My 45mm f/1.8 has been a disappointment. What to do?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by Lunatique, Aug 1, 2016.

  1. Lunatique

    Lunatique Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 14, 2014
    Lincoln, CA
    I have three lenses I use with me E-M1 -- Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 Pro, Panny Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, and Zuiko 45mm f/1.8. Of the three lenses, the 45 has been a real disappointment.

    I read so many rave reviews about how it's really sharp wide-open, but it seems for me, the only way it ever is sharp wide open is if I'm shooting a tight head-only portrait under bright sunlight. If I'm shooting half-portrait to full-body and in the shade (or indoors), I rarely ever get sharp results wide-open. And none of this is related to shutter speed or ISO settings, because even when the shutter speed is well above safe for the 90mm equivalent length and the ISO is down to 200, I still don't get sharp wide-open photos. In comparison, the 12-40 f/2.8 and the 25 f/1.4 get plenty of sharp results wide-open.

    I've done the "slanted ruler test" and the 45 is definitely noticeably hazy wide-open, and while the 25 f/1.4 is too, it's to a lesser degree. I see on DxO site that the 45's sharpness is pretty abysmal compared to most of the other lenses I have (especially the excellent Sony FE lenses like the 55 f/1.8, 85 f/1.4 G Master, 28 f/2, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II):
    Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8 | DxOMark

    So are those rave reviews of the 45's sharpness just people who have never actually used a truly sharp lens before? Is this just variations among copies? Should I sell it off and get an alternative? But it seems like whatever alternatives out there are roughly around the same level of sharpness wide-open as the 45 f/1.8?
  2. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Real Name:
    Sorry to hear you and the 45 didn't hit it off. Have you had a look at the image thread for it to see what others have done with their copies? I suspect that your copy may not be up to snuff as mine has been reasonably sharp, and I own a lot of sharp glass.

    Good luck,

  3. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    So you have to take into account that most reviews are made at the expectation level set by the price. The 45mm f1.8 is a cheaper lens. Your 25mm is a higher end Leica and your 12-40 is a PRO grade lens and one of the sharpest zooms ever made. You simply can't ask as much of a lower-end prime like the 45mm. If you are also comparing it to the Sony 55mm and a FF sensor, then no wonder you aren't impressed!

    Look at it this way. The Mazda Miata MX5 gets great reviews as a car that's fun to drive, handles well and feels "zippy". Which is very true compared to other $25,000 cars. But how do you think it would feel after driving a $65k BMW M3 for a week?
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  4. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    Few things:

    DxO comparisons between systems are really screwed up. They will report the worst lens imaginable on a higher MP camera as "better" than an amazing lens on a lower MP camera. They are always trying to come up with scores and metrics that obfuscate their otherwise careful testing.

    The 45/1.8 is inexpensive and so you could have a bad sample. I'd suggest shooting the same target with your 12-40/2.8 and the 45/1.8 both at F/2.8 and comparing. If the 12-40 is doing better then something likely wrong with your copy of the 45. You can also check for decentering, but that isn't the only kind of lens defect that could cause softness.

    Your description of bright head vs shadow half or full is weird. That doesn't sound like a typical soft lens problem. What it does sound like is shutter shock - which the 45/1.8 can suffer from on the E-M1. Yes all the shutter speeds are above the hand hold limit but likely the shade ones could be in the range for shutter shock. Check your EXIF, if soft shots are around 1/160 to 1/320 but sharp are faster and you aren't using 0 sec anti shock then the problem is most likely just shutter shock.

    Something seems fishy, I'd do some more careful testing to ensure you don't have a bum lens or are getting impacted by shutter shock.
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  5. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The 45mm is not that sharp wide open in the corners. Centre is good though and in any case it is sharp enough to use wide open for portraits, it's pretty unbeatable price-wise for a good AF portrait lens. The more expensive Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 has better across frame sharpness wide open, but has somewhat funky bokeh unless you stop down a little.
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  6. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Real Name:
    OP should post samples. At F1.8 the DOF is pretty shallow. If you are shooting a portrait, and you focus on the nose or something, the entire face may not be in focus, depending on your shooting distance. I have heard of a few people claiming they got a bad copy though.
  7. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    People keep saying it's cheap, but it was a 400 dollar lens when it came out and stayed that way for a while as it was the only native option in this FL. I know because I acquired a small arsenal of cheaper manual focus lenses to avoid paying for it :)
    45 mm I have seems sharp but maybe I am not very critical.
  8. astrostl

