If you told me that I had restrict myself to one prime lens from my kit for a whole week of vacation, the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 would be the easy choice. The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 has an equivalent focal length of 50mm (in full frame camera terms), a bright f/1.8 aperture and a very small form factor. This translates to a great focal length for portraits, street photography or landscapes and fast shutter speeds to capture action, even in low light. Its field of view is not too wide, not too tight and the fact that it’s small enough to fit in your pocket is icing on the cake.
Related: Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Lens Review
Related: A Star is Born! (a collection of newborn photos shot with the 25mm f/1.8)
You might hear a lens like this referred to as a “fast fifty” or a “nifty fifty”. A “fast fifty” is a 50mm prime lens with a large (usually f/1.8 or bigger) aperture that’s often small, cheap and light. Also referred to as a “normal” lens because it’s around the same focal length that our eyes see the world, it’s a lens that every photographer should have in their bag.
Because of the large aperture, a prime lens like this can aid in a photographer’s understanding of depth of field. A photo taken at f/2 will have a shallow depth of field and separate your subject from the background, whereas a photo taken at f/5 will have everything from right in front of you all the way out to infinity in focus. Once you have a large aperture lens in your bag, it really moves you past just taking snapshots and into a different mindset where you’re making conscious decisions on how you want the picture to look based on the aperture you pick.
I love this lens, but nothing is perfect, right? Here are a few pros and cons.
- Size – this lens is super small and lightweight. You can toss it in your coat pocket without even knowing it’s there. Pair it with any micro four thirds body for a very portable and versatile kit for the day. The tiny size is also beneficial when photographing small children in family photo shoot, as it’s less intimidating than a large zoom.
- Big Aperture – at f/1.8, the Olympus 25mm has a nice big aperture. This is great for getting fast shutter speeds and freezing action, as well as making your photos look more “professional” with a shallow depth of field and good background separation.
- Sharpness – this lens is really sharp, even wide open at f/1.8.
- Distance Scale – Some of the other Olympus primes and zoom lenses have a distance scale to aid in manual focusing, the 25mm does not.
- Snapping Ring for Manual Focus – I’ll admit, I’m nitpicking a bit here, but some of the other Olympus lenses have a manual focus ring that snaps back and forth to engage manual focus. If you use manual focus a lot and this is important to you, know that the 25mm doesn’t have a snapping ring.
- Price – Compared to its competitor, the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 (which is ~$600), this lens is cheaper. But, compared to some “nifty fifty” lenses in the DSLR world, the Olympus is a little pricy (but you can often catch it on sale for $350)
I mentioned that you can use this lens for everything — street photography, portraits, landscapes, action and low light. Here are a handful of shots I’ve taken with the lens over the past year that I think show the capabilities and quality of this great little prime.
If you’re looking to add one prime lens to your kit, you should take a serious look at the Olympus 25mm f/1.8. The size, large aperture, sharpness and cost (compared to other micro four thirds lenses) make it a must have lens in your bag.
Have any questions about the Olympus 25mm f/1.8? If you already own it, how do you like it? Want to see any more sample shots at different apertures? Let me know in the comments!
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