When I was a child, there was a cartoon called “Gatchaman” (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman), with the opening theme singing “…the battle of the planets…” That’s it. I don’t know why it does come back to my mind right now. Anyway, this has nothing to do with what I want to say today. And I have soooo much to say.
The two super wide lenses in the Micro43 world.
Yes. That’s because in the Micro43 world there are two “bulky” names we have to take into consideration when we talk about extreme wide-angle lenses, since they are the hot topic of many discussions in half of the world’s forums too: Panasonic Lumix 7-14 Vario G f/4 and Zuiko 7-14 Pro f/2.8.
The first one had free reign for several years as the only quality solution for all those people who were looking for an extreme wide-angle lens, but since about one year ago it had to come to terms with an ambitious rival that has been provided with one more stop of brightness and a Pro building typical of Zuiko lenses. Which one should be considered the best?
Panasonic used with Em1 – adjustments with LR CC
This is a very difficult question to answer. That’s because, in spite of the full compatibility set by the Micro43 consortium, the lenses may have some limitations when attached to camera heads that are not from the same brand and these cases require careful considerations.
Since some years ago, camera electronics can adjust common problems of distortion and vignetting given by compatible lenses. In other words, even if they are perfectly compatible, some lenses may not be completely supported by some kinds of camera heads, so they give us something we can call “undoped” performances. An emblematic example may be the Panasonic lens put on Olympus camera heads.
I was honestly a little bit concerned by the amount of discussions and catastrophic comments about this matter, so I decided to examine it in depth by myself.
Panasonic used with Em1 – full backlight. Shot purposely taken under extreme conditions.
Now, please let me write a short introduction so that you can correctly interpret what I’m going to say later, because I want to make clear I don’t have any intention to belittle anyone who expressed a different opinion before me. On the contrary, I just want to explain and clarify how I will evaluate this case and the value I think this method will give to certain features.
- I’m not a fan of landscape photography intended as the one that recently has come to be very popular, sophisticated and “sensationalized”. I prefer a simple illustrative approach and I have never felt like needing something more advanced than my 24mm for this.
- I had been using an excellent Zuico 7-14 f/4 that was part of the 4/3 old generation for a long time. That was magnificent, but it had so many “flares”. So, I stopped to feel shocked when I see glares.
- My priority is to keep my system portable. In other words, I want to be able to bring with me everything everywhere, including the equipment I’m not supposed to use, without being troubled by the weight. In this way, if the time comes I need something I can be sure to have it with me. If not, I can be sure it hasn’t become a burden to me.
- Officially, I would use this kind of lenses mainly to take a little more sophisticated shots or exaggerate the prospective a little more in churches or in other situations, but if I find out that the feeling is good I may start to use them in a wider range of situations.
Here you are two “homemade” shots showing the pink spots problem. They appear in a situation where the main source of light mixes with sources of artificial lights hitting the frame directly. I purposely arranged the lamp like that to emphasize the conditions.
Here we come to the crux of the matter. If we look at the size and the weight of the two lenses, we notice there is a huge difference. The Panasonic lens is just like a jewel, small and portable, while the Zuico lens shows its muscles with its appearance characterized by its evident frontal lens and its building which is “like a tank”, as many people like to describe it.
The Olympus lens completes the triad of Pro zooms that are able to cover focal lengths going from 14mm to 300 mm, with a steady opening of f/2.8. Panasonic chose a more modest brightness fixed at f/4, which is quiet common among the good quality optics included in this range and among the ones made by other producers.
When we talk about extreme wide-angle lenses, we should consider that a very high brightness is often connected to a big size and the appearance of chromatic aberrations due to huge lenses: this reminded me why many people preferred to use the 17-40 L Canon instead of the brighter f/2.8: that was exactly because of its stronger resistance to the backlight.
Zuiko Pro used with Em1 – 7mm
Lumix G 7-14 used with Em1 – 7mm
In the second picture there are some halos, but the framing is not the same (I used a 7mm for both).
For all practical purposes, the two lenses are excellent. And when I say “excellent” I mean they’re at the top in their category. Olympus focused more on features like the central precision, a bulletproof building and the brightness, while Panasonic focused more on the optics quality for the whole frame (the f/4 is very helpful here) and the size.
According to what I said before, my choice would have been very simple if it wasn’t for the bad reputation the Panasonic lens has when used with Olympus camera heads instead of Lumix ones. So, what should I do?
Of course, I should see it with my own eyes.
Panasonic 7-14 used with Em1 – Jpeg exported by Raw with Olympus Viewer (the aberrations were not removed).
The same shot with LR CC after the aberrations were removed (Remove Margins).
In these days, after I heard out opinions from some of my trustful acquaintances, I tried to understand the problem, which certainly exists. However, this problem arises mostly when people start to look for forced comparisons, because otherwise the performance is about at the same level of the best wide-angle lenses. We can say that the “doping” these lenses receive when they are attached to native camera heads tends to distort their evaluation, because actually the Lumix 7-14 used with my Em1 gave me very good results even in very extreme conditions and its performance was at the same level with the excellent performance I observed with my old 7-14 Zuiko Top Pro (a lens I paid something like 2000€ at that time).
