What do you get for a piece of glass that's worth almost as much (if not more) than the camera it's mounted on? Olympus categorises this as a premium prime lens, ideal for high-speed sports photography, stage, fashion and portrait photography.
This lens simply exudes quality. The metallic exterior and general appearance make this lens feel very much worth its AU$999 asking price.
With no external switches, focusing selections for automatic or manual need to be chosen from within the camera's menu system. The Olympus MSC (movie and still compatible) system, as found on a number of other lenses, ensures that autofocusing is smooth and quiet. The focusing ring moves accurately and freely, but with enough resistance to ensure that the photographer doesn't over or under focus too extremely when shooting in manual focus. The lens has a 58mm non-rotating filter thread.
As it's designed on the Micro Four Thirds format, this means that the lens can be used with any Panasonic G-series or Olympus Pen/OM-D camera. In conjunction with the OM-D E-M5, this lens delivers excellent results. The only issue may be its lack of weather-proofing, which could limit its appeal to OM-D users who want to keep it attached to the body at all times.
The lens feels perfectly weighted on the OM-D, though smaller Pen cameras might encounter some lens-heavy moments.
The usefulness of a 75mm prime lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera is also debatable. With a 2x crop factor, it's equivalent to the field of view provided by a 150mm lens on a full-frame camera — a far cry from the "traditional" portrait photography primes in the region of 85mm.
That said, we were able to take some lovely looking portraits with this lens, even if it did mean stepping back a fair way from the subject to get them focused in the frame. While the lens is targeted toward portrait photographers, we found it ideal as a lens for some more covert street photography situations.
The minimum focusing distance of 84cm means that this lens is not really suited to any sort of close-up or macro work, though we're pretty sure that if you're investing close to AU$1000 on this lens, you'll be aware of that limitation.
Bokeh at f/1.8 is some of the smoothest and most pleasing we've seen from a lens of this calibre. Indeed, it's superior to that from the other high-end Olympus prime, the 12mm f/2.
While not intended for street photography, the effective focal length makes it ideal for capturing in-situ moments. Exposure: 1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 200. Click for full-resolution image.
Very little vignetting is discernible when shooting at the widest f/1.8 aperture. Distortion, too, is pleasingly absent. Stopping down the aperture helps bring out the sharpest in the lens, but even at f/1.8, the focused area remains very sharp to the naked eye.
Chromatic aberrations are not hugely prominent, even when shooting in challenging contrast-filled situations. The lens and ZERO (Zuiko extra-low reflection optical) coatings help control it very well.
It's sharp when it needs to be, and beautifully blurred when it's not. Exposure: 1/500, f/1.8, ISO 200. Click for full-resolution image.
One omission is any sort of lens hood. While you can invest in a metallic lens cap (AU$29) and silver-finish hood (AU$79) with screw attachment, it seems a shame not to include them in the box, especially considering the asking price of the lens itself.
The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is undoubtedly a premium lens for the Micro Four Thirds format, but it's worth the money for a terrific piece of optical engineering.