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Wednesday, 16 November 2011


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Hi, Ctein,
I fully agree with you. What a great lens!
It's a mystery to me
1. why Olympus didn't give us a lens like this earlier,
2. why this fabulous lens is priced so low (e.g. compared to the Panasonic-Leica 25 F/1.4 that i also own).
The answers to these questions can't be found in physics, I think. But I can't understand the marketing strategy behind it...

Totally agree. A gorgeous lens. It reminds me of my old Canon FD 135 f2.0 - well, apart from the fact that it weighs about 1/5th of that...

A spot-on review of an wonderful little - er, tiny - lens. It is also particularly well suited to video work as well. It makes an outstanding "interview lens" on the Panasonic GH2, usable at any aperture. F1.8 makes it easy to drop backgrounds out on location.

I've only had this lens a few weeks, but it's already displaced the 20 mm in my heart. I don't see as well at 90 mm-e as I do at 40 mm-e (or 80 mm-e, thanks to a good bit of time using a Hexanon 40 mm on an adapter), but I'm happy to learn. My usual kit now is this lens on my E-P1 and the 20 mm on an E-PM1; it's a combination that seems to work great for casual event photography.

I bought this lens a few weeks ago, and it has been competing with my 20mm f/1.7 as most used lens on my GF1 ever since. Prior to that I had been manually focusing a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D on the same camera, and with great results until my main subject (my toddler daughter) started to get more mobile. Now I need autofocus to capture her as she toddles around at ever increasing speed. I also love this lens for its small size. I can carry the GF1, 20mm f/1.7, 45mm f/1.8, and 14-45mm zoom all day long with no effort at all... even when I've got a diaper bag on one shoulder and a 25 pound toddler in tow.

Thanks for the review. You confirmed my suspicions, putting this lens at the top of my list!

If only more m4/3 lenses could be like this. So far the 45/1.8 and the 20/1.7 seem to highlight all the salient advantages of the system. Just need a wide-angle prime that measure up (your hint about the 12mm is not encouraging...)

I totally agree and want one of these lenses badly. I hesitate only because of the issues I have with the e-p1 body. It's fine for relatively slow still life work, but, for me, it's not as suitable for faster people or street shooting. So, I'm waiting to see what Olympus or Panasonic come up with in their next generation before jumping on the bandwagon.

Bill Stickney

But why silver only?:/

I've been walking around with this lens on my Panasonic GF1, and it's a very nice combination, though without IS. I've also got the Lumix/Leica 45mm F2.8 which is another exceptionally good lens, and with autofocusing macro capability that is really quite astonishing. I used to photograph very small archaeological artifacts under really bad conditions with a Nikon D3 and Nikon's 60 macro, and for shootability, this Lumix 25 on a GH2 would absolutely kick Nikon butt under those conditions (but only in my opinion -- and I am a Nikon fanboi.) Between the two lenses, I think the Olympus is better for calm, considered portraits, and, of course, the Lumix for macro. For walk-around available darkness, they about tie, for me, with the Panny, because I don't have IS with the Olympus, but very good IS on the Lumix. On the other hand, the Panny's half again more expensive and twice as big. If I were shooting Olympus cameras, I would definitely go for the Olympus lens.

Just in passing, I've acquired the Voightlander 25mm f0.95, another interesting lens...but I should have read the reviews before I bought it.

Was it windy, by any chance?

Hmm. Sorry I read the review. Now, I'm going to have to budget for it.

For what its worth I would agree wholeheartedly it is a beautiful lens as is the 12mm f2 I have both, the biggest plus of all is that they weigh very little. I am constantly amazed at how small this kit is, I always chuckle when i see non micro 4/3 fellow photographers struggling under the combined weight of a small wardrobe.

They have every possible combination of lens, flash, Filters, and of course the obligatory tripod! By the time they get this sorted the shot has long gone, along with me..I love my EP3 and primes.

You don't seem like a "cottoned" kind of guy to me. More like an Einstein type. I can't find your usage in my 1974 Webster. Do you know the derivation of your usage ? I haven't heard it used that way since Festus on "Gunsmoke".

It's such a pretty lens. But I want to see a picture of it mounted on your camera too!

Nice self portrait, Ctein. Way to test Bokeh on yourself.

A very informative, practical review of this lens, Ctein. Thank you. Clearly this is one of those increasingly rare relatively inexpensive optical gems. The main barrier to my buying one is guilt. I have a drawer of fine M-mount glass and an adapter for micro 4/3rds. I am compelled to go to my arsenal if I need f/1.4. But...you never know what I might compel Santa to drop.

Thanks, Ctein, for the review. I've been thinking about buying the Olympus 12mm ƒ/2. But I'll hold off until the review... I have to say it doesn't sound promising. Just as well, saves me $799+tax.

I was using the 45/1.8 and the DG 25/1.4 to do a kids concert. I had a G1 and a GH2, so no stabilization at all. Very nice results, of course you could tell the cameras apart but not the lenses unless you look for the shift of perspective or such. Focusing was fast too on these non Olympus bodies. Great experience. BTW the 45/1.8 was rented as was the GH2 - some places do rent out m4/3 gear alongside the "pro" gear. At least in Singapore.

