Olympus 25mm F/1.2 vs 25mm F/1.8 Lens Review

Part III - Olympus 25mm F/1.2 vs 25mm F/1.8 – Side by Side Comparison



About Tony Ventouris

"I am a full time commercial photographer specializing in architecture and panoramic imagery. I love working with all kinds of businesses and creative people in various industries to help them visually achieve their goals. I also love landscape photography and spending time creating images of insects and the natural world. I started the Unlocking Olympus site with the goal of helping others liberate their creative passion for photography through smaller and lighter gear. It has grown into an amazing community that has been a joy to interact with on a daily basis. Thank you my friends!"

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This it folks!  A lot of people have been waiting to see this.  Real world side by side images.  In part 1 we looked at just the Pro.  In part 2 we looked at just the M.Zuiko.  Now we see them together in the same scenes.

I shot everything on an E-M1 on a tripod.  I tried to ensure all variables stayed the same except for shutter speed obviously.  I wanted to match exposure and focus as much as possible.  I will show the images first, side by side out of lightroom.  I will give my opinion at the end since really your opinion is what matters….not mine.  Especially while you look at the images.  If you want to go back and reassess them after my rambling, that’s cool too.  I urge you to form your own opinion based on your eyes and needs however.

Size difference

With hoods on

Diameter Difference

It can hide in front of the other!

Generally the Pro is on the left and the M.Zuiko on the right.  Generally both lenses wide open unless I specify otherwise.

Pay attention to the background and dimensional qualities

Pay attention to the rocks and the foliage
Pay attention to the fence and background

F/7.1 full scene… see below for a crop

Center crop – see fine detail in metal and in far background trees

Pay attention to foreground and background – see crop below

See details and background

Pay attention to the sign and tree – See crop below

Notice letters and far background

Indoor Scene at F/7.1 focused on front candle- See crops below

Focus point crop – Pay attention to general details

Bottom right corner crop – see fine detail resolving

Focus on front center doll – See crops below

Center Crop

Bottom right corner crop


My opinion.

Wow.  Talk about nitpicking.  So I don’t like to judge lenses based on numbers, or based on one feature, or price alone.  I base my lens decisions on my actual needs and how I intend on using that lens.  Does the picture I want to make…get made the way I want it.  That is the bottom line.  With that thought in mind…here are some observations I can make from my own experience with these two lenses.

The Pro lens obviously has smoother bokeh wide open.  It’s a visible difference for sure.  Then again, at f/1.8 I get more in focus area.  For most of my shooting I found that to be more pleasing than a razor thin focus zone.  When it came to details and in focus areas…I actually found myself preferring the F/1.8 lens.  Of course you can stop down the Pro to F/1.8 as well.

The Pro lens doesn’t focus quite as close…but it’s roughly negligible.  The pro lens seemed to have a slightly warmer color tones.  Not enough to be a major factor.

The Pro lens is not a full stop faster at gathering light surprisingly.  I guess all the glass cuts it down a bit.  Shutter speeds were not as different as I expected.  Which is fine, it means even with the Pro I almost never needed a neutral density filter while shooting.  A major plus.  If you want slow shutters however…at F/1.2… you will need a LOT of ND.  Think 4 – 8 stops at least.  Same with the F/1.8 though.

I don’t think its just me… but I honestly found the F/1.2 to be a tighter field of view than the M.Zuiko.  Focal lengths are always rounded or approximated by manufacturers.  I don’t know which lens is what…but the F/1.8 lens certainly had a wider field of view.  Not by a huge amount…but it did.  You should be able to notice this in just about all of my full frame shots above.

Chromatic aberration is really well controlled in both lenses.  Both will show some in extreme cases…but they never showed it in the same way.  Sun stars also were more pleasing to me in the F/1.8.  The Pro lens was more diffuse and less pronounced in this area.  I like my big strong stars!

Once stopped down, both lenses delivered.  The Pro would on occasion reveal more detail in the finest areas…but I just can’t say it was enough to sway me one way or another.

The Pro Lens is more for someone who LOVES this field of view and wants the option of having the best quality while also being able to open up and have super smooth bokeh.  Weather sealing, lens function button, sure-handed handling, perfect manual focus, instant autofocus, and gorgeous colors.  You don’t mind spending because the lens delivers and you use this lens A LOT.  This is your go to lens.  And you will find most of your time at F/1.2.

The M.Zuiko is for someone who wants this field of view or wants a fast mid range prime to complement a zoom but doesn’t want the extra heft.  Nothing is lost in terms of optical quality in my opinion.  Or maybe you like street photography and want to be more discreet.  The bokeh is not quite as smooth…but if that is not your only quality it will hardly be noticeable most of the time.  If you didn’t have the lens next to the Pro, you woudn’t think twice about its bokeh generally.  It is good.

I made my choice.  I have ended up owning the 25mm F/1.8.  For me, I really love putting this on a camera body and taking it around as a personal photography lens.  I want small and compact.  I also throw it in the bag when I have my big Pro zooms set with me…but might want something smaller or faster for shots.  I would have loved to have kept both lenses.  At the end of the day the Pro just couldn’t justify itself for how I shoot.  I love it…but I can’t keep gear I don’t shoot with daily.  If I am stopping down, the 12-40 at 25mm gives me excellent results.  If I am wide open…the F/1.8 was giving me identical results at a fraction of the price with a bit less bokeh.  The Pro just didn’t fit into my equation right now.  I also prefer wider.  The 1.8 is wider and focuses just a tad closer.  Those are more important to me than 1 stop of bokeh…especially since there is not one stop greater light gathering.  The little F/1.8 is an amazing lens for its price.  It really is.

The Pro lens is stellar as well.  No doubt.  In fact, in a flat test against some lenses for a 36mm system… the Pro was amazingly good.  In fact it stood out as the better lens in my opinion.  Olympus created a remarkable lens.  I wish they would have made it half the size.  Honestly, if it was half the size I would have even paid $2000 for it.  For me it was just too big to justify it’s benefits over the smaller lens.  I try to buy equipment that I don’t want to return to the rental house, or just can’t put back down.  I adored the Pro while shooting with it.  I really did.  Especially the manual focus.  Oh it’s perfect.  I wish every Olympus lens focused like that…no…  I wish every focus-by-wire lens focused like that.  Sigh.  But when I shot with the smaller lens…i didn’t miss the Pro.  The F/1.8 lens just is that good too.

Well… what’s your opinion?  Which do you prefer?

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M.Zuiko 25mmF1.2
M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8