outlier_v (outlier_v) wrote,

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm 1:1.2 PRO. Non-technical review. (English version).

Indeed, that’s not fair! Olympus Russia provided me with the Glass of My Dreams (thanks a lot) to test it and allowed a whole two weeks for that. And during these two weeks there was not a single good sunny day.

So, here it comes. A hefty box, it has a lens, a leather case (who ever uses them?), and a lens hood. Let me just talk about the lens hood. The lens hood is perfect: with bayonet mount and additional fixation with a small convenient button (this is already some kind of gentleness). By the way, I could not get used to the old-school hood of Zuiko75/1.8. All these cogs and velvet interior (I foolishly rubbed it with a cotton pad, for which I was severely punished - it now looks like a stalk of a shedding cat), they certainly look vintage but, honestly, it is uncomfortable. In this case the lens hood is included and it's perfect.

By the way, I can’t say the same about the front cover of the lens. It's time to register a petition on change.org and start collecting votes for the Olympus transition to normal covers with jagged edges of the latches. Like Sigma does. Only such lids do not slip out of your hands and allow you to put on and off yourself in any weather, including frozen hands.

Give me another minute and I'll tell you about the back cover: it would be nice if it has huge numbers “45” on the back. Otherwise, imagine: there is someone who does things so well that he bought all three lenses from the top line: 17/25/45, and this someone put them in a bag and began to actively shoot, changing the glasses in a hurry. Imagined? (I agree, it is not easy to imagine such a prosperous person in our troubled times, but someone must live well). So, all three lenses have a similar design, almost exactly match in size and feel. Well, how to distinguish them, if you need to do it quickly? Here, the covers with large numbers indicate focus distance size will help if suddenly you need to change it rapidly.

Why am I so attached to these caps? Now I will explain - here at least there is something to blame the developers. For everything else in this piece of the "gloomy Japanese genius" is almost flawless. By the way that's why I do not want to do a video review of the novelty. It would be extremely brief. Imagine - I go out in a white tuxedo with a lens in my hands and declare: "it is absolutely beautiful, start saving money." It's boring. Therefore, it is better to write my thoughts in written form.

Summarizing the above, I want to say that all the examples in this review are obtained by shooting in RAW with subsequent development in RawTherapee 5.3, and do not contain any processing other than the croping (on several frames). Therefore, I ask you to treat with understanding to not quite perfect skin on the faces of some girls. Those, who had dubious happiness to observe the girls in real life will confirm that they are not all absolutely perfect. But this is not the subject of our today's discussion, and therefore I ask you not to discuss this topic here. I posted everything as is, so you can draw conclusions about the lens. Many frames contain an active reference so clicking on them you can download full-size pictures. Enjoy.


Olympus makes the same construction for the whole professional lens line. This not only reduces production costs, it also guarantees similar tactile feelings and a uniform operation style. It is important for professional use. I admit, I was and remain a fan of the old design of the very first Zuiko Digital lenses - their square notch was convenient and did not collect dust and dirt (Hi, Fuji with its dust collectors). When the 12-40 appeared, I thought: well, damn, and then it began ... However, no.

For some reason, dense metal notches in Zuiko do not collect dirt. Apparently, the material or profile of notches are different from ones on Fuji. It's great. And even, probably, it is better than rubber overlays. I heard that people complained that the rubber lining swells in extensive usage. We do not risk anything here.

It is not known how it is designed internally, whether it is reliable waterproof, (not tested) and for how long all mechanics will remain as precisious as on the day of purchase. Let's hope that for such money it is done robust. Anyhow the earlier top Zuiko lenses prove to be flawless and durable.

At first, I was afraid that such a big lens would be uncomfortable on my PEN-F. And I even wanted to rent an extra grip. But strangely enough, the lens handling is absolutely convenient.

