An Olympus Micro 4/3 Buyers Guide. My faves in the Olympus pro line.

An Olympus Micro 4/3 Buyers Guide. My faves in the pro line. 

Hey to all! It’s a new week and I have been shooting the new Sony lenses for the last few days, the new 100 f/2.8 GM and the new 85 1.8  as well. Both are amazing lenses, and reviews are being written now and should hit end of week for the 100 GM. Until then, I was also just admiring my Olympus EM1 MKII. I have yet to publish my 2nd part of my review (mainly because the 1st part was pretty thorough as is, just missing a few things) but man, the EM1 MKII is such a good GREAT camera, and that is no hype. It delivers beautiful IQ in a total pro body with speed I have not been seeing in my Sony’s or other cameras. The new line of lenses from Olympus are true stunners, even beating some of my old mega buck faves in the Leica world in some ways. Sure, the DOF issue is still there for some, but I have gotten over that. With lenses like the 25 f/1.2 and even the Panasonic Nocticron we have plenty of shallow DOF available to us if need be IMO. What I have been liking with those new Olympus lenses is the way they render. Sharp yet not analytical. Beautiful color, but never overdone and Smooth bokeh performance. The build on the Old pro lenses is also fantastic, and IMO, these lenses are up there with the best out there.

I currently own a PEN-F and EM1 MKII. I also have the 8mm Fisheye 1.8 the 7-14 2.8, the 25 1.2 and 300 f/2.8. So I am covered from ultra wide to a whopping 600mm. The lens the stays on my cameras are the 7-14 Pro and the 25 1.2. It’s what I use 90% of the time with these cameras. Even so, there are many more lenses out there that rock these cameras, and for less than what these cost. Below are my Olympus Micro 4/3 recommendations if one were to think about starting up with a new Olympus Micro 4/3 system. So let’s get to it! I will 1st go over the PRO lenses I love and recommend, then the lenses that are more affordable that I also love. This post is only about OLYMPUS, for those who want to keep it all OLYMPUS. While here are tons of 3rd party lenses that are amazing, this article will stick with gear made by Olympus, to keep it all zen like 😉

THE OLYMPUS EM1 MKII – MY 2016 CAMERA OF THE YEAR

A True Pro level camera for Pros, Enthusiasts, Hobbyists and anyone who wants a quality camera to last you many years

BUY IT AT B&H PHOTO or AMAZON – $1999

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

The camera that does it all, and does it all very well. It’s only limitations are the super low light scenarios but with this cameras and lens like the new 25 1.2, most of that has been squashed as I can shoot this guy as high as ISO 10K and get usable results if I nail the exposure (shooting RAW helps). With gorgeous speed, color, build, usability, and all kinds of features unique to Olympus like livetime, high res shot and the best 5 Axis IS around, the EM1 MKII is a camera that will not be replaced or updated for many years. It can handle rain, sleet, snow and ice. It can handle extreme temps as I found out when testing it in the frigid air of Iceland. It was pelted by water, sleet, and salt and never faltered even though my fingers were stiff as a board from the cold. The camera kept going. Many say the EM1 will be just as good, but truth be told, this MKII is indeed better than the MKI. The MKI is awesome but this guy is just polished, and delivers an experience that not many cameras can match. Those who own it will know what I mean. It just works. Battery life is great due to the new larger battery, the quick charger is nice as well and comes with the camera. The dual SD slots, improved 5 Axis, a tad better noise performance and wonderful dynamic range and color and it si no wonder it made my camera of the year for last year. So I highly recommend this camera for any enthusiast, pro, hobbyist or gear aficionado.

Two with the EM1 MKII and the 25 1.2 lens. Great detail, color and bokeh. CLICK for best version. 


