It's been nearly three years since the release of the first Micro Four Thirds camera, and Panasonic, Olympus and third-party lens maker Voitgländer have been filling in the gap of prime lenses for the system.
Currently, we've (35mm equivalent in parentheses) an 8mm f/3.5 (16mm), a 25mm f/0.95 (50mm, manual focus), a 14mm f/2.5 (28mm), a 17mm f/2.8 (34mm) and a 20mm f/1.7 (40mm). Lately, Panasonic has filled in the 50mm equivalent automatic focus gap with its 25mm f/1.4 lens (here's our first looks of that lens), and Olympus is filling in the wide range with the 12mm f/2 (24mm) that we're previewing here, together with a longer 45mm f/1.8 (90mm).
This is certainly great news for enthusiasts who're looking to have a complete set of primes to cover the wide, middle and long ranges for the Micro Four Thirds system.
One look and you'll know that Olympus isn't aiming for cheap with this 12mm f/2 lens (and it really isn't cheap at S$1,248); instead, this is a premium lens with a pedigree. For one, it's a beautiful and well-made lens which feels solid in the hands. The metallic finish and retrospective look make it a lens to look at, as well as to look through; especially when paired with a silver E-P camera body, the combination is visually stunning.
Something that people tend to gloss over when comparing the Micro Four Thirds system to Sony's NEX range of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras is how small the NEX cameras are in comparison to the MFT cameras, but how much bigger the NEX lenses are in comparison with the smaller MFT lenses. The 12mm f/2 is a good example, it's light and small, easily carried and doesn't add much weight or size to your camera when fitted.
The lens comes with Olympus' new MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) mechanism which enables fast, quiet auto focusing with both movies and still images. It also promises the superb optical quality that Zuiko lenses have been known for, with a fast f/2.0 wide aperture that's perfect for shooting in low-light and for producing out-of-focus backgrounds.
You'll notice the lack of an automatic/manual focus switch on the lens, and that's because it's unnecessary. Olympus has solved that problem with a rather clever and easy to use mechanism it calls Snapshot Focus. Simply slide the ribbed focus ring back towards the camera and it automatically activates manual focus on the camera (at least, with the Olympus E-P3 we tested it on). Slide it forwards again and the camera goes back to automatic focus.