Review The Olympus 12-40pro as a landscape lens

travelbug

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I shoot landscapes 90% of the time and my most used lens is the Olympus 12-40 pro. I will make this review more about my personal eperiences with the lens rather than technical specifics which are easy enough to find in youtube and across the web.
It has often been said that the best lenses for landscape are the 16-35 and 70-200 (full frame equivalents) zooms. The first, to get those wide expanses that are oh so common in landscape photography; and the second to focus on particular subjects and to bring farther objects into better framing and composition. I did not know this general tenet however when I started doing landscape photography in 2016. I bought a used 12-40 pro based on glaring reviews and the versatility of the standard zoom.
Upon using it a couple of times, I felt that it was not wide enough for certain scenes. I solved this by learning how to stitch panoramas, and for the most part, it worked. But since my preferred style of photography was long exposure, it was often a tedious and technical process. I decided to experiment and, as they usually say, make do with what I have. So I started recomposing scenes that would fit into the 12mm range of the lens instead of opting for a wider, all encompassing photo. This exercise taught me the lesson that sometimes less is more and that careful composition and placement of elements often matter more.
My next big concern with the lens was how sharp it was in the corners, and I was happy to note that the online reviews were correct in stating that it's corner sharpness at 12mm is almost as good as its center sharpness from f4-f9. I also shoot a lot in f/2.8 and although there is a slight degradation in sharpness, its something I can fix in post. I dont shoot as much in the long end, but during those times that I do, 40mm seems a little less sharp than at 12mm in the normal f4-f9 range. Again not anything significant. Ive printed images up to 30 inches in fine art papers, and sold a couple of them, and me nor my printer see any perceptible softness in corners .
I'm not sure if this lens is telecentric, but Ive had very little issues with CA on the 12-40 even while shooting wide open.
So all in all, and considering its metal build, it is indeed an excellent lens. I can easily recommend this lens for anyone, even for landscape photography.
However, I also got myself a Laowa 7.5/2 and have noticed that I use it more often now. It wasn't because the Laowa was wider, brighter, or sharper (slightly). It was mainly because the Laowa, like any ultrawide can produce foreground distortion, and this is something that I just cannot replicate in Photoshop.
So these two, the 12-40pro and 7.5mm make up my two punch landscape kit. I still shoot the 12-40 quite often, since its weather sealed; some scenes are not as great when captured too wide; and it has much less flare and CA compared to the Laowa. So it is still an indispensable lens for my kit.
 

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Tenpenny

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I'm right there with you. I'm a landscape guy and 99.9% of my shooting is done on the O12-40/2.8 and the Laowa 7.5/2. It's a winning "one-two" punch as far as I'm concerned.
 

travelbug

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I'm right there with you. I'm a landscape guy and 99.9% of my shooting is done on the O12-40/2.8 and the Laowa 7.5/2. It's a winning "one-two" punch as far as I'm concerned.
Arent they :). I never considered the 7-14 cause of the need for custom made filter holders. I tried the 8-18, and as good as that lens is, I'd rather have a constant f/2.8 cause our smaller sensors need all the light they can get.
My only caveat is I wish the Laowa were weather sealed too.
 
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The Samyang 7.5mm is sharper in the corners than the Laowa, has a wider angle of view, and can produce rectilinear photos when the horizon is in the middle of the frame. It's also cheaper than the Laowa and can produce more artistic distortion...
 

travelbug

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The Samyang 7.5mm is sharper in the corners than the Laowa, has a wider angle of view, and can produce rectilinear photos when the horizon is in the middle of the frame. It's also cheaper than the Laowa and can produce more artistic distortion...
I've used the Samyang before and it is indeed a good lens. But my Laowa is as sharp, if not sharper than my two froends' Samyang and is of course 1.5 stops brighter making it a must have for me for Astro. The Samyang is brighter and a little sharper in the corners wide open, but then again, that's comparing 3.5 vs 2.0. Also, keeping your horizon in the middle of the frame will severely limit your compositions and creativity. One could use software to correct, but you will still be throwing away a lot of pixels, which is a waste. I'm also not a fan of barrel distortion for landscapes.
All in all, I believe the Laowa is a superior lens imo.
 
