Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro review

With brilliant bokeh and great design, the Olympus 25mm F1.2 is a modern classic

The 25mm F1.2 Pro reaches beyond its many technical merits to become a true classic.
The 25mm F1.2 Pro reaches beyond its many technical merits to become a true classic.
The 25mm F1.2 Pro reaches beyond its many technical merits to become a true classic.


  • Pleasing “feathered bokeh” effect
  • f/1.2 maximum aperture
  • Sharp, even wide open
  • Weather-sealed
  • AF/MF clutch


  • Chromatic aberration at wide apertures
  • Held back by MFT sensors

We have an odd tendency to develop emotional attachments to material objects. Even deeply flawed products can make us fall in love, often because of their quirks rather than in spite of them, while technically perfect things many times come off as cold or soulless. A brand new car may never inspire the same feeling of independence as that old clunker that gave you your first taste of real freedom at 16. Nor is typing up a story on a modern laptop’s chiclet keys anywhere near as satisfying as hammering out words on an old mechanical keyboard.

For photographers, this effect is particularly true. We tend to hold onto old cameras far past their usefulness, and often talk as much about the look and feel of a camera or lens as its actual capabilities. The $1,200 Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro, however, is a technically excellent lens that may also just be special enough to inspire you emotionally. It highlights the impressive move that the Micro Four Thirds system has made into the world of professional photography. And yet, it wasn’t made with just objective image quality in mind.

A technically excellent lens that may also be special enough to inspire you emotionally.

This year will mark the 10-year anniversary of the pioneering mirrorless camera format, and in that time, it has evolved into one of the most versatile camera systems ever made. But ten years ago, we would have never expected to see a $1,200 normal focal length lens for it. Professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts — the only two groups who could realistically be expected to drop that kind of money on such a lens — simply weren’t shooting mirrorless at the time. A decade later, and it would seem this has changed.

The 25mm F1.2 Pro also isn’t just an expensive one-off. It’s part of a series of high-end lenses, which also includes the 17mm F1.2 Pro and 45mm F1.2 Pro. They all carry the same price tag, but it’s the 25mm, with a full-frame equivalent focal length of 50mm, that yields the biggest sticker shock. 50mm lenses for full-frame cameras are widely available for less than $500 — some for much less — even with wider effective apertures. So is Olympus’ 25mm F1.2 Pro really that good? Yes, it is.

The circle of confusion

Before we get to the many merits of the 25mm F1.2 Pro, it’s worth taking a moment to establish expectations. Likely, photographers seriously considering this lens already understand what its specifications mean, but the numbers game can be confusing for less experienced shooters or those considering making the jump to MFT from another format.

MFT cameras and lenses are smaller than their DSLR counterparts partly due to their mirrorless design, but also thanks to a physically smaller image sensor. Four Thirds sensors have a 2x crop factor compared to full-frame, and while this is generally well understood as it applies to focal length — a 25mm MFT lens is equivalent to a 50mm full-frame lens — it also applies to aperture, a fact that is perhaps less well understood. So, an f/1.2 MFT lens is equivalent to an f/2.4 full-frame lens, both in terms of total light gathering ability and depth of field. (For a much more in-depth look at this, there is an excellent aperture equivalence explainer over at DPReview.)

Now, at the end of the day, what you see is what you get, so we don’t need to spend too much time on this topic. However, this is an important concept to understand in order to be an educated consumer, because when a company markets an f/1.2 lens, it can sound very special. It inspires many oohs and aahs in the bokeh lover inside all of us. But can you imagine Canon or Nikon marketing a 50mm f/2.4 lens? Unless it’s a specialized lens like a macro, or includes a free pizza, it wouldn’t really turn any heads. If you happen to be a full-frame Canon shooter and are interested in switching to MFT, but want a normal focal length lens that captures as shallow a depth of field as your $125 “nifty 50” f/1.8, you’re out of luck.

That’s not to say the Olympus 25mm F1.2 Pro is a rip-off, far from it. Rather, the point here is simply to understand what the numbers mean so you know what to expect. Depth of field may be a measurable quality of a lens that we all like to gloat over, but it is hardly the only aspect of a pleasing photograph.

Design and specifications

Delving into the optical construction of the 25mm Pro immediately reveals a staggering difference between this and other normal focal length lenses. It houses 19 elements in 14 groups, including all sorts of extra-low dispersion and high refractive index elements and one aspherical element. It may be the most complex arrangement we’ve ever seen for a lens with this field of view, and begins to explain the high price. The aforementioned Canon 50mm f/1.8 uses just six elements. Even the $4,000 Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 — a very, very good lens — has just 12 elements in 10 groups.

