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Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens Review

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens Review - John Riley reviews the ultra-bright Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO prime lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

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Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus 25mm F1,2 Front Oblique View
This 25mm f/1.2 lens for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras is equivalent to a 50mm f/1.2 “standard” lens in 35mm-format terms. The standard lens was for many years the lens of choice when buying a new camera, in more recent times largely replaced by the “kit zoom”. However, a growing awareness that prime lenses are light, bright and potentially of better quality than inexpensive zooms gives rise to their current popularity as a subsequent purchase. Notwithstanding the appearance of several f/0.95 optics, traditionally f/1.4 was the brightest norm and the very few f/1.2 lenses regarded as something really quite special and very expensive. It will be interesting to see how this new f/1.2 design performs, mounted for this review on a Panasonic Lumix G6 body.

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Handling and Features

Olympus M Zuiko PRO 25mm F1 2 (1) (Custom)

Designated as a PRO lens, there is no doubt about the general quality of manufacture. The overall package is compact and weighs in at a reasonable 410g. It is designated as being splash and dust resistant. The round lens hood provided fits slickly and has a locking catch to make sure that it never works loose. All of this fits easily and with great precision. The bayonet hood fitting surrounds a 62mm filter thread.

A thin ring then describes the lens details, and as we travel further towards the camera body next up is an equally thin depth of field scale. Then we find the manual focus ring. If pushed forwards, this ring can be used to manually override the AF. If pulled backwards it reveals the manual focus scale and the ring operates as a manual focus ring, with traditional hard stops at each end of the focusing range. There are indications in feet and metres revealed on a thin ring forwards of the focusing ring, but because they are all in the same plane and the ring is so thin there are very few actual figures inscribed. The forwards / backwards action of the focusing ring is very light and it could usefully have a tad more friction to prevent accidental operation.

Focusing is down to 0.3m, giving a maximum magnification of 0.11x. This equates with a working distance of around 19.5cm. There are 9 rounded diaphragm blades for smoother bokeh, the quality of the out of focus areas in an image.

Finally, a solitary push button marked L-Fn will disable the AF when kept pressed. The metal MFT mount is of the highest quality and bayonets onto the camera smoothly, without any play once fitted.  

Olympus 25mm F1,2 On Lumix G6 With Hood

A conventional 50mm f/1.2 lens for 35mm-format might be expected to have around 7 elements in 6 groups, but this 25mm f/1.2 for MFT format has a highly complex 19 elements in 14 groups, including 2 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 1 Super ED, 3 HR (High Refractive Index), 1 Extra-HR and 1 Aspherical element. Z-Nano coatings complete the picture of a highly corrected and professional optic.

In use, apart from the possibility of accidentally switching from AF to MF and vice-versa, there is very little to go wrong. The bright f/1.2 aperture ensures a crisp point of focus and the AF system snaps into focus with speed. Using the Lumix G6 though, it was evident that the AF is not quite precise enough to make the best of the f/1.2 aperture and manual focus with focusing aids actually is more accurate. However, it takes time, so for normal use, probably stopped down anyway, AF performs well enough.

Olympus 25mm F1,2 Rear Oblique View

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Performance

Sharpness measurements probably do not do the lens full justice as the images shot at normal distances are very sharp, centre and edge. Generally, an f/1.2 lens such as this would not be expected to perform as well up close and on flat subjects such as lens testing charts.

Despite the above, at the centre sharpness is excellent from the f/1.2 open aperture and remains so right through to f/11. At f2, f/2.8 and f/4 it is pushing towards being described as outstanding. It is only at f/16 that diffraction takes its toll, but even here results are very good.

The edges do not fare quite so well in the test results, being fair at f/1.2, good at f/2 and f/2.8, but rising to very good sharpness between f/4 and f/11. It is still good at f/16 as it tails off due to diffraction.

In the field, the normal distance images show excellent sharpness centre and edge. This is a lens for real life shooting, not for fitting to extension tubes and other close up work. This is just the nature of the beast and probably inevitable in such a fast, bright lens.

 

Olympus MZuiko 25mmf1 2 MTF

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G6 using Imatest.

 

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very highly corrected in the centre of the field and is virtually zero. At the edges control is still very good and for most purposes good enough not to be noticed. There will be times, such as branches against bright sky, where some fringing becomes visible, but this can easily be corrected in software.

Olympus MZuiko 25mmf1 2 CA

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G6 using Imatest.

 

Flare resistance is virtually perfect and it is not possible to even see any significant loss of contrast against the light.

