It’s hard to think of how to start off a review of the Olympus 12mm f/2. Great is maybe the best way. Fun, interesting, tiny? All of them apply. I had purchased the m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 in early May as a slightly early 30th birthday present for myself from eBay used. I find I am always nervous about buying used gear, but so far I haven’t had one bite me in the butt in a long, long time (not since a $35 used film lens ended up with some fungus in it about 5 years ago that wasn’t mentioned in the auction). My 17/2.8 was used, my 12/2 was used, my OM-D E-M5 was used and basically every single film lens I own or owned was bought 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) hand.
I lost out on a big chunk of photography with my new 12/2 though. I got out for a couple of weeks and shot a number of images and then threw a disc in my back. I started to recover, and then destroyed the disc falling three weeks later. Most of the summer was spent in large amounts of pain and attempting to recover and not on photography. This fall though I’ve been mostly recovered and out taking pictures, including with the 12/2.
It really is a gem of a lens. A nice solid metal build, but very small and light.
It’s very sharp in the center and pretty good even out to the extreme edges. It won’t win any resolution contests, but for an ultra wide it is extremely good and for ANY lens it is very good. A few of my other lenses are better, but with the m4/3 crowd, especially with primes, it is tall company to try to stand in and the 12/2 stands pretty tall still.
One of the things I love about the lens is the snap focus ring. Many have talked about it, but the basics are that you can pull the focus ring backward and it’ll engage manual focus with a distance guide. The focus ring will hit a stop for near focus and for infinity focus (actually a hair beyond infinity). My only gripes are that one, it doesn’t indicate in the EVF that you are in this mode, so there have been a couple of times I’ve scratched my head for a few seconds wondering why my camera wasn’t autofocus…oh right, I have the focus ring pulled back. The second is that with the 12/2, it does not focus smoothly through the range. It sets discrete steps as you turn the ring. Its a lot of discrete steps, I dunno, 20 or 30 at least, but it isn’t infinitely adjustable. With the deep DoF of the lens, it is only maybe an issue if you are shooting at f/2, pretty close and need exactly perfect focus. In practice I rarely have an issue with not being able to hit the plane of focus I want. The 17/1.8 from what I have read, does not have focus stops through the range, it is smoothly and infinitely adjustable. What I do tend to use the focus ring for the most are astrophotography shots. Just pull it back, notch it over a hair to infinite focus and shoot away.
Along those lines, the 12/2 makes a great astrophotography lens. You can shoot wide open without worrying about coma with stars and astigmatism is relatively low with the lens as well. The large maximum aperture also aids in being able to shoot at a lower ISO.
There is noticeable vignetting shooting wide open, but it is mostly gone by f/2.8. Resolution improves slightly upon stopping down, but I’d say it is at maximum resolution by f/2.8 through f/5.6 and it is very high even wide open.
Flare is there, but it is generally very well controlled. About the only time I ever have real issues with it is shooting indoors with a very bright light just outside of the frame.
Not much else to say about the lens. It is very small, fast aperture, very fast to focus, has a great look to its images, sharp, has an (almost) unique manual focusing mechanism and doesn’t have any real optical flaws to speak of. My only know against the lens is, even for all it’s quality, I feel like it should really be a $600 lens and not an $800 lens. If you can get your head around the price, or find a really nice used copy for much cheaper, it is a wonderful lens to have, especially if you enjoy shooting primes.