The SLR Magic 12mm f/1.6 Hyperprime Lens Review for Micro 4/3 by Steve Huff

The SLR Magic 12mm f/1.6 for Micro 4/3 Lens Review

By Steve Huff

The 1st Look Video 

A couple of weeks ago I posted a 1st look at this new 12mm lens from SLR Magic and I have been shooting with it here and there ever since to test it out and see just how well it does on my E-P3 body. SLR Magic has released this as part of their “Premium Line” and it is not one of those cheaper and light Toy Lenses they are also known for. Nope, this is in the SLR Magic HYPERPRIME line and let me tell you right now, it’s a beauty of a lens in build, feel and even performance. Coming in at $499 and a USA December release, this is a serious alternative to the more expensive Olympus 12mm for many reasons.

As most of you know, Olympus did in fact release their own 12mm f/2 lens and it is a masterpiece in design and performance if you want perfection but a costly one at $799! I LOVE the Olympus 12 and consider it one of, if not the best Micro 4/3 lens to date due to its build, quality, style and MF features. THIS is a lens to own if you have a new E-P3. But on the other end of the spectrum we have this new 12mm that is built like a tank, focuses smooth as silk, and has a faster 1.6 aperture. Oh, and it is also $300 cheaper! So what is the catch? Keep reading to get the full scoop…

The SLR Magic 12mm is an all metal lens with a super fast aperture of f/1.6 and this equates to a 24mm on the Micro 4/3 bodies so it is a fairly wide angle, but I have grown to love this when shooting the E-P3. These 12mm (24 equiv) lenses allow you to get in much more of the scene than a 35 and 50. Fact is, I used to be a 50 guy and then turned in to a 35 guy. These days I am really enjoying the 24mm focal length as well and the 50 is sort of fading for me. For now anyway. 

Kids boxing and shot with the 12mm at 1.6 on the E-P3. Converted to B&W with Alien Skin Exposure 3

and another shot from the same fight using the built in Art Filter of the E-P3

SLR Magic? Is it any good?

This lens is not really a direct competitor to the Olympus 12mm because it is really a different style of lens. Also, A: It is much longer and heavier,  B: It is ONLY manual focus and C: It also doubles as a wide angle MACRO lens. Those wanting super fast AF, and a smaller lighter and snazzier looking lens will NOT be interested in the SLR Magic 12mm. Those who prefer old school construction AND classic character will actually really like this lens quite a bit, and I am one of those people! The images this lens provides are somewhat more “cinematic” and classic feeling compared to the Olympus 12, which has a totally different and more “perfect” character about it. Some of us like imperfections and this lens can give us that. I am not saying that it is not sharp, because it is. I am not saying it is a bad or mediocre lens, because it is a GREAT lens. What I am saying is that it has a bit of “soul” and is NOT clinical in the least. In other words, it has some MOJO 🙂

I just realized that this review is really going to be pretty damn short as there is not much I can say about this lens that I have not already said here and in my 1st look. It is what it is and it’s superb for pictures and video use AND it has become one of my fave lenses for my E-P3.  But there is one flaw with the lens that you should be aware of and I will speak about that after the next set of pictures below.

Click for larger version – The E-P3 and SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 Noktor lens gives superb image quality


I was out shooting this lens at the state fair and realized that it flares INSANELY EASILY. I spoke with SLR Magic about this and since the lens I have is a very early version they have already went back and tweaked the lens before their mass production. The lens that will be shipping in December will have much better flare control (by 30%) and a sturdier mount (even though the mount on mine is very sturdy already). So, keep that in mind when looking at my flare samples below. The lens that ships will be better in this regard, and I am very happy to have heard that because I was getting irritated when shooting into lights.

Some examples of the flare that I got from the lens

TEN facts about the 12mm SLR Magic f/1.6 lens

1. SLR Magic says the final production lens will have 30% better flare control as they re-tweaked it.

2. The mount has been improved to be made more sturdy in the final version.

3. There is no lens hood as the angle without vignetting is too wide
for a lens hood. To us a lens filter you need a 58-72mm step up ring
for the video guys due to the wide angle.

