Olympus 25mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko Digital
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Lab Test Results
February 21, 2014
by William Brawley
Announced alongside the Olympus E-M10, the new Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 M.Zuiko Digital lens is the latest addition to their high quality, compact, fast prime lens family. Joining the ranks of the highly acclaimed Olympus 17mm ƒ/1.8, 45mm ƒ/1.8 and 75mm ƒ/1.8, the new 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens fits right in, providing the classic 50mm equivalent focal length for Micro Four Thirds shooters.
Similar to the 45mm ƒ/1.8 lens, the new 25mm lens aims not only for quality, but also affordability with a retail price of around $399.99. The lens is currently available for pre-order in either a black or silver finish, and includes front and rear lens caps, a bayonet-style lens hood, and a "decoration ring" that snaps on over the threads when not using a lens hood.
Are you a Micro Four Thirds shooter who wants a 50mm-equivalent portrait lens with a very fast aperture? OK. Do you want it to be extremely sharp wide-open? Great, then this new Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 is the lens for you! Our tests show this lens produces exceedingly sharp images, even at ƒ/1.8, and all the way into the corners.
Now, there is a hint -- ever so slightly -- of some corner softness at ƒ/1.8, but it's so minor that it's hardly worth mentioning. However, stopping down this lens improves sharpness even more -- and across the entire frame -- especially around ƒ/4-ƒ/5.6. However, center sharpness remains excellent throughout the entire aperture range, from ƒ/1.8 onwards until around ƒ/16, when minor diffraction limiting softness appears.
There is a light amount of chromatic aberration seen at all apertures, but it's mostly only noticeable in the corners and only in areas of high contrast. The effect is a light magenta fringing, and it's probably only visible by viewing 100% crops. Overall, it's very minor -- averaging around 300ths of a percent of frame height -- and something a little post-processing would clear up easily.
As many fast-aperture lenses tend to show, there is some noticeable vignetting at the wider apertures with this lens. Wide-open, the Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens shows a little over 0.5EV of light loss. Vignetting steadily decreases to just under 0.25EV once you stop down to ƒ/5.6 and holds fairly constant throughout the remainder of apertures.
The new Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens is not completely devoid of distortion -- showing a little barrel distortion -- but the effect is, again, fairly minor. On average, the amount of barrel distortion is well under +0.5%, as is the maximum amount of distortion in the corners.
The 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens bares Olympus' "MSC" (Movie and Still Compatible) designation meaning the electronic "High-speed Imager AF" system is nearly silent to help avoid picking up focusing noise in videos. In our handling experience, the lens is indeed very quiet to focus. The AF system is also very fast with no hunting, taking well under one second to sweep from minimum focusing distance to infinity.
Manual focusing is also available with this lens using an electrical focus-by-wire system. Unlike some Olympus primes such as the M.Zuiko 12mm ƒ/2, which uses a focus ring clutch mechanism, manual focus is, instead, enabled by the camera.
The Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens has a close focusing distance of 9.4 in. (24cm) with a maximum magnification of 0.12x (1:8.3 ratio), and as such, doesn't provide overly good macro performance.
Build Quality and Handling
Like many other Olympus Micro Four Thirds prime lenses, the new 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens is very small and lightweight (about 2 inches long and only 136g). However, there is a nice solidness and a bit of heft, which gives it an enjoyable, high-quality and well-built feel.
Being such a small lens, it feels excellent and well balanced on any of the Micro Four Thirds cameras, as you would expect -- from the small GX1 test camera we use in the lab to larger cameras like the Olympus E-M1. The compact design makes it an excellent walk-around, every day lens that's great for portraits and low-light shooting, as well as general purpose photography.
As for build specifics, the barrel of the Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 feels to be constructed from polycarbonate plastic, in either a smooth matte black or a matte silver finish, with a metal lens mount. It takes a bit of effort to mount it onto our Olympus E-M10 camera and feels very secure on the camera -- no wiggle or play. The rest of the exterior is very simple with a single focus ring that measures about 5/8-inch wide and textured in small ribs for an easy tactile grip. Being a focus-by-wire system, the focus ring will turn indefinitely with a buttery-smooth feel.
On the very end of the lens, Olympus has included a bayonet-style cover ring, or "decoration ring" in Olympus lingo, that's designed to cover the grooves for attaching a lens hood. This is just for a bit of added style, but if you use a lens hood (which is also included in the box) I can see this item getting lost quite easily.
Inside the barrel, the Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 lens features 9 elements in 7 groups, including 2 aspherical elements to help reduce aberrations. The aperture diaphragm is a 7-bladed circular design for pleasant background blur.
Olympus themselves don't offer another 25mm prime lens, unless you count the older Four Thirds DSLR-specific 25mm ƒ/2.8 pancake-style lens. The most direct competitor to the Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 is the Panasonic 25mm ƒ/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX lens. While this lens provides a similar focal length, the Panasonic lens is 2/3 of stop brighter for better low-light performance, but shows more vignetting at that aperture. The lens also shows less CA on average and much less distortion, however it's physically larger and quite a bit more expensive at around $530-630.
Another option is the Sigma 30mm ƒ/2.8 DN Art, which is also small and compact, but provides a little bit longer focal length (60mm equivalent). However, it's significantly slower with its ƒ/2.8 aperture, while still producing very sharp images, even wide open, with a similar amount of CA and vignetting. It's also very inexpensive at only $199.
The Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 M.Zuiko Digital is another excellent member of Olympus' fast prime lens family for their Micro Four Thirds cameras. The build quality feels excellent, even with a polycarbonate lens barrel (it does have a metal mount, however). It feels solid and well-balanced on big and small Micro Four Thirds cameras, alike, and its compact size and light weight make it an excellent everyday, go-anywhere fast prime for portraits and low-light shooting.
