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Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm 1:2.8 ‘pancake’

In depth

The Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm 1:2.8 was announced in March 2008, alongside the Olympus E-420 DSLR. It’s a standard Four Thirds lens which means it will work on any Four Thirds body, including those from Olympus, Panasonic and Leica, although it’s physically best-matched to the smaller models like the Olympus E-4xx and E-5xx series.

Affectionately known as a pancake lens, the Zuiko Digital 25mm is very thin: indeed it’s just 23.5mm thick and weighs only 95g. When fitted to a smaller DSLR like the Olympus E-420, the result is a highly portable kit that’ll squeeze into larger pockets and has a total operating weight including battery of 521g.

With the Four Thirds field-reduction of 2x, the Zuiko Digital 25mm offers an equivalent coverage of 50mm. In full-frame and 35mm film terms, this makes it a ‘standard’ lens for general purpose use. In the past, 50mm lenses were the standard used by all 35mm film SLRs and while most modern photographers have become used to zoom lenses, it’s surprising how flexible a 50mm can be in practice. It’s just about wide enough to grab a decent landscape or interior shot, while long enough to attempt respectable portraits.

The f2.8 maximum aperture of the Zuiko Digital 25mm also gives it greater flexibility than most DSLR kit zoom lenses, gathering around twice as much light at the same focal length, and four times as much when most kit zooms are at their maximum focal length. This allows the photographer to use faster shutter speeds and more easily avoid camera-shake in low light conditions. This in turn is an important benefit for owners of Four Thirds bodies which don’t feature built-in stabilisation.

The larger aperture also allows a smaller depth-of-field, which makes it easier to throw a background out of focus. This makes the 25mm pancake arguably more suitable for portrait work than a typical kit zoom.

In our review of the Zuiko Digital 25mm pancake lens, we’ll be examining its optical quality against the superb Zuiko Digital 12-60mm zoom and seeing if it can stand alone against a kit zoom in a general-purpose environment.

Is this the perfect lightweight all-round lens you’ve been waiting for, or do its dimensions and fixed focal length result in compromises in quality and flexibility? Find out in our full review of the Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm pancake, and as always, check out our video tour for its highlights.

Notes: the lens tested was a final production model, serial number 292003655. We tested the 12-60mm using final production E-3 and E-420 bodies.

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