours website Fuji Rumors, has uncovered an interview by Japanese digital camera site D.C Watch with the designers of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens about further such professional quality M.Zuiko Pro lenses to come. The interview is a good read even in its machine-translated English version

First f/1.2 maximum aperture prime lens in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional-quality lens series, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro. Olympus has already designed the next two f/1.2 primes, with more possibly to come.

The interview’s most promising revelation is that Olympus has been actively listening to customers and so the prime lens side of the M-Zuiko Pro series will soon be gaining a second f/1.2 maximum aperture lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro.

The 4/3 Rumors folks previously reported that Olympus had already designed two more fast f/1.2 primes, one of them being the 17mm. I wonder what the other is?

A very quick snapshot made with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens wide open during an Olympus camera event in Sydney. Even a very brief hands-on with this lens and several others in the M.Zuiko Pro range confirmed their high quality, solid construction and appeal as sturdy professional-standard lenses for stills and video.

I am an unrepentant former Leica M-System rangefinder lens user from my magazine, newspaper and corporate photography days and became accustomed to the idea of mechanically superb, optically extraordinary, near-indestructible, colour-matched prime lens sets.

Although I did not manage to build a Leica lens lineup as well-populated as the one illustrated below, I came close and happily relied on them for many years. Each focal length was just right for the tasks for which I bought it and each earned its place in my lens kit again and again.

Three Well-Spaced Lens Lineups

Contemporary videography and stills photography make more demands of lenses than stills photography as I practiced it during the analog era ever did. Now that we are in the midst of the 4K era and Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is introducing us to 6K video through its video-based 6K Photo functionality, optics must be sharper, better corrected and more highly resolved.

I am now a zoom lens convert thanks to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro and its f/2.8 sister zooms in the 7-14mm and 40-150mm focal lengths but they have their limitations when shooting in available darkness.

That essential three-zoom lens kit needs to be supplemented with matching high speed prime lenses when light is in limited supply and when bokeh and subject against background separation is an essential storytelling element.

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro fills the gap in the middle of the focal length range and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, with that focal length being my most relied-on of all time, will be a welcome second.

I would love to see several other M.Zuiko Pro primes make their appearance soon and the obvious focal lengths would be 10.5mm, 14mm and 42.5mm. The latter would clearly benefit from an f/1.2 maximum aperture though it would not be absolutely crucial for the wider two.

I know that Olympus makes some excellent prime lenses in its Premium lens range, but the M.Zuiko Pro lenses are a leap above as professional instruments able to endure some of the most challenging conditions in which documentary photographs and movies are made.

I have non-M.Zuiko Pro lenses for less challenging work, but my Leica days raised the bar high and the M.Zuiko Pro zooms and prime lenses approach that high standard.

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Zacuto Takes First Look at Groundbreaking Fujinon MK 15-55mm T2.9 Cinema Zoom Lens E-Mount Version

Filmmaking accessories maker Zacuto seems to have a direct line into camera and lens makers and is often first kid on the block to have a hands-on look at innovative new pieces of movie production gear. Not unreasonable given that Zacuto needs to know the parameters of new cinema equipment so it can fine-tune its own product range. 

In its first video about the first MK zoom to be released, Fujifilm‘s E-Mount Fujinon MK 15-55mm T2.9, Zacuto’s Steve and Jens discuss the lens with Fujifilm US Director of Sales, Optical Devices Division, and state that it really is a true cinema lens – fast, beautiful, geared and with minimal focus breathing.

Better yet is that the Fujinon MK 15-55mm T2.9 is priced under US$4,000, remarkably affordable for a lens of its type and quality.

Zacuto – FIRST LOOK Fujinon MK 18-55 Lens: 4K under $4k

Zacuto – How to Set Backfocus – featuring the Fujinon MK 18-55 lens

Image Credits:

Header image concept and design by Carmel D. Morris.

Now Surfacing: The Long-Awaited Fujinon MK 18-55mm and 50-135mm T2.9 Cinema Lenses – E-Mount Now, X-Mount Later

Fujifilm has announced the Fujinon MK 18‐55mm T2.9 and Fujinon MK 50-135mm T2.9 cinema lenses, a matched pair of relatively affordable top-quality zooms “specifically designed for consumer and prosumer videographers and emerging cinematographers”. 

The Fujinon MK 18‐55mm T2.9 cinema zoom lens, to be released as an E-Mount lens for Sony cameras with a Fujifilm X-Mount version coming later this year for the X-Pro2, X-T2 and future X-Series cameras.

The MK 18-55mm T2.9 standard zoom lens is scheduled for an early March 2017 release while the Fujinon MK 50-135mm T2.9 is currently under development and is touted for a southern hemisphere winter 2017 release. Both lenses will initially be available in E-Mount for Sony’s popular A7-series cameras and X-Mount versions for Fujifilm’s own X-T2 and X-Pro2  will appear later in 2017.

