COMPARISON: Olympus 45 f/1.2 vs Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 vs the old 45 f/1.8! (Video & Photos)

COMPARISON: Olympus 45 f/1.2 vs Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 vs the old 45 f/1.8!

Happy 2018 everyone, it’s here and it’s time to get back to work! Today I took a drive out to the park to take a few side by side shots with three 45mm (ish) lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. First, the new 45 f/1.2 from Olympus which is GORGEOUS! Then the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 that I reviewed long ago HERE and then the oldie but goodie 45 f/1.8 which is a true bargain in the world of Micro 4/3.

A video comparison…

The New Olympus comes in at $1199, the Nocticron at $1399 and the 45 f/1.8 at $269!

Of course there is more to these lenses beside the image quality they put out. There is build, size, feel, usability and then the IQ. I LOVE the Nocticron and at one time had two of them, somehow, here in my home. But with the new Olympus, it only seems natural that it would beat the Old Nocticron as it is much newer and there is just no way Olympus would release a similar lens and have it be worse in quality. With that said, they are close!

First, let me say that the Panasonic is a Panasonic. It is not a Leica. It is made by Panasonic, using glass acquired by Panasonic. It is not a Leica lens. Leica helped with the name, and some of the design but it’s not a Leica lens. I see some call it a Leica but it is not a true Leica. If it were, it would be priced more like $10k ; ) With the new 75 Noctilux f/1.2 from Leica coming in at $13,000, well, you get the point.

Even though the Nocticron is not a real Leica, it is one of the better lenses made for Micro 4/3. Before we take a look at the samples, be sure to check out the video above as I show each lens and talk about them, as well as show these same samples. At the end of the day, each lens has minor differences in build, size, cost and performance but make no mistake, any of these will do the job, as you can see below.

The first set of samples, and you MUST click them to see them larger and in higher quality. If you do not, you are not seeing a true comparison. 

As I suspected, the Nocticron is giving a tiny bit more “snap”, as in, subject separation that looks closer to a cut out than anything. The Olympus 45 PRO f/1.2 has a softer transition between what is in focus and what is not, and the Olympus is also sharper wide open. The 45 f/1.8 hangs in there with slightly less DOF. But the winner here, to my eyes is the Olympus 45 f/1.2 PRO but it was close, very close.

A simple piece of wood. All shot wide open with each lens. Click them for larger…

Here in shot above I see the Olympus 45 f/1.2 winning again. The Bokeh is nicer, the contrast is perfect IMO and it’s the sharpest of the lot. Here you can see the 45 f/1.7 difference with the Bokeh.

Now sharpness and bokeh differences…

What I see here is that again, the Olympus 45 f/1.2 pro geeks out a win with better color and shaper wide open performance but I may prefer the Bokeh here from the Nocticron. All did well IMO and it shows you the realities of diminishing returns. Yep, the Olympus for me is the winner with its manual focus clutch, it’s outstanding all-weather build and the wide open performance which is sharper and again, offers creamier bokeh when needed. It’s also $200 less than the Nocticron.

If you own a Nocticron though be happy as it is a phenomenal lens. I would not sell a Nocticron to fund the Olympus but if I were buying one for the 1st time, my choice would be easy today with the Olympus getting my cash. Without question.

You can order the lenses below through my trusted dealers Amazon or B&H Photo:

The 45 f/1.2 Pro

Buy the Olympus 45 1.2 at Amazon HERE

Buy the Olympus 45 f 1.2 at B&H Photo HERE

The 45 1.8

Buy the 45 1.8 at Amazon HERE

Buy the 45 1.8 at B&H Photo HERE (lowest cost)!

Nocticron

Buy the Nocticron at Amazon HERE

Buy the Nocticron at B&H Photo HERE

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35 Comments

  1. Will be interesting to see how well the Oly 1.2 plays with the G9… I think that is my next step. No mention of the Image Stabilization built into the Nocticron? Honestly I think the Nocticron is now seriously overpriced. Wonder how much actual cost (After RD is recovered) Panisonic has in making these now? If they would drop the cost to $800 and if possible add (Firmware) dual IS for the Panasonic G9 they would probably sell the combo like crazy. Who knows. It’s frustrating there are so many very good f1.8 Full Frame options at much lower cost. Ultimately FF is out for me (Too many reasons), but I really want the DOF offered by an 85mm FAST F1.2 Prime. Again at $800 this is a done deal. But go over $1,000 and I have to keep using what I have. Always enjoy your reviews. Thanks.

