And the Sharpest Zoom Award goes to...

Started May 27, 2017 | Discussions thread
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slartz
slartz Senior Member • Posts: 2,068
And the Sharpest Zoom Award goes to...
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We now have so many zooms to pick from, so I looked at sharpness across the board. You can find below aggregation of MFT data from Photozone.de for all general purpose lenses zoom, at 12/14mm, 25mm and 40mm aggregated into one table and averaged across the board. Conclusions:

  • Olympus 12-40/2.8 is still the sharpest zoom around - and offers the best corner performance across the zoom range.
  • Olympus consumer zooms are far worse than Panasonic consumer lenses (but we knew that already...)
  • The Panasonic 14-42 II lens is still the best consumer lens around, though the 12-60/3.5-5.6 almost matches it - with better range.
  • The 12-32 is the best pancake around (but we already know that too...)
  • The 12-100/4 is the weakest of all pro lenses - not surprising giving their range.

Here is the table summarizing the data. If you want to better understand the methodology, details, and limitations, refer to the detailed analysis below. (Please bother reading it before you lash out with criticism ;))

Data Source: Photozone.de

Methodology, Assumptions, Limitations & Some More Insights....

In order to fill this table, I took the MFT analysis data from Photozone.de for each of these lens tests @ 16mp. Lenses that were not tested at 16mp were not included in this test. Also - to make things as accurate as possible (and there are limitations there) - I tried to take a unified "sweet spot" for all lenses. There may be some lenses here where this decision has ever so slightly impaired their overall score, but the differences were minor. As a result - I choose widest (12 or 14) mm at F/4, 25mm @ f/4, and 40mm @ f/5.6 as the sweet spot. These Fs do seem to be the sweet spot of pretty much every lens here.

There have also been some issues - the 3.5-5.6 lenses are tested at f/3.5 and not F/4. Yet at this is the closest value I had - I used it. they may have a (very) marginal improvement closing to F/4. Some lenses did not have exactly 25mm or 40mm - and so I chose the closest one I found. Again - not 100% accurate, but the differences will not be dramatically improving the results. Finally - some lenses could not do F/4 @ 25mm or F/5.6 @ 40/50mm - I therefore chose their widest open results.

Following filling this table, I went on and did two averages of the lens performance. The column on the left (Flat) indicates a simple average of all 9 values. It gives a good estimate of the performance of the lens across the frame across the zoom range. I also did a second, weighted, average. This one took 3 times the center value, 2 times the border value, and 1 time the extreme. This is under the assumption that many of us care more about the center region performance than the far corners (that depends of course on your priorities...). I was surprised to find that even though some lenses perform better in the center in some cases, the weighted average did not change the overall sorting order of the lenses. The only thing it changes it he gap between certain lenses along the list - but the order remains.

One more important point - This is a *very* limited test - showing only sharpness of lenses at their sweet spot. It does not, for instance, compare how the pro lenses behave when opening them up to f/2.8. It does reflect things such as bokeh, micro contrast, vignetting, CA, distortions, etc. If you want to read all that - you should go to http://www.photozone.de/m43 (or other analysis sites).
Finally - some additional thoughts on those numbers:

  • I've known this for a while - but this list reflects it really well - Olympus' consumer lenses are quite bad. Even the Panasonic pancakes outperform the Olympus consumer zooms. I know Olympus focuses now on the Pro market, but they want to lure people in. I think this is a point to be taken for Olympus.
  • While the Panasonic 14-42 II is still the best consumer zoom around, I would argue that its benefits over the Panasonic 12-60 are minimal, whereas the 12-60 offers a wider FoV, longer tele, and some weather resistance. I would say it's hard to argue now with 12-60 being the king of consumer lenses.
  • The 12-100/4 PRO, despite all the raving, has some weaknesses. It is still a very good lens for sure, but it is generally softer on the corners than the 12-40/2.8 across the board, and also softer than all other PRO lenses at 40mm. It offers, of course, much better range, and still very good performance, but there IS a compromise to be had when switching from the 12-40/2.8 to the 12-100/2.8
  • The Olympus 14-42 EZ lens, not surprisingly, came out last. Having said that, its corner performance in the wide side of the spectrum is really unacceptable. I think it's time for Olympus to bring version 2 of this lens.

If you have more insights from this table - feel free to share

 slartz's gear list:slartz's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm F1.7 ASPH Panasonic Leica 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 ASPH Panasonic 8-18mm F2.8-4 +9 more
Panasonic 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 OIS
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