Best Native Micro-Contrast/Rendering in 2021

gimlithepirate

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What is the favored lens these days for good micro-contrast and great rendering on m4/3?I've got a Pen-F with a PL 20mm f1. 7, Oly 30mm Macro, Oly 45 f1.8, and Oly 9-18. I've been shooting m4/3 for 10 years at this point, and have taken some amazing pictures. I love the system for its size and macro capability, but my skill (and budget) has grown a lot in that time. I've also started shooting Medium Format film which is another beast entirely, though I love the way the images look.

Point is, I've now used Zeiss and other great rendering lenses on other systems, and I'm wondering what the best "3D pop" good rendering lens is on m4/3 is these days. When I started out it was the Pana-Leica 25mm f1.4, but there have been a lot of lenses since then. I also will say the 45mm f1.8 is my favorite lens I currently have.

Any suggestions of lenses you love? This is purely subjective, I'm looking for lenses other people have connected with to take great photos!
 
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The 20mm f1.7 is a very good lens in so many ways. Lumix really hit a home run with that, and it's very close to the Pana/Leica lenses in terms of rendering. The 30 macro is also excellent, but I've only so far used it for close up shots.

My favorite are pretty much any of the Pana/Leica series of lenses. To me, they have the most natural look, gentle sharpness that is not overly exaggerated with a long tonal range that holds detail in the highlights and contrast in the shadows. The Leica designs for Lumix are very much in keeping with the general Leica philosophy for their own cameras. I shot Leica M & R gear for a long time through the 80's and 90's, and I can say that there really is a difference. The only Pana/Leica lens that has not been up to snuff is the 45 macro, very mediocre at best. The most amazing lenses are the 10-25 and 25-50 f1.7 zooms. They seem to have no weaknesses, and again, the rendering is primo.

I found the Olympus Pro lenses to have a very blocky look, almost crunchy in rendition. I've had a bunch of them, and now the only one I have that works for me is the 75 f1.8 which is an older design for them and has a very different look than the newer Oly Pro lens designs. I had a copy of the Oly 45 f1.8 and found it to be pretty weak wide open. The Lumix 42.5 f1.7 is much nicer, to my eye anyway, but not as nice as the P/L 42.5 f1.2. The Oly 60 Macro is also superb.

I used to have a bunch of Zeiss lenses on my Canon's years ago, and found them to have better contrast in the shadows and to hold more highlight information than the Canon lenses, but they suffered from a lot of CA.
 

SpecFoto

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My long time favorite M4/3 lens, the P/Leica 42.5 f1.2 Nocticron. OOF areas are beautifully rendered and the lens is sharp across the frame. When shooting portraits closeup at f1.2 you have a very narrow DOF and need to open up to get the full face in focus though. Here is an example at f 4.5, though for me the subject still pops. Having her eyes, face, hands and roses in sharp focus was more important the blurring out more of the background.

2nd would be the Olympus 75mm f1.8, a really great lens.


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gimlithepirate

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The 20mm f1.7 is a very good lens in so many ways. Lumix really hit a home run with that, and it's very close to the Pana/Leica lenses in terms of rendering. The 30 macro is also excellent, but I've only so far used it for close up shots.

My favorite are pretty much any of the Pana/Leica series of lenses. To me, they have the most natural look, gentle sharpness that is not overly exaggerated with a long tonal range that holds detail in the highlights and contrast in the shadows. The Leica designs for Lumix are very much in keeping with the general Leica philosophy for their own cameras. I shot Leica M & R gear for a long time through the 80's and 90's, and I can say that there really is a difference. The only Pana/Leica lens that has not been up to snuff is the 45 macro, very mediocre at best. The most amazing lenses are the 10-25 and 25-50 f1.7 zooms. They seem to have no weaknesses, and again, the rendering is primo.

I found the Olympus Pro lenses to have a very blocky look, almost crunchy in rendition. I've had a bunch of them, and now the only one I have that works for me is the 75 f1.8 which is an older design for them and has a very different look than the newer Oly Pro lens designs. I had a copy of the Oly 45 f1.8 and found it to be pretty weak wide open. The Lumix 42.5 f1.7 is much nicer, to my eye anyway, but not as nice as the P/L 42.5 f1.2. The Oly 60 Macro is also superb.

I used to have a bunch of Zeiss lenses on my Canon's years ago, and found them to have better contrast in the shadows and to hold more highlight information than the Canon lenses, but they suffered from a lot of CA.
Thanks for taking the time to write it out! This is exactly the kind of responses I was looking for.

Let me ask you this, if you already had the 20mm f1. 7, would it be worth getting a Pana Leica 25mm f1. 4? Is the rendering enough better to be worth having both lenses? The 20mm is my most used lens by a long shot, but there are times I wish I had more focus seperation to work with.
 

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The lens that sits at the top of my list is the 40-150/2.8. It reminds me of a compact version of Nikon's 70-200, one of my favorite lenses. Then again, I find it easier to get "pop" from a fast telephoto lens under many shooting conditions. The two lenses that I have yet to discover their magic, despite having owned them for over 9 years, are the 25/1.4 and the 75/1.8. They are not bad lenses but any means, but they just do not give up that magic that often with what I shoot. The 20 somewhat falls into that latter category to a degree as well unfortunately. My workhorse lenses are the 12-40, followed by the 40-150 and the 60 macro.

