Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?

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tamras29
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Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
9 months ago

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

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Zensu11
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tamras29, 9 months ago

Having been fortunate to have owned both of these lenses it probably comes down to 1) is the Oly 12-50 highly under rated or 2) is the Oly 12-40 highly over rated? I think the answer lies in between with more of 1) being stronger than 2). IMHO

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Bobby

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tgutgu
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tamras29, 9 months ago

tamras29 wrote:

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

No, I have absolutely different thoughts. The 12-50mm is optically the worst standard zoom lens I own and have used. Corner sharpness is simply not very good, contrast is rather low.

The 12-40mm beats the primes in its range (2.0/12mm, 1.8/17mm, 1.4/25mm) quite significantly.

So, the 12-40mm is worth the extra money, not only because of the much better build, but also because of IQ.

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Thomas

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RoelHendrickx
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to Zensu11, 9 months ago

Zensu11 wrote:

Having been fortunate to have owned both of these lenses it probably comes down to 1) is the Oly 12-50 highly under rated or 2) is the Oly 12-40 highly over rated? I think the answer lies in between with more of 1) being stronger than 2). IMHO

I've been using the 12-40 for a week now and am very happy with it.

I've read the reviews and I don't think they are overrating that lens very much.

What I am sure about on the other hand is that the 12-50 is underrated by many. I've really enjoyed using it and in sufficient light it brings good results to the table (not corner to corner sharp etc but I rarely am paying attention on that).

I had the money available and I have no regrets spending it on the 12-40 for that bit of extra image quality that is always there, but mostly for the difference between F2.8 and F3.5 at the wide end and F2.8 vs roughly F5.6 at the long end (the 12-50 has a max aperture of F6.3 but that is at 50mm - I have never checked specifically what its max is at 40mm, but I assume it to be around F5.6).

My first real photo opportunity for which I used it was a theatre dress rehearsal. Excellent results with the 12-40 mostly wide open, where the 12-50 simply would not have stood any chance, because the two stops slower aperture would have killed my necessary shutter speed (make that three stops for the need to stop down for sharpness, while the 12-40 hardly needs stopping down, if any). But that, of course, is kinda specialized use. For everyday use in good light, I can totally imagine the difference to be less overwhelming.

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Zensu11
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Thank you Roel Hendrickx...
In reply to RoelHendrickx, 9 months ago

...for being much more eloquent than I could ever be.

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jalywol
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tamras29, 9 months ago

tamras29 wrote:

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

I have not used the 12-50, but have used both versions of the Oly 14-42mm as well as the Panny 14-45 and their original 14-42mm.  The 14-45mm comes the closest to the 12-40mm, but the color rendition never pleased me, and it was not fast at the long end.  The rest of the bunch will give you absolutely fine image quality in good light with lots of subject contrast, but in more difficult situations, I always found their images overall to be a little bit flat.  Sure, I could punch it up in PP, but it was just not the same kind of results I was getting from my primes.

When I got the 12-40mm, all of the punch, contrast, color, sharpness, and microcontrast just were so much better than the rest of the zooms that I was just amazed.  It wasn't a subtle difference.  This zoom had qualities of my favorite primes.  I even ended up selling my much loved 14-140mm lens after getting this since its output just looked so much better than even that lens, which I used a LOT.

Now, you may have a particularly good copy of the 12-50mm and a particularly bad copy of the 12-40mm, which would narrow the gap a bit.  Or you may be taking shots in less demanding lighting situations where the differences are less obvious.  Either way, my suggestion to you is to do a little more testing of both lenses....you may indeed have a less than stellar 12-40mm.  If it is still not particularly different than the 12-50mm you have, and you don't really need the constant f2.8, then I'd return it and keep using the 12-50mm.  On the other hand, you may want to exchange it for a second copy, as there really have been posters here who have had significant sample variation and were delighted with their second copies after having an iffy first one.

