…So I’ve been shooting with full-frame cameras for 17 years now and here we are in 2019, when full-frame cameras are taking over the popularity contest and Sony in particular has been killing it in well earned reviews, why would I even consider switching to micro four-thirds – a sensor size that is tiny compared to a full-frame sensor? Why would I leave the Sony a7R3 with it’s 42MP (and just announced Sony a7R4 60MP camera) and switch to the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and it’s tiny 20MP sensor?…
The Micro Four Thirds sensor system co-founded by Olympus and Panasonic over a decade ago is particularly well-suited to documentary photography and moviemaking as well as to the wildlife photography practised by Matt Seuss.
Recent M43 cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and Panasonic’s DMC-G9 with their multi-exposure high-resolution modes have become attractive to landscape photographers needing to produce big, really big, prints and I look forward to high res evolving rapidly so it is more applicable to in-studio and on-location portraiture as well.
Meanwhile I applaud Mr Seuss’ choice to invest in Olympus’ excellent M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lenses for M43 cameras including those made by Olympus and Panasonic as well as Blackmagic Design on its Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.
Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro lenses are excellent for stills and video, especially due to their manual clutch focus mechanism with hard stops at each end, a feature I wish to see on all lenses for cameras in all sensor formats from now on.
It has been good to see Panasonic finally get the memo on manual clutch focus with their first M43 attempt at including it as a key feature on the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric zoom, a lens I have been hoping would eventually appear ever since I invested in the Micro Four Thirds system.
“Back in 2017 we told you that Olympus is developing and will launch a new 12mm f/1.2 PRO lens. We now found a brand newly published patent describing the lens specs in three slightly different version…”
Right now Olympus’ professional-quality M.Zuiko lineup includes three fast rectilinear prime lenses – 17mm f/1.2, 25mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 – and it is reassuring to know that the 12mm f/1.2 is on its way possibly to be released in 2018.
All good camera systems, especially if aimed at and used by professionals, need a full and well-spaced set of matched prime and zoom lenses, a fact that Canon, Leica and Nikon worked out decades ago and upon which they built their credibility and success.
Mirrorless cameras other than the Leica M-System such as Olympus and Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm’s APS-C and Sony’s APS-C and 35mm systems, need the same optical advantage in order to approach Canon, Leica and Nikon, and would do well to follow their lead.
Olympus is doing well in that regard but gaps remain in their M.Zuiko Pro prime lens line-up with the most obvious being the 10.5mm, 12mm, 14mm and 37.5mm focal lengths.
I recall that 4/3 Rumors shared news of Olympus 12mm and 14mm fast aperture lens designs back in 2017 and I look forward to the announcement and launch of the 12mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens sometime this year.
The 12mm focal length is one of my least preferred focal lengths though, whether for stills or video, and I would much prefer 10.5mm as a super wide-angle lens for deeply immersive documentary photography and moviemaking.
While I am grateful that Olympus released its 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko primes recently, 14mm and 37.5mm (28mm and 75mm in the 35mm sensor format) is a more effective lens pair for two-camera, two-lens documentary work in stills and moving image production.
Not all Olympus M.Zuiko Pro prime lenses need to have a maximum aperture of f/1.2.
Although some super-fast prime lenses are of real benefit in any professional lens kit, many prime lens focal lengths are perfectly useful even if a little slower, such as f/2.0, so long as they share all the other positive traits of the M.Zuiko lens collection such as manual clutch focus.
Professional stills and video cameras in the M43 format are now roaring ahead with the Olympus Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DC-GH5S, DC-G9 and DMC-GX8 (soon to be upgraded to the GX9, one hopes), and they deserve a range of equally professional and well-spaced, colour-matched lenses to suit.
Olympus Australia is running its Summer Bonus promotion from 1st November 2017 to 31st January 2018 for Australian and New Zealand residents purchasing eligible Olympus cameras and lenses within the promotional period. Terms and conditions apply.
Eligible Olympus cameras and lenses include the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M5 Mark II, Pen-F cameras and a range of M.Zuiko Pro professional prime and zoom lenses.
“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.