In 2013, we reviewed the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens. Nearly a decade later, the company has introduced the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II. In terms of specs and usability, not a lot has changed. It’s around the same weight, still has the same aperture blades, and retains many of the same specs as the original lens. What’s different? Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much. However, it’s now insanely weather resistant and feels like it focuses much faster.
The new OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II comes bundled as a kit lens option with the OM1. While it’s incredibly versatile, I think there surely are better lenses out there.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II lens is a lightweight, fast focusing, and durable lens that deserves to be on your OM System OM1 camera. If you want to carry one lens around all day, this is the one to get. It delivers in every category: build quality, image quality, autofocus, and more. Indeed, it’s one of the best kit lenses you can get.
At the same time, it’s a jack of all trades and master of none, which truly shows. OM System could’ve really turned heads with an f2 constant aperture zoom or even something at f1.8.
- Weather-resistant design
- Sharp image quality
- At the longer end, it delivers nice bokeh.
- Good colors
- Fast autofocus performance and good tracking on the OM System OM1
- Small and lightweight
- Comes bundled with the camera at a very good price
- Overall a good price
- I really wish OM System made an f2 or f1.7 zoom lens instead. This has the depth of field of an f5.6 lens on full-frame cameras when being used wide-open. And it leaves a lot to be desired.
The OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II we tested was a loaner unit provided to us by OM System. It was used with the:
- OM System OM1 (loaner unit provided by OM System)
- Olympus EM1 Mk III (loaner unit provided by OM System)
- Flashpoint Zoom Li-on X R2 (our own unit purchased a while back)
The OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II doesn’t contain a whole lot of innovation over the previous lens. It has better optics, fast autofocus, and a whole lot of things the previous version had. But in the grand scheme of things, there’s not a lot that’s groundbreaking here. Comparatively speaking, it doesn’t shine as much compared to many of the other PRO-monikered lenses from OM System.
From our First Impressions post.
Here’s a top-down look at the new OM-System 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this is the same 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, 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 one’s: it can slip into manual focus mode if you pull it back. That can be very useful when you want to give the camera a bit of autofocus assist. Otherwise, you can set it so the manual focus ring can override the autofocus.
When the lens is fully extended, it doesn’t get much bigger. For sure, this is an excellent little package.
Make no mistake, this is OM System. With that said, the build quality here is top of the charts. We tested this lens for a very long time in the rain, snow, and on various commutes. It stood up to a cringe-worthy amount of environmental abuse. At one point, someone else was so concerned for the camera and lens that they started covering it up for themselves. When I reassured them that it was fine, they were a bit less concerned. Photojournalists, landscape photographers, travel photographers, and passionate photographers who like taking photos in the rain will all adore this lens.
What’s more, one of my big concerns about the OM1 is that the sensor would get very dirty because there is no sensor protection for when you’re changing lenses. We’re happy to say that the sensor never become dirty when testing this lens.
Weather resistance aside, this lens is fantastic when it comes to build quality. It’s lightweight and feels awesome in your hand. And I can’t really complain too much about that at all. It’s a lens that you’ll want to bring with you everywhere you go.
Ease of Use
If you’re familiar with OM System optics, there isn’t anything out of the ordinary here. The OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II shares the same pull-back mechanism for autofocus and manual focus switching as many other lenses. Otherwise, it’s a point, focus, and photograph affair. Providing they don’t accidentally bump the focusing ring into the manual position, this lens will be easily used by any photographer out there.
I tested this lens with the OM System OM1 and a bit with the Olympus EM1 Mk III. And overall, it works pretty well. We’ve discussed the autofocus of OM System and Panasonic alike here in the staff. Overall, we all agree that neither are just that intelligent compared to Canon and Sony. Specifically, we’re talking about wide-area autofocus algorithms. Where Canon and Sony can focus on a scene and then immediately pick a subject out, OM System still lags behind a bit. Can it be done? Sure! Is it as good as Canon or Sony? Nope! Canon and Sony tend to look at the center and the areas where the rule of thirds tend to intersect.
This is regardless of whether or not the scene detection is on. So with all this said, you’ll have to give the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II a bit of focusing assistance by choosing an area for it to focus on. This is in some ways an antiquated way of thinking for a lens like this. If it were a much longer focal length and photographing birds, it would be different. But there were surely times where the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II frustrated me over a period of a few months of testing.
Further, the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II struggles more with exposure preview settings activated. If you’re using the simulated OVF function, you’ll get the best autofocus performance in terms of accuracy, speed, and all.
Overall, combined with the OM1, it feels a bit like the Nikon z9 before firmware updates. That’s to say that it’s good; but not fantastic. It’s miles ahead of the Fujifilm X Pro 3 comparatively speaking. At the same time, the Sony a7r III — a far older camera — can outdo this lens with a third-party option on it.
For the record, I wouldn’t use it for street photography. But I’d easily use it for documentary work.
The OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II can produce some beautiful image quality. But personally, I had the most fun using it with the camera system’s art filters. When they weren’t being used, it was still pretty good overall. This is thanks to the new processor and sensor in the OM System OM1. Still though, it leaves us wanting something more. If you’re completely married to Micro Four Thirds, it may also be the same problem. Panasonic makes some beautiful but huge f1.7 zoom lenses. OM system makes a small, light, f2.8 zoom lens with the depth of field of f5.6 in full-frame.
Truly, why would you just not go for a bigger sensor? Micro Four Thirds surely has its advantages and its potential. But the preceding lens to this was introduced almost a decade ago. Why couldn’t they have at least made it an f2 or f1.8 zoom lens?
At the wider end, the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II doesn’t really excel when it come to the bokeh category. Instead, you’ll get it at the longer end. The quality of the bokeh itself is really, truly beautiful. But compared to full-frame lenses, you’re not getting all that much.
The colors from the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II are nothing to argue about. They’re very nice. Overexpose by a stop and you’ll get these beautiful muted colors that are so popular with film photographers. Expose perfectly according to a light meter, and the colors will just pop at you. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this lens’s colors.
For better or worse, this lens controls issues like distortion, lens flare, and fringing very well. At the same time, I really wish that I could’ve gotten much more lens flare from this lens. At one point, an engineer told me that OM System looks to Zeiss as their standard for testing against. And in all ways, the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II is excelling here. However, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of charm and character in your lenses.
We tested the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II for photojournalism, portraiture, and a few landscapes. Is it sharp? Yes. And if there were more megapixels I’d be concerned that it was too sharp. But with 20MP on the OM1’s sensor, it’s in a great sweet spot.
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.
Who Should Buy It?
This is a pretty easy question to answer. If you’re getting the OM System OM1, then get it bundled with the OM System 12-40mm f2.8 Pro II. Should you upgrade to it? Honestly, I’m not sure. If you go with the Panasonic 25-50mm f1.7 and pair it with the 10-25mm f1.7, you’ll probably be in pretty great shape. But you’ve got far more range with the OM System 12-40mm lens instead. However, you’re at only f2.8! Years ago, it was an impressive feat to have a 24-80mm equivalent lens with an f2.8 aperture. But the world has moved on.
Make no mistake, this is one of the best kit lenses you’ll ever get your hands on. But if you do, you’ll desperately want to supplement it with OM System’s beautiful Pro-level prime lenses. You’ll also want to get more zoom lenses at the longer end because they’re just that great.
These specs were taken from the LensRentals listing. Go ahead and rent one from them using our hyperlink.
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Wide Angle and Normal Range
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Dimensions (ø x L): 2.8 × 3.3″
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