Interview with the Pros Tetsuro Shimizu
and Takehiko Nakafuji
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

The new M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO prime lens features a bright aperture of f/1.2. We asked professional photographers Tetsuro Shimizu and Takehiko Nakafuji to each share with us two photos they took with this large-diameter lens. Shimizu went to Mongolia, and Nakafuji went to Paris to test the new lens. They talked at length about their shooting experiences, and what they liked about the lens.

Interview: August 26, 2016 (Posted on November 1, 2016)

M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO is a large-diameter prime lens that delivers a new dimension in resolving power and beautiful bokeh. This standard lens with a 50mm angle of view (35mm equivalent) features 1 Super ED lens and 2 ED lenses for thorough correction of various aberrations. Excellent resolving power is available from the widest aperture setting of f/1.2. Aberrations and shapes of objects in the defocused areas are taken into consideration to achieve a smooth transition from the focused to the out of focus. Comatic aberration is thoroughly corrected around the edges of images, and points are clearly depicted as points. The lens features a dustproof and splashproof construction for worry-free use in dusty or rainy environments.

Tetsuro Shimizu

Born in Yokohama in 1975. Worked as an assistant for three years at the Takeuchi Shinobu Photography Office, then went freelance at 23 years old. Active in a wide variety of fields, lending his unique viewpoint to natural landscape snapshots and documentary shoots. He won the first Yonosuke Natori Photo Award in 2005 for Street Boy. In 2012 CHANGE was published, a collection of photos taken over fifteen years in Mongolia. He won the Photographic Society of Japan's Newcomer Award in 2014 for his work in Mongolia. He also won the 2016 Sagamihara Photo City Award for Newcomer Professionals with his collection of photos entitled New Type, which will be exhibited at a photo exhibition in October 2016.

Takehiko Nakafuji

Born in Tokyo in 1970. Dropped out of Waseda University to attend and graduate from the photography programme at the Tokyo Visual Arts school. He continues to show new pieces that focus on city snapshots. He is active in shooting around the world, including Eastern Europe, Russia, Cuba, Paris, and New York. Nakafuji runs Gallery Niepce in Tokyo while working as an author. Nakafuji won the 29th Higashikawa Special Writer's Award and the 24th Hayashi Tadahiko Award.

Taking on the challenge of capturing new subjects in new environments

OlympusFirst I'd like to hear about the photos you shot with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO. Were both of these photos taken in Mongolia?

ShimizuYes, they were. This time I decided to incorporate a new theme in a different area of Mongolia that I'd never been to. The name of the piece is The Tsaatan and to capture it I visited the Tsaatan people who live deep in the forests of Mongolia. The people there live in circular tents called chum, similar to the tepee. It's a bit of a rare sight in Mongolia. The other shot is entitled Hide and Seek, and is a shot of the cat owned by the nomads who took me in.

OlympusWhat were the conditions like when shooting The Tsaatan?

ShimizuOn my first day of my visit, they let me shoot inside their chum. When I first meet locals, I introduce myself to each of them one by one, and that is when I took this picture. In this photo, the grandmother was looking away slightly. Actually, the women in this tribe don't really like having their photos taken, and she got a bit nervous when I picked up my camera. I took a number of photos waiting for the right timing, and the lens delivered surprisingly better quality than I'd expected. By simply looking through the viewfinder, it is evident the bokeh performance is like no other. The entire image looks beautiful as a large print, and I was amazed that the lens could capture such detail.

OlympusWhat were the lighting conditions like in the chum?

ShimizuIt was very dark. Inside, the chum is even darker than the ger (Mongolian portable homes). The framework is made of wood. I took the shot using the little light that came through the small opening in the roof and the side light from the entrance. I wanted to use natural light even in the dark rather than using the flash. This type of bright lens is a must for this kind of scene.

NakafujiThe Tsaatan is a wonderful photo. The image is sharp but with soft bokeh, making it very impressive. The colours of the child's clothes and the grandmother's scarf are really nice.

