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First Full Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens review!

Our Spanish long time friend Valentin Sama has been the first to post a full Olympus 12mm f/2.0 review! You can read it at DSLRmagazine (Click here). In short we can say the lens has an awesome mechanical and optical build quality! And we all really appreciate that we can have some nice pro lens in our m43 lens system! The distortion is low and very harmonic (will make it very easy to correct). The diffraction is very high at f/22 making that aperture pretty unusable. There is a bit of astigmatism on the corners but nothing to be worry about. Color aberrations and Vignetting are almost non existent. The autofocusing with the lens is incredibly fast and manual focusing very precise. According to Valentin this is the best lens tested to date!

Thanks Valentin for being the first to test the lens and thanks Olympus for finding the way back to your strenghts (at least with the lenses!).

UPDATE: “Uwe” sent me this: Diffraction has nothing to do with the lens itself. It is only defined by f-stop and pixel size. Making a not about f/22 for a m43 lens does not relly make sense. I think m43 with 16MP sensor is easily diffraction limited at f/8.

Clcik those links to preorder the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at Amazon US, Adorama, B&H and eBay

  • The Master

    Humm, interesting.

  • Bob B.

    FINALLY…. the potential is being realized for MFT!!!!!!…Olympus…what made you wait until NOW to break out the good stuff????
    :-) (Thanks Admin….do you ever sleep?)….

    • Nobodee

      Because they didn’t have a good enough camera to be worthy of lenses like these. In fact, I would argue that they still don’t have one (primarily due to sensor limitations). But they are getting there. For the purpose of most users, the sensor size differentiation decreases with time.

      • Bob B.

        I agree with that assessment (my dream is to see this format with a 3-layer Foveon sensor… That coupled with lenses like this would allow me to dump my DSLR)…but I am hoping by the time we get to the pro bodies from Olympus and Pany that there will be something significantly new in those sensors….but I am not holding my breath…we shall see.

        • Mr Hipsta

          “my dream is to see this format with a 3-layer Foveon sensor…”
          Also Canon seems to be interested in that:

          • Bob B.

            yes…I posted that link here the other day…if would make for a pricey body…but think of how f’ing awesome these little cameras would be with one of those sensors!!!!!!!! Stunning I think!! worthy of this lens offering …most definitely!
            …and then ….I woke up! :-)

    • admin

      You can’t imagine what I am doing now! I am on an isolated beach taking sun and swimming all the day. I have a weak Internet connection and I am working from time to time with my iPhone :)

      • Bob B.

        If that is true….GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!!!! LOL!

        • +1 sounds so nice!!!

  • Agrivar

    yep… with a $100 optional lens hood !!

    • Bob B.

      Whoa!!!! OK….I am very interested in this lens…but I am definitely waiting until after the initial offering to make a purchase… When the price drops..significantly. Beautiful lens though. Very nice job Olympus!!!!!

  • Al

    Is it just me or…I think the new 14-42mm kit zoom holds up very well against the 12mm.

    • :-) it’s you.

      • Steve

        I agree. I do not see the difference between the two lens, maybe just 2% difference. I just don’t get the excitement here. Maybe they are charging $600 for the built and $200 for the optical quality.

  • dumbo

    nice. anyone can explain why the distance scale needs to have the hidden / unhidden option. why would you ever want it hidden?
    or is it just for ‘looks’ which then it seems extremely pointless?

    • Andyoz

      I would like to see a distance scale on the 45mm lens and the Leica 25mm/1.4 (well all lenses is my preference!!).
      I dont know why it has the mechanism to hide the distance scale. I had wondered whether the reason is to allow focus by wire. That is, with it hidden then the focus by wire is such that you can just turn the ring – while with the scale showing it disables the focus by wire. Not sure.

      • cbr09

        I imagine the reason is that when it is not MF the outer ring does not turn, so the distance scale would be wrong. When you pull it to MF it immediately goes to the set distance on the scale. I also guess that there is no direct linkage between the focus and the rotating ring – it is still fly by wire but when you set the focus ring it goes to a specific distance.

        • Frederick Hew

          makes a lot of sense (the ring remaining static in AF).

          also, it is worthwhile noting the the 2/12 does NOT focus by wire. it’s the first lens ever for (m)43 to have mechanical focus coupling. interesting.