The 25 f/1.2 Lens – My FAVE lens for Micro 4/3

Gorgeous lens with a fast f/1.2 aperture for low light use and yes, even some beautiful bokeh with M 4/3

BUY IT AT AMAZON or B&H PHOTO – $1199

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

Yep it is larger than most 50mm lenses, but it is a 25mm lens at heart, though it gives us. the FOV of a 50mm. I know of a pro or two who ditched their Leica 50 Summilux and M setup to go Olympus and this new lens. They are not regretting it either. When I put my sensible hat on, I will admit that yes, a camera like the EM1 MKII and the 25 1.2 lens can end toe to toe with Leica. yes, we lose some shallow DOF but the images that come from this lens are gorgeous. I have seen some tear inducing wedding work done with this lens, and in pro hands who know their stuff it will shine. This lens is good for anything..street, portraits, weddings, or everyday life. It’s a perfect lens for the Micro 4/3 system and when you use it and start seeing what it can do, the size will not bother you, at all. The bokeh is smooth, color is gorgeous and it has it’s own unique character, and yes, it has some character. Never ever sterile and never soft. It’s just a wonderful lens that can be used for anything, and for low light the f/1.2 aperture provides light gathering that does the trick. I will soon be taking the EM1 MKII and this lens to shoot some low light clubs/musicians and I will post here on these pages how that turns out but I have no doubts in the abilities of the combo. I highly recommend this lens to  ANYONE who shoots Olympus Micro 4/3.

A FEW MORE WITH THE 25 1.2


THE 7-14 F/2.8 PRO LENS

An ultra wide that delivers the goods. Great for video or photo.

BUY AT B&H PHOTO OR AMAZON  – $1199

SEE MY REVIEW HERE

I LOVE THIS LENS! I have owned it since it was launched and I have used it for mostly VIDEO on my PEN-F and EM1 MKII and it has always delivered great performance. Photos or video, this one in the pro line is perfect for those who maybe liked their Nikon 14-24 or Canon 16-35 but this one, IMO, performs even better as we do not have full frame sensors to worry about. With this lens, the edges are sharp as is the frame. The color, and all of the good stuff is typical Olympus Zuiko Pro. Again, $1199 is pricey but we are getting a  pro level lens here, much like a Canon L or Sony GM. This is the best line Olympus makes so the build, feel and performance is top of the heap. Below are a few images made with the lens over the last year or two. Highly recommended if you want an ultra wide zoom that has no compromise.


The 12-100 f/4 Pro – Oly’s best lens?

THIS LENS IS A STUNNER

BUY AT AMAZONB&H PHOTO

Well well. This lens here is what one Olympus employee told me was Olympus best lens they make, in his opinion. After using it, I may have to agree. While it seems limited at first, being 12-100 and f/4 it is far from it. For the new Cinema 4K video mode on the EM1 MKII, this lens does amazing things together with the IS built into the EM1 MKI body and the lens itself. This lens is perfect corner to corner, across the frame. It delivers stunning color, stunning detail, amazing micro contrast and fast silent Auto Focus. This lens is one that I want to buy as soon as I can afford the extra $1299. This with the 25 1.2 would fill mostly all of my needs. It may even get me to sell my 7-14 but maybe not. IQ wise, this is as good as it gets for Micro 4/3 and for me, it beats competitors on this focal range. It just delivers in all aspects and has no issues with CA, distortion or flare. Things that plague cheaper lenses. If you want beautiful perfection and can deal with an f/4 lens, this is it.

A few images..more to come when I get my own copy ; ) 


The 300mm f/4 Pro – 600mm FOV

$2499 FOR 600MM FOV, HAND HOLDABLE!

BUY AT AMAZON or B&H PHOTO

SEE MY 1st LOOK HERE, and a FULL REVIEW HERE

This lens is crazy, and I am not sure why I own it. Probably because I love well made gear, and gear that lows through expectations. This lens is a whopper. A heavy large beast, meant for pros who want to get in close to the action with fast focus, and a 600mm reach. Yep, this is a 300mm lens but since we get the 2X crop we are at 600mm when used on our beloved Micro 4/3 bodies. So this is one focal length and that will give you a 600mm FOV. WOW. The in lens IS works amazing as well. I was able to hand hold shots in my early tests with this that should not have been possible.

