I resisted buying the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 for a while. When I first started out with micro four thirds, I outfitted myself with the Olympus 12mm f/2, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and soon after, the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4. When the 12-40mm was released I told myself, why would I need it? I have all the range in those 3 sharp, tiny lenses that can fit in my coat pocket, and had the ability to change them on and off my camera fast.
But, I still had a longing for the 12-40mm. Even though I could change those primes on and off quickly, it became very apparent one day that I could use a high quality “do it all” zoom in my kit when I encountered some kayakers approaching on the Hudson river. In an effort to get the perfect composition, I snapped on my 45mm to capture them…and then my 25mm as they got closer…and then my 12mm when they were in front of me…and then my 25mm as they drifted past…and the the 45mm again as they paddled further away. It was at that moment that I laughed and told myself, “this is ridiculous”, and bought the 12-40mm soon after.
The Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 is one of three lenses that Olympus currently has in their “PRO” lineup (the other two are the 40-150mm f/2.8 and the 7-14mm f/2.8). The Olympus PRO lenses boast all metal construction as well as a dust proof, splash proof and freeze proof bodies. The 12-40mm covers a range from 24mm to 80mm in full frame terms, making it an excellent lens for landscapes, going from a wide angle to a short telephoto. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the entire zoom range which makes it great for action and fairly low light, as well as a nice portraits lens out at 40mm in a pinch.
From personal experience, this lens is sharp through the entire zoom range. I’m usually using it at f/5, my go to aperture for landscapes with micro four thirds, but I don’t hesitate to shoot it at f/2.8 as well, especially if I want to zoom out to 40mm and get a nice subtle background blur for a portrait. When I pack my camera bag for “normal” shooting, which is mostly landscapes, the 12-40mm is the lens that sits on the camera by default. I love this lens, but as always, there are a few drawbacks. Here are some PROS and CONS.
- Excellent Sharpness and Color – I can’t say enough about how sharp through the entire zoom range and wonderfully rendered colors are with this lens. It truly does deserve the “PRO” designation from Olympus. I often compare it to the L (Pro) lenses I used to use with my Canon DSLR.
- The Size – You’ll see this one pop up in the CONS section too, but, if you think about what you’re getting for the size that this lens is, it’s quite incredible. A 24-80mm full frame equivalent with an f/2.8 constant aperture that can fit in the palm of your hand. If you compare this to its full frame counterpart, the 24-70mm, it’s less than half the size and weight.
- Well Built – The 12-40mm, while a bit heavy for micro four thirds, feels very solid and substantial with its all metal construction. The zoom ring turns smoothly and just with the right amount of resistance. Everything about this lens screams “solid construction”.
- Manual Focus Ring – The 12-40mm, like some other Olympus lenses, has a manual focus clutch, a ring that you physically snap back on the lens to engage manual focus. I’ve always found this to be a cool feature, rather than engaging manual focus via the camera menus, even though I personally don’t use it very much.
- L-Fn Button – The lens also has a L-fn (Lens-function) button on it that basically gives you another programmable button to be used on your Olympus camera if you choose. Another neat feature, but not one that I used every day.
- Unbalanced on Certain Camera Bodies – I am nitpicking a bit here, but the 12-40mm feels the best on the Olympus OM-D E-M1. When paired with the E-M5 (mark 1 or 2) or the E-M10, it does feel a bit unbalanced and front heavy. You get used to this, but if you’re accustomed to using the tiny Olympus primes all the time, the 12-40 is going to feel very heavy at first. You can solve this problem by getting an external grip for any of these cameras though.
- The Size – Compared to the small Olympus primes, the size was initially a tough one for me to swallow. Part of the draw of micro four thirds was always the size. A small prime attached to a small body made for a very enjoyable walk around a city. The first time I used the 12-40mm I felt like I was using a “big camera” again and I was going against all the reasons I started using micro four thirds. But the versatility quickly won over, and you can see what I said in the PROS section about the size 🙂
- The Price – This lens is $999. Is it worth it? I think so. But, a $1k lens isn’t easy for everyone to swallow. If you compare it to the equivalent lens in the DSLR world though, it is about half the price.
Ok, enough talk! 🙂 How does this lens perform in the field? Here are some of my favorite shots I’ve taken over the past couple of years with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8.
Do you have the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and love it as much as I do? Is this a lens you’re looking to add to your kit? Did the review help you out? Leave a comment and let me know!
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