Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm f/1.8 lens

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      Like its siblings, the M.Zuiko Premium 45mm f/1.8 is a capable and attractive lens that merits a place in active photographers’ camera kits.

      It can deliver sharp, high-quality images and movie clips across a wide range of aperture settings and is little affected by the most common aberrations.


      Full review

      Immediately after we reviewed the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens in November 2017 Olympus offered us the cheaper alternative M.Zuiko Premium 45mm f/1.8 lens, which has been available since 2011 but which we hadn’t reviewed. The Christmas break intervened and now we have a lens to review and compare with the faster PRO lens.  


      Side view of the silver version of the M.Zuiko Premium ED 45mm f/1.8   lens without lens hood and end caps. (Source: Olympus.)

      The 45mm f/1.8 lens belongs in a suite of seven prime lenses that have been released progressively since 2011 (when the 12mm f/1.2 and the 45mm f/1.8 lenses arrived on the market). Designed to be compact and relatively light in weight they featured metallic finishes, metal mounts, ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) anti-reflection coatings and affordable price tags that have made them popular with photo enthusiasts. Most are available in black and silver to match different camera bodies.


      The two colour options for the M.Zuiko Premium ED 45mm f/1.8   lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      Given the 2x crop factor applied by the M4/3 sensor, the 45mm f/1.8 lens is equivalent to a 90mm f/3.6 lens on a 35mm camera. It’s one stop slower than the 45mm f/1.2 PRO but still ideal for portraiture, although it won’t provide such a shallow depth of field.  

      The optical design of the 45mm f/1.8 lens is also less complex, with nine elements in eight groups (compared to 14 elements in 10 groups for the f/1.2 lens). The only exotic components are two E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index) elements, the positions of which are shown in the diagram below.  


      The diagram above shows the positions of the two E-HR elements in the optical design of the  M.Zuiko Premium ED 45mm f/1.8 lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      Autofocusing is driven by a MSC mechanism that works with the AF systems in both OM-D and PEN cameras and is also compatible with Panasonic’s autofocusing systems. Since this lens doesn’t include stabilisation, it has to rely on the integrated sensor shift stabilisation system found in most Olympus cameras, but only in the latest models from Panasonic.  

      The lens is supplied with a front cap (LC-37B), rear cap (LR-2) and decoration ring (DR-40), which covers the threading when the lens hood is not being used.   The LH-40B lens hood is an optional accessory that can be purchased from Olympus for AU$39.  

      Who’s it For?
      While the 45mm f/1.8 lens can be used for most of the same types of subjects as its faster PRO-grade sibling, it has a few advantages that will attract serious photographers for different reasons. But there are also downsides to take into account. The table below comparing key specifications of both lenses with highlights indicating the relative advantages of each lens.


      45mm f/1.8

      45mm f/1.2 PRO


      56 x 46 mm

      70 x 85 mm


      116 g

      410 g

      Maximum aperture



      Minimum aperture



      Diaphragm blades



      AF mechanism


      Stepping motor

      Minimum focus

      50 cm

      Focus method


      Manual focus

      Full time manual over-ride
       via focusing ring

      Via clutch mechanism switch

      Weather sealing



      Hood supplied



      RRP (AU$)



      Its small size and relatively light weight make it ideal for cameras that are mounted on drones, where it has a huge advantage over the faster PRO lens. Although we found it a good match for our OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, which was used for all testing, it’s a bit small and light for Panasonic’s top-of-the-range G-series cameras. We think it would fit best on the mid-sized models like the DMC-G85. DMC-GX8   and DMC-GX7.

      Build and Ergonomics
       The first impression of this lens suggests it’s very well built and the silver model we received to review implied it was made from lightweight metal. However, that’s not the case: this lens actually has a plastic barrel, based on a metal mount.

      Nonetheless, build quality is well above average for a lens of this type and it’s very snugly assembled. We found no slackness in the single control ring, which turned easily and smoothly but had enough resistance to remain at any defined position.

      The focusing ring is 15 mm wide and entirely covered in fine ribbing. It’s located 12 mm behind the front of the lens. Behind it, the barrel remains cylindrical for roughly seven millimetres before sloping up to the six millimetre wide band that surrounds the lens mount and carries the red alignment dot and the minimum focusing distance data.

      Aside from the manual focusing ring, there are no other features on the lens. This means no distance scale, no focus limiter and no stabilisation. The latter isn’t a problem when it’s on cameras with stabilisation built-in, a feature in all OM-D and PEN cameras.

      Focusing is totally internal, which means the length of the lens barrel does not change and the filter thread does not rotate when focus is adjusted. However, there’s no mechanically coupling between the focusing ring and the movable elements in the lens, which means there’s little or no tactile feedback and the response to adjustments is slightly slower than with more up-to-date lenses. From a practical viewpoint, however, we found it responsive enough to handle the few instances of low-light focusing where the AF system failed to deliver and well able to be used for pre-setting focus when shooting moving subjects.

      Although the lens mount is made from solid metal, there’s no rubber sealing around it so it’s not weather resistant.   The front of the lens is threaded to accept 37mm filters. The ‘decoration ring’ that surrounds the filter thread screws off when it’s turned clockwise to reveal a bayonet mount for the optional LH-20B hood.

