Shooting with the m. Zuiko Olympus 25mm F/1.8

olympus 25mm f/1.8 sample images

Today I got my hands on an m. Zuiko Olympus 25mm f/1.8 for a hands on review, ahead of the high-rollers over at DPReview.  I know my puny blog can’t really compare, but it ain’t conceited if it’s true, folks.

So without further ado…

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 Review and Samples!

When the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 was announced, it was met with some decent reception among Olympus fans, who have largely done without a 50mm equivalent so close to the “nifty fifties” we’ve all had some run-in with, whether it was back in the heydays of analog photography, or more recently in the digital field.

However, before the arrival of this lens, Olympus shooters have had to make do with the 25mm f/2.8 pancake.  Truly, pancake lenses are nice (and in regard to my own personal taste, preferred), but f/2.8 is a little dim for my spoiled self.  So, enter the Olympus 25mm f/1.8:  a 50mm equivalent we can not only live with, but excel with.

Of course, having always shot with a 50mm on a sensor with a 1.5x crop, my 50mm lenses were always used to shoot portraits.

But now, with a lens and sensor combo that gives me the actual field of view of a 50 on a full frame, I set out to do some slightly-distanced street photography.

The Setup:

olympus 25mm f/1.8 sample images

Before I got started, I had to decide on a camera body to shoot with.  The other half of my street photography equation?  The rugged if not a little minimalist E-PL1, now dated by its successors, but still offering quite the shooting experience at a very affordable price indeed.

As such, there are two facets to this review:  what the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is capable of in terms of bokeh, sharpness, accuracy, and ease of use…and why cheaper models like the E-PL1 are a great way to get into the Olympus camera system without going bankrupt on newer models like the E-M line, or the newer Olympus Pens.

Sample Images:

All of these images are straight from the camera, shot in Large/Fine JPEG, with no retouching whatsoever.  Please excuse any over- or under-exposure, which I tried to keep to a minimum.

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Lens Performance

Five stars here:  excellent at 1.8, sharp where it needs to be in the center of the frame with only marginal falloff at the extreme edges.  Bringing your aperture down to f/5.6 or f/8 only makes things better, and given the focal length of 50mm, this lens is almost perfect for street photography – especially if you are a beginner or want to work with subjects at a distance.  Couple this with one of the OM-D cameras and you’ve got a DSLR-quality setup, offering crisp, quality captures with a low aperture to boot.

Camera Performance

Well, it ain’t no E-M1, but the Pen E-PL1 gives you some decent performance despite its inherent drawbacks.  First and foremost, there are no thumbwheels or control dials on this camera, except the mode dial on top.  That being said, the buttons aren’t bad, though adjusting while “in the moment” to capture a fleeting shot is a challenge and a half for any photographer.  The older Pens still give you some amazing image quality, and if you’re the kind of photographer to find a spot and wait for “the moment” to appear or unfold, you won’t regret buying one of these over the more expensive models.  The good think about the older models like the E-PL1 or even the E-PM1 is that you can set all the variables to whatever you prefer, and get back to looking for shots (instead of moving dials around constantly).  Like the other pens surrounding it, you’re getting a 14 megapixel sensor, but an older generation of the TruePic image processor.  The LCD screen on the back is fixed, recessed, and ugly – and only about half the resolution of the LCD screens on the latest Pens.  Obviously, you might want to shell out extra money for a more updated model.  The E-PM1 or the E-PL3 would be an optimal choice then, for those who want a lightweight but capable street photography platform with some of the newer features, including more recent image processors and higher ISO ranges.

So, overall thoughts on this adventure?  A blast to shoot with the lens, and moderately awesome to use the Pen E-PL1 as well, despite its age.  Given the fact that these cameras are still capable of attaining such amazing results, I would recommend the setup for anyone on a budget.  It might not be the best looking piece of machinery out there, but with a slick lens like the 25mm f/1.8, you might still win some compliments…and the results you’ll get from these two beauties are going to speak for themselves.


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