1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2 version 1.31
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. Only slight tweak of brightness/contrast and minor adjustment of white balance for better overall consistency. No cropping done.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 was one of the lenses initially announced during the launch of Olympus OM-D E-M5, alongside another lens, the 60mm F2.8 macro. The 75mm F1.8 lens was officially launched on 24th May 2012, which was about a month ago. Not until earlier this week, there has been no reviews and image samples made available to the public just yet. I was contacted by Olympus Malaysia early this week, and arrangement was made for me to test and review this fresh Olympus 75mm F1.8 lens in the weekends. Boy was I excited ! To go along with the silver lens, I was also loaned the OM-D E-M5 SILVER version.
Silver E-M5 with Silver 75mm F1.8, ready to attack the streets.
Photo taken by Shaun (his blog here).
If you have not done so, please check out what Pekka Potka had published on his blog: his resolution test on the 75mm F1.8 lens. He has done a very detailed analysis and standard sharpness test. Also, please read another review from SLRgear on the 75mm, with more elaborative technical aspects.
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 75mm F1.8 mounted on OM-D E-M5 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. What I am presenting in this entry is merely what I can do with the Olympus 75mm F1.8 lens for my usual shutter therapy session.
A PREMIUM LENS
As I first held the 75mm F1.8 in my hands, the first thought that came in mind was too obvious, that this is going to be an expensive lens. The front element of the lens looks so glossy, it shines like jewelry, and by the looks on the front optics itself you can tell this 75mm means serious business. Then there is the all metal construction of the lens, every part feels solid and very assuring, a quality very similar to the M.Zuiko 12mm F2. This 75mm lens is the largest Olympus M.Zuiko prime lenses, and not surprisingly you can feel a bit of heft as you pick it up. Not necessarily a bad thing, at 75mm focal length, this lens is still very small, considering the wide aperture opening of F1.8. As much as I was in awe and was drooling while I was inspecting the every inch of 75mm F1.8 lens, I just cannot help it but admit the fact: the price tag will not agree with my wallet, though at the moment no official pricing has been released yet by Olympus Malaysia.
SHOOTING IN PUDU
Olympus claims that the 75mm is a dedicated portrait lens, hence I took it out on the streets to test how good this lens is at shooting street portraits. I decided to test the lens out at Pudu, one of my usual street shooting grounds, and I was accompanied by dear friends Luke, Kelvin, and Shaun (the dude all the way from Brisbane). I wanted to test how usable the focal length of 75mm is on the streets, whether it can be a practical focal length for general portrait shooting. More importantly, as a portrait lens, having wide aperture of F1.8, I want to see just how good the bokeh can get with this lens. Being an M.Zuiko lens, coming from the predecessors 45mm F1.8 and 12mm F2 primes, both having superb optical excellence, I am expecting no less, if more in this new 75mm prime lens. Lets hope Olympus will throw us a few surprises with this lens, after all, we are hoping to have something to justify the heavy price tag !!
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/640sec
Juice me up
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/800sec
Can't Open My Eyes
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/500sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/200sec Image Sample 1
100% Crop from Image Sample 1
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/250sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/200sec
HANDLING OF THE LENS
I intended to just shoot with the 75mm on the OM-D without the battery grip in order to minimize size and weight, allowing me to move around easier. I realized how wrong I was even when I was just doing some test shots indoors, the lens was just too heavy and the OM-D E-M5 alone cannot balance the lens, and I find holding the lens to be rather uncomfortable. Therefore, I decided to add on the horizontal/landscape grip, and the whole story changed. Having a better and beefier grip allowed the fingers to wrap around the camera better, and the additional weight actually helped a lot to stabilize the lens. Yes, the grip added some weight, but the overall combination of camera + lens + grip is still very light, much lighter than my usual street shooting setup using the DSLR E-5 and Zuiko lenses. Therefore, I was not really complaining, as long as the handling has been improved and I can shoot without hurting my fingers after a whole day.
Do bear in mind that this 75mm lens is not exactly as small as 12mm F2 or 45mm F1.8, hence it will be rather out of balance if you used the lens on older Olympus Micro 4/3 smaller bodies, such as the E-PM1 or even the E-PL3. To me balance and handling between the camera and lenses are VERY important, if I cannot hold the camera or lens comfortably, I am going to be stuck with the discomfort throughout the whole duration of shoot. That is not something I want to live with. Nonetheless, if you have an E-M5 with the landscape grip, the 75mm F1.8 lens is just right at home with the combo.
75MM FOCAL LENGTH
Unlike the previous 12mm and 45mm Olympus prime lenses, which are considered to be more "ordinary" and popularly used focal lengths which can be practical in many shooting conditions, this 75mm focal length seems to be rather out of the ordinary. In the 35mm format, this lens is actually 150mm, and that is already considered a long lens. Being a medium-telephoto lens, the usage of the 75mm F1.8 lens is rather dedicated, and I strongly believe that the photographer must know what he wants to do with the lens if he wants to get good results out of it.
