1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and developed to JPEG in Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color set to OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. Only exposure compensation (adjusted brightness/contrast) and cropping performed for better consistency and overall presentation. Apart from that, the images were as good as straight out of camera (color and sharpness)
This is a continuation from my previous entry: Part 1 of Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens review, if you have not read the Part 1, kindly do so here.
In my Part 1 of the 45mm F1.8 lens review, I have brought the lens coupled with Olympus E-P3 out on the streets during night time, shooting in harshest and most challenging lighting situations. The lens fared rather well despite the far from ideal lighting both in terms of image quality and autofocus performance. Therefore, in this second part of review, I have brought the E-P3 with 45mm and shoot under much better lighting condition during daytime. I shall be concentrating on how the lens performs under natural good light, and the overall performance of the lens in terms of resolution and sharpness. Early tests during the night shooting have shown incredible sharpness even being shot with ISO1600, at wide open aperture of F1.8, so how fares the lens when it was subjected to the optimum ISO200?
As a reminder, and a note to first time visitors, this review will be written from a photography-enthusiast’s point of view. This will be a user experience based review, sharing on what I think and feel using the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 mounted on PEN E-P3 in real life shooting situations. Therefore, this is not a technical review as there will not be elaborative technical explanations, such as explanation of corner softness, optimum aperture range, chromatic aberration and so forth. In addition to that, I will not be doing direct side by side image and performance comparisons with other lenses. I apologize for the redundancy of this reminder paragraph, but I do find it necessary, because from many feedback I have received online (yes I do read what you folks are discussing over at DPreview forums and 43rumors website), it seemed like many have missed the crucial purpose and objectives of my review works. What I am presenting in this entry is merely what I can do with the Olympus 45mm F1.8 lens for my usual shutter therapy session.
ISO200, F2.8, 1/80sec. Note: Red color cast due to red interiors typical in all Chinese Temples.
ISO800, F1.8, 1/400sec
ISO200, F1.8, 1/200sec
ISO200, F1.8, 1/80sec
ISO200, F7.1, 1/200sec
The location of shooting for this Part 2 was actually the same place as Part 1, at Petaling Street. Instead of doing street photography as usual, I decided to do something a little different. I specifically chose two prominent temples located in Petaling Street, both located adjacent to each other: one Hindu Temple and one Chinese Temple. Temples are always open to the public, and they welcome photographers, hence I was free to move around easily with not much restrictions. Also, the lighting inside the temple is good with plenty of natural sunlight. Textures, objects and people subjects are abundant, and the local Chinese and Indians in Malaysia are friendly bunch of people who are easy to approach and seek permission to photograph. I started shooting at 10am on Sunday morning, and ended my session just before noon.
Autofocus worked well, and free from hiccup, even against strong backlit condition (example, shooting directly against the sun). The lens was really quick to pick up focus, at pin-point accuracy. This time, all my subjects were stationary and not moving at all, being lit by natural sunlight in most cases.
Since the lighting was good enough, I have stopped down the aperture down to various values. Unlike speculations and assumptions made by some readers (yes I do read and trace responses to my reviews outside my blog), I do not shoot wide open at all times. This is especially true if you have seen my macro photography, where I emphasized strongly on achieving sufficient depth of field, sometimes stopping down my aperture to F/16 or narrower. I shot all wide open at F1.8 with the 45mm lens in the previous Part 1 review mainly because it was really dark on the night streets, and I was taking full advantage of the wide F1.8 (why not?) to gather as much light as possible and to freeze motion. Now that gathering light was not an issue in day time, I controlled my aperture appropriately corresponding to each shooting situation. I agree, and understand that any good photography should not be overusing the F1.8 exclusively.
ISO200, F22, 1/640sec
Starburst effect on the sun. Flare was well controlled, but notice the possible Red Spot problem on E-P3 shooting directly at the sun?