Good luck,

--Ken
 

Bushboy

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Please excuse my ignorance, but seeing you guys seem to know what your on about, now would be a good time to ask, what is great micro contrast and fabulous rendering?
Welcome glimthe pirate. Aye Aye!
 
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Thanks for taking the time to write it out! This is exactly the kind of responses I was looking for.

Let me ask you this, if you already had the 20mm f1. 7, would it be worth getting a Pana Leica 25mm f1. 4? Is the rendering enough better to be worth having both lenses? The 20mm is my most used lens by a long shot, but there are times I wish I had more focus seperation to work with.
They are different beasts. The 25 f1.7 is no slouch either. The Summilux is the best of them all, but they are all good.
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I mostly shoot my lenses wide open, unless there's a compelling reason to stop them down. I like the separation, but I also like that I can hold context, which with full frame it's a bit harder. I get the light gathering of a fast lens, with more useable DOF.
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gimlithepirate

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Please excuse my ignorance, but seeing you guys seem to know what your on about, now would be a good time to ask, what is great micro contrast and fabulous rendering?
Welcome glimthe pirate. Aye Aye!
Good question. Since I started this I'll take a stab at it xD

Most modern lens reviewers focus on sharpness graphs, with maybe some notion of Bokeh. Beyond that, review typically boil down to specs, I.E.a 1.4 lens is a half stop better than a 1.7 lens. Its a convenient way to compare and contrast, but it's not really the whole story.

Some people, particularly those of us used to shooting or looking at legacy lenses, are looking for "something else." Unfortunately, that something else is mostly subjective. For me, I started shooting Medium Format zeiss glass after shooting Medium Fomat Mamiya glass from the same area, and the difference was immediate and undeniable. The zeiss stuff wasnt just sharper. Things seemed more real, and had more depth and definition on them. And this was an "apples to apples" same format and film stock.

Zeiss marketing has talked about "micro-contrast" as the source of this look. Basically, it's the largest difference between a dark dot and a white dot next to eachother that the lens can render. Ideally, it gives tonality and definition not just to edges, but also to the natural variations in surfaces. Keep in mind though, there is no real electronic score for micro-contrast, though DxO has tried a couple of times. It's not easy to measure.

Finally getting back to my question, what I'm looking for are images that give good 3D pop, not just by having a smooth background and sharp in focus area, but also by capturing the texture and tonality of a surface. That's not an easy thing to measure. A great photographer can sometime pull that out of a mediocre lens through usage of light and composition. A great lens makes achieving that really easy. Which gets back to why this is a subjective measure. I've gotten "magic" shots with my 20mm f1.7 and 30mm macro, but other in this thread didn't care for them. We shoot different photos, and as such different lenses work for us, but neither of us is doing that with a kit lens.

Tl;Dr : it depends, but boils down to what lenses do people get their favorite photos with, the ones that just seem to jump off the screen at them.
 

gimlithepirate

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They are different beasts. The 25 f1.7 is no slouch either. The Summilux is the best of them all, but they are all good. View attachment 914198 View attachment 914199 View attachment 914200
Lovely images! The lens is great, but the composition really makes it shine.

The main reason I've been coming back at this is the 25mm Summilux is now surprisingly affordable used. I'd come pretty close to jumping to a full frame system, but the last set of images I pulled up were so good, I'm just not seeing the need right now. This made me realize the only lens I have that was purchased because it was a great lens, and not because it was the most affordable decent option at a given focal length was my 20mm f1.7.... So maybe I should spend some time finding a great lens for the system I already love.
 

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Please excuse my ignorance, but seeing you guys seem to know what your on about, now would be a good time to ask, what is great micro contrast and fabulous rendering?
Welcome glimthe pirate. Aye Aye!

It took a while before I figured it out. For me the difference is does the lens render the scene in a way that mimics how I see. Is there a subtly to the eyelashes and hair or is it overly sharp or just mushy? Does the lens hold detail in the highlights and contrast in the shadows? Is there a differentiation between the mid tones or does it just look flat? Does the scene look like you can reach out and feel it?

Like a previous poster mentioned, Zeiss glass looks different from Mamiya glass. Nikon and Canon glass Is different from Leica glass.

It can be hard to put your finger on but once you see it, there’s no going back.
 
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Lovely images! The lens is great, but the composition really makes it shine.

The main reason I've been coming back at this is the 25mm Summilux is now surprisingly affordable used. I'd come pretty close to jumping to a full frame system, but the last set of images I pulled up were so good, I'm just not seeing the need right now. This made me realize the only lens I have that was purchased because it was a great lens, and not because it was the most affordable decent option at a given focal length was my 20mm f1.7.... So maybe I should spend some time finding a great lens for the system I already love.

I work professionally and ALL of my competition shoots FF. My clients always say that there is a difference in my files, they can’t put a finger on it, but they say what I give them just seems more true to life. Full frame won’t make your images better. Your technique, where you stand, when you push the button, how you perceive light, and how you frame the chaos around you will. Good lenses help because they don’t get in your way or cause more problems than they solve. Good lenses for M4/3 are so much more affordable and sized so you can actually carry them.
 

gimlithepirate

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I work professionally and ALL of my competition shoots FF. My clients always say that there is a difference in my files, they can’t put a finger on it, but they say what I give them just seems more true to life. Full frame won’t make your images better. Your technique, where you stand, when you push the button, how you perceive light, and how you frame the chaos around you will. Good lenses help because they don’t get in your way or cause more problems than they solve. Good lenses for M4/3 are so much more affordable and sized so you can actually carry them.
So true. Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective!
 
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