Standout features of both lenses are that they are lightweight, are made of composite polycarbonate for lightness and strength, have the same external dimensions, are clickless, focus, iris and zoom gearing, are parfocal, have low distortion and high quality edge-to-edge sharpness, have no focus breathing, have matched constant maximum apertures and matching colour rendering and are fully manual.

Not to forget that they will be affordable relative to Fujinon’s other cinema lenses in the HK, ZK and XK series as well as competing brands of cinema zoom lenses.

Sony E-Mount Super 35 camcorders and Super 35/APS-C hybrid cameras are a clear and obvious launch market for Fujifilm’s new Fujinon MK-Series lightweight cinema lenses, with X-Mount versions for Fujifilm’s X Series flagship and related cameras coming later.

Fujifilm’s press release states that:

Cinema lenses are the optimal choice to achieve a shallow depth-of-field and a beautiful bokeh. However, since they are typically large, heavy and expensive, those involved in online and other lower cost movie production often opt for interchangeable lenses for digital cameras, which are more affordable and mobile.

The problem is that interchangeable lenses for digital cameras are designed primarily for shooting still images, and therefore prone to focus shift and optical axis shift while zooming, and so on. In response, Fujifilm has been working on developing new cinema lenses that offer advanced optical performance with compact size and operability to meet the needs of creative emerging cinematographers.

There have been rumours floating around for some time that Fujifilm would be introducing a new line of clickless video lenses suitable for its X-Mount X Series interchangeable lens Super 35/APS-C hybrid stills/video cameras. The first two lenses in Fujifilm’s Fujinon MK Series of ciné zooms are specified beyond expectations and I am looking forward to seeing them in action despite their initial release only in E-Mount for Sony cameras.

As Paul Leeming‘s letter and my own request of Fujifilm attest, Fujifilm’s latest X-Series are very promising Super 35 video production cameras whether currently 1080p in the case of the X-Pro2 or 4K with the X-T2. I hope that the imminent arrival of the MK lenses helps Billy Luong apply more pressure on Fujifilm management to add 4K capability via line-skipping as in the X-T20 to the X-Pro2.

If Fujifilm heeds mine and Mr Leeming’s requests for firmware and hardware improvements, then they will have a very capable Super 35 video camera able to take any of their current and future X-Mount stills lenses as well as the new MK X-Mount zooms.

The sudden tragic demise of Samsung’s promising, much-loved NX1 and its companion the NX500 has left a hole in the affordable 4K Super 35 market that Fujifilm still has a chance of filling, and better yet of exceeding expectations.

Many cinematographers familiar with Fujifilm’s Fujinon stills and cinema lenses have expressed a desire for a fully-featured Fujifilm Super 35 camera able to make the most of them. The ball is in Fujifilm’s court and one hopes they pick it up and run with it.

There is now even more pressure on Fujifilm to up the ante on the video capabilities of their current and future flagship X-Series cameras given the imminent arrival of Panasonic’s groundbreaking Lumix GH5 4K Super 16/Micro Four Thirds camera with its wide range of new and radically improved moviemaking features.

Why would I want a Super 35 4K as well as a Super 16 4K camera? Foremost, choice in sensor size, lens range and image quality. I am more likely to pick up the GH5 – or rather, watch it leap into my hands as the GH4 does currently – for single-operator documentary projects and rely on a revamped X-T2 or its successor for advertising, corporate and feature film projects. Others’ opinions will differ.

On the MK Series’ potential user base, Matthew Duclos of Duclos Lenses says it best:

So who did Fujinon make this lens for? I believe this lens is a great option for documentary style shooters…projects that run on the most skeleton [of] crews that need to be agile with their gear. It’ll be right at home on a music video set or a web series looking for a classic zoom range.

I have just one big question for Fujifilm right now, other than when will they act on the Leeming, Gottschalk and Luong X-Series flagship video features requests, and that is, is a super wide-angle MK-Series X-Mount ciné zoom on the drawing board?

Sony owners more expert than I in lens design have stated that the downside of the narrow E-Mount is that it mitigates against a larger collection of lenses at the wide end, though I note that Sony offers a 10-18mm f/4 OSS super wide-angle zoom lens.

Adding a super wide-angle ciné zoom to the MK series would complete its  classic three-zoom moviemaking set.

FUJIFILMglobal –FUJINON MK Lens Official Introduction movie / FUJIFILM

FUJIFILMglobal – FUJINON MK Lens – Image movie / FUJIFILM

FUJIFILMglobal – FUJINON MK Lens – Image movie making / FUJIFILM

Fujifilm Europe – FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 Footage Shot by Philip Bloom

Fujifilm Europe – BTS FUJINON MK18-55mm T2.9 Shot by Philip Bloom

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Image Credits:

Header image concept and design by Carmel D. Morris.