Zuiko 7-14 Pro f/2,8
Tropicalized, extremely bright and with a maf so minimal to be a record for this category. With this features the Olympus wide Pro seems to be the absolute champion. However, its weight and its size are a little bit “excessive” (of course, if we compare it with the whole system). It’s possible to get a good stabilization with it when it’s attached to camera heads equipped with BG, as any other Pro optics, and the borders quality gives way to the astonishing Panasonic with more open diaphragms. Also, in order to get a border-center balanced performance it is necessary to close 1-2 stops, but in general the Lumix lens seems to be a little better at this. I can say for sure it’s a unique lens and I recommend its use for particular shots, under unfavorable weather conditions, if you need few more diaphragms or if you want to use it in a very extreme way. It gives no problem when attached to Panasonic cameras too.
As the other similar products included in the same Pro series, you can select the Manual Focus mode directly with your focus gear, where you can see the distance scale once you unlock it.
No compromises here. It’s excellent.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4
Small, compact, fair and well built. The optics quality is excellent with splendid colors and a very good contrast. The detail, especially along the borders, is really impressive with the f/4 too. Flares can usually be adjusted with few clicks in Camera Raw and by using the tool “Remove Margins”, but the annoying pink spots appearing in some situations need to be removed manually. Anyway, I also tried to overdo it and they don’t really seem to appear in a big number.
I didn’t notice any irregularity when I used it with my Panasonic cameras, a G7. I dare to say it is perfect! If you want to consider its use with Olympus Em1, please refer to the other considerations spread in this article and in the image descriptions. There may be some “intruder” sometimes, but in general the performance is great.
A condition of mixed light that unexpectedly didn’t give any problem. Panasonic 7-14 used with Em1.
So, what should i do? Having them both would be the ideal solution. I would use the bright and professional one for set shots where I want to make the main subject stand out (the central precision is really impressive even with TA). The smallest one is good because you can carry it with you everywhere, so that you can have its astonishing quality available at any time. However, buying them both is surely difficult (but not impossible), so a choice has to be taken.
I would choose the Lumix 7-14 in spite of its small imperfections, since it can be used with Olympus camera heads (surely with the EM1 at least, I can’t say much about the previous models) with a fantastic quality and some carefulness (to be always applied when we use wide focal lenses). The photos I added to this post are very satisfying and I know that I can use it on my Panasonic G7 if I want to take full advantage from it. The price different makes me want to choose the Lumix too. Anyway, this is just like comparing Ferrari and Lamborghini, so no judgement is to be considered absolute.
So, did I make my choice?
I will take my final decision after the last test in a church where I will reproduce the conditions of a wedding event. If I see that the situation is going to be under control, I’ll choose the Panasonic lens. If I notice excessive irregularities, I’ll go for the Zuiko lens. Whatever my choice will be, I will land on my feet, but I want to be sure of my final decision and use the new purchase as much as I can.
- Update! -
I made the last test and I didn’t observe any problem. Of course, one should also consider that each tool and equipment can have a weakness, but in this case what one can do is to learn to exploit all the potential without worrying too much about what could have happened if…
Panasonic 7-14 used on EM1
Just to be fair, I made some few more tests with the Olympus too, and I say the performance is really good under backlight conditions.
Zuiko Pro @ f/2,8 used on Em1. Outstanding!! Really outstanding!
I can state with a certain level of self-confidence that the problems related to the pink spots are very contained when the lens is used with an Olympus Em1 and similar cameras (Ep5, Em5 mk2, Pen F… in other words, Em1 and the following models). There was no case where I had to intervene by applying heavy post-production. On the contrary, in the 99% of cases the file was already very good and the problem, when it appeared, was really insignificant. So, under very good light conditions, I would say it works perfectly!!!
If you just look at the whole photo, without trying to analyze it with a microscope, the problem is very restrained, but everybody knows that “it is human nature to dwell on one's misfortunes”. So, you’d better forget about this thing and do something else, instead of looking for such microscopic defects.
In the photo depicting the church, the detail is impressive and no error appeared.
My conclusion is very simple, maybe a little bit predictable, but I assure you it was suffered: it’s a tie. We can also call it an equal victory too. My “like” goes to the Panasonic mainly because of its compactness, quality and versatility, but this may not be enough to make me take my decision, because I also have to consider an intense professional use of the equipment, which sometimes may occur with unfavorable weather conditions (the hailstorm occurred in last September still reminds me about that).
So, I would summarize it in the following way.
a) If you only use Lumix/Panasonic cameras go straight for the Lumix G 7-14 f/4: it is spectacular and if you match it with native cameras it’s PERFECT.
b) In case you use both the brands, as I do, or in case you use Olympus cameras only, the choice is more difficult:
- for a non-professional but serious use (travel or reportage) giving priority to portability, I would recommend the Panasonic lens;
- for an intensive/professional use giving particular attention to the brightness f/2.8, I would recommend the Zuiko lens without any doubt.
In conclusion, both are good. The only one thing you need to understand is the kind of use you want to make of it. Surely, the Panasonic lens used with Olympus cameras is really excellent!
So, what am I going to buy?
You will find it out later. Stay tuned! :D
7-14 Pro on Olympus Em1
7-14 Pro on Lumix G7