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M.Zuiko 25mm

Date: 18/02/2014 | By: Mathieu

M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 Review: A small yet capable prime from Olympus

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M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 Review: A small yet capable prime from Olympus

A 50mm lens on 35mm format is the closest field of view we can get to the human eye. It is the focal length often found on the ideal kit lens for old SLR cameras and has always been one of the cheapest prime lenses you can buy for your camera (depending on the aperture). It is the standard lens by definition and you’ll most likely find it inside many a photographer’s camera bag. Up until now Micro Four Thirds users only had two options: the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 (equivalent to 50mm on MFT format), a great lens but expensive if you consider the system and the type of lens, and the Voigltänder Nokton f/0.95, a manual focus only lens that costs almost $1000.

E-M10, 1/500, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/500, f/ 8, ISO 200

The 25mm was missing from the Olympus lens lineup but the gap has finally been filled. Along with the OM-D E-M10, we had the chance to test the new M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 which, in many ways, was met with far more interest than the new camera itself.

[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=B00HWMP0XG] The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 Main Specs

• Focal Length: 25mm (35mm/full frame Equivalent Focal Length is 50mm)
• Lens Construction: 9 Elements in 7 Groups
• Extra low reflection optical coating
• Angle of View: 47 Degree
• Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m
• Maximum Image Magnification: 0.08x
• Number of Blades: 7 (Circular Aperture Diaphragm)
• Maximum Aperture: f1.8
• Minimum Aperture: f22
• Filter Size Diameter: 46mm
• Dimensions: 56.8mm, 42mm
• Weight: 137g

Made of plastic but solid as a rock

The 25mm f/1.8 black version
The 25mm f/1.8 black version

On the build quality front, the 25mm is very similar to the 45mm f/1.8. It too is made of plastic, which is perfectly fine, but may have the tendency to deteriorate a little bit over time. For instance, we’ve noticed that the paint on our silver 45mm has begun to wear off along the edges. This has no bearing on image quality of course, but may detract from its aesthetic appeal.

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The metal mount

Despite the use of plastic, the construction feels very good, and the mount is made of metal. Another advantage is that Olympus finally included a lens hood in the package. You have to unscrew the little plastic ring in order to mount the hood. It gives you that little extra bit of protection, which is always more than welcome when you’re out on a hike or in drizzly weather.

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With the lens hood

Internally, the lens features 9 elements in 7 groups with two aspherical elements. The front lens is concave and lets in a good amount of light in the corners despite the small diameter. It also has a 7 circular aperture diaphragm. Unlike the 12mm and 45mm, which were first released in silver and later on in black as a premium version, the 25mm lens is available in both silver or black right off the bat.

Through the lens: Image quality and performance

E-M10, 1/1600, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/1600, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Fast apertures with this kind of focal length aren’t uncommon, but the first thing I like to check with a fast lens is its performance at the largest aperture because this may be one of the main reasons you are considering it for your collection. I can say that after two weeks of testing, the new 25mm didn’t disappoint me in the least. At f/1.8 it is very sharp with good rendering of detail.

 

E-M5, 1/60, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M5, 1/60, f/ 1.8, ISO 200
E-M5, 1/80, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M5, 1/80, f/ 1.8, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 1.8, ISO 200

There is almost no vignetting, but you can find traces of chromatic aberration at 1.8 especially if there is lots of light and you accidentally overexpose the picture. Nothing out of the ordinary here and if you stop down by one or two stops, the CA goes away.

E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 1.8, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/4000, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Bokeh is often one of the aspects that is criticised for being poor or less pleasant with the Micro Four Thirds system but even with the smaller sensor, you can still get some very nice results with the right lens. The 25mm f/1.8 is certainly a very good example of this. The bokeh can be very pleasant and creamy if your focus distance is short enough. The minimum focussing distance of this lens is 25 cm. You may wonder why Olympus didn’t develop a faster lens than 1.8 such as 1.4, but I think that to make a real difference, they would have to go faster than 1.4 and the result would probably be a bigger and more expensive lens. Also, the 1.8 aperture is in the same range of the other M.Zuiko primes.

