*my precious*… itshereitshereitshere!! (And the ONLY reason I’m not unboxing it before the show is because I HAVE to finish something else first… and if I open this box… GAME OVER)
“Five prime lenses in one”, stated a Japanese Panasonic executive when announcing the unique Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric onstage a while back and I am hoping he was right about that.
If Panasonic has managed to achieve top-end prime lens quality and lack of optical distortion right throughout the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric’s focal length range, especially at its wide end, I will be well-pleased.
Ultra-wideangle lenses need to be distortion-free when tracking subjects walking through cityscapes and interiors packed with parallel horizontal lines to avoid the sometimes comical but mostly annoying, visually cloying, effect of those horizontals bending and unbending as the camera follows the figure.
Cameralab’s review of the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric seems to indicate some degree of barrel distortion but I want to see more analysis and examples of the lens at its wide end, especially when shooting amongst skyscrapers and interiors.
I look forward to PhotoJoseph and other well-qualified reviewers looking into this soon.
“Having earned the top spot as our Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 in our annual Lens of the Year awards, we’ve now finalized our lab testing of the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens. This 35mm-eq. wide-angle prime lens is undoubtedly a professional-level optic that offers excellent performance. Image quality is spectacular, even at f/1.2, with very low distortion and low chromatic aberration….”
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro
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.
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.
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.
Screenshot from the Olympus 2018 financial report.
With the coming release of Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K aka P4K later this year, along with the already-released Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 IBIS hybrid 4K stills/video camera and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S high-end compact 4K video camera, attention is on affordable yet high-end professional-quality lenses capable of delivering excellent results whether manually-focussed or used with those cameras’ autofocus functionality if they have it.
After trying out prime and zoom optics from several ranges of Micro Four Thirds lenses, I have chosen to invest in Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro range and will be adding more as availability and finances permit.
My documentary photography and moviemaking work demands gear that can withstand years of use and potentially challenging environments without succumbing, and the weather resistance, durability, quality and relative low weight and size put the M.Zuiko Pro lens range in the frame.
I will be adding Xume fast-on, fast-off filter holders, Breakthrough Photography brass knurled step-up rings and UV protection filters, and a full set of top-quality variable and fixed ND filters to my kit in the 82mm and 105mm sizes soon.
I hope that Olympus will continue to expand its M.Zuiko Pro offerings into the 10.5mm and 14mm prime lens sizes as part of the company’s stated commitment to its professional lens range.
Both focal lengths, in 35mm sensor terms equivalent to 21mm and 28mm, are crucial to my work in documentary photography and video, and are essential to any well-rounded collection of professional-quality prime lenses.
I would also like to see a 75mm equivalent lens added to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens collection – 21mm, 28mm and 75mm is one of my favourite 35mm sensor focal length triplet for documentary stills and video, or in M43 sensor terms 10.5mm, 14mm and 37.5mm.
That aside, I am very pleased that Olympus has released the 17mm f/1.2 in its second tranche of M.Zuiko Pro primes as I have been badly missing this focal length in my M43 sensor format cameras.
My head was further turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro lens collection by Cosyspeed’s Thomas Ludwig’s review of the M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 and its beautiful skin-tone rendering.
“What makes a good lens? This is in many ways a question that can only be answered individually. To me it is not important that it is super sharp wide open or does not vignette etc. – to me the most important point is the esthetics, the look and feel it delivers. When I look at the images of a certain lens and it “feels” good, well, than it is a good lens. And you know what? The OLY 25/1.2 is a lens of this category. I’m simply amazed especially when looking at the portraits I made in Hamburg. Amazed not by my images but by the clean, natural and three dimensional look.
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. A high level of micro contrast gives 3D pop for example to LEICA and ZEISS lenses, but it can be a bit harsh when shooting portraits. 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.”
I have tried out the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7, equivalent in 35mm sensor terms to 30mm, but I found the focal length an uneasy in-between, too wide for the subjects I prefer photographing with a 35mm equivalent lens and too long for those much better suited to a 28mm focal length equivalent.
When I began researching the Micro Four Thirds format for moviemaking and photography several years ago, its detractors harped on about how few M43 lenses existed back then.
The critics were factually wrong then and the number of M43 prime and zoom lenses has grown considerably since, but gaps still remain in the major lens makers’ offerings, especially at M43 system co-founders Olympus and Panasonic.
Olympus has hit the right notes with its M.Zuiko Pro collection but it needs to keep growing its prime lenses and long focal-length subsets, in the former case taking a leaf out of the book Leica Camera wrote some years ago with its Leica M-System lenses for stills photography and its recent cinema lens spin-off, Leica sister company CW Sonderoptic’s five-strong Leica M 0.8 series.
“PR: Dear Mr. Li, let me thank you for this opportunity to ask you some questions about your work and the process of designing a lens. But first we would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your position at Laowa?…”
… PR: And a final question: Do you use the lenses you have designed yourself? And if so, what is your favorite lens and what do you use it for?
Mr. Li: I also use the lenses I designed. I used to love telezoom lenses but now I love macro lenses more, to capture the microscopic world. Seeing the world from a bug’s perspective is fascinating. At the same time, it helps me realise that this world does not belong only to humans. Humanity, rather, belongs to nature….
