Olympus M-Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2 wideangle prime lens review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2 is the fast wide-angle prime lens for micro four-thirds system cameras. With 2x crop factor it has the equivalent field of view as 24mm lens. It works on any camera with micro four-thirds lens mount, such as Olympus PEN and OMD or any Panasonic G series cameras. M.Zuiko 12mm is suitable for low-light work and a wide range of shooting scenarios from landscape, interiors and street photography.

Main specifications:

  • Focal length: 12mm (24mm in 35mm eq.)
  • Maximum aperture: F/2
  • Number of aperture blades: 7 circular
  • Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
  • Min focus distance: 0.2m
  • Filter thread: 46 mm
  • Dimensions: 56 x 43 mm
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Average retail price: $800
  • Lens hood: LH-48 (optional)

Olympus 12mm f/2 build quality

M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 has excellent build quality. Body and lens mount are made of metal. At 56mm length and weighing 130g, Olympus 12mm lens is really small and pocketable and is great companion for any PEN camera. It’s a shame the lens is not water and dust sealed; at this price point I think it should have been.

Focus ring has a very unique design. When in upper position (left image above), the ring rotates freely without end positions (focus-by-wire system), but when you slide the ring down (right picture), the lens reveals distance scale which can be used for hyperfocal focusing, so it is as good as you would want it to be from classic street-style photography viewpoint. When in lower position, the ring feels and operates like it has mechanical link to focus mechanism. It has a bit more resistance when rotated and end positions beyond which it cannot be rotated, but still uses motor-focusing.

The front element does not rotate or extend when focusing, and the AF motor is completely silent.

Due to 2x crop factor, Olympus 12mm at maximum F/2 aperture provides depth of field like 24mm lens stepped down to F/4 on full frame. It will not allow particularly shallow DOF, but still sufficient enough if you come very close to you subject.

The lens is not stabilized and this is not problem for Olympus body users; all of them have IBIS (in body stabilization), but Panasonic users should keep in mind that the lens will not be stabilized on Panasonic bodies.

Olympus 12mm black version is around $200 more expensive. The only difference between it and the silver one is – the color (!). Black paint must be really expensive in Japan nowadays…

Chromatic aberrations

Chromatic aberrations are sometimes present in corners, but ACR never had problems removing them completely so I wouldn’t worry about them at all.

Light fall-off

At F/2 light fall-off is rather visible but can be corrected (look at sharpness samples below). The results are much better already at F/2.8, and beyond that there is really no reason for complain.

Geometry

Distortions are very low. Some reviews on the internet suggested this lens has pronounced barrel distortion which is corrected in camera, but both JPEG and RAW files coming from OM-D looked excellent to me. As user, I am basically only interested in the final result and all the shots looked great, so nothing to complain here.

Bokeh

At 12mm, this is not the lens you will often find yourself shooting scenarios involving large out-of-focus areas. In case you do, bokeh will generally not disappoint, but It’s nothing spectacular.

Olympus 12mm f/2 sharpness

Sharpness is excellent. At F/2 the lens shows slightly softer results both centre and corner, but nothing that prevented me from using it regularly wide open. From F/2.8 to F/8 it delivers maximum performance, but at F/11 diffractions starts to creep in. F/16 and F/22 are maybe best avoided if you really do not need such deep DOF.

Sharpness samples: F/2  F/2.8  F/4  F/5.6  F/8  F/11  F/16  F/22

Conclusion

Olympus 12 F/2 ED lens is quite a good performer. At $700 – $800 it is not cheap, but then you get what you pay for. F/2 wideangles this small are not something that grows on trees. It’s sharp across the frame at F/2 and gets really sharp from F/2.8 to F/8. There is visible vignette at F/2 but disappears already at F/2.8 so there’s really hardly anything to complain from optical performance standpoint. Unique manual focus implementation makes this lens really desirable for anyone used to hyper focal shooting style. Build quality is excellent and I can easily recommend it.

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2 thoughts on “Olympus M-Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2 wideangle prime lens review

  1. Pingback: Top 10 micro 4/3 lenses | Camerahoarders.com

  2. Pingback: A new review on Olympus M-Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2 lens - Blog for micro four third and competing cameras

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