-J

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MatsP
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tgutgu, 9 months ago

tamras29 wrote:

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

No, I have absolutely different thoughts. The 12-50mm is optically the worst standard zoom lens I own and have used. Corner sharpness is simply not very good, contrast is rather low.

The 12-40mm beats the primes in its range (2.0/12mm, 1.8/17mm, 1.4/25mm) quite significantly.

So, the 12-40mm is worth the extra money, not only because of the much better build, but also because of IQ.

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Thomas

I have owned the 12-40 since yesterday but after just s few shots I'm impressed. Very sharp and very nice colors. It's expensive, but I think it's worth it. I love the distance scale when I pull the focus ring back for manual focusing. It was many years since I saw something like that on a modern lens. I had a love-hate relation to the 12-50, now I feel a chance for a more stable relationship

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SkiHound
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tgutgu, 9 months ago

I suspect there is considerable copy to copy variation in the 12-50. I've used the 12-35 and feel it completely blows my copy of the 12-50 away. I'll buy either the 12-40 or 12-35 at some point.

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Chrisada
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to jalywol, 9 months ago

tamras29 wrote:

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

I have not used the 12-50, but have used both versions of the Oly 14-42mm as well as the Panny 14-45 and their original 14-42mm.  The 14-45mm comes the closest to the 12-40mm, but the color rendition never pleased me, and it was not fast at the long end.  The rest of the bunch will give you absolutely fine image quality in good light with lots of subject contrast, but in more difficult situations, I always found their images overall to be a little bit flat.  Sure, I could punch it up in PP, but it was just not the same kind of results I was getting from my primes.

When I got the 12-40mm, all of the punch, contrast, color, sharpness, and microcontrast just were so much better than the rest of the zooms that I was just amazed.  It wasn't a subtle difference.  This zoom had qualities of my favorite primes.  I even ended up selling my much loved 14-140mm lens after getting this since its output just looked so much better than even that lens, which I used a LOT.

Now, you may have a particularly good copy of the 12-50mm and a particularly bad copy of the 12-40mm, which would narrow the gap a bit.  Or you may be taking shots in less demanding lighting situations where the differences are less obvious.  Either way, my suggestion to you is to do a little more testing of both lenses....you may indeed have a less than stellar 12-40mm.  If it is still not particularly different than the 12-50mm you have, and you don't really need the constant f2.8, then I'd return it and keep using the 12-50mm.  On the other hand, you may want to exchange it for a second copy, as there really have been posters here who have had significant sample variation and were delighted with their second copies after having an iffy first one.

-J

Can I ask which 14-140 is it that you sold?

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jalywol
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to Chrisada, 9 months ago

Chrisada wrote:

Can I ask which 14-140 is it that you sold?

The original one. I got it in a kit with the GH2, and had originally no intention of keeping it. However, after I tried it, I found it to be quite a good lens, and used it rather a lot until getting the 12-40mm. Now I am using the 12-40mm and the inexpensive Oly 40-150mm (which is an excellent lens, by the way, even if really cheap), to cover the same range.

The only two drawbacks I found to that model 14-140mm were the weight (the thing felt like a brick), and it rendered a slight yellow-greenish color cast/color temperature to images. Otherwise, it was really a great performing lens all around for me.

-J

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Skeeterbytes
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to RoelHendrickx, 9 months ago

From a strictly anecdotal standpoint, there might be variation among copies of the 12-50 based on the array of opinions among owners. I don't find it a poor performer optically as much as grievously slow for indoor/low-light work. If one does much of that kind of shooting, the 12-40 is a far better tool. I don't have the 12-40 so can't comment on its performance, but the test results and sample images certainly look fine to me.

Cheers,

Rick

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Paul De Bra
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Different opinion may be due to sample variation.
In reply to tgutgu, 9 months ago

There seem to be exceptionally good and exceptionally bad samples of the 12-50 around and the same is probably true for every lens model. This explains why some will see an enormous difference between the 12-50 and 12-40 while others see little difference.

My 12-50 was not particularly good or bad. It never wowed me. The best thing about it was the macro.

