As M4/3 matured though, the high end of the system grew aspirations to move into the pro space, with cameras like Olympus's OM-D range and Panasonic's GH models offering top-end features and build quality to match the best SLRs. if you're going to play in the pro leagues, you need pro-level glass to match your bodies, and Olympus to their credit realised that. Released alongside the OM-D E-M1 in 2013, the 12-40mm f2.8 was the first of Olympus's PRO series of lenses, designed as fast aperture zooms for the working professional, built to offer the quality and withstand the beatings such users expected. The 12-40 (equivalent to a full-frame 24-80mm) has since been joined by a 40-150mm f2.8, a 7-14mm f2.8 and 300mm f4, creating a full suite of wide to telephoto options.
The 12-40 was designed and released alongside the OM-D E-M1, so that's what I opted to test it on. First impressions were incredibly positive - the lens has a reassuring weight to it, probably due to the fact that almost every surface you touch is proper metal, a beautifully machined black aluminium finish. The fat zoom ring and slimmer focusing ring are both nicely smooth and well damped. Olympus are notoriously stingy on their lower end lenses, never including hoods and sticking to old-fashioned edge pinch caps, but that trend is defied here, as you'd hope for a lens which hits an RRP of £849. The cap is a lovely metal number while the hood is a solid, bayonet locking affair. Overall, the lens is one of the most well put together bits of photographic equipment I've ever used, oozing solidity and quality. Part of this might be because, as a PRO lens, Olympus advertises the 12-40 as extensively environmentally sealed - it's meant to be shock, dust, splash, and freeze-proofed to the same level as the E-M1 body. I haven't dared test it myself, but reports from braver photographers seem to indicate it's the real deal. Olympus has a pretty good history in this field too - the E5 famously bordered on being indestructible - so I'm confident that if I ever do have to take the lens into a hostile environment, it'll hold up OK.