ShimizuThank you. I was amazed at how three-dimensional the clothing looks in the shot. Not only was the location dark, but the child was moving around restlessly, so I selected a fast shutter speed at f/1.2. Despite shooting at the widest aperture value, the child's eyes are very sharp. The smooth, strong bokeh is also a distinguishing feature. I think this lens achieves the best defocusing effects out of any Olympus Micro Four Thirds lens.

NakafujiThe cat's fur in Hide and Seek has a nice, soft feel in the shot. And the defocused lattice in the foreground makes it an impressive shot.

ShimizuI had never really seen cats before in Mongolia. This kitten was hiding underneath a bed. Although the photo is nice and bright, it was very dark inside. This cat was very wary, hissing and threatening me when I got too close (laughs). I stuck my hands through the lattice, using Live View and Touch Shutter to take the shot. At the widest aperture, each and every whisker is captured in detail, and the strong bokeh is very nice. I like taking photos through objects, and I think foreground defocusing makes pictures more interesting.

OlympusHow did you adjust your camera settings? And what kind of editing did you perform?

ShimizuI generally don't play with camera settings, and I don't retouch shots. I think photographs are a product of the potential the camera and lens provide, as well as how you capture light. The M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO feels great to use because of the bokeh transitions smoothly despite a high contrast. It really is what I’m looking for in a lens, and I can’t wait to shoot more photos using it.

Capturing the dreamlike atmosphere of rainy evening Paris

OlympusDid you shoot these photos somewhere in Europe?

NakafujiYes, I took this photo in Paris. I thought Paris in the evening was the perfect subject for shooting handheld with a large-diameter lens. I call this photo Rainy Night in Paris, and for this shot I used an aperture value near the widest aperture setting on a night when it was pouring down. It was taken near a row of bouquinistes, open-air used book stores, along the Seine River, and I actually shot it with one hand as my other hand was holding up my umbrella. When it’s raining, you actually have more light to work with than on a dry evening, because of the light that gets reflected in all the water puddles. So although at first rainy weather may not seem like the ideal situation for photography, I make an effort to get out there on rainy days.

ShimizuThis is an excellent photo, really representative of your style. The sharpness of the focused areas are of course very nice, but the smoothness of the out-of-focus areas are just as nice, too.

NakafujiThank you. I feel like the dreamlike atmosphere of a rainy night is evident in the way light bleeds together, and how the soft bokeh comes out in the photo. It provides soft defocusing effects unique to a large-diameter lens without ruining the overall atmosphere. It has a very glossy feel, making it a photo that can serve as a model photo for how bright-aperture-lens photos should turn out.

OlympusThe high contrast in the image is also very impressive. Did you perform any editing?

NakafujiNo, I did not retouch this photo and I didn't use any of the creative features the PEN-F has to offer, like Colour Profile Control, and instead managed to capture the various colours of the city in their true state. The scene actually looked exactly as it does in this photo. Because colour reproduction overall is very good, there was no need to retouch the photo.

OlympusWhat about your second piece, Parisian Show Window? Is this a photo of a reflection?

NakafujiI came across this somewhat peculiar display in a show window that I wanted to shoot. There were many roses hanging in the window, and the building behind me is reflected in the glass. Because I like taking photos that overlap reflections and city scenery, this is just the kind of shot I was aiming for. I focused on the flowers, but to ensure I didn't lose the reflected image, I stopped down the aperture and effectively captured the overlapped images. I used Olympus Viewer 3 to adjust the colour saturation and contrast just slightly to bring out the colour of the flowers. Since my other photo was of the night, I wanted this one to be of the day, representing both sides of Paris.

An iconic large-diameter lens serving as the symbol of the M.Zuiko PRO series

OlympusHow was it, using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO? Please give your honest opinion.