That's what I did not like is a pretty easy move of the ring, which switches AF / MF focusing. Here we find the same solution that we already know on the younger lenses of the system - the shift of the focus ring reveals depth-of-field scale and switches the focus to manual mode. It is actually quite comfortable in operation. But this switch is pretty tight on small lenses, here it's softer. Sometimes I shifted it accidentally.

In the rest all is decently crafted. It looks and feels expensive. Without stupid color displays like some do, but just as you expect for such and such money. The phrase "for such money" will often appear here for two reasons. First, the price, this is the one and only significant drawback that we managed to find. Secondly, the expectations in the pro lens category are always high and I still want to tell the manufacturer that he forces us to sell the kidneys to pay for this new tool. :)

Another point that did not catch the eye immediately, but which I noticed in two weeks. The proprietary antireflection coating not only crushes the flare, it repels dust for some reason. Apparently, it has some kind of unknown dust-water-shit-repellent properties. It's great.


Fast, silent and accurate. This is perhaps the first glass with which AF of my PEN-F has not been mistaken once in two weeks. I'm not kidding. And in terrible conditions (aperture 1.2 directly provokes to shoot in all sorts of obscene places, where there is no light).

If the AF still refuses to work (for example, camera focuses on the rear branches of the tree, but you need the front ones), then the lens turns into a manual one by the shift of the focusing ring. Rotation of the focusing ring is perfectly damped. Feeling like the old Zuiko of the late 70's. Together with the focus picking this turns into a real pleasure to use. Perhaps, this is my first camera-glass combination, which makes manual focusing absolutely comfortable and applicable in most shooting situations.

Regarding the AF-C mode, I'll say: I think it's masochism to test it for PEN-F, so I did not disgrace myself and this part of the research will be left to OM-D EM-1 II owners. :)

Image quality.

Actually the "show stopper" of this lens is bokeh. Well, on the other hand, when you design a top-notch portrait lens in the system, what can be more important than the resulting picture? All the other parameters just have to be on top for that price. But they can still be measured. The picture itself is a very subjective thing otherwise. It is clear that there are MTF graphs, you can measure resolution and aberrations, but still there are things that remain beyond the bounds of objective measurements.
And yet they affect the feeling of the resulting picture very much. Yes, yes, all these things like "image plastics", "bokeh" and so on exist and work.

I will show examples (a lot of) and give them my own, absolutely subjective assessment. I will compare 45/1.2 with its competitors: Fujifilm 56/1.2 and
Panasonic 42.5/1.7 (the latter is taken for lack of 42.5/1.2 at hand, purely for example).

Since we have a portrait lens in our hands (although I think that any glass that I'm currently doing portraiture is a portrait one), then we'll start with the portraits:

As you can see, this is a definitively a portrait lens. On the one hand, everything is tack sharp and the resolution allows you to print your pictures on huge formats. On the other hand, there is no pronounced “dermatology” which is typical for many macro lenses, which are often used as portrait ones. Everything is very balanced here. And besides, the bokeh is very soft, objects laying in the blur zone are recognizable (something that my favorite Sigma 60 / 2.8 lacks, where people sometimes get bluntly pasted into the background).

Marketers pressed especially on bokeh at the launch of Zuiko 45/1.2. It is stated that this lens works in the blur zone like STF lenses from Sony, or APD lens from Fuji. But similar lenses from competitors have some light transmission loss (due to some design aspects) and they are more expensive.

Well, what can I say. At first I was skeptical about such statements. But after two weeks of shooting my opinion is: bokeh is really beautiful. Blurring the background in the mess is not difficult. But to blur it so, that the contours of objects are read and recognizable (if it is necessary), so that the object does not hang in the air, so that bright light sources do not bubble in the background - it's not easy.

In this case, the developers succeeded. All these impressions are very subjective. I will not even argue. How many people - so many opinions. But personally I really like it.

Let's just look at the pictures. Let everyone decide for himself whether the lens is good or not.