E-M10, 1/200, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/200, f/ 1.8, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/2500, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/2500, f/ 1.8, ISO 200

With regards to sharpness, you can expect the best results between f/4 and f/11. The results in both the centre and the corners are excellent. At f/22, diffraction and loss of details are more evident.

Contrast and colour rendering are very good and are easily comparable with the results from the other M.Zuiko primes such as the 17mm or 45mm. As for distortion, I didn’t find any unless you are at very short distance. Overall the performance of the lens is no short of brilliant.

E-M10, 1/160, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/160, f/ 8, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/640, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/640, f/ 8, ISO 200

The only flaw I found was the presence of purple flare, something that both Heather and I noticed since the first days of use. It isn’t the first time that I’ve noticed purple flare on Micro Four Thirds lenses but I was surprised to see that amount on the new 25mm, also because it has a special Zero Coating treatment that should reduce this kind of undesired effect. If you like backlit shots as I do, the purple flare can be very invasive if the light rays enter at a specific angle. In that case, slightly tilting the camera up or down will give you a more normal lens flare, so the problem is surmountable.

E-M10, 1/250, f/ 5/1, ISO 100
E-M10, 1/250, f/ 5, ISO 100
E-M10, 1/125, f/ 71/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/125, f/ 7.1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/100, f/ 63/10, ISO 100
E-M10, 1/100, f/ 6.3, ISO 100

The autofocus worked really well with the E-M10 and E-M5. One of the characteristics of this new lens is that only the lens at the back moves, which also contributes to better image quality. The squirrel picture shown above and the one below ended up perfectly in focus on the first try, even though the little animal only stayed still for a matter of milliseconds.

E-M10, 1/100, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/100, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Conclusion: A must-have lens?

This review is one of the fastest I’ve ever written, not because there isn’t much to say but because the lens works so well that there isn’t anything else to add. The M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 might rapidly become a classic lens in the MFT system, especially among those who enjoy this field of view. It is cheaper than the 25mm f/1.4 by Leica and its price might decrease like the 45mm f/1.8 did. This would make it just another example of an excellent compromise between image quality and price for the system.

E-M10, 1/1000, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/1000, f/ 8, ISO 200

Certainly many comparison questions have arisen, such as how the performance compares to the 25mm Leica. I haven’t had the chance to test them side-by-side thus far, so regarding sharpness and overall less performance, I cannot say anything yet. I don’t believe that a less-than-a-stop difference between 1.4 and 1.8 will make a huge difference to the background bokeh. I am more interested to see if the “Leica” touch adds something unique to the final images.

The Nokton 25mm f/0.95 by Voigltänder, on the other hand, is a very specific lens. It is manual focus only, not very sharp at its fastest aperture but delivers a unique look and has a very interesting bokeh. It is so different from the M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 that they aren’t really competitors.

If you are on a budget and love the 50mm equivalent field of view, I have no doubts about recommending this lens to you.

E-M10, 1/100, f/ 8/1, ISO 200
E-M10, 1/100, f/ 8, ISO 200
[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=B00HWMP0XG]

M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 is also available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://weknowtoomuch.com Rolfen

    I’m looking for a lens, and this is the most fitting but it doesn’t fully fit my needs because I often use off-center composition and there is a definite difference in sharpness between the center and the edges. It is much more suited for central compositions, where the subject is in the middle.
    I could live with that but not at that price… this is in the price range of something that I would need or that would suit me very well!
    Then there’s the Leica 1.4 – it even costs more… Maybe, in the future…

  • Mathieu

    Then congrats for your new lens. I’m glad you like it 😉

  • Pierre Dicenzo

    Thank you for the review.
    Hesitated between the Pan 20 and the Oly 25, but was aware the Pan was slow to focus. Went to the store yesterday and tried it on my Gf3. Could’nt resist and walked out of the store with the Oly.
    Very pleased so far. Sharp and fast.

  • Albert

    One missing thing for this lens is the distance scale, as 17 mm and 12 mm. There is no 25mm (autofocus) with distance scale for M 4/3.

  • Albert

    Please compare those two lenses if you can. The 20mm has been a must have lens for M 4/3, but I think this new 25 mm from Olympus could be the new must (in the “normal” field of view). What do you think?

  • Samuel Jones

    Thank you for the informative review. It seems like a nice lens and I would like to own it. I do think the price in Europe is about 100 euro too high though. It will probably come down in about a year, but I don’t think I can wait that long.

