“… A long list of assets with only one more serious flaw and a record-breaking resolution performance – we don’t doubt that the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45 mm f/1.2 PRO deserves our ‘Editors’ Choice’ badge. Our summary is exceptionally short but there’s really nothing to talk about. It’s another excellent Micro 4/3 lens. …”
As our gallery below indicates, the Micro Four Thirds format is not without some notable choices in fast zoom lenses and faster prime lenses in short to medium telephoto focal lengths suitable for the traditional approach to portrait photography and for closeup and big closeup shots in moviemaking, so the LensTip Editor’s Choice Award for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45 mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens is noteworthy indeed.
Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95
SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 50mm T0.95
Veydra 50mm T2.2 Mini Prime, equivalent to 75mm when used on a Fujifilm or Sony APS-C camera.
Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Aspheric Power OIS
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Power OIS prime lens. Considered a benchmark lens in its focal length but it is priced accordingly.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II Power OIS
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro telephoto zoom lens.
“… The lens is incredibly sharp even when shooting wide open. The sharpness is uniform from edge to edge. The bokeh is beautiful and soft, resulting in pleasing and natural looking images. Technical flaws are well controlled with no noticeable distortion, minimal chromatic aberration and good flare control. AF is speedy and reliable. the lens just works and it exceeded my expectations….
… Of the three F1.2 lenses, I am surprised to conclude that this 17mm F1.2 is my personal favourite.”
I have been recommending the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection of fast maximum aperture prime and zoom lenses for their many attributes of use to cinematographers – their affordability and low weight and small size compared to their 35mm sensor format equivalents, mechanical durability, weather resistance and high optical quality as well as their small set of filter diameters allowing for a smaller set of step-up rings and neutral density filters.
The recent addition by Panasonic of the ability to allocate lens-related, barrel-mounted L-Fn functionality to M.Zuiko Pro lenses via firmware when used on the GH5 has added yet another reason to seriously consider M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video production.
I hope that Panasonic will add that L-Fn functionality to the G9, GH4 and GX8 as well as other Lumix cameras in a new set of firmware updates.
Size, weight, price and capability are relative traits.
Ming Thein reviewer Robin Wong writes:
A genuine concern, however, is the diminishing benefit of Micro Four Thirds systems having smaller, more portable lenses. These new F1.2 PRO lenses are no smaller or lighter than their DSLR counterparts.
Maybe so, and at USD1,199.00 the three M.Zuiko Pro prime lenses are not a great deal cheaper than their f/1.2 Canon equivalents in the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lenses, but the GH5 possesses video production traits simply not available on Canon EOS DSLRs.
I have not tried any of the Olympus M.Zuiko f/1.8 lenses to which Mr Wong compares the M.Zuiko Pro primes, but have used and owned some of Panasonic’s excellent and affordable little f/1.7 or slower Lumix G prime lenses which are well-matched to the smaller Lumix cameras for fast, discrete stills photography.
Professional video production is something else, often demanding the use of step-up rings, variable and fixed ND filters of 77m or 82mm filter diameters, follow focus devices and focus gearing slipped over manual clutch focus rings for accurate and repeatable focus.
Earlier today I was travelling down suburban streets emptied by withering 40-degree-plus laser-beam sunlight, with Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens mounted on the GH5 and a couple of other small Lumix G lenses on standby should I spot a likely fellow citizen to commemorate with 10-bit 4:2:2 4K HLG HDR video footage.
“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.
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.
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?
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
The current Olympus M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range from 8mm through to 300mm focal lengths.
My personal benchmark for well-spaced colour-matched sets of professional-quality primes, Leica’s Summicron-M f/2 lenses with the 21mm Summilux-M thrown in at the wide end.
The current Veydra Mini Prime cinema lens lineup, from 12mm through to 85mm all at a maximum aperture of T2.2.
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.
I am also often asked for the best advice I can give stills photographers and moviemakers just starting out as well as long-established professionals in both fields. Opportunities to see and try production hardware are few and far between here so my ability to provide that advice is limited by that, but one colleague in particular wanted to know my opinion of the Olympus OM-D cameras and Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional lens series.
He is considering revamping his production kit now that small camera 4K movie production has become an affordable reality and wanted to know which lenses he should buy and what camera system in particular. He prefers primes over zooms but is happy to use zooms when he needs to.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds/Super 16 Hybrid Camera
I did not have an opportunity to try out the OM-D E-M1 Mark II at the event so the best advice I can give is to check out the plethora of product reviews and information available online.
If a review loaner is available sometime soon I will be very keen to put the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s 4K video and other capabilities to the test.
The Olympus Micro Four Thirds M.Zuiko Pro Lens Lineup
For the work my colleague does, a fast 25mm prime lens – equivalent to 50mm in 35mm format – is a mainstay so he wanted to know what I thought of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro especially in combination with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II for shooing video.
