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5 Of My Favourite Micro Four Thirds Lenses


Since I first got involved with using m43 cameras a few years ago I have used quite a few lenses for the system from various manufacturers. Some of them are pretty meh, but there are some others that will really surprise you. These are the 5 I reach for most often.

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye

Samyang is a specialist lens manufacturer based in South Korea. Prior to learning about this fisheye lens, I had read some glowing reviews of their other lenses online, particularly the 85mm f/1.4 they produce for 135 systems. Reviews of the 7.5mm fisheye also showed a good reputation amongst users, so I decided to get one.

The prices of their lenses are very reasonable when compared to OEM lenses, as well as other 3rd party manufactured ones. The 7.5mm fisheye I have chosen here is only $300. It’s very sharp and produces lovely vibrant colours on both my OM-D cameras.

The only downside to the Samyang range is that they are all manual focus lenses and they have no electronics at all in the bodies. This means that you have to set aperture manually too.

Focusing the 7.5mm fisheye on the OM-D’s is actually a doddle, even without the focus peaking feature of the E-M1. The depth of field is so great that if you stop the lens down to around f/5.6 or f/8 just about everything is in focus. If I leave my OM-D in aperture priority mode, somehow the camera gets the exposure right 99% of the time, so this lens has become a very firm favourite of mine. I can highly recommend getting one.

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Round lens in a round room. My cabin at the Sossussvlei Dune Lodge in Namibia.

Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit

I picked up this lens on a bargain half price sale a couple of years ago. It’s construction is primarily plastic and polycarbonite, but it focuses very close and the optics from Leica are typically excellent.

Up until the release of the Olympus 60mm macro lens, there weren’t any other options for doing macro on micro four thirds, so this lens became quite desirable amongst photographers using that system, which I think is probably why it had such a high asking price of around $900. Those prices are under pressure now and I see that both Amazon and B&H are offering it for $720.

Is it worth the money? I definitely think so, but you’d be using this primarily as a macro lens. The auto focus is a bit too slow for it to do duty as a portrait lens in my opinion. Compared to the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 it’s a complete slouch, but it does have the Panasonic Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) built in, so if you’re not shooting with an Olympus body, you have that benefit to fall back on.

For some reason though, in spite of its weaknesses in the speed department I really like this lens and I use it often for product photography and when I feel the need for macro work. I’d choose the Olympus for portraiture though, simply because it has such amazing bokeh and is considerably cheaper at $310.

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Fried egg on a windsurfer? No, just an hors d'oeuvre at a wine tasting.

Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED

What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said ten thousand times all over the web? If there is one lens that is an absolute must have for m43 users it’s this one.

The image quality is outstanding. Bokeh is amazing, auto focus is typically Olympus swift and the build quality of this lens is all metal, right down to the manual focus ring which is smooth as silk. You’re getting a lens that is not terribly different from the size of a 50mm f/1.4 on 135 system, but which gives you a very useful 150mm equivalent field of view. For indoor sports and low light work this lens will give you many photographic rewards and leave you feeling as pleased as punch. I can’t sing it’s praises high enough.

Price wise it’s not cheap at $900 sans the metal hood, but if you wanted to get an equivalent lens in 135 you’d be spending a whole lot more cash.

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I really didn't go to a boy band concert, but they seem to make appearances in shows everywhere these days.

Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6

This is a really tiny lens that collapses when not in use. It’s not much bigger than the diminutive Olympus 45/1.8 which I often call my “cotton reel” lens. It is well constructed and because it’s so small and light I always have it in my camera bag.

The other option for wide angles that you currently have for m43 is the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0, which is a pretty good lens, but it’s much, much bigger and heavier than the Olympus. The difference between the 7mm and 9mm wide ends of these two lenses may be significant enough for those seeking ultra wide capability to opt for the Panny. However, you’re looking at $900 versus $560 for the smaller Oly option.

Optically the Olympus is very good and while it has CA that is typical of this kind of lens, these days with software correction that shouldn’t even be a consideration for deciding on a wide angle lens. If you’re in absolute need of the extreme wide angle field of view then stitching might be an idea if 9mm isn’t quite wide enough. Naturally this will depend on the application.

