Popular Prime Lenses Rated in Objective Order

Started May 1, 2013 | Discussions thread
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tjdean01
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Popular Prime Lenses Rated in Objective Order
May 1, 2013

A hobby of mine for several years has been reading about cameras and lenses online.  I posted something similar on a different forum but figured I'd post it here where here are more posters.  Maybe we could even clear up some of the "inconclusives."  The lenses are arranged in terms of optical quality (weight on sharpness but vignetting, distortion, flare, CA, fringing are all pretty much consistent as well as we go down the list). I compiled this order based on extensive reading of lens tests, samples, and forum posters' opinions of these lenses.  This list is an average compilation of opinion.  I hope it proves handy when considering lens purchases:

1. 75mm 1.8 - Conclusively the best m4/3s and one of the best lenses on the planet.  Sharp at any aperture.  Corners terrific.  No distortion.  A definite niche lens.  $900. 
2. 60mm 2.8 - Inconclusive, but very sharp. There aren't too many samples or opinions to base this rating on, but I say it's probably better than the 45.  Not very popular.  Macro.  $600.
3. 45mm 1.8 - Inconclusive. Could be better than the 60, but corners definitely do beat the wider 20 and 25. Then again it's not always sharp at f1.8.  Plus I've seen samples where the 20 looks sharper.  Note, only $400.
4. 25mm 1.4 - Inconclusive. Some say it's an upgrade to the 20, some say a downgrade. I personally feel the 20 is sharper, but from a non-biased standpoint looking at the data, my personal feeling could be wrong, so I put this higher than the 20. $400
5. 20mm 1.7 - Inconclusive. Looking at center sharpness, this could be rated as high as 2. It beats the 45 in some instances I've seen. Worse corners though. That said, at $350 and 25mm thick, this is THE m4/3s lens, by far the most popular.

<<< OPTICAL DROP OFF POINT >>> (The lenses above, in nearly every pro or amateur's opinion, out-perform those below)

6. 12mm 2.0 - Conclusive. This is the best wide-angle lens.  Same silver metal build as 75. Unfortunately $800 so many feel the $900 7-14mm or $200 14mm are better choices.
7. 17mm 1.8 - Conclusive.  Personally I say this is sharper then the 12.  But I'm being objective here and there are many complaints about this lens's shortcomings. Metal build like the 12 but a bit smaller. Due to the existence of the wonderful 20mm, most won't pay $500 for this lens.
7. 14mm 2.5 - Conclusive with probable sample variation. I've seen horrible softness, distortion, and corners. I've seen some very sharp centers. LensRental rated this (inconclusively, IMO) above the 25. Benefits of this, however, are many: TINY and $200. Note that many feel this is no sharper than the 14-42mm kit zooms at 14mm.  Many also feel the 7-14mm will outperform this lens even at 14, where it's at its worst.
9. 17mm 2.8 - Conclusively the worst prime. Very small on a purple PM1 in P-mode to give to your GF/kid who cares not about IQ. Not sharp. I would buy a P&S instead of this lens.

If you're on a budget you can get the Sigma 19mm or 30mm 2.8s. Optically they're good, probably similar to the 12mm. The 19mm is useless IMO if you have the 20mm, but the 30mm does fill a void. These can be had for under $200. There are also the very good Voigtlanders, and many others. I didn't include them above because frankly, I haven't read much about them yet: Micro Four Thirds Lenses - HENNIGArts : Gear.

That's it.  If anyone feels a lens is out of order in this short list of popular lenses, don't hesitate to mention my mistakes! 

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