I chose the GX8 specially for its unique tilting electronic viewfinder (EVF) that allows me to shoot looking downwards like waist level viewfinders on some of my favourite analog cameras, or at a range of other angles.
Using a GX8 in this way permits placing the camera lower than eye level and makes it easier for subjects to ignore me.
The 25mm f/1.7 came with the GX8 as part of a promotion and it is a very sharp and well optically-corrected lens that focusses by wire as opposed to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 lens that offers repeatable manual focus via its manual clutch focussing mechanism.
Another Panasonic lens to consider for this approach is the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 prime that also focusses by wire.
I processed the raw files in Alien Skin Exposure X3 using the Kodak Panasonic-X and Platinum split-toning presets, with minimal further image adjustments.
I chose to emulate the look of platinum printing as I was reminded, on entering the gallery, of the many exhibitions I have seen overseas where the photographs were printed in the platinum printing process.
Olympus has announced the next two prime lenses in its M.Zuiko Pro collection of top quality zoom and prime lenses, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro.
The M.Zuiko Pro collection currently includes 7-14mm, 8mm, 12-40mm, 12-100mm, 25mm, 40-150mm and 300mm focal lengths, or in 35mm sensor equivalent terms, 14-28mm, 16mm, 24-80mm, 24-200mm, 80-300mm and 600mm focal lengths.
Apart from the 8mm full-frame fisheye and 300mm long telephoto lenses in the lineup, the M.Zuiko Pro collection’s fast primes will soon number three that are equivalent to 34mm, 50mm and 90mm in 35mm sensor format terms.
Add the 21mm or 24mm equivalent focal lengths of 10.5mm and 12mm to those three and you have an excellent though lean core set of colour-matched primes capable of repeatable manual focus via their manual clutch focussing mechanism.
Add the 28mm equivalent focal length of 14mm and you have a complete set of wide through to medium long focal lengths able to handle most anything that comes along, whether documentary stills or video.
Focus-by-wire is a right royal pain
As the guys at Calgary’s The Camera Store often point out, focus-by-wire lenses suck when shooting video and manual clutch focus lenses in the M.Zuiko Pro and other Olympus collections are preferable by far.
Manual clutch focus is also useful in achieving fast, accurate focus in stills photography, especially when using fast maximum aperture lenses in longer focal lengths.
I hope that these three fast M.Zuiko Pro lenses – 17mm, 25mm and 45mm – are just the start of a growing prime lens subset.
They don’t all need to be as fast at f/1.2.
A maximum aperture of f/1.4 is fine for wider lenses so long as they have the same construction quality, colour rendering and optical correction as the rest of the M.Zuiko Pro collection.
I can get by without 14mm for the time being.
The 14mm focal length (28mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) is the default setting on my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens for documentary photography and video – I rotate the lens’ focal length aka zoom ring to the 14mm mark when extracting my GX8 or GH4 out of my camera bag.
Robert Capa’s saying that “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” holds true in the digital age and a reasonably wide default focal length like 14mm forces you to get up close, personal, immersive and emotional in contrast to 25mm’s surrealist distancing or 17mm’s neither-fish-nor-fowl though often handy moderate wide-angle compromise.
Don’t underestimate the joys of a matched lens set…
… and never underestimate the usefulness of the 17mm focal length.
When I discovered the Leica M-System during the analog era, the only lens I could buy locally was a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0 lens, the “compact classic prime”.
The 35mm focal length, 17.5mm in Micro Four Thirds, is the perfect compromise if carrying just the one lens.
Not too wide for portraiture and especially suited to environmental portraiture, not too narrow for getting deep and intense inside a rapidly moving mass of people such as a demonstration, protest or rally, the moderate wide-angle 17mm focal length is a versatile compromise and the one I always recommend to beginning photographers whether in its M43 17mm form, APS-C 23mm equivalent, 35mm sensor 35mm equivalent or 45mm for Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera.