  • Mathieu

    Yes I’ve used it indoor especially inside the national cinema museum which is very dark and it worked well, on par with the other olympus primes.

  • Bob Garlick

    Have you tested this lens in low light or low contrast situations to see if the lens focus search becomes an issue?

  • Mathieu

    I was very close to the squirrel, especially in the first picture because there was a lady that was feeding them. When the squirrel saw me he thought I had some food as well :) He stood there for a couple of seconds and that allowed me to get very close to him. When he realised I had nothing, he ran away.
    This lens can be good for people portraits if you don’t stay too close to the subject (the face). It is a standard lens and not a portrait lens, meaning that if you get too close your subject’s face could be slightly distorted and you could emphasise some imperfection of the face like a big nose for example.

  • Carsten

    Thank you for this informative review! Can you elaborate how you took the squirrel photos? How far were you away when catching these little buddies on camera? What is the typical distance for shooting portraits of someone’s face with this lense?

  • Pedro Fradique

    Hello,
    Thanks for your review.
    I was wondering, did you try it, or can you try it, with the GX7?
    There could be differences because of the correction the camera applies, that a different brand camera will not apply, right?
    I have a GX7 and am wondering if this Oly25 will be a good purchase considering this correcting “problem”
    Thanks,
    Pedro.

  • Mathieu

    If you have the 25mm 1.4 and like it, there is no reasons to switch to the 25 1.8, except some pronounced G.A.S. attack 😀

  • Mathieu

    Hi Timur. It makes sense that the flare doesn’t rotate with the camera because the light rays don’t change their positions or angles if you rotate the camera.
    I noticed the same kind of purple flare on the 45/1.8 too and actually on many MFT lenses. Lucky for us it is easy enough to avoid.

  • Timur Born

    Thanks for the review!
    The “purple” flare also happens with the 45/1.8 and likely other lenses. It also happens with iPhones and likely other cameras, so it has been speculated that the Sony based sensor can be blamed. Very small apertures can help to make it less pronounced, too. But in the end it’s a matter of angle, with light sources right at the edge of the lens or light hitting the lens/sensor combo straight on being the most problematic.
    Btw, notice how the purple always happens in quite straight horizontal and vertical lines, but not diagonal ones? You can even rotate the camera and it will still stay horizontal/vertical, as in not rotating with the camera. At least that happens with the 45/1.8.

  • http://www.briankeairns.com Brian Keairns

    Nice review and images. As someone else had mentioned I really like the Panasonic 25mm 1.4 for reasons I can’t clearly articulate. It has a certain intangible quality. I think the images from the Olympus lens look great and I prefer the size and aesthetics of the Oly. It would be a great match for my GM1. Though I’m not interested in selling my PL 25mm so it’s probably hard to justify the overlap.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Hans, I do think that the price will decrease through time. I also find it a little bit expensive, but if you look at the 17mm price for example, you can find it now around 450$ but it was much more expensive when it was released.

  • Hans

    Thanks for the review Mathieu – looks like a great lens for my collection.
    What’s your opinion about the pricing of this lens? An equivalent Nikon APS-C 35mm prime is about half the price ($200) … shouldn’t the Olympus be closer to that price point (I guess if you wait 6 month the street price may be closer to that anyway).

  • Mathieu

    I haven’t tried enough the 20mm to compare it properly. Certainly the 25mm is faster with the AF :)

  • Mathieu

    Thanks for your kind comment 😉

  • roger cooke

    Thanks for a great review. I wish you had commented on the Panasonic 20mm 1.7, as it is in the same league and price class. Though not a mystical person, I find the Leica 25 1.4 does have a certain je ne sais quoi, and I look forward to your comparison.

  • http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/ soundimageplus

    Nice no-nonsense review. Good to see that you managed it without the need to engage iwithout ‘partisan’ swipes at other brands, which has cursed some other reviews. I’m seriously considering one of these and this helps. Thanks for the view.

  • dolbydunn

    Nice review, Matt. Love the squirrel photos! You make me want the lens even though I already own the Leica 25 f1.4 (which is also a superb lens).

    I am thinking of getting this lens in silver to leave on my GM1.

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