best/sharpest uwa or wa lenses for landscape photography f8-f11

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by icolquhoun, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. icolquhoun

    icolquhoun Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2013
    Long Valley, NJ
    Hi all,

    This post will be kinda long and all over the place.

    Getting into this more and more after getting my EP3 in August. I'm looking to get a good (or several) lens to increase the IQ of my landscape photos (95% of my shots). I am currently shooting an OLY 14-42 IIR, and while it's size is great, the IQ is less than stellar :wink: I also have the 40-150 and an adapted Canon 50mm f1.4 SSC fd that is so sharp it's insane. I'm looking for a lens as sharp as the Canon

    If I had 1k to spend (my absolute max budget), what lens (lenses) should I be looking at? The lens should be sharp as a tack at f-f8 and suffer from minimal diffraction at f11 I don't care about sharpness at anything less than f4, low light or fast AF

    I really am leaning heavily towards the 12-40, but that consumes all of my budget, and I'd still need to get a 62mm CPL and VND filter.

    For FL, I shoot the kit at 14mm almost all the time, so something wider might be nice, but if your suggesting the 12, I might as well spend a little more and get the weathersealed and more versatile 12-40. I really like zooms for their versatility. I often backpack and cycle almost daily and bring along a camera with one lens, so primes, even pancakes, are most likely out. I do, however, shoot narrower and stitch quite often and am not opposed to this, so UWA isn't really really needed.

    Is the 9-18 even worth considering if the 12-40 is also on the table??? 7-14 is out due to lack of filter support and issues on oly.

    I guess my options so far in order of preference seem to be:

    14-45 and 7.5FE
    9-18 and 7.5FE
    14 and 7.5FE

    Thanks for any and all comments and suggestions
  2. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Diffraction isn't as dependent on lens design as it is on the physics of optics. In other words, maximum sharpness of µ4/3 lenses will be at f 5.6 or larger apertures. Keep in mind that a µ4/3 lens with the same FOV as a FF lens, will have twice the DOF as the FF. So the DOF of µ4/3 @ f5.6 equals f11 on FF. I would also suggest shooting the 14-42 at 14mm and run full a full series of f stops to see how much diffraction impacts sharpness as you stop down.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. icolquhoun

    icolquhoun Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2013
    Long Valley, NJ
    I did just this several times and the 14-42 anywhere after f8 gets noisy (or at least less sharp)
    For landscapes, If I need everything in the frame tack sharp I'm using f11 (not into focus stacking just yet) if there is nothing way out there then f5.6 or f8 works great for me. This is where I need my new lens to be Crisp and clean with good contrast. the 14-42 just isn't cutting it in this area.
  4. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    After f/5.6 you can potentially run into diffraction issues. But the sharpness of the lens is going to have a bigger impact than diffraction before you go over f/11.

    One of the pro lenses like the O12-40 or P12-35 will give you a lot of sharpness. So will the 9-18, for that matter. I've heard good things about the new Panasonic 12-32 pancake zoom, at least at the wide end. But I don't think it has been tested as thoroughly.

    I believe you could get even sharper with a camera that has no AA filter. But I think only the EM-1 has removed that.
  5. inuini2005

    inuini2005 Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 17, 2011
    Indeed for wide angles I only own the Oly 12, the Panny 7-14, I would say both of them are quite good, especially if you know how to use them. For the 7-14 distortion can be issues so you have to be careful when using it. For me, I also own the OM 21mm F2, which on a full frame body it's very good, but on an M43 maybe it doesn't fit your requirements.
  6. TetonTom

    TetonTom Mu-43 Regular

    There's nothing wrong with the 9-18 IMHO. I had been using a Nikon 12-24 (which is a highly regarded UWA zoom) with a D7000 before switching to m43 earlier this year, and for my uses (travel landscapes and adventure sport) the resulting images are of very similar quality.
    I also still have the 12-50 which came with my EM5, and to be honest is probably as good at 12mm as is my 9-18.
    For landscapes (and this just came up on another thread), I don't get too concerned with lens technical details, as landscape photography seems to me to be about 90% in the vision and 10% in the execution. A talented landscape photographer gets great images out of nearly any camera/lens combo you put in their hands. No matter what I shoot with, my wife nearly always gets better landscapes than I do, with her iPhone...
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  7. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Real Name:
    Doug Green
    If you really want the best solution, get the 7-14 lens and use it at f5.6 - For landscape photography, the depth of field will be sufficient for anything that's more than a few feet away out to infinity. And if you have an issue with purple blob flare, get a dedicated inexpensive Panasonic body, like a GX1 or G5 to use with it. The fact is, diffraction WILL become an issue at f11, no matter which lens you choose. The laws of physics are immutable on this issue.

    If you are budget constrained and really need filters, and also can't deal with the bulk of another body (cycling or backpacking) the only other viable choice that gets really wide and is rectilinear is the 9-18. If you are really serious about landscape photography, 12mm isn't wide enough. IMHO.
  8. icolquhoun

    icolquhoun Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2013
    Long Valley, NJ
    thanks everyone for the replies thusfar!!!

    I know I can't really go wrong with any of the lenses mentioned, which is such a great thing about the m43 format!!!

