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Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

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Gary from Seattle Veteran Member • Posts: 3,795
Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

I have had these lenses for 5 years, but seldom had occasion to compare them because I really don't often use both of these lenses on the same or similar compositions. But on September 4th I took a few images with the 12-40 @40mm that didn't look very sharp at all, yet the ISO was fine and the SS was good. Only a small part of the image was sharp and yet there was little depth in the image as it was at a distance of a few hundred yards. But I also shot that image (set of 4) at F4.5, whereas I would usually shoot at F7.1. A little earlier I had shot essentially the same image from a different location at F7.1, 40mm. That shot looked very good.

Anyway this experience made me think. Yesterday I shot a good deal with the 35-100 F2.8 because I had it on the camera for birds. Basically, shooting at F5.6 and F7.1 with the telephoto, I was blown away by the image quality. They were just incredibly sharp and from corner to corner and center. It seems to me, and this is hard to compare directly, that the 35-100 F2.8 is actually sharper than the fantastic 12-40.

This was shot as a 11.4MB LSF jpeg reduced here to 5 MB.

For those of you who have both the 12-40 and 35-100 F2.8, what is your guess as to the relative sharpness of these two lenses? Lens tests seem to give a slight advantage to the 12-40.

As to the dilemma with the early September 40mm shots, my conclusion at this time is that my particular 12-40 lens may not, for some reason, be sharp at 40mm F4.5. I would have little experience with this because I would seldom try to shoot the 12-40 at F4.5. I normally shoot in the range of F5.6 to F7.1 and occasionally at a higher F-stop for DOF. Obviously this is something I could test at F4.5.

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whumber
whumber Senior Member • Posts: 2,729
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

Here you go.

12-40 PRO

35-100 f/2.8

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 33,023
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?
1

The 12-40/2.8 reputation among the pixel peepers is that it is at its "worst" at 40mm, but I've never seen a real problem.

As I have both lenses (12-40/2.8 plus 35-100/2.8 V2) I guess later today after doing the chores I could try a few 40mm shots with both and see what I think.

In my case I will compare the camera jpegs and also the raw through DxO Photolab2 Elite results to see if anything significant shows up.

Regards...... Guy

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 33,023
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?
3

Guy Parsons wrote:

The 12-40/2.8 reputation among the pixel peepers is that it is at its "worst" at 40mm, but I've never seen a real problem.

As I have both lenses (12-40/2.8 plus 35-100/2.8 V2) I guess later today after doing the chores I could try a few 40mm shots with both and see what I think.

In my case I will compare the camera jpegs and also the raw through DxO Photolab2 Elite results to see if anything significant shows up.

Initial quick check of the jpegs at 100% has me sometimes thinking the 12-40 is best, other shots the 35-100 best, but only by a pixel peeping margin, real life would not see any differences.

Other faint thought was that the 35-100 seemed to deliver a whisker better contrast than the 12-40 but nothing that a slider can't fix.

Also compared the pair to my Sony RX100M6  and at pixel peeping levels the Sony is the "worst" and again in real life hardly any difference apart from better depth of field with the Sony 1" sensor.

If you can see a difference at normal full screen size or on say an 8x10 print then there must be something wrong with your 12-40.

Later, probably much later, I will grind away with DxO and see if anything changes at all.

The light kept changing on me with fast moving clouds so one day when the sun shines more reliably I may do the test over again.

Regards..... Guy

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OP Gary from Seattle Veteran Member • Posts: 3,795
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?
1

Guy Parsons wrote:

The 12-40/2.8 reputation among the pixel peepers is that it is at its "worst" at 40mm, but I've never seen a real problem.

As I have both lenses (12-40/2.8 plus 35-100/2.8 V2) I guess later today after doing the chores I could try a few 40mm shots with both and see what I think.

In my case I will compare the camera jpegs and also the raw through DxO Photolab2 Elite results to see if anything significant shows up.

Regards...... Guy

Here is the image that first made me question my 12-40. If you allow your eyes to wander up the sunlit buttress from it's lower part to it's upper, the lower is sharp enough but the upper part is horrible, yet there is really nothing to indicate this is a depth of field issue. I shot F5 because I wanted maximum detail on the sunlit buttress. I really don't understand this as this image is much worse than others at whatever focal length.

