Prime movers

One of the main advantages of the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system is that there a lot of lenses available, most of these come from Panasonic and Olympus with a few from Sigma, Samyang as well as a smattering of lenses from much small players (such as Voigtlander).

I have used the Panasonic lenses may times before from the cheap and cheerful 14-42mm f4.5-5.6 to the more professional 35-100 f2.8 OIS lenses but have never used any of the Olympus lenses before although now that I am about to invest in their ecosystem I should consider their optics with a view to owning some of them.

35-100mm f2.8 Lens

Before I continue, I have always admired the quality of the Olympus prime lenses they are sharp, priced fairly (for the most part) and show the benefits of the MFT system as they are small and light. Some of the prime lenses are very well built too; the 75mm f1.8 lens is probably their top optic and would give Panasonic’s 42.5mm f1.2 lens a good run for its money. I should also state that this isn’t going to be a Panasonic bashing sessions eithe, they also have some very fine optics too.

Panasonic 42.5mm-f1.2

Stated earlier the main benefits of the MFT system is the number of lenses but the fact is that the Panasonic lenses work to their fullest capability on Panasonic bodies; similarly the Olympus lenses work to the best of their abilities on Olympus bodies. This is mainly due to the in-built lens correction algorithms built in to the Panasonic and Olympus bodies – for their own lenses. Secondly is the fact that Panasonic do image stabilisation in the lens (OIS – Optical Image Stabilisation) whereas Olympus do this in the camera’s body (IBIS – In Body Image Stabilisation).

The lenses are also marketed differently, nearly all Panasonic lenses come with a lens hood and lens bag, the Olympus lenses typically don’t although the new “PRO” line which only includes the 12-40mm f2.8 and the 40-150mm f2.8 do come with these accessories; the bag with these new Olympus lenses is nicer too. I suspect that the new PRO lenses, the forthcoming 300mm f4 and the 7-14mm f2.8 will also come with a hood and suede-leather bag too.

So without further a do what does the Olympus lens line-up look like? Olympus have 3 distinct ranges of lenses as well as a few oddities, these are as follows:

NOTE: All prices are correct at time of publication.

M.Zuiko PRO Lenses:

  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO – circa £799 (Weatherproof)
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO – circa £1299 (Weatherproof)
  • M.Zuiko Digital 1.4x teleconverter MC-14 – circa £299 (Weatherproof)

Theses are the best Olympus lenses in their line-up and today include only the two fully weather-proof 12-40mm (24-80mm) and the 40-150mm (80-300mm) f2.8 lenses. The 1.4x teleconverter is technically not a lens (PRO or otherwise) but it only works with the PRO lenses (the 40-150mm and the 300mm lenses). They are all weather-proof (dust-proof, water-proof and freeze-proof). This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to use these lenses attached to and equally weather-proofed OM-D in adverse weather conditions. I wouldn’t go diving with them though!🙂

ACCESSORIES_EZ-M4015__Product_090

The PRO range uses the best optics and are second only to the aforementioned 75mm f1.8 lens but only just. They use the very best that Olympus can manufacture and are not considered as budget lenses as can be seen by the price-point.

The other benefit of these lenses is that they have a manual “clutch” focus system that can be engaged by pulling back on the focusing ring. This give the added benefit of something called “snap-focus” whereby the camera can be focused on an object at one focus distance and the focus can be snapped to a different focus by pulling back on the focus ring – the manual focus position over-rides the (usually) different auto-focus position.

When I purchase the OM-D E-M1 it will come with the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens and I have pre-ordered the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens form my local London Camera Exchange. In fact I pre-ordered the 40-150mm +1.4Ex combo pack as this saves you £100 over purchasing them separately.

