November 5, 2021

M.Zuiko 20mm F1.4 PRO Review


What an exciting fall this has been for me and the world of photography! Two weeks ago Olympus announced their new brand name – OM System. As the camera division of the brand has been bought up and separated from the rest of Olympus, they’ve had to change their name and chose a new one that honours their heritage and history.

I have been working with them on this project and was part of a film that tells a story about their history. They are breaking free from the past and beginning a new chapter, taking the best things from their legacy with them. As they change their name the brand will also undergo a lot of changes and move forward as a more niched outdoor photography brand.

produced by KAUAS Creative

A week after this announcement their first product under the new OM SYSTEM name was released. The new M.Zuiko 20mm F1.4 PRO lens, and I am even more proud to let you know that I have worked with them to put this lens to the test and create content for the company and the lens itself.

It’s been an incredible assignment! As a woman in the field of both photography and the outdoor scene, that are both dominated by men, I feel incredibly honoured and proud to have gotten to work with OM SYSTEM to test gear and create content for it, and that I get to represent outdoor lifestyle photography.

this post is sponsored in collaboration with OM SYSTEM

all thoughts and opinions are my own own honest feelings about the lens

produced by KAUAS Creative

As a photographer where nature is my workplace, I need to be ready at all times. Nature does not care about me, it does not wait or let me know things in advance. It’s a constant chase for the perfect light, fog, first frost, the peak of autumn colors – it happens fast and goes away just as quickly.

There’s a beautiful forest on a small mountain a short walk from my house, and I have spent most of my time there this fall picking mushrooms, hiking and capturing all the things I love about nature and the outdoors. Because it’s so close to home I can see nature shift through out the day.

Weather Sealed

One afternoon thick fog started rolling in amongst the treetops. I had spent several hours that day organising a photo walk and was just relaxing at home. But the fog snaking through the forest was so breathtakingly beautiful that I had to head out again. I quickly packed my bag, tossed on my rain jacket and grabbed my lantern. I hiked up the mountain through the wet grass and everything was so still and quiet. As nature got covered in fine droplets it started to glisten in the most magical way. 

As all their other PRO lenses, this one is weather sealed which is so important to me. Knowing I can trust my gear even if I am out shooting in the rain is key. The lens also has a special fluorine coating which makes it very easy to clean of droplets.

The weather and water doesn’t bother me at all, because the M. Zuiko 20mm is weather sealed I trust that it will have my back no matter what.

How I work & why this lens suits my needs

Working as an outdoor photographer means I am spending long, active days outside moving through varied terrain with a lot of gear. Now I am not a photographer that get’s nitty gritty about gear in terms of stats and numbers. To me my gear is a tool I need to create, and what’s important to me is high quality results from gear that is easy to bring along and sturdy enough for the outdoors. That is why the new 20mm F1.4 PRO is perfect for me and what I do.

If I am capturing a professional forager when shooting for her mushroom book, documenting a hike for a tourism destination or shooting outdoor clothes – I am there in the forest or mountains, bushwhacking and hiking. The days are long and it’s physically quite demanding work. My favourite lenses have always been the 17mm & 25mm F1.2 PRO but sometimes I’ve had to make a choice about which lens to bring due to everything else I have to carry with me. In my backpack there’s extra layers, a first aid kit, food and water, a multi-tool and a knife, sometimes a hatchet, a foraging bag and a fire steel – you get it, I carry a lot with me!

Pairing a small camera body, in my case the E-M5 MKIII, with a high quality lens with a low profile makes me feel very nimble. I am confident that my gear enables me to capture everything that I need to tell a story. Cause with the release of the new lens I don’t have to choose anymore.

20mm is the perfect focal length in-between what I’ve been using. It is a wonderfully versatile lens that enables me to capture everything that I need to without weighing me down or sacrificing high quality. I recorded a review of the lens that you can watch here:

The video, and this article, probably isn’t your typical gear review. See I understand the techy stuff, but to a certain extent I don’t care about it too much. It’s important that it’s there and in working order, but for me photography is about so much more. Practical use and the feeling I get from using a system is more important than specs. When I have a camera in my hand, it’s about not having to think about the technical stuff.

It’s a tool that inspires me and enables me to capture what I see and feel. An extension of myself. That feeling is so important to me. When I am just in the moment, shooting away, turning nobs from muscle memory and flowing through the state of “being in the zone” without paying much attention to the gear in my hands – that’s when I know I have something good. And with this system, I feel that.

But, I do know that for a lot of people the numbers, stats and techy stuff is important. So let’s have a quick look at that as well, shall we?

Get in Close

The lens has a shooting magnification of 0.11x (0.22x 35mm equivalent) which lets you get very close to your subject. This combined with a lovely, shallow depth of field and creamy background blur, due to the feathered bokeh, allows me to really isolate my subject from the messy forest background and hone in on small details.

It’s never been easier to capture mushrooms, outdoor tools, details on clothing and wild edibles without having to carry my macro lens with me! The less I have to swap between different lenses, the better.

Tech Specs

  • Fluorine Coating: effortless to clean the lens without streaking
  • Focal Length: 20mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 40mm)
  • Lens Construction: 11 elements in 10 groups (1 Super ED lens, 3 ED lenses, 2 Super HR lenses, 2 Aspherical lenses)
  • Dust & Drip Proof: applies when the lens is used with Olympus splashproof Body / Dustproof construction
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m

Any cons?

Some of you have asked if there are any cons to this lens, which made me try and see it in a new light. Really look for a fault. I have to be honest and say that I can’t find anything. Some people argue that it could be smaller. I suppose it could. But does it need to be? It’s already smaller than what I’ve been using up until this point, so for me it’s a great upgrade.

It does not have the manual clutch the other PRO lenses do, and even though that’s a very quick way to swap between manual and autofocus – I find it’s just as quick and easy to do on the camera, either at the back on the screen of by assigning that function to the AEL/AFL button. So if that was removed to help make it smaller I’m okay with that, during these few months of testing it I did not notice that I missed it. However, if you plan on using this for video more than photography, I can see it being a bigger drawback.

Finding Inspiration in Nature

It was in the fall of 2019 that I became an OM Ambassador, and it feels like I’ve come full circle now when I got to work on this project during fall. It’s my favourite season that inspires me and my work the most. The air is crisp and fresh, everything smells earthy, the colors have shifted from green to orange and heavy fog shrouds the forests in mystery. My photography is definitely heavily inspired and influenced by the seasons and mother nature herself, especially in autumn.

Good gear that enables me to create with ease inspires me. During my time with the lens I have spent many long days outside in the forest, shooting more than I have in a long time. I’ve fallen in love with so many of the photos I’ve captured with this lens. It feels made specifically for photographers like me! 

One of my favourite moments with it was when me and Dan headed to a nearby lake with some friends. We’d brought firewood and food and spent the evening with good conversations around the fire. I love cooking outside, everything tastes so much better, even when it’s simple food like sandwiches.

And of course an evening like that isn’t complete without making coffee on the embers and watching them dance up into the blue night sky. 

This has been an amazing fall where I feel like I have really made the most of it, both in terms of being outdoors but also when it comes to photography. I feel ready for winter, the activities that come with the season and to capture the cold and white with my new favourite lens!

Thanks for reading. Live slow & stay wild! / rania