Why are Micro-4/3rds lenses SO MUCH SHARPER than full frame ones? Don't believe me?

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Willy Chu
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Why are Micro-4/3rds lenses SO MUCH SHARPER than full frame ones? Don't believe me?
5 months ago

Slrgear.com has just tested the new Olympus 25mm f/1.8 and it's just awesome wide open:

From the website:

"Sharpness is probably the first characteristic anyone thinks of when considering lens quality, and it's here that the combination of DxO Analyzer with our own graphing and display software shows the most revealing results.

"Sharpness is a tricky parameter to nail down mathematically, as it involves not only the fineness of detail that can be captured, but the "crispness" of the images in question. In our camera-testing work at Imaging Resource, it's been clear for years now that cameras that perform well on resolution test charts don't necessarily produce images that we perceive as being "sharp."

"To address this issue, the image scientists at DxO came up with a measurement they call the "Blur Experience Unit," or "BxU." BxUs are a mathematical measurement that correlates very well with human perceptions of image sharpness. One BxU roughly corresponds to a "blur more" operation in Photoshop.

"Because of the relative nature of the DxO blur measurements, you can't directly equate results obtained on different camera platforms. By careful choice of the camera settings and the assignment of a relative scaling factor, we've brought the blur numbers for the different camera platforms we use into reasonably close agreement. This means that numbers within a BxU unit or so of each other between the two platforms have to be considered as nearly equivalent."

So, with that caveat, here is the 2011 Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G ($200):

Hmmm...more than just a few blur units worse? I'd say so.

Well, how about Canon then? This is the 1990 Canon 50mm EF II f/1.8 ($125):

Yikes! OK, OK, it's an old, inexpensive lens, but it is Canon's one and only current offering in this class. Let's give Canon a break and look at their slightly newer 1993 f/1.4 USM version ($400) stopped down to f/2.0:

Nice in the very center, but talk about corner softness!  Micro-4/3rds uses would never tolerate this.  Just look at what some nigglers say about the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, which shows just over 3 blur units in the far corners.

Can anything beat the Olympus? We'll forget about price. Here is the legendary Leica Summilux-M ASPH 50mm f/1.4 ($4000). Results are at f/2.0 because Slrgear has not tested either the f/2 Summicron-M ($2350) or the astronomical f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH ($7350!) yet:

You can decide if this is worth 10 times the price of the Olympus. Here's the Olympus again:

I throw my hands up! Is my analysis wrong? To reiterate, Image Resource says it here:

"By careful choice of the camera settings and the assignment of a relative scaling factor, we've brought the blur numbers for the different camera platforms we use into reasonably close agreement...[so that] numbers within a BxU unit or so of each other...have to be considered as nearly equivalent."

Or in other words, differences greater than a unit or so are significantly different.  Full framers keep bashing the size of 4/3 sensors, but image quality is the sensor + the lens. Congratulations Olympus, your lens is WAY sharper than any full frame 50mm lens!

 Willy Chu's gear list:Willy Chu's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm 1:1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm F4.0-5.6 ASPH OIS Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 UMC Fisheye MFT +3 more
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