Why you should buy the new Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens, and some alternatives

Written by Gary on October 26th, 2017

The reviewers testing the newly announced Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens are extremely impressed with the imagery it produces – sharp across the frame wide open at f/1.2 with minimal optical flaws and beautiful smooth “feathered” bokeh with a perfect wide open depth of field for most portraits.

It will be expensive at $US1199, which is a similar price as the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 but far more expensive, larger and heavier than the lovely, cute consumer level Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Nikon and Canon full frame dSLR users will not be that impressed as it will not give as shallow a depth of field as their 85mm f/1.4 lenses (or in Canon’s case, their ultra expensive, very heavy, difficult to use and slowly focusing Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lens), but not everything is about the most shallow depth of field one can get – there is far more than that which is important for most photography including portraiture – accurate eye AF, no camera shake, the right amount of depth of field for your subject, the bokeh quality, weathersealing, ergonomics, weight, size, cost, etc, etc.

If you look on websites such as 500px.com and check out the best portraiture – most of the professionals are using their full frame 85mm lenses at around f/2.4-2.8 to achieve sufficient depth of field – and the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 wide open will give this amount perfectly at f/1.2.

NB. each of the links on my blog posts will take you to my wikipedia which will give more details and links to reviews – unlike nearly all other photography websites these days, the links do NOT send you to online retail sites to annoy you and waste your time just so I can get paid another 10c, so please feel free to make the most of them – I write all this content for your benefit, so please use it.

The advantages over the Canon and Nikon dSLR options are:

  • probably better edge to edge sharpness with less flaws wide open – need to await testing
  • much better close focus – 0.5m (compared to 0.85m for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4  and Sigma, and 0.95m for the Canon 85mm f/1.2)
  • 5-5.5EV image stabilisation (the Canon and Nikon dSLRs still do not have IS built in, however, Canon have just released a 85mm f/1.4 lens with 4EV optical IS )
  • a generally higher degree of weathersealing – good enough you could pour a bottle of water on it without worrying
  • manual focus clutch and lens function button
  • closest Eye AF for far more accurate and easier to autofocus on your subject’s nearest eye (Sony a7R III and Sony a9 however do offer an even better eye AF tracking system, while the Nikon D750 and D850 do have some Eye AF capabilities in the centre of the field)
  • a better run and gun movie mode experience thanks to better Live View AF with Movie image stabilisation
  • a much smaller and lighter system – the lens is only 410g and 85mm long with a 62mm filter, compared to a full frame Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 which is twice as heavy at 950g, and uses a very large, more expensive 77mm filter, and we have not factored in camera weight and size
  • price: $US1199 vs $US1599 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 IS or Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, and $US1849 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II, while the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is $US1999 and a Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850 or Sony a7RIII is around $US3299
  • benefits of the Olympus mirrorless system – eg. electronic viewfinder with its many benefits (eg. Live Histogram), Pro-Capture mode to avoid missing action shots, electronic burst rates of 18fps with AF and 60fps without AF, HiRes mode with minimal moire, etc

Advantages of Canon and Nikon full frame dSLRs with 85mm f/1.4 lenses:

  • ability to get more creative with even shallower depth of field
  • marginally more dynamic range and high ISO performance (but for a given depth of field, the ISO performance should be similar as one can use 2 EV lower ISO on the Olympus for the same exposure)
  • optical viewfinder
  • higher resolution single shot options (eg. 42mp)
  • access to professional camera repair and rental services

Summary:

An Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens will cost $US3199, and weigh 984g while a full frame Canikon dSLR with 85mm f/1.4 IS lens will cost $4899 and weigh twice as much at around 2kg!

I know which system I would like to be carrying around in a portrait shoot, and I would have almost enough money spare to have a backup camera body!

In the past a big factor in favor of Canon and Nikon was the ability to have radio remote TTL flash, but this has now been addressed by the Godox system for Olympus users, and soon Cactus will have their system working for Olympus as well.

One could go down the Sony a7RIII or Sony a9 mirrorless full frame path with an 85mm f/1.4 lens which would have a number of advantages over the Canon or Nikon dSLR options including amazingly good Eye AF tracking and built-in 5.5EV IS, but this again will be far more expensive (the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is $US1799, or the much cheaper Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART which is $US1199 but unfortunately is not weathersealed) and heavier than the Olympus kit.

At the end of the day, the Olympus kit will deliver for most purposes, and be much more fun and less burden, and a tired, stressed photographer is not going to be capturing the best portraits!

 

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