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

The exterior of the lens is equally well made, with a dust and splash-proof design. It is considerably larger than the Olympus 25mm F1.8, making it well suited to our OM-D E-M1 Mark II test camera, but perhaps less so for smaller bodies. The focus ring can be pulled back to engage the manual focus clutch, which provides smooth focus control with physical stop points at the close-focus and infinity positions. The Lens Function (L.Fn) button near the mount opens up access to a wide variety of programmable functions, letting you quickly change a setting without removing your hands from shooting position. The included lens hood is plastic, but still has a premium feel. It locks securely into place and uses a release button to unlock.

Overall, this is one of the most premium feeling prime lenses we’ve tried on any camera system, and just proves that the f/1.2 aperture isn’t the only thing special about it. It provides a satisfying, tactile experience that will make you want an excuse to go shoot something just so you can use it. If you happen to have it sitting on your desk while you work, you’ll find yourself occasionally picking it up and handling it like an expensive fidget toy.

Image quality and feathered bokeh

When it comes to separating a subject from the background, there’s more to it than simply a shallow depth of field. Olympus’ goal with the F1.2 Pro series was to craft a specific quality of blur. The company calls the effect “feathered bokeh,” and the look is slightly reminiscent of lenses that use an apodization filter, such as the Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R APD and Sony 100mm f/2.8 STM GM OSS.

It provides a tactile experience that will make you want an excuse to go shoot something just so you can use it.

Essentially, there are three types of bokeh, as defined by the look of the blur circle produced by a lens: ring, solid, and “feathered.” A feathered blur circle is softer, and tends be more natural looking and less distracting. Achieving this effect requires very precise design and manufacturing and is one reason why the 25mm F1.2 Pro has such a complex optical design. In fact, as Olympus demonstrated for us using its in-house lens simulation tool, moving the position of a single element by a mere 5 microns was enough to drastically alter the quality of bokeh, changing the blur circles from feathered to solid.

How much you notice the effect depends on how and what you shoot. At f/1.2, you can see it easily if you have any bright points in the background of your image. But Olympus also says this is what gives the F1.2 Pro series lenses their smooth focus falloff, something that is perhaps less noticeable but contributes more to the overall look of the image.

Shot wide open, the lens also produces a pleasing vignette that further helps separate subject and background while adding a soft, warm look to the image. This does mean this lens might be less effective in low light than you may be expecting. In dark situations, keep your subject near the center of the frame for the brightest exposure; anything near the edges will appear significantly darker. And while we rather liked the look of the vignette for portraits and product shots, if you prefer a more even exposure across the frame, it is fortunately all but gone by f/1.8.

Sharpness is generally excellent, although does improve as the aperture is stopped down to the middle of the range. As we also saw with the 17mm F1.2 Pro, some chromatic aberration in the form of purple fringing is present when shooting at wide apertures. In general, we only noticed this when photographing subjects on a bright background, such as tree branches against the sky. While chromatic aberration persisted on the 17mm even at f/4, it is all but imperceptible by f/2.8 on the 25mm.

It may be equivalent to just a full-frame 50mm f/2.4, but it’s a world away from any “nifty 50.”

Normal focal length lenses aren’t generally plagued by heavy amounts of distortion, but cheaper models do tend to have a noticeable amount of it. The 25mm F1.2 Pro, however, seems to produce no perceptible distortion, at least not to the degree that we could see it in the real world.

However, as good as this lens is, it is somewhat held back by the MFT format itself. The 20MP sensor in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II simply does not have the high resolution nor the low noise levels of larger sensors. While images look great overall, zooming in to 100 percent reveals a decent amount of noise, even at base ISO. Even without taking the lower pixel count into consideration, this limits the level of detail recorded compared to larger sensors.

This all means that while the 25mm F1.2 Pro is a fantastic lens when compared against other MFT offerings, we can’t definitively say it’s enough to draw in image-quality-conscious photographers from larger formats. Subjectively, however, it is one of the best normal focal length lenses we’ve tested; but the objective limitations of the format may bring some people pause.


Olympus offers a one-year warranty on MFT cameras and lenses. A four-year extended warranty is available for $79.

Our Take

At $1,200, the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro is considerably more expensive than other 25mm lenses for Micro Four Thirds. That makes it a tough sell for some, but photographers with the budget will undoubtedly find it worth it, particularly those working in challenging weather or terrain who need a durable, weather-sealed lens.