It is no surprise that 75mm F1.8 falls into the portrait shooting lens category, and both Scott Kelby and Joe McNally have constantly, repeatedly stressed the importance of choosing a longer focal length for serious portrait works, working with minimum 85mm (on 35mm format) and they would not hesitate to go all the way to 200mm. The longer focal length can produce more flattering portraiture outcome, with the aid of the heavy background compression effect of the telephoto visual range. Long focal lengths usually create pleasing proportions of the human subjects, mainly because it suffers very minimal, if none of barrel or perspective distortion. Looking at such considerations, the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 surely fits the criteria !! If you shoot portraits professionally, and micro 4/3 gear is your main equipment for your shooting, I must say the 75mm F1.8 is a no brainer, you just cannot go wrong with this lens.
However, shooting on the street is a different game altogether.
Bringing the 75mm to the street for the first time, I found myself needing to step many steps backwards to fit the amount of frame I intended for my composition. This may be a problem in the beginning, but once I have gotten used to the focal length, I adjusted myself and found less issues framing my subjects, I just have to spot them further away. Coming from shooting heavily with the superbly famous Olympus Zuiko 50mm F2 macro lens on the street (which by itself is also a medium tele-photo lens) I do not mind the extra focal length.
As much as I love shooting from a distance, I have to be honest to say that the 75mm may not be best suited for street photography. Yes, there are times we need to have that longer reach, and shooting from across the road, no doubt, but if subject isolation is all you wanted to achieve, without the consideration of the surrounding environment, then the 75mm is perfect for you. It just goes right into the subject, and focuses on the subject alone, neglecting everything else in the frame. Most street shooters would recommend shooting with something wider to capture more details around the main subject, which may create more drama and aid in overall story-telling. Whicever style or choice of focal length for your own shooting is entirely up to your preferences. I would say, mix and match, and create a variety of shots to put together, hence your presentation on the whole would be more dynamic and you can minimize redundancy or that "stereotypical" focal length look. When you need to shoot long, go long, and 75mm will help you achieve that. If you need to go wide, go and shoot with 12mm, or 25mm. Each lens has its place.
If you were to pick just ONE lens to go on the street, probably 75mm is not the best choice.
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/500sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/400sec
Slice and Dice
ISO640, F/10, 1/30sec Image Sample 2
Caged. Take note of the frogs being about 25-30cm away from the cage.
ISO640, F/1.8, 1/1000sec
Shooting wide open at F1.8, the 75mm lens managed to make the cage disappear completely !! The bokeh-ability is seriously stunning. This is one feat the 45mm F1.8 cannot perform, I am sure of it.
100% crop from Image Sample 2
ISO640, F/1.8, 1/400sec
Too much bokeh may not be good for shots that require plenty of details.
ISO640, F/8, 1/20sec Image Sample 3
Stopping down the aperture to F/8, the image appear more balanced and appealing. Oh and look at that fly on the small yellow basket.....
100% Crop from Image Sample 3
The fly was not in focus, but still it looks so sharp !
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/250sec Image Sample 4
Eyes of a Stranger
100% Crop from Image Sample 4
BOKEH, OH SWEET BOKEH
The main selling point of the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens is definitely the beautiful bokeh it promises. I think most people who are interested in this lens is only interested in the bokeh that it can produce. After coming home from this one shooting session at Pudu, I can happily declare that the bokeh from the 75mm F1.8 did not disappoint, in fact I was very impressed with it.
I came across this small cage with dozens of live frogs in it (don't ask, some locals here eat frogs, its sort of a delicacy, I have not tried it so don't ask me how it tastes like or how they cooked it). You may refer to Image Sample 2 above. I instantaneously thought of a few things to test the lens on. Firstly, would the autofocus be able to penetrate the steel cage, which was dark in colour? As I half-pressed the shutter button, much to my surprise the autofocus just locked immediately on the frog of my choice, without hesitation at all !! This is truly a good news for people who shoot through a lot of foreground distractions. Secondly, I was wondering would the F1.8 on the 75mm lens be able to blur away the front cage from the frogs inside? As I inspected the result (yes, I chimp a lot, especially when I shoot for reviews, so sue me) I was yet again astonished, the cage practically disappeared !! Mind you, the cage was not that far from the frogs, and I am fairly sure (though I did not verify) that the 45mm F1.8 would not be able to do the same. We are not just talking about blurring the cage away, the whole cage appeared as if it just vanished, and the frog's eyes looked tack sharp in focus !! It was as if the cage was not there at all.
For portrait and people shooting, the bokeh came out very smooth and creamy, I dare say even better than what you can accomplish with the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, or even the Zuiko 50mm F2 macro lens. Shooting headshots, or head and shoulder shots, the background is just blurred to nothingness easily. The wonder with this 75mm F1.8 lens is that, even shooting full body length shots, you still achieve very good bokeh, and respectable amount of background blur to properly isolate your subjects.
