on October 18, 2011
Here it is, folks: your heretofore missing µ4/3 portrait lens. And what a marvelous little gem it is.
Why would you want this lens? Well, it's 45mm, and it's f/1.8, a combination which allows you to generate some serious subject isolation with its relatively shallow depth of field. This is the "DSLR blurry background look" that many people crave, and it's very difficult to pull off with most existing µ4/3 lenses (due to their generally slow speed combined with µ4/3's smaller-than-DSLR sensor).
Of course, f/1.8 isn't just there to isolate your subjects; this represents a dramatic improvement in low light performance when compared to any other native lens in this focal length. Your kit lens, for example, probably hits f/5.6 by here; this little guy lets in *nearly ten times as much light*. So you can use much faster shutter speeds and lower ISO, making low light shooting much more viable (since µ4/3 high ISO performance is lacking, fast lenses like this are crucial to make up the difference).
So, that's what it's for. Now the questions: how does it perform? Is it worth the cost? Let's look at the details.
- form factor / exterior: it's very small. Its length is just longer than the original Olympus kit lens and just shorter than the current kit lens (when collapsed), and the barrel is much narrower than either in diameter. This is the 3rd Olympus lens to use the new silver styling, and I must say that it looks great on an E-P3. The lens is made out of plastic, but it's good plastic, and thus far I have no concerns about construction quality. The focus ring is massive and operates very well, much better in fact than any other Olympus µ4/3 lens that I've tried (presumably the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 would best it, but I've had no opportunity to use that lens yet). The large-ish front element is gorgeous.
- image quality: well, I can tell you that it's superb, but if you have any doubts you should look for the scientific reviews on the 'net that give you LPMs and MTFs and all that jazz. I looked at some of these reviews and they will tell you numbers that match my experience in practice: this lens is great. It's tack sharp even wide open, and I've yet to feel any inclination to stop down for sharpness. This guy is made to be shot at f/1.8; do not hesitate to do so.
- autofocus: oh, yes, this lens focuses very quickly indeed! I've heard that it is slower on older bodies (I have not tried it on my old E-P2, yet) but on my E-P3 there is simply no rival. In good light this thing focuses every bit as fast as more expensive lenses on my DSLR, and with incredible precision thanks to the µ4/3 CDAF system. It's also very quiet, making it a great choice for video, although continuous AF is still not comparable to that of a DSLR (which is a design limitation of CDAF, not this lens specifically).
- lens hood: absent. Hmm. Well, this lens is small enough to easily shoot one-handed, so you can always shade it with your left hand. If you want a hood, it is available for a hefty premium, which leads me to my final point...
- price: ouch. To be fair, this is a brand new lens, but the steep MSRP (which it currently sells at or even above) is really the only thing I can find to complain about. Give it a year and it will come down, perhaps, but this is a lens that I wanted to own very badly, and so I found this price acceptable.
If you're trying to save a buck it will surely get cheaper over time, but ultimately this is a lens that every serious µ4/3 shooter will want to own. Get this, the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7, and a µ4/3 body, and I dare you not to fall in love with the kit.
With this lens, µ4/3 has finally fully arrived.
**** Update 2012/09/24 ****
Has it been a whole year with this little gem? Looking at my calendar says "yes, it has" - so I figure a brief update is warranted.
- despite the plastic build, it's held up quite well physically. Zero issues.
- I bought a knock-off lens hood for this thing on Amazon due to some flare that was occasionally evident shooting in broad daylight. Seems silly to have to buy something like that on the side - come on Oly, throw us a bone and throw it in the box.
- At this focal length f/1.8 is fast enough for any subject isolation I need. Yeah, it's not full frame, but it's good enough for me, and likely good enough for most.
- You'll really want to have an ND filter for this. Since current M4/3 bodies normally max out at shutter speeds of 1/4000 and cap out around 200 ISO, you'll find yourself stopped down in broad daylight without one.
- I find myself carrying an E-PM1, this lens, and the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens quite frequently. One lens easily fits in a jeans pocket, while the camera and mounted lens go in a small pouch (or, now that fall is upon us, jacket pocket). I could hardly ask for better in something so small.