When the 300mm f4 lens is released I would like to own that lens but it will come down to what it will cost – I suspect we will be looking at £1500 to £2000 – it could be more😦

M.Zuiko Premium Lenses:

  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 MSC (Silver & Black) – circa £556 / £739 (Snapshot)
  • M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 MSC (Silver & Black) – circa £369 (Snapshot)
  • M.Zuiko Digital 25m f1.8 MSC (Silver & Black) – circa £349
  • M.Zuiko Digital 45m f1.8 MSC (Silver & Black) – circa £218
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro MSC – circa £365 (Weatherproof)
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f1.8 MSC (Silver & Black) – circa £719

Olympus also has a “mid-range” system of lenses that comprises purely of prime lenses ranging all the way from 12mm to 75mm (24mm to 150mm) and all but the Macro lens have an aperture of f2.0 or greater. All of these lenses are excellent optical performers and if Olympus were to create the lens line-up today many of these would have a PRO rating (it could be that even faster f1.4 or f1.2 variants are coming later).

Olympus 75mm f1.8 (Black)

All of these lenses also have the MSC designation which stands for “Movie and Stills Compatible”, this means that these lenses are silent or very nearly silent when they are focusing making them ideal for video with on-board sound-recording.

These lenses are however not fully weather proof apart from the 60mm Macro lens so this is most likely the reason that these are not PRO lenses. I can see a longer focal length macro lens in the future and that will probably be a PRO version.

As you can see both the 12mm and the 17mm have the “snap-shot” focus system as they also have manual focus clutch mechanisms.

M.Zuikio 60mm f2.8 Macro Lens

From this range the number one lens for me is the 60mm Macro as this is the most versatile lens there, I might also get the Black 45mm lens as it is so cheap. If I didn’t already own the Leica 25mm f1.4 lens I probably would have gone for the Black 25mm f1.8 lens too.

Yes, they are all magnificent lenses that I would obviously like to have but I have little practical reasons to own many more of them. If they come up cheap second-hand maybe…

M.Zuiko Lenses:

  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 – circa £480
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ (Silver & Black) – circa £280
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake (Silver & Black) – circa £250
  • M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R (Silver & Black) – circa £250
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f4.0.5-5.6 (Silver & Black) – circa £250
  • M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f2.8 Pancake (Silver& Black) – circa £230
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R (Silver& Black) – circa £230
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 II (Black) – circa £390

The budget or consumer lens range is the third in the Olympus line up an also contains their very first lenses released or newer versions of those lenses. You can see that they are not very fast; the 12-50mm has an aperture of f3.5-f6.3 and the 75-300mm lens has a range of f4.8-f6.7. All of these lenses are zoom lenses apart from the 17mm f2.8 pancake lens.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some gems in this lens line-up. The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Ez lens for example is incredibly small and compact when the camera it is mounted to is off. When the camera powers up the lens extends from it compact position and is ready to shoot. The “EZ” in the lens name is for “Electronic Zoom” and this lens is great for video and when you want a really compact lens on the camera. The lens also contracts into its compact home position when the camera is powered-down.

Until the PRO 7-14mm f2.8 lens is released your only wide-zoom options (in the MFT range) are the Panasonic 7-14mm f4 lens which isn’t cheap (circa £850) or the M.Zuiko 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens which is almost half the price.

M.Zuiko 9-18mm ED f4-5.6 Lens

The final lens that I will point out here is the 75-300mm lens, this is very similar to the Panasonic 70-300mm lens but is slower at the long end (f6.7 vs f5.7). Depending on who you believe this (mark II version) is very similar in performance to the Panasonic lens and maybe surpasses it. I’m not sure who to believe but I probably should have held onto my Panasonic lens until the PRO 300mm is available.

Although I wouldn’t mind having some of these lenses I will have to wait and see if good cheap second-hand variants come up as I would rather save my money for the 300mm and possibly the 7-14mm PRO lenses when they become available next year.

Other Stuff:

  • Body Cap Lens 15mm f8 (Silver, Black, Red and White) – circa £59
  • Body Cap Lens 9mm f8 Fisheye BCL-0980 (White & Black) – circa £89

Finally we have a couple of options that can only be placed in the “weird” lens camp. Both of these describe exactly what they do on the tin and yes both are (thick-ish) lens caps with a few built-in optical elements, they have no electrical contacts either.

Fish-eye Body Cap Lens

When you take into account what they are and what they cost they can actually be fun to use as long as you are aware of their limitations (manual focus, fixed aperture and limited optical quality). The fish-eye variant is particularly interesting and I will have to keep an eye out for a second-hand one preferably in black.