Skeptical about a lens? Olympus 75mm 1.8 Real World Test.

Skeptical about claims of how good a lens is?  I was until now.

Despite shooting with some really sweet primes such as the Oly 45mm 1.8, 17mm 1.8 and the Panny 20mm 1.7, I've been skeptical about how nice the Olympus 75 1.8 could possibly be.  Sure, I've have heard all thethe Oly 75 is possibly the nicest lens for micro four thirds,  ...heard the bokeh is unbelievable, heard separation of the subject from background is fantastic.

Stare down from our Icie

Stare down from our Icie

Of course, it costs much more than many of the lenses mentioned above.  And since I'm already shooting with nice glass, I've been hesitant to spend the much larger dollars this lens would cost me.  I mean, how much nicer can it be?  Is it really worth spending that much more?  

As it happened, I came down with a small case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), at a time when my photographic curiosity was piqued and I ordered the lens.  

It arrived while I was out of town and I was eager to try it out just as soon as I returned.  Though we were heading up to the mountains for the holiday weekend (U.S. Memorial Day) and I would certainly bring it along, I was itching to see what this lens could deliver.

So I tried it inside.  One of my first test shots was of our black Icie.  She fixed me with the proverbial 'hairy eyeball', while I focused with my new glass.  This is an OoC JPG, altered only with a tiny bit of extra brightness, since her fur reflects so little light.  The focal point was on the bridge of her nose.  At f1.8, notice how sharply her left eye is in focus, while nicely blurring out the rest of her.  This strategically emphasizes the stare-down she's giving me.  I'm really excited this lens seems to offer such sharpness wide open at f1.8.

Then I took the lens outside and tried it out on some flowers in front of the house.  These aren't exactly macro shots, they're mostly taken a few feet (~1m) away from the bee subjects.  

Cropped, but very minor adjustments to highlights & sharpening

Cropped, but very minor adjustments to highlights & sharpening

This bee shot is also altered in only small ways.  While it's cropped down, highlights are tuned down just a bit and a minimum of sharpening is added.  Stopping down from f1.8 to 3.5 brings the entire insect in focus, while the 75mm tele still beautifully blurs away the background.


The flower with the bee atop is taken close to the house and you can just see the siding of the house as vague horizontal lines.  However, even many feet away from the flower, f3.5 nicely blurs away the siding and the flower just behind the focal point.  Of course, the E-M5 and the lens nailed the focus on this small insect with no problem.


I also wanted to check out a more 'standard' bokeh scenario.  While I can't recall how far away the flower was, at f5.6 the flower is nicely separated from the background, which itself shows a soft bokeh, so much so, that it beautifully frames the flower.

My initial reaction to this lens is that the bokeh is beautifully soft and that the long focal length brings great separation of subject from background.  This is especially true of such a long lens in front of an m4/3 sensor.  

I'm not an SLR photographer who's moved down in size to m4/3, but one who's moved from enthusiast compacts (Canon G series), to Olympus E-PL1 and then to the E-M5.  While the SLR photogs may have worked with sweet glass like this in their previous environments, I've never seen bokeh this delicious from one of my lenses. I'm really jazzed about this lens and understand the idea that it's great lenses which make the system.

Very soon, I'll put this lens through some testing which is more real-life than shooting bugs and report on what I find...

stu c., at