Sunday, July 06, 2014

Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro Lens Review

Important Notes:
1) I am an employee of Olympus Malaysia. I am reviewing from a photography enthusaist’s point of view. I was given the liberty to perform the gear review as usual. 
2) This is a user experience based review.
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG Large Fine via Olympus Viewer 3 
4) General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5) Minimal Post Processing applied to the images (minor contrast/exposure tweak and white balance adjustment)

I have attempted to do a full review on the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens, which was released together with the launch of the now highly acclaimed OM-D E-M1. Naturally, the M.Zuiko 12-40mm lens served as the default kit lens for the E-M1. Also, worth taking note that this M.Zuiko 12-40mm is the first Olympus lens with the PRO label, and two more PRO series lenses are already announced to be under development, namely the ultra wide angle 7-14mm F2.8 PRO as well as the super telephoto zoom 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. When all the PRO lenses are released, the holy trinity pro zoom will be complete. 

For now, lets shift our attention back to the M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro lens. To me, the introduction of this lens is quite a big deal, signalling Olympus stepping their foot firmly into the professional photography ground, competing with the giants by offering comparatively matching or even better zoom lens solutions for the now maturing Micro Four Thirds system. To match the E-M1, the 12-40mm Pro lens was designed with the following specification highlights:
1) Fully Splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof (down to minus 10 degrees Celcius)
2) Internal focusing mechanism
3) Snap Focus mode (quite pull of focusing ring to switch to manual focus immediately)
4) Highly sophisticated advanced optics design, featuring Dual Super Aspherical (DSA) Lens, two Extra Low Dispersion (ED) lenses, and two High Refractive lenses
5) Impressive close up shooting capability, going as near as 20cm closest focusing distance, with magnification of 0.3x (in 35mm equivalent, 0.6x)
6) Fixed Aperture of F2.8, versatile zoom range of 24-80mm (in 35mm equivalent format)
7) Most importantly, the lens is made small, and very light (382g), in comparison to competition (Canon 24-70mm F2.8L is 950g and Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 is 900g)

Image above was taken with three point flash setup, using wireless TTL Flash system. I used FL-50R and FL-36R


While the argument of using zoom lenses versus prime lenses will never see the end, I do acknowledge the importance of a pro grade zoom lens. The M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 is offering a versatile shooting solution, covering generally most shooting conditions. There are several circumstances when a zoom lens trumps prime lenses, the ability of quickly change focal lengths to suit the immediate need outweighs any advantage of a prime lenses as you save time from not changing lenses. Yes, we know prime lenses will deliver superior image quality (since it is optimized for that focal length only) and prime lens has brighter aperture (eg, F1.8 wide open). This is where a pro grade zoom lens come in, to offer the compromise between the zoom and prime, having a decently wide open aperture of F2.8 which is sufficient for most shooting conditions, and having high quality optics, producing image output that comes really close to what we expect from prime lenses. 

In many situations, not changing lens will save lives! What if that pro grade zoom lens is good enough (though not better in everything) to deliver satisfactory image quality in terms of sharpness, fine detail resolution, ability to create shallow depth of field and good contrast rendition? The option of a capable zoom should not be overlooked, especially by photographers who cover live events and ever changing, dynamic shooting challenges. Many professional photographers, even the prime die-hards will admit that having a high quality zoom lens handy is a prudent advice. 


I am just one person, as most of you know, and I am merely a photography enthusiast, hence my review will be based on user experience. I do not have a scientific laboratory to give you those charts and numbers to quantify the lens performance. I only brought the gear out to shoot in whatever random situations I come into and I report the performance of the lens based on that shooting session, of course after many hours of scrutinizing the image output I have gathered from the outing. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens, unless otherwise mentioned (a few images were taken with E-M1)

1/250sec, F4, ISO200, 19mm

1/60sec, F2.8, ISO640, 40mm

1/400sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

1/80sec, F2.8, ISO200, 35mm

1/125sec, F2.8, ISO200, 35mm
Jackie testing his new toy!

