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May 27

Thoughts on the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and Olympus 75mm f/1.8

In the Micro 4/3 world this past week has seen the official announcement of two lenses that had been previewed some time back by both Olympus and Panasonic.  This week saw the official announcements and pricing information.  On Monday, Panasonic released their 12-35mm f/2.8 standard zoom, while Olympus announced the 75mm f/1.8 on Thursday.  You can read the press release for the 12-35 here, and the 75mm f/1.8 here.

Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Monday finally saw the release of the long awaited fast standard zoom that Panasonic has been previewing for quite a long time.  It’s a 12-35mm with a constant f/2.8 aperture.  The focal length corresponds to the field of view a typical 24-70mm lens has on a full frame camera.  This is a versatile range, allowing a near ultra-wide field of view on the short end and a short portrait length on the long end.  It has a constant f/2.8 aperture and at least some rudimentary weather sealing (so those with an Olympus E-M5, currently the only weathersealed Micro 4/3 camera, can take advantage).

Then they announced the price: $1,300.  That’s pretty steep for a Micro 4/3 lens…in fact it’s the most expensive lens for the system yet announced.  A lot of people are up in arms over the price, and I’m somewhere in the middle.  I think for the system, a price of around $1,000 makes more sense, but $1,300 isn’t insane.

Early reviews are showing this lens to be a truly stellar performer, right from f/2.8.  In fact, it’s looking like one of the sharpest f/2.8 standard zooms for ANY camera system.    Now, those who feel the need to bang on depth of field equivalence will cry “but it only gives depth of field similar to f/5.6 on full frame!  What a ripoff!”  Well, I think that’s an irrelevant argument for a few reasons.

1. Users of Micro 4/3 know we give up some depth of field control in exchange for the smaller size of both camera bodies and lenses.  There is no need for Micro 4/3 lenses to be ‘equivalent’ in depth of field to their full frame counterparts.

2. It’s still an f/2.8 lens.  Exposure values will be the same as on any other format.  (And yes, I know that less total light hits the sensor than an f/2.8 lens on full frame just because of the area of the sensor…again, this is inherent in the format.)

3.  Name an f/5.6 standard zoom that has anywhere near this level of performance.  Can’t come up with one?  That’s because it doesn’t exist.

Anyway, I will likely not ever purchase this lens simply because I’ve never been a big standard zoom user.  I much prefer to use prime lenses in this range, and so I’ve generally had my standard zooms languish on the shelf (which is why the only one I own now is the super-cheap, but relatively decent, 14-42 kit zoom for my E-M5.  It does great when I do need it, but I don’t have a bunch of money tied up in a lens I rarely use).  However, this kind of lens is great to finally have for the system.  The real strength of Micro 4/3 has been its lenses, and Panasonic looks to be continuing the trend here.  For those who need a high quality fast zoom, it’s great to finally have one here.

Next, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8:

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

15 comments

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  1. M4/3Fan

    To add to your comment that others view the depth of field at f/2.8 on the Panasonic 12-35mm to be equivalent to a f/5.6 as a negative. Some might see that as an advantage. One does not need to stop down as far to obtain greater depth of field in an image. If you need it, for landscape photography, etc, then this helps you with a lower aperture or greater depth of field for the same aperture.

    1. El Aura

      What is the inherent advantage of achieving your DOF at f/2.8 (and, eg, 1/50 s & ISO 200) with m43 instead of f/5.6 (and 1/50 s & ISO 800) with FF, or f/4 (and 1/50 s & ISO 400) on DX?

      Right, there is none. For medium to high DOF, the advantage of m43 is in size and weight (and depending on lens and camera: price). But the lower numeric value of the f-stop for a given DOF is NOT an advantage, it is an irrelevance.

      1. Ricardo

        While it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that a m4/3 f2.8 having equivalent DOF to full frame f5.6 is a ‘benefit’, there ARE some upsides:

        1) Video. On M43 I can shoot in low light without wafer-thin DOF. (Not everyone wants shallow DOF all the time.)
        2) Low light interiors. On M43 I can shoot at a reasonably wide aperture, safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to ruin the photo with loads of OOF areas.
        3) Yes, landscapes. If a lens’ ideal performance range is f3-6, isn’t it nice to be able to shoot landscapes in that range, and not stop down to an aperture where the lens isn’t quite so sharp?

        Again, there are plenty of downsides to the M43 DOF situation, but some advantages too (which are oft forgotten).

  2. Agent00soul

    I didn’t get a lens hood with my Panasonic 20/1.7 and I have heard of no-one else that got one.