Until the arrival of the M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 lens, the only other M43 17mm lens will have been the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, perfectly suited to small stills-oriented cameras like the rangefinder-style Pen F though less appropriate, according to users, for shooting video due to its noisy internal focussing motors.
Like many others in the various Olympus lens collections, the 17mm f/1.8 has manual clutch focus, a crucial feature that should be built into all lenses, especially those intended for use by moviemakers.
Primes or zooms?
As many wiser heads than I have pointed out over the years, relying on a set of prime lenses as opposed to zooms has a number of benefits despite the convenience of having a number of focal lengths in the one lens.
I would love Olympus to add the 10.5mmm focal length (21mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) to the M.Zuiko Pro collection for scene-setting shots for which 12mm is too constricting, especially when shooting DCI4K and other aspect ratios and resolutions.
No other lens maker has come up with a truly professional-quality M43 manual and autofocus native 10.5mm lens and I am sure Olympus has what it takes to do it.
Olympus does offer the 10.5mm-inclusive 7-14mm f/2.8 zoom lens in its M.Zuiko Pro collection, and from the all-too-brief in-store tryout I had when a mid-sized camera store existed nearby, the lens’ one downside is its large protruding convex front element.
Not such a problem when shooting stills, though I do feel better installing a top-quality protective or UV filter in front when working on location.
Neither the 45mm f/1.2 nor 17mm f/1.2 are available yet and have only been tried out by a handful of users, mostly Olympus Visionaries.
Despite their early praise, some potential buyers chatting on online fora seem to believe that these two lenses plus the 25mm f/1.2 that appeared over a year ago are too large, too heavy and too costly.
So, I did a quick test on the Compact Camera Meter website in order to compare the dimensions of my most-used M.Zuiko Pro lens with the three fast M.Zuiko Pro primes, placing them on the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
They look well-proportioned in relation to the camera to me, and all are about the same size.
As with most items of hardware, you get what you pay for and if the few photographs made with these lenses that have been released so far are any indication, these three lenses look well worthwhile.
I asked cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One fame what native lenses he would use on his GH5 for making feature films.
“Olympus would be my pick if I was using M43 lenses”, he told me.
Mr Leeming currently uses Metabones Speed Booster-adapted Zeiss Contax manual prime lenses on his GH5, attaching his ND filters with the Xume magnetic system.
Product shots and sample photographs kindly supplied by Olympus Australia and Olympus USA and their public relations agencies and staff.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro professional prime lenses with manual clutch focusing, brilliant for shooting video or stills where accurate focus is absolutely critical.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II DSLR-style camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens with manual clutch focus. Photograph courtesy of Olympus.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Olympus has got manual focus right with its retractable manual clutch focus ring that allows accurate, repeatable focus and focus pulling.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Not shown in this photograph: retracting the focus ring activates the lens’ manual cutch focus mechanism, allowing for fast, accurate, repeatable focussing and focus pulling.
The M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 45mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens with manual clutch focusing via retracting focus control ring. Equivalent to 90mm in the 35mm sensor format. If only ALL lenses offered manual clutch focus!
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 17mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being close to the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) to concentrate fully on the subject.
I could not, alas, find an official Olympus 25mm lens sample shot of a human female to crop to 16×9 in order to simulate video so have had to resort to this cute little kitten. Visualize a human female here instead. The 25mm f/1.2 gives a look and feel in between those of the 17mm and 45mm M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 lenses.
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 45mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being much further from the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) even more than the 17mm and 25mm to concentrate even more fully on the subject.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017.
The addition of the 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 lenses to Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro professional Micro Four Thirds lens collection is an exciting development and offers the hope that more such fast prime lenses will be forthcoming.
When I began looking at Super 16/Micro Four Thirds as a serious documentary moviemaking and photography platform some years ago, my biggest concern was the apparent lack of an extensive optically and mechanically matched set of well-spaced prime and zoom lenses as we long have been accustomed to in other sensor formats.
