I’m not one for a lot of nostalgia, but recently I’ve found myself reunited and smitten with the micro four-thirds system of Olympus and Panasonic, their respective cameras and more importantly the amazing line of lenses from Olympus.
One of those lenses that has always stood out to me — not only as a great lens for the system, but one of the single best lenses I’ve ever used on any system — is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. It’s a timeless portrait lens with an ideal focal length, beautiful bokeh and great build quality. Indulge me for a moment to explain why it’s one of the greatest.
Handling and build
The 75mm falls into Olympus’ M.Zuiko line, which places it a step below the M.Zuiko PRO line of lenses. This means that the build is not quite as robust as the pro line, but to be clear, the 75mm’s build is still to a high standard and is tightly assembled.
Weighing in at just under 11 ounces (305 grams) — the 75mm certainly isn’t heavy, but it also feels solid and substantial. The lens balances perfectly with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II that I’ve been using it with.
On the inside, the optical formula is made up of 10 elements arranged in nine groups. The formula includes three extra-low dispersion elements and two high refractive index elements to reduce a variety of aberrations and color fringing for sharp, clear and color accurate imagery. That sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo, but I can attest — the 75mm creates stellar images.
The aperture ranges from f/1.8 to f/22. Speaking of the aperture, there are nine rounded aperture blades for buttercream smooth out of focus background bokeh! The focus ring is fly by wire, which means there’s no physical connection between the ring and the elements contained within the lens, and that there’s no autofocus/manual focus switch or clutch mechanism on the lens itself. In order to switch into manual focus, you have to go into the menu system and manually select manual focus. Not ideal if manual focus is your preferred method of shooting.
The ring itself is very fluid with a nice quality level of resistance. On the downside, the lens is sadly not weather sealed. That’s a shame too, especially at this price point. Otherwise, the build is exemplary.
Autofocus speed and accuracy
When I first bought my 75mm, it was back in 2013 and I had paired it with the original OM-D EM-5, a wonderful camera that was somewhat handicapped by it’s contrast detect autofocus system. In bad light, the 75mm would jack hammer around and hunt to find focus. Fortunately, Olympus has since upgraded their cameras with phase detect autofocus, and the shooting experience went from good to great! Autofocus is lightning fast, and latches on to subjects quickly with stunning, pinpoint accuracy.
In video, transitions are smooth and predictable with the E-M1 Mark II. The combination will hold on to and track faces perfectly. It’s great if you’re a one man crew who likes to do YouTube videos, because you can flip out the screen and see yourself and it will hold on to your face — it’ll also help you frame your shot.
There’s a reason why I’ve always loved this lens. Hands down, bar none, it has some of the sharpest optics of any lens I’ve ever used across any system. The level of detail from the 75mm is simply glorious! Razor sharp wide-open at f/1.8 with some of the prettiest bokeh — highly subjective I know — I’ve ever seen on any lens.
If you shoot portraits, the 75mm is simply a MUST have if you’re a professional who uses micro four-thirds. Optically, in my opinion, it just doesn’t get much better than this.
There was a time when a micro four-thirds system lens was considered expensive if it were priced more than $700. When the 75mm was introduced, it was priced at $799, which at the time seemed a bit high. In the time since, more and more high end lenses targeting pros have appeared for the system, and today, the 75mm finds itself as arguably the best price/optical quality lens available for the system overall.
- Focal length: 75mm
- Aperture Range: f/1.8 — f/22
- Aperture Blades: 9, Rounded
- Elements/Groups: 10/9
- Size: 2.52 x 2.72″ / 64 x 69.1 mm
- Weight: 10.76 oz / 305 g
- Field of View: 16°
- Awesome build quality
- Stunning, tack sharp optics
- Gorgeous bokeh rendering
- Fast, accurate AF
- Somewhat limiting with it’s 150mm full frame field of view — really designed for only portraits
- Lack of weather sealing — in spite of otherwise spectacular build
- Price is still up there, though not to the same level of the newest PRO primes