I’ve been using the Olympus 17mm f1.8 as my standard lens for almost a year now, but after sorting through my favorite photos in Lightroom, I found it to be fairly absent. Sure, I’ve taken some photos I love with it, but I didn’t always like how close I had to get to fill the frame or get good bokeh. Perhaps like Robin Wong, I find the 35mm equivalent a tough focal length for me to shoot with.
I’d been toying with the idea of the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 for awhile, but I knew the Olympus 25mm f1.8 had just been released. There weren’t many reviews yet, and all the stores were sold out. Then I happened to come across an Amazon store who listed just one in stock (Cameta Camera). I pulled the trigger, fingers crossed that I’d gotten the last one. To my delight, it shipped the next day (along with two more lenses, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and 60mm f2.8 Macro, to be reviewed later) and despite a delivery estimate of a week, it only took two days.
My first two impressions upon opening the package were “Oooohh, nice” (yes, I like the look) and “Dang, it’s bigger than the 17mm.” I’d read that it was bigger – though not substantially so – but that was a bummer nonetheless.
It came with a lens hood (a new bonus from Olympus, instead of charging an arm and leg for one), though I had to search online to figure out how to attach it; the instructions don’t explain it at all. Essentially you twist the ring at the end of the lens and it comes off to expose the bayonet mount for the hood (see video below). I don’t usually use a hood, but it’s nice that it’s reversible as well, which will save space.
I like the feel of the 25mm focus ring more than the one on the 17mm; it’s smoother and more substantial, for lack of a better word. When the 17mm isn’t snapped back to manually focus, I find the ring feels loose and overly sensitive. When it is snapped back it has more “weight” to it, but it feels rough. I do like that it limits either direction so you don’t spin it forever, and wish that was the case on the 25mm as well.
How Fast Does it Focus?
Focusing is amazingly fast. See for yourself.
How Sharp is it?
Here are some test shots at various f-stops, so those who care about these things can take a peek. This is obviously not scientific. It’s really difficult getting things 100% square, so this is more about sharpness than distortion. You can view the whole set on Flickr, it covers the whole f1.8-f22 range.
How’s the Bokeh?
Here’s a wide open shot focused close up. You can see various apertures in the Flickr set. It looks to me like there’s a slight green band around the orange lights, but dragging the eye dropper over it shows only orange hues, so I’m unsure of what I’m seeing there. I’d like to get more shots under my belt before making any final judgements.
And here’s how the bokeh looks when focused further out. Again, you can see various apertures in the Flickr set.
So why did I go with the barely reviewed Olympus instead of the Panasonic?
- Despite seeing beautiful photos from the PanaLeica on OM-D E-M5’s, I tend to believe an Olympus lens will perform better on an Olympus body, and I don’t plan to swap my OM-D out for a Panasonic body anytime soon.
- The Olympus is smaller and lighter.
- In Robin Wong’s photos, I could barely discern the difference in bokeh.
- The Olympus focuses closer.
And what risks does that leave me?
- Once the real reviews come in, the Panasonic could be obviously superior.
- The price will drop sooner than I’d like.
- I’ll continue lusting after the word “Leica”.
All the photos above and in the complete Flickr set were straight out of the camera, RAW to JPG 90%, zero corrections otherwise.
We’re having some pretty dreary weather right now, so I’ll be posting additional edited photos as I take them to this Flickr set, like the one below.
- The Olympus 25mm f1.8 with Reviews on Amazon
- Robin Wong Olympus 25mm f1.8 Part 1 Review
- Robin Wong Olympus 25mm f1.8 Part 2 Review
- A Quick Comparison by Steve Huff
- Full Review by Steve Huff
- Some thoughts from Shawn Blanc
- SLR Gear Review
- Some good comparison photos by Amin Sabet (I admit the Panasonic is looking good here.)