ISo200, F5.6, 1/1600sec
Image Sample 1
100% crop from center of Image Sample 1
100% crop from the bottom right corner of Image Sample 1
ISO200, F1.8, 1/500sec
The Olympus 45mm performs incredibly well under all aperture settings. I will not be telling you how good is good, and how good is one aperture value in comparison to another, nor will I produce many photographs to indicate this issue. I believe there was already real technical review available where the resolution at various aperture values were being presented, and I shall let the professional reviwers/photographers do the job. Based on my crude observation on the photographs I have made, the corner to corner sharpness, which is the signature and prime advantage of any Olympus 4/3 or micro 4/3 system, is very apparent in this 45mm lens. I barely noticed any softening at the corners, though I am sure the optimum sharpness falls right in the center of the lens. This was not really a surprise to any Olympus users, it is an advantage that we are proud of having in choosing this system.
Shooting at ISO200, with noise filter and noise reduction turned OFF, the details captured were simply amazing. Zooming in 100% revealed impressive amount of tiniest details and fine textures, for example, you can count every single eye lash, skin pores, etc. The resolution seemed really close to what the Olympus 4/3 DSLR 50mm F2 macro lens can achieve. It is also important to note that Olympus has very strong native sharpening applied (I am using Olympus Viewer 2, hence it should render the output very close to the in-camera JPEG). The images do exhibit traces of "over-sharpening effect" but not to an uncomfortable extent. In my eyes, they still look pleasing, and to mitigate this issue and having ugly compression artifacts, the photographer may choose to tone down the sharpness setting manually either in camera, or in post processing. I left the sharpness setting value to "0", at noise filter OFF for all images shown in this entry.
ISO200, F2.2, 1/500sec
ISO200, F1.8, 1/500sec
ISO200, F1.8, 1/500sec
Image Sample 2
100% crop from center of Image Sample 2
100% crop close to the bottom right corner of Image Sample 2
So far I have been talking about all the good stuff, so is there something that I do not like about the lens? There really is not much to complain about the Olympus 45mm F1.8 lens. What could have been better?
1) Closer focusing distance
My only wish was to have a better close focusing distance, perhaps instead of 0.5 meter, it could have been 0.4 meter of slightly nearer to achieve better close up photography. I understand the position of this lens of not being a macro, but going in that little bit closer can really create different kind of photography opportunities in some situations.
2) Better lens construction
Besides the metal mount (thank goodness it is metal), the lens body is fully plastic in construction, unlike the new M,Zuiko 12mm F2 having metal body. It does seem like the 45mm F1.8 has silver metallic coating or paint over the plastic housing, which I fear many be worn off due to excessive abuse and usage under torturous photographers such as myself. Under hot Malaysian weather, I sweat profusely when shooting outdoors, and sweat trickling down to fingers is a common thing. The cosmetics of the new 45mm F1.8 lens appear attractive and stylish, but I cannot image how it would look like after all the peeling and scratches. the fact that there is no black version of the lens is not helping this possible problem !
3) Ok I am running out of bad things to say about this lens, seriously. It is not easy to find faults in the Olympus 45mm F1.8.
ISO200, F1.8, 1/1250sec
ISO1250, F1.8, 1/320sec
ISO200, F1.8, 1/160sec
Image Sample 3
100% crop from the Image Sample 3 (boy's right eye)
ISO200 F1.8, 1/160sec
ISO400, F1.8, 1/100sec
Koh C.L, who shot alongside me for this session. We were waiting for a train. Chromatic Aberration is evident in this shot, against strong backlight, but still well controlled, and nothing a few clicks of image editing software cannot fix.
In conclusion the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens is exactly what it claims to be, a good small sized, compact and light portrait lens, capable of delivering good defocusing effect (bokeh) to isolate the subject from the background, and enable low light shooting with natural light. The autofocus of the lens is on par with the new M.Zuiko 12mm F2 wide angle prime lens, at least that was how I felt when I shot with both lenses. The autofocus was extremely fast (World's fastest autofocus, anyone dare to refute?) and accurate, even under very unfavorably dim and uneven lighting circumstances.
I sure will get one myself, it is time to start saving up !!
If you have any questions or feedback, kindly leave a comment below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org