Olympus 45mm Pro review

The next pro prime…the 45mm F/1.2 Pro.  This lens was released recently and I got to spend a couple weeks with it.  Small disclaimer: The shoot I planned on using this lens for was rescheduled.  I ended up hanging on to the lens for a bit extra since it was the winter holidays.  Despite the fact that I didn’t get this lens into a client environment for stills, I did use it for a client video shoot which I cannot post here unfortunately.   I did use it extensively during the holidays with family and pleasure shooting.  Regardless, I feel my opinions and understanding of the lens will lend much more weight to this review than any work I would show anyways.  Also, this is informally part 2 of a three part series.  I reviewed the 45mm F/1.8 a while back.  I will have a part 3 shortly comparing the two lenses as well.  I will reserve my ultimate conclusion for part 3 as usual.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

F/1.2, lens function button, and manual focus clutch

The 45 Pro comes in “the same shell” as the 25mm Pro lens.  Slight size and weight difference but you would never notice.  I thought the 25mm was large for a standard prime view…but the 45 just feels right at this size.  Maybe it is because I expect lenses to get larger as they become more telephoto.  Regardless, this is typical Olympus Pro build.  It feels great, has a nice weight to it, and is weather sealed.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

62mm filter size matches with the 12-40 Pro

I’m glad to see Olympus sticking with just a couple filter sizes.  I even more like that they are keeping their lenses close in size and weight too.  This may be less of an issue in still photos, but i’ve been doing more video work with the E-M1 lately and I have come to realize the benefit of this.  I don’t have to re-balance my gear after a lens change and I can reuse filters much more readily with less adapters.  Olympus also does include the lens hood with this one.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Out of focus lights

I don’t know anything about this “feathery bokeh” they keep talking about…but the transitions and out of focus rendering is pleasing.  Light points are circles…mostly.  Never distracting though.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Close focus is nice!

Focus

Close focus on this lens is good.  I will have more to say about this in the next part of this review comparing to the 45mm F/1.8.  For now, I will say I never felt cramped by the close focus.  I always seemed to be able to get in close enough for what I wanted.  Focusing with this lens was a pure joy.  Just as I loved the manual focus on the 25 Pro, this lens felt even better.  When the clutch is engaged, the focus seems linear and doesn’t ramp in speed as you turn faster or slower.  It is very precise.  And that is a word I would be very hesitant in using to describe manual focus by wire on most lenses.  In fact, at this focal length manual focus this good is a dream come true.  I actually found myself reverting to manual focus all the time because of the sheer joy in it.  It works, and it works beautifully.  I felt like I was using a classic camera again.  When shooting at F/1.2, focus can easily move just from hand movements.  So manually focusing and critically seeing what is sharp is a very good way to work.  Autofocus was lightning fast…but the manual focus just felt good.

Quality and rendering

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Sharp but gentle

I found this lens has an excellent sharpness but a gentle rendering still.  This was a lens made for portraits, but it works great everywhere.  Details will be crisp, but the scene won’t be clinical and overly sharp or too contrasty.  Honestly, this was a very pleasing lens to use.  Everything I shot always gave me what I expected.  Shooting at F/1.2 is usually because we want a lot of bokeh and isolation in the image.  Rarely did I need to stop down.  Pretty much every image in this review was shot wide open.  Stopping down maybe tightened up quality a little at F/2 or F/2.8…but really you are only getting extra depth of field.  Sharpness is solid at F/1.2.  It seems this lens was designed to be shot wide open.  If you want studio portraits with ears to nose in full focus, F/5.6 would be fine and yield amazing detail.  Otherwise, F/1.2 is really nice.  And you can use an insanely lower power level than usual on your flashes.  Fast recycle times!

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

portrait at F/1.2

Shooting into light was very controlled with this lens.  I got very little flare and very little ghosting.  It seems all these aspects have been wonderfully controlled in this lens.  Olympus really did a good job with a lens of this kind.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

1/80th ISO 3200

F/1.2 lets you really shoot in some dark scenarios.  With stabilization I found I could really shoot subjects I generally would use telephoto on handheld in the dark.  F/1.2 really lets a lot of light it!

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Glow of candles – 1/125th ISO 200

Video

This is one of my favorite shots with the 45 PRO.  This is a still image taken during a video shoot.  Using this lens for video was great.  Having hard stops in the focus is definitely welcome.  A variable neutral density filter is absolutely necessary outdoors.  You won’t be shooting wide open without one, even on some overcast days.  I was surprised at how easy it was to pull focus with focus peaking and the manual focus clutch.  Unless you need a manual aperture lens or cine lenses for what they offer in higher level production, this would definitely be my first choice video lens for portrait length. I feel no need to use adapted lenses at all.  Interviews, details, etc…will all be well served with this lens in video scenarios.  And with stabilization you could actually handhold it for video.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Toned via my Art Filter presets

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Shuttle Discovery!

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Sharp wide open

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Notice just a hint of swirl in the nearest and furtherst OOF areas.

Here is another shot of the smooth OOF transitions.  And just a hint of swirl.  I love swirly bokeh…but it becomes a one trick pony and gets old fast.  This lens has just a hint to satisfy me and still be a fully usable lens.  Not all subjects display it as strongly either.

Pet Portraits

So being that I had the lens over holiday, I was around a lot of friend and family pets.  Maybe you know but animals are tough to shoot.  Not all like to stay still for cameras and a good autofocus and tracking is usually essential.  If I remember correctly, just about all of these were manually focused.  In fact, it was easier for me to manually focus than autofocus most times.

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Amazing eye rendering

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Wide open

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Wide open

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Wide open

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Wide open

Olympus 45mm Pro F/1.2

Eyes in focus ears not.  Thin DOF.

What can I say?  This lens really does not need much to sum up a review.  It is a fantastic addition to the lens lineup and well worth the money.  Operationally the lens is one of the smoothest to use.  Autofocus was rock solid and fast.  I know I’ve over-swooned the manual focus…but it is rare now a days to have a lens that manual focuses like this one.  Fear not if you prefer autofocus, this lens is right there with the best. In terms of results, it kind of reminds me of the Canon 85L F/1.2 except easier to use and not as ridiculously sized.  I always tell people to choose a camera based on the lens system and lenses they like.  Olympus has really shown some serious incentive for people to use the system.  Their pro lens lineup keeps getting better.  This is one of those lenses that people should really consider trying.  Any down sides?  Optically not really.  There is some slight chromatic aberration as with any lens this fast.  Generally you won’t see it though.  I never ran into it, and especially never had any issues with it.  My biggest downside is that it is 45mm and not 65mm.  I think a lens between the 45mm F/1.8 and 75mm F/1.8 would have been a better choice.  The 60mm macro is there…but it is 2.8 and not nearly as fast to focus due to the macro nature.  I think 65mm would have been a sweet spot for this lens.  Being 45mm makes it a bit more versatile for more people however.  I could easily see this lens and the 17mm Pro being a comfortable 2 lens kit.  I look forward to spending time with that lens as well.  The size is also nice at this focal length.  Especially when shooting portraits hand held.  I really liked the heft of the lens which left me hesitant on the 25mm Pro.  I just use the lenses differently.  And on this one, it is very welcomed.

In the next part of this review I will directly compare the two 45mm lenses and give my opinion between them.

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