DPR

Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4.0 Pro field review

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Introduction

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 Pro is a compact, high-end lens designed for photographers using Micro Four Thirds camera bodies.

Covering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 16-50mm and boasting surprisingly good macro performance, it shows great promise as a versatile, single-carry lens for landscape, street and travel photography.

Available now, list pricing is set at $1099.99.

All images edited in Adobe Camera Raw 13 with adjustments limited to white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, white and black levels. Sharpening and noise reduction at ACR defaults.



Key specifications:

  • Focal length: 8-25mm (35mm-equivalent: 16-50mm)
  • Aperture range: F4.0 – F22
  • Stabilization: No
  • Filter thread: 72mm
  • Close focus: 0.23m (9.1″)
  • Maximum magnification: 0.21x
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Hood: Included
  • Weight: 411g (0.91 lb)
  • Optical construction: 16 elements in 10 groups (1 DSA, 2 Aspherical ED, 1 Super ED, 1 ED, 1 Super HR, 1 HR and 1 HD)
ISO 320 | 1/2000 sec | F4 | 44mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

The Olympus 8-25mm F4.0 Pro is an unusually versatile lens with no direct competitors within the Micro Four Thirds system. In terms of its focal range, the nearest alternatives are either Panasonic’s Leica-branded 8-18mm F2.8-4.0 or 10-25mm F1.7. Less-direct rivals include the Panasonic 7-14mm F4 and Olympus’ own 7-14mm F2.8 Pro.

Of these, the closest in terms of its focal range is the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH, a 2.25x zoom that’s much larger, heavier and more expensive. It’s almost 4cm (1.5″) longer, has about a 1cm (0.5″) greater diameter, weighs two-thirds more and costs an additional $700 more than the 8-25mm F4.0.

ISO 200 | 5 sec | F7.1 | 50mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Chris Niccolls

But for that, you get a much brighter F1.7 maximum aperture across its zoom range, which along with a nine-bladed aperture should yield more possibilities for (and more attractive) bokeh. However, the Olympus’ lens bests it not just in terms of wide-angle coverage, but also in its macro capabilities.

The Olympus 8-25mm F4.0 also accepts slightly smaller 72mm filters, rather than the 77mm filters of the Leica lens. And while we’ve not yet fully tested the Leica’s performance, its stepping autofocus motor likely won’t be quite as swift as the extremely fast linear motor of the Olympus lens.

ISO 80 | 1/640 sec | F4.5 | 34mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

As for the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm F2.8-4.0 ASPH, the size is near-identical, and so is its $1099.99 pricetag. It’s just 3.6mm (0.1″) shorter, but weighs almost 25% less despite boasting a significantly brighter F2.8 maximum aperture at the wider end of its zoom range.

It also takes an even smaller, more affordable 67mm filter size, but opts for a stepper motor-based autofocus drive. And once again, the 8-25mm F4.0 Pro offers noticeably better macro specifications.

ISO 250 | 1/60 sec | F22 | 42mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

If size and weight are your primary concern and you can live with its lesser telephoto reach, the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH matches the Olympus’ maximum aperture while being 5-7mm (0.2″) shorter and less wide. And you’ll save a worthwhile $200 in terms of list pricing.

It’s also the lightest of the group, tipping the scales at 300g (10.6oz), a full 27% less than the Olympus. But it’s the only one to lack weather sealing, and also has the weakest macro performance of the bunch. Nor can it accept filters at all.

ISO 200 | 1/50 sec | F5.6 | 32mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Finally, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 Pro is about 17mm (0.7″) longer, weighs almost 30% more, and costs $300 more than the 8-25mm. It also lacks filter threads, has significantly weaker macro performance and uses a stepper motor to drive AF, but those shortcomings are mitigated by a brighter F2.8 maximum aperture, which will also yield greater opportunities for softly-blurred backgrounds.