The Venus Optics Laowa lens collection as of January 2018 (9mm lens coming soon)
Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D manual focus near-zero distortion fast wide-angle prime lens.
Laowa 15mm f/2.0 Zero-D FE-mount zero distortion fast extreme wide-angle manual focus prime lens.
Laowa 15mm f/4.0 Wide-Angle 1:1 Macro manual focus prime lens.
Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra-Macro manual focus prime lens.
Laowa 105mm f/2.0 Smooth Trans Focus (STF) manual focus prime lens.
Laowa Magic Shift Lens Convertor.
I encountered Laowa brand lenses made by Anhui Changgeng Optics Technology Co., Ltd trading as Venus Optics when writing for another online publication and was impressed by their first two products, the 60mm f/2.8 2-to-1 twice life-size ultra-macro and 15mm f/4.0 wide-angle 1-to-1 life-size manual-focus macro prime lenses.
I have yet to encounter any Laowa lenses in the flesh, as it were, but am keeping a keen eye on developments in their product range and am pleased that they may soon be adding a second M43-mountable or at least adaptable wide-angle rectilinear lens in the 9mm f/2.8 lens, recently shared by FujiRumors.
We need more top-quality well-corrected manual-focus rectilinear M43 wide-angle prime lenses in my opinion, and the more choices the better.
With Venus Optics’ current 7.5mm M43 bestowing the 35mm sensor-size equivalent of 15mm, a 9mm lens would give us an 18mm equivalent.
Those 3mm are not as insignificant as they may seem – once we get down to the extreme wide end, 3mm in difference is noticeable especially when shooting architectural exteriors and interiors as well as scene-setting video footage.
I hope that Mr Li and the rest of the Laowa team have a 10.5mm (21mm in the 35mm sensor size) on the drawing boards, to give us a choice of three excellent super-wide prime lenses for stills and video, as an alternative to wide-end zoom lenses:
7.5mm = 15mm (in 35mm)
9mm = 18mm (in 35mm)
10.5mm = 21mm (in 35mm)
Three well-corrected prime lenses evenly spaced 3mm apart in their 35mm equivalent focal lengths would make for a great little lightweight set of ultra-wide lenses.
By their very nature, prime lenses can be optically corrected more than zoom lenses, and while this may not be mission critical in stills photography where optical distortions can be corrected in raw processors and image editors, non-linear editing software for moviemaking cannot correct barrel and pincushion optical curvature.
These sorts of side-by-side tryouts are useful when assembling an optimal set of lenses for any camera system, and are something I would love to do myself with more of an in-the-field as-close-to-real-life-as-possible tryout, less of a techie pixel-peeping and specifications-comparing spiel.
Given my relative lack of access to the range of gear I would want to try out and write about, I am glad that others out there in the northern hemisphere do have access to items of interest, like MirrorLessons’ Wales-based Heather Broster and Mathieu Gasquet, and are great at more technical reviewing.
Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes and their f/1.8 counterparts
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!
I learned to select camera systems first by the quality of their lenses, second by the functionality of their camera bodies and those principles remain in force despite the digital era’s constantly evolving hardware and software technologies.
Lens choice should be based on genre, camera shape and size, and other shooting stills, video or both.
In my case (mostly) available light documentary, small to medium size mirrorless rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras when possible, and both video and stills, often in the same project.
I do appreciate the smaller Micro Four Thirds and APS-C lenses, especially the pancake and “Fujicron” lens designs, for allowing me to be discrete and unobtrusive when shooting in public but find manual clutch focus lenses invaluable when shooting video and for critical focus with fast apertures and longer focal lengths.
Most lenses in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection feature filter diameters of 62mm or more, wide focussing rings suitable for follow-focus devices and lens bodies large enough to grip well.
Video brings other lens features into consideration, too, especially when shooting in the great outdoors under bright sunlight or with fast sensors of 400 ISO and over.
One thing to bear in mind when shooting video outdoors on sunny days is that variable NDs with maximum densities of 6 stops may be inadequate, so please consider variable NDs with higher density values such as the Aurora-Aperture or SLR Magic products in the list at the bottom of this page.
Alternatively, if choosing fixed NDs then space them well and ensure the highest density is 10 or more stops for shooting in bright sun with high ISO sensors, an even more important consideration with Panasonic rumoured soon to be announcing a new low-light version of the GH5 with higher base ISO sensor than the current GH5’s 200 ISO.
TheCameraStoreTV – Focus By Wire: Why It Sucks (Featuring Possible Solutions!) – “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.”
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Aurora-Aperture PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops) – B&H
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO Lens – B&H
With the ending of the major photography trade show in Australia, chances to see and try before you buy have become even more rare than they have ever been, so I was grateful for the small display of mirrorless cameras and lenses at one side of the expo opposite the two DSLR makers.
It was good to see Fujifilm’s X-E3 again and I caught up with the new Sony Alpha a9 camera so many colleagues have been raving about, but the star of the show for me was the Olympus table.
