The Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 was introduced almost 3 years ago, a time where I hadn’t wasted any thought on using a mirrorless micro-four-thirds camera or any mirrorless system camera at all. Nevertheless I heard about that lens and stumbled upon some reviews and I was really impressed by what I saw back then. It seemed that Olympus was taking their mirrorless system seriously because the 75mm f/1.8 had a steep price tag and was definitely targeted at pros and camera enthusiasts.
After entering the mFT system and getting myself the E-P5, I wanted to try out this bad boy and I came across a used one for a reasonable amount of money. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was the focal length since I am more a 35mm guy and I barely used my Nikon 180mm f/2.8 prime I had back then. So I forced myself to use the 75mm f/1.8 for a week and I was stunned by its optical qualities but I was struggling with finding use for it. That’s why I ended up selling it only one week later.
Two months passed by and Olympus came out with a black version and it looked damn freaking sexy on an E-M1 body. After some time I got rid of my DSLR rig and on my mirrorless set-up the longest lens I had was the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. For my portrait and wedding work that was fine most of the time, but I was pretty sure that at some point there might be a moment where I could need more reach and I ended up buying my second 75mm f/1.8, but this time the sexy looking black one.
It’s a beauty made out of metal and glass. If you haven’t had the chance to lay hands on one then go ahead and do so. I’ll promise you, you will fall in love immediately. Thanks to its compact size it’s relatively light weight, but at the same time feels rock solid und sturdy. On its body itself there are no buttons or other moving parts, except the super smooth focus ring of course. I would have loved if Olympus had given the 75mm a focus clutch like on the 17mm f/1.8, or on the 12mm f/2.0, or at least a switch to toggle between autofocus and manual focus. But since I haven’t used it with manual focus at all, that’s no deal breaker for me. The second complaint I have is about the cheap lens cap. It’s hard to imagine why Olympus is putting so much effort into producing such a premium lens and is mixing it with a super cheap front lens cap, which you would normally expect on a much cheaper kit lens. Finally there is the lack of a lens hood, but let’s rant about that later, since it’s not directly related to build quality.
To put it in one word…outstanding! Like the Nocticron this lens wants to be used wide open. If you do so you won’t sacrifice image quality at all. It’s razor sharp edge to edge even when shooting at its widest aperture while delivering creamy bokeh. Really, there is nothing more to write about, it’s that good!
Here comes the hardest part, at least for me. The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 performs flawlessly with superb image quality, very fast and silent autofocus and a build quality to die for. Its relatively small size for such a long lens makes it a perfect fit to take it with you, even when you go on a trip where space for gear is very limited. But for me it’s a focal length I am still struggling with. For close up portraits I would rather use the Nocticron without any doubt. After checking the pictures I made with the 75mm f/1.8 it is obvious, that I only use it for compressing the scenery or if I am not able to get any closer at all. Now you might ask yourself, if I am planning to keep this lens. Well, even if it’s by far the lens with the least usage, I am liking the results very much and I don’t plan on selling it any time soon.
That being said, here is a little rant about the lack of a lens hood that comes with the lens. The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is a rather expensive lens and you would normally expect to get the full package if you are paying the steep price tag for such a premium product. The front element is rather big and prone to scratches if you don’t protect it properly. Well, you could use an UV-Filter – which I won’t recommend – or you can use the lens hood, which is a pricey accessory and will cost you almost 10% of the price of the lens itself. What, are you kidding me? That’s a shame! Fortunately there is third-party one available for less than half the price of the original one and it looks and feels exactly like the Olympus one.
Panasonic DG Leica Nocticron 42.5 F/1.2 ASPH
In terms of image quality and build they are both stellar. The Nocticron has a much faster aperture and at the same time is noticeable bigger and heavier. To me it seems that the 42.5mm renders the bokeh a tiny bit more pleasing, but it’s hard to compare them side by side because of the big difference in focal length. Even though the Nocticron is 50% more expensive than the Olympus 75mm f/1.8, it has a lot more to offer. The focal length is more versatile, it has O.I.S. which is nice for Panasonic camera users and the larger aperture will allow you to keep your ISO further down. The price gap between those two lenses gets even smaller when taking into account that Panasonic is shipping the Nocticron with a proper lens cap and a high quality lens hood as well.
Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8
The only reason why I picked this lens is that the 40-150mm f/2.8 can be used at the same focal length. Other than that, they are totally different. The 40-150mm range is obviously much more versatile, but that comes at a cost. The lens is much bigger and much heavier and has a substantially slower aperture. In terms of image quality the zoom seems to be on par when comparing them at f/2.8. If you want the versatility and you can live with the downside of a rather big and heavy lens, then you should go with the 40-150mm f/2.8. I have always preferred primes, so a zoom lens is no option for me.
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