4. If you want to avoid flare all together, stop down the lens. By f/2 the flare is pretty much gone.

5. The lens comes with a rear cap, instruction manual and a metal screw on front cap. Very nice.

6. The cost is $499, and is a premium Hyperprime lens in the SLR Magic lineup.

7. When released in the USA in December, the green ring will be replaced by a BLACK ring.

8. It has only 2% distortion!

9. It has a close focus capability of 0.15m which puts it in the MACRO category.

10. Depth of field scale is printed on the lens!

This one has had some PP but I still love how this lens renders. It is great for low light night shooting hand held. Wide open at 1.6.

How sharp is it? Take a look!

I posted one of these images in my 1st look but it is pretty damn impressive when you view the full size shot. Click on the images below for  the full size versions. Look at the detail in the trees.

This was shot at f/2 on the E-P3. It impressed me and I have shot with just about everything…

Also at f/2, my back yard block fence…click image for full size

and this shot with crop at 1.6 and f/4. You can see it is pretty sharp at both apertures. The full shot below is the f/1.6 version.

The Bottom Line Conclusion

When I was asked if I wanted to review this lens I was like “great, a 12mm 1.6 lens that is going to be super soft and a pain to use”. Boy was I proved wrong. So much so that this has become a fave of mine on my E-P3. The combo of the solid build and classic rendering make this a special lens for those times when you want a classic almost cinematic look. It’s easy to use with zone focusing as well. It may not be a blazing sexy little lens like the Olympus 12mm but it is $300 less expensive and offers a unique look and feel. Some of you may even want to own both if you are really into wide angles. The Olympus for its super sharp and almost clinical rendering and the SLR Magic for its MOJO and magic. This lens is also a MACRO lens though I am not a fan of 12mm macro 🙂

The lens is not perfect though as it will flare when shooting wide open and into lights but I was told this has been improved by 30% in the final lens design (which mine is not), so this is acceptable and if you want to avoid flare just stop it down to f/2. Every image in this review was shot at f/1.6 or f/2. The performance is remarkable. The lens is sharp with some slight softness at the edges but this helps to create its classic look. I dig it and it will stay in my bag on those days that the E-P3 is my camera of choice. It is not cheap at $499 but it’s worth it. I also hear it is fantastic for video.

SLR Magic is a great company and have put out some wonderful lenses in recent times. This is my favorite lens to date from them though I have a feeling they will be releasing some REALLY cool stuff soon. Look for this one in December! I will leave you with a few more shots from this lens that were taken over the past 3 weeks with it and my E-P3! Enjoy!

You can visit SLR Magic on E-Bay HERE.

PS – I will be doing a SLR Magic 12 vs Olympus 12 comparison soon! 

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  1. It’s an interesting lens for someone who’s into more creative shots. Especially the wide-angle macro is very fun to explore. It’s a little difficult to get the focus right, which is a reason many people think the lens is “soft”. While not absolutely razor-sharp, I think it’s solid and also a great value. I’d definitely recommend a camera with IBIS and focus peaking to maximize the lens potential.

  2. Hey, does anyone know where I can buy one of these lenses? Their ebay store is empty. Thanks!

  3. Hi, would you recommend this lens for shooting interior design (wide angle and high DOF (everywhere sharp) necessary) and action sports photography in restricted light conditions (deep forest, etc.) ?? Or is there some better tip at similar price? Thanks for advice!!

  4. It will be my late PM on a stick or tripod 1/50…The lens (loop) flair is cranked way back,
    as Steve nailed this lens. Artistically a little too much flair loss for me but it’s pretty cool
    little lens. BUT love the late night utopian CIN colors-light(s) creations @ 200-800 works-
    It will be my late PM on a stick or tripod M-A 1/50’.

