OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 II + m.ZUIKO 12-40mm f/2.8. Is a Pro-Spec. tag justified?


The Olympus m.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 on the OM-D E-M5 II not only looks great, it performs very well also. Olympus are in the process of putting together a set of three f/2.8 throughout zooms, that will go some way to establishing their half of the m4/3 system with serious professional credentials. This 12-40mm is already available as is the 40-150mm f/2.8 and the 7-14mm f/2.8 is imminent. When you factor in the IBIS of the camera, the m4/3 'advantage' that allows wider apertures and faster shutter speeds, the upcoming lens will add real seriousness to an ever evolving system that is going to make a lot of photographers, of all levels of income, think very seriously about what they are using currently. (If it isn't Olympus of course)

And having used the 12-40mm f/2.8 for a while, I've certainly had to change my opinion of where Olympus are and where they are headed. For a while there I wondered about that seriousness. There was a lot of talk about 'pro-level' gear, but not a lot to back that up. That's all changed now. I've used the Panasonic versions in the past, 12-35mm and 35-100mm f/2.8's, and having seen some samples from the m.Zuiko 40-150mm and checked out the weight, I'm not convinced that particular lens is for me. (You might however like to see a comparison post between the Panasonic and Olympus telephoto zooms at Mirrorlessons - HERE)

I have no doubts though that the 12-40mm f/2.8 is definitely for me. Considering it's size and weight, it's a remarkably good lens. Yes I know that size isn't everything i.e. Leica M lenses, but the expectation is that an f/2.8 throughout standard zoom will be large, weight, bulky and expensive. (An expectation which is usually fulfilled, particularly with DSLR's) And considering that the Olympus is none of those things, yet turns out very high quality images, it speaks volumes for what Olympus have achieved here. 

So I have a versatile lens that has very impressive build quality and takes full advantage of the OM-D E-M5 II's improvements and if Olympus aren't in the process of putting together an authentic m4/3 pro. system, then they are damn close. The only things I see missing are better battery life + metering and a better video offer. 

Recently when I published some of my early posts about the OM-D E-M5 II, I got a troll comment about how the Olympus zooms weren't professional grade quality. Now whether or not that commentator was a Sony stooge as I suspected, or not, that assertion just isn't true. I've used a lot of lenses on most types of camera up to and including medium-format and the results from the Olympus 12-40mm are every bit as good as any zoom I've used. And that really is no surprise. It reminded me yet again as how astonishing it is that many lens 'critics' seem to living way in the past.

Yes there was a time when zooms were often used with fingers crossed. I can well remember thinking 'I hope I got a good one!' when I opened the box. But those days of having to accept serious compromise and poor quality control when buying a zoom are long gone. The very best primes can still reveal more detail with less flaws than any multi focal length lens, but those are, as I indicated the VERY best. And the very best zooms, of which the 12-40mm is most definitely one, can give what I might describe as good to very good prime lenses a run for their money. Plus with the large files that current sensors give us (and 16MP is a large file compared to 35mm film, which optimises at about 10MP) the results as compared to those film days (in which time warp a lot of internet users seem to inhabit regarding lens quality) are sharper, cleaner and more suitable for large scale reproduction. 

You will be sacrificing very little by using the 12-40mm f/2.8 as opposed to primes. Particularly as some of the m.Zuiko range that covers that focal length aren't particularly special. And personally I'd rather have the usefulness of the zoom.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this is a very welcome addition to an already impressive array of m4/3 optics. And the more Olympus can compete with Panasonic with top of the range optics, the better our choices are. I can do nothing else but give a highly recommended designation to this lens and as you know I don't recommend that much, so it must be good!!