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Hands-on with the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens

By Alvin Soon - 30 Oct 2017

Hands-on with the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens

The new 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens on an OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens: Just how creamy can it get?

One of the best things about the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system is the rich library of lenses it has; 63 at last count. Olympus is adding to that number with two new lenses; a 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens and a 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens, which translate to a 90mm and 34mm respectively, in 35mm equivalent.

At f/1.2, these lenses are fast, and follow in the footsteps of the existing Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Then 17mm f/1.2 will be coming out in January, while the 45mm f/1.2 will be out in November. I’ve had the chance to shoot with the 45mm f/1.2 for a few days and here are some first impressions of this lens.

The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the Olympus lens is its comparison with the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, which has been around since 2014. I’ll talk more about the differences between theses lens later, but one thing that Olympus says is special about their 45mm f/1.2 is something they call ‘feathered bokeh.’ When shooting wide open at f/1.2, the lens has been specially engineered to blend the edges of blur together with soft transitions.

The edges of blur are supposed to blend together more harmoniously at f1/.2, an effect Olympus calls ‘feathered bokeh.’ f/1.2 at 45mm, 1/30 sec, ISO 1600.

f/1.8 is when the bokeh apparently returns to a more familiar characteristic. 45mm at f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 1600.

Now, bokeh can become pretty subjective, and people get very particular about it. Is the ‘feathered bokeh’ really more feathery or is it simply blurrier as a result of a wider aperture? I’m no lens scientist, so all I can say is that at f/1.2, the background blur does look more naturalistic, with a creaminess that brings to mind the look of vintage prime lenses.

The bokeh at f/1.2 does look more naturalistic with less distracting edges. 45mm at f/1.2, 1/640 sec, ISO 200.

45mm at f/1.8, 1/250 sec, ISO 200.

If you don’t like the ‘feathered bokeh’ look, you can always stop down to f/1.8, at which point Olympus says the ‘feathered bokeh’ effect will cease and return to, well, ‘ordinary’ bokeh. If you already have the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens, it apparently already has the feathered bokeh effect as well.

The 45mm f/1.2 Pro is quite a big lens, so you’ll need a camera with a grip to balance its heft. Shown here on an Olympus E-M5 Mark II with its optional grip accessory and the lens hood attached.

While the lens is small in comparison to some other 85mm equivalent lenses, it’s still a big lens when attached to an MFT body. You’ll want one with a grip to balance the heft; the lens didn’t feel comfortable on my bare Olympus E-M5 Mark II, but it was perfect when I attached the camera’s optional grip accessory.

The lens is dust, splash and freeze-proof, and build quality feels solid. The manual focus clutch pulls down with a satisfying ‘thunk’ and engages manual focus instantly. To the left of the lens is a customizable Function button, on which you can map commands like AF lock and focus peaking.

f/1.2 (left), f/1.8 (right).

45mm at f/1.2, 1/200 sec, ISO 200.

45mm at f/1.8, 1/200 sec, ISO 200.

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