BTW, Here is the wide image of this taken with another lens…so you can see how much 600mm will get you in close..

and a few more with the 300mm

So there it is. My Fave Olympus PRO gear. From the EM1 MKII to my fave pro lenses. Yep I left out the 12-40 and the 40-150 as I have not been huge fans of them. I have always felt the 12-40 was a tad over-rated. In comparison to the 12-100, IMO it falls a tad short in contrast, detail. etc. The 40-150 I just never fell in love with as I would prefer the Nocticron or Olympus 75 1.8 in its place. The lenses and camera above are the Olympus PRO products I either own or soon will (the 12-100). if I buy it, then I must like it 😉 I also own the 8mm fisheye which is also gorgeous but I rarely EVER use it. I use it maybe once a year so I am not recommending it unless someone LOVES fisheye. If you do, then the pro 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye is amazing. I will not sell mine, even though I rarely use it. Lovely lens.

Later this week I will feature my fave picks in the Olympus NON PRO lineup. From camera to lenses, for those who do not want to spend the big bucks on the pro gear. Olympus offers greatness at all price points, so no worries. Check back later in the week for that and more new reviews!

Steve

 

45 Comments

  1. Hey Steve,

    My 12-40 pro lens isn’t bad but for certain angles I shoot like adjacent to the seashore the natural curves often come out looking a bit squarish. Would the 7-14pro and 9-18mm possibly handle these wide angle curves better?

  2. Hi Steve. So glad I found your website. Your review of the EM-1 Mk 11 and 25 f1.2 was the prime reason I switched to Olympus. I have now bought the 25mm and the 12-100 – a lot poorer but
    beautiful gear. What do you recommend for portraits. Do you have any sense that a new PRO 85mm might be “in the works”?

    • Hey Peter! Congrats on the gear, you chose wisely. For portraits I love the 42.5 1.2 Nocticron if you want all out performance. On the cheap, the 45 1.8 is remarkable. Both give an 85mm (or close to it) FOV. Now, Olympus may indeed have a 42 1.2 in the works but maybe not. No idea. But the Nocticron is beautiful.

      • Fabulous, I’ll definitely look into the Nocticron. Thanks Steve and keep up the good work. Looking forward to OM-1 Mk 11 review Part 2. Cheers.

  3. Steve, I agree with everything you say about the excellence of the Olympus system. I own a Pen F, 12-100 F4 and 25mm F1.2 lens. These lenses are finely crafted and provide excellent sharpness wide open. The in camera VR system is the best in the business. There is, however, one caveat that is built in to the micro 4/3 system, that is, sensor size. I agree that olympus has made the most it can from its new 20 mega pixel sensor. However, it is what it is, namely half frame.
    I consider myself an art-landscape photographer and have been shooting pictures for over 60 years. One of the most important artistic functions for me is the ability to crop and recompose. This reframing is where the art really comes into play. I own both Fuji XT and Sony AR7 II systems, both Fuji and Sony with 24 mega pixel sensors, the former APSC and the latter full frame. I have compared cropping capability under similar conditions for all 3 systems. With Olympus I get into trouble beyond a 50-60% crop. With Fuji, I can get away with a crop that represents only a quarter of the frame, and with Sony, only 10-15% of the frame. These are major differences and need to be taken into consideration for anyone planning to use the Olympus system. Be very careful about how much you crop!

    • Well, sounds like m 4/3 would never be a consideration for you, if you crop like that. Me, I never crop but if I wanted to use 15%, 30% or even 40% of an image I would never choose M 4/3 or even APS-C 😉 I’d go Medium Format if that was my thing. I would not think anyone who does a lot of cropping would even consider 4/3 or APS-C, I know I wouldn’t but yep, good to have choices for our needs and wants.

    • With the A7R2, I sometimes crop aggressively. With the Olympus E-M1 mk2 it is better to frame more precisely so that only modest cropping is needed. Also, I use exposure comp a lot more with the mk2, often to protect highlights in high contrast scenes because the dynamic range is not quite as good as with the Sony. I get pretty good looking landscapes with the mk2 but as Steve suggested, if I were a serious landscape guy or typically cropped a lot, MFT would not be my first choice of formats.

