Comparing Olympus 4/3lenses to FX "Full Frame" offerings

Started Jan 25, 2014 | Discussions thread
Great Bustard Forum Pro • Posts: 40,691
Oh dear.

dave gaines wrote:

I have been trying to replace the excellent Olympus lenses I've used with similar "full frame" Nikon FX lenses. It isn't easy.

Sure, the "Nikon Trilogy", the 3 best Nikon f/2.8 G AF Zoom lenses are really good but they are bigger than anything similar I've had with Olympus. The 14-24 mm f/2.8 ($1997) is slightly bigger than the 7-14 mm f/4, but Nikon shooters complain about having to lug the big heavy beast around. The standard Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 ($1887) is bigger than the 14-54 by a long shot yet about the same size as the 14-35 mm f/2. The Nikon 70-200 m f/2.8G VRII ($2397) is the same size as the Olympus 35-100 mm f/2. If it were an f/2 it would be huge

Don't bother looking for anything like a 50-200 mm f/2.8-3.5 in FX for close to the same price. You'll need the 200-400 mm f/4 for US$6750.

It's amazing what a bargain all the fine Olympus 4/3 lenses are.

After the 3 best Nikon zooms the comparisons get much harder. Nikon and Canon FF shooters complain that all of the fast 50 mm lenses are soft - as if by design, I think. In Olympus we've always been fortunate to have a super sharp 50 mm f/2 and the unrivaled Panasonic/Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 lens for 4/3 format. It originally sold for $800 IIRC, and then soon went up to $900 as the scarcity of these became evident. You had to get on a waiting list to buy one.

For a Fisheye lens all that Nikon has to offer is an old-design, 16 mm f/2.8D AF for US$900. Most of the D lenses focus by a drive motor in the camera body, not an internal focus motor. There's also the Sigma 15 mm f/2.8 that focuses 10 cm (4") closer than the Nikon (with less DOF) for US$610. The Nikon's closest focus is 250 mm. The Nikon is a bit sharper than the Sigma. I just paid $680 + tax and shipping for a like-new, used Nikon 16 mm f/2.8D.

Look at the Olympus 8 mm f/3.5 Fisheye lens. It's super sharp corner to corner and focuses as close as 135 mm from the sensor with more DOF than either FF at the same f-stop. It originally sold for $100 less than the Nikon and it's much newer, better design.

I can't find an equuivalent for the Olympus High Grade 11-22 mm f/2.8-3.5 wide angle lens. The best offerings from Nikon are the 17-35 mm f/2.8 for US$1769 or the 16-35 mm f/4 G VR for US$1257. These both suffer from distortion at the wide end, vignette and CA. None of these poor attributes exist with the Olympus 11-22 mm, which sells for half the average/mean price.

The Olympus EX-25 Macro Extension Tube is a magic hollow tube that makes the 50 mm f/2 macro lens shoot at 1:1 and turns any lens with a focal length over 50 mm into a macro lens. I've personally seen it work on an EM-5 on top of the MMF-3 adapter with the 50 mm f/2. What's not to like?

All of these lenses would be equally fine on micro 4/3 cameras. They'll exceed the IQ of any similar m4/3 lens, especially the zooms. These 4/3 lenses have focus scales and are optically corrected, excellent instruments.

So whatever you do, don't try to replace your 4/3 lenses with full frame equivalents for anywhere near the price or IQ. Keep your E-series and OM-D E-Mx and use these lenses. Make me an offer on my few remaining lenses. It's too late to save me, but you can still benefit from my system switch.

Well, Dave, as you know, f/2 on 4/3 is equivalent to f/4 on FF, where by "equivalent to", I mean the same aperture diameter for the same diagonal AOV, which will result in the same DOF, the same diffraction softening, and the same total amount of light on the sensor for a given shutter speed (thus resulting in the same noise for equally efficient sensors).

With this in mind, you'll find plenty of excellent lenses for FF to suit your needs. Unless, of course, your "need" is to have a lens with marked with an arbitrary number taken out of context. That is, it makes as much sense to say "f/2 on 4/3 is 'faster than' f/4 on FF" as "12mm on 4/3 is 'wider than' 24mm on FF".

In addition, when it comes to resolution, I hope you're aware that the meaningful measure for an MTF-50 test is lw/ph (line widths per picture height). If you happen to read an MTF-50 test that uses lp/mm (line pairs per millimeter on the sensor), then double that value and multiply by the sensor height (13mm for 4/3, 24mm for FF) to get lw/ph, which will normalize the resolution for a FF photo cropped to 4:3.

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