          • fta

            too bad, I just read the Adorama review:


            “Olympus designed this lens to mimic the experience of rangefinder or even some prime DSLR lenses. To start focusing manually, pull the focus ring towards the camera. It snaps into place revealing a good old-fashioned depth-of-field scale. This disengages the Autofocus. Turn the lens no more than about 50 degrees to cover the entire focus range. Although it feels like the lens is turning mechanically, the focus is actually done electronically.”

            Still focus by wire :(

    • Bob B.

      The distance scale was hidden with that really slick mechanism because all the machinists at the high-end Olympus lens factory in Japan are sitting idle because no new 4/3 lenses are being built…(they needed something challenging to do! :-) ), and also to completely show up the Leica “branded” lenses that Panasonic has put out.

      • Esa Tuunanen

        Yeah, has been complete waste of skill to keep lens designers doing mediocre m4/3 lenses after all high quality lenses they made for 4/3.

        Now if they would only allow designers behind their DSLRs to get back into work of doing something usefull.

        • This is based on a definition of what is useful that none of us is forced to agree with, I am afraid.

          Popular lenses fills a huge hole, without which no “affordable” systems are viable.

          Would have Olympus released any new stellar 43 optic during all that stretch, had they not joined the adventure with Panasonic? Not that obvious…

    • fta

      when it is hidden, it is in auto-focus mode, unhidden, it jumps right to manual focus. it might even be mechanical focus? so the push/pull (hide/unhide) is like a clutch? at least that’s what the initial reviews and videos are saying.

  • Andyoz

    I just hope that they release it in black as well. And the same goes for the 45mm 1.8 lens.

    • Thierry


    • Michael Meissner

      Spray paint it (though obviously not the clear part).

    • Black, hell yeah, that’s my preferred color for lenses and womens lingerie…lol!

    • Mr. Reeee

      Why not in RED to match your purse and pumps? ;-)

  • Thanks to the Olympus staff!
    I want the 12mm/f2.0 in black!
    And the 45mm/f1.8 in black too!

  • stopkidding

    that sexy hood is a $100????? :-(

  • ypocaramel

    Man, even though there’ll be some internal system competition with the Summilux 25mm DG, now I wish Olympus would make a version of this lens in my fav focal length – 50mm equivalent heh :D

    • Neonart

      You know, I thought something similar. No doubt this is a great lens, but why this focal length?
      Had they done this kind of quality at the 35mm-50mm equivalent length they’d sell SO MUCH more glass!

      I hope they do a 17 f1.4~2.0 in this quality!

      • well because this FoV is a favorite for many of us and has been missing from this format, zooms are not a substitute. Now i also agree that a a 50mm 1.4 FoV equiv of this quality would be most welcome. Keep the primes in all FoVs coming i say!

        • besides quality wide angle lenses are rangefinder/mirrorless turf. they have the upper hand here.

        • Neonart

          I totally understand that the focal length is a favorite for wide angle fans. It just seems funny to have a crappy 35 and a fantastic 24. Seems a 35 equiv would have a broader audience.

          They should have this level of lens in 24, 35, 50, & 90. I’m glad the 45 f1.8 looks good (albeit not as great) and that we have the Leica 25 1.4 as well to cover the 50 and 90 range.

          C’mon Olympus, re-do that 17!

          • 24, 35, 50, & 90…well, we have a quality 24mm, a quality 40mm (closer to 35mm than to 50mm really), a quality 50mm, the jury’s still out with regards to the 90mm…but things are looking VERY good, yes!

          • Mr. Reeee

            Don’t forget the Voigtländer Noktons: 25mm, 35mm and 40mm!
            Oh, right, they’re only manual, don’t zoom and lack that fantastic focus-by-wire feature… :-P

            Unfortunately, at this point, there’s a fairly limited audience for prime lenses, especially given the potential customers both Olympus and Panasonic are targeting.
            The prices are a major turnoff for many. Even the Oly 45mm, which to me seems reasonably priced, gets howls from the P&S upgrader hoi polloi.

            The $100 lens hood doesn’t help!
            (B+W folding rubber lens hoods! $15 @ B&H! Excellent!)

          • true, no arguement on that :)

          • taran

            Why does the 17 2.8 get such unanimous disrepute online? I have my matched to an E-P1 and it takes beautiful pictures, all the time, even wide open. I happen to love mine. Can someone please explain to me what about this lens is so bad?

