4/3 lenses - a gamble worth taking?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by dhazeghi, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    The price of secondhand 4/3 lenses seem to still be dropping. Granted, I already have one 4/3 lens - the ZD 12-60 - but I'm finding myself wondering whether I should take advantage to add a few lenses I've been eying for a long time - namely the ZD 50-200/2.8-3.5 (<$400), ZD 35-100/2.0 (<$1200) and ZD 50/2 macro (<$250). But even the 14-54/2.8-3.5 (<$175), 11-22/2.8-3.5 (<$300) and 14-35/2 (<$1200) are starting to look attractive.

    The problem of course is autofocus. For the good lenses (the 14-54II excepted) AF barely works on m4/3 cameras. It's loud, slow and inaccurate.

    In theory, Olympus will be releasing a camera in 2013 capable of taking full advantage of these lenses. However, I do have misgivings:

    1. Will the camera also accept m4/3 lenses? The rumors have been typically unclear on that point.
    2. Will Olympus's definition of usable autofocus meet mine? They've done well recently (native lenses on the E-PM1) but not nearly so well in the past (see the E-3).
    3. Will the camera be a brick aimed at the E-5-toting members of the 4/3 faithful, or something more in line with the E-M5?
    4. Will the camera be a one-off item - a special design just to placate 4/3 lens owners until native replacements exist?

    The question for me is - is it worth picking up some of these 4/3 lenses based on the assumption that there will be a usable body for them by the end of the year?

    The upside is obvious - good lenses, at very good prices. Of course if the camera isn't what we're hoping for, the downside is that the lenses will be useless to me thanks to the poor AF.

    Thoughts or suggestions?
  2. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Real Name:
    Great question. I've been contemplating this myself, but was hoping that Oly would come out with an adapter that would allow the 4/3 lenses to focus quickly and accurately on an m43 body. It now seems as if they'll be coming out with a hybrid m43 camera that can focus PDAF lenses quickly. I can't imagine this wouldn't also accommodate m43 lenses.

    The problem is I don't want to buy another body, certainly not a bigger one. . . I want to be able to use 4/3 lenses on my existing m43 bodies. Looks like I might be out of luck.
  3. McBob

    McBob Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 22, 2012
    Noticed the same thing as I was considering buying the Panasonic 35-100... I'm mostly a filmmaker and don't use auto features anyway, so the only clear advantage I've been seeing in the Panasonic f2.8 to the Oly f2 is its compact size. I've been happily using the Leica 14-50/2.8-3.5 for a couple of years now as my standard AF100 zoom.

    If having small lenses that autofocus quickly isn't a concern, a person could do a heck of a lot worse than the f2 oly zooms.
  4. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Real Name:
    I've also been thinking along these lines. In particular, I've been looking at the 50/2 macro. Now seems like it should be a great window of opportunity to buy. It's been 2 1/2 years since a 4/3 body has been introduced, but rumor has it that an E-7 might be announced this fall (at Photokina?). If that happens I would expect to see the values on these lenses to bounce back.

    Since I'm used to the E-PL1/P20 combo, and haven't been particularly bothered with the slow focus performance (or more likely, I haven't yet really experienced and gotten spoiled by the faster focus of the newer :43: or DSLRs) I don't worry about the slow focus issues all that much.

    That said I`d love to hear from anyone who has used these lenses. I'm looking at you, Ned. :wink:
  5. troll

    troll Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 25, 2012
    Where did you find those prices? I've bought 50/2 and MMF-3 recently and now am in the process of getting a 12-60, and maybe a 50-200, and I haven't seen anything close to the prices you mention. Got a used 50/2 for $285 and the lowest price it ever sells on ebay is $269+ (except the one odd lot sold on January 15). The same with all the other lenses you mention, would love to know where to get some of them at those prices.. :smile:
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    The alternative is a 4/3 camera without an OVF using mirrorless technology.

