Review: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO has been for sale since the end of 2017 for a suggested retail price of € 1,299 incl. sales tax. It is the long-awaited bright short telephoto lens from Olympus for the Micro Four Thirds system. This lens, together with the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm F1.2 PRO and the previously introduced M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO, forms a trio of bright lenses that raise the bokeh from shots with Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras to a higher level.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO: Feathered bokeh champion
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO is a new lens in the PRO series. That means that this lens meets the highest requirements in terms of robustness and weather resistance. For Olympus, that means: (splash) waterproof, dust-proof and resistant to freezing down to -10 degrees Celsius. Olympus has an excellent reputation in this area. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO is the "longer" brother of the previously released M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO. The 25mm stands out with excellent image quality over the entire aperture range and a beautiful bokeh at full aperture. The bokeh of the 25mm is beautifully soft without hard edges. The new 45mm has a longer focal length. The field of view of this lens corresponds to that of a 90mm on full frame. That makes it a great focal length for, for example, beautiful close-shot portraits. The brightness of the 45mm is exactly the same as that of the 25mm. The bokeh of the 45mm should be even nicer than that of the 25mm due to the longer focal length. That holds a lot of promise.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 has the same Z Coating Nano technology as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO for sharp and clear image quality with less glare in backlit shots. The three bright F1.2 lenses from Olympus are, of course, slightly bigger and heavier than Olympus' previous fixed focal lengths, but the 45mm is still reasonably compact and light for this focal length. The filter diameter of the three F1.2 lenses is the same, and the controls are all in the same place on all three lenses. Just like the other two, the 45mm F1.2 also has a focus clutch. This makes it possible to move from autofocus to manual focus by simply pulling the focus ring backwards. Because the focus ring in manual focus has hard stops for infinity and close, this lens is also useful in a video rig.
An important sales point for the M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO is the feathered bokeh. Olympus claims that the three new PRO lenses, the 17mm, the 25mm and the 45mm, are specially designed for a nice, soft bokeh without hard edges around the blur circles and without a noisy appearance of the blur. From experience, we know that bokeh is not only a function of a large aperture and the longest possible focal length. The whole optical design helps to determine the appearance of the blur. The M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO does indeed have a very nice bokeh. The sharpness changes very gradually to blur, and light sources in the background have no hard edges or the dreaded onion rings. Objects in the background with very fine details also don't have double images that would otherwise cause a messy bokeh. All these characteristics can be seen in the shot with the prayer flags.
The M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO has no image stabilization. The built-in image stabilization of the Olympus cameras is good enough to stabilize this 45mm. The night shot is made by hand at full aperture at 1/5th of a second and is perfectly sharp. That's quite an achievement for a lens that has a field of view that corresponds with that of an 85mm in 35-mm equivalent. Without stabilization, you would have to shoot with at least a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. The stabilization is therefore good for four stops, and a bit more if you don't have too much coffee. Due to the lack of image stabilization in the lens, this Olympus is not ideal for (older) Panasonic cameras without built-in stabilization. All new Panasonic cameras now have good image stabilization, so that's no reason to reject this lens.
The autofocus of the M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO is fast and quiet. The lens can therefore be used perfectly for documentary work. Because the focus is measured on the sensor, the autofocus is also very accurate. And that's important for a lens with so little focal depth at full aperture. The excellent eye and face recognition of Olympus makes photographing portraits a lot easier with this 45mm. And if you don't want to use the autofocus, you can easily pull the focus ring back and focus manually.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO feels solid. For a Micro Four Thirds, it's a rather big and heavy lens, although that is, of course, relative. An 85 mm f/1.4 for small frame is much bigger and heavier. You have to compare this 45 mm f/1.2 in terms of dimensions and weight more with an 85 mm f/1.8 for small frame. On a smaller OM-D body like the E-M10 Mark III, you do have the feeling that you have a hefty lens on it. On the E-M5 Mark II, this 45mm is more at home, and the balance with the E-M1 Mark II is optimal. Given the price of the 45 mm f/1.2 PRO, I also think it likely that most users will put this lens on an Olympus flagship. The lens does not have features like image stabilization or an aperture ring, things that the Panasonic/Leica 42.5 mm f/1.2 does have. The M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO, on the other hand, has a focus clutch, so you can quickly switch from autofocus to manual focus and back again. It's simply a matter of clicking the focus ring backwards. It works very easily, although you sometimes have to be careful not to do it unconsciously. Then the camera suddenly doesn't focus anymore. Fortunately, you see that, certainly with this 45mm, generally quite quickly. The depth of field is namely so small at full aperture that you can see in the viewfinder exactly where the focus is, even without focusing tools. Just like the other two lenses in this series, the M.Zuiko 45 mm f/1.2 PRO also has a Fn button on the lens that can give you any function you want. You can, for example, program this button to show the depth of field when you press the button.