What's the problem, Olympus? Can't you make this lens better?

Started Apr 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Sergey Borachev
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What's the problem, Olympus? Can't you make this lens better?
Apr 10, 2013

M43 is known for the best lens range for mirrorless cameras and there are many stellar lenses. 35mm equivalent is a very important FL, and what most people would regard as the the FL to get if they can have only one single prime, hence its popularity throught camera history.

However, there is nothing really good in M43 if you want a really good quality 35mm equivalent lens for general purposes. I have been saving up for a good one, but find it hard to buy or acceptable any of these lenses, based on my research so far:

1. Olympus 17mm f/2.8 - Inadequate IQ, I think the worse of all M43 lenses. Better than nothing, I suppose. The only reason for having the lens is small size, but the Panasonic 14mm is even smaller.

2. Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 - Very good resolution according to Lens Rental test. It is however slightly wide but OK, since a little bit of cropping (done when straightening the barrel distortion) would make it closer to 35mm. This lens is a bit slow, but very good value given its low price. I am however trying to find better than a basic lens.

3. Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 - Very sharp, though slight uneven across the frame, but still impressive in IQ. Very good speed too. Bokeh not the best, but also OK for a wide lens. There are however some flaws, banding at ISO 3200, which is acceptable to many people, but also slow AF under some conditions, which is not good for street and many other types of shooting that most would use this FL for. Close but exactly what I look for. Surely, it should be quite easy to make a better lens than this, albeit at a higher cost?

4. Sigma 17mm f/2.8 - Also very sharp, nearly as sharp as the 20mm. Fine. Also fast in AF. Nice. Good value too. But it is a bit slow, more than 1 stop slower than the 20mm, and a fast lens is needed in many situations.  Also very basic and needs better build to fit a camera like the E-M5 or GH3.

5. Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 - Excellent speed and bokeh. Sharpness not good at the wider apertures but that is to be expected for a very fast lens, and it is very sharp when stopped down more. A very nice lens indeed. All good, except that it is 50mm equivalent FL, which is is ideal for a general purpose walk-about lens and restricting for buildings, landscape, travels or when you want to get closer and more intimate with your subjects.

6. Nockton 17.5mm f/0.5. - Beautifully piece of metal and glass and great specs. Excellent dreamy bokeh. However, there is more compromise made for speed. The extreme speed is great for those who need it and who do not mind focusing manually. Even if the pretty good (but not great) image sharpness is excepted, the lack of AF plus the weight and size make this not enjoyable for street shooting or parties, etc, except for fanatics and collectors. Too niche, not to mention also too expensive for people whose main aim is to shoot and get good pictures of general subjects under most normal conditions.

7. Olympus 17mm f/1.8 - All hopes rested on this but we were holding our breath just to be disappointed. And what a disappointing, at this price.  Pretty good sharpness, but definitely not what was expected, nothing like the performances of other recent lenses with top IQ, like the 75mm, 60mm, 12-35mm and 35-100mm. Don't forget that this is an expensive prime and should have much compromise in design, but its IQ is not at all stellar, and in fract on par with the 12-35mm at 17mm. Enough said.

So, here we have all these lenses around that FL, but not even one really good general purpose 35mm equivalent lens, even at a high price, if you want excellent IQ and reasonable features like decent AF, decent speed, and build. With the OMD and GH3 supposedly like pro, and its weatherproof and alloy build, its great sensor and features, I think there should be something better for a lens in this important FL.

Would Panasonic or Tamron make one please? f/1.8, AF, nice bokeh, sharp and other nice image IQ qualities. Oh, and also make it black not silver, internal focussing and weatherproof.  Is that really so hard?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3
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