The hood for this lens is the LH-55B which is a largish rectangular job. While I love the look of these style of lens hoods, they aren’t very practical because they can’t reverse onto the lens when in storage. Because this one is quite a bit wider than the lens you really shouldn’t store it on the lens in your bag in case it breaks off when pulling it out of a tight compartment in your bag. It’s quite slim so what I do is store it in a side pocket of the ThinkTank Retro bags I use.

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It's not quite an extreme wide angle, but with some vision you can make it work for you.

Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

Most glamourous women have their “little black number”, which is the sexy, tight fitting dress they wear to important cocktail parties. Olympus has the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO which in photographic terms is exactly the same thing. The lens is not only amazing to look at, it feels even better to hold.

I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in South Africa to get one of them because they are in short supply here. When I did get it I was quite literally in awe of the image quality. Prior to making the switch to Olympus I had used the Nikon 24-70/2.8 as my main lens and I stated very often to many who asked that it was the best zoom lens I had ever used. If I was going to have any regrets about leaving Nikon, it would be because I wouldn’t have that lens anymore. Well, I’m pleased and relieved to say that I think the Olympus is slightly better than the Nikkor. How? It’s sharper at f/2.8 so it provides more of a usable aperture range. I would always have to stop down the Nikkor to f/4 for the sharpness I wanted, which when I was shooting the D700 would have the knock on effect of having to shoot the camera slower or boost the ISO. Being able to shoot the 12-40/2.8 wide open and get the same sharpness, perhaps even more so, is one of the great delights I have experienced since moving to m43.

The 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO has a couple of sweeteners that I am happy with. One is the presence of a programmable function button on the lens body. If you find that you have run out of buttons to assign custom functions to on your OM-D, you can assign any of them to this button. I have mine set to activate the digital 2x teleconverter. The other sweetener is that you don’t have to shell out for the lens hood separately anymore. It comes bundled with the lens. Thank you for listening to your customers, Olympus!

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The 12-40mm f/2.8 is just a wonderful lens to work with.

While I already have 10 different lenses for my micro four thirds system, there are many I haven’t yet had the chance to try out. So if you have some favourites that are not on my list, please share them with us.

If you're thinking of buying one of these lenses please support Fotozones and use one of the many links in this article to buy it from Amazon.com, or the links to other merchants found on this website. It won't cost you any more but it helps me earn a small commission when you buy using a link from my site.


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My five favorite m4/3 lenses:

 

     Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0

     Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

     Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8

 

     Olympus 12mm f/2

     Olympus 75mm f/1.8

 

My "five" :D  favorite adapted m4/3 lenses on SpeedBooster adapter:

- on handheld, mostly now used with the E-M1

- on tripod, used either with the GH3 or E-M1

 

     Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G                (127mm f/1.0 35mm "FF" FOV)

     Zeiss 135mm f/2.0 ZF.2.         (202mm f/1.4 35mm "FF" FOV)

     Nikkor 200mm f/2.0G              (300mm f/1.4 35mm "FF" FOV)

 

     Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8             (27-52mm f/1.2 35mm "FF" f/1.2 FOV)

     Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8             (36-105mm f/2.0 35mm "FF" FOV)

     Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8           (105-300mm f/2.0 35mm "FF" FOV)

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Akira

Posted (edited)

Dallas, the only metabone adapters that will allow AF, electrically controled aperture and image stabilization between different makes (with some limitations) are the Canon EOS lens to Sony NEX body adapters and speed boosters.

 

The only adapter for m4/3 body I know of that allow electronic aperture control of Canon EF lenses is LiveLens MFT Active Lens Mount made by Redrock Micro:

 

http://store.redrockmicro.com/livelensmft

 

However, it only allows the aperture control and you need an external power source for the adapter.  Not very handy unless you work with a camera cage for video to which you can hook up the power source and want to use a Canon lens desperately.

Edited by Akira
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Akira

Posted (edited)

By the way, recently I bought an Nikon F to Sony NEX metabones.  Its camera mount had a screw with its head protrude from the mount and the F mount was so tight that I cannot mount my Ai Nikkor.  The protruding screw actually left scratches on the mount of my NEX-5T.  Also the routed edges of both mounts are very rough and metal particles will fall off onto the sensor every time you mount/unmount the lens (even if it is possible!).  I returned it, of course.