Please forgive me if I appear to be the little boy in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, but I don't get this.

I have a Panasonic GF-1 with a 20mm lens, and it is "just about" pocketable in a coat. That's why I own it, so I can take it when I don't want to take my proper camera kit in a carry bag. This lens, as shown on Mike's picture attached to a G3, is nothing less than a slightly smaller DSLR. I'd never get that in my coat pocket.

So, it should be reviewed against a proper DSLR system. How does the systemic combination of sensor, camera, and lens stack up against an equivalent combination from any other manufacturer? Points certainly in its' favour for relative compactness and lack of weight, but it is still going to be carried in a bag.

It's very difficult to get a feel for relative size in web JPEGs. The G3/45mm combo is pretty tiny--smaller and lighter than a Leica. It's appreciably smaller than the smallest DSLR.

I wrote a rant a long time ago about "pocketability" as a standard of approval for cameras, but I'm guessing that's not going to be taken as terribly constructive in the present context. [g]


James B: I've been walking around with the GF1 and the 45mm in the pocket of my army jacket (which is what I wear in autumn weather), and the 20mm and 45-200mm in the other pocket. I was a little surprised by how well it fit, I admit.

The GF1/45mm combo would be a little awkward in the light jackets and sport coats I wear in warmer weather, but the GF1/20mm in one pocket and the 45mm in the other would be quite all right.

In high summer, I carry a man-purse anyway, and the GF1 with three lenses fits nicely along with cell phone and a paperback in a very small bag.

Your outerwear may vary.

The G3 looks too lumpy for a pocket no matter what's mounted on it, but I could be wrong.

I don't like the bokeh. Perhaps because it appears to have removed my nose. I don't know about "exceptionally awful," but I'm opposed to any lens that makes me look like a Dick Tracy villain.

It looks even cooler with the (optional) hood attached...

90mm equivalent should be one of the easiest focal lengths to adapt to. It offers some selective focus (but not too much) and some structure to moderately distant objects (but again, not too much). I've always imagined this type of lens should be well suited to deep landscapes where you want a very gradual loss of sharpness along the z axis. The little Olympus does very well for this type of photography because of its way to hold OOF surfaces together. I've seen this behavior only in much larger (and much, much older) optics, so it was a pleasant surprise. The combination between modern sharpness and old-time softness makes it special, not only good.

Ed G wrote,

"The G3 looks too lumpy for a pocket no matter what's mounted on it, but I could be wrong."

Indeed -- the G3 is not to lumpy for my jacket pocket with the 20mm f/1.7 mounted:


In warmer weather, I wear a light vest over a shirt, and the G3 slides nicely into the vest pocket.

While the GF1 is smaller, I wouldn't give up my articulated LCD screen for anything!



Dear Richard,

No, it wasn't especially windy. Why would you think so? If you're thinking the difference in sharpness in the 100% sections might be due to subject motion, it wasn't. Shutter speed at f/1.8, by the way, was 1/3200 second. It's hard to test really fast lenses outdoors!


Dear Kenneth,

You need to get a “big boy's" dictionary [VBG]!

The OED traces this usage back to 16th century England. It's British, not American Western. The last citation they give is 1960, which places it in current use. Interestingly, my usage turns out to be archaic; sometime in the 19th or 20th century, it changed from “cottoned to” to “cottoned on to” at least according to the illustrious likes of Nevil Shute and DH Lawrence. Don't ask me why.

Yes, I do read it for fun. If I were trapped on a desert island with only one book allowed, it would be a tough call, but my single-volume OED would probably win out over my single-volume complete Shakespeare.


Dear Peter,

Currently I own only one camera body, so you may see photographs of a lens, but you'll not see photographs of the lens on a camera.


Dear James B,

Well, I don't get why pocketability should be a criterion I use for reviewing lenses. If that's primarily what you care about, then all you really need to do is go read the dimensions in the equipment specifications. I can pretty much guarantee you it's never going to get a mention in my reviews.

And, for the record, I didn't review this lens “against” anything.


Dear Timprov,

Oh, that phony prosthetic nose of yours doesn't fool anybody; it's more obvious than a comb-over. So I Photoshopped it out.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Thanks for a look at this new lens - Olympus seems to have a winner on their hands. Like you, I prefer more of a telephoto than the 20mm, so nice to have an option that costs less than the Panasonic 45mm...with faster aperture to boot.

Well Ctein, a 45 was what I personally needed the least. Okay it has a great performance all over and 1.8 is of course nice. But having said that, I'm perfectly happy with the performance of my 14-45 kitt lens. It does not have the low light performance, but that does not bother me a bit. If needed I can crank up the ISO a few nothches and can still get the shot. What I miss though is a longer tele, in the medium tele range. A 105 for instance as you state I would have prefered. And a 35-135 zoon would also be welcome. With the micro 4/3 system you have many different lenses but they all seem to be either wide angle zooms, kitt zooms, or tele zooms, or travel zooms. A simple compact normal to tele is conspicously missing. So who is gonna make me happy with a collapseble barel design 20-75?

