The Micro Four Thirds system offers a wide range of lenses but when it comes to portrait lenses, the choice is more limited. Without a hint of doubt, I can say that the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 is the best choice. It is a very affordable lens but performs like a pro!
Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Main Specs
- Focal Length: 45mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length is 90mm)
- Lens Construction: 9 Elements in 8 Groups
- 2 E-HR lenses
- Angle of View: 27 Degree
- AF System: High-speed Imager AF (MSC)
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.5m
- Maximum Image Magnification: 0.11x
- Minimum Field Size: 118 x 157mm
- Number of Blades: 7 (Circular Aperture Diaphragm)
- Maximum Aperture: f1.8
- Minimum Aperture: f22
- Filter Size Diameter: 37mm
- Dimensions Diameter: 56 x 46mm
- Weight: 116g
Small and Discreet
The 45mm, like the M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 or the 17mm f/1.8, is a very small lens that perfectly suits a PEN camera or the OM-D E-M5. With a plastic rather than metal build, it doesn’t feel quite as nice as the 12mm, but the payoff is that it is very lightweight. It also lacks the shifting focus ring which allows you to quickly switch between autofocus and manual focus. The ring is very smooth, however, and it’s nice to use for manual focusing.
Like the other Olympus primes, a lens hood isn’t included in the package. In this case, it bothers me less because its focal length makes it less prone to flares or the effects of direct light.
Through the lens
Despite its plastic feel, the 45mm is a very good lens. It is sharp, even at its largest aperture, and the AF motor is silent. Moreover, I have never had a problem focusing with this lens with any of the OM-D E-M5, the GH3 or the Pen EP-3. In short, I can’t really come up with any negative points as far as lens performance is concerned.
Given its particular focal length (90mm equivalent on full frame camera), this lens is destined primarily for portrait photography. It will either be too long or too short for other purposes, but if you are looking for a cheap lens that will let you take wonderful portraits of your kids, pets or even models during a professional shoot as I have done, you will be more than satisfied. The bokeh is also very pleasant.
Once you grow familiar with the 45mm, it can also be nice for urban shots, including urban landscapes or some details in the city.
It isn’t a sports lens, as the focal length is too short, but it can be useful in some situations where the subject isn’t too far away, as well as in low-light conditions thanks to its fast aperture of f/1.8. If you’re lucky enough to capture some animals, its excellent AF motor also comes in handy.
The minimal focus distance is 50 cm, so forget macro style photos or overly small subjects. This said, it can still be a useful lens for photographing flowers or other similar subjects.
And for video?
The lens works well for video. Like the 12mm and other Zuiko primes, I found it too small for serious shooting, but otherwise, it can give you some very nice results. The AF motor is silent enough but if you are shooting an interview, it is better to focus manually. Below is a quick low-light video I shot with the Panasonic GH3 using the Olympus 12mm f/2 and the 45mm f/1.8.
There aren’t many portrait lenses for MFT right now. A very good alternative is the 17mm f/1.8, marked as one of the best MFT lenses ever, but it costs more than twice the price of the 45mm.
So, here I arrive at my conclusion: the 45mm is the best portrait lens for Micro Four Thirds because the rapport between cost and performance is unbeatable, and that is one of the great advantages of the MFT system.
As I said before, I would be grabbing at straws to come up with any negative points. Yes, it is made of plastic and can feel a little bit cheap, but it isn’t really relevant to me. One thing I can say (which is more of a personal feeling than a scientific/technical point) is that the 45mm f/1.8 lacks some “character”. It is very sharp and has a very nice bokeh, but at the same time, it doesn’t give you that particular look you could easily fall in love with, in contrast with other lenses I have had the pleasure to try on MFT cameras like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4. However, I can’t really put this down as a negative point as it is too subjective.
That being said, the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 is definitely the best portrait lens out there, and can easily satisfy both amateurs and professionals.