Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 5

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Captured with an Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 45-200 lens.
Captured with an Olympus OMD EM5 and Panasonic 45-200 lens.

Telephoto (Long) Zooms

Continuing this miniseries, it’s time to take a look at telephoto lenses. I class these as lenses that have a focal length beyond 45mm. And please do remember, I only cover lenses that I have used. As I haven’t yet tried any pro level lenses in this class I haven’t included them in the review. If anyone does have experience with these please add your thought to the comments section. I for one would be interested in the Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 or Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8. Lens titles include links to amazon.co.uk to view the lens and ensure you know which I am refering to.

Panasonic 45-150mm

This is my current long lens having switched from the 45-200 below. The reason for my switch is because of the size and weight. This lens is actually tiny when you consider its focal length. It’s only very slightly bigger than the 14-45 kit lens so is very easy to carry. This is a huge advantage over the typical telephoto DSLR lens which tend to get bigger and heavier.

Performance in image quality ranges from excellent at the 45mm end to very good/excellent at the 150mm end of the range. At the 45mm end I would say that my example is sharper than the 14-45mm kit lens that I love so much. It also performs well from wide open, displaying little colour fringing but does improve slightly when stopped down.

A lens of this quality for such a low price is a real bargain.

Panasonic 45-200mm

This is another good performer which achieves results similar to the 45-150 lens discussed above. Beyond the 150mm lens the image does soften slightly but it’s still very good and beyond what many DSLR lenses can achieve at this focal length.

As I mentioned above, I recently sold this lens because I found I wasn’t using the additional reach beyond 150mm, given the additional size and weight of the lens.

Panasonic 100-300mm

I have seen some negative commentary on this lens but have found this difficult to understand. From my experience, I have wondered if the problems are more to do with technique than the lens. With a lens of this focal length, small vibrations can be a problem as they are significantly magnified.

The downside to the lens is that it’s quite costly and also quite specialised, giving the equivalent of 600mm at the long end. Whilst this is a good focal length for getting close to action, the maximum aperture is quite slow, making it less suited for low light work.

Next time we will look at prime lenses where there are a few surprises.

Another Door

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Another door in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens. 1/60" at f/4.0.
Another door in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens. 1/60″ at f/4.0.

As my previous image of a door in Nantes has drawn such favourable feedback I thought I would adjust one of the others. This one is perhaps not as elegant but it was still in use as I found out. Someone opened it from the inside just as I was lining up the shot. I’m not sure which of us was the most surprised.

I have also included a black and white conversion and a classic camera conversion using Nik Analog Efex. I actually think the Nik Analog Efex conversion is my favourite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Converted in Nik Analog Efex
Converted in Nik Analog Efex

Friday image No.033

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Doorway in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens.
Doorway in Nantes, France. Olympus EM5 + 12-40mm Olympus lens.

I was in France this week to see my new Grandson. It doesn’t feel like two minutes since I was bringing my daughter home from hospital after she was born. Time passes so quickly. Anyway I thought I would share this shot of a typical French door. I just love the worn out look. I’m not sure if I like the black and white or colour shot best and find myself flipping between the two.

Doorway in Nantes, France
Doorway in Nantes, France

I hope you like one of the images and have a great weekend.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 3

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Shot on a GX1 with Olympus 9-18 lens as part of my Cloud Structures project
Shot on a GX1 with Olympus 9-18 lens as part of my Cloud Structures project

In this posting we will look at the lenses falling in the super wide angle category. I define this as being those that are wider than 24mm (full frame equivalent) or 12mm (Micro 43). At the time of writing there are only two zoom lens options which are described below. Headings are links to amazon.co.uk to see the lenses.

Super Wide Angle Zoom

Olympus 9-18mm

If you need a wider angle lens than the 12mm standard zoom you don’t have much choice. It’s either this lens or the Panasonic 7-14mm mentioned below. I own the Olympus 9-18 and really like it. It’s a sharp lens that performs well. At the wider angle end of the zoom range it will distort but the lens retains its sharpness. Some chromatic aberration is apparent but no more than you might expect from such a wide angle.

