Okay, so Olympus released their latest travel pro-zoom lens in February 2020: the 12-45mm which joined the current f/4 pro lens range (the 12-100mm Pro and the 300mm Pro).
Before we go any further, let's just take a second to quickly address the f/4 versus f/2.8 issue. Yes, f/2.8 is a whole stop faster. It's also heftier, in both weight and price. If you're working in low-light situations and you need the extra boost, then a faster lens is your friend. If your subject is bathed in light whenever you look through the viewfinder, then maybe f/4 is enough... and you get to spread your budget to other things. At the end of the day, we're firmly of the belief that you should use whatever gear suits your purposes the best. The perfect lens for everybody doesn't exist - this is why camera companies make a range of lenses (and also, y'know, for profit). Find the gear that suits you (whether that's your type of photography, your budget, how much you can bench press, etc) and make great pictures and films with those.
Anyway. Back to our review.
Having gotten a couple of comments on our 12-45mm unboxing video for not taking advantage of a storm to do some real-world reviewing (sometimes, we like to stay indoors when it's pouring down, like normal people), we decided that it was actually the perfect travel lens to test outside in wet, windy weather. Welcome to London, would you like some rain with your tourism?
So on a freezing cold day in February, armed with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkIII and the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm pro lens which the boasts IPX-1 rated weather sealing, Red35 ventured out into the City of London.
At only 254g, the 12-45mm is the lightest compared to other pro zoom lenses. It balances well with the smaller camera bodies, like the EM-5 MkIII, the EPL series or Pen-F. In fact, probably the only body that would feel odd with this lens would be the beast that is the E-M1X. Labelled a 'Pro' lens, the construction of the 12-45mm is fantastic: fully metal built, fully weather-sealed and an extremely smooth zoom ring. Unlike the other pros, the 12-45 doesn't have a manual clutch on the focusing ring, but it does have a pretty high resistance (still smooth though) which allows for more accuracy when manual focusing.
A super fun element we found with the 12-45mm is the utter ridiculousness of the closest focusing distance. Are you ready for your close-up? Because, wow. The macro capabilities of this baby is superb and made for some really interesting shots. If you're not usually one for macro stuff, but once in a while, you spot something interesting that you want to go in close for, this is an ideal lens for you.
With regards to image quality, to summarise: Spectacular. Super impressed. The details that this lens can produce in macro shots is mind-blowing - almost as good as the 60mm macro lens which is really awesome in terms of resolving power and micro-contrast.
A couple of notes that we do have (this review does seem a tad gushing): what happened to the manual clutch? That is one thing that we love about the pro lenses that is missing from the 12-45mm. It's also missing the L-Fn button and image stabilisation but given that the weight of the lens would probably be closer to the 12-40mm Pro lens if you added these things, maybe it's worth the sacrifice.