 

I won't say that all metabones are that faulty, but the experience is good enough to make me stay away from the products of this brand and stick to Novoflex and Rayqual.

 

P.S.

 

The posts above are true story and NOT inspired by the April Fool.

Edited by Akira
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Dallas

Posted

Thank Akira. Sorry to hear that problem about the Metabones adapter you had. I would also have sent it right back and also had something to say about the damage it caused. 

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Akira

Posted (edited)

Yeah, I was pretty disappointed.  I bought the Metabones because it had an integrated solid tripod mount and appeared to be as well-made as Rayqual or Novoflex.  Rayqual also makes adapters with the tripod mounts.  But the foot of the mount is round and thus doesn't fit well with the Arca-Swiss plate with the anti-rotation tab.

Edited by Akira
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Dallas, as Akira has answered, only manual focus is available with the F-mount lenses (whether Nikkor, Zeiss or Sigma).  The beauty of the SpeedBooster Adapter is that it makes the lens behave like it is mounted on an APS-C body in terms of FOV but aperture speed is one-stop faster.  Manual focus is easy on the GH3 and E-M1 such that I use manual focus a lot even when working with native m43 lenses.  Using manual focus when matching the F-mount lenses and the SpeedBooster Adapter is thus not an issue for me.

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Rick Waldroup

Posted

Besides different types of "toy" lenses (Holga, Lomo, etc).....these are the lenses I own for my m4/3 system:

 

Olympus 12-50 zoom

Panasonic 14-45 zoom

Panasonic 45-175 zoom (should arrive tomorrow.  I found a used one on ebay after reading Dallas' excellent review)

Olympus 45mm

Pansonic 14mm

Pana/Leica 25 1.4

 

There are two of these that see the most use- the 14-45 zoom and the 25 1.4, especially the 25.  Also, I shoot with the 14 quite a bit.

 

I prefer wide angle lenses and the one lens I am really interested in is this new Olympus 9mm prime that everyone is talking about.  

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Just to chime in... m43 has a great "toy" lens lineup. I own em all, and love them all.

Wanderlust pinwide

c-mount cctv 25mm 1.4 (fucking brill on GX7)

Holga 25mm f8 (does not cover the full image circle of APS-c, hence much better on m43)

Body cap 15mm

Body Cap 9mm

The 17mm 2.8 zuiko can also be had quite cheaply, same with panny 14mm 2.5, although neither of them is a "toy" per say.

I would also add that the Zuiko macro attachment for the kit lenses is also a kind of "toy" and it makes my 40-150 m43 kit lens into a nice macro with great working distance.

cctv:

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/artistwithlight/13623823915" title="delray 4.3.144435 by artistwithlight, on Flickr"><img src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7008/13623823915_38a8e98f5e_b.jpg" width="1024" height="769" alt="delray 4.3.144435"></a>

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/artistwithlight/13538372673" title="delray 3.30.144260 by artistwithlight, on Flickr"><img src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3692/13538372673_6796583478_b.jpg" width="1024" height="769" alt="delray 3.30.144260"></a>

9mm bodycap:

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/artistwithlight/13201975033" title="delray 3e.16.142527 by artistwithlight, on Flickr"><img src="https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2884/13201975033_ed377e7162_b.jpg" width="1024" height="768" alt="delray 3e.16.142527"></a>

Edit: no idea how to embed flickr here

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Dallas

Posted

Thanks for the input, Taran. I am not sure what's going on with Flickr these days, but if they're giving you html to post it isn't going to work here. Have they stopped providing bbcode? If yes, then the best way to embed is to right-click on your image there, copy the location (make sure the url contains the .jpg extension) and then use the little picture frame icon here to paste the url into it. 

 

If they're masking the file extension then unfortunately you're SOL. 

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Thanks for the input, Taran. I am not sure what's going on with Flickr these days, but if they're giving you html to post it isn't going to work here. Have they stopped providing bbcode? If yes, then the best way to embed is to right-click on your image there, copy the location (make sure the url contains the .jpg extension) and then use the little picture frame icon here to paste the url into it. 

 

If they're masking the file extension then unfortunately you're SOL.