    astrostl Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 4, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    Real Name:
    Justin Honold
  9. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    Real Name:
    Rob Campbell
    Could be a bad copy or as others suggest, maybe you're comparing a Mazda to a Ferrari. They're great for the price, but if you want a really sharp lens, maybe take a look at the Panasonic/Leica Nocticron 42.5 or even a Voigtlander 42.5 if you're into manual shifters... er, focusing.
  10. rloewy

    rloewy Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 5, 2014
    Bad analogy, A Miata still feels great, light and connected after a week with one of these giant barges that weights at least 50% more than it. The only M3 that was really inspiring to drive was the first one... all the other were heavy luxury cars that hid behind stupid amounts of power to pretend they are sport cars.
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  11. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Well, I've only driven the M3 on youtube, so I'll take your word for it! :)
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  12. jrsilva

    jrsilva Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 1, 2012
    Real Name:
    I've never find the Oly 45 a good lens to shot full-body portraits wide open.
    I also see less detail than when I shoot close up portraits.
    But maybe I'm spoiled by the Oly 75 or the Pana-Leica 25...
    Anyway, it's not so bad, so when I don't have the room to step back I sometimes do full-body portraits with the 45. But remember to stop down a little bit.
    Here's a sample at f/2.
    Lunatic, how do your full body portraits compare in terms of sharpness at the same distance?

    [​IMG]Nina by Jaime Silva, on Flickr
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  13. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    The copy of 45mm I had was never quite that sharp wide open. I had to stop down to about 2.5+ for it to really sharpen up.
  14. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Damian McGillicuddy uses the 45/1.8 for a lot of his work:

    Damian McGillicuddy

    I've found mine plenty sharp enough. I even owned the Nocticron for a short while but returned it because for what I needed the 45 was enough.
  15. Debbie.Cato

    Debbie.Cato Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 23, 2016
    I have also been disappointed in my 45 1.8. I really need to use it as my sole lens for a week or two to see if this will resolve my issue. I have the same issue with my 40-150R. I think this is probably due to copy variation as I have seen others get superb shots with both lenses. All of my Oly lenses were purchased used. I love my 25 1.8 and find the 14-42R and 17 2.8 to be better than expected.

    When I worked as a wedding photographer I used canon 35L, 135L and 100L Macro. I owned two 35L lenses and found one to be tack sharp and the other somewhat soft although the brides never noticed the difference. I returned a 24-70 2.8L II as I found it sharp at 50mm but nowhere else through the zoom range.
  16. bigboysdad

    bigboysdad Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 25, 2013
    Sydney/ London
    I'm obviously blessed when it comes to m43, not only do I have a good copy of the 45 but also the 14mm f2.5 which attracts similar complaints.
  17. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Real Name:
    I have two copies of the Oly 45 (first one failed to focus after a year's use), it's sharp enough wide open but it is nothing compared to the sharpness of my Oly 75 or Sigma 60. Few years ago it was a must have but now with better alternatives out there it's a bit harder to recommend. However not saying it's a bad lens and you can definitely achieve good images if you know what you're doing.

    Under the tree
    by Vincent Tsai, on Flickr

    by Vincent Tsai, on Flickr
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  18. ashburtononline

    ashburtononline Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 21, 2015
    New Zealand
    I ditched mine for a Nocticron .... never looked back !!!
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  19. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 5, 2014
    San Luis Obispo
    My PL25 at 1.4 is softer than my Oly 45 at 1.8. The 45 is also sharper at 2.8 than both my 12-40 and 40-150 are at 2.8.

    Poor sample seems very possible.
  20. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2012
    If there is a margin around your subject who cares about the edges of the portrait? Also most people want the skin not to be razor sharp. The 50mm f 1.2 Canon and the 85mm F1.2 Canon are meant for portraits and are not sharp wide open, They cost big bucks. So ,OK just what is the big deal?
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