Feb 24

Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8


Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

In June of 2011, Olympus announced two new prime lenses for the Micro 4/3 standard: the M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 and the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8.  Today I’m going to take a closer look at the 45mm f/1.8, which I have had the pleasure of shooting with for the past few months.  It was quite refreshing to see Olympus start to release lenses for the Micro 4/3 standard that appeal to enthusiasts and not just the casual photographer looking for a small step up from a point and shoot.  Olympus has many lenses for the Micro 4/3 format, but few primes.  In fact, the tiny 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens was the company’s only prime lens in the lineup until the announcement of these two new lenses.  Both these lenses addressed a need for the system, but none more than the 45mm f/1.8.  The Micro 4/3 standard had some excellent ultra-wide options, some quality normal focal length options and plenty of slow standard and telephoto zooms.  What was sorely lacking was a fast prime in the prototypical ‘portrait focal length’, which in 35mm film terms has been lenses between 85mm and 135mm.  With the 45mm f/1.8, Olympus has given us a relatively fast lens that has the same field of view as a 90mm lens on 35mm film or full frame digital.

As this is my first lens review, I’ll give you a small insight into how I will be evaluating lenses.  My reviews will take a practical approach.  I will not be shooting test charts and analyzing pixels of chromatic aberration or line pairs of resolution.  There are plenty of websites out there that do these sorts of tests.  While I use those sites as an excellent reference, it is ultimately a bunch of numbers, and while those numbers can give you an idea of how a lens performs, it doesn’t really tell you or show you how a lens acts in the real world.   My reviews will cover most of the main topics of lens quality, such as resolution, bokeh, chromatic aberration, autofocus speed, etc, but the means of discussion will be practical, and detail how they affect your final image and how the lens truly works in real world use.

Build Quality and Ergonomics

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit

The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is a small lens.  It’s made for a small system, so this is a great thing, but even though I knew the specifications of the lens before it arrived, it still shocked me as to how tiny it was for a lens of its focal length and aperture.  You can see in the picture at theright that the lens is significantly smaller than the Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro, and indeed, the lens fits easily into the palm of your hand.  In reality, it’s not much larger than a 35mm film cannister…it’s shorter and a little fatter.

The lens has an attractive silver finish that is meant to work well with the Olympus Pen series, but also looks quite nice on the Panasonic bodies, either in black or the gunmetal silver of my GX1.

The majority of the lens body is made of plastic, with a metal mount.  The front silver ring containing the signature blue “Zuiko Digital” stripe is also metal.

Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Front Element

The focus ring is wide for the body of the lens and turns smoothly.  Like all Micro 4/3 lenses, manual focus is done by wire, and so there are no hard stops on the focus ring.  While the ring turns smoothly, the construction of the ring feels a little cheap.  Given the $399 price tag for the lens, I wish they had at least used a heavier plastic for the focus ring.

The silver ring at the end of the lens conceals a bayonet mount for attaching the optional round lens hood.  I also feel for the price of the lens, that the lens hood should be included in the box, but frankly that’s a minor nitpick.  Given the lens’ small size, I feel the large hood would somewhat defeat the purpose of having a tiny little lens like this to carry around.  Overall, build is solid and there is very little to complain about here.  The front of the lens is simple and clean, with 37mm filter threads.  Because the lens is internal focus with no rotating elements, use of a polarizer is easy, though finding a quality one with 37mm filter threads may be a challenge.

Continue: Image Quality and Performance

About the author

Jordan Steele

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


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  1. cosinaphile

    thanks for a concise and highly readable review …. as an owner of the m. zukio 12mm f 2 lens the only thing i would add to your conclusionary remarks comparing the lenses is that the 12 , while being a focus by wire design does have a finite throw of its focus mechanism…. i mush prefer this to the spinning behavior of the 45
    or most other modern lenses

    your review has cemented it for me , i was leaning toward getting this lens . but now i have firmly decided to buy it …

  2. Wolfgang Lonien

    Good review, Jordan. Who has it, loves it. Who doesn’t, wants it. What’s more to say? Oh, perhaps that it didn’t leave my wife’s camera since her birthday in early February. That’s good for me, because now I can borrow her 20mm from time to time 😉

  3. m43fan

    Great Review Jordan. I have the Panasonic Leica 45mm macro, and noted that you must have it as well. While these lenses are a bit different in that the PL 45mm is a macro after all and the Olympus 45mm is faster at f/1.8. I was curious on your views about the differences in the image rendering between the two. Do you see the benefits of the Olympus being great enough to own alongside the PL 45mm?

  4. dreamcatcher

    would you rather the 12mm f2.0 or the 45mm f1.8?
    i have heard there is a new lens coming out for olympus
    “The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm F1.8 lens”
    what is the best prime for m zuiko???
    as a fashion photographer id love your advice on these primes in comparison to each other?