    • Not sure what that means but the 45 f/1.2 is a far superior lens in every way from build, usability, tolerances and sharpness at f/1.2. Bokeh is nicer in most scenarios as well. The 45 1.8 is fantastic, if you get a good one. But it does not beat the 1.2, just doesn’t.

  2. I remembered a comparison by Steve between the Nocticron and the 45mm 1.8 that shows more obvious difference in the resulting images. The photos were portraits, and the difference of subject isolation and micro contrast was clearer to me.
    Any chance to have a comparison between those 3 with some portraits of real people ?

    • As I said, there is a pretty big sample variation with the 45 1.8. I have owned a few and not all were the same. Some are perfect at 1.8, some slightly soft, etc. When you pay $250 for a lens, you will get sample variations. This one, was perfect.

  3. Hi Steve, (sorry for the bad English, I am Italian…), I had the 45 1.8 and I have the 45 1.2, many claim that it is not worth the cost difference but I can guarantee that you shoot with aperture 1.2, you can crop to 200% and still find engraving , it’s not everybody! These lenses (I believe also the 25 1.2 and 17 1.2) are perfectly able to solve the density of the sensor of the WCO EM1 Mark II 20 MPX, it is no small thing! Try to shoot in the dark and high ISO with the 45 1.8 at full aperture and do the same thing with the 45 1.2, the image will be very different! The grain will be different! For many people it could make a difference the ability to use an important shot made at ISO 6400 with the 45 1.2, or throw the same shot at 12800 with the 45 1.8

    • I do not say it is not worth the price difference, as it is the lens I would buy for my personal use above all. I’ve shot with it extensively now, and it is amazing wide open, and bests the others in all areas but again, build, weatherproof, close focus distance, af speed, manual clutch, and f/1.2 light gathering makes it well worth it over the 45 1.8 for many, including me. It’s $200 less than the Nocticron but a better lens. ; )

  4. Hi Steve, Best wishes for the new year, and may you have good health.
    The comparison is interesting, and I tend to agree that the 45mm f1.8 is the best “bang for the bucks” and the cost of two 1.2 lenses are difficult to justify. I have the Nocticron and frankly it is great, but I am considering to sell it. It seems to me the concept of the Micro four-thirds system was to be small, light and portable. The 12mm, 15mm, 25mm, 45mm, 75mm fit that context. The “Professional” lenses are all big and heavy within the 4/3rds world, and seem to defeat the original concept. If you want “professional” qualities then we have the choice to move to a larger format.
    One aspect not mentioned in the comparison is that the Nocticon on the Olympus is limited because the Olympus will not correct lens aberrations via the software. In addition the manual aperture ring is not recognised and does not work. For a fairer comparison the Nocticron should be tested on a Panasonic body. By the way, one of the reasons I bought the Nocticron was for the physical aperture ring as it is very convenient and compatible with my DSLR and Fuji systems. You did not mention this aspect. I suspect if you must own a 1.2 lens then put the Olympus on the Olympus body and the Nocticron on a Panasonic body. Just my humble opinion! Regards to All

  5. Hey, I think there’s something a little off about the orange photographs. The Nocticron photo has a smaller pixel count than the oly 45mm f1.2, and the oly 45mm f1.8 shot even seems sharper…I’ve owned both the oly f1.8 and nocticron and the nocticron was always sharper. I feel like focus was missed ever slightly or there was a strange cropping of some sort.

    • Nope, no strange crop or mis-focus. I have around 10 shots/comparisons and in each one, the Nocticron is softer wide open than the Olympus f/1.2 and even the f/1.8, by a little (but with the Nocticron at f/1.2). Every time. The Olympus is the better lens, without question but in reality we are splitting hairs. The 45 1.8 also has a huge variance in them, as I have owned that lens four times over the years and each one was a bit different. One was perfect, one was soft wide open and the other two were great but not perfect like the 1st one. So could be that this 45 1.8 is one of those perfect lenses that made it out. IME, not all 45 1.8’s will be this perfect wide open.

  6. Are these all shot wide open? Why is there so little difference between these shots? In fact, without pixel peeping, the 45/1.8 shots are more pleasing.

    • All lenses were shot wide open, so f/1.2 and f/1.8. The 45 1.8 is a great lens, always has been. At $249 it’s a steal. It does not feature the light gathering of the f/1.2, the feathered bokeh, the build or weather resistance, the manual focus clutch nor the more exotic glass that was used in the f/1.2. The best lens here is indeed the Olympus 45 1.2 but they are closer than most think in IQ.

