Beautiful, Streaky Lens Flares. Olympus 8-25mm F4 Pro Review

The Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro is an incredibly versatile, durable lens, but it doesn’t denounce the older 7-14mm f2.8.

The Micro Four Thirds system is made for telephoto lenses, but ultra-wide angles are tougher for the smaller system. That’s not stopping Olympus from adding another wide-angle zoom to its lineup, however. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm f4.0 Pro (we’ll call it the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro for short) is a 16-50mm equivalent lens wrapped in Pro line features. Unlike the mount’s current M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 Pro, the 8-25mm can accept filters without an adapter.

Announced on June 9th, I spent about two weeks with the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro, working with scenes from morning light landscapes to dim aquariums. It’s around $1,100. Here’s what I found.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro is a compact, weather-sealed lens that can still use filters despite the wide-angle. It delivers colorful images and some great flare, but the edges are quite soft at the widest angle.

Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Accepts filters
  • Weather-sealed and built well
  • Compact, retracting lens
  • Excellent close focusing capabilities
  • Great color and flare that’s full of character

Cons

  • The edges are quite soft at 8mm
  • f4 equals f8 on full-frame
  • Autofocus is slower closer to the front of the lens

Gear Used

I used the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro with the OM-D E-M1 Mark III. I stored the camera and lens in a pre-production sample of the WANDRD Roam sling bag.

Innovations

The Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro is the first Olympus lens with the Pro designation that retracts for storage. It’s a compact lens covering a 16mm-50mm zoom range and, unlike the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 Pro, it can accept filters. Of course, it’s not the only compact wide-angle lens, and it doesn’t get too crazy with new features.

Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro Tech Specs

Olympus provided these specifications on the new Pro lens:

  • Lens construction: 16 elements in 10 groups (1 DSA lens, 2 Aspherical ED lenses, 1 Super ED lens, 1 ED lens, 1 Super HR lens, 1 HR lens, 1 HD lens).
  • Weatherproofing: IEC Standard publication 60529 IPX1 (when the lens is used with a splashproof body)
  • Focusing: High-speed Imager AF MSC
  • Angle of view: 107 degrees (wide) – 47 degrees (Tele)
  • Closest focusing distance: .23m at all focal lengths
  • Maximum image magnification: .07x – .21x (.14 to .42x 35mm equivalent)
  • Minimum field size: 241.9 ×181.8mm(Wide)/ 83.0 × 62.4mm (Tele)
  • Number of blades: 7
  • Maximum aperture: f4
  • Minimum aperture: f22
  • Filter size: 72mm
  • Dimensions: ⌀77×88.5mm
  • Weight: 411g (without lens cap, rear lens cap, and lens hood)
  • Box contents: LC-72C Lens Cap, LR-2 Lens Rear Cap, LH-76E Lens Hood, CS-53 Wrapping Cloth, Instruction Manual, Olympus Local Warranty Card
  • Separately available accessories: PRF-ZD72 PRO Protection Filter, LSC-0914 Lens Case

Ergonomics

Weighing about 14.5 ounces, the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro is easy to wear all day. The lens retracts to roughly 3.5 inches, so it’s just as easy to slip into a camera bag. While compact, I wouldn’t say that it’s smaller than a full-frame kit lens covering a similar focal length.

The smaller size doesn’t leave much extra room for controls, but Olympus uses the space beautifully. The first control heading out from the lens mount is a small L-Fn button. That’s followed by the zoom ring, labeled with the focal lengths printed on a metallic ring.

Closest to the front of the lens is the focus ring. This ring also hides Olympus’ manual focus clutch. Pull the ring towards the camera body, and the camera enters manual focus mode. When the clutch is pulled, it also reveals a small focal distance scale. This is a clever way to fit both a manual focus switch and a focal distance scale on a small lens while keeping the overall design clean and minimal.

Unlike the M.Zuiko 7-14mm, the front of this lens is half plastic, half glass. The front glass doesn’t take up the whole face of the lens. The smaller glass front piece isn’t as large and curved, which means the front of the lens accepts 72mm filters. The lens ships with a plastic hood with a button lock for an easy on and off. 

Build Quality

The Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro has a minimal aesthetic yet a durable feel. Several pieces feel more metallic than plastic. The rings also feel sturdy and great in the hands. The ridges have a slightly different pattern, but I feel like it’s less of a difference than other lenses. Despite the textures on the two rings being close, I didn’t find myself reaching for the wrong ring.

The lens is unsurprisingly weather-sealed. I say unsurprisingly because I’ve put other Olympus Pro lenses through torture tests with great results. I gave the lens a good splash, and the 8-25mm remained unfazed. If you’re curious to see what their products can survive, you should see what our Editor in Chief Chris Gampat did to the Olympus EM1 Mk III.

Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro Autofocus

One of my favorite perks of the Olympus system is that it’s easier to get up close. The Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro can focus as close as nine inches from the front of the lens for all focal lengths. That’s quite good for a wide-angle lens and, at the 25mm end, offers some great versatility for close-ups. The Starry AF feature on the E-M1 Mark III also works with this lens.