- The Olympus 75mm f1.8 High-Grade Portrait Lens has arrived as well, which you might consider as an alternative to this lens. If you're looking for more working distance between you and the subject, it would surely be a better alternative. Of course, that lens is in a whole other price bracket (not to mention the added size and weight of the metal construction), so the little wonder here will remain a better option for many.
on October 17, 2011
I'm using this lens with a Panasonic GF1. Even after having my micro 4/3 for 2 years, I continue to be impressed at how small these lenses are, especially when compared with the huge NEX system lenses from Sony. The Olympus 45mm 1.8 continues that trend with a diminutive size and weight. The plastic body certainly helps with bring the weight down, in contrast to the 12mm all-metal wide-angle also from Olympus. When I set the camera down, the lens doesn't tip the camera over which helps for setting it on a table for time-release shots.
There are sample videos on the internet showing the focus speed on cameras like the GF3 and E-P3. My GF1 seemed to focus a bit slower with this 45mm lens than those cameras, but it was still spot on and almost silent. It was certainly faster and quieter than the 20mm pancake. The minimal focus distance says 0.5m. For practical purposes that means that you can't focus down on someone sitting right next to you but you can if they are one seat over.
Now, you may already have one of the 14-45mm kit lenses and ask yourself 'why do I need this 45mm lens if I've already got that focal length covered?' A few reasons: (1) speed. The maximum aperture of the kit zooms at 45mm is 5.6 which is over 3 f-stops more than the 1.8. That means you get a 1/100 shutter speed as opposed to the about 1/10 shutter speed of the kit zoom. (2) bokeh. The 45mm produces that great blurry quality in the background while keeping your subject sharp. Kit zoom lenses almost never produce those great images. (3) weight. Except for the new pancake 14-45mm zoom that panasonic recently came out with, this lens is smaller and lighter than the other kit zooms out there.
The other lens in the micro 4/3 system at this focal length is the Leica-branded 45mm macro lens (f2.8). Despite the same focal lengths, the lenses couldn't be more dissimilar. The Leica is about $300 more, produces great macro shots, is over 1 stop slower, and it focuses slower. The Olympus is positioned more accurately as a fast portrait lens.
The images are sharp without distortion or any visible artifacts. But, for a more scientific look at sharpness and chromatic aberration, etc, check out dpreview or lenstip.com. Finally, aesthetically, this is a great looking lens. If you are planning on getting a filter for it, the diameter is 37mm. It does not come with a lens hood. I personally like the silver color which looks cool on my black GF1. Even though it is plastic, it feels like a pretty solidly constructed lens.
I preordered in September and it came in 1 month later. There are some excellent sample images on flickr if you still need convincing. I would highly recommend this lens if you are planning on being invested in the micro 4/3 system.
on October 22, 2011
This 45mm micro four-thirds lens is equivalent to 90mm on a full-frame camera (because of the M43 crop factor) -- a fairly specialised medium-telephoto focal length which is usually associated with portraits and macro, neither of which have interested me much in the past. Nevertheless, my interest was piqued by some early reviews which hinted that there was something special about the lens, and I was ultimately swayed into purchasing it after seeing some excellent street shots on Robin Wong's website.
At US$350 I initially thought it to be a reasonably expensive piece of glass given that it is the size and weight of a third of a can of coke, and I was also concerned that I would find the focal length too long. However, I have since grown increasingly happy with my purchase.
The lens is light-weight (116g) and is made of plastic (apart from the metal mount), but it does feel solid. Most importantly, the glass is good. It comes with better quality lens-caps than the kit lens (the rear one screws on and is much easier to replace / remove), and the silver-coloured barrel looks quite nice on my black E-P3 body.
Images are mostly very sharp, unless the photographer has stuffed up somehow (eg. by focusing in the wrong place, in which case the bokeh can be mistaken for lack of sharpness). The centre of the frame is sharp wide-open, and even the corners are sharp when the lens is stopped down a little. The 45 has become my go-to lens for bokeh, as it is cabable of rendering pleasantly creamy backgrounds (more than I thought possible on M43), and I also appreciate its ability to keep ISO down in low light. Compared with the Olympus kit zooms, the 45 seems to produce more saturated images while also rendering very pleasant skin tones. In this regard, it certainly lives up to its billing as a portrait lens.
I have found the focal length to be interesting for candid shots and street photography. I have been shooting a lot more faces and upper bodies than in the past, as I had previously favoured classic focal lengths (35-50 equivalent), which tend to include a subject's environment in the frame. In that respect, I think the 45 has encouraged my photography to become more personal, more "human".
The lens is not perfect. I wish it focused closer, so that it could double as a macro. Like most M43 lenses, it lacks a distance scale. Also, it is certainly not cheap.
The great image quality more than makes up for those quibbles.