  4. Hi Steve, an enjoyable summary, as always, thanks. I was curious about your comment on the 12-40, when you said “In comparison to the 12-100, IMO it falls a tad short in contrast, detail. etc.”. While I haven’t used the 12-100, I have used countless lenses over the years and the 12-40 is one of only a handful that really make me go wow. I find the contrast, detail, colour and bokeh fabulous.

    Of course, you have no need to give it another go but I wonder if the one you used had been damaged in some way? Oddly, I rarely use it myself because I tend to shoot long or use a macro but, when I do, it makes me so happy! (Maybe I got lucky and got a particularly good one?)

    • I have had three copies of the 12-40 over the years (review samples), used it with the EM1, Em5II, and Em1 II. To me, it is the least WOW of the pro line. Just never liked the output much, flatter than the other lenses that do make me go “wow”. So I have tested it three times, three different lenses. I much prefer the 12mm f/2 and 45 combo over the 12-40, and they are faster. But that’s me. The 12-100 is, IMO, in a new league though it’s weakness is the f/4 aperture but to some, that’s the strength 😉

      • I’m not trying to be snarky :-), but in your 12-40mm review of March ’14, you said it had: “Amazing prime IQ and the very 1st zoom I have ever really wanted to buy in the mirror less world. The IQ is stellar. The color reproduction is rich. The contrast is striking. This lens is truly a pro zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture across the range… It is so well worth the $999, in fact, if it were $1400 it would be worth it… It is one hell of a lens and while larger than the primes, it offers much more with a field of view from 24-80mm… I will always love my primes but this is a lens I can see taking out on those days when I just need one lens to cover all I need. Yes…it WILL be mine one day!”

        Buyer’s remorse?

        • Nope, but as I used it more on other bodies besides that EM10 I used it on, AND most importantly to the newer pro zooms (which surpass it in all areas IMO) I became less and less impressed with it. But hey, 90% of those out there love this lens, and have feelings like I originally did, so doesn’t matter what I think of it. If someone likes it, they like it. But when compared to the newer pro zooms like the 7-14, 40-150, 300, 25 1.2, etc, the 12-40 is my least favorite of them all. I never said it was a bad lens, its fantastic. Just, for me, not up to the level of the others that I did buy and did keep ; )

  5. Hi Steve,
    I wrote in to say that I really enjoyed the images shared here – particularly those from your trip to Iceland. Really really great.
    One of the best bargains in the Olympus lineup is the 45mm 1.8 – what a terrific lens for the money. Obviously it’s not at nocticron levels of optics, but man is that lens a little jewel. Small, fast, beautiful rendering and cheap as hell!
    Hope you are keeping well.
    Tom.

  6. I’d say that the 12-100 alone would be the reason for making the OM-D series the camera of choice among press photographers. If I worked for the press I’d probably be shooting Micro 4/3 right now. And although I don’t actually work in the media, I am still impressed by that lens. It delivers what a lot of people really want from a lens, and maybe a touch more.

      • Have enjoyed all of your articles. They’re so good that I’m torn between an Olympus Pen F with a 17mm prime and 14-150mm travel kit (or 14-42EZ) or the Fuji x100F. Do you think the color setting flexibility on the Pen F and the Tri-X monochrome mode can approximate the Fuji Classic Chrome and Acros simulations. I’ve been shooting with Fuji x30 for over 2 years and enjoy the camera, but do suffer some image quality. Just wondering how much difference a Pen F would make over the 2/3″ x30 sensor and then the x100F over both the Pen F and the x30.

        • I would go with a Pen if I were you. With 17mm Olympus or a panasonic 20/1.7, you have a small kit -similar in size with X100f and retro looking too like X100f, beautiful olympus colours and sensor stabilisation as a benefit.

          • What we be great to see, is if anyone has the fujix100F converter lens that enables optical conversion to 50mm, if that could be compared to the in camera digital conversion of 50mm and 70mm along with pen f comparisons of the 25mm and 45mm (the latter could be compared to the 50mm optical converter with digital conversion to 100mm to compare Fuji digital conversion to pen f optical output. I know the article stated that you don’t prefer digital in camera cropping features, but if anyone can show the comparison it is something useful for a decision process. Anyway, many thanks still, of all you do!

