Olympus 25mm F/1.2 vs 25mm F/1.8 Lens Review Part 1

Introduction

I was looking forward to seeing this review the moment the Olympus 25mm Pro F/1.2 lens was released.  Unfortunately it never came.  I still haven’t seen one. (or at least how I was hoping for) I wanted to know which 25mm lens was I going to actually buy.  I have wanted buy a 25mm lens for a while now but waited to see the pro lens.  What is the difference between the two?  Are there any big differences besides the obvious?  Does the size matter?  Does the speed matter?  Does the weight matter?  Which 25mm is the better for the kind of shooting that I do and for the needs that I have?  No review would help me in that sense.  I needed both lenses in my hands, back to back to really find out.  As for you, the same will probably apply.  You need to try a lens to really know if it works for you.  Hopefully this review will help shed some light, but ultimately my needs might be different than your own.  I will address some of these aspects.  The first part of the review will look at the 25mm Pro.  The second part will look at the 25mm 1.8. Part three will show the lenses back to back in the same exact shooting scenarios with identical images.  Please note, a lot of the imagery I show will be in part three.  Make sure to check that part out.

 

The Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

The 25mm lens is what we have come to know as a “normal” lens.  A lens with a viewing perspective similar to how our eye renders.  This has been the staple prime lens on cameras for ages.  This is the equivalent of a 50mm on 36mm film, roughly an 80mm lens on medium format, etc…  Basically about 39 degrees horizontal field of view.

There are many famous lenses of this style over the years and it has traditionally been a go-to focal length for many people.  I know for certain the 25mm Pro will become a go-to lens for many users.

As you seen in the above photo, the lens comes with a hood.  The hood has a release button on the left side only.  It’s small and unlikely to get pressed by accident.  The lens has a function button, a tank for a body, and a manual focus clutch.  It is also weather sealed.  Typical Olympus Pro features.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Front Glass

The lens has a 62mm front filter which is nice because it shares that with the 12-40mm Pro.  That’s not all it shares though…it shares it’s size.  The 25mm Pro is slightly taller, slightly wider,  and slightly heavier than the 12-40 Pro.  This is one seriously large prime lens.  Relatively speaking however, as it is F/1.2 and many primes of this kind at that speed or even slower have been much bigger.  Well done Olympus for squeezing this much glass and function into a lens this size.  Then again…Olympus is known for that right?

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

25mm Pro vs 12-40 Pro

Overall the lens has an excellent feel in hand.  Very solid, very balanced with a camera and not overly large.  It just feels right.  I will have to say this though…Olympus nailed the focus clutch this time!  Absolutely nailed it.  There is nothing higher I can praise but how perfect Olympus made the manual focus on the 25mm.  It is so smooth that I thought I was using a real mechanical lens for a moment!  Since drive by wire came manual focus has never been the same. It just doesn’t seem as smooth, or sometimes there is a slight delay or stepping of focus.  Often focus was smoother without the clutch engaged in most Olympus lenses.  The 25mm pro with the manual focus clutch engaged is the smoothest manual focus I have ever experienced on a focus-by-wire camera.  Absolutely a pleasure.  Olympus needs this to be their benchmark for all future and current lenses they make when it comes to manual focus.  Absolute joy.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Insane DOF

By the way, all images from here on out are at F/1.2 because…why else do you buy an F/1.2 lens?  I certainly don’t need it for F/8.  Take a look at this depth of field?  Focus is on the cat’s nose.  This looks like a macro lens style depth of field!  Just a sliver.  Yes, this 50mm is sharp “across the frame” like everyone says…as long as you remember “across the frame” really just means “across your plane of focus depth” which is minuscule. Everything else is out of focus at F/1.2.  The further back you stand from your subject, the larger this area gets…but…all in context.  We’ll get to that.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Beautiful Bokeh

Olympus said this lens was designed for smooth bokeh.  Yes, they were absolutely right.  They nailed smooth.  In fact, this has one of the smoothest out of focus renderings I have seen.  Background elements just “melt.”  This was Leica territory before.  Gorgeous look front and rear of the focus plane.  It is very usable and appealing and not gimmicky at all.  No fussiness.  Smooth.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Busy background elements just blend

Here is another example where the background elements just blend.  They are very busy, rocks, plants and branches sticking up, etc…  And they all just merge into a diffused bokeh ocean.  Everything just melts away from your main subject.  It is quite nice.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

The neighbors dog

Often people complain when bokeh is busy or no good.  Often bad bokeh is quite visible.  We rarely pay attention to the good bokeh.  This lens has the kind of bokeh where you notice it in images.  I find myself thinking…wow that background is smooth.  Or wow, those details really melted away.  I guess we can say this is noticeably good.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Flare resistance is great!

This was shot right into bright light coming through the window towards the camera.  Contrast was still great.  Even pointing into the sun yielded very little sunstar or major flare compared to other lenses.  Resolution is great in this shot.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Portrait

So here is where we start talking about the difficulties of such fast apertures.  Portraits are especially where you will notice the big draw back of F/1.2.  Focus and recompose is NOT a technique to use at such a fast aperture.  Depth of field is so small that the recomposing after focusing will shift the plane enough to not be as sharp or in focus anymore.  You will have sharp focus…just not exactly where you intended.  On portraits like, and especially closer up portraits, you absolutely need to use the correct focus point or use facial recognition on the eye.  Facial recognition was the best to ensure the sharpest eyes and focus for a portrait.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Guitarist

Portraits have a very 3D look with this lens.  Great resolution and detail without being overly harsh either.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Drummer portrait

 