I can't imagine anybody regretting buying this lens.
It's a peach!
on March 16, 2014
If you have a u4/3 system, I highly recommend this lens. It's affordable, and will allow you to create images that you normally wouldn't be able to create with just your kit lens.
Between DX, FX, and u4/3 systems, I prefer either the DOF of FX or u4/3. I feel like DX is a compromise between the two that I don't appreciate anymore. If you want super shallow DOF, you'll need FX. For example, an 85mm F1.4 or 135mm F2.
But for casual shots at a party, you may want the larger DOF that u4/3 provides. You can shoot this wide open at F1.8 and rely on Olympus' amazingly good facial recognition and get sharp eyes. With FX, you need much better technique, time, patience, and shot discipline to get similar results.
Olympus can make taking single person portraits very easy for you - here's how:
(1) Turn on Facial Recognition Near Eye (I believe Near Eye is the default)
(2) Set Auto-ISO, max 1600 with minimum shutter speed 1/200s.
(3) Shoot in either Aperture Priority or Manual with aperture of F1.8.
(Note: At F1.8, the camera will likely be at max shutter speed anyways, 1/4000 or 1/8000)
on November 24, 2013
If you're not in the mood to read my full review, just go with the five star rating and buy the thing.
This lens should not be your first choice if you're looking for your first four thirds lens. For this you should get an "all-around use" wide angle lens (see the ultra high rated Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7). Keep in mind that this 45mm lens in four thirds has a 35mm focal length equivalent of 90mm. Thus you will not use this lens to take pictures of objects you are standing close to.
Why buy this lens? I bought this lens to accompany my Olympus OM-D EM-5 (highly recommended) for the purpose of taking portraits as well as telephoto uses (such as taking a National Geographic quality shot of a possibly rabid raccoon up high in a tree). The wide aperture of this lens easily allows you to take well-exposed photos with a blurred background effect. Also the combination of the huge lens and wide aperture allows you to take pictures without a flash in extreme low light conditions (almost like night vision... totally Splinter Cell style). The auto focus is fast and precise but it's kind of fun to manual focus with the easy to grip large ring.
Most importantly the photo quality is incredible. I'm big into shooting outdoor scenes and often have people ask where I "got my pictures from" as if they came from the internet. But, if you're into taking pictures of people instead of nature, you could buy this lens, spend one afternoon training yourself on its use and subsequently be qualified to make money shooting wedding photos.
on October 10, 2011
This is a lens I have been waiting for since starting to shoot Micro Four Thirds.
I come from a background of Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and I've been looking forward to the availability of a traditional "portrait lens" for the Micro 4/3 system. Olympus took their sweet time bringing out this lens, but I'm pleased to report that they got it right.
Optically, the lens is unimpeachable. LensTip doesn't pull any punches, and their review was glowing: [...]. If you want to see sample images from this lens, we've got a bunch here:[...]
Some criticize the price of this lens compared to the Canon or Nikon 50mm f/1.8 short telephoto lenses, but those are simple designs created as normal primes for 35mm format and adapted for use on APS-C. The Olympus is built ground-up as a telephoto with a more complex design. It is priced well compared to other lenses designed as short telephoto lenses and also priced well for the performance it delivers.
The build is plastic, which helps keep the price and weight down. It isn't a pancake design, but it is a tiny lens.
Some complain that no hood is included. I prefer to keep the lens as compact as possible, which means no hood for me. My only complaint is that the front "decorative ring" (which is removed to add an optional hood) comes off too easy.
Bottom line: If you shoot Micro 4/3, buy this lens. It is outstanding!
This is an outstanding portrait lens. The image quality is fantastic. Colours are beautiful, bokeh is mesmerizing. Focus is quick and quiet.
It's sharp wide open. And if you want to use it at f/1.8 in bright daylight, I recommend getting a ND filter, either 4x or 8x.
The lens is small and light. The exterior is all made of plastic. Not the hard plastic, but the soft plastic. Mine has suffered a few scratches on the body already. Even knocking against your camera body while changing lens gives you a chance to scratch the lens body. I don't have those problems with Panasonic lens. By the way, scratches look worse on silver compared to black.
I also question the quality of the construction. After a few months of usage, something in my lens became loose. Thankfully it's under warranty and the Olympus engineers managed to fix it within a week. I didn't drop it or anything. Something just came loose.
There's a front ring that you can remove to mount the original Olympus lens hood. That ring is not very tight. Take care not to lose it.