1/80sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

1/160sec, F2.8, ISO800, 40mm


One of the biggest advantage (and why we pay more for this lens) of having this M.Zuiko 12-40mm pro lens is the wide open aperture at F2.8, being constant F2.8 throughout the full zoom range. Comparing this to the usual entry level kit lens (F3.5-5.6), at full zoom range the M.Zuiko 12-40mm is one full stop brighter. The benefits are crucial, you are able to shoot in low light conditions hand held more confidently, and you are also able to create shallower depth of field. True enough in my testing on the field, there are situations when lighting condition was not ideal, especially when I was shooting under shades. Instead of bumping up higher ISO settings, I can maintain at lower ISO levels, while having sufficient shutter speed to prevent hand shake. This coupled with Olympus' amazing 3-Axis image stabilization system on the E-M10, I had no problem slowing down the shutter speed even more just to ensure the ISO values stays minimum. Bright open F2.8 aperture with proven reliable Image Stabilization, there is a lot you can do with this combination!


I will be honest and say right from the start, if shallow depth of field is your main objective and you do need that as your priority in most of your shooting, go for the prime lenses, there are plenty to choose from now. Though the ability to create super shallow depth of field is not this M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens' main forte, do not dismiss it so easily. Take a look at the few images I have shown so far, all of them displayed excellent subject isolation by throwing off the background into blur. This can be achieved with several factors: 1) F2.8 aperture 2) getting as close as possible to the subjects and 3) zoomed in to 40mm. I have even taken a few portrait shots and I find the lens capable to create shallow depth of field, much easier than entry level kit lenses. If you are currently using the kit lenses (14-42mm or 12-50mm) and thinking whether this 12-40mm pro will gain you shallow depth of field advantage, the answer is a huge YES! Now, looking at the quality of the blur, the "bokeh", I am very pleased with what this lens can do. The bokeh was smooth and creamy. 

1/100sec, F5.6, ISO320, 40mm

1/20sec, F5.6, ISO800, 19mm

1/160sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

1/30sec, F7.1, ISO200, 40mm

1/200sec, F2.8, ISO800, 40mm taken with E-M1

1/25sec, F2.8, ISO200, 34mm


One of the often overlooked important aspect of a lens, is the close up shooting capability. How close can the lens get to the subject, what is the minimum focusing distance? Generally the closer you can get the subject, the better the lens is, allowing you to shoot macro like images. Surely we are not expecting such a zoom lens to have macro like ability, that is why we have dedicated macro lenses to do the macro jobs. However, any bit closer the lens gets to the image, the better the magnification of the subject will be, and the lesser the need to carry around a macro lens when you do not need super high magnification shots (you do not need to see the blown up size of the ant's eyes all the time). 

The M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 lens can go as close as 20cm, and gives you about 0.3x magnification, which is surprisingly good for a zoom lens. Maximizing this potential, I have then done some close up shooting, revealing those fine details that are perhaps difficult to see with naked eye. If you need to do close up shooting and do not intend to invest in macro lens, the M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro is worth considering. You can get really decent macro like images (you do need to zoom in to 40mm to fully utilize this capability, as demonstrated in many images above). 


The M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is sharp. It is sharp throughout all zoom range, even at widest 12mm to the longest zoom end 40mm. I do not have the time or expertise to test the sharpness vatiation at different focal lengths, but I have shot enough images from both ends of the zoom range to come to a conclusion that the sharpness was more than adequate for most of shooting needs. Without comparing (purely based on experience) I can say that the prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses do produce noticeably sharper images, but the output from the 12-40mm pro lens comes very close. Only upon close inspection will you be able to differentiate. I am generally happy with the fine detail captured by the 12-40mm Pro lens. You will see this from the 100% crops I have provided from some images shown here in this blog entry. Like any Olympus lenses, even at wide open F2.8 you get very sharp images, unlike similar range zoom lens from competitors that you need to stop down to F3.5 or narrower to get decently sharp images. 

