Direct comparison Oly 12-40mmF2.8 with Oly 12-50mmF3.5-6.3?

Started Feb 2, 2014 | Discussions thread
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,170
Re: Just done my own first quick test - observations

Anders W wrote:

RoelHendrickx wrote:

Anders W wrote:

RoelHendrickx wrote:

The Oly 12-40 F2.8 arrived this morning.

Very good look and feel on the camera. Everything works smoothly. Caps, hood etc are well designed, with special mention for the manual focus ring (pull backwards).

For my personal preferences in weight, size and balance, it feels like a better match on the E-M5 (with first part of the grip attached) than the 12-50mm : no more falling forward of the camera-lens combo: the lens and camera now sit horizontally on a table. Almost no difference in length (at its shortest setting which is not 12mm but near 16mm: good news for the camera bag.

I've already done some quick first sharpness comparisons, and not just with only the MFT 12-50 but with all the lenses I have over that range, including the ZD12-60 with adapter.

I've shot tripod-mounted shots (ISO 200) of my bookshelves at 12mm, 20mm and 40mm with the MFT 12-50, the MFT 12-40, the ZD 12-60, the MFT 20mmF1.7, the MFT 45mmF1.8 (not same focal length but close enough) and MFT 40-150 at 40mm only. And for the heck of it, I included also the Nokton 17.5mm.

Shots at corresponding focal lengths were done wide open and then progressively at F2 (where available), F2.8 (where available), F4 (where available), F5.6, F8 and F11. That yields a few less shots with some lenses than others. The Nokton was shot at F0.95, F1.4, F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8 and F11.

Something that was remarked in another thread can be confirmed: the view of the MFT 12-40 is indeed slightly less wide (on a whole bookshelf at 12mm there is difference of 2 books) than both MFT 12-50 and ZD 12-60. Probably distortion correction.

But the MFT 12-40 is considerably sharper near the edges than the MFT 12-50 (BIG difference, especially at 12mm, where also the center shows a real difference) and even sharper than the ZD 12-60 (center is roughly equal, but edges are better). This is a comparison wide open and at corresponding apertures. Stopping down the 12-50 helps, but in my room that resulted in shutter speeds that are not handholdable, while the MFT 12-40 seems to be already quite sharp (and not just in the center) at a very handholdable F2.8.

The two MFT primes did very well, also wide open. They are sharp and fast and small and I think I will keep them in the bag and not consider them replaced by the MFT 12-40 (although the need to mount them will become more rare than with the 12-50. They remain excellent small primes that make the E-M5 without grip into a small and fast and sharp imaging machine.

The MFT 40-150 did really well: not as good as the MFT 12-40 but at 40mm definitely better than the MFT 12-50. Pretty good sharpness already wide open.

The Nokton continues to live in a class of its own, with pretty amazing sharpness and rendering at all apertures : F0.95 is less at the edges (and vignetted) but already amazing in the center, and it becomes edge-to-edge sharp at F1.4 or F2 maximum. But that lens is heavier than the MFT 12-40 so it will not be a routine take-along-anywhere lens like the Pany 20mm will remain. It will be reserved a bit more for extreme low light reportage or for those moments where I just want to use a fast standard prime.

Thanks for the report Roel. All of what you say makes pretty good sense to me except the remarks about the Nokton. Based on the samples I have seen, the 17/0.95 doesn't really become sharp towards the corners and extreme edges of the frame until f/5.6 or so. The same is true about the 25/0.95 too. Have a look here for example:

Might well be largely a matter of field curvature but that doesn't help much when you are shooting subjects where everything is pretty much in the same plane or at close-to-infinity distance (and at 17 mm, "close to infinity" isn't all that far away).

What would be your comments?

Well obviously for most of my shooting, the edges of the frame won't matter much, because I use the Nokton wide open or close to it, and go for subject isolation so something in the center or at the 1/3 or 2/3 line will be sharp and the rest a fine mess of bokeh.

Yeah, I can understand that it works well for that kind of usage.

But I believe that lens is already quite sharp (as sharp as I need it to be) with little if any stopping down and for that kind of speed I find it quite amazing that this is the case.

I was only surprised at what you said about edge-to-edge sharpness. As long as that's not of the essence, I am sure it works well.

Well it does become sharper edge to edge sooner than at F5.6. That is for sure.

But it is not a characteristic, nor an aperture that I would consider to be within the range of interest for this lens.

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Roel Hendrickx
lots of images:
my E-3 user field report from Tunisian Sahara:

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