Part II - The Olympus 25mm F/1.8
Welcome to part 2 of this comparison. I am going to focus on the Olympus 25mm F/1.8 lens in this section. If you missed part 1, I looked at the 25mm F/1.2 Pro lens. In part 3 I will be comparing these two lenses together and really seeing the difference between them. I loved the 25mm Pro. I was surprised. I have always been more of a “35mm” focal length person and much less a “normal view” shooter. However, Olympus 25mm lenses have been slowly changing that. I have been shooting with this view a lot more lately and I really am starting to like it. The Olympus 25mm F/1.8 is just slightly shorter than the 45mm prime, and just slightly taller than the 17mm prime. It is wider than the 45mm though, and roughly similar to the 17. The 17 has a nicer feel. This 25mm really just feels exactly like the 45mm. In fact…it is very similar to the 45mm in terms of results as well.
The lens hood is a twist to lock and holds in place very well. Easy and simple design. It also reverse for storage. Then again…on such a small lens you may never need to reverse it even for storage.
You can see in the photo above and below the lens is small. It has a 46mm filter thread. If you use this lens on an E-PL of pen F body the entire package will be very compact. The focus ring does not have a clutch and the grip is plastic. The manual focus feel is similar to other Olympus lenses…the feel is good…but small adjustments seem to not be linear to large adjustments. I wish Olympus would adjust their electronic focus to be smoother and more consistent in this regard. Large adjustments are quicker and smoother than small adjustments. Small adjustments seem to need more turn that doesn’t make sense.
You can see in this photo below the lens mounted on an E-M1. The lens will barely extend past your knuckles when holding the camera. Small, light, and surprisingly solid in image quality. This lens holds true to the M43 ethos. The body is plastic unfortunately. It keeps the weight low…but it would have been nice to have the metal feel. Regardless, the lens still feels decent.
This is a pretty simple lens in terms of body and construction. The lens is not weather sealed but doesn’t seem to have too many points of entry aside from the focus ring and mount once a filter is added. Not too much to say. It does have two aspherical elements and seems pretty well controlled in terms of vignetting and distortion. Some of this might be software correction. Regardless, not too much to say on these fronts. Lets jump into some photos.
This lens is totally made to shoot wide open. Close focus is REALLY close for a lens of this focal length. 9.4″ is the spec. Quality holds up nicely when in close and wide open. You can see in this shot focus fades out nicely and is not overly busy at all. Very pleasing in my opinion.
One thing that jumps out to me is how much detail is rendered sharply. Some people might think F/1.8 is not enough on m43 cameras…but I think this is a good sweet spot. You have plenty of rendered focus…plus plenty out of focus areas. I haven’t felt this lens needed a wider aperture while shooting with it.
In these two shots you can see how quickly focus falls out yet the main subject areas are still retained. A faster lens would have had less of the face and ears in focus.
Nice “story-telling” bokeh. I really like the look of this rendering.
This shot above shows off nice controlled starbursts at F/11. Not too wild, and only on the major points of light.
In this shot I intentionally tried to get flare. I really like lens flare with this lens. It’s simple and pleasing. Contrast softens a little…but it still retains nice color and doesn’t give odd artifacts or spots.
With this focal length, portraits are perfect when shooting full body up to about waist up. Anything tighter requires you to get close and still introduces a little perspective distortion. That’s why most people consider the “next focal length up” a portrait lens. The 45mm, 60mm, etc… Your subject might not be so comfortable with you this close…but the pictures will still be great. Wide open there is enough depth of field to get eyes sharp, and a bit of the nose too. Just enough honestly.
Rendering is nice and soft and works perfect for images like these. Household personal photography where you want some impact. Sure you could have shot this with a phone…but it would not look nearly this nice. And no this cutey is not mine…but the lens is! I find this lens can really go both ways in processing as well. You can reduce contrast a little and have a wonderfully smooth image, or you can push contrast and add some clarity to really bite in the details. This lens handles both outputs great and is very flexible when it comes to the look in processing. Great detail is rendered without being overly clinical or biting in the detail edges.
Again, another example of smooth fall off of the focus.
There two previous images are examples to show just how little the plane of focus can be even at F/1.8 on m43. The closer you get the smaller the plane. Even at a 5 – 10 foot distance you can get great separation and that 3D pop.
In conclusion… I really enjoy the F/1.8 25mm lens. I find it grew on me very quickly as a “personal photography” lens. I found I was leaving it on my camera as my every day walk around setup. In fact the look of the files, the colors, the bokeh all was really pleasing in these scenarios. The lens was never too tight…and in fact you can even take a selfie with it. You won’t have a lot of extra scene in the frame…but it is just enough area for two people to takes a selfie! Focusing is quick, it hardly adds any weight to the camera, and offers excellent results. It is not the most critically sharp lens, but it definitely delivers. I feel it is basically the Olympus 45mm shrunken down to 25mm. I really feel as if it is the same lens with a wider view. If you like the 45mm you will love this 25mm lens. I would have liked the body to have been closer in feel to the 17mm. I certainly did not expect it to be like the pro, but for such an inexpensive lens I can live with the plastic. Especially when the lens delivers honestly very good images. I really feel this is one of those quiet little gems in the Olympus lineup. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
In the next part I will be comparing this lens directly to the 25mm Pro. This is where things get mighty interesting. You certainly do not want to miss it. Stay tuned!