Panasonic was mysteriously absent and all the poorer for it given how beautifully its Lumix cameras go together with Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro lenses for cinematography and photography, especially given their unique manual clutch focus option.
Super wide-angle lenses present something of a quandary when it comes to filters, given they often have wide convex front lens elements that prevent easily attaching screw-on filters.
Using such lenses for video presents even more of a quandary, especially for solo operators working in documentary moviemaking who must travel light, are self-funded and must watch their budgets.
Travelling light, working handheld and keeping your camera rigs small, neat and discrete rules out traditional moviemaking standbys like matte boxes holding large, costly square or rectangular filters which are fine for feature filmmaking and slower, more deliberate approaches.
Luckily several optical filter makers have turned their efforts to the problem of attaching filters to convex-fronted lenses like the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro, though until recently all such filter adapter solutions have only worked with big slide-in glass or plastic filters 100mm, 150mm or 165mm square or wide.
And then, I came across a hitherto unknown camera filter and accessories maker by the name of STC Optical & Chemical in Taiwan, and discovered they are offering a screw-in lens adapter for the M.Zuiko Pro 7-14mm f/2.8 and an adapter for Panasonic’s own 7-14mm lens, the slower Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 Aspheric zoom, also with a convex front element.
I have yet to come across any hands-on reviews by cinematographers of the STC Olympus 7-14mm filter adapter but have been researching the availability of high quality 105mm UV, circular polarizing and ND filters in density values suitable for moviemaking.
STC Optical & Chemical’s Screw-In Lens Adapter for Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro Lens
STC lens adapter on Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro
STC lens adapter on Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro
Screw-in lens adapter for Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro by STC Optical & Chemical, plus 105mm STC UV filter
Given the brightness of sunny days like today, a 6-stop maximum density is not dense enough and will need to be supplemented with fixed, single value ND filters, abnegating the utility value of variable NDs in the first place.
I have no firsthand experience with Aurora-Aperture products but 4 to 11 stops ND seems more useful.
Another possibility, or more appropriately hope, is that STC Optical & Chemical may choose to supplement its current 105mm 6-stop ND filter with more.
One typical fixed neutral density filter set contains 2, 4, 6, 8 and sometimes 10 stops, while another comprises 3, 5, 7, and 9 stops.
If I can find the answer to the variable or fixed circular ND filter set question for the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 7-14mm f/2.8 filter, then the lens and its filter solution will go straight to the top of my documentary video hardware wish list followed by the M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2, 25mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 professional-quality prime lenses.
I have made enquiries about their relevant products to STC Optical & Chemical and will report back here soon.
Of STC’s current Olympus Screw-In Lens Adapter packages, I am tempted by the adapter plus UV filter for stills photography, the circular polarizer for architectural photography and city scenes in video, and the 6-stop ND with the hopes that 2, 4, 8 and 10 stops ND filters will be appearing soon.
Or I may opt for either of STC’s Ultra Layer Variable NDs if they become available in a diameter of 105mm.
Breakthrough Photography – Step-Up Ring – top-quality traction-framed brass step-up rings with the largest being 95mm to 105mm, so to use 105mm filters on smaller diameter lenses you would need to nest step-up rings.
Cosyspeed – The OLYMPUS 25/1.2 Street-Review – Thomas Ludwig writes that “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.”
“The most common option for shooters using still photography lenses on digital cameras that don’t have in-built ND is to use a variable ND filter, but often this can lead to compromises in image quality. Using fixed ND filters often results in better overall image quality, but it does come at the cost of convenience….”
The esoteric arts of creating top quality neutral density filters have come to the fore again in recent months with Breakthrough Photography’s Dark CPL & X4 GND Kickstarter campaign and Formatt Hitech’s release of their new Firecrest Ultra range.
I have been relying on one of the most highly recommended variable ND filters for some time, the Genustech Eclipse ND Fader, and it has proven itself well enough in the field though its technology is now somewhat behind the times.
I default to relying on Breakthrough Photography’s excellent brass traction-framed step-up rings as well as their brass traction-framed X4 UV filters and have been pleased with their performance.
But I have resisted investing in a set of circular fixed ND filters in the range of strengths I have been considering – 2 stops, 4 stops, 6 stops, 8 stops and possibly 10 stops for shooting time lapses in the way that Griffin Hammond demonstrates.
As much as I really like Breakthrough Photography’s optics, its manufacturing quality and especially its brass traction frames, I find the company’s circular fixed ND values of 3, 6 and 10 too limiting for video and 15 stops may not be necessary unless using a high base ISO camera like the Sony a7S series.
I need to shoot video run-and-gun as well as fixed-camera, with one, two or three cameras as needed, and that means more than one set of NDs or one variable ND.
The solution Matthew Allard writes about here – “I would buy a variable ND and several fixed ND filters – probably 0.9, 1.2, 2.1 and 3.0.” – has merit and I am now seriously considering buying my own SLR Magic fixed-plus-variable ND set.
Whether 2, 4, 6 and 8 stops or 3, 5, 7 and 10 stops, or something else again, the idea of combining such a fixed ND set with a matching 10-stop maximum variable ND filter is tempting.
“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.