NakafujiEven when stopping down the aperture the image quality is good, and shooting is comfortable at the widest aperture. As a photographer, I enjoy such a bright lens since the brighter the lens the more versatile expressions it is capable of, plus it allows shooting in dark or poor conditions. It’s a reliable lens, providing me with strong peace of mind. It also has the orthodox but quality design of the entire M.Zuiko PRO series. The lens is well made and I get the feeling that quality glass materials are used. I get a psychological feeling of security with this lens, including the way it feels in your hand. I feel like this could be the representative lens of the M.Zuiko PRO series.

ShimizuThis lens really does have a nice feel to it. When I hold it I feel like "It's time to shoot!"

NakafujiExactly. That feeling it provides makes you want to start shooting. And when you do shoot with it, you really get to appreciate its reliability.

OlympusThe lens is fairly large considering it is a standard Micro Four Thirds lens, but did you feel like the size was a detriment in shooting?

NakafujiNot at all. With the change in brightness from f/1.8 to f/1.4 and then f/1.2, the lens becomes larger, and this is a great size for a large-diameter lens, and feels nice to use. It's not too heavy either. I feel like that slight feeling of weight in the lens makes me want to shoot more.

OlympusMr. Shimizu, how did you like using the lens?

ShimizuI like bright prime lenses, and this was fun to use. Because I like using natural light to shoot in dark places, I practice a style that picks up light as much as possible, and a bright lens is certainly useful in those types of situations. Using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO -- it felt like the best possible match for my shooting style. I usually raise the ISO sensitivity when shooting in dark locations, however, I was glad to be able to keep the ISO sensitivity low and shoot at a wider aperture setting. I feel like this one lens could work in a variety of situations. The quiet lens drive contributes to its nice feeling. Because it focuses quickly with virtually no sound, it was very useful in the Mongolia shots.

NakafujiIt really is quiet, isn't it (while trying the lens on the PEN-F). It's so quiet you forget about it (laughs). There's no operation sound at all.

ShimizuThe lens drive sound didn't bother me at all while shooting. I used it near reindeer and horses, but it didn't bother the animals. I realised that a quiet lens is a great asset when shooting. It lets you focus on your shot.

OlympusWhat did you think of its macro capabilities?

NakafujiIt definitely is good at macro shooting. When I tried macro shooting for some small items in an antique shop, it was easy to use.

ShimizuI photographed a man carving some folk art from a reindeer horn, and was able to get close enough to capture dust from the horn flying through the air as it was carved. I got closer and closer until I was rolling on the ground shooting (laughs). Because I'm often shooting in cramped situations in Mongolia, a lens that allows you to get close to the subject is really useful.

Well-balanced quality with both resolving power and bokeh

OlympusThe M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO was developed with the goal of entering a new dimension in resolving power and beautiful bokeh. How did you feel about the image quality when shooting?

ShimizuAlthough it's an exaggeration to say that the resolving power is better than what I wanted, I believe it is better than I expected. Because I often shoot in dark locations, the resolution I aim for is the key to expression in defocusing effects and gradations. This lens delivers an acceptable level of that performance. Sharp focused areas during shooting, and out of focus areas that deliver smooth bokeh for nice variation are important. One feature of this lens is the distinct variation it delivers.

NakafujiBecause I often shoot with a stopped down aperture during the day, during the night I usually open the aperture. This lens produces sharp images to the edges of the frame even near the widest aperture setting for a very harmonised quality. When shooting with the aperture opened, streetlights and other light sources tend to blend in with the shot and produce halos, which never happens on this lens. The conditions when shooting Rainy Night in Paris were difficult for the lens, but I was amazed that there were no aberrations or flares around the light sources. I believe I was able to capture a sophisticated, quality shot because of this. Smooth transition from focused areas to out of focus areas is important for defocusing effects, and the glossy feel that the f/1.2 of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO delivers is very good.

OlympusAnd what did you think about the style or flavor of this particular lens?

NakafujiIt's hard to describe the flavor of a lens in words. Sometimes a lack of harmony in a lens is described numerically, using aberrations and errors. I believe the interesting and difficult part of lens design lies in the balance of how comfortable people feel with a lens and its performance. This lens isn't simply sharp. When looking at Mr. Shimizu's pieces, I can sense cutting-edge lens technology along with something softer. This is a flexible, easy to use lens that has a fine balance of comfortable shooting, and the latest lens technology in its resolving power and beautiful bokeh it provides.