However, our favorite thing about it — indeed, about the entire F1.2 Pro series — is that Olympus has poured years of research and development into crafting an insanely complex optical design, all for the purpose of creating subjectively pleasing photographs. While its technical merits of sharpness, low distortion, and excellent build quality are commendable, the real victory is in the softness of the bokeh and the warmth of the vignette that invite your eyes into the image and encourage a closer look. It may be equivalent to just a full-frame 50mm f/2.4, but it’s a world away from any “nifty 50.”

Is there a better alternative?

For the budget-conscious photographer, the Olympus 25mm F1.8 is a fantastic lens in its own right, as is the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4. Both are quite a bit more compact and less expensive than the 25mm F1.2 Pro, although they lack the advanced optical design and durable build quality.

For professionals and enthusiasts with the money to spend, however, the 25mm F1.2 Pro is the way to go.

How long will it last?

This lens is built exceptionally well and we expect it will easily outlive whatever camera you put it on. We don’t expect Olympus will release an updated version anytime soon, although it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Panasonic will produce its own 25mm f/1.2 lens for MFT cameras. We wouldn’t hold our breath, though, even if you’re a Panasonic shooter.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There simply isn’t a better choice for a normal focal length lens on the MFT system. Again, the price will limit its audience, but this is likely a must-have lens for pros and advanced amateurs. We may have some lingering complaints about MFT sensors, but lenses like this are pushing the format beyond where we ever imagined it would be.

Product Review

It's a shame the U.S. banned Huawei. The new Honor 20 Pro is a kick-ass phone

Where does Honor go after the Honor View 20, the best device it has ever made? The answer is the Honor 20 Pro, which takes what made the View 20 great, and then improves on it by adding more camera lenses and shrinking the size.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera isn't giving you the results you want, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone can touch.

Olympus launches Tough TG-6 waterproof compact, and we’re not entirely sure why

With a spec sheet nearly identical to that of its predecessor, we're having a hard time figuring out what's new about the Olympus Tough TG-6. A new flash diffuser and fisheye adapter were also announced.

What are mirrorless cameras and are they better than DSLR cameras?

What exactly is a mirrorless camera, and what makes them so special? In this article, we break down the specifics of mirrorless cameras, including how they differ from the likes of a DSLR camera, and what kind of pros and cons are.
Social Media

Be the master of your own Insta-verse with multiple Instagram accounts

Whether you own a small business or have separate Instagram accounts for your five cats, we'll walk you through the process of switching between your multiple accounts on your Apple or Android devices.

Treat your selfie with one of these 13 apps made to beautify your pics

Selfies might be a phenomenon second only to karaoke, but they're not the easiest thing in the world to create. Thankfully, these awesome selfie apps for Android and iOS will make beautifying your self-portraits easier than capturing them.

Peak Design’s Travel Tripod is must-have gear for photographers on the go

Peak Design has returned to Kickstarter to launch its latest product, the Travel Tripod. The company's first tripod, it uses a unique design with a triangular center column to minimize the volume it takes up in your bag.

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…

What is ISO? A camera's sensitivity to light -- and how to use it -- explained

Curious what ISO is and how it affects your photos? Here's everything you need to know about the fundamental camera setting, including how it impacts exposure and how to properly adjust it for certain scenarios.

Adobe Premiere Rush now allows Android users to edit video without the laptop

After launching on desktop and iOS, Adobe Premiere Rush, a streamlined video editor, is now available on Android. Premiere Rush is designed for social media projects and non-professional editors.

The Fujifilm GFX100 is a 102-megapixel, stabilized beast of a mirrorless camera

Double-digit megapixels just not enough? The Fujifilm GFX100 boasts the highest resolution yet for a mirrorless camera. But along with those 102 megapixels, the medium format camera offers in-body stabilization, 4K video, and enhanced…
Social Media

Vertical video haters win the war — Instagram’s IGTV has a horizontal view

Not yet sold on the idea of vertical video? The traditional horizontal aspect ratio is headed to Instagram's IGTV, thanks to today's update. The change allows horizontal images to fill the screen with the device rotated.

Leica and Lenny Kravitz team up again for special-edition snakeskin rangefinder

How's this for over the top: The Leica M Monochrome Drifter, designed by Lenny Kravitz, uses a vegan python skin wrap and matching strap along with two color-coordinated lenses and a bag. The set will cost nearly $24,000.

Save hundreds on Nikon and Canon EOS DSLR camera bundles for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is coming and the sales are already starting. If you’re a photographer (or are looking to get into it) and want to grab some new gear, then the ABT Memorial Day sale has some great deals on DSLRs that can save you up to $450.