My 12-40 is very clearly much better, even at f/5.6, especially in terms of edge and corner sharpness, which does matter a lot for me but maybe less for others.

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mchnz
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Re: Oly 12-50 vs 12-40 - expecting too much?
In reply to tamras29, 9 months ago

tamras29 wrote:

I do really like my 12-50 despite it's faults, so at an Olympus open day this morning, I was looking forward to taking the 12-40 f2.8 out for a spin on my EM5 with the offer of £100 off usual price this weekend only.

Just been going through the results, and apart from F2.8 all the way through which of course is a great advantage when necessary, and lovely pumpy manual focus ring, I really was it's expecting it's IQ to blow the 12-50 out of the water, which it just did not. Yes it was a tad sharper up the 40mm end, and a tad sharper at the edges wide open, but for at considerably more money, and I really don't thnik it can justify the cost. Better to put the money into a primes I think.

Anyone else had the same thoughts? Thanks.

I guess it depends on what floats your boat about the hobby.

At least you are in the position of shooting with the one of the best available lenses.  You needn't worry that your equipment is optically limiting what you can do.

In my case, I would probably also not be "blown away" by the difference.   I mainly use the 12-50 outdoors for daylight landscapes with little artistic interpretation. I'm not sure f/2.8 adds much in these circumstances. I do care about sharpness, but only of the final PP result at the targeted resolution. The whole colour/contrast subtlety just is not objectively visible to my eyes/brain.  I never shoot in a studio, I don't hang around until the light is right, I can't pick the weather, I never use a tripod. I suspect too many of these other factors degrade my images to justify the upgrade.

In my case the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 III EZ might be more exciting because it might result in the camera becoming a truly take-everywhere camera.  If at some point I do decide to pursue greater sharpness, I think I might go with a few lighter-weight primes.

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sigala1
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Re: Different opinion may be due to sample variation.
In reply to Paul De Bra, 9 months ago

Paul De Bra wrote:

There seem to be exceptionally good and exceptionally bad samples of the 12-50 around and the same is probably true for every lens model. This explains why some will see an enormous difference between the 12-50 and 12-40 while others see little difference.

My 12-50 was not particularly good or bad. It never wowed me. The best thing about it was the macro.

My 12-40 is very clearly much better, even at f/5.6, especially in terms of edge and corner sharpness, which does matter a lot for me but maybe less for others.

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My 12-50 is pretty lousy at the wide end, very soft edges.

But I am certainly open to the possibility that I have a bad copy.

I own two copies of the cheap now-discontinued Panasonic 14-42mm kit lens. The first copy I had was mediocre. OK for a cheap kit lens, but just OK (but sharper than the 14-42 pancake, that lens is a stinker). Then I happened to acquire a second one with a G5 that was on sale really cheap, and I was shocked that the second copy of the kit lens was WAY sharper than my original.

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mring1
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A man's got to know his (lens's) limitations...
In reply to tamras29, 9 months ago

Well, that's not exactly what Clint Eastwood said, but it's true.  +1 on all the comments about lens variation.  Mine is good from 12-25 stopped down 1/2 stop.  Pretty sharp corners and very sharp center.  From 40 on it gets soft, and of course, it becomes an "f/8 and be there lens."

And it's not good in low light.

But why are we comparing a SG kit lens to a HG kit lens?  I'm saving for the 12-40, but I'll keep my 12-50 and pair it with a 40-150 when I go day hiking.  When you use the 12-50s to its strengths:  compact, 12 mm on the wide end, WR, near-macro and very fast focus, it does what you'd expect a kit lens to do.  And, FWIW, how many other kit lenses combine those features?  If you want more compact, you have options.  Sharper across the range?  Options.

It comes down to horses for courses, and the two lenses are designed to race on different courses.

The posters who got poor copies...I don't doubt what you say, and I'd think the same.  But for those of us who got a good one, it's a keeper for those times when you choose to make the tradeoff.  Nothing wrong with that....

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