1/30sec, F5, ISO200, 12mm

100% crop from previous image

1/160sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

100% Crop from previous image

1/40sec, F2.8, ISO1250, 40mm

100% Crop from previous image

1/320sec, F4.5, ISO200, 25mm

100% Crop from previous image


The M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is sharp not just at the center, but also corner to corner, just like any other Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses. This is the main advantage Olympus always emphasizes against competition, especially against Full Frame system, as Olympus believes in their M.Zuiko lenses designed to be fully optimized when used with the Micro Four Thirds image sensor. I notice only very minimal traces of Chromatic Aberration, which is negligible really. I am also sure that the image processing engine (Truepic 7) in the OM-D E-M10 played important part in getting rid of the Chromatic Aberration, hence producing optimized image output. Perhaps this also explains the almost non existent barrel distortion even at the widest 12mm focal length, All I can say is that it is difficult to find fault with the lens at all. 

Focusing, like all newer Olympus M.Zuiko lens is fast. It is still the fastest amongst competition, though some would argue, but hey, whichever is fastest, is not important. I believe that the lens is fast enough for my shooting needs and I did not miss any shots, that is what truly counts. I also believe that now the focusing from Olympus system is so fast and accurate that whatever error in focusing there is, should probably be due to my own fault, not the camera. 


In comparison to Olympus lenses only, the 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is not the smallest. If you use the OM-D E-M1, it fits the camera perfectly, and the lens should feel comfortable and well balanced. However, if you do intend to use this M.Zuiko lens on OM-D E-M5 or E-M10, I strongly recommend that you get the external grip (HLD-6 for E-M5 or ECG-1 for E-M10). With the additional hand-grip, the lens is better balanced and more comfortable to hand-hold, especially if you want to shoot for hours. I was handling the E-M10 with the external camera grip (ECG-1), which worked well with the lens 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens. The zooming mechanism felt stiff, which might put some people off, but I personally prefer the zooming to be a little stiff, rather than too smooth or loose. 

SOME NOTES (From Frequently Asked Questions)

I have received MANY questions regarding the 12-40mm Pro lens, and here are some which I hope can be helpful to some people. The snap focus ring, which can be easily pulled up or down, even when your lens is in the bag, will cause the lens to be in manual focus mode. Quite a number of people panicked and sent me emails saying that the lens refused to go to AutoFocus mode. It was a simple fix of pulling the focusing ring back down to go back to Autofocus mode (and vice versa). The second most popular question is the function button L-Fn on the lens body. The L-Fn button can be customized to control the function of your choice, such as focusing mode, burst sequential shooting mode, depth of field preview, etc. It works just like any function buttons which are customizable on the camera body. This button adds usability of the lens. I personally did not assign anything to this button (for the fear of accidentally pressing it and doing something I am not supposed to). 

1/320sec, F2.8, ISO200, 32mm

1/60sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

1/15sec, F4, ISO200, 12mm

1/200sec, F2.8, ISO200, 40mm

1/60sec, F4.5, ISO200, 19mm

1/80sec, F5.6, ISO200, 22mm

1/5000sec, F2.8, ISO200, HDR Mode 1, 27mm, Taken with E-M1

1/800sec, F4.5, ISO200, HDR Mode 1, 12mm Taken with E-M1


There really is not much to complain about the M.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro lens. I generally enjoyed using it, and I find the lens to perform well, delivering images that I expected it to. Image came out with very good sharpness resolving high amount of fine detail, was fast to focus, and technically has little to no fault. It was not easy to pin point what the lens lacks. 

However, I do wish the lens was better:

1) Longer Focal Range
12-40mm is perhaps the standard for what zoom lens should cater for (competitions offer 24-70mm) but what would really change the game would be having a longer zoom range. Perhaps much like the older DSLR series 12-60mm lens, which yields a even more versatile 24-120mm zoom range. That extra reach of proposed 120mm shall negate the need to even carry a longer zoom lens, and at longer 120mm focal length, shallower depth of field (blurrier background) can be accomplished. 

2) Larger Aperture Opening
A lot of people argue that F2.8 on Micro Four Thirds is not equal to F2.8 on full frame system. No, I do not intend to go into all that never ending "equivalence" war. Nevertheless, to completely shut those nay-sayers up, a larger opening of F2.0 on the zoom lens can make a whole world of difference. Olympus has done this before, in their legendary DSLR line-up, the Zuiko 14-35mm F2 as well as the 35-100mm F2, both SHG (Super High Grade) lenses. That should bridge Micro Four Thirds much closer to competition, and raise the bar of what small lenses can do. 

