Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review
The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 has a rather odd focal length but despite this it is regarded as one of the best lenses in the Micro 4/3 lineup.
In this Olympus 75mm f1.8 review I am going to show you how this lens performs in the real World. You wont find any charts here, just real World use and everyday photos.
Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review – Build quality
Lets not beat around the bush, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens is not cheap, however it is within the price range of a lot of enthusiasts before we push into the territory of really expensive glass such as the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2.
The build quality of the Olympus 75mm feels excellent with its metal barrel and smooth focus ring. In matt black finish it looks beautiful attached to my black EM5II. Suffice to say you can feel where the extra money goes in comparison to lenses such as the Olympus 25mm 1.8 and 45mm 1.8. Those lenses are optically very good but they feel made to a budget whereas the 75mm 1.8 feels like no expense has been spared in crafting this lens. Easily on par with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, in fact it feels a little nicer in the hand.
It feels well balanced on an EM5 II and even better with a grip attached. For a 150mm equivalent lens this is exceptionally small and light. But it doesn’t feel cheap. Just well built, solid and professional.
Size wise it is easier to just show you the lens compared to the 45mm 1.8 and 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom to give you an idea of the size.
I’m not going to go into detail on auto focus performance except to say that it is very quick to focus. As fast as any lens on the system. The only caveat is that in low light it can hunt a little but that is due to the contrast detect AF system on the EM5II. All lenses perform like this on the EM5 II. However I will retest it on the EM1 mk II once I have one as its phase detect focus points should help it perform better.
Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review – Image Quality
A lens like the Olympus 75mm 1.8 is a beautiful thing. I really do find satisfaction in handling and looking at a piece of glass that is this well made. There is a beautiful aesthetic to well made products and I appreciate this.
However that means very little if the performance is not up to scratch.
This is the second copy of the Olympus 75mm lens that I have owned and they both performed to a very similar level. That is they are both pin sharp. In fact this is some of the sharpest glass you will ever use should you decide that the focal length suits your style.
It is sharp from wide open with only minor improvements when stopping down to f/4 and f/5.6.
Lets take a quick look at some samples below.
All the above images were shot in raw and then exported as jpegs for the website without any adjustments in lightroom.
The Olympus 75mm 1.8 is pin sharp in the centre at 1.8 with some slight loss of quality as we get out to the edges. One thing you can pick up on here is a little bit of purple fringing in the corners in the first image. I’ll go in to that in more detail later.
Here’s a shot of my wife that I took which shows how sharp details such as eyelashes look when shooting portraits. I didn’t make any extra effort to get a really sharp shot here. This was how it came out when we were playing about taking pictures.
It’s pretty obvious that a lot of us buy fast glass for the ability to throw the background out of focus. Some lenses exhibit nervous bokeh (out of focus areas) and others render the scene in to a dreamy hazy creaminess. It is somewhat subjective to analyse bokeh with many factors playing a role. However I can say that the Olympus 75mm 1.8 offers creamy smooth bokeh with a gentle fall off. It doesn’t suffer with nervousness which can cause the out of focus areas to become distracting to the viewers eye. But hey, why read about bokeh when it is easier for me to show you a few examples below.
Is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 a perfect lens?
It’s pretty close to perfect if the focal length suits you. However there are two points that I would note.
- It is not weather sealed but I don’t mind as this is a specialist lens for particular situations. It is not intended to be a do everything lens like the 12-40mm Pro. Therefore weather sealing while nice is not essential.
- It suffers with some Purple fringing in very high contrast scenes.
Lets talk more about the purple fringing
This is quite a common flaw in many of todays lenses and I am not usually put off by it as long as a lens doesn’t suffer too badly.
The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens does suffer some purple fringing when shooting very high contrast scenes. The real acid test for this kind of fringing is always backlit leaves on trees so I shot a few example to see how it performed.
Just bare this in mind if you are going to shoot in very high contrast conditions but I would not let it put you off what is otherwise a superb performing lens.
Olympus cameras generally do a good job of removing Chromatic abberations in camera using profiles for each lens so it is not always a problem. I have also intentionally shot the lens in what is the most difficult situation so that I can highlight any flaws.
The Olympus 75mm 1.8 doesn’t exhibit any issues with lens flare. In fact I shot it straight into the sun through some leaves and it coped remarkably well. It retained plenty of contrast in the image. Move the sun just out of frame and you have no problems with flare at all.
The lens does not suffer any noticeable levels of distortion.
Olympus 75mm 1.8 review – Verdict
Overall the Olympus 75mm is a great performing lens. Optically it is one of the sharpest lenses I have used for any system. If you are using micro 4/3 and you want to define every eyelash in your vicitms (ahem sorry I mean subjects) then this lens can easily do that. The creamy bokeh and sharp glass from wide open mean that you can use this lens exactly how it is intended to be used.
The fact that Olympus do not provide a lens hood with a more premium lens like this still grates a little but in the end the results that this lens can produce makes it worth the added cost over something like the 45mm 1.8.
However if you are just looking for your first portrait lens to add to say, a standard zoom, then I would advise you to look more closely at the incredible value of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. It is sharp, light and a lot cheaper than the 75mm. Plus I find the focal length much more useful in a wider range of situations.
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