I love this lens. I don't care for the focal length that much but I'm having a hard time taking this lens off my camera. Maybe I've just never had a good portrait length lens before.

(Love how it looks on the camera. Just looks sexy, I think.)


I love this lens and can find no fault with it other than the ease with which the "decorative ring" falls off of the front.

As much as I like the 20/1.7, I'm finding that I use the combination of 14/2.5 and 45/1.8 much more these days. The 14 works for most of what I do, and the 45 is perfect for most of the rest.

I have the Lumix / Leica 45 macro for my GH2 and for video it's perfect with the IS built in. It's one of those things where the extra stop would be nice, but the lack of IS is an issue for what I most want that camera for anyway. If only it was black, then it would be irresistible.

Aftermath and Atget, great shelf!

'Pocketability' can be overrated, but there's a good bit of truth to it for some uses. With one kid, I can use just about anything - I take my Pentax 67 to the playground, or the Linhof Tech 70 w/ instant back to a birthday party. A DLSR or Leica is no big deal. But two kids, or on vacation? If it has to be carried on a strap, and can't be slipped into a cargo pocket or such, it's too big, too cumbersome. Which was my result with M4/3 - the Pen with 14mm was tiny, but add another lens, and taking into account the menu-itis that most M4/3rds cameras have....cumbersome. Better results with same effective encumbrance using my D7000.

I went through 2 of the beasties before deciding this, sadly, and I still miss the size, but realized that what I really want is an M9 or digital Contax G series, so...um, I'll just be sad.

I bought an Olympus E-PL1 body just to use with my Summicron 40mm f/2 lens. It's softer in the corners on a 4/3 sensor but has a lot of the other attributes that Ctein admires about this 45mm. Without of course auto-everything. Interestingly, I used to be that 35-40mm user that Ctein describes, but have now find that it's this 80-90mm range that I most use. I recently sold several prints made at this length - with a 165mm f/2.8 on a Pentax 67. The more I read Ctein, the more I find I have in common with him. Mike, should this be of concern to me or my family? ;-)

Could you post a link to your "pocketability rant"?

There are lots of cameras (and photo-capable cellphones) that fit nicely in a pocket; in fact, I own one.

But if I'm going out to take pictures, I don't mind carrying a camera.

I'm a little mystified by the complaints that every new camera that comes out is "too big".

In your future review of the 12mm, can you compare it to the 9-18 I'm thinking of?

Re: Windy... just I noticed that the foliage had moved considerably between images.

I've been caught out before using trees to assess lenses.....

Try a GX680 for pocketability. If you can pocket that behemoth you can truly be said to have deep pockets. Yet Luminous Landscape takes it out in wilderness. A GF1 with pancake is pocketable and a GX680 can live on my back in a bagpack. Both have their use.

Greet, Ed

Someone should compare this against the G. Zuiko Auto-S 40/1.4 I currently use. That is quite a peach.

Dear Richard,

Illustrations exist to illustrate the points of an article, not to prove them. If the tree photos hadn't been representative of the lens' actual performance, I'd have found different illos to use.

If you pixel-peep the comparison photos, you'll see that most of the leave and branches don't move from frame to frame.

pax / Ctein

On the lightness of this lens. I ordered the lens through Amazon (I think/hope I used the TOP link) so I could have it for a trip up to Vashon Island this weekend. It was due on Tuesday, so I was really excited when there was an Amazon box waiting for me at home. Imagine my disappointment when I picked it up and it didn't weigh anything at all. All I could think of was that I'd not gotten my full order of memory cards in my last order. Bit of a jaw-dropper when I saw the lens box inside once I'd opened it.

For me this is the main point on the m4/3 format. Cameras are a bit smaller (ok a lot smaller than my 1dmk3 :-), but that isn't were the big gain is. When you compare the size of this lense on the G3 to some other APSC camera, don't forget to put a 90mm f/1.8 lens on the front. Now that's a big piece of kit! I now carry the the 20mm f/1.7, the 45-200, the 45 f/1.8 and for the rare times I use it (I don't see wide either) the 9-18. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I think the entire kit weighs less than my Canon 24-70 f/2.8.

Yup, nice lens and just what I've been waiting for so long. Only one thing annoyed -once upon a time Olympus used to provide a hood (shade) with all its digital lenses. This arrived without one. I am a firm believer that a hood is the one simple accessory likely to improve an image. I could buy one online for between $50-70! I ended up buying a cheap Chinese knock-off.
This is annoying cheapskating of the same category as the tendency of makers to supply a cheap push on rear lens cap in consumer kits, rather than a proper rear cap. How much do they actually save by these daft strategies? The rectangular hood for the mFT 9-18mm is essential but was almost impossible to find when i got mine and not cheap either. Infuriating.

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