1/20sec, F4, ISO800, 26mm

1/60sec, F5.6, ISO200, 28mm

1/80sec, F2.8, ISO640, 40mm
Robin Schimko (click), who switched from Full Frame system to fully mirrorless, adopting E-M1 as his main weapon. Image taken in November 2013, when he visited KL. 

I do think that the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is a great lens, suitable to be used by anyone. 

If you have bought an OM-D system, and intend to have a high grade lens, just one lens to cover most of your shooting needs, this 12-40mm Pro lens should be in your consideration. It is versatile, does close up shooting well, and is sufficiently wide for most situations at 12mm focal length. That F2.8 bright constant aperture is also useful in many situations. 

If you are a prime believer, you probably should already know what you want, but do not just shrug a zoom lens off. Any experienced photographer will tell you that having a capable zoom lens is important in certain shooting circumstances, when you cannot change lens fast enough, or you are forced to just carry one lens to cover a wide range of shooting needs. This 12-40mm Pro lens delivers the closest image quality you can expect to the prime lenses. 

After using this lens for a while now, I have started to shift my purchasing priority to get the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 pro lens into my own gear collection. 

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  1. Superb image quality on par with full frame.

  2. I love my 12-50 but always wish it was a bit faster, especially on the long end. f6.3 shows its limitations very very quickly.

    somehow i feel, though, that going with the 12-40pro one has to sacrifice a lot for the faster aperture - the reach of the 50mm long end for one... and a LOT of money (5x as expensive here). so i see myself agreeing wholeheartedly with your wish for the longer 12-60 and possibly even a brighter aperture of f2. at that point, i would happily suffer the price-tag.

    added bonus: the macro feature of the 12-50 is a rather nice thing to have and i love using it. although i do run into its limits rather quickly (focusing distance and magnification)

    1. Yes Max, good observations about the 12-50 - and it has the bonus of being water resistant. If it were 2mm shorter it would probably be the best kit lens ever made. As it is, it is still one of the top kit lenses on planet Earth!

    2. I don't think that 50mm vs 40mm is a very big difference, but then 60mm vs 40mm is quite something. But I do understand where you are coming from (I do still use the 12-50mm) and I just simply love the macro function in the lens.

    3. are you .... sure thats what you want?

      the (43) 60mm zoom is monstrous . and cost 2000 USD+
      the (43) f2.0 zooms are large. and cost 2000 USD+

    4. Lens design and manufacture is all about compromise. A 12-60 f/2.0 lens would be comparatively big and heavy. It would also suffer from greater vignetting and distortion, necessitating more advanced optical design engineering … thereby jacking up the price.

      So, doable? Probably. But it would be big and expensive.

    5. I understand that it is challenging to produce a longer lens with brighter aperture, while keeping the size and weight down. However, if we just keep accepting the facts and not challenge the system, we will not see improvements. I personally think that it is possible to push boundaries and improve further, and surely it is no easy engineering feat, but surely achievable.

    6. Challenge the system? Push boundaries? Sure.

      Change the laws of physics? No.

    7. We will see very soon. It is not about laws of physics. It is technology. A mobile phone is more powerful than a PC computer years ago.

    8. If that lens really would have a macro mode.... It only gives 1:2.8 ratio while macro is 1:1 and over. But that doesnt meant it is a bad for close-up lens. Much better than many usual 1:8 or 1:7.

      And compare that to 12-40mm what allows you to focus just about 5 centimeters from the lens what gives huge benefit for close up focusing. But there 40mm lose for 50mm.

  3. Nice work Robin!

    What impresses me, almost as much as anything else, is how well the EM-10 performs. Still, it would be hard to give up the 5-axis stabilization of my EM-5. I think you have mentioned here before that the 5-axis compared to the 3-axis does give a noticeable advantage. Since I almost never shoot higher than 800 ASA I find I am frequently shooting at relatively slow shutter speeds - never a problem with the EM-5.

    Well, seeing this fine review, even though I love my primes (the Olympus 45 f1.8, and my Panasonic 14mm and 25mms) I think I'm putting the 12-40 on my "wish list", too! There are times when all you want to carry is one lens that you know will give you results that won't let you down.

