David Thorpe: A Look At The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom for Micro Four Thirds Cameras – Commentary

I bought this lens some time after it came out so never thought to reviews [sic] it. Quote a few photographers have taken me to task about that so here, at last, is my take on it. There’s no shortage of standard zooms for Micro Four Thirds but the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Constant Aperture Pro zoom should be towards the top of any buyer’s list.

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro standard zoom lens.

Former Fleet Street newspaper photographer David Thorpe remains one of the very best digital camera and lens reviewers on YouTube and I thoroughly recommend him for those interested in the Micro Four Thirds format. 

He has to buy the gear that he reviews so he makes somewhat infrequent appearances on his YouTube channel and limits his coverage to the Olympus and Panasonic cameras and lenses that he uses for his own freelance work.

Likewise, Panasonic Australia seems to have fallen off in it support for local reviewers while Olympus Australia has never been interested in helping out with review units, so my current coverage of both company’s hardware and firmware is limited to items that I already own, or based on articles by others.

Thank goodness, then, for reviewers like David Thorpe and others too numerous to list here!

Other M43 lenses that David Thorpe uses and recommends

I own two of the six lenses that receive high recommendations from David Thorpe, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro standard zoom and the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric near-pancake sized collapsible standard zoom.

Both have their joys and their workarounds, but both are firmly established as my default zoom lenses for different reasons and different subjects and applications.

Foremost amongst their differences is that the M.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f/2.8 can be purchased standalone or bundled with a high-end Olympus camera while the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 can only be purchased bundled with a lower-end Panasonic camera.

I managed to find my 12-32mm zoom lens online at eBay Australia, bought it for a good price, and have been very happy with it ever since.

It is not a lens for all seasons though, lacking a manual focusing ring and an aperture ring, and with a 37mm filter diameter so narrow that it necessitates stacking step-up rings to get it to industry-standard 77mm or 82mm or investing in a set of smaller diameter fixed and variable neutral density filters.

For those reasons I have yet to create videos with my 12-32mm lens, relying instead on the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 with its 62mm filter diameter, excellent manual clutch focusing, solid build, beautiful optics, and great weather and dust resistance.

Despite the effectiveness of Panasonic Lumix cameras’ back button focus, I have often resorted to retracting my 12-40mm’s manual clutch focus ring to quickly zero in on a key detail, and the usefulness of fast and accurate manual focusing when shooting video cannot be disputed.

The one thing that stops the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro from being the perfect standard zoom lens for stills and video is its lack of an aperture ring.

Aperture rings are one of the major areas where Micro Four Thirds consortium partners Olympus and Panasonic appear to have begged to differ, with Olympus lenses have them not at all and Panasonic building them into some and not all of their lenses.

One of the most intriguing Panasonic lenses with a form of manual clutch focus is the company’s Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric wide-to-normal zoom lens.

I had the chance to briefly try one out at the last SMPTE in Sydney and while the lens’ range from 20mm to 50mm equivalent is impressive and incredibly useful for documentary photography and video, I was a little nonplussed by the lens’ lack of hard stops at each end of the focusing scale.

Hard stops aid in easier, faster focusing when your eyes are glued to the camera’s EVF or LCD monitor, as I quickly discovered after investing in my 12-40mm f/2.8, but if I was buying into Micro Four Thirds video nowadays then Panasonic’s Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric would be the first and possibly only lens I would buy alongside a Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5,  DC-GH5S or the coming DC-GH6.

If I had the funds and the need for more M43 lenses with manual clutch focus and autofocus capabilities, though, then I would certainly invest them in Olympus’ excellent though aperture-ringless M.Zuiko Pro primes and zooms, so impressive is their optics and performance.

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The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional prime and zoom lens collection as of late 2017, all with manual clutch focus, invaluable for fast, accurate and repeatable manual focusing as well as linear focus-by-wire and autofocus.

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David Thorpe: A Look At Three Wide Aperture Sigma Lenses For Micro Four Thirds

“At a time when Olympus and Panasonic lens prices are going through the roof, Sigma offers these three f/1.4 ‘Contemporary’ lenses at sensible prices. Do they sacrifice sharpness, focus speed or build quality to price? Having owned, used and reviewed – many Sigma lenses over the years, I didn’t anticipate any nasty surprises and I didn’t find any. There were some nice surprises, though….”

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Sigma DC DN Contemporary prime lens roadmap for Sony E-mount and Micro Four Thirds mount.

Sigma 16mm f/1.4, 30mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary prime lenses for E-mount and M43-mount cameras

Commentary

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Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary fast prime lens in M43-mount and E-Mount on Sony and Olympus cameras.