            • jrk

              There is desire for a brighter lens. A more evenly sharp lens would be good. A price hike to the level of the 45 would be ok I suppose.

              • +1

                I’d add:

                – good bokeh

                – slightly longer focal length would also help, say a 20mm or 22mm (@ f/2 or faster)

                Yes, we do have the Panny 20mm f/1.7 but heck, buying body only and matching the prime is a very expensive option and it doesn’t match esthetically.

  • Is there anything we should be wary of if planing to use this on a panasonic body? Possibly g2, g3 or forthcoming professional version?

    • cL

      @Andy bryant

      Panasonic body does not have IS, and Olympus lenses don’t have IS. At this focal length, you probably won’t need it. Other scenarios, you need a tripod anyways. That’s the only thing I can think of.

  • _gl

    Thanks admin, looks v. nice. +1 on black and price drop though. When it gets cheaper it could be tempting…

  • Marcram

    I want black too. Any news of a black 45 to be released soon? Wish my 17 was also black, so will wait for that option on the 45 and 12.

    • Mr. Reeee

      Think CONTRAST! C’mon, silver lens on a black body looks slick!
      Hell, it even makes the hideously cheesy chrome strips on the black EP3 make sense!

      The little 35mm and 40mm Noktons have a silver ring around the lens and it looks pretty damn cool. Sheesh, I even went all fashion conscious and bought a silver UV filter for my Nokton 35mm. You Olympus dudes are a really bad influence. ;-)

      • Too bling. Silver looks great on a silver camera, but black goes with anything.

        • Plus, if silver is “chrome-like”, it shines in the sun and it’s very annoying in outdoor usage

  • frank

    Very nice, but a price of 800 euro (as estimated in the article) and on top of that the 100$ hood is very challenging to say the least. I have the 7-14 so I am not afraid of spending money on good lenses, but 800 is a lot. But then again, a Canon 24/1.4 is double that… So who’s complaining.

    As I read the google translated text they think f22 is nonsense and the astigmatism (…) leaves something to be desired?

  • According a BBS in Taiwan, E-P3 will be on stock at Taiwanese shops within 2~3 days. Faster then they though before.

  • You are right cbr0!
    The ring does not rotate, and has very nice, soft precision in clicking in and out of position.
    And the nice thing, is that, for example, if you leave it adjusted at 3 m (hiperfocal for f/5,6 ), after playing around in AF, once you pulla back that ring, it will “saty put” at 3 m and the lens focused at that distance…unless you are careless in “pulling back” and rotates the ring.
    And Al, the 14-42 mm holds quite well indeed, but be aware that the comparisson images were taken both at f/10, with a solid tripod.
    And Andy bryant, in my opinion, Panny and Oly don’t share firmware compensation of lens aberrations and other faults on a proper level…
    Best regards, Valentin

  • And Frank, you are 100% right: at f/22 difraction is terrible. Be aware that this lens should by any practical optical laws be difraction limited by f/3,0 or f/4, and it shows.
    And yes… astigmatism is the culprit for not getting higher scores on the corners. It shows in the graphs, in the images… and in the MTF curves provided by the firm.
    Best regards, again

  • We must remember that it’s a 12mm. Very tricky to design and build, especially given the requirement to keep its dimensions minimal. According to this review, center sharpness is really astonishing. At apertures larger than f/5.6 it’s actually sharper in the center than the ZD50 macro. Corner sharpness is understandably weaker, but still impressive. The block diagram reveals a mouth watering design full of specialty glass. No wonder it’s not cheap.
    I expect the 45/1.8 to fare well, but surely it will not score as high on resolution. Its design reveals priority to bokeh characteristics over corner sharpness, making it similar to “classic” portrait lenses such as the Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar ZM. It is most probably quite different in its rendition than the PL45 macro.

  • Per

    I am a potential buyer. Have some concern over corner sharpness. Difficult to know how measures relates to actual photo results. At SLR gear, Canon and Nikon 24/1,4 shows very evenly distributed sharpness. They cost twice as much though. I’ll wait for more test results.