  7. It is hardly to see the difference in sharpness of the three lenses on my 27 inch. (33,5 x 59,5 cm) iMac computer.
    The Nocticron has bluish color (wall, wood, and less yellow hydrant).

    I have the 45 1.8 and 75 1.8
    Olympus 45mm 1.8, 116 gr, 280 euro
    Olympus 75mm 1.8, 305 gr, 800 euro
    421 gr 1.080 euro

    Olympus 45mm 1.2 410 gr, 1.300 euro
    Nocticron 42,5mm 1.2 425 gr, 1.365 euro

    • Are you actually opening up each image and then clicking on them for 100% view? The difference is so obvious I’m curious if it’s a case of people just not comparing them properly. Comparing the smaller view where they are side by side is like comparing sharpness using the LCD screen on the back of the camera – you are not going to see a difference. You have to look at them larger to see the disparity and to represent the gains one might get when doing larger prints. Plus we are talking 1.2 vs 1.8. I’m sure if Steve did a 1.8 vs 1.8 the difference would be even greater, but with my eyes the Olympus 1.2 at 1.2 beats the 1.8 hands down already. That’s really impressive as 1.2 lenses are difficult to make.

  8. What a text book example of the law of diminishing returns. Multifold the cost, size and weight for a slightly better performance. The mighty 45 f1,8 reminds me what “m”ft (micro..) should be all about.

    • You gain, with the f/1.2 Pro..weather resistance, tank build, manual focus clutch, f/1.2 light gathering (and it is f/1.2 light gathering), fathered bone when shooting at f/1.2-f/1.4 and it is indeed the best lens of these three, hands down. The 45 1.7 is made very cheaply, feels hollow, has no weather resistance and will not AF as quick or as accurate as the f/1.2. But the IQ is lovely from all three ; )

  9. The 45mm 1.8 is completely usable at 1.8, but I’m surprised at how many people are saying it can compete with the new Olympus 1.2. I’m actually staggered at how ridiculously sharp the new lens is at 1.2 – a whole stop faster than the 1.8! I would normally say that it wouldn’t be a fair comparison to compare a 1.2 lens at 1.2 vs a cheaper lens at 1.8, but the 1.2 actually wins out at these apertures comparatively (you couldn’t say the same for a Canon 1.2 lens vs. a cheaper 1.4 lens for instance). You usually pay for that extra speed but the compromise has never been great results at 1.2 for sharpness traditionally. Let’s not forget that the difference between using a 1.2 lens and a 1.8 lens could be the difference between having to use the ISO which you find unacceptable and one that you do not – ISO 6400 vs. IS 3200 for instance.

    I know a lot of people own and love the 45mm 1.8 and I sometime get the feeling people see a little differently to help them feel better about what the have. Observations should be objective and not coloured by your circumstances. Don’t get me wrong though, the same can be said in the opposite direction as well so it goes both ways. I have seen people justify barely minimal gains just because they want the more luxury or top model of something. They really WANT to buy another lens (GAS) and so they actually see a larger difference than there is. Like Steve said, just because it’s more expensive doesn’t always mean it’s better. Well it usually is, but sometimes not by that much.

    I was expecting it to be just a tad sharper than the Panasonic but I can clearly see a difference. At least here we are comparing apples to apples (1.2 to 1.2). I would think that the Olly lens is the one to go for unless you want that extra image stabilisation that the Dual IS Panasonic bodies are going to provide (5 stops vs. 6.5). Am I correct that the aperture ring will only work with Panasonic bodies as well? As far as the ‘feathered’ bokeh, I don’t know, it seems like marketing speak for typical shallow depth of field. They look fairly similar to me.

  10. I agree with virtually all the comments preferring the Oly 45/1.8. Compared to the Oly 45/1.2, it’s a fraction of the size, weight, and cost, with little or no appreciable difference in IQ.
    As for the much-touted clutch mechanism of the Oly PRO lenses, for most users, it has no advantage over the standard Oly lenses, including the 45/1.8. As long as the focus option chosen in the menu is AF+MF — e.g. S-AF+MF — and the MF Assist options have been chosen for magnify and peaking, all one has to do to go from AF to MF is turn the focus ring. IMO, it’s actually easier and more efficient than using the clutch mechanism on a PRO lens.

    • Agree! Makes little sense to shell out the 1.2 lenses cause the quality difference is not big, cost a lot more and weight difference should be qute substantial.. The small dof difference between 1.2 and 1.8 on m43 is quite an eye opener!