My moviemaking colleague has other cameras to which M43 lenses can be attached without adapters, including those made by Blackmagic Design or via adapters such as Digital Bolex‘s D16 CCD sensor global shutter Super 16 cameras. So any new lens purchases need to work with a range of cameras, current and future, mostly in manual mode but with autofocus when advantageous.
One of the two most recent M.Zuiko Pro lenses to appear, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro is the second prime lens to join the Olympus professional lens collection.
Although the 25mm focal length, equivalent to 50mm in 35mm format, is not one of my favourite local lengths of all time, 25mm most certainly has its uses when shooting stills and video. It is useful for full-length and half-length portrait photography, covering events conducted in available darkness as this product launch was, and is a much-used focal length in documentary and feature filmmaking.
I like 25mm lenses for face-to-camera interviews, interviewer-and-interviewee two-shots and product shots when I don’t need the immersive deep space feel better suited to extreme wide-angle lenses.
Although slower 25mm lenses have their place especially when breaking into video and stills photography, fast 25mm primes are invaluable when faced with a range of lighting conditions such as the one under which I shot the photograph below.
With aperture set at f/1.2 and my Panasonic Lumix GX8 at A for aperture priority and auto ISO, I manually focussed the lens on the eyes of the Olympus Australia staffer in the centre, allowing everything else in the image to fall into defocus aka bokeh.
One of the unknown pleasures of the GX8 is its clean HDMI-out 4:2:0 8-bit 4K video, non-DCI for sure but great for documentary moviemaking as a lightweight but powerful rangefinder-style camera, a well-kept secret that only filmmakers like Rick Young of Movie Machine seem to appreciate.
Invest in the coming Leeming LUT One for the GX8, set your camera up as recommended, shoot ETTR (expose to the right), apply the LUT in your NLE, rinse and repeat. Do the same for your other cameras. Doubtless a Leeming LUT One for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II will appear soon enough.
One of the several joys of Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro professional lens collection is their clutch manual focus. Draw the focus encoder ring back towards the camera, spin it left and right, watch critical detail snap into focus with focus magnification or focus peaking, then shoot.
Under this focussing system the encoder ring goes from close to infinity in a quarter turn, perfect when focus-pulling or needing to snap from one focussing distance to another and back. Count me as a major fan of this form of manual focussing in contrast to manually focussing via encoder rings that spin and spin and spin.
My interest in the travel zoom lens category had been piqued when trying out Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR zoom lens last year. Given the long focal length range travel zooms encompass, there will be compromises in optical correction and the same applies to the lenses’ maximum apertures.
I managed to snap off a couple of frames before the lens was needed the other side of the room, but in the image below one can see a slight amount of optical distortion in the white columns and ceiling.
This barrel distortion can be corrected automatically with in-camera JPEGs – I rarely shoot them as I much prefer shooting raw files only – and in correction-savvy raw processors and image editors.
Optical distortion when shooting video is another matter again though. Optical correction in non-linear editors (NLEs) would be far too processor-intensive and so one must grit one’s teeth and bear it. Hence the curved parallel horizontals and vertical one often sees in television shows.
This lens is in interesting proposition, with its long focal length range, slower maximum aperture than the M.Zuiko Pro collection’s other zoom lenses, relatively small size and low weight for its reach, and Olympus’ very first attempt at in-lens optical image stabilization (OIS).
The OIS in this lens reportedly works in conjunction with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s 5-axis IBIS (in-body image stabilization) though I would prefer to test that out in practice. The big question for Panasonic users is, will this lens’ OIS also work in conjunction with the IBIS in the GH5?
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro
Older than the other two lenses I tried out, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro was also on my wishlist of lens tryouts. Fisheye lenses are a low priority – I have resisted the temptations of the GoPro camera range – but this lens has potential for special situations like time-lapse stills and video in tight, poorly-lit spaces, or extreme close-ups.
The outstanding feature of this lens is a much higher maximum aperture than other full-frame fisheye lenses of which I am aware, and its good light distribution with lack of noticeable fall-off though I was using it in poor lighting.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro is definitely one to try again in future.
Snapshots from the Event
I managed to achieve two out of three goals that night, briefly trying out the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 Pro zoom lens. My short play with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Pro was an unplanned bonus.
The same applies to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, the ostensible star attraction at the event but one which I did not manage to spend enough time with. From its specifications list, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II looks like it is a Super 16 hybrid video camera to be taken very seriously indeed, especially given Olympus has got it right with the small but essential things like custom white balance.
I look forward to learning more about the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s video production features soon. This year is already a very interesting one for 4K video and the question now is which new camera and which range of lenses to consider investing in.