I tried the bbcode, it didnt work.
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Dallas

Posted

Really? That's very odd. Maybe switch off the rich text editor before pasting it in. That's the first icon in the toolbar that looks a bit like a switch. 

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Ok, flickr changed their format. My bad. In the future, flickr users can just use the "pin" on the far right, in case anyone cares.

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Dallas

Posted

Besides different types of "toy" lenses (Holga, Lomo, etc).....these are the lenses I own for my m4/3 system:

 

Olympus 12-50 zoom

Panasonic 14-45 zoom

Panasonic 45-175 zoom (should arrive tomorrow.  I found a used one on ebay after reading Dallas' excellent review)

Olympus 45mm

Pansonic 14mm

Pana/Leica 25 1.4

 

There are two of these that see the most use- the 14-45 zoom and the 25 1.4, especially the 25.  Also, I shoot with the 14 quite a bit.

 

I prefer wide angle lenses and the one lens I am really interested in is this new Olympus 9mm prime that everyone is talking about.  

 

Hey Rick, did you get the 45-175mm yet? What do you think of it? I kind of miss mine. I think I prefer it to the 75-300mm Olympus. 

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Olympus: 17mm, f1.8; Panasonic 25mm, f1.4; Olympus 45mm, f1.8; Olympus 75mm, f1.8. These are all fantastic lenses, especially the Oly 45 and 75.

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Dallas

Posted

Awesome article, btw where did you buy the Samyang 7.5mm in SA? Would be a great lens for my automotive videos on my GH2.

 

Thanks, I actually didn't buy it locally (not available) but a friend of mine brought it back from him on one of his trips to Malaysia. I can suggest clicking on one of the DigitalRev links on this site and buying it from them. They include free shipping internationally too. :) 

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since I'm still primarily a Nikon user my kit for the EM1 is the 75 1.8, 12-40 2.8, 45 1.8 and 9-18.  My wife shoots the EM5 so throw in the 12-50.  It has been impossible to get the 17 1.8 in India and Pany lenses are not sold.   The Samyang looks like fun.   

 

If I am not taking any Nikon gear I may throw in the Pany 100-300 just in case.  We also have the EP-3 and several other lenses.

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Rick Waldroup

Posted

Hey Rick, did you get the 45-175mm yet? What do you think of it? I kind of miss mine. I think I prefer it to the 75-300mm Olympus. 

 

Dallas, I did get the lens and I must tell you that I am very pleased with it.  The first thing that struck me, as you mentioned in your article, was how small the lens really is.  It is astonishing, really.  I found it to be very sharp for a lens of this type, not as sharp as some of my good primes, but sharp enough for a zoom like this.  It works exactly how I need it to work.  I bought it mostly for event shooting and some PJ work and because of it's size and weight, I cannot tell you how nice it is to shoot with it all day long.  

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Dallas

Posted

I truly regret selling mine. I may even buy it back from the guy I sold it to if he ever gets tired of it. The size and form factor is amazing. 

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Thanks, I actually didn't buy it locally (not available) but a friend of mine brought it back from him on one of his trips to Malaysia. I can suggest clicking on one of the DigitalRev links on this site and buying it from them. They include free shipping internationally too. :)

Thanks ill check out DigitalRev, so far the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens has surprised me in image quality and how usable it is wide open. Great lens for run and gun for video. I also recently got a second hand Panasonic 17mm f1.7 at Kameraz, also surprisingly good :D.

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I suppose my 5 favourites would be my 5 most used.

In which case, it would be the following (in order of usage):

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye

Panasonic 14mm f/2.5

Olympus 45mm f/1.8

Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro

Sigma 60mm f/2.8.

I don't even know why I still have that Sigma 60mm as it's not one I use too often and covers the same focal length as the Olympus macro. It is shorter (in size) than the Olympus though, and focuses a bit faster.

Don't actually own too many other m4/3 lenses beyond that bunch. I also own an Olympus 14-42 kit zoom and also the Olympus 15mm f/8 body cap which stays (mostly) on my old Olympus E-PM1.

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      So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change.
       

      Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? 
       
      So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are.
       

      This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage.
       
      Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the additional overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well.
       
      Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on!
       
