Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens review


posted on 14th of april, 2012

I used to be seeking the perfect P&S - one that was good enough in quality to allow me to abandon the idea of carrying my dSLR for all but the most critical situations (naturally the dSLR is the first choice in the home or studio as weight and size are not factors). I've slowly come to the conclusion that there are too many disadvantages. It isn't that great shots can't be had from a small sensor camera with zoom, but the problem for me is that beyond scenics and travel photos, they just don't differentiate themselves enough. They can't get truly shallow depth of field, except in situations where ALL cameras can get shallow depth of field. They get noisy when the light goes down. Focus is relatively slow and focus point selection and so on is not fast. Manual controls are nice, but with the increased depth of field selecting an aperture isn't really making much difference.

So I've long been a fan of the micro four thirds format. But for a long time now it has been lacking a good portrait lens, with fast aperture. Enter the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 micro four thirds lens. I have had it for over a month now and use it on my GH2. This lens has completely changed how I am going to use cameras going forward. Here is the run down:

1. Size. This is a very small and lightweight lens. The smallest and lightest Canon lens I've ever used is the 50mm f/1.8 plastic lens, and the Olympus is ever lighter and smaller than that.
2. Focal Length. The 45mm focal length gives a basic field of view of a 90mm lens on a full frame camera.
3. Aperture. F/1.8 is fast enough for me. It is quite sharp at f/1.8 or f/2, much more so than any Canon prime I've owned except for macro lenses. This lens is very similar to my 60mm f/2.8 Canon macro in terms of field of view, background blur, etc. At f/1.8 it won't blur the background quite as much as a similar full frame lens, but I find this is a bit of a blessing - I rarely actually want the shots where one eye is in focus - I want subject isolation, not dreamy pictures.
4. Focusing. With the MSC focusing it is very fast to focus, as well as being near silent in movies. It works well with tracking on my GH2, delivering in focus shots of my kids riding bikes towards me and so on.
5. Price. At $399 it is a good value compared to similar primes in other formats. The Canon 85mm f/1.8 is a similar lens on full frame, and has more problems wide open than this lens. Build quality is not as good, but it still feels solid and like it will last a long time.

Where this lens (and the 20mm Panasonic lens) will change how I operate is that the combination of primes gives me more creative range than with my zooms - but in the MFT format the total kit is so small I find I'm bringing them everywhere. That is making a big difference in my images - the subject isolation is much nicer than was possible with P&Ss, even fast aperture ones like the Fuji X10.

In short, I feel like this lens makes the MFT format a solid choice. Capable enough to deliver in almost all situations, yet small and cheap enough to mean you have the capable kit with you when the opportunity arises.

In terms of stock, I've had no problems getting images taken hand held in low light approved. As with any format, it ultimately comes down to the lens selection. I personally prefer more telephoto shots, and with the addition of this lens I'm happy!

Comments (15)

Posted by Bradcalkins on August 03, 2012
It is a nice little lens. I like the pear shot - nice balance between blue and orange :) I think my next purchase will be the 75mm f/1.8. I'm really loving the prime lenses that MFT has these days. I'd love the 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom, but I'm not sure what it gains me other than not having to switch lenses (and being slower than any of my primes)... Not a bad way to get a 12mm lens I guess, given that the Olympus is so pricey.
Posted by Peanutroaster on August 03, 2012
Didn't arrive in time for the Vegas trip but I've been using it over the past few month and its a great addition to the 20 mm pany. I've done a bunch of food shots lately with it.
Posted by Bradcalkins on June 11, 2012
@Peanutroaster: Fun times - I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Posted by Peanutroaster on June 11, 2012
I just ordered one! Hope to take it on an upcoming trip to Las Vegas to test it out.
Posted by Powershot36 on April 22, 2012
Good info, thanks!
Posted by Zenonk on April 17, 2012
I was a big fan of 4/3 Olympus, but that was few years ago when ISO at 400 delivered a lot of noise.
Maybe it's time to go back to the roots and start doing stock photos as I go, that's a nice perspective considering that I don't have time to shoot in studio that much.
Posted by Agaliza on April 16, 2012
I'll attest to the size and quality of these lenses. Borrowed a friend's Oly 45mm f/1.8 and I'm going to pick up one for myself when I return it.
Posted by Cleaper on April 16, 2012
Great review thanks and lovely images with great colour and sharpness. It is interesting to read about micro four thirds as I use an SLR four thirds (e-30) and have recently thought about moving systems to the smaller OM-D. I love the lenses I have with the e-30 but the noise of the Olympus SLRS is still quite a bit higher than most cameras these days. The 45mm f/1.8 looks like a great lens following in the Olympus tradition of fantastic glass!
Posted by Egomezta on April 16, 2012
Thanks for this info...
Posted by Bradcalkins on April 16, 2012
@Denis - I too hope the OM-D is all it is cracked up to be. From what I've seen elsewhere it seems Olympus has finally matched the GH2 sensor, with maybe a little more dynamic range and better high ISO jpg performance.
Posted by Jdanne on April 15, 2012
Thanks for the info!
Posted by FabioConcetta on April 15, 2012
It 'a very interesting blog, great review of the product, you provided the information very useful!
Posted by Deniskelly on April 15, 2012
Brad, I completely agree with you about the Olympus 45mm lens. I've been using it for a few months now and find it superb for the reasons you mentioned.

I'm also a convert to M43. I take most of my photos while travelling and walking and had begun to find carrying my Canon 40D and heavy zoom lenses quite a burden. I use an Olympus EP3 and can't wait to get my hands on an OM-D!
Posted by Infokus408 on April 15, 2012
Good article. Wonder if the price will drop anytime soon. Would love to get it with the om-d sometime in the future.
Posted by Hanbaoluan on April 14, 2012
Learn from you, very professional!



Comments (15)

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Photo credits: Brad Calkins.

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