Barrel distortion would be expected for an f/1.2 standard lens, and is present, but measures as a very low value of -0.312%. This is not significant, but in extreme circumstances could be corrected in software anyway.

The 9 bladed rounded diaphragm, coupled with the wide, bright apertures available, offers the potential for some wonderfully smooth bokeh, and that is exactly what is delivered. The overall “look” of the lens is very impressive.

 

Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Other sample images

Value For Money

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.2 PRO Lens is priced at £1099.

For MFT, there are various 25mm f/0.95 manual focus lenses. Choices included the Meike 25mm f/0.95 (£455), the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 II (£742) and the SLR-Magic 25mm T0.95 Cine lens (£579).

To put the DSLR marques in context, Nikon has the MF 50mm f/1.2 AIS (£699) and Canon offer the 50mm f/1.2L USM (£1369).

It seems that adding AF to the 25mm f/1.2 adds quite a bit to the price, but considering the complexity of the lens construction and the quality of the results, it remains fairly pitched and good VFM. For more options have a look at the Top 33 Best Micro Four Thirds Lenses.

 

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Verdict

The market for f/1.2 standard lenses gives very limited choice, especially if AF is required. However, we have here in the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens more than just a bright maximum aperture. It is a very fine lens in its own right, with excellent sharpness that borders on outstanding, low CA, no flare and a very pleasing bokeh. Add to that the low light potential and we have a very attractive proposition indeed.

 

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Very low CA
  • No flare
  • Lovely bokeh
  • Low distortion
  • Compact lens
  • Splash and dust resistant

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Cons

  • Lower edge performance at close distances
  • Light feel of AF/MF switching
  • High price tag

Features4/5
Handling5/5
Performance4/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length25mm
Angle of View47
Max Aperturef/1.2
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size62mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalent50mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification0.11x
Focusing
Min Focus30cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements19
Groups14
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight410g
Height87mm

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Comments


ChrisV Plus
11 2.0k 26 United Kingdom
23 Feb 2017 12:03PM
You say it's equivalent to a 35mm format 50mm f1.2.

But it isn't really, is it? I've heard all the statements of f1.2 is always f1.2, but if that's the case 25mm is always 25mm. Except it's not is it, because we look at the practical effect a lens has when it's mounted on any given body. 25mm projected onto a MFT sensor gives a field of view equivalent of 50mm in 35mm sensor terms. But at every F stop it's also giving an equivalence of 2 stops greater depth of field. Not only that, but it's also gathering [because of the sensor size] equivalent of 2 stops less light.

So it's actually more accurate to consider this lens as equivalent to a 50mm f2.4 lens in 35mm terms.

That doesn't sound so great in the comparisons any more does it? Of course that isn't the entire story and the build quality of this lens [although I hope the mount is much more sturdy than on the 12-40 Pro] and its performance should handily outdo the cheap as chips 50mm f1.8s for 35mm on the market [which will both gather more light and yield a shallower DoF on the corresponding sensor].

It's the price you have to pay for the convenience of the MFT format, but I do think the price in the case of these premium lenses from the OEMs is very steep. Especially if you consider you could buy a Sony A7RII and a 50mm f1.8 FE lens and have a considerable chunk of change over the alternative of an EM1II with this lens. But what about the overall weight? The Sony plus lens is actually 173g lighter. That's soon blown away when you go to longer zooms, but it's still considerable food for thought...

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23 Feb 2017 12:32PM
I take your points, but we have a simple comparison for field of view that most users will find meaningful, without going into too much complication. You're right to want to look into the various factors involved in more detail, and I guess it's the case that the more we know, the more there is to know.
ChrisV Plus
11 2.0k 26 United Kingdom
23 Feb 2017 1:52PM
I know you're not doing anything that's at all out of the usual way of expressing these things John - and in those terms it's a good review. It's just that commonly expressed way of talking about equivalence [with one thing and not the others] that's to the marketeers' advantage.

For full disclosure I am an MFT user and I've never owned a Sony ILC in my life. I do very often carry two bodies though and my above comparison has made me contemplate buying into the Sony system for shorter focal lengths, where the thing I miss most personally is ability to isolate subject. Of course it won't hurt either that I would get cleaner images in low light and more scope for crop.
themak 4 1.0k Scotland
23 Feb 2017 2:42PM
At that price, you're in the range of a Fuji X-T1 and a 35mm f1.4 lens these days.
23 Feb 2017 4:21PM
Why oh why is this comparison thing brought up again and again and again???