    1. Thanks for the kind words David! That E-M10 is doing really well. Surely the E-M1 has some advantages, but for a lower level camera, E-M10 is surely worth every bit of money spent.
      The 5 Axis is still superior, but the 3 Axis IS is still better than most IS system by other manufacturers out there. And yes, I am a prime lens shooter myself!

    2. Funny you think that the 5-Axis is noticeably better. I had the EM5 and now the EM10 and aside from video (which the EM10 makes up for the two missing axises with digital stabilization) I don't see the need. And from what I have read elsewhere, the two missing directions really only effect video and have almost no noticeable effect on still photos.

  4. I'm pleased with the 12-40mm. In fact, I currently use it the most of my lenses, even though the 14-35mm f/2.0 is a bit faster.

    I did a blog entry on focus tracking with the 12-40mm and E-M1 here:

    I find that the extra 2mm between the 12-40mm and 14-35mm makes a lot of difference in photographing buildings. It's also very responsive on the E-M1, as compared to the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, so I would imagine that it is also more responsive than Panasonic's 12-35mm.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Sakamoto! And surely that 2mm on wide angle lens made such a big difference!

    2. As much as I can be in love with a lens, I love the 12-40mm. I have spent so much time with it and never thought that I would leave my 14-35mm alone so long.

    3. I wish I have the 14-35mm F2 when I was using E-5 all these years!

    4. It is a lovely lens, although the AF drives me crazy. I often manually focus it to save time but I wish for the old focus-by-wire system where I can flick/spin the focus ring back and forth to the spot I need, as I do with the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5.

  5. I guess you're pretty tired of comparing stuff by now, but what's your thoughts on the 12-40 vs the 14-35 that you used when reviewing the E-M1?

    I can't see myself getting a 12-40 instead of the 12-35 that I already own, but the 14-35 is a different story. I shot some runners during the Stockholm Marathon with my 35-100 and my 150/2.0 and the difference in subject isolation I got from that one stop difference just blew me away. Add to that the fact that the 150 could be the only lens I have that comes close to my CV25/0.95 in terms of sharpness. And when it comes to sharpness in the corners the 150 has no competition at all.

    1. Yes, I won't be doing comparisons anymore. I can't comment on the Panasonic lens, mainly because I have not used the lens before, and none of my friends have that lens. And yes, that 150mm F2 is legendary!!

  6. I'm a happy owner of this gem. Compared to the 45mm, for instance, it's big and heavy, but for professional event shooting, it's more than acceptable.
    IMHO the zoom ring is smooth and I can use it during video without problems, unlike the 75-300 (that I own). The snap focus is fantastic.
    Like you, I long for a longer zoom end. 60mm would be perfect.

    1. Thanks Emerson for sharing your thoughts! Yes for events that 12-40mm is surely a great lens to have.

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  8. Robin and Readers:

    As always enjoyed the post and pics:)

    I have a question regarding the 12-40mm pro and wide options for an upcoming Iceland trip. Here is what im taking
    12-40mm pro (with lee filters sev5n filter system for long exposure pics)
    25mm prime
    45mm prim

    iceland is a dream for landscapes and street photography in the interesting town of Reykjavik cant wait!

    so my question is if I were to rent an additional lens for the trip what would people suggest.
    12mm prime (overlaps the 12-40mm prime but is the sharpness worth it for the landscape opps)??
    or go with the slower but wider 9-18mm oly lens (anyone have experience with this lens??)

    any other thoughts?

    1. i came back from iceland. 12-40 took care 90% of my needs. i dont think the primes are noticeably sharper than the pro zoom. the larger aperture is non-factor... almost all shots were extremely stopped down. i used the 75mm just in case, and i see that you have no tele coverage.

    2. Hi Chuck, I would say 12-40mm is great, because it is freezeproof! If you are using it with the E-M1 then you have nothing much to worry about in the shooting environment. Instead of getting the 12mm prime, I would suggest 9-18mm, because that 9mm wide angle does make a huge difference.

  9. When doing street photography, I prefer a prime, which in my case is the Panasonic 20mm f1.7. However, I recently purchased this lens to replace the 14-42mm kit lens after mulling over a few things.

