Review: Olympus 12mm f2.0

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Introduction
The Olympus 12mm f2.0 lens for micro four thirds is a high quality, metal construction fast wide angle lens with built in distance & depth of field indicators, hard stops and a fantastic focus ring that lets you change between manual and auto focus instantly.

Olympus 12mm f2 Review

Olympus 12mm f2 Review

Why buy this lens?
If you’re a micro four thirds shooter who loves primes, or you’re looking in to the micro four thirds systems and want to know what fast primes are available then this lens has to be on your list to check out.

Because of the micro four thirds crop factor, finding wide angle lenses used to be pretty hard but now we’re being spoiled for choice, with both Olympus and Panasonic offering glass from 7mm upwards, equivalent to 14mm on a full frame camera.

From here on I’m not going to mention full frame equivalency because with a you just need to multiply any quoted number by 2 and you’re there.  Besides, once you’ve been shooting this system for a while you stop thinking about full frame altogether and instinctively know what native focal lengths you’ll want or need for any particular subject or situation.

Olympus 12mm f2 Filter Size

Olympus 12mm f2 Filter Size

When size matters
This lens is tiny, with a filter ring of only 46mm it stands only 55mm high, including both caps. When mounted to a body it sticks out only 43mm!

Weighing in at just 130 grams you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying this lens around and it’s small size makes it idea for carrying in any reasonable coat pocket.

Originally only available in Silver, Olympus have since released a black version of it, which to be honest I would have preferred, but at the time I bought this one only silver was available.

The Focus Ring
One of the features I love the most about the Olympus 12mm f2.0 is the focus ring.  In the forward position the lens is in auto focus, or AF mode.  With the ring pulled back it’s in manual focus mode with a distance scale and hard stops at both ends.

Olympus 12mm f2 Auto vs Manual Focus Ring

Olympus 12mm f2 Auto vs Manual Focus Ring

Olympus 12mm f2 Minimum Focus Distance

Olympus 12mm f2 Minimum Focus Distance

Minimum Focus Distance
Minimum focus distance is around 20cm, but don’t forget that’s from the sensor plane in the camera and real world focusing is down to around 10.5cm from the front element of the lens.

Slightly Gritty
My only real complaint about the Olympus 12mm lens is that, on my copy at least, the focus ring is not perfectly smooth and does feel the tiniest bit ‘gritty’. Maybe others are totally smooth, but mine isn’t.

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Sample Images (click to view at 100%)

Olympus 12mm f2.0 - EM1 ISO800 f2.0 1/25s

Olympus 12mm f2.0 – EM1 ISO800 f2.0 1/25s – Shot through glass

Olympus 12mm f2 - EM1 ISO200 f7.1 1/800s

Olympus 12mm f2 – EM1 ISO200 f7.1 1/800s

Olympus 12mm f2 - EM1 ISO200 f2.0 1/400

Olympus 12mm f2 – EM1 ISO200 f2.0 1/400

Olympus 12mm f2 - EM1 ISO400 f2.0 1/15s

Olympus 12mm f2 – EM1 ISO400 f2.0 1/15s

Olympus 12mm f2 - EM1 ISO400 f4.0 1/8s

Olympus 12mm f2 – EM1 ISO400 f4.0 1/8s

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Aperture vs Sharpness
Unlike many full frame 35mm lenses, micro four thirds lenses are typically acceptable wide open and suffer from diffraction from around f11 onwards.  The Olympus 12mm f2.0 is no exception as the following will show.  The 100% crops are taken from the areas highlighted by the red boxes (top left and centre) on the main shot.  The sweet spot seems to be in the f4 – f5.6, with acceptable results below f4.  I would avoid using apertures above f8 on this lens unless there are over riding reasons to do so.

Olympus 12mm f2.0 ApertureTest

Olympus 12mm f2.0 ApertureTest

Distortion
I’m not normally a brick wall or garage door shooter, so forgive me,  but distortion was generally un-noticable on most images, so I had to go looking for it by shooting my garage door.

Olympus 12mm f2.0 distortion test

Olympus 12mm f2.0 distortion test

Note that this was shot quite close to the door and maybe I wasn’t perfectly flat against it, which could account for the bottom left being slightly skewed, but as I said, it’s not a picture I would normally take.  In any event. it’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed in Lightroom by adding +5 distortion.   None of the sample sample images above have any distortion correction applied, so I’ll let you make up you’re own mind if they really need it in day-to-day shooting.

Chromatic Aberrations
Chromatic aberrations are well controlled for a wide angle lens and I’ve struggled to find anything worth noting on day to day images.

Vignetting
As would reasonably be expected there is some vignetting at f2.0 and the image below shows the difference between f2 and f5.6.  On a computer roll your mouse over to see the difference, on a phone or tablet you may need to click the image.

The centre of the image is brighter at f2.0 than at f5.6, but it’s possible that this is down to the camera being at it’s maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 (the f5.6 was at 1/1000) and may be very slightly over exposed.

No Hood Included
It’s disappointing for a lens of this price that Olympus don’t include a hood, but that seems to be par for the course now. Hoods are an optional extra that Olympus are happy to charge more for with a plethora of cheap imitations from China appearing on eBay.

Summary
To summarise, this is an excellent small, lightweight prime lens that’s a little higher price than many other Olympus primes, but it works very well. The ability to manually focus by pulling the focus ring back is a very welcome feature and this lens is quite sharp once stopped down to f2.8 until f8, and acceptably sharp wide open at f2.0.  While there is a little vignetting wide open it’s nothing that can’t be fixed easily in Lightroom or other photo developing software.

All in all I’d give this lens a 9/10, held back only by the lack of included hood for a relatively high price M43 lens and the mild gritty feel of the focus ring.
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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Olympus 12mm f2.0 Prime Lens
Author Rating
5