      • You gain, with the f/1.2 Pro..weather resistance, tank build, manual focus clutch, f/1.2 light gathering (and it is f/1.2 light gathering), fathered bone when shooting at f/1.2-f/1.4 and it is indeed the best lens of these three, hands down. The 45 1.7 is made very cheaply, feels hollow, has no weather resistance and will not AF as quick or as accurate as the f/1.2. But the IQ is lovely from all three ; )

  11. I agree with virtually all the previous comments in preferring the Oly 45/1.8. It’s a fraction of the size, weight, and cost of the Oly 45/1.2 with little or no perceptible difference in IQ.
    The clutch mechanism feature on the Oly PRO lenses is highly over-rated. If the menu option for focus is set up for either of the AF+MF options — e.g. S-AF+MF — then turning the focus ring automatically takes one into MF, where one can take advantage of the magnify and peaking features. IMO, it’s actually easier and more efficient than operating the clutch!

  12. Thank you, Steve. The surprise here to me is how well the lowly 45mm f/1.8 did in the comparison. No one who owns that lens should feel ashamed that the Pro or Nocticron is not in his/her kit.

  13. To me the clear winner is the 1.8 lens which hangs in there but is tiny in comparison and matched perfectly to what 43 bodies are all about size and,weight. And COST
    I owned one for a year a sold it with the to long 75mm for the Oly pro f2.8 12 to 40 zoom. Which has clutch manual focus and very reasonable macro at 40mm manual focus weather sealed.
    So I’d say 45mm 1.8 or the pro zoom 40mm f2.8 match what 95% of your readers shoot. Only a pro with MkIi em1 shoot consider other lens. I still shoot with EM1 MKI body.
    I have an em10 MKI I’m going to sell on this side if interested. With 12 -50mm Oly macro zoom and 40 150mm f4’5.6 zoom.
    [email protected]

  14. Talk about splitting hairs! Panasonic and Olympus are sure putting out premium products these days.
    Even the older Olympus 1.8 looks good to my eye.
    (I was curious why you didn’t include the Panasonic 1.7 in this test; is it that much less of a lens in comparison to the other 3?)
    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate these comparisons.

  15. I have the Nocticron and it’s a special lens, but even if your results were reversed and the Noctitron slightly won out I’d buy the Oly now—the weather sealing and non-metal hood are two things (one major and one minor) that make a difference.

  16. ok. I am first to say: olympus 45 1.8: except the longer field, I don’t see a huge difference (on my monitor) between the larger and much more expensive lenses

  17. Who would have ever thought the Nocticron could be dethroned? I’ve enjoyed using it, but it was always a tad too thick for the Oly bodies. Long live the Oly 45 Pro! Dilly Dilly!

  18. I think the ‘winner’ for me is the 45mm 1.8. Much more light and compact than the others and seems to get about 97% of the performance! What is remarkable is how close it gets to the very best for not much money.
    Even better, I already have this lens and don’t have to buy it!
    Great review and fun to see the comparison. Happy New Year!

  19. Were these all shot wide open? The difference in DoF and bokeh is so negligible to my eyes that I can’t see any advantage to the f/1.2 models at all. There’s the one stop of extra light I guess but f/1.8 is already letting in plenty enough light. Look at how small that 45mm f/1.8 is though!

  20. Hi Steve, A very happy new year to you and your family. Thanks for this comparison, the bokeh with the wood in Oly 1.2 is sublime but all these pictures still show what a cracking lens f1.8 is. Both the 1.2 lenses are for that incremental quality but 1.8 still is great overall. It’s focus speed is not bad either, I remember taking pictures of birds when I had an em10.

  21. Don’t get me wrong, Steve —I agree with all your main points, and were I buying my first 45mm lens for my Oly EM1MkII the Olympus 1.2PRO would tempt me seriously. BUT I just checked the B&H price for the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and it’s two hundred freaking fifty dollars…drum roll, cymbal crash! Not too shabby for a lens that holds its own with the other two in your tests, which I expect to be very fair based on previous experience.

    So, although I agree the Olympus 45mm f1.2 PRO is an awesome lens, I think it’s fair to say the Olympus 45mm f1.8 is an excellent lens for an awesome price. (You guessed right— I do own the latter and think I’ll keep it. )

  22. What this test tells me is how good the Oly 45/1.8 is, even wide open. Its bokeh is excellent, too, if you are close enough to the subject (the piece of wood image, for example). In a portrait where the person, their appearance, and character, were compelling, I doubt anyone would see a difference between any of the three lenses.

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