Speaking of lens hood, this lens doesn't come with one. I would recommend the EzFoto 37mm metal screw-in hood. It's smaller than the original and when you put it on, there's no way the front ring can drop off. And you're not going to scratch that metal easily.
Overall, it's a great performing lens with questionable build quality.
This is an absolutely amazing lens and an incredible value. I didn't happen to buy mine here on amazon (one of the few rare items that didn't get purchased through amazon) hence I don't have the verified purchase stamp of approval under my review.
I pair this lens with my olympus e m5 and honestly I don't think this lens is capable of taking a bad picture and I don't say that lightly. This thing is amazing. Creamy and smooth images every time. It works beautifully as a portrait lens. If bokeh is your thing this lens will give you all the bokeh you ever dreamed of and more. I typically shoot wide open (f1.8) which of course makes this lens a great choice for low light. Even in low light the images are creamy and smooth.
Now this would not be a great choice for landscape photography because paired with a micro 4/3 camera you are getting the relative equivalent of a 90mm field of view and that's great if you are shooting a flower, not quite as good if you want to take in an expansive scene. I realize those of you who are professional or avid amateur photographers would know that, but I am writing this review in the hopes of benefiting even those who don't know their way around a camera quite as well. There are some landscape shots that would be fine with this lens but its real strength, to my mind, lies in its more close up abilities.
At this price point I was not expecting much from the lens. I was so over the moon thrilled when I put it to the test and shot after shot after shot came out beautifully. I've recommended the lens to anyone I know shooting micro 4/3 and everyone who has bought it has been thrilled.
BOTTOM LINE: This lens is one of the best purchases you can make for your micro 4/3s camera. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I shopped around for a moderate telephoto for portraits and this black 45mm F/1.8 landed in my mailbox. While no pancake, the 45/1.8 is a wee piece of gear, smaller than my 17mm F/1.8 and stubby and narrow in presentation. Mounted on my E-P3, the duo makes for a compact combo.
AF is fast, silent and sure-footed. No problems in low light. The focus ring is smooth turning for an AF lens but not as silky or fine in pitch as the 17mm F/1.8. One oddity is I can hear pianissimo clicks from the auto diaphragm when it stops down (the Olympus 17mm F/1.8 is silent).
Mounted on my E-P3, I have no problem shooting wide open and nailing sharp images. There is a little improvement stopped down but this is basically a sharp lens at any F-stop. And, yes, the bokeh from F1.8 to F2.8 is smooth and creamy.
The barrel is plastic fantastic with metal mount and spartan in design and cosmetics. The fit and finish are okay but it looks and feels a little cheap. Luckily the image quality is so darn good I can forgive the budget plastic build. Unfortunately, Olympus "enhanced" the spartan vibe by choosing not to include a lens hood (or bag), things included with most Lumix lenses. The OEM hood is $35, so I assume it's an exceptional piece of plastic! Since the OEM hood was out of stock, I bought an aftermarket hood, the Rainbowimaging 37mm Vented Metal Hood Shade for Leica Leitz Zeiss Voigtlander Rangerfinder Lens. It's smaller but metal and fits and works perfectly.
One bit of advice: 45mm is a lot of magnification on M43 and even with image stabilization you need to use relatively fast shutter speeds, brace yourself or use a tripod. That is, if you want sharp images! For example, I need 1/100 of a second or faster shutter speeds for crisp images, even with IBIS while free standing. Also, I get more sharp keepers using the EVF since I can steady the camera against my face.
I bought this lens from gearshop.dpreview.com, Amazon's photography speciality site (see the footer on every page). They gave me an additional $50 discount for setting up a gear list, costing a total of grand total of $299 with UPS Blue shipping. Sharp little lens for a nice price!
on October 14, 2011
The only problem I have with this lens is that it's good enough for me to consider yet a third camera (in addition to a Panasonic LX5 and GF2) just for the ability to use it to its full potential (i.e. available light handheld with IS). Probably an E-P2. AF's not as fast as the E-P3, but not as slow as the EP-1 either. And, like the GF2, it's perfectly positioned between the preceeding and proceeding models insofar as downward spiraling price is concerned. Very good value for the money.
Posted a few test shots with the 45mm, btw.
While it's true plastic is used in its construction, in use, the lens doesn't feel at all cheap (at least not to me). Feels great on the GF2, actually.
I'm very happy with my purchase, and couldn't be more satisfied with its performance.
Add a host camera with in-body IS and I'll be in heaven (not to mention more debt). :)