EM1 Mark 2 plus VL vs 6D plus Zeiss KABOOM!

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Ab Latchin Senior Member • Posts: 1,089
EM1 Mark 2 plus VL vs 6D plus Zeiss KABOOM!

I have been a little bored recently and decided a bit of gear headedness was in need. So I decided to rent the Canon 6D, a camera I have used from time to time professionally, and the MF Zeiss 35mm f2 and 85mm f1.4 to pit them against my EM1.2 and VL 42.5mm and 17.5mm f0.95 primes. Shock Horror!!

Canon total price approx: $3599
Olympus Total Price: $3400

Why these two in particular? Well they are both fast, off brand MF lenses with what would be considered lens character. They are a very similar price, weight, build and give or take, aperture size.

Why bother making the comparison? Well, in part it is in response to the constant "just buy a full frame camera and a fast lens" argument I read here over and over. The idea that m43rds as a format "cannot compete" against the larger cameras. Does it stand up to a real world test?

How did I make the comparison? I took my wife and kids to the ROM with both cameras and took pictures of the same thing as best I could. This is a real use scenario, while charts might stay still for a direct comparison, and equivalence might equate aperture size, neither really reflects a real use case. Museums also have a mix of natural window light and darker areas to test the system use.

Some things I learned right off the bat:

- The focus assist on the Canon was unreliable, I ended up resorting to Live View and magnify
- The tools within the EVF such as magnify were far easier to use than holding the camera at arms length and trying to focus on the screen of the Canon.
- The Canon seemed to produce better out of camera colours while viewing the back of the screen (more on this later).
- The IBIS was superb in getting shake free shots in gloomy Museum spaces.
- The Optical viewfinder looked amazing after the EVF, however images didn't look like the finder (unlike the EVF).
- Chimping was something I had left behind, and I didn't enjoy having to do it again.

I wont touch menus or ergonomics, obviously if you have smaller hands the smaller camera might feel better, beyond that I honestly believe it is all just getting used to it.

Onto some juicy pictures, I am remembering (and calculating) the VL apertures as it is not recorded in the EXIF:

35mm eqiv  -  Canon: 1/40, F5.6, ISO 1600 - Olympus 1/50, F4, ISO 800 - These look very similar, with some flaring differences the Zeiss with some blobs but better contrast and the VL, less blobs, less contrast.

Noise and detail is very similar for the two images.

85mm eq.  -  Wide open ISO 400 for both cameras. Here you can see that warmer colour from Canon. On the back of the cameras and with the Canon file I almost felt some envy. Once on computer they were not a million miles from each other. Also the extreme DoF at f1.4 is a bit too much for a headshot.

Detail wide open. Do not take this as perfect, but more what one might average shooting in reality with MF on both systems.

35mm eq - Wide open edited to tasted in ACR. ISO 200 for both as you can see the colours can match close enough with a little tweaking.

35mm eq.  -  Canon - F4, 1/25 ISO 1600 Olympus f2.8, ISO 800 1/30

35mm eq - Handshake was a real issue in the gloomier areas, this is where IS really shines, and IBIS is obviously very convenient as it works with any lens. Again you can see the cooler Olympus WB.

Museums are gloomy places, and without question the IBIS is a very effective tool. Note again the warmth of the Canon WB (auto) and Picture profile (standard) vs the Olympus WB (auto) and picture profile (natural). Even with the Warm colours set to "on" on the Olympus.

Whole image form above.

Here you can see the Canon wide open has got that larger aperture separation. Also again Olympus has chosen a very blue white balance. Without question here the overall picture quality, and the rendering is very nice on the Zeiss. However I was more impressed with the colour of the Canon OOC jpeg than the DoF.

So while a half body really shows good separation, again a headshot shows too little DoF with the Zeiss as the hood is drifting OOF in a slightly disturbing way. Also with a minute or two's tweaking the colours can be close enough. It is interesting to note that knowing what is "accurate" after the fact can be very difficult.

Coming away from this experience there were a few things I was sure of:

1. I didn't enjoy having two cameras and it did impact the fun of the trip
2. Canon does have a very nice picture profile for skin tones
3. MF with a OVF or Live view on the screen is far harder than an EVF
4. IBIS is a real life saver in gloomy spaces which would really come into play during travel
5. Either the EM1.2 or the VL lenses tend to be very blue. I will probably do a write up on this one as well with some comparison shots.
6. The systems are much closer than many would like to admit in real world use.

That last point I think is the crux of this experiment. while 2 - ish stop of Dof difference is visible using telephoto lenses, it is much less so with wide normal lenses, and 1 stop very hard to notice as I was shooting often with a 1 stop difference with the 35mm.

So what do you think? Would you buy an entirely new system for a fast portrait lens?

Canon EOS 6D Olympus E-M1
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