The lens is very light and small. It also collapses down on itself when not in use. This makes it very easy to carry and suitable for all sorts of camera design. Most importantly you can easily use filters on this lens, something that can be tricky with the Panasonic.

Panasonic 7-14mm

I can’t deny this is a sharper lens than the Olympus and is most certainly pro quality. The downside when compared to the Olympus is that it’s larger and quite a bit heavier although it’s still much smaller and lighter than a DSLR wide angle lens.

Despite its amazing performance, I opted not to buy this lens because of one key problem. The front element of the lens protrudes beyond the front of the lens making it very difficult to attach filters. If you can overcome this limitation and don’t mind that it’s quite a lot more costly than the Olympus then this is a great lens.

Friday image No.032

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2014_08_RNW9587

A simple image from my trip to Whitby last week where I was busy trying out a new camera. I will reveal shortly just what that camera was, and why I want to use it to make some comparisons. It’s going to get interesting.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 2

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Captured with an Olympus 12-40 at f/3.5. This lens is sharp across the entire frame and shows little distortion (although that could be down to Lightroom auto correction)
Captured with an Olympus 12-40 at f/3.5. This lens is sharp across the entire frame and shows little distortion (although that could be down to Lightroom auto correction)

In this post I am going to share my thoughts on some of the Standard zooms I have used. As there isn’t really a definition of what can be considered a standard zoom, I view these as a zoom that will go from moderate wide angle (24mm or 28mm) through to short telephoto (80mm to 100mm). Don’t forget as you look through the list below that the Micro 43 sensor has a magnification factor of 2x. This means a 14mm lens will become a 28mm lens on a Micro 43 camera.

Panasonic 14-45mm

This is the old kit lens from the GF1 and you can still buy it new for quite a reasonable price. Now just because this is a kit lens doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad. In fact I have owned 4 of these (all purchased second hand) and all were excellent. The lens will produce sharp images even wide open and will become very sharp from around f/4.5. It does start to drop off slightly from around f/8.0 but still performs well until near to the minimum aperture.

In case you’re worried about getting enough depth of field and think you need to stop the lens down to the minimum aperture, don’t. At 14mm, setting the aperture to f/7.1 usually allows you to achieve sufficient depth of field for most landscape shots, providing you don’t get in very close to your subject. You also need to take care to pick a good point of focus to maximise depth of field, but you would need to do that with any camera system.

This lens is an excellent workhorse and will serve you well in a wide variety of situations. Best of all you can buy these used at very reasonable prices, sometimes with a very serviceable GF1 attached (which you could always have converted to shoot infrared).

Panasonic 14-42mm

There are various versions of this kit lens on the market but I would suggest you treat them with care. I have tried a few but none come near to the 14-45mm mentioned above. These appear to have been made to a budget and it shows in the soft images. Now I don’t have any significant experience with the Olympus version but as a budget kit lens I would still be cautious.

If you’re thinking of buying a Micro 43 system consider buying body only and purchasing the Panasonic 14-45mm (used). Or perhaps if you do have one of these lenses consider trading it in. There are better options.

Panasonic 12-32mm

This is the kit lens that comes with the Panasonic GM1. It looks to be too small to be stabilised but it does have stabilisation. Whilst it’s not the sharpest lens, it is surprisingly good. Mine doesn’t have much edge distortion and chromatic aberration appears well controlled. Its real advantage though is that it’s surprisingly small and light as well as being a great little performer. If you happen to come across one at a reasonable price give it a try. Or if you are thinking of buying a GM1 and have some existing lenses, don’t automatically go for the body only option to save money. When I bought my GM1, buying the body only would have saved just £20. Compared to the value of this lens, that’s a tiny saving.

Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8

This is by far the most expensive of the standard zooms I have used. This is the Olympus Pro quality lens and benefits from a large fixed aperture across the zoom range. It performs superbly well from wide open and both distortion and chromatic aberration are very well controlled. As you might expect from a pro lens, it is very sharp and an excellent performer.