       
      Auto Focus
       
      I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations.
       
      As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future.
       
      One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within.
       
      Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature.
       
      What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close.
       
      In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works.
       
       

      Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass
       

      Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. 
       
       
      Speed
       
      One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes.
       
      Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away.
       

      I'll settle for stationary birds
       
      On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh.
       
      Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field.
       
      One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system.
       
       
      Stabilisation
       
      The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should.
       

       

      Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible.
       
       
      Battery
       
      Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them.
       
      However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a  power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries.
       

       
       
      Low Light
       
      Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor.
       
      For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually.
       
      As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area.
       
      Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results.
       

      Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation.
       

      But then in good light you'll get rewarded.
       

      Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post.
       
       
      Cool Things I Liked
       
      The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet.
       
      I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them.
       
       
      A Couple Of Nit Picks
       
      There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode.
       
      I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed?
       
      The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer?
       
       
      Conclusion
       
      I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste.
       
      My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand.
       
      If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses.
       
      For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that eye-watering $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one.
       
      My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now.
    • Dallas
      By Dallas
      Olympus South Africa has very kindly loaned me a new Olympus E-M1X for my safari starting next Monday, along with a 300mm f/4.0 PRO. I have to say ... this camera is way bigger than I thought it would be. It hearkens me back to my days of running around with a Nikon D2H. This is it next to my original E-M1. You can't really tell the depth of the grip from this image, but rest assured, it's considerably deeper than my camera. 
       
      I will be writing a field diary during the course of the safari and posting it here on Fotozones, so if you are thinking of getting an E-M1X I will impart all my feelings and impressions on the machine as I use it on safari.  
       

    • Dallas
      By Dallas
      There is no review for this lens yet. Please feel free to post your own review (or images taken with this lens) using the comments section below. The best review received will become the stub record and the author will be credited with the record. 
       
      Feel free to ask questions about the lens in the comments section, but please keep all comments on topic so as to avoid clutter. We especially invite members to share their images taken with the lens in the comments. 
       
      To get notifications of new posts to this lens review record please click the "Follow" button on the same line as the title. 
       
      These records will always be non-commercial and no affiliate links to sellers will be found here. 
    • Dallas
      By Dallas
      A few weeks back I wrote a short piece about how I was having a serious bout of GAS after discovering a new Panasonic Leica 8-18mm lens sitting in a local electronics store. At the time I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to purchase the lens because they didn’t have pricing for it. And I also didn’t really have the kind of money lying around that I could justify such a purchase with. It’s not a cheap lens. So it stayed in the store.
       
      It turns out that the lens was a demo unit on consignment to the retailer from Panasonic South Africa and not a stock item (Panasonic stuff is like hen’s teeth here in SA). I wrote to the local agents and asked if I could borrow it for a couple of weeks to write a review. They agreed and the result is this review.
       
      Who's It For?
       
      Where can I begin? If you are interested in this lens I am sure that you have already gone through all the typical reviews that you will find from the usual suspects on the internet. You know, the guys who’s job it is to review lenses and tell you all about the specs, how sharp it is, what they think is wrong with it, even though hardly any of them have ever worked a day in their lives as actual photographers using these tools. Then, at the end of the review they ask you to buy the lens using their links so that they can get commission on the sale. That’s their job, I guess, but I’m not one of them. I’m reviewing this lens based on what it can do for my photography business. Nothing else. If it’s rubbish I will say it’s rubbish. If I bought it myself then you’ll know it’s worth having.
       
      Those of you who follow me here on Fotozones will know that I work full time as a professional photographer doing various types of work and over the past 5 months that work has included a lot of real estate photography. This is a genre of work that I really enjoy. I have been using an Olympus E-M1 body and Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens.
       
      My methods for shooting RE are a little different to your typical RE photographer in that I don’t use flash and I simply refuse to work in the abortion of logic that is called Photoshop. Everything I do is processed in Lightroom using a 3 frame HDR bracket, a bunch of presets and an eyes-on visual inspection of each shot I present to my client. The only batch work I do comes at export time. My images are used on the internet and not for print.
       