    Actually for video, I'm not sure I see the appeal given that the resolution is nowhere near enough to show the difference between the f/2 zooms and the slower alternatives. But they certainly are great lenses optically.

    Right, assuming the E-7 isn't just a rewarmed E-5. Even if the prices jump 15-20%, they're still drastically better value than most native lenses.

    Craigslist mostly, although occasionally I see a good deal on Fred Miranda or 43photo.com. I try to avoid eBay when possible.
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  7. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Real Name:
    They say the successor to the E-5 will be a mirrorless model that excepts both 4/3 and micro 4/3 lenses, a kind of E-7/EM-7. If Olympus does that, and it works right with the 4/3 glass, I'll bet the used prices on those items start to rise again. Something to think about anyway.
  8. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    "They say"? Who says? I haven't seen anything but rumors. Personally, I wouldn't assume you'll be able to get rapid AF with 4/3 lenses on a body than also provides support fo m43 lenses.
  9. iGonzoid

    iGonzoid Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 6, 2011
    Tasmania, Australia
    I am very happy with my fairly recently acquired Olympus 4/3 11-22mm f2.8-3.5 in terms of optical quality and the wide aperture. Yes, the AF is creakingly slow and loud, but mostly I use it for skyscapes and landscapes, for which the 11-22mm range is absolutely ideal. It is large and heavy — a monster in comparison with my previous widest lens, the tiny P 14mm f2.5. However, on the stength of the 11-22's performance and versatility — the 11-22 range is just made for my "normal" to wide needs — I have since sold the P 14. I don't mind large/heavy lenses as long as they do the job. Once you have a good 4/3-m4/3 adaptor, why not pick up a couple of cheap oldsters? Their build quality is good and they should last well.

    An example from the 11-22:

  10. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    I had the 50 2 macro on the e-p1. The AF was not fast but seemed pretty accurate. A wonderfully sharp lens.
  11. Declan97

    Declan97 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 3, 2012
    Padang, Indonesia
    Since im shooting in both ft&mft, i've always bought a lens that always can be use for both system so yes i dont have any native mft lenses:)

    Just had my zd 50-200 ed (mk I) to replace my sigma dc 55-200 and much prefered the mk I because the swd noise was too noisy when use with my pl2. And the af is acceptable

    So now with zd 14-54 mk2+50-200 mk1, and some legacy....will explore it further.

    Thinking of either the zd 25/2.8 or sigma 30/1.4

    So yes,its working if we know the limitation and know how to handle with it

    Sent from my 4.2.2 aokpac I9100 power by epl2
  12. Rockinggoose

    Rockinggoose Mu-43 Regular

    Since owning an E-M5 I have sold three 4/3 lenses:

    1. ED 50-200mm SWD - because not only was the AF painfully slow but even when confirmed it was inaccurate
    2. ED 300mm f2.8 for the same reason
    3. ED 50mm f2 because the AF was too slow for a fast moving insects and it wasn't a true macro anyway

    Having since bought a Canon 7D plus 400mm f5.6 lens for in-flight bird photography I would not now plan to use any Olympus lens for this purpose, as none have been able to deliver the performance I now get with the Canon even when I used them on the E5.

    • Like Like x 1
  13. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Actually, longevity is a major concern using CDAF on these lenses because of the extra wear and tear on the motor. I've had problems with SWD motors in the past when used on regular 4/3 bodies, and I can clearly hear the extra stress that m4/3 puts on them. Regular micro-motors should be a bit safer, but they're still not designed for the constant small focus adjustments that m4/3 causes.

    Interesting. I used the 50/2 briefly with the E-P2 and found it unusable in autofocus mode - 3-4 seconds to focus and often missing entirely at near distances.