Compared to…

Olympus 8-25mm F4 ProLeica 8-18mm F2.8-4Leica 10-25mm F1.7Panasonic Lumix G 7-14mm F4Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 Pro

Price (MSRP)

$1099.99$1099.99$1799.99$899.99$1399.99
Optical construction16 elements, 10 groups15 elements, 10 groups17 elements, 12 groups16 elements, 12 groups14 elements, 11 groups
Aperture blades77977
Weather sealedYesYesYesNoYes
AF driveLinear motorStepper motorStepper motorMicromotorStepper motor
Minimum focus distance / max magnification0.23 m (9.1″) / 0.21x0.23 m (9.1″) / 0.12x0.28 m (11.0″) / 0.14x0.25 m (9.8″) / 0.08x0.20 m (7.9″) / 0.11x
Filter size72mm67mm77mmN/AN/A
Diameter x Length
(no hood)

77mm x 88.5mm (3.0″ x 3.5″)

73.4mm x 88mm (2.9″ x 3.5″)87.6mm x 128mm (3.5″ x 5.0″)70mm x 83.1mm (2.8″ x 3.3″)78.9mm x 105.8mm (3.1″ x 4.2″)
Weight

411g (14.5oz)

315g (11.1oz)

690g (24.3oz)300g (10.6oz)534g (18.8oz)

Handling

For a lens of its focal range and build, the Olympus 8-25mm F4.0 is very compact and lightweight. Its small size has been achieved thanks to a first for an Olympus Pro-branded lens: a retracting zoom design.

Yet that design doesn’t come with the inconvenience typical of many retracting zooms: there’s no locking mechanism to be released before you can extend the zoom to its shooting position. Instead, a firm twist of the zoom ring is all that’s needed to deploy the lens and ready it for shooting. Once extended, the zoom ring operates normally until you use another firm twist to fully retract it again.

Despite a very solid, all-metal construction which would satisfy professional photographers, the 8-25mm tips the scales at just 411g (14.5oz). That gives it just enough heft to balance nicely without being front-heavy both on more compact bodies like the E-M1 III and larger ones like the E-M1X.

As well as the aforementioned zoom ring there’s a focus ring, and Olympus has also included a programmable function button on the left side of its barrel. The focus ring is nicely damped, and racks from close-focus to infinity in a little over a quarter of a turn. The zoom ring likewise moves nice and smoothly, and both rings are metal and the textured finish makes it easy to make precise changes.

The focus ring also has a focus clutch, allowing it to be pushed forwards to focus automatically, or pulled back towards the camera body to quickly switch into manual focus mode. And though it’s still focus-by-wire, the focus ring very much behaves like it’s mechanically coupled.

The lens is also comprehensively weather-sealed, not just with a gasket at the interface between the lens and body, but also at the individual controls and seams between the lens’ component parts. Olympus rates the 8-25mm F4.0 to the IPX1 standard, and says that as well as being both splash and dustproof, it is also freezeproof to -10ºC (14ºF).

No optical image stabilization is provided, although you can of course rely on the in-body image stabilization of your camera, if available. (We found the E-M1 III’s in-body stabilization alone sufficient not just to shoot or record video handheld, but even to give very stable walk-and-talk video footage.)

Up front, you’ll find 72mm threads with which to attach your choice of filters, and the front element also includes a fluorine coating to aid cleaning, if the lens gets splashed or smudged.

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Autofocus and focus breathing

Thanks to its linear autofocus motor, the 8-25mm F4.0 drives focus as quickly as you could hope for an ultra-wide to normal lens of this type, which is to say very quickly indeed. It takes well under a second to fully rack focus, so you can be confident that regardless of focal length, you’ll be able to handle unexpected changes in subject distance with ease.

And while it’s technically not a macro lens, the Olympus 8-25mm also delivers surprisingly well on the maximum magnification front. The minimum focusing distance throughout its zoom range is just 23cm (9.1″) from the image sensor, which translates to a minimum subject distance of just 7cm (2.8″) or so from the front element of the lens.

ISO 200 | 1/100 sec | F4 | 50mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Chris Niccolls

At that minimum distance and with the lens at its telephoto position, you’ll manage a maximum magnification of around 0.21x (35mm-equivalent: 0.42x), while at the wide-angle position this falls to about 0.07x (35mm-equivalent: 0.14x).

