I’ve spent the last two weeks or so almost exclusively shooting with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. I bought the Olympus M.Zukio 75mm f/1.8 ED lens to go with it because it’s a great mid-range telephoto length and at f/1.8. That’s so fast it will make your head spin.
Note: to have an f/1.8 150mm lens on a typical Canon or Nikon system you’d have a lens that was so heavy you’d hardly be able to hand-hold it. It would also cost north of $5000 maybe $10,000. But on a Micro 4/3 system, the effective focal length (EFL) of the 75 is 150mm. You may be used to shooting 135mm lenses. I am too – but the extra 15mm is no problem and it’s flattering for heavy people to use a slightly longer lens when making portraits.
I’m going to start the review with what I care most about. Image quality. Well let’s sum it up. It’s great. And here’s the main reason. This lens is so sharp it should come with a warning! I’m blown away by the Olympus M.Zukio 75mm’s ability to provide edge-to-edge sharpness. Even wide open the lens is sharp. Stop down from 1.8 to 2.0 and it’s possibly the sharpest lens I’ve ever seen. (Imagine Jeremy Clarkson’s voice here – it may be the sharpest lens IN THE WORLD!) I guarantee you that this lens is sharper than most photographers (me included!) Even when photographing close, and wide-open or far away and fully stopped down, the lens is SHARP!
So we have that out of the way. Let’s talk about bokeh. Oly put nine blades into this puppy and if you’re wide open with just a few feet between your subject and the background you’re going to get a nice bokeh with round specular highlights. The larger the distance between subject and background the creamier the lens gets. At six feet it’s amazing.
Now here’s the important thing to note. Items one and two rarely go together. I.E., when I see a lens that is razor-sharp it rarely has this nice bokeh quality and vice versa. Whatever Olympus’ engineers did to pull this off I hope they keep it up.
The build quality is great. It’s a metal lens (some Oly lenses are plastic) and it feels good in the hand. It’s not heavy at all given its range. One thing to note regarding the build quality. This will be new to some of you, but high-end Micro 4/3 lenses rarely have any optical coating to reduce internal reflections. Nothing to worry about. The lens performs fine without it. See my note below on protecting it.
The next item on the list is AF. The autofocus is great but not quite as fast as the super-fast AF on the Olympus 45mm lens. It’s not a big deal. It’s the second or third fastest focusing lens in the Oly line. So you won’t have any trouble there, especially if you match it to the OM-D E-M5.
There is very little falloff of illumination according to my un-scientific newspaper test. (Take a newspaper page and tape it to the wall. Then shoot it in good light and look at the edges to see if there’s any falloff.) There’s little distortion or chromatic aberration and what little there is can easily be fixed in post. It’s certainly minor.
Misc: The lens is widely available. It works on Panasonic and Olympus camera bodies. The filter thread is 58mm and it doesn’t rotate!
Nits: It’s expensive – costing more than some Micro 4/3 cameras (but it’s a minor nit since you get what you pay for.) The lens doesn’t come with a lens hood and the Olympus branded hood is $75! Come on Olympus quit being so cheap. No other camera lens manufacturer that I know of sells lenses without hoods. It only comes in silver. If you bought a black body, you may think it looks odd. I personally never buy cameras because they look cool. I buy them because they work, but for some of you I know this will be a problem so I’m bringing it up now. Eventually Oly may do what they did with the 12mm lens. Issue a “special edition” of the lens in black. (Read that as – a lens that they package with a few extras and charge more for.)
Conclusion: I just can’t stress enough how sharp this lens is. I wish Olympus would make a bunch more prime lenses in various focus lengths just like this one. It’s got just about everything right. You will want some sort of lens hood and/or a filter on the front end of the lens since it has no optical coating. (This is one of the very rare times I think a permanent skylight filter of very high quality may be in order.)
The lens is remarkably compact, lightweight and close focuses to just over two feet. If you can afford it, this is the must-have lens in the Olympus system. I’ll go one step further. This lens is the reason to buy the Olympus OM-D E-M5. It’s that good.
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