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

Contents


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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[easyazon_link identifier=”B01LW4IFUI” locale=”US” tag=”mhmedia07-20″]M.Zuiko 25mmF1.2[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00HWMP0XG” locale=”US” tag=”mhmedia07-20″]M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8[/easyazon_link]


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"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!"

11 Comments

  1. Good review and fine comparison. I mostly use the 17mm 1.8 as a walk-around for my street photography, however, I’ve been on the fence too… and settling for the 25mm 1.8. I think mostly it is about size for me. I was also leaning towards the 25mm Pana/Leica 1.4 — but the size of the Oly is swaying me, not to mention it is also half the price of the Pana.

  2. Thanks for your grate comparison. I would go for the 1.8 version because
    of weight and cost but I went on with the Panasonic 25mm 1.4 😉
    This
    lens is not as big as the 1.2, it is light and it performs very well on
    the E-M1. In fact there is another lens that needs to be considered in
    this comparison, the Sigma 30mm f1.4.
    As you see you have a lot of “low cost” options to get more light on your sensor if you look around.

  3. I think the 1.2 would be great if you were in some harsh conditions, and needed weather sealing. Other than that, I don’t think you could justify the added size and weight if there wasn’t any sort of light gathering ability. I have the 1.8 and it stays on my camera because it’s small, light, sharp, and generally just gets out of my way. I feel like the 1.2 would get in my way, and equipment that gets in the way is never good.

  4. I had the 1.8 and upgraded to the 1.2…

    I think that the 1.8 lens does not provide enough background blur when you want to fit a larger subject (like a 3/4 or full person) in the frame. The 1.2 is just enough.
    Also I think that the transition between focused and out-of-focus areas looks smoother with the 1.2 (even when stopped down to the same 1.8). Plus I love the subtle “swirly” quality of the background, as seen in the first turtle photo here.

    I’m saddened by the size and weight, but finally I’m getting the smoothness I wanted.

    Oh and the lens hood of the 1.8 lens is really crappy. Kept falling off while walking.

  5. As an owner of the Pro lens, I agree with your decision to stick with the 25 1/8. I think the points you made that it works for your needs are very well thought out.

    As for me I do like the Weather sealing and yes the Manual Focus is a dream to use, for a while I thought it was real manual focus as it is just like my Voigtlander 17.5mm. I cant believe its Focus by Wire. I am finding I am using the manual focus now more often because the AF cannot be trusted at such thin DOF especially with faces that are not front on where it cannot obtain EYE focus, not ony my lowly Em 5 MK 1 with its large focus box.

    i think the main advantage is you can step back and take wider shots than the F1.8 and still have smoother bokeh and transitions. So your point about the 1.8 being wider is true – but it depends if you still want really smooth bokeh, you can step much further back with the PRO lense and as they say “have your cake and eat it too”. These are the type of shots I like – more than the close up shots where only a sliver is in focus. This is where the lens really shines and gives the most 3d look because you capture alot of foreground as well as the background – and the smooth transitions from OOF to Focus to OOF really gives a 3D look.

  6. Thank you for doing this review, Tony. I like that you did a side by side. I am mostly a video shooter using Lumix cameras with adapted lenses. I did not yet commit to m4/3 lenses and only have the 12-35mm f2.8 from lumix. I am currently testing the Olympus 25mm f1.8 and my frustration with most af native lenses are the lack of a good manual option. The lumix lenses I have tested, including the 25mm f1.7 lumix all RESET their focus settings when the camera is turned off and on again. So my question to you is this, in your test of the Olympus 25mm f1.2, when you engage the manual focus clutch, will it have,
    1. Hard focus stops that are repeatable, (I might need this when using a follow focus)
    2. With the clutch engaged, will the focus settings remain even when camera is turned off and on again? I need this when using the camera on a film set where we might take a break and need the same settings upon return.

    Again, thanks for your review.

  7. Thank you for doing this review, Tony. I like that you did a side by side. I am mostly a video shooter using Lumix cameras with adapted lenses. I did not yet commit to m4/3 lenses and only have the 12-35mm f2.8 from lumix. I am currently testing the Olympus 25mm f1.8 and my frustration with most af native lenses are the lack of a good manual option. The lumix lenses I have tested, including the 25mm f1.7 lumix all RESET their focus settings when the camera is turned off and on again. So my question to you is this, in your test of the Olympus 25mm f1.2, when you engage the manual focus clutch, will it have,
    1. Hard focus stops that are repeatable, (I might need this when using a follow focus)
    2. With the clutch engaged, will the focus settings remain even when camera is turned off and on again? I need this when using the camera on a film set where we might take a break and need the same settings upon return.

    Again, thanks for your review.

    1. Hi Ted,
      In case Tony doesn’t get back to you, I’d like to give you my experience with the Olympus clutch (albeit on the 12mm 2.0, so it might be different with this 25mm 1.2).
      Like you, I found it frustrating as all hell when my focus would have to be reset when the camera was turned off or went to sleep between takes. With the Oly lens and the clutch “disengaged” (pulled back to ensure full manual control), the focus point does indeed remain the same.
      I only hope the results are the same with this 25mm lens as they are with my little 12mm!

  8. Thanks for your very helpful review Tony. I currently have the Panasonic 15mm f1.7 but it doesn’t seem to play too well with my Olympus OMD-EM5 Mk2, so I was contemplating perhaps the upcoming Oly 17mm f1.2 Pro… OR… for a LESSER price, get BOTH an Oly 17mm and 25mm f1.8. I think your review above convinced me of the latter, because frankly, having already got the Oly 12-40mm Pro lens, like you, I’m now much preferring to smaller size lens (that was what the micro four thirds system is meant to do). Appreciate the review.

  9. Lensrentals did a review of all the M43 25mm’s. Seems to echo your findings here. The 25mm 1.8 really is a surprisingly good lens for the money. I’ve done test shots against my loxia 50mm on an A7. It can really give the 50 a run for it’s money. No, the sensor and lens combination doesn’t resolve quite as much. In the center under 24MP though, you’d be hard pressed to see seriously massive difference. I really wish they had re-released a 25 and 45mm with better build and aperture rings. Perhaps 9 blades. Instead we got bazooka sized lenses at Zeiss prices. I’m not complaining but for me…that’s the brakes.

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