  5. Bill

    JORDAN! – I’m just A noob subscribing to the thread to see your answer to the previous two noob questions.

    (:-{)} ¡Thanks!


  6. TCK

    I must be the only person in the world that simply does not like this lens. Compared too the Panasonic 45 the Olympus has ugly bokeh, and not nice rendering of colours. It also does not have the same creamy feel to the images in my opinion. The olympus is a very fine lens for the money, but i end up never using it.

  7. carpandean

    A little late to this review, but I’ll answer some questions. I own both the PL45 and the Olympus 45, and have used both on my previous GX1 and my new E-M5.

    Benefits of O45 over PL45:

    Smaller – significantly so, largely due to the in-lens stabilization and macro ability of the PL45.

    Faster – over 1 stop faster, which helps with low light to keep shutter speeds faster and/or ISO lower (though, E-M5’s low light ability does help some with the PL45 vs. my older GX1, as ISO3200 becomes useful) and when you absolutely need to isolate your subject from the background. It’s harder to get that “DSLR look” that some crave on m43 due to the higher crop factor (much harder vs. full frame, a little harder vs. APS-C “crop sensor” DSLRs), so having the option to open the aperture up wider definitely helps. It takes more careful planning (e.g., background further away) to get the same look with the PL45.

    Drawbacks of O45:

    No real macro ability – may not be a big deal for many

    No in-lens stabilization – definitely noticeable on Panasonic bodies, which lack in-body IS, but not on Olympus bodies, especially the E-M5. Note: this IS only helps with camera movement, not with subject movement (blur).

    Lower build quality – it does feel a little cheap compared to the PL45

    Bokeh – very subjective, but I agree with TCK that, all else equal (aperture, distances, etc.), I prefer the PL45 bokeh (how nice the blurry parts look.) Of course, being able to shoot at f/1.8 with allow for a lot more background blur, if desired, so I’d take the desired amount of “good” bokeh over too little “great” bokeh when that’s what I’m going for.

    Comes in black – again, very subjective, but I hate that Olympus has only introduced one of its current primes (12/2, 17/1.8, 45/1.8 and 75/1.8) in black, and that was a $300 premium over the “silver (champagne) version (though, it did come with a hood … *rolling eyes*.) The PL45 looks amazing on the E-M5, while the O45 looks ok … interesting … something.

    Size – sometimes having a little more lens to hold onto with your left hand helps to stabilize it. The O45 seems almost too small in this regard. Also, the PL45 just looks more proportionate with my E-M5, especially with the 1st part of the HLD-6 grip on it.

    So, there are reasons to own both. If you have an Olympus body and don’t to much macro work, then the O45 is fine on its own.

    Dreamcatcher: the 12, 45 and 75 will have radically different fields of view, so that should be your reason for choosing one. The 12mm is quite wide, so you get the whole scene, but will have perspective problems if you get in close enough to focus on a single person. The 45 is a “normal” lens that gives you something close to what we humans are used to. It’s good for basic portraits, including full body (move back a little.) The 75 is optically phenomenal – one of the best lenses on any system – but is very long, so it is only useful for head-and-shoulder portraits (or other things like sports and birds) … but they will be absolutely beautiful!! Talk about buttery bokeh!!

  8. carpandean

    Oops. Brain fart. The 17mm is “normal” on m43, while 45mm is short telephoto (on FF, it would be on the longer end of “normal”. Regardless, the O45 is best for basic portrait work.

  9. Mahesh

    I was wondering how olympus 60mm compares with the 75mm for portraits and general photography?
    They are of course difference in their view. I am interested in knowing image quality, microcontrast etc.

    1. Jordan Steele

      They are both phenomenal lenses. I have reviewed both here, so take a look at their reviews. Overall, the 75mm is the better lens for portraits simply because of the ability to control depth of field a little more. It’s also the sharper lens by just a hair (though you’d be very hard pressed to see it). The 60/2.8 is also extremely sharp, has almost no chromatic aberration and has very pleasing bokeh as well, though not as much blur capability as the 75mm. They both produce very punchy, sharp images with smooth backgrounds and great color. The 60mm is a little more versatile, since it can do great portraits and phenomenal macro work, while the 75mm is a more specialist length, but it’s also better at infinity. Pick your poison. I own both and plan on keeping both, but if I could only keep one, I’d likely keep the 60mm for it’s dual duty capability, even though I think the 75mm is probably the best portrait lens I’ve ever owned.

  10. Ikay

    Hello, I’m new here and very glad to have found this site. Thanks for the great review Jordan. The lack of statistics and datasheets makes your reviews thoroughly enjoyable !
    Just for info : I own the Oly 45mm f/1.8 IN BLACK !! I live in Europe though, so it may be different here. We get the lens in silver OR black.
    And I agree: it’s an absolutely fantastic lens !

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