ShimizuThat's true. Although it is sharp, it has an overall softness. It delivers images similar to the view of the human eye. Just as Mr. Nakafuji said, it's comfortable to use.

What is the appeal of a 50mm lens?

OlympusThe M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO is a 50mm (35mm equivalent) standard lens. What is the appeal of a standard lens?

ShimizuThis standard lens offers an angle of view close to that of the human eye, making it possible to use your own legs to get close or pull back. With this one lens you can capture both wide angle and telephoto shots. Another very appealing point is, that if you want more bokeh, you can get closer to the subject and adjust the aperture. Because I don't often shoot subjects from far away, 50mm is a very easy focal length to use. I feel like this is the perfect distance for shooting.

NakafujiFrom the past, a 50mm was considered a standard lens, making it visually similar to the human eye for a natural angle of view. When holding it, shooting is very natural. Because it seems that zoom lenses are standard these days, the true thrill of a prime lens is using your own footwork to get closer and back off, matching your own movements to the angle of view of your lens.

ShimizuMr. Nakafuji, what was it like when you were a student in photography school? Did you use a 50mm lens?

NakafujiQuite often, yes. It was a starting point for me because I bought one 50mm lens and used it for everything.

ShimizuIt was the same for me. For example, there was an assignment in class to use a 50mm prime lens to shoot 100 rolls of film, which really made the 50mm angle of view a natural part of me. It's very natural and easy to use.

NakafujiFor me, the 35mm is the standard for street snapshots rather than 50mm, and I usually just leave the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 on my camera all the time. Because of this, I personally feel like 50mm is a bit on the telephoto end of the spectrum. When compared with 35mm, I get the sense that you can capture just the area you're aiming for rather than keeping the entire image in the shot. It was refreshing and enjoyable to use the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO and use a different part of my brain.

A lens that high amateurs should learn to master

OlympusLastly, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO to those considering the lens.

NakafujiI think the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO is the standard for all lenses. I hope that experienced photographers and advanced amateurs give it a try. I believe those who have used a number of different lenses and have fully experienced zoom lenses will understand the allure of this particular lens. How you use the large-diameter f/1.2 widest aperture value to create a shot is what makes mastering this lens so much fun.

ShimizuBecause you can capture both portraits and snapshots with this lens, I would like users to enjoy those types of scenes first. Also because this is a large-diameter lens and you should fully enjoy the f/1.2 aperture, be sure to adjust the aperture in small increments to create slightly different shots. Because in the end, brighter lenses are better. Bright lenses rule! (laughs). The ability to expand the range of expression by how it is used is what makes prime lenses so fascinating.

Text: Toshiyuki Makara

Product

M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO

This is a large-diameter prime lens that delivers a new dimension in resolving power and beautiful defocusing effects. The lens construction uses 19 elements in 14 groups (1 Super ED lens and 2 ED lenses). Colour bleeding (on-axis chromatic aberration) of out-of-focus areas common to large-diameter lenses is suppressed. When combined with the colour canceling effects of E-HR lens and HR lens cemented lenses, peripheral image colour bleeding (magnification chromatic aberration) is effectively corrected. By placing aspherical lenses near the aperture and using multiple HR lenses, spherical aberration and comatic aberration common to large-diameter lenses are effectively corrected. Thorough pursuit of optical performance results in high resolving power from the widest aperture value of f/1.2. This lens not only suppresses focused surface aberrations, but also defocused image aberrations and shapes, making bokeh smoothly transition from the focused surface. This makes it possible to achieve a natural, three-dimensional image quality. Additionally, the lens features silent, high-speed autofocusing, a simple, quality design typical of the M.Zuiko PRO lens series, and dustproof and splashproof construction for worry-free shooting in dusty or rainy environments.

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