The 50mm Perspective

Olympus Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens is probably one of the most underrated lenses from Olympus. The reasons are obvious. In today's craze of chasing wider and wider aperture, F2.8 is not exactly sounding very enticing for a prime lens. Add to the mediocre image quality of a standard grade lens, not matching the superior sharpness and technical perfection of the High Grade and Super High Grade brothers, this 25mm pancake lens may be regarded as a lens to accompany the original kit lenses for the entry level DSLR bodies, alongside 14-42mm and 40-150mm kit lenses. 

However, I find myself loving this lens very much. I admit, it is nowhere as sharp as my beloved 50mm F2 macro. The control of narrow depth of field is disappointing, for an Olympus system having smaller sensor, the F2.8 does not produce much bokeh at all. There really is no wow factor using this lens, it is as ordinary as it can be, and one should not be expecting miracles. Nonetheless, learning that photography is not all about how sharp your images are, and how much bokeh you can squeeze into a photograph, this 25mm pancake lens provides me a refreshing perspective and different outlook towards my street shooting, allowing me to explore certain shooting styles apart from my usual execution. I must say, at a very low price point, being so small and compact the pancake lens is a no brainer. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens. 

Drain Construction

Prostitution House/Brothel

Morning Massage

Loss of Freedom

Closed Shops

Morning Paper


After Meal

On Duty

Setting Up



Outside a Shop


Selling School bags


Luke, in action

how to Kill a Machiato

I brought the pancake lens, mounted on my Olympus DSLR E-5 to Pudu, shooting alongside Luke Ding. I must say I enjoyed myself using this lens through and through. It is interesting, because I did not change lens at all, and just stayed with this 25mm all the time. Usually, I would switch between the 11-22mm (for wide angle shots) and 50mm F2 (for close up and tight portraits) on the streets. The 25mm pancake provided just enough wideness to cover limited wide angle shots, including some background and a few other subjects into one frame, while tight enough to have decent portrait shots. I am loving what this 50mm equivalent field of view (50mm on the 35mm format) can do. The photographs come out looking very natural indeed, and not forced to happen. 


  1. Oh... The second photo is marvelous! Love the angle.

  2. Right. I just *love* my 50mm f1.4 on the newly purchased OM-2N, and I find myself setting the E-PL1's kit zoom to 25mm very often lately. The 50mm macro on the E-520 becomes more and more my 'special purpose portrait lens'. Thinking about getting that 25mm for the E-, and the 17mm pancake for the E-PL...

    Wonderful photos as always, Robin. And thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Hello Wolfgang,
      I am sure you will love the 25mm pancake, it is so small and light, perfect companion for E-520. It should be dirt cheap on used market by now !! No brainer indeed.

  3. Just purchased the Panasonic 1.7 20mm along with my new E-M5, to have the standard prime focal length with me all the time in a verry slim pancake package. Alternative on the micro4/3 would be the Leica 1.4 25mm. But that's expensive.

    Lovely street shots as always, Robin! It really doesn't depend much on equipment if one is able to shoot like you do!

    1. axelpix,
      Thanks for the compliments, but I disagree, equipment does matter, without them, there is no photography in the first place !!
      Pana 20mm F1.7 is a great choice. Image quality is superb, and it is so lightweight and small.

  4. I believe that 95% of all people watching photographs wouldn't be able to see the difference between any of the lenses out there, they would just enjoy the images. Your images lack nothing from the best out there, and only the silly would disqualify them because they were "only" captured with a standard cheep lens. Great images.

    1. Thanks Geir,
      Indeed, lenses do not really matter, but more importantly, the content, and the story the photographer is telling. There are a lot more to photographs than technicalities. Thanks for the kind compliments.

    2. Lens and content are both matter.

    3. Anonymous, please leave a name when you comment. Subject content is more important, because when people see your photograph, people see what is in your photograph. No one cares what lens you used in the first place.

  5. I would dare to say, that is one of your best posts. For some reason "On duty" really cracked me up.
    I think we all have some preferred gear and it is not necessarily the best. Sometimes, when I use my friends' DSLRs, I find myself missing my Powershot G10 and its simplicity with the fixed zoom lens and the huge depth of field, no matter the difference in the image quality. I guess, that is our prerogative as hobbyists.

    1. Hello Vladimir,
      Thanks for the kind words !!
      There is certainly no perfect camera, and no one camera can do everything. It is up to the photographer to maximize the potential of his camera. Photography is a lot more than just capturing images that look good, there are a lot more to that.

  6. A brand new 25mm lens costs about US$249, which is not cheap at all.

    1. Please leave a name when you comment next time. I got mine for less than RM400 (about USD100) so yeah for me its CHEAP.

    2. Damn it ! I got mine for € 135 (that is about USD 170), and thought this to be a nice price.
      Nevertheless it`s in perfect condition and therefore the amount was paid with a smile on my face :-)

  7. Hello, Robin!
    Great shots!
    You are absolutely right about the 25mm 2.8. I have one myself and when I use it it’s "back to the basics" again. I specially enjoy the form factor. Attached to the e-450 it’s a really “non-intimidating” compact set, very adequate to street photography.
    I would love seeing Olympus make something like a 18mm 2.0 for the 4/3 format but it’s to late to expect that to happen. I sometimes think the 25mm is to "tight" for an all-rounder.
    All the best,

    1. Thanks Antonio for the kind compliments. Yes, you phrased it perfectly, it is "back to basics" lens.
      I also wish Olympus has something 18mm prime !! Or 14mm, or even 35mm F1.4 !! Ok I am getting greedy but shooting with prime is just nice for street photography.

  8. Hello Robin!
    Thank you for your great blog and al the great street pics from K.L.
    I feel the same about my 17mm F2.8 on my E-P1. Its been on now for over 2 years since I bought the camera. Have never used the kit-zoom. A wonderful and extremely underrated lens. Very capable of delivering wonderful images. Can´t understand any of the bad reputation it has.. (there is tons of great pics made from the 17mm on Flickr and other sites). This lens is sharp, small and has a great all-purpose angle and most important: It made me a better photographer. Thinking in a single focal length. A perfect lens for walking around and discover things. I wouldn´t mind a 25mm for the micro 4/3 though. Like the 25 F2.8 you talk about.

    All the best/ Micke, Sweden.

    1. Hello Micke,
      Thanks for the kind compliments !!
      Also, thanks for sharing about your 17mm F2.8 lens, indeed it is a good lens, great value for money, and small/light to have around all the time. Glad that you love the lens.

  9. Hi Robin,
    Thanks for the images. Was 'Crying' really shot with the Olympus 25/2.8? It looks more like a medium format image. The contrast and the tonality of the image simply superb. It is also super-sharp. It looks like everything came together for this image.

    Mo Han

    1. Hello Mo Han,
      Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it was taken with the 25mm pancake. However, I think it was the lighting (morning sun, filtered through the layers of umbrella at open air market) that does the trick, making the tone looks more complex than it usually was.

  10. Read this review before getting a 25/2.8 myself. Thanks! I really enjoy the lens and wrote a review about it (similar to yours, though the photography isn't as good):