       As noted above, all   test shots were taken with the lens on our OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body. Subjective assessments of images showed them to be very sharp, including at the maximum f/1.8 aperture. This sharpness persisted throughout most of the aperture range.

      Autufocusing was generally quite responsive. The fast MSC autofocusing system and effective stabilisation in the E-MI Mark II enabled us to hand-hold the lens at very slow shutter speeds ““ between 1/2 and 1/8 second ““ and obtain a high percentage of sharp pictures.

      Our Imatest tests showed the lens could comfortably exceed expectations for the 20-megapixel resolution sensor in the E-MI II with measurements taken near the centre of the frame. Some edge softening was measured at the widest aperture settings but by about f/4 it had become barely noticeable.

      The highest resolution was obtained around f/4.0, which is 2.3 stops down from maximum aperture. However, resolution equalled or exceeded expectations for the 20-gapixel sensor from around f/2.2 through to f/6.3. The results of our Imatest tests are shown in the graph below.




      Diffraction began to take effect at the f/8 setting, after which resolution plunged as the diaphragm was closed. Perceptible differences between centre and edge resolution had virtually vanished between f/7.1 and f/8. We wouldn’t recommend shooting with the lens stopped down beyond about f/11 if highly detailed images were required.

      Lateral chromatic aberration remained well within the ‘negligible’ band for most aperture settings, with only the smallest apertures pushing into the ‘low’ band, as shown in the graph of our test results below. The red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.



      Because in-camera corrections are applied for both vignetting and rectilinear distortion, we had to analyse ORF.RAW files to see whether either issue was present. We found vignetting was effectively negligible at the widest aperture settings and distortion was limited to very slight pincushioning, which is barely noticeable in most situations.

      The lens also handled backlit subjects very well. Although some flare and ghosting could be present in shots when a bright light source was within the image frame, we found no loss of contrast or colour saturation in normal shots with   relatively strong backlighting .

      The minimum focusing distance of 50 cm makes this lens usable for taking close-ups of objects that measure more than about 10 cm in length. The 7-bladed iris diaphragm rendered out-of-focus highlights evenly at wide apertures, even when there were bright highlights in the background. We found very little bokeh fringing (coloured halos in focus transition zones)in backlit close-ups shot with the maximum aperture.

      Like its siblings, the M.Zuiko Premium 45mm f/1.8 is a capable and attractive lens that merits a place in active photographers’ camera kits. It can deliver sharp, high-quality images and movie clips across a wide range of aperture settings and is little affected by the most common aberrations.

      We prefer the version of the lens with the black finish, partly because it’s a better match for our all-black E-M1 Mark II camera but also because the silver finish on the review sample looked a little down-market for an Olympus product. Even at the Olympus RRP of AU$499, this lens is very affordably priced for the quality it produces.

      Because this lens has been on sale for several years, shopping around can yield some attractive bargains. The lowest local price we found was in the vicinity of AU$300, although we suspect the seller was a ‘grey market’ retailer. Prices at legitimate (tax-paying and product supporting) re-sellers are typically between AU$400 and $425.

      It’s not worth shopping offshore for this lens as by the time shipping has been included you’ll be spending much the same as the average local price, if not a little more. You also lose the benefits of warranty support and local consumer protection laws if you buy offshore.



         Picture angle: 27 degrees
       Minimum aperture: f/22
       Lens construction: 9 elements in 8 groups (including 2 E-HR lenses)
       Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
       Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
       Focus drive: Micromotor (MSC mechanism) with internal focusing
       Stabilisation: No
       Minimum focus: 50 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.11x (35mm equivalent maximum image magnification:0.22x)
       Filter size: 37   mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L):   56 x 46 mm
       Weight:  116 grams
       Standard Accessories: Lens Cap (LC-37B), Rear Lens Cap (LR-2), Decoration Ring (DR-40), Instruction Manual and Warranty Card

       Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678, www.olympus.com.au  



       Based on JPEG images captured with the lens on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body.







       Vignetting at f/1.8.


      Vignetting at f/2.0.


      Vignetting at f/2.2.


      Rectilinear distortion.


       Close-up at f/1.8; ISO 125, 1/8000 second. From ORF.RAW   file.


      Close-up at f/1.8; ISO 200, 1/5000 second.


      Partially backlit close-up at f/1.8; ISO 200, 1/6400 second.


      Close-up at f/5.6; ISO 200, 1/25 second.


      Close-up; ISO 200, 1/50 second, f/4.


      ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/8.


      Crop from the above image magnified to 100%.


      Backlit scene; ISO 200, 1/6400 second at f/1.2.


      ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/8.


      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 200, 1/6 second at f/1.8.


      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 640, 1/20 second at f/4.5.


      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 250, 1/2 second at f/2.8.


      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 250, 1/8 second at f/3.2.


      Hand-held shot taken at ISO 2400, 1/10 second at f/5.


      Normally backlit subject; ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/5.6. From ORF.RAW   file.


      ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/2.8.


      ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.


      ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/9. From ORF.RAW   file.;


      ISO 200, 1/140 second at f/9.


      ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/9.


      ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/11.


      RRP: AU$499; US$399

      • Build: 8.8
      • Handling: 8.7
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 8.8