      Yes, I could spend a lot more time getting a better result by following the methods of those who use multiple ambient and flash exposures and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Photoshop painting in masks and a myriad of other tricky things. But if I followed that sort of workflow I would not be able to do the same volume of work I am doing for the kind of money I am getting paid per property. It just wouldn’t work out.
       
      So, I have created a workflow that sees me in and out of a moderately sized 3-4 bedroomed home in under 30 minutes. I know what compositions are typically needed for RE photography, so the thing that takes me the most time on location is leveling my camera (assuming the client has prepared their home for the shoot and I don’t have to move much of their stuff around). The leveling is done using the built-in levels on the Olympus E-M1 and the bracketing is done automatically, requiring a single shutter press - a great feature of the E-M1 cameras I use. On average I deliver about 25 edited images per property and I shoot sometimes up to 5 properties a day.
       
      On the editing side of things I probably spend as much time per property as I do on shooting, so I have been on a quest to reduce this time overhead as much as I can.
       
      My RE editing process comprises selecting the three frames I need to blend in the Lr HDR program, running through a few presets, such as correcting converging verticals and with the Olympus 9-18mm fixing the somewhat noticeable barrel distortion seen when shooting at 9mm. I have also found that while the 9-18mm lens is plenty sharp enough, when I am shooting towards bright light sources such as windows, I get quite a bit of blooming around the window frames using my shooting method. If I was using flash and Ps masks to blend in layers this wouldn’t be an issue, but the time that would take isn’t an option for me on these jobs. I need to reduce the amount of time I spend doing the editing, which is, I suppose, really all about fixing up these 9-18mm lens “issues”.
       
      All the wide angle zoom lenses that I have ever owned and used (and there have been quite a few of them) have had their own little idiosyncrasies. When I first started shooting property I had the Nikon D200 and Sigma 15-30mm, which was a pretty good lens, but you needed to work on the warm colour that the lens had. Later I used the Nikon D700 with that same lens, which was eventually replaced with the Sigma 12-24mm FX frame lens, an insanely wide beast but one that required a great deal of care when composing. It wasn’t really good for interiors at 12mm because of the amount of crazy distortion on the edges you could make a tiny room look like an auditorium, so I would have to zoom in to about 16mm to make things look normal(ish).
       
      When I moved to micro four thirds there were only 2 options for wide angle lenses offering more than a 100˚ angle of view. There was the impossible (for me) to find Panasonic 7-14mm f/4, which had a lot of bad reviews and didn’t do well with light sources at all, or there was the lens I have been using, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. For a time I did have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 in 4/3 mount used via the MMF adapter, but that thing was just as big as a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, so not really practical as an RE lens (if, like me, you moved to MFT to get away from the bulk).
       
      When Olympus brought out their 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO I thought my prayers had been answered, but as you would have read on my review of that lens, it just can’t handle the type of work I wanted to use it for. The flare caused by that massive front element is a major problem and would drive any RE photographer insane. Also, there is something about the way it compresses scene edges that just looks very unnatural to me, so I passed on it.
       
      That has left me with the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm as my only interior lens and to be honest, apart from the window bloom and barrel distortion which can be fixed it’s perfectly fine. And small.
       
      Enter the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens.
       
      As I mentioned in my previous article, this is one really nicely designed and constructed wide angle lens. It is significantly bigger than the 9-18mm Oly though, especially when the hood is attached, so that’s not a plus in my book. When I am working on these RE jobs I carry all my camera gear in the smallish ThinkTank TurnStyle 10. The size of my gear for work purposes is very important to me.
       

      I put both the lenses on my product table to show you the difference in size. 
       

      This is the 8-18mm on my E-M1 without the grip
       

      And here's the 9-18mm on the same body. 
       
      In that bag I have one Olympus E-M1 body (sans grip) with an L-plate, the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32mm lens, plus my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, which I use when I find myself in really tiny bathrooms (I straighten the fisheye in Lr using the profile provided). My back-up body is the Olympus Pen E-PL5 and also in the bag are my spare batteries and a small power bank for my iPhone (running google Maps for most of the day does tend to run your device’s power down).
       
      When I first mounted the 8-18mm to the E-M1 it didn’t fit in the bag, so I had to re-configure it a little, resulting in the removal of the GM1. Once I did that it has become an easy fit and I also have the 9-18mm now on the Pen body, just in case.
       