  5. Happy new year Steve. In your oppinion, is this lens suitable for low light landscape work? I’ve thought that the f1.6 speed plus the E-M5 great IBIS might make a killer combo for a wide FOV in low light. Or this is not sharp enough?

  6. Hi Steve.

    Congratulations on your objective analysis.

    I’m accustomed to use zoom lenses. I just bought an Olympus OM-D E-M5, and because the viewer can let me use the “magnifying glass” function, I figure it must be much easier to focus with manual lenses.

    It strikes me that this wide-angle lens has a macro capability. Also they “retro” look should match the also “vintage” look of OM-D camera.

    Your analysis is making me think about buying this lens. But I have some fear that I do not will to accustom focus manually. Well, if I need anyway a AF wide angle lens I have the AF 12-50mm M.ZUIKO and my 4/3 9-18mm with adapter …

    Would you recommend me using the 12mm SLR Magic as a good lens in order to “introducing me” in the manual focus lenses word?

    Thank you. Best wishes.

    • Not sure what the status is with SLR Magic and this lens. They really NEED a real website and shop – to date, they sell all of their lenses on ebay.

  7. Hi,

    I just received my SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 and I am positively impressed by the build quality.
    The thing that annoys me a bit is the distortion … I struggle to feel comfortable and get a “natural” feel when shooting videos especially (which is most of my use).

    Is it a matter of getting used to it or would the Pana-cake 20mm be wide enough for interior shooting without the distortion artifacts ?

    Thanks for your help !

    • What distortion are you referring to? I did not notice any issues with my copy of the lens. It is much wider than the 20, which would be like a 40mm, not nearly wide enough for interiors if you want a wide feel/look. The 20 would be almost like shooting a 50 on a FF 35mm camera. The 12 is like a 24.

      • Hi Steve,

        I’ve only been playing with my GH2 and a 28mm + a 50mm lately, so excuse my relative newbieness.

        Shooting video with the 12mm feels to me a bit like having an FX engaged all the time, producing enhanced / larger than life perspectives. Maybe this is just exactly what those 12mm (-> 24mm) wide angles are for. I can see how cool this can be in certain situations but I find it a bit difficult to get a natural / realistic feel of volumes with it.

        For non-moving pictures, I find it totally managable, but as soon as I move in an interior with it, it looks a bit like I am shooting reality through some sort of binoculars.

        Maybe “distortion” is not the right word, by the way (still learning the vocab).

        This being said, SLR Magic follow-up and customer care has been perfect so far !

  8. I like the look of this lens. Question for you, your images have a nice film-grain look to them, is that out of the camera or do you add this in post somehow. I’d love to know how to get that look. Thanks, keep it up

  9. I concur with what Steve has said, having had a pre-production unit to review. It’s such a fun lens to use and the image quality really pops. Search Flickr and you should find some more images.

    I was also told the flare has been reduced in production models by 30%. I reported finding similar flare in my test lens. However, that psychedelic flare really just vanishes at f2.

    I’m told the mount was strengthened because the early designs didn’t have the “macro” facility – that added a bit of weight to the front of the lens, which required a stronger connection between lens barrel and mount.

    My white paper tests showed moderate vignetting wide open. Very little left by f4.

    I doubt they’ll release it for NEX. The corners on m4/3 need some stopping down to be sharp and it makes me think the image circle hasn’t much in reserve. Mind you, they might make another version, I wouldn’t know.

    Not trying to hijack your work, Steve – I like your review! Hoping to help.


  10. Is there any indication if this lens will be available for the nex?
    If not, do you please mind running a light through it and checking if it covers Aps-c circle?
    If it does I will get it for my nex.

    • The corners are marginal on m4/3 unless you stop down – on NEX, I think you’d have very soft edges. Plus there is slight vignetting at larger apertures on m4/3 – I believe it would be a serious issue on NEX. Really, the image circle is only just big enough for m4/3, at least on my pre-production example.