There’s great news for video shooters, too. The 8-25mm F4.0 Pro is very well suited to video capture, providing not just a focus clutch and a focus ring that turns in the direction experienced videographers are most likely to be accustomed to, but also showing no visible focus breathing whatsoever.

ISO 160 | 1/640 sec | F5 | 46mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

We feel that the 8-25mm offers pretty much the perfect focal length range for a video lens. In fact, we found ourselves wishing we had a second copy of the lens with which to shoot our DPReview TV footage, which you’ll find towards the end of this page below.

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Image quality

As you’d expect of an Olympus Pro lens, image quality is good to great in most respects. The only real weak spots for this lens are somewhat busy and distracting bokeh, and sunstars which won’t exactly set the world on fire.

Sharpness

The 8-25mm F4.0 Pro delivers impressive sharpness in the center of the frame, even when shooting wide-open. Stopping down to F6.3 does improve center sharpness ever so slightly, but it’s honestly difficult to notice the difference even when you’re looking for it.

ISO 80 | 1/250 sec | F5 | 22mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

Corner sharpness on the wide end when focused in the center of the frame is very good, even when shooting wide open, and results sharpen up only very slightly when focusing in the corner, indicating minimal field curvature. The lens is so sharp wide open in the center that stopping down to F6.3 only reduces sharpness slightly, due to diffraction (remembering that F6.3 on Four Thirds is F12.6 in full-frame equivalent terms).

At the 25mm end the story is similar at the center of the frame, with slightly sharper results wide open than stopped down to F6.3, though this is only visible under close scrutiny side-by-side. Corner sharpness when focused in the center of the frame isn’t bad, but focusing on the top right corner yields notably sharper results there, indicating some field curvature on the ‘telephoto’ end. The corners sharpen up quite nicely once the lens is stopped down to F6.3 at this end of the zoom.

Bokeh

Bokeh is more of a mixed bag, unfortunately. The good news is that the seven-bladed aperture delivers nicely-rounded bokeh even when stopped down to F5.6. And the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas is also quite nice.

ISO 200 | 1/500 sec | F4 | 50mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Chris Niccolls

The not-so-good news is that the bokeh tends to have a rather grungy, mottled texture which can prove distracting in some situations. It also has a slightly soap bubble effect with a brighter line around its periphery than in the center, which can potentially be distracting at higher magnifications with out-of-focus highlights. It’s unlikely to be much of a concern with more diffuse bokeh (see image above), or when viewing the image at smaller magnification.

So if you’re looking for smooth, nondescript bokeh, this isn’t the lens for you. But then we’re talking about an F4.0 ultra-wide lens for Micro Four Thirds here, so that’s not really to be expected in the first place. You’re not really going to get big bokeh balls unless you’re shooting wide-open and near to the 25mm telephoto, so if they’re what you’re looking for, opt for a lens with a stronger telephoto and/or a wider aperture with a more uniform circle-of-confusion.

ISO 400 | 1/250 sec | F4 | 50mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III.

If you zoom in to this image, you’ll note a subtle texture on the inside of the out-of-focus highlights.

Photo by Chris Niccolls

Flare, ghosting and sunstars

Olympus includes a hood with the 8-25mm Pro lens, and has also used its Zuiko Extra-low Reflective Optical coating which aims to further suppress the ghosting and flare that can be typical of wide-angle lenses. We found these to work very nicely; flare is well-controlled, though it does show up as a slight loss in contrast if you aim directly at the sun at the right angle. We saw only very minor ghosting artifacts with the sun in the frame.

ISO 200 | 1/15 sec | F20 | 30mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

Sunstars aren’t really a forte of this lens, however. They’re ok but not amazing, yielding 14 rather diffuse spikes. And they come with a trade-off, as to get them you’ll need to stop down a fair bit, but doing so means you’ll quickly pass the diffraction limit thanks to the Micro Four Thirds sensor size and its relatively high equivalent F-numbers. So if you want those sunstars, you’ll need to live with some diffraction-induced softness to get them.

Longitudinal / lateral chromatic aberration (fringing)

Although it does suffer from some chromatic aberration issues, the good news is that these are of the kind you can most-easily correct in the digital darkroom. The hard-to-correct longitudinal variant, also known as LoCA, is barely noticeable in photos from the 8-25mm F4.0 Pro, as is expected of a lens with a smaller maximum aperture.

