Eric L. Woods

That’ll do series: Olympus OMD E-M1/Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

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A lot of virtual ink is regularly spilled, myself included, about the latest and greatest gear. Perhaps a product of my nature and/or my Industrial Engineering degree minimum requirements are a bit of an obsession. This “That’ll do” series focuses on minimum requirements for my photography. The latest and greatest gear available is fantastic, but not everyone wants to, is able to, or even needs to buy into the latest gear. I focused on individual components already. Now I will focus on pairings as compared to much more expensive current alternatives. I will spend a little time on specs, make some comparisons, and then will share sample photos. Any combination suggested is not the only older gear that could suffice. Meant as a sample of what can be accomplished with gear that has a few years on it at a lower price. Or if you already have something similar it stands as an example of how upgrades are an option rather than a necessity for many.

The brief:

  • Tele full frame equivalent focal length.
  • 16MP minimum.
  • Good ergonomics.
  • Bokeh.

Main Purpose:

  • Affordable portrait lens set up.

The title gave away the subject of this post…

OMD E-M1/Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
Olympus OMD E-M1 w/ Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

…but I will start with a few more recent set ups that cost significantly more. Modern options outnumber my ability to try or mention. I will pull from past set ups I have owned or own so I can speak from experience and provide sample shots for comparison.

  • Full frame sample
    • Sony A7III w/ FE 85mm f/1.8
      • Pluses
        • Same aperture but better in low light owing to the larger sensor.
        • Better battery life.
        • Great AF performance, IQ, and bokeh.
      • Minuses
        • Considerably more expensive set up.
        • Larger and heavier.
Samurai Armor Portrait Booth - Triangle JapanFest 2019
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
  • APS-C sample
    • Sony a6000 w/ Sigma 56mm f/1.4
      • Pluses
        • More advanced AF.
        • Larger sensor yields better low light performance with this lens.
        • A great lens.
      • Minuses
        • No IBIS.
        • No touch screen.
        • More expensive.
        • Worse ergonomics than the E-M1.
85mm Full Frame/56mm APS-C
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
  • MFT
    • I could not think of a better alternative MFT portrait solution at anything approaching a reasonable price.

Both options above are great. While they are not the most expensive options on the market at all by a long shot one will set you back hundreds and the other thousands. The least expensive option listed above, the Sony a6000 and Sigma 56mm f/1.4, will run you around $800 (used camera/new lens). The 56mm has not been out long so a used copy may be hard to find.

Value:

How does less than $450 all in sound? A portrait lens alone could easily cost far more than that. I paid around $250 for my EX grade used OMD E-M1 and a used 45mm f/1.8 will run you around $200.

Features:

I point you to my write ups on the camera and lens for details but here is a high level overview.

  • 16MP.
  • 10fps… 10fps!
  • 1/8000s top shutter speed.
  • Solid IQ.
  • Fast, silent hybrid phase and contact stills AF offers better performance than the already good E-M5.
  • Touch AF.
  • Many, many actually useful image modes and special features.
  • Articulating touch screen.
  • Camera is downright tiny.
  • Lens is surprisingly small and light for a portrait length lens.
  • Unlike the E-M5 you can review images in the EVF.
  • Silent modes available with every shutter mode and easily activated in the shutter settings.
  • f/1.8 really makes the most of the relatively small MFT sensor rendering great bokeh, subject isolation, and respectable low light performance.
  • Fantastic ergonomics rivaling any camera I have ever used. Feels like it should cost far more than it does. Thought I might upgrade later but I am so pleased with this camera that I see no practical reason to do so.

What is missing?:

Practically speaking not much actually. Especially given the price point.

  • Battery life is not the best. A common malady for mirrorless cameras. Nothing surprising, but carry extra batteries.
  • Not a set up meant for video with no 4K and slow video AF. Correction. No 4K but I read the manual (go figure) and the secret is iAuto mode. Once set it makes the best of the phase detect AF and auto contrast. Add in the excellent IBIS and mic hack and it is a decent 1080p video camera.

Samples:

Mostly taken from previous samples.

Len Test - Lumix 25mm f/1.7
Carnival.
Olympus PEN-F
Olympus PEN-F
Grace Photo Shoot
Grace Photo Shoot
Grace Photo Shoot
tree
TWC Arena Charlotte Bobcats
TWC Arena Charlotte Bobcats
TWC Arena Charlotte Bobcats
Lights
Tree
Leaf.
Bottles and Brushes - Mebane, NC
Chapel Hill
Cars of a Small Town Parade

Summary:

This is a great portrait set up that is much smaller than I would expect. So small that I was allowed to bring the camera into Time Warner Arena for a professional sporting event and capture many of the shots in the sample set above. Far better than the tongue in cheek “That’ll do” descriptor in the title. Great performance in a small and lightweight set up at a reasonable price.

Makeshift Lightbox-ish Tryout (2 mini LED Panels)
Olympus 45mm f/1.8
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