Testing the SLR Magic Noktor 12mm f1.6 on the Olympus EP3

We had a hands-on experience with the SLR Magic 12mm f1.6 Noktor lens and we also reviewed it. During that review, we tested the lens on the Olympus EP2 and EPM1. Recently, I got my hands on the EP3 while at lunch with a co-worker. So how does the new lens perform when in front of the new and internally developed sensor?

Still Photos

All photos in this story were subject to minor editing including sharpening and color adjustments. For the most part, film rendering presets were applied in Lightroom 3.

When the EP3 and Noktor 12mm f1.6 lens are coupled, the image quality seems to really shine. The colors pop, the sharpness comes alive and the evolution of Micro Four Thirds camera as a whole seems to really start showing how much it has spread its wings and taken off. This is also why very little editing was done: because the RAW files were very good as they were. I haven’t experienced anything like this except with my Canon 5D Mk II and L lenses.

With the Noktor 12mm f1.6, you can actually look at the images and stare in awe at the bokeh. Indeed, it’s amazing that you can achieve such a creamy rendition. Due to the sensor size, I previously thought that it was near impossible and when the 50mm f0.95 was released, I wasn’t sure if anyone could do it successfully. Noktor seems to have stepped their game up and created a lens that has sharp image quality and a smooth and creamy bokeh. Though oddly enough, the in focus areas don’t seem to pop the way that the Olympus 12mm f2 was capable of.

This is a micro contrast issue. However, oddly enough, the images seem to really pop on my EP2 when stopped down to around f2.8. Here’s an example of what I mean down below:

In the image above, I focused on my co-worker’s iPhone screen. It seems to pop a lot more than what I’ve seen with the EP3. For the record, I was around the same distance away for all of these images; though the images with the EP3 were mostly shot wide open. When using the lens wide open, you may not necessarily get that pop that I’m talking about due to Micro Contrast.

For the record, the opening image in this story was also shot at f2.8.

For the people that love to shoot photos of their food (one of the target audiences of this lens), you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how this lens performs for what you want.


First off, the Olympus EP3 shoots video in the MTS video file. I needed to convert it to an .MOV in order to work with it. In the process, I believe I lost some of the color. The LCD screen of the EP3 made the video look absolutely lovely, as stated in my comments during the video.

For the record, I’m working with the latest version of Snow Leopard and iMovie 11. Even worse, Olympus’s own software doesn’t even recognize the file type.

Ease of Use on the EP3

The Olympus EP3’s ergonomics allow the user to easily use the 12mm f1.6 Noktor. Here’s why:

– The camera has a magnification button that when pressed, will magnify a certain area. When magnified, the user can achieve critical focus.

– When shooting a video, the screen is sharp enough for the user to be able to tell if they’re in focus or not when shooting subjects that relatively close to them. I’m talking about a distance of around 3-4 feet away and even closer.

– The Noktor feels like a much more balanced package when on the EP3 vs the EPM1. Therefore, it’s easier to hold when shooting video. Plus, it’s very easy to hold when shooting stills.

– When using the Noktor on the EP3, there’s really no use in using the touchscreen LCD because you’re going to need to keep your hands around the camera and lens to stabilize the package and to help yourself achieve critical focus. With that said, the user’s mind immediately reverts back to using the camera just like they did the previous models instead of touching the LCD screen often.

So is it easy to use overall? Surely, but it takes practice to really master.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.