    1. It's easier for me me to play around with different focal lengths since I'm still trying to decide what I'm most comfortable with in street photography. I just set it and shoot all day without changing it. Thanks to the 14-40mm Pro, I'm leaning more towards a 25mm prime to replace my current one.
    2. The snap back focus feature has helped me practice with using manual focusing.
    3. I travel to places a lot, and this makes a good all round travel lens. I can easily swap between wide angle landscape or tighter portrait on a fly without the hassle of changing the lens.

    The downside is that I own an E-PM2, which means that this lens is downright uncomfortable and difficult to grip for long periods of time on the smaller entry-level MFT. I compensate for it using a palm strap and in the near future, I'll be modifying my E-PM2 with Sugru to give it a better grip. It's too bad I don't have money for a coveted M1.

    1. Hi Kamigoroshi,
      The Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens is a good lens for street photography!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 12-40mm lens. You are right, as a travel lens, it is doing great, having just one lens to cover almost every shooting need.
      Oh dear, I have not considered using this lens on PEN bodies, surely the weight distribution would be a little off balanced. If you can find that third party additional grip for the E-PM2 I am sure it should be ok!

    2. The problem with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 is that when paired with some Olympus bodies like my E-PM2, using a high ISO causes banding in underexposed parts or shadows. It's gotten to the point that I can't take much night shots with it anymore because of it and therefore am looking for a suitable replacement. Your comparative review of both the Panasonic 25mm and Olympus 25mm isn't making it easy for me to choose as well, though I do want to know which fairs better at night (I don't think your review of those lenses states it).

      Despite the weight issue making it slightly uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time on my E-PM2, I think the 12-40mm lens is that good that I am willing to put up with it.

  10. Thanks for the review, was still a little uncertain about getting the EM1 + 12-40pro as I look to move to m43 for my event coverage from my usual 5D3+L Lens. Just a question though, whats a good flash for the EM1=12-40pro setup for covering events? Tried the hotshoe flash that came with the EM1 and it was rather underwhelming. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kenneth.
      I would strongly recommend Olympus FL-600R. You get fast recycle time and great features. I personally use Olympus FL-50R (bought it before the FL-600R was out)

  11. I recently went on a trip to Sicily and spent many weeks procrastinating about whether to buy the 12-40mm or spend a little more and get a used 12mm and 75mm (I already have 17mm and 45mm). I went with the latter in the end and I don’t regret the decision as I got some good images and learned a lot using two challenging FOVs. Seeing reports that the 12-40 is sharper across the frame at 12mm then the 12mm f2.0 (was that your finding Robin?) made the decision really quite hard, but having the small size of the 12mm and that extra light gathering particularly for Church interiors pulled some of the advantage back in the 12mm’s favour. There was something about being limited to 12mm that I found frustrating at first, but ultimately very satisfying after learning where to position myself. Framing my shots and getting interesting compositions with a wide angle is tricky and I wonder if I had brought the 12-40mm whether I would have been too tempted to zoom in to my preferred 35mm, but then when an amazing scene transpires just ahead of you and you’re stuck with 12mm… It's not an easy choice make

    1. Hi Henry
      I have not done a close comparison between the 12-40mm and 12mm F2, but I would think the difference is very marginal (I would lean toward the prime 12mm 2). But you were right when you describe the advantage of F2 vs F2.8, that extra brightness will be useful in low light condition.
      I would suggest getting an additional body (Olympus cameras are so small and light), not necessarily spending on the latest cameras, but perhaps an E-PL5 to fit another lens, so you do not have to be stuck with 12mm wide angle at all times. Instead of worrying about changing lens, you have another camera body with, perhaps a 45mm lens to cover that reach you need.

    2. Thanks for your reply Robin and terrific pictures (I havent seen another reviewer who has managed to show off the quasi macro capababailties of this lens so well). Thanks for the advise about getting another body, it might offer the best solution to add some flexibility to my prime kit.

