Olympus 75mm f1.8 real world review

Having owned the Olympus 75mm f1.8 for around 4 months now, I thought I would right a short review covering my experiences to date using this out and about in the real world in the hope it may benefit someone considering getting hold of one of these.

I have lusted after this lens for some time as it seems to be regarded as one of, if not the sharpest lens in the m43 stable. But I was always concerned that the longer focal length might be a bit unsuitable for the types of things I photograph. Then late last year in anticipation of a trip to Andalucia I decided to bight the bullet and picked up a new one from Campkins Cameras in Cambridge for £735. A lot of money, but I thought if I didn’t love it, then I could always eBay it following the holiday without too great a loss.

First impressions on opening the box and picking up the lens is that it is SOLID. Amazing build quality, all metal and the front element is beautiful. I picked up a Sigma 58mm UV filter at the time as it would be fairly traumatizing damaging the front of this thing. The only downside as many will have already noted is it does not come with a lens hood and the plastic lens cover is not exactly on the premium side. Particularly knowing they sell the nice metal cap and lens hood. At £735, that seems a bit cheap not to include a hood of some description, even a plastic one.

Once attached to the Olympus OM-D EM5 (with additional grip) the whole things feels weighty and absolutely solid. I would say without the grip it feels a little unbalanced and definitely benefits from the additional grip if you have it. On the smaller m43 bodies I imagine this would be even further pronounced.

Shot at ISO 1600 at f1.8 gave impressive picture quality in low light. Perfect for the dimly lit lizard enclosures at Faunia in Madrid. I found limiting it to 1600 gave great quality, any higher and I noticed a fairly considerable deterioration in quality.
Shot at ISO 1600 at f1.8 gave impressive picture quality in low light. Perfect for the dimly lit lizard enclosures at Faunia in Madrid. I found limiting it to 1600 gave great quality, any higher and I noticed a fairly considerable deterioration in quality.

I took a few pics when I got it home and the image quality seemed very good, but I did immediately find the focal length a challenge within the close confines of my living room. But not to worry, this wasn’t what I bought it for (being honest, I wasn’t entirely sure exactly what purpose I did buy it for).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Shot at ISO 200, f6.3 and 1/4000 second shutter speed.
It can make for an interesting landscape lens. Useful to be able to get closer and forces you to think more creatively. Also creates beautifully sharp images.

So in saying that, and having used this lens reasonably extensively over the last few months, I would say the types of photography I personally have found it most interesting to use would be for landscapes (bear with me) and people pics, portraits and candids.

Emperor Penguins shot at ISO 500, 1/200 second shutter speed at f1.8.
Emperor Penguins shot at ISO 500, 1/200 second shutter speed at f1.8.

Its just one of those lenses that is so enjoyable to use, you find yourself trying to engineer opportunities for it. At a 35mm equivalent focal length of 150mm it is a short telephoto which wouldn’t be immediatly obvious as useful for landscapes. But whilst in Spain, I found it created an interesting effect when used with middle distance landscapes, flattening the image and producing what felt like (to me) a pleasing photograph. A couple of examples are provided below from Scotland and Spain.

The view across to Arran from Seamill Hydro on the west coast.
The view across to Arran from Seamill Hydro on the west coast, shot wide open at f1.8 which if I am honest, I didn’t really intend and probably would have benefited from something around f2.8-f4. But it still created a very nice image. It was just before New Year and the weather in that part of the world was fairly dramatic about 3pm in the afternoon.

Unsurprisingly it does create very pleasing images of people. Below are a small sample of the types of pics I have got so far. I am not much of a “street photographer” but the focal length works nicely to grab interesting pictures without being overly intrusive. I am not the most experienced portrait photographer, but its something I would love to learn more on and improve.

One of the places where this lens absolutely excelled and allowed me to capture many shots I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near with any of my other lenses was the day we went to Faunia in Madrid, a sizable wildlife park which has a number of indoor exhibits. The 75mm focal length combined with the f1.8 aperture worked brilliantly to get closer to these animals whilst still being able to shoot at relatively low ISO’s and fast-ish shutter speeds. I found during this that sticking at ISO 1600 or below worked best. At 3200 things got a little more noisy than I would have liked. But I really was absolutely thrilled with the way it worked in this situation. Combined with the EM5 it nailed focus pretty much every time and the clarity in the photos I absolutely loved.

One observation I would make is that for portraiture whilst out and about, its probably a little long to be as practically useful as say, a lens in the 42.5mm-45mm (85mm-90mm in 35mm FOV) region. Those lenses (I have owned both the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8) feel just about perfect to be useful day to day for grabbing some outstanding portraits without having to consciously disappear off about 20 yards back to get the picture you want. I am not saying in a studio where you know the distances you are working with that this wouldn’t be perfect for portraiture. Its just when you are out and about and you want a lens that allows you to be able to grab moments as they happen, the 75mm feels like you have to be more prepared and in position than the likes of the 20mm and 45mm lenses which I also own.

Overall though I would say if you have the budget, I would wholeheartedly recommend this lens. It has a variety of uses (which I am still learning) and you find yourself being more creative in an attempt to find suitable uses for it. It is beautifully constructed, feels solid and works beautifully with the EM5. I am looking forward to my next trip to Duxford to see what I can do with it there!

Any questions or comments, please ask.

Thanks!

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