As for lateral chromatic aberration or LCA, while a little is noticeable in uncorrected images, it’s pretty minor even with extreme subjects (on the order of just 1-2 pixels at worst). LCA is easily fixed, and will be corrected for you in in-camera JPEGs or in Raws processed with most mainstream Raw processors unless you specifically opt to disable those corrections. It’s worth noting that in Capture One, LCA correction slightly softened the image (we shot on an OM-D E-M1 III), and since it was so subtle to begin with, we actually preferred to leave the correction off altogether.

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Conclusion

What we likeWhat we don’t
  • Good sharpness even wide-open
  • Minimal chromatic aberrations
  • Suppresses flare and ghosting well
  • Bokeh remains round even when stopped down
  • Extremely fast autofocus
  • No focus breathing
  • Surprisingly decent macro performance
  • Very compact, lightweight and versatile
  • Solid, weather-sealed build
  • Nice controls
  • No need for a fiddly retraction lock
  • Not very bright
  • Distractingly-mottled bokeh with slight soap bubble effect
  • No optical image stabilization
  • Sunstars aren’t a strength, accompanied by significant diffraction-induced softness

We’re big fans of the Micro Four Thirds products here at DPReview. While the system has some limitations, they can often be worked around and the format can deliver a worthwhile advantage in terms of portability.

And the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4.0 Pro is a beautiful example of this. Despite its high-end, all-metal design, the 8-25mm F4.0 is nevertheless very compact and lightweight, especially when its image quality and versatility are borne in mind.

ISO 320 | 1/200 sec | F8 | 16mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Dale Baskin

Its images are crisp even wide-open, and the bokeh in out-of-focus areas quite pleasing overall if you can live with its somewhat busy appearance in some situations. Its aberrations are well-controlled. And the combination of better-than-expected macro performance plus its generous focal range make it a great single-carry lens for landscape, street and travel photography. Just keep in mind that at F8 equivalent, this isn’t a lens geared at isolating your subject with a blurred-to-oblivion background.

Coupled with blazing-fast autofocus and lack of focus breathing, it makes a really good all-rounder, capable of catering to a wide range of shooting situations either for stills or video capture. The only thing it really lacks is optical image stabilization, and with the very capable in-body stabilization on offer these days, that’s not a huge negative.

Nor are there really any good alternatives available to Micro Four Thirds shooters in this focal range. The closest option, Panasonic’s Leica 10-25mm F1.7, is of course much brighter and offers better depth-of-field control, but it’s also a far less portable and much more expensive.

ISO 200 | 1/500 sec | F5.6 | 16mm equiv. | Olympus E-M1 III
Photo by Chris Niccolls

And while the Leica 8-18mm F2.8-4.0 is similarly priced to the Olympus 8-25mm and just as portable with a brighter aperture at wide-angle, it lacks the Olympus’ versatility, with neither its telephoto or macro capabilities.

With no clear rival, the M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4.0 Pro is easy to recommend as a great option for the Micro Four Thirds-based landscape, street or travel shooter who wants to pack light and yet still be ready for whatever photographic opportunities come their way!

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Scoring

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 Pro
Category: Wideangle Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 Pro is a versatile lens with no direct peer. It offers a wide-angle to normal field-of-view, and while not as bright as some of its similar competitors, the constant F4 aperture makes it useful for everything from landscape to street to travel photography. It’s sharp wide open, and optical aberrations are kept to a minimum. Speedy and silent autofocus along with a lack of focus breathing make the lens a great option for videographers as well.

Good for
Landscape, street, travel photography, and videographers

Not so good for
Portrait photographers looking for subject isolation, low light photography
89%
Overall score

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DPReview TV review

See what our team at DPReview TV has to say about the Olympus 8-25mm F4.0 Pro.

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Sample galleries

Please do not reproduce any of these images without prior permission (see our copyright page).

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (DPReview HQ gallery)

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (DPReview TV gallery)

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Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN ‘Sports’ sample gallery (DPReview TV)

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