  12. As you say, Olympus are releasing the other two pro lenses wide and tele and a 300mm prime In my mind it completes the line up. Olympus won't stop introducing new lenses, I can't see anymore gaps though. If Olympus can find a way to give us that 2.0 in zoom whilst keeping the weight down I think it will make a big impact on the pro world. At the moment most pros are still prepared to lug their FF and equipment from shoot to shoot But a new line of super wider aperture zoom lenses would break down the resistance of all but the hardiest of pros. It will be a good time to pick up second hand FF gear ;-)

    1. Hi timothy,
      I personally do think that mirrorless is the future and more and more pro photographers will switch to OM-D. As the lens collecton grew, especially in the PRO series, OM-D offers a very compelling solution!

    2. Amazing what they have achieved in five years really I wonder what olympus's best will look like after another 5 years.

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  14. Robin, thanks for the excellent posts! Your positivity encouraged me to purchase a E-M1 and take it on a 3 week trip to Italy. I now have a Canon 7D for sale. I love the 12-40 PRO lens, it is sharp, fast, great in the dark churches of Rome and the bright beaches of Capri. I too will look forward to the trinity of lenses being completed and to the evolution of the M43 platform. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

  15. Robin, fantastic images and comments, as usual. I am always stunned by the clarity of thses shots. Yes, the lenses are sharp, but there is a transparency I do not seem to see elsewhere. Is that the magic of your post-processing or is it an integral part of the gear (or both ;) ? Thanks again for the review!!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I think the display of the images have something to do with optimization for web display. And not allowing the photo-hosting website to resize and recompress the image for you.

  16. As usual, excellent photos! I believe that you mostly photograph at the same area (market), but still get a variety of different pictures, and i enjoy them a lot. In the long run perhaps you should consider completely different photo hunting grounds to avoid deja vu effects; Malaysia offers phantastic scenery anyway.

    On a technical note, i found some images a tad harsh and contrasty. I noted in the introduction that you turned off any contrast and sharpness enhancement camera-wise, but did a bit of post-processing. You mention that you changed contrast and brightness (exosure). I wondered if you also changed sharpness in post-processing.

  17. Thank you for your post, Robin. I have been evaluating a 12-40, a lens that I have wanted since its release, these past few weeks, and am still trying to reconcile its performance vs. my expectations. I have mostly shot primes with my Olympus and Panasonic bodies, and my 60mm macro has been a lens that has seen a lot of use this past year, followed closely by my 45. Where I am having difficulty seeing the 12-40 live up to all of the praise that I have read is close focusing at 40mm. Preliminary shots of flowers, a subject that I frequently shoot with my 60 (but not necessarily at 1:1) seems to produce images that are not as crisp as those that I have shot with the 60 or 45. I am not sure if my expectations are too high from my past shooting with these primes, or if my copy is less than ideal, a comment that I have never made about any lens that I have bought these past 25+ years. I plan on shooting and evaluating more images, but to date, the 12-40 has left me feeling a bit frustrated.


  18. Hi Robin,

    Great review and photos as usual. One quick question... did you experience any wobble with the barrel when the lens was at 40mm? I can feel it a bit loose when I move my camera in different directions.

    Thanks in advance

    1. I, too, am experiencing the "wobble." I currently own both the Panasonic 12-35 and the Olympus 12-40 and I can't decide which one to keep. The Olympus wobble is making me question the build quality as the Panasonic, though plastic, seems to be built with much greater care.

    2. Hi Jesse, thanks for replying. I had a look at another Oly 12-40 in a store and could confirm a wobble, although not as much as it is on mine. I will be taking my lens to Olympus Repair Center for a technician to asses and hopefully replace.


  19. Hi, Robin. Thank you for posting a great practical review. I am currently using EM-10 with the DSLR 4/3 14-54 f2.8-3.5 lenses through the MMF-3 converter, but having problem with AF speed. I am choosing between this micro4/3 12-40 f2.8 pro and the DSLR 4/3 12-60 f2.8-4.0 as I like the wide range 12-60, but a bit concern with the AF speed and image quality issues that come with using the converter. What would be your comments/suggestions on the AF speed and image quality when using the 4/3 12-60 lenses through MMF-3 converter? Would you recommend to go for the m4/3 12-40 f2.8 pro instead? The only thing with this lens to me is the limited zoom range of 40.