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Portrait

The at most general distances for a portrait the face mask and eyes will be in nice focus.  The end of the nose, ears, hair, etc… may begin falling out of focus if they aren’t already.  Be mindful of that.  F/1.2 even with the crop factor of the M4/3 system yield a 36mm equivalent of F/2.4.  That is pretty shallow once you get to 50mm and longer.  Especially when you are within 10′.  At 10′ wide open, DOF is roughly about 18″.  At 5′ widew open DOF is about 5″.  Focus becomes less than .5″ by 2.5′ distance.  That really gives you a beautiful 3D pop to full body and 3/4 length portraits while keep the majority of the subject sharp.  Once you get in tighter you are really only going to have selective focus.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Cayman

I LOVE the look of this lens with a bit of contrast and some desaturation.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Cayman tail

Beautiful resolving in the fine detail of the tail lamps…the bottom red portion.  Even wide open this lens really resolves whatever is focus so well.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Jaguar

Again, notice the small slice of focus by paying attention to the grill.  I am probably 3 feet away.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Vintage Art filter

 

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

RRS ballhead and Fiesol Tripod in the field

This lens is very deceiving.  When you see a shot like this above, it certainly looks like a lot of it is in sharp focus.  It is just the small size on the web.  The only thing truly in sharp focus at 100% on this images is the text on the ballhead.  Everything else slowly is fading out of focus.  It still looks sharp at a small size.  It is not that the lens is soft…it is just a small plane of focus.  So when you see your shots at 100% you will know what is going on if you are looking for sharp everywhere.

Olympus 25mm F/1.2 Pro

Focus on flower center.

Within a foot of the flower you can see how painterly everything around it blurs out.  Literally the only thing in focus is the very center of the flower and a few other patches that land in the slim plane of focus.

I really love this lens.  I think many people might not be expecting how shallow depth of field really is.  If you like to get up close, you need to be seriously careful and precise with your focusing.  Even then, most of the image will be falling out.  I personally love to get close.  This lens focuses extremely close at around 11″.  The Canon 50mm F/1.2 only gets down to 18″ roughly.  Leica 50mm lenses stop at around 27.”  Being able to get that close with this focal length is amazing.  I was never a huge fan of 50mm.  I preferred 35mm myself on a 36mm camera.  However, I have really grown to love this field of view on m43 cameras.  Part of this is because of the amazing close focus.  I am surprised by how much I really enjoy shooting with this lens.  It is a lens you can leave at F/1.2 and have fun with.  Even in pretty bright daylight shutter speeds were manageable on the E-M1 without having to go into electronic shutter.  I often found myself at 1/6000 in bright sunny settings.  If you are shooting into the light, you may have to stop down a bit or use a neutral density filter.  I always have a filter with me, but I have yet to use it.

To wrap this part of the review up…here are the pros and cons.

Pros

Amazing manual focus smoothness on screen

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous bokeh

Nice feel in hand, solid

Excellent close focus

The usual Olympus pro features like weather sealing, metal build, function button, etc…

Cons

In an of itself… nothing really. The downsides are really just outcomes of what this lens is, but any lens that is similar will exhibit the same.  I don’t see these as downsides, but more of things to be aware of to get the most out of the lens.

There was slight chromatic aberration in very back-lit high contrast scenes…but it wasn’t everywhere.  Pretty mild too.

Absolute need of a lot neutral density if you want to shoot video at 1/48 or 1/60th of a second at F/1.2 during the day.

Need to use specific focus points or face recognition to nail focus, focus and recompose doesn’t work well up with such shallow depth of field.

The lens is large.

 

Next up… the 25mm F/1.8 … and a direct comparison with lots of images…

 

 

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https://unlockingolympus.com/2017/03/olympus-25mm-f1-2-vs-25mm-f1-8-lens-review-part-1/

7 thoughts on “Olympus 25mm F/1.2 vs 25mm F/1.8 Lens Review Part 1

  1. One thing I thought of. This will normally not be your first lens choice. You will have other lenses that cover 25mm (50mm ff). So in my view price becomes an issue. This is an expensive lens. It is big and heavy. I tried it yesterday. So to spent this kind of money you really really must have a big need to go from the 25mm f1.8 or the 12-40 f2.8 to this new lens. Yes I know weather sealed …, but it is rarely an issue in it self.
    No doubt a very fine piece of glass. But for me the price point, size and weight makes it fall between two chairs.

    1. Hi Kim… I appreciate your response. You make a very valid point. I think a lot of people will share this sentiment. I am trying very hard to refrain from saying too much, as I will have plenty to say in part 3 of my review. That is where I really compare the 25s side by side, make some critical observations, and then give my thoughts as to which 25 is worth the money, and potentially what kind of photographer will take interest to purchase. Hopefully I will have the next two parts wrapped up before the end of next week.

  2. Certainly very interested in your findings … but would love to see a third lens in your comparison, the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4, which would be the “real” competition IMHO to the 25/1.2. Many thanks!

    1. Agreed. I chose these two lenses for a specific reason, and that will be revealed in part 3. I am interested in adding in the Panasonic. The sub F/2 range for m43 is quite interesting in terms of lens options and quality. I will definitely try to get a hold of a Panasonic lens in the near future if I can. Usually that means me buying the lens, or renting the lens for a couple weeks. Hopefully soon! Thanks Lester.

  3. I used the PL 25 for many years and loved that lens. With that being said I sold it after I got the Oly 25 1.2. You can do the tech specs , mft charts , etc. etc. but, for me the way this lens renders it is worth the price. I happen to like the normal range and keep a 50mm 1.4 Sigma Art on my D800 as well so for me it is a lens I get alot of use out of. I would say if this isn’t a range that your eye is drawn to the PL 25 is a fabulous lens for the price.

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