      In the 2 weeks that I have been using the 8-18mm I have photographed over 20 properties with it. The first one I did I was very interested to notice that the metering on the E-M1 coupled with this lens was definitely giving me darker images than I get with the 9-18mm using the same bracketing sequence. I’d say it was about a stop darker and especially noticeable where I had bright windows in my compositions. Not a biggie, but interesting nonetheless.
       
      What was more immediately noticeable though was that the blooming around the windows was nowhere near as dramatic as is the case with the Olympus 9-18mm. With the Oly I tend to use a negative clarity to try and make it look a bit more flattering, but with the Leica that isn’t needed at all. There is still some blooming, but it doesn’t require anywhere near the same kind of attention my Olympus lens needs. In fact, the 8-18mm makes mincemeat of the 9-18mm where that is concerned. And there, already, is more than enough of a reason for me to upgrade to it. Not having to deal with the windows in post on my RE shoots saves me a ton of processing time and headaches.
       

      A typical scene I am faced with in my job as an RE photographer. This one was a 3 frame bracket, each a stop apart, blended in Lightroom, no flash at all. I'll take this result all day!
       

       

      Some exteriors of the higher end homes I shot in August/September 2018. 
       
      But what about other applications?
       
      I’ve had the 9-18mm for a long time. It was one of the first lenses I bought after I made the switch from Nikon and I have made some of my most memorable landscape images with that lens, particularly in Namibia when we were on safari there in 2013. I have the LEE Seven5 filter set and an adapter ring so that I can use it on the 9-18mm. This is another problem with the Olympus 7-14mm 2.8 PRO. If you want to use it to make landscapes with any kind of filter system you have to buy some ridiculous after market apparatus to put any kind of filters on the lens, since it has no filter thread. Not the case with the Panny 8-18mm. You can take off the hood and the lens body acts as a kind of shroud for the front element (which does move in and out, but never beyond the tip of the body). This means that all I have to do to use my LEE Filters is buy a 67mm adapter for the holder. Presto. I will have a better landscape lens, designed by Leica. Unfortunately I didn’t get enough time with the lens to be able to do any meaningful landscape photography, but I did take it down to the beach one overcast day. Below are a few samples of that outing.
       
      As a walk-around lens for street photography I think the Olympus 9-18mm is much better. It’s a lot smaller and as such is much less conspicuous, not to mention easier to carry in a small bag along with a normal perspective lens.
       
      How much of a difference does that extra 1mm make on a MFT frame? If you’re an outdoor shooter you won’t notice it, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting interiors then the extra 7˚ on the wide end can make your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a fisheye lens for those really tiny bathrooms. Or kitchens. 
       

       

      Shot at 8mm
       

      Shot at 9mm
       
      Sharpness
       
      As far as sharpness is concerned I don’t really see a big difference between the two. Obviously the Leica designed optics of the 8-18mm will be better at micro-contrast and as mentioned before the coatings are more flare resistant than the 9-18mm, which does mean that you have to do less work in editing.
       
      You should be able to get the same results from either lens in most applications, the notable exception being my primary need of real estate photography. I’m sure that the propellor heads at the main techie sites will have done some kind of measuring that will allow you to compare the differences. I have no interest in that stuff, so it plays no part in my review process. Honestly, I don’t think anybody even makes an unsharp lens anymore, so why bother with such banality.
       
      Cost Considerations
       
      The main consideration for a person who is considering buying a wide angle lens for their MFT system is usually cost versus benefit. Looking at the price difference between these two items the Panasonic is nearly double the price of the Olympus, so it should offer a lot more. Does it?
       
      Yes, it is much better made and it has the Leica pedigree, so that can, to a degree justify the $450 extra you’ll have to fork over to own this lens. In my case the savings in editing time totally justify the not insignificant outlay. And I really like the look and feel of this lens enough to say, screw it, I will have it, one way or another. However, if you’re traveling to somewhere distant and size / weight is a factor, you should think about the Olympus 9-18mm instead.
       
      Bottom Line
       
      You won’t be disappointed with the 8-18mm. Unless you’re a propellor head looking for something to nit pick over. Or you have size constraints. I give this lens full marks. 
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