Both focal length and f/no are design constants of a lens.

We don't see so called "Full Frame" lenses being derided by what they would equate to if used on a medium format sensor...



23 Feb 2017 4:55PM
I understand the points being made, but it can get a bit obscure if we're not careful. Yes, the characteristics of a lens don't alter because of what we place behind it. How could they?
themak 4 1.0k Scotland
23 Feb 2017 5:32PM
It's a very expensive lens and it's perfectly reasonable to compare it to other equipment that will do the same job. I don't see any derision in any of the posts above.
7 Mar 2017 3:48PM
If we're going to compare, fine, but you can't skew the comparison to an untrue place. As Graham said, this needs to stop and people need to get it; f/1.2 is f/1.2 is f/1.2. You will need to shoot with an f/1.2 lens on a full frame camera to get the same amount of exposure (i.e.using the same ISO and shutter speed) as on a MFT lens/camera set up or an APS C lens/camera set up. If you don't believe it, just try it. I have both a APS-C Sony 6000 and a Olympus EM 1, and on lenses set to the same f setting, the same speed and the same ISO there is virtually no difference in the light level on the final shot. None. f/1.2 is f/1.2 is f/1.2.
In real world terms, in a dark church interior in Florence, an Olympus camera with the 25mm f/1.2 lens on it will have shots with exactly the same exposure using exactly the same shutter speed and ISO as a full frame camera with a 50mm f/1.2 lens using the same ISO and shutter speed. The depth of field will be different, but (to belabour this point) f/1.2 is f/1.2 is f/1.2.
Now you can compare.
themak 4 1.0k Scotland
7 Mar 2017 4:22PM

Quote:The depth of field will be different

You skated over that bit slightly, considering it's a major reason a person would want this. The point is, you don't need to go to the expense of f1.2, f1.2 or f1.2 for that with a larger format.
7 Mar 2017 4:35PM
Well, they are two different things - light gathering matters. I just shot a wedding and could have care less about depth of field. I wanted fast glass, and point I'm trying to make is that the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 is as fast as a full frame f/1/2. However, re depth of field, I've been shooting quite a bit of macro lately and can tell you that an issue with depth of field is often that you need more of it, not less. I have the Olympus 30mm macro that works with their focus stacking and have been taking some really cool macro shots where the background is blurry because I'm shooting wide open, but more of the target is in focus. In all the sample shots I've seen of the Olympus 25mm lens in action, it has, to my eye, a really good sweet spot of desirable depth of field - not too little, not too much. But that's just me.
themak 4 1.0k Scotland
7 Mar 2017 6:04PM
I only presented a realistic alternative. It would have done the same job at that wedding. Obviously it's up to the individual, but it is a very dear 1/2 stop.
8 Mar 2017 11:36AM
Two things: one, I find it faintly odd that an Olympus lens review is not written with the lens mounted on an Olympus camera - I know that we're talking MFT system here, but I bet the Olympus engineers were looking to Olympus cameras when they designed and built this lens and not to another manufacturer addressing the same format! I want to now how this lens performs on an EM-1, for example, not on another make of camera, however good it might be.

And two: the way the review is written, the clutch ring moved one way "can be used to manually override the AF" and moved the other way "operates as a manual focus ring". This is surely quite mistaken? Moved one way there is only AF operative, moved the other way there is only manual. Otherwise, what is the point?
8 Mar 2017 2:56PM
The MF ring can be employed for manual override even when set to AF, my apologies if the way it's written is a bit unclear. This is increasingly common in AF lenses. Of course, there is also the MF only option. Hope that helps!
8 Mar 2017 5:33PM
Thanks for the swift reply!

I was simply going by the way the 'clutch' works on my Olympus 12-40 PRO lens: whatever the setting on the top of the camera (is that what you mean?) the sliding ring on the lens toggles between Manual focus and Auto focus.
12 Oct 2017 10:06PM
A lot of positives here, but I find the CA unacceptably high. Look at the Village Architecture sample -- the roof tiles have obvious color fringing. I see this in other samples, as well. This practice of designing lenses with optical defects to be corrected with software has limits that are being exceeded in the interest of compactness. The earlier Oly 14-35mm f/2 SHG lens has about half the amount of CA (and it's a zoom lens, yet). Unless this is due to the use of a non-Oly body, for me it's no sale. I would be content with a well-corrected 25mm f/1.4 prime of similar pro construction, size, and price.

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