June 20, 2013
I bought this lens a few days ago to use with my Panasonic Lumix G5 camera (Panasonic and Olympus MFT cameras share the same lens mount). Having run it through a few paces, I am very pleased with the lens.
Physically, the Olympus 75mm f:1.8 is a superlative lens, with all-metal contruction, extremely smooth manual focusing, a well-designed optional lens hood, and full compatibility with Lumix G-series cameras. On the camera, it fits comfortably and naturally in my hands. The AF performance is fast, and the manual focus is a joy to work with, though going from infinity to close focus requires more rotation of the focus ring . Though the Lumix 35-100 f:2.8 lens has the same closest-focus distance as the Olympus 75, the latter?s manual-focus ring needs to be rotated roughly twice as much (nearly 1.5 full rotations) as the Lumix?s to go from infinity to closest focus. While this might be frustrating in some circumstances, it does make it easier to achieve very fine focus adjustments (especially with the G5's MF Assist magnification feature), as the ring travel is noticeably smoother than on the Lumix lens.
The optional lens hood does not reverse on the lens for storage, but it fits snugly and securely on the lens with a well-designed screw. My only complaint with the lens is that the rather large focusing ring doesn?t leave much lens body to grip when attaching or removing the lens from the camera, especially with the lens hood attached. Attaching or removing the lens from the camera can be a little tricky (especially on Lumix G and GH series camera bodies due to those camera bodies? overhang above the lens mount) and probably should never be attempted while wearing gloves or when in a hurry. Arguably (but definitely without gloves) it is probably best, when the hood is attached, to grip the lens along the blue-banded narrow strip of metal between the bottom of the lens hood and the top of the focusing ring, at least with a Lumix camera. With a Lumix camera it can be very awkward attaching or removing by gripping the lens near the bottom, which is not a problem with any of my Lumix lenses.
Optically, the lens is utterly outstanding. I tested the lens on my G5 on a tripod with my trusty Edmund Scientific Company Lens Resolving Power Chart. The lens gives its best performance at f:1.8, which is rare for any fast lens, never mind a fast telephoto. The variation in sharpness from all apertures from f:1.8 through f:8 is minimal, never exceeding a single step in the test chart in the centre (about 12% in line-pairs per millimeter), and less than that in the corners.
What is astounding is that corner sharpness actually is measurably sharper by one step (about 12%) than centre sharpness, again from f:1.8 through f:8 inclusive. The lens gives the sharpest corner resolution I?ve ever seen on a 16mpx MFT camera, at all apertures except f:16 when diffraction kicks in. The Olympus 75's bokeh at f:1.8 and near-closest focus (about 3 feet) is lovely and trumps the bokeh from my other lenses at this focal length.
For critical sharpness with a 16mpx MFT sensor I?d stack this lens up against any lens, prime or zoom, fast or not so fast, telephoto or not. This is the sharpest MFT lens I?ve seen to date, and I own or have used most of the Lumix ones. (This is the first Olympus lens I?ve tested.) In my tests my Olympus 75 shows about 10-12% more resolution both in centre and corner of the image than do either my Lumix 35-100 or 45-175 at the same focal length, and the Olympus shows no evidence of the slight astigmatism which is noticeable in ?pixel-peeping? (100% magnification or greater) of the test-pattern photographs taken on the other two lenses.
The 75 is perhaps not as versatile as a zoom lens such as the Lumix 35-100 or 45-175, but if you have uses for this focal length and stunning bokeh, the lens is well worth the price in my book. The 45-175 gives a maximum aperture of about f:4.5 at the 75mm setting, a 3-EV difference from the Olympus, cancelling out any hand-held low-light advantage to be gained from the 45-175's OIS. However the 35-100 at f:2.8 is only 1.3 EV slower than the Olympus and therefore does retain a low-light OIS advantage when used on a Lumix camera body. Lumix camera bodies do not have OIS, only Lumix lenses do; Olympus camera owners will get OIS for this 75mm lens from the camera body, which would give the lens a clear low-light advantage over the 35-100 on an Olympus camera.
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