Since shooting on the M43 format, I’ve had my share of various bodies and especially lenses in my hands. A lot of people ask me for help when choosing their best equipment and of course we get to cover a number of different topics. For the most part, it’s a major struggle between what people want, what they really need, and what they can afford. As a result, I decided to write something for each piece of equipment I had on my m43 in the scope of short practical observations. I scored all lenses on a scale of 1-10 in terms of processing, equipment and sharpness. I must admit that the quality of each lens that I had the opportunity to test or use for a long time is at a very high level and I can easily imagine having each of them as part of my gear. The uniform reviews allow you now to read a detailed evaluation for each lens reflecting exclusively my personal opinion. Each evaluation is based on actual in-the-field use and may therefore differ from, for example, lab tests available on the Internet. The page is divided into four logical segments – numerical rating | practical observations | sample of published photos from a given lens | FAQ, where you can find my brief responses to questions I received.
My creative work comprises various motifs covering a wide range of animals not only from a distance but also up close be it an ant or an elephant. I take photos during the day and at night, from a distance or from up close. And for this reason, I usually carry 6 to 8 lenses in my backpack giving me complete freedom in every artistic way imaginable. I already described photographing animals at a wide angle in a fairly extensive article. At the moment, I use three lenses – Laowa 7.5mm/2, Olympus 8mm/1.8 and Olympus 12-100mm/4 IS. First, we have the Laowa 7.5mm/ 2. This lens can capture wide surroundings and is fully compatible with a wide range of filters (which is handy for a wide view). However, it’s missing decent object magnification and it lacks autofocus. As a result, you might need to invest in additional gear especially if you are planning to utilise the Macro Focus Stacking feature. The second one in the lineup, the Olympus 8mm/ 1.8 Fisheye, is equipped with the AF and can significantly magnify objects, though at the cost of great distortion and the absence of using filters. The third popular lens that I like to use for these purposes is the Olympus 12-100mm/4 IS. It focuses perfectly at close range, magnifies the subject relatively well, offers decent autofocus (AF) and stabilisation, and is compatible with filters. Its only disadvantage is a rather limited range in capturing the wider environment due to the 24mm angle (FF equiv.). Conclusively, I use three lenses for one type of a photographed subject, admittedly always having to compromise on something – be it a wider angle, the option to use filters or AF. The new Olympus 8-25mm/4 lens unquestionably solves all of the above for me. At 8mm, it is wide enough (16mm FF equiv.) to capture the desired surrounding environment, the filter compatibility and object magnification are more than satisfactory (1: 2.4), and the AF works seamlessly with the Macro Focus Stacking feature. Thanks to its focal length, it reliably covers everything I photograph at night (frogs, snakes, lizards, grasshoppers etc). When shooting landscapes, I make the most of its 16 – 50mm FF equiv. focal length. Even though it does not have built-in stabilisation, I can set the shutter speed to 2secs and comfortably shoot from my hand, which is ideal for streams and waterfalls. As a PRO series lens, it boasts all the key features on par with this series – excellent sharpness even on the wide end, superb workmanship and extreme resistance to moisture. If I had to find a weakness though, then I’d point out two. First, to maintain the most compact dimensions, the lens must be “activated” before use by rotating the zoom ring from the dot position to the 8mm mark, which extends the lens by about 3 cm. There, you’ll reach an inner retraction locking mechanism that allows for the lens, after its aforementioned activation, to be used in its full focal range. The lock is tight enough to prevent the lens from accidental deactivation but not as tight that it cannot be deactivated by firmer nudges. Although I understand the logic behind this feature (the compact length & size of the lens is ideal for transport), of course, I’d prefer it if the lens came without the retraction lock. The second drawback might be its minimum F4 aperture. However, for all of the above-mentioned motifs, this “limit” is practically irrelevant as in most cases it’s necessary to adjust the aperture anyway. The only time the user might feel limited is when taking pictures of a night sky when every aperture below 2.8 is preferred. For this very reason, I decided to keep my Laowa 7.5mm/ 2, which I plan on using practically only for night photography of the starry sky and other related motifs. I read somewhere that the lens’ F4 aperture makes it not suitable for portraits. This is true if the portrait is your primary photography subject and you aim for a creamy bokeh at 25mm (50mm FF equiv). In that case, I reckon the Olympus 25mm/ 1.2 is a much better choice. In summary, the new Olympus lens exceeds most of my expectations and will replace two lenses in my backpack – the Olympus 8mm/ 1.8 Fisheye and the Olympus 12-100mm/ 4 IS. In terms of weight, it saves me 500gr and spatially, frees up one partition in the backpack, which is always handy. Not forgetting the fact that setting up one lens in the field is way easier than three. Ultimately, I’ll decide after my return from the upcoming trip to Ecuador, where neither the 8mm or 12-100mm are coming. I’ll have to wait and see if this will be a detriment to my work.
MY Z M.ZUIKO 8-25MM/4 SAMPLE GALLERY
OLYMPUS 8-25MM/4 FAQ
Q: Should I buy the new 8-25mm/ 4 lens? Will I use it?
A: A question similar to a waiter in a restaurant “Should I have the soup? Will I like it?” If the capabilities of this lens meet your needs, then yes, buy it. If you are considering buying it only because I like it, but you are not sure if you’ll find a use for it, then you better wait.
Q: I already own a 12-100mm/4 IS lens (or 12-40mm/2.8), is it worth the extra investment?
A: If you are pretty certain on what motifs you primarily shoot and you feel a gap in your existing gear that a 12mm+ wider lens might fill, then this is a great choice.
Q: I own the Olympus 7-14mm/ 2.8 lens. Is the Olympus 8-25mm/ 4 a better choice?
A: Owning to the fact that the Olympus 8-25mm/ 4 lens offers larger object magnification, accepts filters and is more compact, I personally consider it to be a better choice as I extensively described in this article. If you shoot mainly landscape and you are reasonably happy with the Olympus 7-14mm/ 2.8 (which by the way is an excellent lens), then in my opinion you will not benefit from the 8-25mm/ 4 lens. However, again – you need to devise your own list of priorities and decide accordingly.
Q: Panasonic offers the 8-18mm lens which is very similar. Wouldn’t that be a better choice?
A: Personally, I have no experience with this lens. Comparing the technical specs of both lenses, I can see that the Olympus has the ability to focus from a shorter distance, so for my needs to shoot wildlife at a wide angle, Olympus is definitely more suitable. Additionally, Macro Focus Stacking (for me a critical feature), which combines up to 15 images directly in the camera, will not be supported with the Panasonic lens on Olympus bodies (BKT Focus will work only without an image preview). To compare the other lens’ specs, you may find this comparative review helpful.
Q: When it comes to wide-angle lenses, why are you clinging so much to AF? Isn’t it irrelevant?
A: That depends on how you use it. If the lens is used mainly for capturing the landscape from a tripod and both hands are free, then the AF really plays a minimal role. This is why, for night photography, for example, I do not mind using a Laowa lens. However, personally, in the vast majority, I use a wide-angle lens for handheld pictures to be able to tilt it freely in order to get an interesting spot. Consequently, my other hand often holds a flash, which in turn helps me to get the right angle of light on the scene. Since I often adjust my distance and angle from the photographed object and both hands hold a piece of some equipment, the AF is a real life-saver. In addition, I often make the most of the amazing Macro Focus Stacking or AF Bracketing features.