With outstanding sharpness, even wide-open, as well as minimal CA, vignetting and distortion, the new 25mm ƒ/1.8 is a very solid performer that produces excellent images. Like other Olympus Micro 4/3 lenses, this new 25mm ƒ/1.8 also has super-fast AF performance making it great for things like street shooting and other fast-moving subjects.
Overall, the Olympus 25mm ƒ/1.8 is yet another very good, well-built lens for the Micro Four Thirds system, with excellent optical and AF performance, that's also small, lightweight, and better yet, very affordable.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Olympus 25mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko Digital User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by photohounds (1 reviews)Sharpness/colour low vignetting/CA Size/weightNot f/0.85
I compared to the 25mm Pana 1.4 and 1.7, not the f0.9x beasts. Even so, lucky me to have them for 2 days! This "high standard" lens makes up in sharpness and low/distortion/CA for the tiny amount it lacks in speed. Good into the light too.reviewed November 30th, 2015 (purchased for $290)
Silent, fast and accurate focus. Image quality from wide open: superb. I was going to say "handles beautifully", but in fact, I was barely even aware of it being there, most of the time.
If you are in the market for a μ4:3 "fast standard" lens, you could not possibly regret it unless you really want f/0.9.
A price/size/performance bargain, in practical terms - it rules.
Other makers could learn a lot here - many lenses hailed as "superb" don't measure up to this.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by romeo (3 reviews)Light - Small - Fast - Sharp - Lens Hood
After using Nikon (D300/D700) and Sony (NEX-7/A7r) now I use only Olympus.reviewed June 16th, 2014 (purchased for $400)
Two body OM-D E-M5, one OM-D E-M5 with 25mm F1.8 and another OM-D E-M5 with 75mm F1.8.
No regrets for the past,for me small is beautiful.
Image quality of the Olympus with its lens is sharp, beautiful with gorgeous color.
9 out of 10 points by Umberto 357 (1 reviews)Leggero, luminoso, taglienteil prezzo, la sensibile perdita di qualitÃÂ oltre f.11
Era da molto che desideravo un 25mm: la lente più vicina all'angolo di campo dell'occhio. Possiedo anche il Panasonic 20mm/f.1,7, ma per il mio gusto apre troppo; sono stato tentato dal Sigma 30 mm, ma i test che ho consultato mi hanno sconsigliato. C'era poi il 25 Panasonic ma... e poi anche per quello ho visto un test che mi ha fatto desistere.reviewed April 22nd, 2014 (purchased for $633)
Ho acquistato lo Zuiko 25mm/f.1,8 da qualche giorno e l'ho subito provato. In negozio ho scattato a f. 1,8 con luce naturale (eccellente!), poi in strada, f.2-f.4. A casa, nel pomeriggio l'ho testato. Uso sempre il medesimo paesaggio che inquadro dal terrazzo sistemando nell'angolo superiore sinistro alcuni camini e in basso a destra delle tegole marsigliesi ed antenne tv, cavi, scatole di derivazione staffe e viti varie: ne conosco ogni particolare e utilizzando questa immagine da anni e mi dà immediatamente idea di quello che ho per le mani: così, stop dopo stop fino a f. 8 ho verificato che la qualità è ottima, a f.4-5,6 eccellente, paragonabile per contrasto ed incisività "cristallina" al Canon 17/40 a f.8, e ciò su tutta l'immagine, senza morbidezze laterali o angolari. Piuttosto scadente a f. 22, ma il degrado comincia a sentirsi da f.11. Comunque con un po' di p.p. a f. 16 l'immagine è ancora accettabile (più che sufficiente al 33%-50%), stampabilissima. L'ho provato poi in campagna e me ne sono innamorato. Sono decisamente soddisfatto. Ho voglia di comprare così il 45/1,8 al quale ho letto che assomiglia molto ed ha un prezzo migliore.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Prime Minister (40 reviews)Compact, lightweight, sharp, good contrast, fast AF, wide aperture
For me this is the fast and compact standard prime that was missing in the Micro Four Thirds lens lineup.reviewed March 29th, 2014
There is of course the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and optically it's a very good lens. However, the Panasonic is relatively large and heavy (even more so with the large lens hood), it costs more and it does have some optical flaws like soft corners and visible CA.
I hoped that the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 would be a good performer and luckily it is. Wide open at f/1.8 a large central portion of the image is very sharp. Contrast is good too. There is some vignetting and CA, but it's not excessive. I don't see any serious distortion either.
In short, I don't feel the need to stop the lens down for better image quality. When you do stop it down one or two notches, sharpness and contrast get slightly better. Again, I think it's perfectly fine at f/1.8.
Autofocus is swift, silent and dead on. Noting moves externally and I think it's nice that the lens shares a 46mm filter thread with some other lenses for the system.
The build quality is like the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. A large ribbed focus ring, a metal lens mount and a lot of plastic. It doesn't feel fragile and because it's heavier then the 45mm, it feels quite substantial for a lens this size. A plastic lens hood is included.
For me this Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is a very welcome addition to the system. I like it more than the Panasonic 25mm, because it's cheaper, smaller, lighter and the aperture doesn't rattle. In real life image quality is about the same. Highly recommend standard lens!
8 out of 10 points and recommended by pmld (1 reviews)Light - Small - Fast - Sharp - Lens Hoodprice
I agree with the review done on this page, there are not many on the market relatively accessible and quality options. The Panasonic 25mm 1.4, has a minimal difference in depth of field, it is shorter, but the difference is minimal it does not justify the purchase even if it is 1.4. However Olympus 25mm 1.8 gain for all other specifications, even in size. A good option for those looking for a 25mm AF lens for MFT. No regrets.reviewed March 12th, 2014