  20. Hi, Robin! This is the best m43 blog I have ever read until now! Keep up the great work, it's such a good resource for us, oly users!
    I have the 45mm F1.8 and the kit lenses (14-42 and 40-150) and also ordered the 9mm BCL. I want to get another lens for travel, to be as reliable as the 45mm in terms of quality, to leave the 14-42 home.. I'm considering 12mm F2/17mm F1.8 or 12-40mm F2.8. What would be your first choice if you didn't have any of them?

    Thanks a lot!

  21. Hi Robin, i love your blog !!! It is nice.

    Anyway, is this lens wide enough for landscape ?? I know this lens can be the best for street photography, but i wonder about it. Especially for the environment (Scenery).
    Or as you suggested 9-18mm because the huge wide difference.

    Thanks a lot Robin.

  22. I just got wobble at 40mm. Love the manual focus capability. Wonder what most use the assignable switch on lens for? I generally know DOF.

  23. Please mount it on an OMD m5 oder PL / PM without CA correction (TruePict < 7). Is it worse the money then?

  24. Great review and great pictures as always ;-)
    "Comparing this to the usual entry level kit lens (F3.5-5.6), at full zoom range the M.Zuiko 12-40mm is one full stop brighter." Shouldn't that read two stops? Just nitpicking.
    Yes the 12-40mm is a superb lens, I like it very much.

  25. Hello Robin.

    Thanks for the review, as always. I am wondering what your thoughts are on this lens vs the 12-60 2.8 that was made for the 4/3 system. Obviously it would need an adaptor. Wondering if you have had any experience shooting it and any other knowledge....


  26. Hi Robin, thanks for all this.
    Hi wonder if I should get the wide angle zoom 7-14 Pro lens (so nice)or this 12-40 Pro lens (so usefull but i cover this range with my prime). Considering I already have an m.zuiko 45mm f1.8 and a lumix 20mm f1.7 and the cheap zoom. I travel a lot in developping country so I dont want to carry a lot of gear and sometime there is no good opportunity to change lens.
    thanks virtual buddy

    Thank You

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  28. hey robin I 'm a big fan of your reviews .
    you have image samples from 7-14 , fisheye from 1.8 , from 40-150 . you also have image samples from 12-14 2.8 as download ?

    greet and thank Johann for answer

  29. Personally I love this lens. Foot zoom is nice, but for speed when you are trying to catch a moment in time nothing beats a zoom and a constant f2.8 is just awesome IMHO. The lens is light, fast focusing and for a zoom bright from wide open to stopped down. Your photos show just what a performer this is. The E system was about great zoom glass and weather sealing. This lens is not only true to that promise, it is affordable and in keeping with the 4/3 original goal, compact and unobtrusive. Just my take.

  30. Just bought myself one of these based on this and other reviews. Hopefully I can do it justice. I tried it in store with an EM-10 (my camera), didn't feel the need for a grip but we'll see.

  31. Hello I have a olympus camera Epm2 mini pen can I use Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 in my camera?

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  34. Hi Robin, all your photos are extremely sharp. Did you shoot all of these photos handheld?

  35. Hi Robin, I have this lens on EM10, I have the issue while shooting under low light indoor, the pictures were very grainy, hazy, soft as melted yogurt. Does it mean the lens was defected or it was my camera/lens setting?


  36. Hi Robin,
    I just felt compelled to thank you for this great review and help:
    I was 'freaking out' thinking that my wonderful new lens (it's my first Oly and I love it!) had be damaged as it would not go back into autofocus mode, which is essential for the post-focus feature of the LUMIX GX8. The manual gave no clear indication of the elegant simplicity of switching between modes, and I personally feel that this should be rectified to prevent anymore panics and 'near-heartattack' moments! I was mortified and on the verge of despair until I found your site...
    You are a life-saver, and I just wanted to express my bouncing gratitude!! :D
    Thank you, and keep up the great work!

  37. Thanks for this great review of this lens which I bought early in 2015 and don't regret. Is it too late to mention an error in the "THE F2.8 CONSTANT APERTURE" section, when you say the 1240PRO is one stop brighter at full zoom, it should say *two* stops brighter. cheers