  7. Nice shots. I’ve been going back and forth on the 25 1.2 v 42.5 1.2, figuring I can just afford 1 with the 12-100. It seems that you like the 25 1.2 better-is that focal length preference or the lens itself. I came from canon and always liked the 85 1.2 better than the 50 1.2 even though I preferred the 50mm focal length more.

  8. Hi Steve!

    I really do enjoy your reviews for years but plz stop writing “300mm f4.0, a bargain you get compared to what you have to pay for a 600mm f4.0 on full frame”.
    This 300mm f4.0 Oly lens IS a 300mm f4.0 for 2500 bucks as you’ll get a 300mm f4.0 for example for 1400 from Canon. That’s your comparison and not the 600mm lens. Your object does have the same size if taken with Oly 300mm and Canon 300mm on full frame, you just have less “surroundings” on the Oly image due to the smaller sensor. There is no magical gain in focal length. The 300mm was, is, will ever be just a 300mm Olympus lens.

    best regards,
    Michael S.

    • Please stop acting like a know it all who knows little. If you want to be like that maybe you should start your own website. If you do not like what I write, then do not read it. A 300mm on full frame gets you 300mm magnification. a 300mm on this system gets you 600mm magnification. THAT IS A FACT, PERIOD, END OF STORY. F4 light gathering as well.Yes it is a 300mm lens but the result is 600mm. So you would indeed need a 600mm lens on full frame to match it.

      • Well yes, but the slightly uncomfortable point remains that the Olympus 300mm f4 costs a lot more than the Canon 300mm f4. It is entirely clear to me why this is, but possibly it is simply economics of scale – Canon sell considerably more than Olympus do. The same argument arose for the 300mm f2.8. There, people mumbled stuff about telecentricity, Zuiko magic pixie dust, etc, but it always seemed a stretch to justify a $7000+ price tag.

        Note I’m speaking as a near-exclusive Olympus FT/mFT user since 2003, so I’ve paid my dues, and I’m not planning on switching system. That doesn’t mean I think Olympus are above criticism though.

        And final note, yes, it is your website, but in this particular case I think you were a little harsh with Michael S. If he’d gone on about equivalence, DoF, sure, let him have both barrels, but actually his point seems quite fair to me.

        • His point is incorrect. The Only is a 300mm lens, A FF 600mm lens is 600mm. When used, the Oly 300 will give you the reach of that 600mm lens. Same reach, same capability, that is fact. If Oly had a 600mm lens it would give us 1200mm reach. So comparing the Oly 300 to a FF 600 is perfectly OK to do, as we get the same reach from each system, but smaller with the Olympus, and cheaper.

          IN fact, we can not get 300mm out of the Olympus lens as it will always give us 600. Same with the 25 1.2, we get the reach of a 50. 7-14 Pro, we get 14-28, not 7-14. All in regards to reach and FOV. DOF is a different story. But when someone comes here and trolls or lashes out with negativity and is wrong I have zero tolerance for that. This is not DPReview, BS is not allowed here 😉 Never has been.

      • Good Evening Steve!

        No reason to be offended. I’m not bashing anyones beloved camera system here – do have a m4/3 camera – Dlux type 109 myself.

        You’ve misunderstood me. I’ll try it with a more practical example:

        Take the m4/3 camera and that 300mm f4.0 lens and compare it with a let’s say Nikon D810 or Canon 5Ds with a 300mm lens too. Crop than your object in your picture out in both images (wider angle of course on the full frame cameras) and compare the pixels how big the object is in the image taken with m4/3 and on full frame – you don’t have twice the size.
        And if you take a 600mm lens for the full format Nikon or Canon, the desired object will be larger on the full format image.

        • If you take the 300mm f/4 pro and shoot on the EM1 MKii which is 20MP, the shoot a 600mm lens on the D810 and then downsize to 20MP, your images should be identical besides some DOF differences (Oly will give you the DOF of a 300mm f/4 where a full frame using a 600 will give you a 600mm F/4 DOF). We are not talking about sensor size and megapixels here, we are talking LENSES. The 300mm PRO on a Micro 4/3 body gives you a reach of 600mm. A 600mm lens in a D810 gives you a 600mm reach. 600=600=600.

