Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, review conclusion

12-40mm @ 12mm, demonstrating the value of wide angle when shooting in cities

I find this lens to be as good as advertised! Highly recommended.

Pros:

  • Sharp corners, even at widest focal length where most lesser zooms have soft corners.
  • Sharp fully zoomed in, where most lesser zooms become softer.
  • Sharp when used wide open, at all focal lengths.
  • No purple fringing.
  • No field curvature (that I’ve noticed; I only tested for field curvature at the wide end).
  • Less expensive than buying a bunch of prime lenses. (This week, the 12-40mm is selling for the same price as just the 12mm f/2.0 by itself.)

Cons:

  • Lateral chromatic aberration.
  • Lens blocks built-in pop-up flash on some Micro Four Thirds cameras.
  • Lens hood is cheaply made.
  • Big and heavy for a Micro Four Thirds lens (although quite a bit smaller and lighter than the comparable Canon 24-70mm f/4.0 full-frame lens).

What this lens is best at:

  • Event photography (I would expect that this is the number one lens for wedding photographers who shoot Olympus)
  • Landscape and cityscape
  • Travel photography (if you don’t mind the weight)
  • General purpose photography (the most versatile lens to have if you have no idea what you want to take pictures of)

What this lens is NOT best at:

  • Portraiture (generally you should use a prime lens for better bokeh, however the 12-40mm is excellent for a type of wide-angle portraiture where you don’t want a blurred background)
  • Street photography (too big to be inconspicuous)
  • Photos that have no purpose except to show off extreme bokeh (and there are lots of these types of photos on Flickr)
  • Any use that require focal lengths wider than 12mm or longer than 40mm

I have written a whole series of blog posts about this lens before writing this conclusion. Read the details:

G.A.S. attack (Olympus 12-40mm lens)
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens, first impression
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 second impression: this lens is ginormous!
12-40mm F/2.8 vs. 17mm f/1.8 extreme corner(with test photos)
12-40mm f/2.8 vs. Ricoh GR (with test photos)
Olympus lens test: 12-40mm vs. 9-18mm extreme corner (with test photos)
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 vs. three primes (with test photos)

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