Look only at the sunlit buttress and the trees beneath it.

I don't have many images where texture is consistent across an image to be able to evaluate relative sharpness well. And for my purposes the 12-40 has always been very good as I evaluate it. My standard has been to be able to move my face to about 9-10" from my screen until I can start to see the limits of my system's resolution. And that is fine.

I went back to spring images and don't see this problem. But in recent images where there is sufficient texture for evaluation I am seeing a tendency for the upper left part of the image to be less sharp. Does it make sense that the lenses have been disturbed or suffered wear in such a way that this might be happening?

Secondly, in my case there is no doubt that the 35-100 is significantly sharper - in fact amazingly so. I can consistently bring my eyes to within 9" of the screen. I think even at Lenstips or at Optical Limits, they are testing just one or a few lenses and perhaps there is enough variation that I lucked out in getting a superb copy of the 35-100. I was curious if others had found the same in comparing the two lenses, no matter the particular focal length shot.

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pannumon Senior Member • Posts: 2,410
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?
1

The bottleneck for sharpness in your image is not the lens/sensor/format but the density variation in the atmosphere. Light bends depending on the density or the air, which itself depends on the temperature. This causes turbulence and in many cases gaussian blur.

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 33,023
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

That is indeed an odd result. Focus was don't know where as the distant mountain is quite blurred as well.

To remove the possibility of "murky air", how does it behave when say, filling the frame with a house (or part of it) from the street?

Sunny, no wind, this morning here in Sydney so will try a few more compares with more reliable light - but first it's breakfast time.

My default good light MySet leaves me always at f/5.6 so I'll stick to that for both lenses to see if there's any significant differences for close or far shots at 40mm.

For general scenery I always use small centre box AF and focus on furthest detail in the scene, hold half press and reframe to shoot. I leave IBIS always on and use zero second anti-shock. I have no fully electronic shutter ability with my generation of M4/3 gear.

Regards.... Guy

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Guy Parsons
Guy Parsons Forum Pro • Posts: 33,023
More testing

Clear cold bright morning here in Sydney so compared the 40mm setting on 12-40/2.8 - 35-100/2.8 - and  the 45/1.8 all at f/5.6 aimed at some buildings 2.4km distant and also at some power pylons somewhat further away.

With 100% view at the camera jpegs I really can see no difference in detail, all look the same apart from my earlier comment that the 12-40/2.8 delivers slightly, only slightly, less contrast compared to the other two tested.

So my conclusion has to be that your 12-40/2.8 has a problem, or there is some user error creeping in.

Regards..... Guy

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OP Gary from Seattle Veteran Member • Posts: 3,795
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

Guy Parsons wrote:

That is indeed an odd result. Focus was don't know where as the distant mountain is quite blurred as well.

The distant mountain in sun was beyond the possibility of DOF at 40mm, F5. What I was concerned about having in focus sharply was the sunlit buttress. I used MF with Focus Peaking and was unconcerned about the shaded mountain nearer to me, but just the sunlit buttress. I wanted and obtained sufficient sharpness on the background pinnacle given that it was shaded and that one wouldn't look at the detail in the shade. The skyline of the shaded pinnacle needed to be "sharp enough" so as not to be distracting.

To remove the possibility of "murky air", how does it behave when say, filling the frame with a house (or part of it) from the street?

There is no way here that it is murky air as this is in good light, sidelit, and the distance here is but 200-300 yards. The amount of water vapor or atmospheric pollutants is directly proportional to the distance to the subject, provided there is no inversion.

Sunny, no wind, this morning here in Sydney so will try a few more compares with more reliable light - but first it's breakfast time.

My default good light MySet leaves me always at f/5.6 so I'll stick to that for both lenses to see if there's any significant differences for close or far shots at 40mm.

For general scenery I always use small centre box AF and focus on furthest detail in the scene, hold half press and reframe to shoot. I leave IBIS always on and use zero second anti-shock. I have no fully electronic shutter ability with my generation of M4/3 gear.