The downside to this lens besides the price is the size and weight. It’s still smaller than a standard DSLR lens but it’s probably a similar weight although a little smaller. For some cameras you might find it feels a little unbalanced. [Having used this lens quite a bit now I would say the sharpness can also be a problem. Some of my prints (even A2 prints) show so much sharp detail that it can look false. On occasion I have found myself applying a very slight blur to the image to give a nicer, smooth feel to the print.]

Whether this lens deserves the high premium over the Panasonic 14-45mm, only you will be able to decide. Panasonic also have their version of this lens which is 12-35mm and at the time of writing is even more costly than the Olympus.

Olympus 12-50

This is the kit lens that comes with the Olympus EM5 and EM10. It’s not actually a bad lens but it definitely isn’t a great lens. The focal length range of 24mm-100mm equivalent is great and very useful. The downside and reason that I sold mine is that the image quality just isn’t as good as the Panasonic 14-45mm. I would rather lose a little flexibility at either end of the zoom range for the comfort feeling of knowing image quality is good.

One area that isn’t very good with this lens is the maximum aperture. As soon as you start to zoom in, the maximum aperture drops very quickly. This makes it a poor choice for lower light situations and almost forces you to select a more sensitive ISO. Now the aperture on the Panasonic 14-45mm isn’t great but it is easier to work with than with the 12-50.

Something I did find very annoying about this lens is the electronic zoom. It’s easier to work with than the Panasonic power zoom switch as you still use the zoom ring on the lens, but it’s just not a nice feel. I never felt comfortable zooming in and out using this feature of the lens and trying to fine tune the zoom was very difficult.

On the plus side, this lens does have a very useful macro button. I think it gives 1:2 life-size enlargements and allows you to get quite close to your subject. If you are on a budget, this can be a useful lens, just don’t expect it to match the optical performance of the Panasonic 14-45 or the quality of the Olympus 60mm macro.

Next time we will take a look at Super Wide Angle options.

Don’t buy a Micro 43 lens until you read this – Part 1

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Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing.
Steps at Sandsend near Whitby. Olympus Em5 + 25mm Olympus lens. The quality of this lens is amazing. Click the image to view larger.

I recently bought another camera (used) and whilst I will have more to say on that in the future, one thing it made me realise was just how good the Micro 43 lenses are. But this isn’t the case for all of the Micro 43 lenses; there are some really poor ones out there. When these lenses are good they are really good. The corners are sharp and show little distortion and you can use them wide open without worry. But when they are poor, they can make you question your decision to invest in the Micro 43 system. With this in mind I thought I would share some of my experiences and hopefully others of you will share yours.

I will point out that this is not a scientific lens review but what I think are the important points having used the lenses discussed. You also need to be aware that being a Landscape Photographer I like to achieve a good depth of field, very sharp images and well defined details. Depending on your photography interests you may have different needs.

Now both Panasonic and Olympus produce some excellent lenses (as well as some poor ones) but they take very different approaches to image stabilisation. Olympus builds stabilisation into their camera bodies whilst Panasonic build it into the lens (but not every lens). This means that if you have an Olympus body you can use any lens and still benefit from stabilisation. If you have a Panasonic body then you will only benefit from image stabilisation when you use a Panasonic lens (and only then if it is stabilised as not all lenses are).

Now you can mount a Panasonic lens on an Olympus body without any problems; this is one of the prime features of Micro 43 – it’s a standard. For example, I frequently use a Panasonic 14-45mm lens with stabilisation on my Olympus EM5. I do take care to turn off the lens stabilisation using a switch on the lens barrel. But even when I forget it seldom causes an issue. With other lenses such as the Panasonic 45-150 the lens is stabilised but there is no stabilisation switch on the body. Despite this I have never experienced a problem mounting these lenses on my Olympus EM5 and leave the stabilisation for the camera on all the time.

In short, don’t worry about mixing lenses and camera bodies from Olympus and Panasonic although you might need to give a little thought to manually switching it off for some combinations of lens and camera body.

Next time we will start to review some of the zoom lenses I have used. But before we go I will leave you with a few section of the above image zoomed to 100% magnification. This shows just how good the Micro 43 system can be.

100% magnification
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.

 

100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.
100% magnification. Click to zoom in fully.