    • rik

      When you say “evenly distributed sharpness” for the 24mm f/1.4 lenses, I assume you are not referring to them wide open? They only get decently sharp across the frame stopped down to f/4 or so:

    • cL

      Evenly distributed sharpness (sharp edge-to-edge) marked by the linear pattern on a MFT is very important to lens of this focal length because it’s a landscape lens. Most lenses do get light fall off at the corner, which is only normal (it is how much it drops off that concerns users). Just wish it’s not that obvious (i.e., a sudden drop on the MFT chart, which would make it a portrait lens). We’ll see when the final product delivers.

  • Rachnaroch
  • soldar

    is it just me or does that resolution chart look pretty bad with corner sharpness being low at all apertures?

  • Correct soldar, reason for this is short flange distance from lens to sensor, and M43 lens is not telecentric like much so 43 is.

  • marty

    This looks like a great lens, but I can’t afford it, so I decided to get the Pana 14mm f/2.5 for $335. Another advantage of the Panny is that it looks about one third the length. However, the P3 or PL3 are definitely on my might-get-when-have-enough-money list.

  • Stopkidding

    That m4/3s breaks the tele-centricity of 4/3s is just an urban myth.

    The M4/3 standard is derived from the 4/3s specifications with the objective to reduce system size without compromising on 4/3s image quality. So it maintains all the design objectives of the 4/3s standard. Tele-centricity is never cited as part of the 4/3s standard…

    • Mar

      You’re wrong. Telecentricity was one of the primary design aspects of 43rds.

      Just look at similar lenses on both systems to see that 43 lenses beat micro in iq, especially corner definition.

      • stopkidding


        • Of course we cannot give you any citation, since m43 is not an open standard like ole 43.

          But they are not using back-illuminated sensors, so the sensors do not tolerate a wide range of angles of incidence
          (see here is you are not familiar with the issue: )

          Given the short flange distance, telecentricity is a must, otherwise big vignetting would occur.

          Telecentricity might or might not be mandated by the standard, but must be used on current lenses design for current sensors.

  • Voldenuit

    Am I the only person disappointed by the corner performance of this lens? This is a wide angle prime – the corners need to be sharp! Also, I’m dismayed that the corner performance does not budge as you stop down.

    Not what I’m expecting from a ‘pro’ wide angle prime.

  • O/T

    @Admin: WAKE UP!!! DPR posted G3 in-depth review.

  • Bob B.

    Gee…why hasn’t Pablum been here to trash this review?

    • Mr. Reeee


      • Bob B.

        LOL..this lens is better than Nex. :-)

  • A logical consequence for a telecentric lens is the back lens element is large or same size so diametre to 43 frame.
    Reason for telecentric lens is important when 43 start, is strong filter on sensor.

  • Jan Francois

    The hood should be included. However, since the price is so reasonable for this very special lens, I suppose it can be forgiven. I had to buy a hood for my Nikkor wide too, which was quite expensive considering the relatively lessor design…

  • The 12/2 should be rated in context. I wonder if it is as good as the ZD 9-18 in the corners, so I’ll probably keep it for landscape.

    What Robin Wong demonstrated is that it is a very good street lens, possibly the best available, which works with the push focus technology.

    You just push with the tip of a finger the subject that must be in focus, at lightning speed.

    Price will probably come down with time, I hope, but people don’t seem to get the difference of a HG lens with lesser pancakes: this is not a firmware corrected lens or minimally so. It will never be liable to changes in RAW software.

  • Jack

    They marketed this a street lens, so I don’t see corner shaperness is a big deal, for landscape, I am pretty sure the 9-18 is a much more suited lens

    • Nick Clark

      An $800 wide-angle prime? Of course it’s going to be used for landscape…

      Besides, when did who market it as only a street lens?

  • Jack

    They marketed this a street lens, so I don’t see corner shaperness is a big deal, for landscape, I am pretty sure the 9-18 is a much more suited lens, or the Pana 7-14~

  • Bob B.

    I would like to see this compared to my Panasonic 7-14mm Zoom (obviously at 12mm and f/4 and above). Could the corners be sharper on the zoom….?????

  • has anybody a idea how the 12mm will work on the gh2?

  • uiti
  • holyoly’s

    this lens is 800 usd and it doesnt even come with a hood or a pouch. Whos gonna buy that? one grand after tax for a lens to use on a tiny m43 sensor.Olympus must think they are Leica.

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