For micro 4/3 lenses I do think that this 75mm F1.8 lens has the best bokeh: in terms of background blur amount, and the creaminess, among-st all micro 4/3 lenses (with autofocus of course, lets not talk about the hyper-prime 0.95 lenses). If you are a bokeh lover, and you want to create as much bokeh as possible with your micro 4/3 system, this 75mm F1.8 lens will not disappoint. Lets not get into the equivalence talk, and comparing to full frame system. If the bokeh you see in my images in this entry is not good enough, seriously, you are either being too greedy (nothing is ever enough), or you do not like bokeh at all to begin with.
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/1600sec
Hiding from the sun
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/320sec
Joy being in the market place
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/1000sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/125sec
3 weeks old
ISO200, F1/8, 1/50sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/250sec
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/400sec
Surrounded by Flowers and Vegetables
SHARPER THAN SHARP
Olympus has earlier hinted that this 75mm F1.8 might just be the lens with the best optics they have come out up to date for Micro 4/3 system, and that means it should be sharper than even the 45mm F1.8 and 12mm F2 lens. I have no way to verify this since I did not have the chance (not that I wanted to anyway) to do comparisons side by side, but looking at the 100% crops, seriously the sharpness was outstanding, and beyond my expectations. It was obvious, this 75mm is a very sharp lens, I do not think there are many lenses out there that can match the sharpness of this lens. For all pixel-peepers, I think this lens will set a whole new level of benchmark for resolution and sharpness tests.
The lens is not just sharp, the contrast profile was rather different as well. I was faced with mostly overcast and cloudy sky, thus the lighting was generally flat. Most of my shots were taken inside shade (umbrellas or canvas roof) but somehow, the images still retain amazing amount of contrast, packing plenty sense of depth. I have no appropriate technical explanation, aside from what I vaguely make my description based on my limited knowledge and plain observation.
I tested the 75mm F1.8 lens on the E-M5, and I used Single-Autofocus at all times. The focusing was very fast, and accurate. I rarely missed focus, and if I did, it was probably my own fault of not reacting fast enough to my subject. The focusing and click-capture immediately after focus were very impressive. I think the focusing on Olympus micro 4/3 system has advanced to a stage where you cannot really tell apart which lens focuses faster anymore, and if they did, it would not make any difference in real life shooting. Yes, it was THAT fast, and it should be able to rival, if not surpass even the most sophisticated focusing system on professional camera system. I did not test the continuous focusing or focus tracking with this lens, mainly because my subjects were not exactly moving, or moving at very fast pace, and I did not find the need to track my subjects. The single autofocus, click to capture method was effective, and the lens was quick enough to respond to my requirements. I was not able to find any sports or fast action events to test the lens on. No, I will not torture a dog or a cat to run in the park as I test the lens' focusing capability. Not that I have any dogs or cats to torture.
ISO200, F1.8, 1/250sec
ISO200, F/4.5, 1/200sec Image Sample 5
Getting your hands dirty
100% Crop from Image Sample 5
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/160sec Image Sample 6
How to Kill a Chicken
100% Crop from Image Sample 6
ISO200, F/1.8, 1/250sec
Friendliness in Morning
ISO200, F1/8, 1/1600sec
Standing on Top of the World
ISO320, F/1.8, 1/640sec
Lancome Girls at Pavilion, KL
NO, I am not quite done with my review just yet. If you have read my previous reviews, I usually reserve "what I do not like about the gear" into my later part of reviews, and I will write positively on what I like first. Of course nothing is perfect, and all camera and lenses have flaws, or aspects that could have been improved better.
I know many of you beautiful readers are pixel peepers (hey I admit I am a pixel peeper myself too, to a certain extent. Seriously, who does not pixel-peep? Don't kid yourself !!) so for your pixel peeping pleasure, I have uploaded full size JPEG files, converted directly from RAW through Olympus Viewer 2 software with full EXIF information intact, without any post-processing. Hence the images from the full size JPEG files are almost as good as straight out of the camera JPEG. I have selected 13 images from this entry which I think are representative of what you pixel peepers would find most useful.
75mm F1.8 REVIEW PART 1 DOWNLOAD:
In case you are coming back here after looking at the images, and can't believe your eyes, no, I did NOT add any sharpening or unsharp mask or whatever to make the images look sharp. You may not be able to judge the quality of resized and compressed images presented on this blog entry, but original full size JPEG files do not lie. So please stop making excuses !!
Friends who accompanied me on this morning's shooting session: Check out their beautiful blogs below.
Robin Wong attacking Pudu with 75mm F1.8 !!
All photos in this collage taken by Kelvin, thanks mate !!
I shall be continuing my review in at least one more part, so do check back in a few days time !! I am loving this 75mm lens, and I just cannot wait to bring it out for another round of shooting.
At the mean time, if you have any questions or feedback, kindly leave a comment below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org