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I've used the Samyang before and it is indeed a good lens. But my Laowa is as sharp, if not sharper than my two froends' Samyang and is of course 1.5 stops brighter making it a must have for me for Astro. The Samyang is brighter and a little sharper in the corners wide open, but then again, that's comparing 3.5 vs 2.0. Also, keeping your horizon in the middle of the frame will severely limit your compositions and creativity. One could use software to correct, but you will still be throwing away a lot of pixels, which is a waste. I'm also not a fan of barrel distortion for landscapes.
All in all, I believe the Laowa is a superior lens imo.
Your landscapes are fantastic. Did you buy the lightweight version of the Laowa or the regular one? Is it as easy to focus as the Samyang - ie, put at infinity and leave it there for landscapes?

I most often choose to stitch panoramas with the 12-40 when I want to shoot ultra wide. I like the increase in resolution with a 3-5 pan shot and the convenience of not changing lenses often.
 

travelbug

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Your landscapes are fantastic. Did you buy the lightweight version of the Laowa or the regular one? Is it as easy to focus as the Samyang - ie, put at infinity and leave it there for landscapes?

I most often choose to stitch panoramas with the 12-40 when I want to shoot ultra wide. I like the increase in resolution with a 3-5 pan shot and the convenience of not changing lenses often.
Thanks @SteveAdler , I bought the normal version and yes it is as easy as the samyang to use. The wide depth of field of the MFT system is such a great boon for landscape photography, no need to use f11 or smaller nor focus stacking- Im almost always at the sweet spot of my lenses.

The great thing about the two lens combo is that the weakness of one is the strength of the other. For example, the Laowa is susceptible to flaring, is not weather sealed and will vignette with my filters fully stacked. Solved by the 12-40pro. While the 12-40pro is sometimes too narrow, lacks brightness for my astro shots, and cannot distort foreground as much -solved by the Laowa :).
 

travelbug

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Nice photos. May I know which ND filter do you use?
Thanks! I use the formatt hitech firecrest 100mm kit consisting of 2 and 3 stop GND plus a 6,10 stop ND and cpl. Ive suplemented this with the Benro 3 stop reverse GND but I didnt use it in any of the photos.
I have the old holder; good news is it takes up to 4 filters, including the cpl and doesnt vignette with the 12-40pro
 

travelbug

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I most often choose to stitch panoramas with the 12-40 when I want to shoot ultra wide. I like the increase in resolution with a 3-5 pan shot and the convenience of not changing lenses often.
True! The fifth image of the 1FC building and underpass is a 2 stitch vertorama. One of the advantages of stitching is you don't get small background objects, which can happen due to the distortion effect of an ultra wide lens.
 

wjiang

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The Samyang 7.5mm is sharper in the corners than the Laowa, has a wider angle of view, and can produce rectilinear photos when the horizon is in the middle of the frame. It's also cheaper than the Laowa and can produce more artistic distortion...
I like both fish-eye and rectilinear lenses each for what they offer, so I'm going to knit pick here - a fish-eye does not produce rectilinear photos when the horizon is in the middle of the frame. With a fish-eye projection, only lines running through the centre stay straight - all others are curved. All that happens when you put the horizon in the middle is that it makes the horizon run through the centre, keeping it and only it straight. All other objects - especially foreground objects that fall below the centreline, will be distorted. This is not the same thing as a retilinear projection, which keeps all straight lines straight.
 