What I particularly liked - bokeh does not degrade as you close the aperture. My old manual lenses (which I regularly shoot) are usually render images in such artistic manner only being wide opened. Close them on a half of a stop and all “magic” will go away. In case of Zuiko 45/1.2 bokeh continues to remain "creamy" right up to F4.0

See for yourself:



Another example:





Definitely all this fuss about bokeh does really worth it. I read the explanation on the manufacturer's website, check the schemes and to be honest I did not understand anything. But I'm looking at the resulting pictures and I see - it works. And it works great. For example:

And now - a minute of idiocy. We will compare apples with oranges. So the laws of the genre are forced to do this here. ;)

So we compare Zuiko 45/1.2, Fuji 56/1.2, Panasonic 42.5/1.7 all about 85 mm in terms of full frame.

The claims that this comparison is incorrect are not accepted. I did it in a way which is convenient to me personally. If you want to remake - buy a glass and remake. And those, who just want to make their own conclusions are welcome:

Panasonic 42.5/1.7

Fuji 56/1.2

Olympus 42.5/1.2

So what do we see? Everyone will see something of their own. I will express only my own opinion. My hit parade in this case looks like this: Olympus -> Panasonic -> Fuji.

Surprisingly, not that the Olympus won, it's surprising that Panasonic took the second place.

However, technically there is nothing to complain about. At a time when both Olympus and Panasonic show a fairly moderate drop in resolution at the frame angles, Fuji shows acceptable IQ in the corners only from F2.8. That means that shooting with Fuji you have to beat yourself on the hands and compose so that the person you're shooting is close to the center of the frame. In the center, by the way, it is beautiful. But the tool that imposes a style of work for you is not something you want to get for such a lot of money (oh damn, again I'm talking about money).

So, two things are obvious to me: the high resolution of the new glass, even being fully open, and (which is quite important to me) is a very decent resolution at the edges. This allows you to build picture based on composition rules rather than technical factors. And the second point which I have already mentioned is that when you close this lens even to F4.0, the bokeh remains pleasant to the eye. Which again is quite valuable in many shooting scenarios.

Work in backlight.

When I first saw the optical scheme of this lens I was shocked - Olympus squeezed as much glass there: 14 elements in 10 groups is a serious thing and quite a challenge in terms of flare control. The dull weather did not allow me to enjoy shooting against the sun, but here is a pair of images that clearly shows, that the contrast when shooting against the light does not fall and artifacts are not visible.

Here are some more examples of shooting against the light, where you can see that even in backlight, a lot of detail in the shadows are still visible. This indicates a quality blacking of all internal surfaces and excellent lens coatings.

Here again you see that bokeh remains pleasant while closing aperture:



Work in low light.

I was lucky enough to get to the exhibition of photographs of jazz musicians. The exhibition was beautiful, but the lighting in the lobby was made on nasty fluorescent lamps. Nevertheless, I tried to do some portraiture, and in these conditions, which were not so comfortable for PEN-F, the number of focus misses was quite small.

Here are some additional samples captured in low light:

Let's sum it up. Each system must have its own ultimate portrait lens. So we have it in the micro 4/3 system now! Frankly, the younger sibling - Zuiko 45/1.8 is very good lens. But still I never liked it. I played with it and sold it. I use Panasonic 42.5/1.7 instead.

When Zuiko 75/1.8 became available I almost completely switched to it simply because the resolution was much higher, and the bokeh was more pleasant. But my favorite focal length is 85-90 mm. And now there is a tool that will close the topic for me once and for all. For two weeks that I played with it, I never once use anything else on the camera simply because my needs were covered by 99%. I can generally sell all my gear and buy only one this piece of glass. And this lens is not a an expencive toy, but a tool - something that works always and is absolutely predictable



- Outstanding resolution for a large frame area

- Fast and accurate AF

- beautiful bokeh up to F4.0

- professional constructive, dust and splash protection


- chromatic aberrations wide open (and which lens does not have them?)

- sometimes it's too easy to switch to MF by shifting the focusing ring

- price

Conclusion: if you can afford it, buy it. Period.

Tags: olympus, zuiko 45/1.2 pro

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