  3. Alan Halfhill

    You may not be buying the 12-35, but I will. We video guys love variable primes. f/2.8 fits the bill. Neither Canon nor Nikon have an Image Stabilized 24-70. OIS is also wonderful shooting video. I agree the price should be around $1000. I have not read anywhere on the the web that Panasonic has officially set the US list price will be. It has not been in any press releases. It has not been @ DPreview and many other preview sites. It seems the camera stores are trying to set the price.

  4. Ronnbot

    The 20/1.7 and 14/2.5 don’t come with lens hoods. The also don’t a way to quickly attach a hood, but you can use a common filter ring type hood. I use a rangefinder metal hood on my 20/1.7.

  5. sacundim

    Back before the days of the 70-200mm zoom lenses, the most common lens to play that “all in one telephoto” role was a 135mm prime lens. It’s a really useful focal length; it can do excellent portraiture if you’ve got the space, but it’s also just great for isolating little details around you, and for shooting landscapes.

    I’ve always liked this focal length much better than the 85-105 range, so I’m just delighted at this Olympus lens.

  6. Daemonius

    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/928678

    Just check this.. its thread worth looking at, especially some landscapes. :)

    Macro has DOF advantage too, reason why some ppl love Olympus 4/3 system until today..

  7. Dave

    I really like the look of this lens but the price is far too high. I could get a full frame nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 for £200 more in the UK or the tamron 24-70mm with stabilization for the same price as this. There is a lot more optical glass in those two lenses that somewhat justify the price. I can’t justify spending twice what my gx1+14mm f/2.5 + 14-42mm kit cost on one standard zoom lens. The other thing about the nikkor glass is that I am pretty much guaranteed to get 80% of what I paid for it back if I come to sell it, you can never say the same for m43 kit.

    I think your 3rd point about the aperture is pretty moot. It is like saying that there is no new Ferrari that goes from 0-60mph in 12 seconds. That is true but it is because they all do it in 4 seconds but could take 12 if they wanted. Pretty much all f/2.8 or f/4 zooms in this range will be as good as this at f/5.6. I love my gx1, and gf1 before that, but I am seriously considering stopping my investment in the system and getting a nikon D600 (if it is like the rumours suggest) with a fast standard zoom to compliment the gx1 + 14/20mm primes that I will use when low size+weight is important.

  8. T N Args

    Surely lens pricing should go up and down with the size of the glass elements. That’s why the Canon 400mm f4 costs so much more than the 400mm f5.6.

    Now the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS costs $1000. It produces a 28mm image circle.

    The new Panasonic equivalent produces a 22mm image circle, has smaller glass elements, and should be cheaper.

    1. Anders

      Smaller can also mean more difficult to construct i.e. more expensive… /A

  9. Davey

    The cost of developing a product and selling it at not very closely related to parts cost until you get into truly large scale production.

    I don’t know what volumes the 12-35 will be made in but I would imagine they are relatively small in terms of consumer electronics; perhaps a few thousand per month. At these levels the R&D investment, production tooling, sales, marketing and distribution costs will represent a significant chunk of the pricing equation.

    Panasonic have done a deal in the UK, ten lenses for £699 ea. (list in the UK is close to £1,000). I think this is probably a good indication of where the pricing will settle: $1,000 US, 800 Euro, £700 UK. Those prices are still on the high side but not outrageous.

    I would like it to be £500 but Panasonic are first to market with a fast normal zoom so they are setting a price which will give them a decent return. You could say it’s harsh but it also seems like a normal commercial decision too.

  10. Buck Brinson

    Is the lens parafocal? This is absolutely necessary for video

  11. Raj Sarma

    “Name an f/5.6 standard zoom that has anywhere near this level of performance. Can’t come up with one? That’s because it doesn’t exist.”

    This is such a false statement, I loved the 12-60mm lens on 4/3s and after switching to Nikon use the 24-120mm F/4 lens which is a stellar performer wide open through the entire focal range. And guess what, it costs the same as this lens and in fact can be had cheaper.

    Apart from the price, understand that there isn’t an inherent advantage to be gained in terms of DoF at these focal lengths and apertures, so I’d have appreciated that Pana-Olympus cameup with a quality 12-60mm F/4 zoom which is reasonably priced around $700-$800 and would in fact prove to be more versatile and useful.

    i love the concept of m4/3s, but I feel both Panasonic & Olympus are milking the cash cow. The E-P3 was so grossly overpriced and even the lenses are generally fabricated from plastic, use digital correction and lesser glass. Which is all fine with me, but you can’t tell people it costs the same to manufacture!

    Lastly, to suggest that this is the best F2.8 zoom ever is disingenuous to say the least.

  12. david blanchard

    Very nice read, i would love to get this lense to go along with my 25mm coming next week. I was wondering if your going to review the g5. Im not seeing alot of press on it and i think its a fantastic camera that needs some more attention

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