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Saturday, 31 December 2011


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And, on either of the new Panasonic GX1 bodies, it *looks* truly excellent, and the balance is perfect.

"I don't let my "lens hobby" get in the way of my photographing."

Mike- that might be the wisest photographic sentence I've read in years.

Richard in Michigan

Truly great glass and an excellent choice for lens of the year. With the 45 and the Panasonic 20 mm on a GX-1 it's all the kit I may ever need. Wish they would ship the viewfinder for the GX. Panasonic doesn't seem to understand the importance of viewfinders.

Hello Mike

I do not have this lens but I think I would agree with your pick based on what I have read so far
it has been an mazing last 3 months in that respect because the m4/3rs system took so long to get the right lenses but they got it right this year. I , for one , only like 3 FOV 40mm equivalent ( like you it seems) 24mm and 85mm . Now that oly has the 12 and the 45mm , and with the 20mm Pana , they got all boxes checked.
Now I just need a non- Panasonic sensor and a better interface to take another look at m4/3rds

An excellent choice. I carry this lens and the M.Zuiko 17mm as a regular kit with my E-P1. I tried and Lumix 20mm and never really bonded with it, but then I've always liked the 35mm field of view.

I have ordered all of my Panasonic gear via your Amazon links and have been more than happy with the 20mm Panasonic and all the many zoom lenses and two of that system's bodies. With equal satisfaction, I have done the same this past couple of months in ordering and receiving your 45 mm Lens of the Year (my first Olympus lens), to say nothing of the Fuji X10 camera and its accessories. Again, all these through your links. While, I clearly cannot claim to be expert enough to be regarded as a connoisseur; I am delighted with the exceedingly high standard level of performance in these items. It does make me very thankful, on the one hand, for such wonderful offerings, but a bit bemused that there will inevitably be others out there who will find clear fault where I can't.

"It fits a variety of cameras from several manufacturers."

Several? Olympus, Panasonic, and ... ?

So, if one wanted to jump into the Micro 4/3 waters, what are the preferred bodies?

I especially like the fact that Olympus engineers were able to navigate so many of normally conflicting requirements with this product: optical performance, size, weight, build quality, and of course price.

Which makes me wonder .. who were the runners up?


Nothing bad? Ok, so where are the aperture markings?

And I want my stick shift back, too.

I went two years with only the 20mm on my GF1. Finally, the "portrait prime" we were waiting for, and I agree on all points.
I also like the versatility of the 2 lens kit; I can stitch on the few occasions I need something wider. But now I want another body so I don't need to swap lenses.

I'd be curious to see the result of that 50mm test.

Darn it! Just can't seem to get this lens to mount on my Canon SLR.
Seriously, I wonder what percentage of your readership uses primes often. Probably far more than in the general photographic pool, but perhaps less than the majority? Given that idea, I thought I'd mention my successful foray into the 18-50mm range of lenses (for an APS-C sensor) as I've finally found one to suit my budget and performance needs.
It's a Tamron 17-50 LD XR DiII(etc, etc) f2.8 without IS. A perfect range for most of my work and it also focuses close for detail shots. A bit of CA(far less than others I've tried wide open at 17/18mm) that goes away when stopped down, so great for landscapes. Fast enough for low light situations but small enough to be comfortable in daily use.
I've no idea how it "draws the light" or if the bokeh is pleasing. It's noisy to focus but suits my needs perfectly and cost just $340 AU/US. My personal "lens of the year" and used every time I venture out.

this lens will sit along side my 12mm m.zukio when i get it in january

Happy New Year. Less war and more jobs please.

My nominee for lens of the year is the Nikon mount Vivitar 28 2.8 I bought for $35 in Ex condition. Can't find much info on it other than it might have been made by Kiron? Maybe.

Mounted it on a dented, brassed Nikon FE that I traded for a cheap unused lens. Haven't tested it wide open but stopped down the corners are sharp and the damn thing is much better built than many modern lenses. Yesterday's equipment is as exciting for me as it was for someone way back when.

From 1985 to 1998 I mostly carried two Kyocera Contax bodies, one mounted with a Ziess 35mm F1.4 and the other with a Ziess 85mm F1.4. These two lenses would cover 98% of the things I wanted to photograph. I shot both black and white and color with this package and Kodachrome or B&W film came alive with these lenses. I then obtained my late friend's Pentax LX and purchased a Pentax 40mm F2.8 which had even better micro contrast than the Zeiss 35 (but not as good color) and fell head over heels for the 40mm view of things.