grcolts

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I shoot landscapes 90% of the time and my most used lens is the Olympus 12-40 pro. I will make this review more about my personal eperiences with the lens rather than technical specifics which are easy enough to find in youtube and across the web.
It has often been said that the best lenses for landscape are the 16-35 and 70-200 (full frame equivalents) zooms. The first, to get those wide expanses that are oh so common in landscape photography; and the second to focus on particular subjects and to bring farther objects into better framing and composition. I did not know this general tenet however when I started doing landscape photography in 2016. I bought a used 12-40 pro based on glaring reviews and the versatility of the standard zoom.
Upon using it a couple of times, I felt that it was not wide enough for certain scenes. I solved this by learning how to stitch panoramas, and for the most part, it worked. But since my preferred style of photography was long exposure, it was often a tedious and technical process. I decided to experiment and, as they usually say, make do with what I have. So I started recomposing scenes that would fit into the 12mm range of the lens instead of opting for a wider, all encompassing photo. This exercise taught me the lesson that sometimes less is more and that careful composition and placement of elements often matter more.
My next big concern with the lens was how sharp it was in the corners, and I was happy to note that the online reviews were correct in stating that it's corner sharpness at 12mm is almost as good as its center sharpness from f4-f9. I also shoot a lot in f/2.8 and although there is a slight degradation in sharpness, its something I can fix in post. I dont shoot as much in the long end, but during those times that I do, 40mm seems a little less sharp than at 12mm in the normal f4-f9 range. Again not anything significant. Ive printed images up to 30 inches in fine art papers, and sold a couple of them, and me nor my printer see any perceptible softness in corners .
I'm not sure if this lens is telecentric, but Ive had very little issues with CA on the 12-40 even while shooting wide open.
So all in all, and considering its metal build, it is indeed an excellent lens. I can easily recommend this lens for anyone, even for landscape photography.
However, I also got myself a Laowa 7.5/2 and have noticed that I use it more often now. It wasn't because the Laowa was wider, brighter, or sharper (slightly). It was mainly because the Laowa, like any ultrawide can produce foreground distortion, and this is something that I just cannot replicate in Photoshop.
So these two, the 12-40pro and 7.5mm make up my two punch landscape kit. I still shoot the 12-40 quite often, since its weather sealed; some scenes are not as great when captured too wide; and it has much less flare and CA compared to the Laowa. So it is still an indispensable lens for my kit.
Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed looking at your images. While I do not shoot with the Olympus 12-40 I do shoot with the Panasonic 12-60/2.8 lens and love its range and colors. I also shoot more abstract landscapes with my Olympus 100-300 lens.
Cheers.
GR
 

travelbug

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Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed looking at your images. While I do not shoot with the Olympus 12-40 I do shoot with the Panasonic 12-60/2.8 lens and love its range and colors. I also shoot more abstract landscapes with my Olympus 100-300 lens.
Cheers.
GR
I have used this lens too, and it's an excellent lens on a Panasonic system. It produces excellent contrast on my friends g85 but when used in his pen f and my em5ii the images don't seem to produce that same level of contrast.
 

JLGF1

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I like both fish-eye and rectilinear lenses each for what they offer, so I'm going to knit pick here - a fish-eye does not produce rectilinear photos when the horizon is in the middle of the frame. With a fish-eye projection, only lines running through the centre stay straight - all others are curved. All that happens when you put the horizon in the middle is that it makes the horizon run through the centre, keeping it and only it straight. All other objects - especially foreground objects that fall below the centreline, will be distorted.
This was taken with the Samyang 7.5mm and I assume would be an example of this...almost straight horizon , bowed surf.

Lake_Michigan_surf-TS2.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
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grcolts

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I have used this lens too, and it's an excellent lens on a Panasonic system. It produces excellent contrast on my friends g85 but when used in his pen f and my em5ii the images don't seem to produce that same level of contrast.
Interesting...as I also use that lens on my Olympus OM-10 body and it seems contrasty enough.
GR
 

travelbug

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Interesting...as I also use that lens on my Olympus OM-10 body and it seems contrasty enough.
GR
Me and my friend will try to do another round of comparisons with the panaleica 12-60 on a penf and g85. Ill post the results in mu43
 

travelbug

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Loving the waterfall shot.
Thanks, I like that photo too. And just in case someone has some doubts those are real rays.
My Laowa could never work here cause were were quite wet and there wouldve been considerable flaring with that lens.
 
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