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Apr 05

Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8

Image Quality

Sharpness

To put it bluntly, the Olympus 25mm is one of those lenses that you don’t need to worry about sharpness at any aperture.  It is very sharp right from f/1.8, across essentially the entire frame.  While the center sharpness isn’t as blisteringly crazy sharp as something like the Olympus 75mm or the 42.5mm Nocticron, it is plenty good enough for any purpose you could think of, and this quality continues to the edges.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

Stopping down can yield very slightly higher resolution than wide open, but we’re splitting hairs there.  Pick the aperture for the depth of field you want or the amount of light you have and let the lens do its thing. Take a look at the image to the left, taken at a relatively close focus distance at f/1.8.  Click to enlarge and see the excellent levels of detail this lens can produce at f/1.8.

Bokeh

Olympus has done a relatively good job with the bokeh on the 25mm f/1.8.  For the most part, out of focus areas are rendered very neutrally, with smooth backgrounds and evenly lit specular highlights.  When focusing further out, backgrounds can start to get a little busy, but this has more to do with the amount of blur rather than the way the lens renders.  There is some green fringing visible in the background at times, though it’s generally not too distracting.  In all, a good performance here.

I will say, while the difference in amount of background blur isn’t staggeringly different from something like the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4, I did find the 25mm f/1.8 crossed that fine line in my mind where I wished for more blur.  This line will come at a different point for every shooter, but often I was wishing for just a little more separation than I could achieve with this lens, especially when shooting a little further away from my subject.  I don’t generally feel this way when shooting the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, so it seems that for me, the line is right in that area.

Color, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration

Skyscraper Sky - Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/4

Skyscraper Sky – Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 25mm f/1.8 @ f/4

Overall image contrast with the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is on a very high level, right from f/1.8.  In fact, there’s almost no discernible difference in contrast from f/1.8 to f/4.  Likewise, colors are rich and vibrant.  Nothing to complain about here in that department.

There is a small amount of lateral chromatic aberration visible in the right circumstances with this lens, though it’s on a low level that is extremely easy to correct.  In most cases, I didn’t see any.  The lens does display a small amount of longitudinal CA, but even this is quite well controlled.

Distortion, Flare and Vignetting

The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 has a minor amount of barrel distortion that can be corrected easily and will only be visible in the most stringent straight line situations.  The lens works well against bright light as well, maintaining good contrast and producing a minimum of ghosting when the sun or another bright light source is in the frame, or just out of the frame.

If there is one weakness to the 25mm f/1.8, it’s in the vignetting department.  I’d imagine Olympus sacrificed corner illumination to keep the size small.  At f/1.8, there is significant corner darkening, and stopping down only slightly alleviates the problem until you get to the small apertures.  It’s not until around f/4 that the vignetting drops to negligible levels.  Still, this is generally not an issue for most shooting.

Continue: Conclusion and Image Samples

About the author

Jordan Steele

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

9 comments

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  1. Cal Williams

    Thank you, Jordan. Another well done review, as always. It is good to see Olympus doing well. Yet, I’ll be keeping my PL 25 as I don’t mind the size, appreciate the f/1.4, and it has been my favorite lens for a long time now primarily due to its rendering.

  2. Albert Erickson

    Jordan, good review. I own the 25 leica with my OMD ME1 and love it. I am sure I would be very happy with the olympus 25. Thanks for the review.

  3. Yonatan Katznelson

    I know it’s a bit of apples vs. oranges – but do you have an opinion of how it compares to the Panasonic 20mm?
    (Assuming that I’m happy with either focal length)

    Thanks!

    Yonatan

  4. shep

    Thanks for this nice review.
    You have done some post-processing here, to correct the verticals (something I like to do too, to improve the result. But surely it’s best not to do that in a lens test, It distorts resolution and removes half the corners.

    1. Jordan Steele

      I would agree with you if this were a ‘lens test.’ But it’s not…it’s a review of the lens. As I say in the beginning ” I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.” That means I use the lens and make images how I would with any of my own gear. I care how a lens works under those constraints…how it reacts to processing, how it holds up under regular conditions. I am not posting 100% crops of the corners after correction…I’m not posting 100% of anything. Image samples give you a look at how the lens performs in my hands, with my typical processing routine. I did do a comparison with this lens against the Panasonic 25mm last week, and in that article, I have 100% unaltered crops straight from RAW conversion with no manipulation.

      But my reviews: they are my thoughts on how the lens performs, handles, etc, under my normal photographic conditions.

  5. Val

    Hi, Jordan,
    Thank you for the review. This lens looks like an excellent prime. Have you run across any Nikon FF lens that you could say has very comparable characteristics (first of all, sharpness across the frame).
    This lens is on backorder right now, and it prevents me from getting OMD EM1 right away. I am losing patience and starting to look around again.
    Thank you.
    Val

  6. Don Kline

    This is my first visit to admiring light; I like the thoroughness of the reviews and their qualitative (instead of quantitative) points of view. What I would like to see added are direct comparisons of similar products, once each of the products has been reviewed. For instance, directly compare the 25mm lenses from Olympus and Panasonic—perhaps throw in the Panasonic/Leica 25mm as well. (Fixed quantities like price could be excluded, although things like size, weight, etc. might be helpful.)

    I like the site; I will return.

    1. Jordan Steele

      I actually have done a lot of them, though j can’t always do it for every product. If you search for “vs” you’ll find them. I have done the Panny 25 vs the Oly.

      1. Don Kline

        Thanks. I’ve been enjoying the site. Very helpful to this newbie.

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