Wide-angle micro 4/3 lens reviews

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lens Review
Introduction | Panasonic LUMIX G Vario 7-14mm F/4 ASPH | Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 | Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 is one of the first lenses specifically designed for micro 4/3 cameras in 2009, in conjunction with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6. Its very compact and light-weight design - only 22mm long and weighing only 71g - largely satisfies micro 4/3 users’ desires for a compact and light-weight lens to complement their camera bodies.

For the Olympus and Panasonic line, the 17mm f/2.8 is a relatively bright prime lens that is the focal equivalent of a 35mm. Thus it is more oriented toward landscape photography, but its intermediate focal lengths allow for other kinds of photos as well.
 
 With the expansion of the micro 4/3 lens range, however, is this particular lens still a good choice? DxOMark provides some answers by comparing the 17mm f/2.8’s performance to that of its younger (2011) cousin, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0. But before we compare, let’s first take a look at the Olympus 17mm f/2.8’s standalone measurements.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 mounted on a PEN EPL2

The ranking for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 is quite low, with a DxOMark score of only 10 points.

Strong points Weak points
Compact Weak  resolution
Light-weight Significant  distortion
Vignetting  is correct Very  significant chromatic aberrations

Comparison

Now let’s take a look at how this pancake lens compares with the newer 12mm micro 4/3 lens:

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 vs Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 mounted on a PEN EPL2

The 12mm’s DxOMark score of 19 is nearly double that of the 17mm pancake and is convincingly better for resolution, brightness, and control of chromatic aberrations. By contrast, the 17mm is quite disappointing in nearly every respect.
Unfortunately for those who would like to use an ultra-compact, light-weight pancake lens, there really aren’t any other choices yet — even from Panasonic. By contrast, some great alternatives are available, such as the aforementioned 12 mm (equal to 24mm on 24x36mm) for landscape photography — though you can also head toward the Leica 25mm (equal to 50mm on 24x36mm) if you’re more interested in the relatively longer focal lengths more associated with reportage, for example. The measurements for these two lenses are remarkable in many respects.

We will be testing two other choices soon, the Panasonic-LUMIX-G-20mm-F/17-ASPH and the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F/2.5 ASPH. But of course none of these alternatives is as compact nor as light-weight as the pancake lens.

Conclusion

To sum up, Olympus’s first micro 4/3 pancake lens was not a masterpiece, and its performance has now been entirely surpassed by the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 and the M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.8. The 17mm f/2.8’s resolution is simply insufficient for taking full advantage of micro 4/3 sensors. (It’s also worth noting that even in 2009, Olympus was having difficulties correcting the distortion at short focal lengths for this type of lens.)

All this said, the pancake lens type remains an efficacious solution to the problem of weight and bulkiness, so we should all hope that some future model will address some of the current model’s shortcomings.