Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Review
“Small but mighty” is a phrase you’ve probably heard before, and it’s very much applicable to the Olympus 45mm f/1.8.
This is one of the first portrait prime lenses to come out for Micro Four Thirds cameras and to many, it sums up what this camera system should be: tiny and lightweight, but with great quality.
Can such a small lens like this deliver on image quality, and manage to compete with the best Micro Four Thirds lenses available in 2021?
Olympus designates this lens as part of their premium line of optics, but not their top-level pro line.
Let’s find out why that is and if it matters for you.
Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Specs
- Incredibly small size and weight
- Quick autofocus
- Great price
- Lack of weather sealing
- No lens hood included
- Focal length – 45mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 90mm)
- Optical design – 9 Elements in 8 Groups
- Diaphragm blades – 7, Rounded
- Filter size – 37 mm (Front)
- Dimensions – 2.2 x 1.81″ / 56 x 46 mm
- Weight – 4.09 oz / 116 g
- Weather sealing – no
Build & Ergonomics
The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is a member of the brand’s Premium line, as opposed to their Pro line, meaning it isn’t weather-sealed and comes without a lens hood.
The mounts are metal but the housing is plastic.
This is certainly a well made lens, but it isn’t designed for sub-freezing temperatures or rainstorms.
The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is so small and so lightweight that it will literally feel as though you’re wielding the camera with only a body cap.
This lens mounted combined with the in-body image stabilization in the all of the Olympus and some of the Panasonic camera bodies can make for easy one-handed photography if needed.
While most street photographers favor the very discreet Olympus 17mm f/1.8, this 45mm lens is the go-to for street portraits.
The focus on the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is very fast and accurate. It’s also designated as movie and stills compatible, meaning it’s nearly silent and great for videographers.
This diminutive lens focuses pretty close at 1.64′. By doing this close-up focusing you’ll have an easier time blurring the background, which is sometimes harder to do on a Micro Four Thirds sensor.
While the lens has f/1.8 light gathering capability, the depth of field will give the look of f/3.5 on full frame systems, but this close focusing feature can make up for that.
As with most Olympus lenses, the 45mm f/1.8 is extremely sharp.
With my subject in fairly close proximity and the background far away, I’m able to achieve a creamy, shallow depth of field look with no problem.
I’ve actually shot this lens in extreme backlit situations and shooting wide open I did see some purple fringing – however, it was nothing to worry about.
To me, vignetting is desired in portraits, but nonetheless it doesn’t show up on this lens, probably due to the in-camera correction.
One of the seldom-discussed benefits of this particular lens for portraits is how it does NOT intimidate your subject.
The inconspicuous, small size allows you to get up close and still have your subject at ease.
If you’re looking for the softest and most incredible bokeh, I’d say the big brother to this lens, the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro is the better choice.
On top of that, you’ll get weather sealing as well.
However, you will pay the price in size and weight as well as take a hit to your pocketbook.
Value for Money
For around US$350, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is incredible value and a no brainer if you own a camera such as the Olympus OMD EM5 III, Panasonic Lumix G85, or any other camera with a Micro Four Thirds mount.
If you need to protect your lens from inadvertent bumps or would like to control lens flare better, you will need to purchase the Olympus LH-40B Lens Hood separately as it does not come with the lens.
There are no other functions on the body of this lens such as control buttons, manual focus clutch or a focal distance scale. It’s a very simple design.
No one will be clamoring for lens IS with it being this tiny – and with 7 stops of IBIS in a camera like the Olympus OMD EM1 III, shake blur is not going to be an issue.
Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Review | Conclusion
I’m a working wedding photographer who needs weather sealing and super fast apertures, so the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro would be my first choice for work.
However, if I knew I wouldn’t be out in cold and rain and would be in decent lighting conditions, I’d choose the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and get 90% of what its big brother has for a quarter of the price.
If you’re an enthusiast who takes portraits, this lens is a must-have and an incredible bargain. Combine it with the new eye/face detect AF of the Olympus OMD EM III camera and you’ll be nailing wonderful portraits all day long.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.