A year ago I moved up from a digital P&S (Canon G6) to a Canon 7D but the compactness of the micro 4/3 has me lately salivating for a kit of an E-P3 with Panasonic 20 and Oly 45. Why is the E-P3 only offered as a kit with lenses I don't want?

Mike, I've been a reader of your column but this is my first comment. This little post really struck a nerve. I'm no camera or lens expert but I really, totally, unexpectedly love my Olympus E-PL1 with the Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens. I've been shooting with it like crazy. I also recently purchased the Olympus 45mm f1.8. I like both lenses so much that I decided to buy a second E-PL1 body. I now have a two body set with the 20mm and 45mm. I carry both in a small Domke bag. No need to change lenses, just a quick switch between the two cameras.

Jeps, good choice I agree. Only one small gripe du jour.....I would love to see a 105 or 135 mm equivalent of that lens. Since 90 is in the range my kitzoom also can accomplish and I like the image quality of the old 14-45 kitzoom. If however it would be just a little longer I would buy it instantly.

Greetings, Ed

I recommend the following combo to everybody who wants to see what small cameras are capable of today:
1. Panasonic G3 (smallest mFT with built-in viewfinder)
2. Panasonic 20/1.7 pancake (small and sharp even wide open)
3. Olympus 45/1.8 (Mike said it all)
Get this for less than 1000 Euros (Europe) and I don't think you'll need much more to have a lot of fun.

"It's beautifully and pleasingly well made." Come on, it's made from plastic. A Nikkor Ais lens is beautifully made. This Oly is ok for the money, let's describe it that way. No bad things? What about the not included lens hood? I think this lens is very nice but let's be a bit more critical please.

I have only been able to play with an Olympus 45mm ƒ/1.8 lens for one week (a rental, made based on Ctein's review), but that was long enough both to be generally charmed by the lens, and to discover a couple weaknesses that could be viewed as "cons" by some people.
The first weakness for is is due to the fact that I like to photograph natural abstract forms, and often I am trying to photograph small objects close to my camera. This lens has a poor close-focusing ability (maximum magnification of 0.11X), so it did not work for me in some situations.

The second weakness was a truly strange and sporadic bokeh behind the point of focus when the lens was focused at near to middle distances: out-of-focus areas would contain double images of objects that were well displaced from each other to an extent that I have never seen in another lens (from an admittedly limited set of lenses that I have used). The effect is hard to describe (while blatant in images), but the general appearance was that I had shaken the camera while taking a long exposure...except that objects in focus were absolutely crisply focused. The bizarre part of this double-imaging, for me, is that I was not able to figure out and predictably replicate the conditions under which the effect was produced. By and large, I liked how this lens smoothly blurred out-of-focus patterns. I was left feeling that the lens had a bipolar personality.

Anyway, to me the 45mm f/1.8 was a lens that generally produced images that I liked very much, and were I to own a Micro 4/3 camera (I am currently auditioning several compact cameras), I would almost certainly own this lens. However, I personally do not feel that the list is weaknesses of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is an empty set.

Someday we'll look back on 2011 as the year that Micro Four-Thirds reached puberty. Give me a trio of primes -

12/F2 or 14/F2.5
20/F1.7 or 25/F1.4
and the celebrated 45/F1.8

Add one of the new bodies (G3, E-P3, GX1) and I'd rule the world.

But.... but.... this doesn't cover a Full Frame image circle! When I upgrade my camera (maybe not next upgrade, but, you know, in three or four or five years, when full frame cameras are under $500) my investment will be wasted! Given this horrible flaw, it seems awfully irresponsible of you to recommend that someone buy this dead end lens just to take pictures with in the meantime.

@David - on the other hand, I remember an article from some years ago arguing implicitly that any 50mm will make a decent enough image. I forget the author but you can find it here http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-02-09-22.shtml

A happy New Year to all.

It's on my wish list list. I would love Olympus to produce a version in black.

I spent the weekend bonding with my new GH2 and 20mm at a few get-togethers. Really worked well, especially at around f2.5 and iso 1250-1600. This one is my next purchase, for sure. I'll save the extra wide shots and long shots for my dslr.

It doesn't need a lens hood, in my estimation. If this lens came with a hood I'd leave it at home.


