If I were a portrait photographer on a budget, (or a concert photographer or indoor sports photographer) and wanted a super, duper, sharp lens that was very fast (f/1.8) and at the same time relatively small, compact and light weight, my first choice, every time, would be the M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75MM F1.8!
I bought this lens in 2013. I bought it before I was an Olympus Visionary. I bought it because I rented it for a tutorial I was writing and fell in love with it. Back then I was still a Canon shooter for birds/wildlife because Olympus hadn’t yet come out with the OM-D E-M1 MK II and the 300 f/4 IS Pro Lens.
But for all my other photography, I was already using Micro Four Thirds cameras. I loved the small size and lightweight features of gear that was still offering amazing quality.
Remember, this is a lens with a 150mm field of view and an aperture of f/1.8. This thing would be HUGE (and HUGELY EXPENSIVE) if it were matched to a full-frame DSLR. But at just 10.7 ounces, it’s so light you can shoot with it all day and not notice it is there.
Because it is not officially a “pro” lens in the Olympus lineup and because it was announced eight years ago, it doesn’t get much love. But that is a big mistake. This lens was way ahead of its time. Oh, and it’s still incredibly useful and relevant too.
Look at these specs.
A large bright 50mm front lens element compliments a sophisticated optical design of 10 individual lens elements in nine groups, including a total of three ED lenses and two HR lenses and a nine blade aperture. MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) AF drive assures fast and nearly silent focusing. Lens elements feature Olympus’ ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating technology. Close focusing down to 29.5 inches is possible. It has a 58mm filter thread and does not rotate on autofocus.
The lens is available in either black or silver, but if you are reading older reviews they will probably refer to it as only being available in silver. That was how it originally shipped.
At the time of its release, Olympus described the 75mm as a “high grade portrait lens.” With its 150mm-equivalent field of view it’s a little bit longer than the traditional 85-135mm range, that was classically used for portraiture on 35mm cameras. But for me, 150mm EFL is perfect for portraits. It’s a lens that makes everyone look good and it can operate in very low light.
When it was released, it was $899.99 and today it can be had brand new for $100 less, making it an insane bargain. In my opinion, it’s the best $799 lens on the market for any system.
I have to say that what drew me to this lens originally was its solid metal construction. You can buy a metal lens hood for it – back in the day, we only used metal lens hoods so I snapped one up right away when I found out you could get it. (The part number for the metal lens hood is LH-61F and I have to warn you, it’s a whopping $69.99. You can buy a cheap aluminum lens hood (58MM) for $10 if you prefer.)
The lens is a lovingly, beautifully and very well-crafted piece of gear, with a barrel and focus ring made from metal. It’s a serious piece of advanced engineering. It feels very solid in the hand without feeling heavy and everything about it just smells of quality.
Now all of that aside, yes it’s a beautiful piece of well-crafted glass. But what about the good stuff?
1. It autofocuses very accurately and quickly. Lots of lenses can autofocus quickly, but it’s equally important to be able to autofocus accurately. This lens does both. More quickly and accurately than a lens engineered eight years ago should.
2. It is so stinking sharp! Sharp, sharp, sharp, sharp, sharp. I just don’t have the language here to come up with enough superlatives about this lens’ sharpness. I remember at the time I initially tested it, looking at the very informal way in which my assistant and I did such things, it out-scored every other lens we had ever tested in sharpness. That is ANY lens from ANY manufacturer and ANY format. That is SHARP! If you cannot make sharp images with this image then trust me, it’s your technique, not the lens.
3. The lens delivers a very pleasing bokeh. Now it’s not AS pretty as the results you’d get from the newer 45 f/1.2 Pro Lens, but darn close.
I made the portrait accompanying this post using the 75. It’s important to know that I have 25 Olympus lenses. I have every focal length you can imagine covered and usually more ways than one. I keep trying to find excuses to use this lens, even tho I have all the modern Pro lenses you can think of. This 75 f/1.8 really is the kind of glass that you buy and never, ever sell. It’s a museum-quality piece of glass. It’s way better than it should be for the money, and if you have ANY interest at all in this lens and ANY ability to buy it, you should. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s one of my favorite lenses of all time, and not just Olympus lenses.
My pals at Hunt’s Photo & Video have the lens at $100 off its retail price. You can find their contact info below. Since it is an eight year old lens, I don’t know how long Olympus plans to make it, so you better get while the gettin is good!
You will not be sorry.
P.S. I have been trying my hand at product photography these days since I cannot travel to make my usual bird photos. So I made all of the images accompanying this post in my product studio, rather than using stock product shots.
Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Alan at email@example.com or Gary at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.