A 16-50mm equivalent isn’t really a lens made for sports and fast action. That said, the lens focused well on subjects at a walking pace. It also did decently at focusing in low light. It did have trouble keeping up with moving subjects closer to the front of the lens. While I could easily shoot close-ups nine inches from the front of the lens, continuous autofocus needed the subject to be a few feet away to keep up.

Ease of Use

While the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro has Pro right in the name, it’s not out of reach for newer photographers. The trickiest part to using this lens is simply discovering the manual focus clutch. Unlike the more traditional auto to manual switch, this is an unlabeled, hidden control. Once you spend a few minutes exploring the lens, however, it’s easy to use. The lens design isn’t so complicated that it distracts from the process of actually shooting.

Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro Image Quality

At the tele end, the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro delivers near edge-to-edge sharpness and, with close-focusing capabilities, soft, bokeh-filled backgrounds. But, at the wide end, the lens creates soft and slightly curved corners fitting in expansive views. No matter what focal length, the lens produces some nice streaky, often purple, flare.

Bokeh

Sure, it’s an f4, but the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro does have a great minimum focus distance. That makes bokeh possible at 25mm f4 when shooting up close. Backgrounds were nice and soft when getting up close. Bokeh balls were soft and round, though I had a few coming from a hard light source that had a slight edge.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are lenses (and camera systems) that will get you a lot more bokeh. An f4 is equivalent to f8 on a full-frame camera. You won’t get the dreamy, fast fall-off of a bright aperture lens on a full-frame camera. There’s much less background separation here. But, if you’re reading this lens review, I’m going to assume you didn’t buy an Olympus body for the bokeh.

Sharpness

The sharpness coming from this lens is perfect at the center: it’s not too soft, but it’s not overly sharpened. At 25mm, this sharpness is maintained almost to the edges. I just preferred the lens slightly stopped down to f4.5 to place the subject towards a corner.

Close crop of the center

But, at 8mm, it’s an entirely different story. The edges have a much more obvious blur here: I couldn’t even correct it stopping down to f8. This soft blur matches up with the barrel distortion curve. This softness turned the stars at the edges into small streaks in if you look at the image at 100 percent. While we hated on the bulbous front that won’t accept filters, the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 Pro will get you sharper edges.

Close crop of the upper left corner

Again, with the f4 being equivalent to an f8, I had to use higher ISOs with this lens, which in turn can also reduce the overall sharpness. This is most obvious in low light and with fast shutter speeds for action.

Lens Character

The M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 Pro has minimal line distortion at 25mm. There’s a very slight difference that I spotted when moving from JPEG to RAW shots in Capture One. 8mm has some more apparent barrel distortion. I could see this in the real world shots before working with my test chart because there was a slight bend to the horizon.

I did, however, love the flare coming from this lens. Directed towards a morning sun, I got some nice streaky flare. This flare would occasionally tint purple or green. Ghosting was controlled better than I’ve seen on some other wide-angle lenses, but the lens can occasionally create a few circular spots in backlighting.

Color Rendering

Colors coming from this lens were generally accurate, though maybe with a touch more saturation. The lens was able to capture a wide variety of hues. I didn’t spot any obvious colored fringing in my images, even when backlit.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • A flatter front allows for filters
  • Like other Pro lenses, this lens is well-built and can withstand some rain.
  • The lens is compact and easy to carry around all day.
  • The ability to focus up close makes this lens very versatile.
  • The color is great, and the flare has lots of character.

Dislikes

  • The corners and edges are very soft at 8mm, even when stepping down the aperture.
  • The close-up focusing capabilities don’t apply to fast action.
  • I wish this were an f2.8.

The competition has caught up to Olympus’ weather-sealing and stabilization. But, there are still a few big reasons to still consider the Micro Four Thirds system. For one, the smaller sensor makes giant telephoto focal lengths easy. But, of course, this is a wide-angle lens, which brings me to the second reason: starry AF. Unfortunately, the softer corners of the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro aren’t perfect for this. If you look closely, the stars on the edges and corners will be soft streaks. So, the sharper and brighter M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8 Pro is going to be the better choice for astrophotography.

While the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro won’t entice photographers into the Olympus family, it still has merit. The short minimum focus range is excellent and the focal range is wider than the 7-14mm f2.8. That means you can shoot landscapes with this lens, close-ups, and then, at the long end, a portrait. The 7-14mm f2.8 is the sharper, brighter choice that still focuses up close. But, the 8-25mm covers both the wide-angle and standard focal lengths, all while weighing less.

Priced at about $1,100, it’s about $300 less than the 7-14mm. I would be more inclined to go with the lens that’s not as bright if the price difference was a little wider and the 8-25mm sat under $1,000.

In short, if you want the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro for the widest angles, I’d wait until you can save the extra $300 for the 7-14mm. But, if you want a versatile wide to standard focal length, the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro is a good option if you don’t mind a bit of edge softness. For that reason, I’m giving the Olympus 8-25mm f4 Pro three out of five stars.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.