"'It's beautifully and pleasingly well made.' Come on, it's made from plastic. A Nikkor Ais lens is beautifully made. This Oly is ok for the money, let's describe it that way. No bad things? What about the not included lens hood? I think this lens is very nice but let's be a bit more critical please."

a nikkor AIS lens is a cheaply made (mostly) metal lens. leica R, rokkor MC, takumars, or even many of the pre AIS nikkors would be better examples of beautifully made lenses. i agree with your point though - i know expectations are low these days, but just because a lens doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart in your hand doesn't qualify it as "beautifully made".

"The second weakness was a truly strange and sporadic bokeh behind the point of focus when the lens was focused at near to middle distances: out-of-focus areas would contain double images of objects that were well displaced from each other to an extent that I have never seen in another lens."

if these oof objects were lights i'd say that sounds like a flare issue. otherwise, no idea. i'm curious to see an example now...

I could not agree more with this selection. Like some others here, I now have a two-body kit with this lens on one body and the 20 mm (or sometimes the 9-18 mm zoom) on the other most of the time.

One interesting thing: When used on an Oly body with the VF-2, the combined magnification of the system appears to be exactly unity: When I look through the viewfinder, nothing gets larger or smaller; a portion of the world just gets bounded in a 4:3 box.

Macintux asked So, if one wanted to jump into the Micro 4/3 waters, what are the preferred bodies?

I can speak from my own experience that I just received an Olympus E-PL1 2 lens kit for $399 from Costco. I added the Panasonic 20 (from Amazon via Mike's link). I got rid of my DSLR 18 months ago because I never took it along with me. The E-PL1 doesn't impose.

The one feature I wanted, after getting spoiled by it on my Sony digicam is their neat-o Sweep Panorama. I could have gone with a Nex5/Nex5N, but the cost increase over the discontinued Oly was too much for this hobbyist, plus the Sony lens lineup isn't fleshed out where I want it yet. With the Panasonic f1.7, I can shoot at lower ISO than the Sony would require due to the slow lenses. It is all a matter of trade offs, that is mine.


week ago, I shot a picture for the wife of her knitting group. I don't know why, but I left the setting at 2mp, so when the photo was shot, it wasn't a big file.
Thought about it, and printed it anyway as a postcard, which was about all anyone wanted, on Fuji crystal archive.
Results were as good as many a shot back in film days, and may mean a reconsideration of the great Race to Megapixillism...

I still haven't tried this lens so can't say with certainty but the bokeh thingy looks like the one on the regular 4/3 50-200.

When there are small numerous longish objects behind the subject (leaves, leaves of grass, twigs) the 50-200 displays the double bokeh. It depends how close the objects are to the in-focus area.

Otherwise it's an excellent lens. The bokeh of objects farther back from the in-focus area is quite nice, too.

Yeah, my next planed lens purchase has made to the TOP. :-)
What really struck me, why are there so much "Best camera" lists and no "Best Lens2 lists? Is the camera category more popular than the lens category?
Mike, could you please compile *your* TOP 10 list of lenses? BTW, thanks for your postings in 2011 and a happy new year!

The 80-100mm focal length (in old money) is one that fits my photographic eye, if I can indeed clam to have such a thing. 40mm is the other one I could happily restrict myself to - based on for example the Rollei 35 or the Summicron. As well as portraits, the short telephoto is something I prefer for landscapes. I'm probably not going to get into 4/3 because I have enough satisfying gear in larger formats, but I can see where this lens would make it's mark. Wonder how it would compare with the Zuiko 100mm F2 which I like, or the 90mm F2 even which I've never laid my hands on

@ Jim Simmons

I have the 40mm Summicron-C, I assume this is the lens you are referring to?

This is the last lens I will be using for portraits. It is sharp enough but the bokeh is quite harsh and in my opinion it does not have good enough micro contrast to render subtle variations in skin tones etc. Another issue is the minimum focal length (70cm?) which can be quite limiting when you want to close in on the subject.

It may sound like sacrilege, but you might be better off selling the Summicron and buying the Olympus 45mm.

Other interesting options to the Oly 45mm would be the 4:3 50 f/2 macro - pretty much the sharpest thing around (apart from Oly SHG), relatively small, relatively cheap, nice bokeh and good macro capability. If you don't mind the slow AF speeds, this might be worth looking at.

In my OM2n days, the Sp90 Tamron was my favourite short telephoto/portrait lens,I RECKON THE OLY 45 1.8 has taken it's place on my EP2....


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