Beautiful Colors. OM-System 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II First Impressions

It’s been nearly a decade since the original Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens was announced and reviewed. Now, we’ve got the OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II. The new lens boasts an incredible weather sealing durability rating, a $999.99 price point, 20cm close focusing, and more. This is the standard lens for the OMDS system and we got to spend some time testing it before the announcement.

Editor’s Note: OMDS sent us a pre-production unit of this lens. We’re allowed to post the images with the transparent statement that these might not be final image quality. 

Tech Specs

  • $999.99
  • 20cm close up focusing
  • IP53 durability rating. This is on par with the Google Pixel phone.
  • 62mm filter thread
  • 382 grams
  • 9 elements in 14 groups

Ergonomics

Here’s a top-down look at the new OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that this is the same one as the previous lens. It’s characterized by two big rings. There’s the extra texture on them too. The front ring is the focusing ring while the rear ring is the zooming ring. Both give you a lot of nice grip.

The front of the lens holds a 62mm filter thread. That will give you an idea of how small this lens is.

The focusing ring is just like the previous ones. That’s to say it can slip into manual focus mode if you pull it back. That can be very useful when you’re trying to give the camera a bit of autofocus assist. Otherwise, you can set it so that the manual focus ring can override the autofocus.

When the lens is fully extended out, it doesn’t get much bigger. For sure, this is an excellent little package.

Build Quality

The new OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II lens is surely weather resistant. We paired it with the OM System OM1 for this product shoot. Specifically, this lens and the camera both are IP53 durability rated and OM Digital Solutions is saying this publicly. That means it’s on par with the Google Pixel phone. To put that into perspective, we did some research. According to CNet, this means that it’s barely waterproof. Here’s a pertinent quote:

“…it should be able to withstand “water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60 degrees from the vertical,” and it must pass a test that involves being sprayed for at least five minutes. In other words, you’ll be fine if you’re caught in a light shower with this phone, but you shouldn’t go running in the rain with it. Dropping it in the sink or toilet is a no-go, and you should definitely not have it anywhere near a pool.”

Practically speaking, it means you can take it out into some really crazy rain, snow, or other precipitation and it will be mostly fine. Of course, make sure the lens is on the camera tightly. It has a rubber gasket at the mount as well to help with this.

Otherwise, it’s made of plastic on the outside, but doesn’t feel cheap. OMDS opted to keep the old push-pull focusing ring, which I adore. And otherwise, it makes for a nice, solid package on any camera in the system. The lens is lightweight and fun to use. We think you’ll really like it.

Ease of Use

For the most part, this is a standard lens. You attach it to a camera, point, focus, shoot, and enjoy. The only thing some folks might need to get used to are the focusing ring and actually using and understanding this lens. Just make sure you don’t accidentally bump the focusing ring into the manual focus position and you’ll be fine. But also ensure that you understand how Micro Four Thirds works. Sure, this is an f2.8 lens throughout the entire range. That means you’ll get the light gathering of f2.8, but the depth of field of f5.6. This is because of the Four-Thirds sized sensor. 

It’s tiny but mighty. If you were ever a fan of the dwarves in Warhammer, Gimli in Lord of the Rings, or the astonishing efficiency of dishwater cleaning tablets, you’ll like this. Small can be awesome for sure. 

Autofocus

Focus with the OMDS and Olympus systems has always been pretty speedy. But at the same time, other systems have caught up and even superseded Micro Four Thirds. Comparatively speaking, the autofocus speed on this lens is very quick. I’d rate it on par with the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 G2 on the Sony a1, or even the Canon RF 24-70mm f2.8 on the Canon EOS R5. That means target acquisition is faster than it is with Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Leica, etc. But at the same time, that’s only if you’re specifically telling it to focus on a certain spot. In S-AF settings, the OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II is at its peak. Things change when it comes to tracking.

Autofocus tracking of moving subjects like folks walking past you while doing street photography is more difficult for this lens and the OM-1. To clarify, I tested this while the OM-1 was set to Simulated OVF. That means all effects of exposure preview were removed. When exposure preview is activated, things are surprisingly just as speedy. That’s because the OM-1 uses a little bit of a trick. If you’re still underexposed by something like five stops, the display will brighten up to show what you’ll be getting. This makes the process faster for the camera and lens to work together and focus.

Some of you are probably curious about the autofocus performance of this lens on the Olympus OMD EM1 Mk III. And I totally understand that. After all, the new OM1 has the same megapixel count as its predecessor and every other Olympus camera for nearly the past decade. I’m incredibly happy to say it still performs super quick at acquiring focus. But it doesn’t have all the complexities as the OM1. 

Image Quality

Check these photos out. We’re reminding everyone the images are from a pre-production unit sample with near-final image quality. All photos were shot on the OM System OM1.

First Impressions

I have to do more testing with the OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II for sure. But from what I’m seeing, I’m very impressed with the results. It’s hard to hate on it. Personally speaking, I think OMDS could’ve still done more in the long run. For example, why wasn’t this made into an f1.7 or f2 zoom lens? Panasonic does this and Olympus used to make f2 zoom lenses. It’s really weird that we’re not getting them, but I hope they come in the future.

When a production unit comes in for review, we’ll have a more thorough test and review.

Chris Gampat

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