The prospect of having to assemble a lens set comprising different brands and different optical and mechanical characteristics and qualities was not an attractive one.
That concern has now been largely allayed.
I will be even less concerned if Olympus adds a reasonably fast 10.5mm to the M.Zuiko Pro collection as the widest offering in its core prime lens subset.
I bought into the Super 16/Micro Four Thirds system when needing to shoot more video than stills, and while waiting for Fujifilm to come up with what finally turned out to be the X-Pro2, which was being spoken of back then as a Super 16/APS-C 4K-capable stills camera with accurate film simulations for video and JPEGs.
With the GH5, Panasonic has soared ahead and Fujifilm has years of catching up to do.
Of Panasonic’s own lens offerings, I am not so sure especially as they rely on focus-by-wire, which is fine for autofocus and back-button focus for stills but lousy for manually focussing video.
After trying out the Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f/2.8 and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses, I chose the latter and as Olympus released more M.Zuiko Pro lenses was increasingly impressed with the direction they were taking.
The three latest M.Zuiko Primes have me really impressed, for stills as well as video.
I relied on kits of two, three or four prime lenses for each camera system I used during the analog era, often carrying no more than three on most assignments, most often one long, one wide and one even wider.
It feels like I could do the same with these three M.Zuiko primes, for cinematography and photography, so long as I have a couple of matching zooms and one prime lens on the wide end socked away.
Olympus, please give us a 10.5mm prime lens to go with your 17mm, 25mm and 45mm primes, along with your 12-40mm and 40-150mm zooms to fill in the gaps.
Articles and Other Links
43Rumors.com – rumours website that has my gratitude for doing a great job keeping those of us relying on Olympus, Panasonic and other brand of Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses.
Cosyspeed – The OLYMPUS 25/1.2 Street-Review – “The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast…. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”
Ming Thein – Review: the 2017 Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO – article and photographs by Robin Wong. “… I find the images from the 45mm PRO lens to be lively, vibrant and realistic. There is an extra dimension to the images… Whatever secret sauce Olympus is using here, I sure hope they add it to their future lenses.”
Olympus – M.Zuiko Pro – has yet to be updated with the new lenses.
redtealongan – Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Lens Hands-On – “How good was the F1.2 PRO series lens in comparison to the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R which I currently own? Well, after having the hands-on with the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO, I think I am convinced that Olympus has successfully created a phenomenal portrait lens.”
“It seems every other TCSTV episode, Jordan Drake is complaining about focus-by-wire lenses. So Jordan and Chris Niccolls decided to explain what focus-by-wire is, and why you probably don’t want it if you’re shooting video.”
Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lenses – The best lenses for Super 16 video shot with Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH5 due to their having manual clutch focus mechanisms. Draw back the focussing ring to switch from focus by wire into manual clutch focus with the benefit of fast, repeatable focussing without the variable focussing speed of focus by wire.
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Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Ultra Wide-Angle Lens – B&H
“I told you months ago that Olympus would release this lens. And now I have the pleasure to share the very first image of this lens! The new 17mm f/1.2 pro lens will be the second super fast lens after the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO….
… A third 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is expected to be announced some times later. Stay tuned on 43rumors for more info and leaks!…”
Micro Four Thirds rumour website 4/3 Rumors has confirmed its long persistent rumour that Olympus is working on a fast, professional-quality 17mm prime lens with a product shot.
Whatever sensor size and aspect ratio in which I am working, I consider a moderate wide-angle lens an essential and the very first prime lens to be purchased.
I bought into the Micro Four Thirds system knowing it lacked a pro-quality 17mm lens, equivalent to 34mm in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size, but had high hopes one would appear some day and so it soon will.
MFT’s 17mm focal length is eminently suited to documentary photography and video production when using one lens only or as first amongst a set of lenses and focal lengths.
In the absence of such a lens at the time, my first professional M43 lens was a zoom, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and it has impressed me more than I had expected.