Certainly IBIS was on Auto and zero second anti-shock was employed. But the problem is not uniform across the frame at a given distance (which eliminates DOF issues).

It shows up here, too, at 40mm, F7.1 - notice that the trees both yellow and green on the left of the image are clearly less sharp than those towards the right of the image. Although I was not braced as I shot, I was careful as I shot.

12-40 @7.1, 40mm.

Compare this to a 35-100 image shot at F 7.1 and 48mm. I was braced here below.

35-100 @ 48mm, F7.1

This latter is much sharper. Yet from the same above shoots, my wider angle 12-40 images don't show this across-frame variation in sharpness...

This is odd and I am sure the lens was not this way until recently, and I know I have never dropped or banged the camera or lens. It would seem this situation has just developed with usage or perhaps by pressing on the camera as I put it into my pack in a LowePro Toploader (which is very cushioning).

I have a good way of verifying, as I gave my sister my original 12-40 and so I can shoot some detail and compare the two sets of images.

Thanks, Guy.

Regards.... Guy

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Paul De Bra
Paul De Bra Forum Pro • Posts: 12,639
Mine is very good at 40mm (even though not the very best).

As already said the 12-40 is weakest at 40mm but mine is still very sharp at 40mm throughout the frame. I noticed that a lens can be still sharper around 40mm when I got the 45mm f/1.8 but that's a prime lens and is stopped down more at the same aperture. I only noticed that a zoom lens can also still be sharper when I got the the 40-150 f/2.8. The difference is still so small that I would not hesitate to shoot the 12-40 at 40mm even with the 40-150 sitting in my bag. (I don't like swapping lenses too much.)

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Jouko Senior Member • Posts: 1,637
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

Strange... Don't have either lens myself, but the reputation of these lenses is good enough.

Do you have a filter on each lens? If yes, try some samples without.

For focusing - Images like that would not need MF, AF should work fine. And DOF will be wide enough to cover everything even the lens wide open. Only, if you have something meaningful much closer to the camera and the focus pointed there, the infinity will be softer.

On the first image I would have blamed heat waves. But the second set, there is a real difference in the image quality. So, back to the filter question. And do you have the OIS on in the 35-100mm lens? How is the camera body set? IS on/off?

Cheers!

Jouko
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OP Gary from Seattle Veteran Member • Posts: 3,795
Re: Here is a real question re: 12-40 versus the Panny 35-100 F2.8?

Jouko wrote:

Strange... Don't have either lens myself, but the reputation of these lenses is good enough.

I have never had the occasion to question the sharpness of either previously and have shot this lens for about three years. On an Olympus body, I prefer the color saturation and contrast of the 12-40; that I've noted previously. But on image quality my 35-100 is a bit better even on images with no problems.

Do you have a filter on each lens? If yes, try some samples without.

All were shot with a polarizer, but not the same ones in the September and October images as I had a polarizer roll down a steep unrecoverable hill in late September. Both are B&W.

For focusing - Images like that would not need MF, AF should work fine. And DOF will be wide enough to cover everything even the lens wide open. Only, if you have something meaningful much closer to the camera and the focus pointed there, the infinity will be softer.

I use MF in landscape to control better DOF. In the case of the 40mm shot, DOF at F5 was not sufficient to obtain good focus from the nearest part of the image in the September image to the background. But I made sure focus was best at the depth of the sunlit buttress because I wanted maximum rock detail on that particular image. The top and bottom of the buttress were very close to the same distance away from me, and the bottom is plenty sharp. Ordinarily, I would have used F7.1, but the lighting was great polarized on the sunlit buttress.

On the first image I would have blamed heat waves. But the second set, there is a real difference in the image quality. So, back to the filter question. And do you have the OIS on in the 35-100mm lens? How is the camera body set? IS on/off?

The 35-100 I does not have OIS and the camera is always set ti IBIS auto for my images.

I need to compare this lens, but the inconsistency begs the question of whether a particular lens in the camera is perhaps loose and can move? I just tried shaking the lens and it makes a noise unlike the 35-100 and the 75-300, which are my other zooms. I'll compare that to my sister's 12-40.

Cheers!

Jouko
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