Former Fleet Street press photographer David Thorpe is one of the least-known yet most-respected YouTube reviewers with a speciality in Micro Four Thirds system cameras and lenses, though I suspect he will be bending that speciality soon with coming reviews of Panasonic’s Lumix S-Series S1 and S1R 35mm sensor format cameras and lenses.

I have no hands-on experience of Sigma lenses whether prime or zoom, though I was lucky enough to inspect Paul Leeming’s Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom lens with Canon EF-mount that he has adapted for his Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and was impressed enough with its optics and construction that I am hoping to buy one of my own some time soon.

Clearly Sigma has something good going for it with its membership of the L-Mount alliance alongside Panasonic and Leica, and Mr Thorpe’s review of these three Sigma Contemporary collection prime lenses supports that impression.

With their 35mm sensor format equivalent focal lengths of 32mm, 60mm and 112mm, and fast, wide maximum apertures of f/1.4, and very reasonable pricing, these three lenses look well worth considering for use in stills photography.

I am now looking for some hard-core technical reviews of them for consideration as video lenses too.

My current impression of Sigma’s Contemporary lenses is that they are designed to work in connection with in-camera and image editing raw processing software for correction of any possible optical distortion, whereas Sigma’s Art lens collection that includes the 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom is reportedly designed to the finest of optical standards to obviate the need for correction in software.

That aside, I have been looking for a medium telephoto portrait lens for Micro Four Thirds for some time now, and Sigma’s 56mm f/1.4 DC DN C may well fill the bill.

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Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 manual focus, manual exposure macro lens.

I originally got into portrait photography with Nikon’s Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4.0 lens and focal lengths closer to 105mm in the 35mm sensor format are my first choice for work in the genre, so the 112mm equivalent of the 56mm lens is not a bad approximation.

The Sigma 56mm offers the advantage of a wide aperture to blur distracting backgrounds if necessary.

Similarly, I discovered long ago that my preferred main focal length for immersive documentary and photojournalism work is 28mm in the 35mm sensor format, and Sigma’s 16mm f/1.4 DC DN C with its 32mm equivalent focal length is not too far from that.

I like to be able to use my lenses for cinematography and photography, and prefer lenses that perform well in both applications given raw processing can correct optical distortions in still images but non-linear editing software cannot do the same for video.

My favourite raw processing software for raw files shot on Panasonic cameras is DxO PhotoLab so I am hoping that DxO has added camera-and-lens profiles for all three of these Sigma lenses for recent and current Lumix cameras to its database.

Off to DxOMark and time to drop into some camera stores to touch, try and shoot some sample pix with these three lenses so I can crack some raw files open in DxO PhotoLab, DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint.

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  • Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary LensB&H
  • Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary LensB&H
  • Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary LensB&H
  • Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art LensB&H

David Thorpe: A Look At The Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8~4 Zoom Lens For Micro Four Thirds Cameras

“Does Panasonic’s Leica Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8~4 zoom merit its Leica designation? Is the loss of 1mm of wide angle capability made up for by an extra stop of speed? Why do I think it is 2 lenses in one?…”

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  • Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. LensB&H

David Thorpe: A Look At The Panasonic 12-60mm f/2.8-f4 Zoom Lens For Micro Four Thirds Cameras

“All zooms lenses are a compromise – the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-f4 zoom even compromises on the compromises.

Does it fill a niche in the Micro Four Thirds lens system or is it a compromise too far?…”

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  • Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. LensB&H

David Thorpe: A Look At The Metabones Speed Booster For Micro Four Thirds Cameras

“This is my take on the Metabones Speed Booster Nikon Version for Micro Four Thirds, M43, M4/3, MFT cameras….”

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  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital MC-14 1.4x TeleconverterB&H

David Thorpe: A Review Of The Olympus MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter for the 40-150mm f/2/8 Pro Zoom

“This is my take on the Olympus MC-14 Teleconverter for the Olympus Micro Four Thirds 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro Zoom – by David Thorpe….”

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  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital MC-14 1.4x TeleconverterB&H

David Thorpe: A Look At The Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7 Micro Four Thirds lens

“This is a take on the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7 lens for Micro Four Thirds, M43, M4/3, MFT cameras by David Thorpe….”

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  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH. LensB&H

David Thorpe: A Review of the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 Summilux Leica Standard Lens For Micro 4/3 Cameras

“A test and review of the The Panasonic 25mm f1.4 Summilux Leica Standard Lens For Micro 4/3 Cameras from Panasonic and Olympus by David Thorpe…”

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  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH. LensB&H

David Thorpe: The Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 Zoom Lens Review

“A hands-on review and test of the new Panasonic zoom 12-35mm f2.8 Lumix ASPH “X Vario” lens…”

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The new version of this lens, the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II Aspheric Power OIS H-HSA12035.

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  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens – B&H
  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens  – B&H