Standardizing on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video and stills
So much so, in fact, that I have resolved to standardize on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro native M4/3 lenses rather than those made by Panasonic, despite standardizing on Panasonic Lumix cameras due to their excellent qualities as MFT/Super 16 stills and moviemaking cameras.
Olympus has aptly named its professional prime lens and zoom lens range, given its many pro-quality features:
Manual clutch focus for fast, repeatable focussing when focus-by-wire is too slow and inaccurate.
Weather resistance via hermetic sealing against dust and rain.
Excellent mechanical and optical design and construction for impact-resistance and ability to handle extreme temperature variations.
Much smaller size and weight compared to equivalents in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size.
Consistent maximum aperture of f/2.8 on the zoom lenses, f/1.2 on the fast prime lenses, f/4.0 on the travel zoom lens and long telephoto lens.
Filter diameter of 62mm on most lenses.
Best optical correction I have seen so far on any wide zoom lens with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro.
The one downside is the 7-14mm zoom’s convex front element that disallows screw-on filters. The solution is a push-on adapter and filter frame for square or rectangular tempered glass or plastic filters such as those made by Breakthrough Photography, Nisi and many other filter specialists.
Whether the extra cost of these solutions is outweighed by this lens’ impressive optical correction action is a matter of taste and need.
Personally I find the optical distortion of many wide-angle zoom lenses objectionable especially when videoing a protagonist walking through a cityscape of interior containing parallel horizontals and verticals.
Distortions like that can be corrected in image editing and raw processing software but not in moviemaking’s non-linear editing software.
More M.Zuiko Pro primes to come
Based on rumours, Olympus’s M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range is shaping up well with a 42mm f/1.2 probability and fast 12mm and 14mm lenses possibilities.
The range’s f/2.8 maximum aperture zooms are fast enough for most available light situations unsupplemented by strong LED lighting.
Its f/1.2 maximum aperture primes are excellent solutions for available darkness situations for which f/2.8 is too slow, and suit the needs of bokeh mavens for razor sharpness against milky blur.
Professional lens sets need to include All Common Focal Length Options
When I first began looking into Micro Four Thirds/Super 35 and APS-C/Super 16 format cameras for documentary photography and video production, prime lens choices were limited and much narrower than I had been accustomed to in the analog film formats I used professionally.
In contrast to those days, zoom lenses have radically evolved and there are a number available now that are approaching prime lens quality at all of most focal lengths, at the expense of maximum aperture or a single maximum aperture.
I am not a fan of variable maximum aperture zooms that offer, say, one stop extra at the wide end compared to to the one-stop reduced maximum aperture throughout the rest of the lens’ focal range.
Few if any contemporary zoom lenses are entirely without optical distortion. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro’s optical correction impressed during a quick and dirty tryout a while back, but the downside is the lens’ convex front element that mitigates against the same screw-on filters I use on other lenses.
Given a choice, I would prefer to rely on a good set of professional-quality prime lenses for my photography and video work, but given reality oftentimes must compromise with lens sets comprising fast zooms and faster primes.
One can get away with that for photography due to many raw processing and image editing software products having optical correction features, but correction in software is not possible for video footage and common optical distortions in zoom lenses can be distracting at the expense of the story and the audience’s immersion in it.
I applaud the efforts of camera and lens makers in adding extra focal lengths but a few gaps remain in the brands I use and I look forward to the day when we have choices in APS-C/Super 35 and M43/Super 16 more closely approaching those of the established 35mm DSLR camera and lens makers.
Suggested Olympus M.Zuiko Pro reduced lens sets:
17mm – not too wide and not too long, for when only one lens is desired.
7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm and 42mm – for video and stills across a range of situations and subjects with the emphasis on fast primes.
7-14mm, 12-40mm, 40-150mm, 1.4x teleconverter, with one or more f/1.2 primes – for a wide range of documentary video situations with the emphasis on zooms.