NOTE: You may want to read my review of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Lens here and the Olympus PEN E-P3 here.

If you’ve been following along, you know I am a fan of the Olympus 4/3 cameras. The new version, the EP3 is actually one of my favorite cameras. I carry one pretty much everywhere I go.

But finding good, pro-quality lenses for the micro 4/3 system has been a challenge. I’ve been longing for a super wide, super fast lens with great optics and it appears Olympus has been listening. Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 Lens is just what I’ve been waiting for.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - JPG - Straight Out of the Camera

The first thing I noticed about this lens is that it offers classical manual focus or autofocus. It even includes the aperture marks on the lens ring – old school. The focusing scale means that you can set this lens for hyperfocal distance focusing and forget it. If you’re a landscape shooter or street photographer this is a blessing of the highest order. Shoot at between F/8 and F/11 and everything from about two feet away to infinity will be in focus.

As with the other lenses designed to work with the EP3, the autofocus is razor sharp, fast and utterly silent. The silence is important if you want to use this as a video lens.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - JPG Straight Out of the Camera - Shot at F/2.8 and very sharp!

The image quality is fantastic. Wide open there’s some minor distortion and vignetting but both are well within tolerable norms. Stop down to F/2.8 and those problems go away – it’s amazing. The lens is literally sharp wide open or stopped down. There’s hardly any noticeable flare and distortion is well-controlled. The build quality is fantastic and the lens is lightweight compared to other fast super-wide angle lenses I have used.

In my opinion, in order to really enjoy this lens you need the Olympus VF-2 Electronic ViewFinder. This ads about $225 to the cost of the kit. That is very expensive to be sure but well worth it if you’re going to use this lens regularly.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - JPG Straight Out of the Camera

If I have a gripe its that at $799, Olympus is too cheap to throw in the LH-48 lens hood. It’s a metal hood that in cases like this where flare is an issue, should just be in the box. To make matters worse, the only place I can even find the hood is Ebay from a foreign seller and the seller wants $108 for it! Not cool Olympus – not cool at all.

Conclusion

I haven’t spent a great deal of time with this lens but I can already tell it’s great. If you need a low-light, wide-angle lens for a micro 4/3 camera system and can afford it, there’s no reason to delay. Pull the trigger. It is very expensive. Especially considering the fact that Olympus doesn’t even provide a hood or so much as a lens pouch to go with it. But if you want good optics, and who doesn’t – this is your lens.|

There are cheaper alternatives – but they are in my opinion – not better simply because they are less expensive. The 14mm lens from Panasonic can’t touch this one so while you may fool yourself into thinking your getting ROUGHLY the same quality if you go that route, based on my experience you are wrong.

I hope that the trend of high-quality, fast primes for micro 4/3 cameras continues. I used to think this was a gimmicky format – not any more. Now that the glass has arrived in conjunction with well-designed and executed camera bodies like the EP3 I am a believer.

Normally I’d rate this lens as Highly Recommended – but because of the high price and the lack of access (even at an additional fee) to the lens hood, I’ll say “Recommended.”

UPDATE: The lens hood is now available for this camera. It’s expensive, but at least it’s available.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store