    For action photography requiring tracking AF, I don't think Olympus is (or ever was) a good choice. But if fast, accurate S-AF is sufficient for your uses (it is for mine), then it may make sense. Of course, considering how the E-3 behaved, they could easily botch that too.
  14. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Another thing that came to mind is that if the MegaPixel race continues, we're soon going to be stuck with 24MP (or higher) cameras. Considering how many lenses are already marginal at 16MP on m4/3, that makes the option of (relatively) inexpensive, sharp lenses all the more attractive...
  15. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Real Name:
    Interesting point about the stress that CDAF puts on lenses which were not designed for it. I hadn't thought of that. In that light, are there any particular 4/3 lenses that would be more likely to encounter the types of issues you're describing?

    I'm curious as to which lenses you find offer "marginal" performance on the new sensors. What is this a function of?
  16. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    The SWD lenses - the 14-35/2, 12-60/2.8-4.0 and 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD version - are the worst from what I can tell because the motors are designed to move the lens elements quickly and so with CDAF they do a lot of very rapid starting and stopping.

    Lens design. Large pixels requiring less resolving power than smaller ones, so you see more of a lens's shortcomings on higher MP cameras. For example, my old Nikon 70-300/4-5.6 VR offered outstanding sharpness on the D700. I put that same lens on a D800 though and I was not capturing anything like 1.7x the linear detail that I was on the D700, which is what the increased resolution would allow.

    Pretty much all of the m4/3 zooms I've used on the E-M5 are in a similar category. They're not outresolving the sensor at any focal lengths, regardless of aperture. That includes the Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3, 14-42II R/3.5-5.6, 40-150 R/4.0-5.6, Panasonic 14-42X/3.5-5.6, 14-140/3.5-5.8 and briefly the Olympus 9-18/4-5.6 and 14-150/4.0-5.6. That's not to say there's anything wrong with them, but if I upgrade to a new body to gain resolution in the future, I'll probably have to look at other lenses or sacrifice much of that gain.
  17. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Personally, I like the SWD lenses because they're mechanically linked which has a tactile advantage in manual focus. Though really the fly-by-wire 4/3 lenses are also very smooth and accurate in manual focus so it's really not a big difference.
  18. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Good point, though I've gone through two SWD motor failures (not m4/3 related) so there are downsides too. Besides, if manual focus is your thing, legacy lenses are easier to focus and less expensive than either option.

    Personally, the less manual focusing I do, the happier I am. Perhaps if I shot in a studio, I'd feel differently...
  19. Kiwi Paul

    Kiwi Paul Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 15, 2011
    Aberdeen Scotland
    I've owned the 9-18, 14-54 Mk1 and 2, 12-60, 50-200 SWD and 7-14, 14-35, 35-100 and 90-250 SHG lenses when I used the 4/3 system.

    I was never really that smitten with the 14-54, it just seemed a good lens but nothing really special. The 12-60 and 50-200 are very good lenses with excellent IQ and performance with 4/3 cameras, all the SHG lenses are simply unreal.....and huge and heavy!!!!!
    I really think the Pany 7-14, 12-35 and 35-100 f2.8 lenses are as good as any of the 4/3 zooms except the SHG lenses, but there is no way I'd go back to using the SHG lenses purely because of size, weight and cost.

    The only 4/3 lens that really doesn't have a m4/3 equivalent is the 50-200, (either SWD or the earlier version), there is nothing close to 50-200, f2.8-3.5 with excellent IQ in m4/3 and I have considered getting this lens again a few times. It would handle wonderfully with my GH-3 and for the type of photography I do, the slower auto focus wouldn't be too much of an issue.

  20. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    That's fair, although part of my point was that right now, the secondhand price of the SHG 14-35/2 and 35-100/2 is around the same as the native Panasonic f/2.8 zooms.

    Looking forward, I'm not that convinced about the performance of the Panasonic f/2.8 zooms on say a 24MP or 28MP E-M7. SHG lenses on the other hand look like they should be fine.

    The 50-200/2.8-3.5 is definitely a gem. But I'd say the 12-60 is also missing a m4/3 equivalent. The 12-50 is much slower and softer, the 12-35/2.8 is much shorter and lacks close-focus.