  11. Looks interesting, but I would rather get the panny 14/2.5 or the zuiko 12/2 instead. Despite 1.6 aperture, the price is quite high for what it is offering imho.

    • Yea, some will prefer the Olympus 12, which is beautiful. But $499 vs $799 and you gain AF with the Oly, a more “perfect” rendering and the cool snap AF mode. With the SLR Magic you have the heavy duty classic build, smooth manual focus and the faster 1.6 aperture along with a more classic rendering. All personal pref.

  12. From what i can see it looks impressive. Look also like it impressed you Steve?
    For the price is sure looks attractive.

  13. Steve, woul you mind shooting a vignetting “test” at f1.6 compared to the 12mm Olympus at f2, all your shots show a good deal of vignetting and some of it might come from your pp , we can’t tell how much though 🙂
    Is it any better than the 14 Panny at f2.5?
    How can we be sure about the corrected flare issue wide open? Are you getting a new sample ?!
    Yep I know, many questions… thanks for your very good and fun work indeed !

  14. hey steve, good honest review,and like the boxing images. being a f1.6 lens, how easy or difficult was it manually focusing using the vf2? im getting myself into micro 4/3 with an e-p2 after i read ur reviews on the new m4/3 lenses.

    • Actually I used the VF-3 and for the boxing shots I used the LCD not the EVF. Didn’t have any issue. The EVF or LCD is easy especially with the new LCD which is gorgeous. I have to say that even though I have all kinds of cameras coming through here constantly, I always go back to the E-P3 and enjoy shooting it so much. Great camera.

        • Idiot with no sense of humour, who’s definition of what “trolling” is is clearly incorrect – displaying a lack of comprehension which one must assume evinces a significant and clear lack of intelligence (although not understanding humour and word play should have been the first indication of this particular “lack”).

  15. Hi Steve,

    Just to clear up any confusion, you appear to contradict yourself in this review and it’s probably important to clarify. In your “Ten Facts” about the lens you state that: “SLR Magic did indeed improve the flare control by 30% in the production lens”. However you later state that “The lens is not perfect though as it will flare when shooting wide open and into lights but I was told this has been improved by 30% in the final lens design (which mine is not)”. So which is it ? Is it actually a “fact” that the lens flare has been improved by 30%, or is this just something you have been told by the manufacturer ?

    • Well isn’t it possible for lens to be improved? Improvement does not mean absences of flair. It means less flair than the original design.

      • What ARE you talking about Nick ?? Of course it is possible for “lens to be improved”. Saying that “improvement does not mean absences of flair. It means less flair than original design” is stating the obvious and has been disputed by no-one thus far !!

    • The lens they sent me was an early model. They have changed a few things and have told me directly that flare has been improved by 30% in the final model and the mount has been redone to be made much more sturdy. My mount is already sturdy but I guess a few early lenses had issues. So lenses that will be shipped in December will have better flare control and a sturdier mount. No. contradiction

      • Probably not something I would want to state as an actual “fact” as a reviewer until I was able to ascertain it for myself. One would surely have to query a manufacturer as being an independent source of information (and 30% is a very specific figure). Ken Rockwell is the only person I am aware of who is shameless enough to, ahem, “review” an item prior to ever seeing it or touching it (whether it be an initial or final version of the product) for himself.

        • Well I am more of a blogger and photographer than a reviewer. Don’t do technical and scientific tests and never did. Also, I have the actual lens in my possession and have been shooting with it for 3 weeks. I am in contact with SLR magic a few times per week and when they tell me it has been improved by 30% I am passing this info on to you. Im sure when the lens is released I will be able to test one of the new versions.

          So, again, the final production lens will have better flare control and a sturdier mount. If it comes out and does not then I will say so. Thx

        • Wow Damen…you really are being a pendatic donkey about this aren’t you? The review is 100% clear, no contradiction at all.

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