“Feathered Bokeh”. While that sounds like a narrow depth-of-field photograph of a bird, Olympus is touting this as their headline feature of their latest PRO series of M.Zuiko fast aperture (f/1.2) prime lenses. According to the brief held at Funan Showsuites Singapore on 4 Nov 2017, the new Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Lens will produce “feathered bokeh” when shot wide open at F1.2, while “solid bokeh” will come in at F1.8 and above.
So, how good exactly is this “feathered bokeh”? And does it render buttery-smooth out-of-focus areas as advertised, or is it just fowl play?
Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Hands-On in Singapore
I set out to a hands-on event organized by Olympus Singapore. I brought along my Fujifilm X-T2 and, crucially, the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R, which is widely regarded as one of the gems for portraiture in the Fujifilm system. To date, I have shot hundreds of photos with the Fuji 56mm, and honestly I found it a cracking lens. Sharp and plenty of bokeh, worthy of its reputation. But how well would it stand up against Olympus’ new arsenal of F1.2 PRO lenses? Well, in a nutshell, very well indeed. Much better than I thought it would, considering the larger APS-C sensor, longer focal length and stellar reputation of the Fuji lens. I will be writing a more in-depth article on a comparison between the two lenses, so stay tuned.
Build Quality and Handling
The lens felt solidly-constructed in the hand. On the E-M1 Mk II, it felt very well-balanced. The lens weighs around 410g, which is pretty heavy for a Micro 4/3 lens. However, this is the price you have to pay in order to get such a fast aperture lens.
It has a clutch mechanism, allowing you to pull out the focusing ring to switch between manual and auto focus. It is also weather-resistant.
The Zuiko name has earned itself quite a good reputation for lens sharpness. The Olympus 45mm F1.2 is no different.
The bokeh works as advertised, with a good quantity at F1.2, as well as a pleasant, smooth quality in the out-of-focus transitions.
How about the sharpness? Let’s see a 100% crop of the above image.
Wow. Being a PRO-series lens, it is razor sharp. So sharp, you can see every detail at 100% magnification, even when shot wide open. The pixel-peeper in me was thoroughly satisfied when I opened the files in Lightroom. The subject you are shooting will probably not enjoy it as much though. The picture is too sharp without any post-processing to smoothen out skin and makeup imperfections.
And again, the close-up crop.
Jeez. This is one beast of a lens for sure. Sharp where it is focused, and pleasantly buttery smooth in the areas where it is not.
Since Olympus has made its “feathered bokeh” as the headline feature of the lens, I decided to test their claim out. Shooting the same scene at F1.2 and F1.8, I compared the bokeh between the two shots to see if the “feathered bokeh” at F1.2 was indeed better than the “solid bokeh” at F1.8 and onwards.
Well there is certainly some difference in the size and smoothness of the bokeh balls. Let’s take a closer look with the following 100% crops:
From the comparison pictures taken with the same lens, the “feathered bokeh” does look smoother. There is a more defined and contrasty outline on the F1.8 “solid bokeh” shot. On the F1.2 shot, the bokeh is very pleasing to the eye indeed.
AF Speed & Minimum Focusing Distance
Autofocus was generally very snappy. Paired with the E-M1 Mk II and on Eye-detection AF, I didn’t notice it hunting even once. It just locked on every single time, and gave a sense of reassurance. Although, I guess the top-of-the-line autofocusing capability of the body did help out too.
Also, being able to focus down to 50cm (its minimum focusing distance), this lens can get you pretty decent close-up shots. During the event, Olympus was proud to state this specification in comparison to other similar 85mm lenses from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fujifilm.
Final Thoughts on the Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Hands-On
I am primarily a Fujifilm user. Frankly, I attended the product launch just out of curiosity. How good was the F1.2 PRO series lens in comparison to the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R which I currently own? Well, after having the hands-on with the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO, I think I am convinced that Olympus has successfully created a phenomenal portrait lens. I would recommend this lens, especially if you are a Micro 4/3 user and looking for something that performs extremely well in the classic 85mm focal length (35mm equivalent).
Of course, there are some trade-offs. First, you will need to ask yourself if you would mind the weight and size of this lens. At 410g, it is considerably heavier than something like a Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8, which weighs a mere 118g. But if you have ever used a full-frame 85mm F1.2 or F1.4 equivalent, you would know that it is still very compact and lightweight. Secondly, at an asking price of $1,199 USD, the lens is not exactly cheap.
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