      • Hi Steve,
        I’d like to ask this question in a different way.
        Suppose I was considering the A7R II + 50mm 1.4 or the E-M1 Mk II + 25mm 1.2. With the Sony I know I would not need an additional portrait lens as cropping the 50mm to ~85mm would be perfectly satisfactory to me.
        Would the Olympus images hold up to a similar amount of cropping?
        Many thanks,
        Martin.

        • So you would want to crop the file from the Olympus and 25 to approximate an 85mm? Why not just buy the Nocticron lens instead, the 42.5 f/1.2? Would be a much better option if portraits are what you were shooting.

          • Hi Steve,
            I generally prefer 35 to 50mm-e, I don’t like swapping lenses, I’m still learning to compose well, and I tend to like 5:4. Thus I regularly crop 🙂 And as photography is not my main hobby I can’t really justify a portrait lens.
            I used a GH1 for a few years and Olympus’s latest offerings are very appealing. But the A7 series is comparable in size and cost (to Oly Pro at least), and would allow me to crop further – potentially meaning I need fewer lenses.
            Which is why I’m wondering if e.g. the 25mm 1.2 would hold up just as well when cropped? Is the sensor size the limiting factor, or the lenses?
            Thanks again!
            Martin.

  9. Steve, I’m glad you mentioned the second part of the E-M1 review! I was afraid it wasn’t coming anymore. I’m looking forward to it!!

  10. I just used on Safari in Africa. I have the 40-150 f2.8 Pro and extremely sharp with great bokeh though the hood is a disaster and I ended up using gaff tape to keep it from falling off. The focus doesn’t follow the zoom either so annoying for video unless you use autofocus.

    The body has it’s issues too. Hopefully the firmware upgrades I came home to will fix some. My first 2 days, I accidentally switched from RAW to Standard JPEG. Then somehow, I accidentally switched the quality from RAW to small JPEG! Ouch. A whole day lost on the 300mm f4 PRO camera. I’m still not sure how it happened. Must be because it is so easily changed it with the OK button.

    The camera produced stunning 4K video using the faster SD card. I am equally impressed by the quality of extracted frames from 4K.

    Lightroom needs to come up to speed rendering the RAW images. I have yet to print so I’ll let you know.

  11. I agree. The 25 and 12-100 is fantastic lenses. I own both and the em1mark2. Blown away with quality.

  12. I love the Ollympus 75mm prime but you should give the 40-150 f/2.8 another chance. It’s equally fantastic.

  13. Thanks a lot, Steve, please I look forward to your low light clubs/musicians posts as this is what I love to take photos at! 🙂

  14. Thank you, Steve. You and others make a compelling argument for me to ditch my PanaLeica 25mm f/1.4 and go with the new Pro 25mm.

    I own both the 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro and the 75mm f/1.8. Interestingly, I find I prefer to carry the 75mm and do not miss zooming much at all. The Pro zoom is extremely good, though. The 75mm occasionally seems to miss focus when shot @ f/1.8.

    I’m very curious to read how you feel about the “sub-pro” lenses later this week. Keep up the good work.

    • I’m utilizing Olympus “Trade In Trade Up” program to replace my 25 1.4 with the 25 1.2. I’ve owned the 1.4 for a few years, but then I rented the 1.2 for a week last month. The thing that stuck with me was how much better the hit rate was of the 1.2 on the E-M1 II. While I can get breathtaking pictures with the 1.4 lens, it’s fewer and farther between than the short time I had with the 1.2. The 1.4 focus is slower on the MkII than the 1.2, and unless I nail the timing, I wind up with more blur than I wanted for the shot. Mating the 1.2 to the MkII, it was a breeze to capture exactly the moment I wanted, whenever I wanted, and my throw away shots plummeted in number. It’s truly magical how fast it all works together, and the sharpness, the character, the color, all just…magical.

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