Micro 4/3 Infrared Lens & Hotspot Performance

I tested a range of Olympus lenses with my infrared camera, here are the results

I recently converted a secondhand Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II micro 4/3rds system camera to full-spectrum infrared. I then took test shots with each of my lenses to evaluate their performance in infrared. I tested my lenses at 720nm, as that’s where you’re more likely to see hotspots and other artifacts in infrared photography. I gave each lens a rating on a 5-point scale, with 5 being excellent (little or no hotspots and good sharpeness) and 1 being unusable for infrared photography.

  • 8-25mm f/4 PRO: 3/5
    The Olympus 8-25mm f/4 PRO lens produces an irregular hotspot at the wide end of its range, even when shot wide-open. That makes this lens a poor choice for color IR, but it would work with monochrome conversion, especially if you had no other options. Nevertheless, it is no match for to the much smaller, albeit slower, 9-18mm f/3.5-5.6 lens discussed next.
  • 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6: 5/5
    The Olympus 9-18mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is nearly perfect for IR work. It does not produce noticeable hotspots, even when stopped down to f/8. There is mild center brightening above f/8, but it is easily correctable in post. There is modest sharpness falloff at the wide end of the zoom range, which is easily mitigated with DXO Pure Raw 4. If you need a wide-angle lens for Micro 4/3rds infrared photography, especially color IR, this is the lens to get, hands-down.
  • 12-100mm f/4 PRO: 2/5
    The OM System 12-100mm f/4 PRO is another one of my favorite lenses for travel photography, but it falls short with infrared shooting. It’s fine above 35mm, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having an all-around zoom lens option. It also uses large (72mm) front filters, which tend to be much more expensive. If you have a full-spectrum conversion, you could consider getting a UV/IR cut (hot-mirror) filter to use this lens with your converted camera serving as a backup to your regular one.
  • 12-45mm f/4 PRO: 2/5
    I was disappointed by the infrared performance of the Olympus 12-45mm f/4 PRO lens as it outstanding for visible light photography. Unfortunately, it has a very pronounced and irregularly shaped hotspot when used wide-open at the wide end of the range. It would work for monochrome conversions, but not so much with channel-swapped color IR.
  • 12mm f/2.0: 4.5/5
    At 720nm, the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens is quite good, and very sharp. With color (590nm) IR, you’ll see a hotspot appear but it is fairly correctable with appropriate WB and calibration settings. Above f/5.6, the hotspot becomes more noticeable and requires manual correction. Unless you really want the depth of field control from having a fast prime, the 9-18mm would be a better option for wide-angle infrared shooting.
  • 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ: 4.5/5
    The 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ is my go-to midrange zoom for infrared, and the small 37mm front filters are the least expensive ones out there. If you wanted a compact and inexpensive option for infrared, this is it. Even though you may see a hotspot if stopped down past f/8, there is rarely any need to use that setting with M 4/3 lenses given the greater effective DOF of the system. You can expect some corner softness on the wide end of the range, but it’s generally manageable.
  • 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 II : 4.5/5
    I was not expecting an all in one zoom lens to perform so well across its range, but when I got my hands on this lens briefly to test it, I was impressed. Hotspots are not an issue, even at f/11, and corner softness is manageable at 14mm. By 40mm the shots appear sharp from edge to edge. If you wanted a truly compact, single lens solution for travel and infrared photography, this would be it. Pair it with the 9-18mm and you’d have a killer combo! Thanks to Terry Odell for loaning me her lens to test!
  • 17mm f/1.8: 5/5
    The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens delivers near-flawless results with infrared captures. Highly recommended if you want a fast 35mm equivalent prime lens.
  • 25mm f1/.8: 4.5/5
    The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 prime lens is a very good choice provided you use it at f/4.0 or wider. A mild hotspot starts showing up at f/4 and becomes more pronounced at f/5.6. The whole point of this lens is to shoot at wide apertures, so it would be ideal for portrait work where shallow DOF is desirable, such as portraits or flowers.
  • 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO: 2/5
    The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens has mild irregularly shaped hotspot wide-open that becomes very pronounced by f/5.6. Monochrome conversion would still be an option with this lens, but there are better (and less expensive) choices. Thanks to Rick Walker for the test and review.
  • 40-150mm f/4 PRO: 4/5
    From 50-100mm, the Olympus 40-150mm f/4 PRO lens is extremely good for infrared photography, but it loses points for a mild, but hard-edged hotspot at it’s widest setting that is difficult to correct in post. The 40-150mm f/4.0 PRO is excellent for most purposes in the 50-150mm range, and would be of no concern if used with monochrome infrared processing.
  • 40-150mm f/4-5.6R: 5/5
    The Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R lens is a nearly perfect performer, and produces no noticeable hotspots even when stopped down to f/8. It’s an inexpensive lens that is easy to come by on the used market for under $100 USD. It is incredibly lightweight and easy to pack, making it my go-to choice for telephoto infrared with Micro 4/3 infrared cameras.
  • 45mm f/1.8: 5/5
    The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens is ideal for infrared portrait work. If you’re using this lens, it’s probably because of its fast aperture, and you won’t see any issues whatsoever at those settings. I highly recommend it for infrared portraits!
  • 60mm f/2.8 Macro: 5/5
    The Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is a nearly perfect performer in infrared. It’s only at f/8 or more where you start to see the slightest brightening of the center, but most people wouldn’t even notice it. If infrared portraits or macro is your thing, this lens is a no-brainer.
  • 100-400mmm f/5.0-6.3: 5/5
    If you don’t mind using 72mm filters and want to shoot infrared with a super-telephoto lens, the Olympus 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 is a nearly perfect choice. The lens delivers sharp results with no hotspots across the zoom range. The main drawbacks of the 100-400mm lens is that it’s not as well-stabilized as newer telephoto lenses from OM Digital, and uses large (72mm) front filters.