    I'd tend to shy away from the 12-32 as it can't MF

    is the 9-18 and 14-45 or 14-42ii a good bet then??? considering the Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II ASPH instead of the 14-45 as it seems to be a better lens
  9. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    as the previous poster was trying to point out; it's not the lens causing the problem 'after f8'; it's physics.

    you can put the sharpest glass (12-f2) on the front and it's going to degrade as you go through f8 let alone above.

    dof is an illusion anyway, so the sharpest overall impression for landscapes will come from the best lens, focused at the right distance at around 5.6 on a 43 sensor.

    whether to choose the 12 or 12-40 will come down to the flexibility offered and any weight considerations. the 9-18 will obviously give you a wider view and is significantly sharper than the 14-42, but lacks the ultimate IQ of the above two lenses. the 12 is about the same weight as your 14-42 and the 12-40 is 3x that weight. 9-18 is a lot closer to the light end than the weight of the 12-40!

    there's also the P 12-35

    wouldn't expect to see much difference between 14-45 and 14-42 unless you have a poor copy of the latter.

    7.5FE is a completely different matter; so much would depend on your priorities in any image (and the little matter of always being able to select your framing though selecting your vantage point!

    I think you would be surprised at how good the 9-18 is, and taking the weight and flexibility of the focal lengths into account it would be my choice in your situation as I understand it - just don't expect it to perform at f11!

    edit - started typing this an hour ago but got distracted!!! I see others have covered most now....
  10. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Real Name:
    My vote goes to the 9-18, too. I have tried the 7-14 and the 12, and the difference at f4 to f8 is very difficult to see, if it is there at all. Defishing the 7.5 also leads to less sharpness, especially at the edges and corners. I have had some success with panoramas using the 17 1.8, but the 9-18 is absolutely my favourite.
  11. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
  12. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    Ture, the laws of physics are immutable on this issue, but its the aperture diameter that is the determing factor and not the f/stop.

    Despite many well meaning posts on this topic, it is NOT the camera format (m43, FF, ...) that should be considered, at least directly, but the lens FL. The physics are such that it is the absolute size of the aperture (the hole) relative to the wavelength of light that is the determining factor. The shorter the focal length the larger the f/stop at that critical aperture diameter. The minimum usable aperture will be a smaller f/stop the longer the lens FL. WA and UWA lenses on m43 are very short FL lenses thus their minimum usable f/stops, before defraction starts to take a big bite in IQ, are relatively large, larger than the minimum f/stop for a telephoto on m43.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. daum

    daum Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2011
    So that's why my photos aren't sharp at f16-f22. So I've been shooting long exposures at f8 with the 7-14. Is f5.6 the best aperture to shoot at for sharp photos?
  14. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Real Name:
    Doug Green
    At the wide end, yes, I would stick to f5.6. At the longer end, f8 should be fine.
  15. beameup

    beameup Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 23, 2013
    I have been shooting landscapes/seascapes with the 9-18mm 4/3rds lens for years.
    Since I use it on my E-510 infrared-modified camera, I always use a filter.
    I have an assortment of 72mm Hoya and B+W IR filters as well as a polarizer.
    I also use the lens on my E-620 which is "stock". Outstanding results!
    I leave the lens set at f/8.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    I've noticed that my 30/2.8 and my 14/2.5 aren't as sharp at f8 as they are wide open. I was surprised but now at least I know why. The 30 still does well at f9, BTW, but I only use that when I want more DOF.

    I got the 7.5 fisheye TODAY. I was playing around with it, taking 1" handheld exposures and such. I deleted most of what I took but I can say as many before me have that the colors are good and the lens is sharp! Distortion is only around the edges. I cropped an image and the middle 50% of the images looks similar to the 14. So, whatever lens you buy, the fisheye is there to bail you out whenever you need wider. You have 16MP to defish and/or crop; and the lens is sharper than the 7-14 across the frame even after defishing from what I've seen, so if you go for something that isn't as wide and add this puppy on you'll still be happy man.

    Here's a photo of the only one I bothered to focus!

    BTW, I work selling homes and I need to take photos of rooms. I got the fish so I think I might starting using that, but then I'd have to defish. Today I took some pics and already uploaded them. What did I use? The 14/2.5 with the $100 Panasonic UWA 11mm converter on it. Works great for that purpose with no defishing. f2.5 too. I planned to get rid of that 11mm converter lens after getting a fisheye or a 12-32 but when you think about it it's still the best way to take photos of rooms unless if I get the 12-35 or 12-40. I'll keep it for that purpose alone, although I only use it a few times a year :( But, for you, 14 + 11mm converter might be something to consider.
  17. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    a timely reminder to qualify everything regardless of the context provided by the thread; I was also guilty of not adding in "using a lens at around 12mm FL......."
  18. CarlB

    CarlB Mu-43 Veteran

    I end up shooting a lot of landscape. There's one landscape zoom that's excellent yet doesn't get much consideration - it's sharp corner-to-corner, has great contrast, has OIS, nice range for landscape, superb build, and fast aperture: the Fujinon 18-55mm. Equivalent field of view to an m43 13.5-41mm zoom range, so definite wide-angle to normal zoom.

    No, it doesn't work on an m43 camera, but it can be had with the Fuji X-E1 for $899 new (Amazon). The X-E1 turns out to be a superb landscape camera: "contrasty," excellent resolution, dynamic range, high-ISO that's close to full-frame performance, color (well, with anything but "flat" light). It's output is about the same as the newer X-E2, although it does have slower focus - but that's not an issue for landscape. Great control interface, evf that's great for landscape.

    Output files are quirky. Many recommend a raw converter called "Photo-Ninja" to get the absolute sharpest results. But that's a relatively small price to pay to get exceptional output image quality.

    No, I'm not "trolling for Fuji." ;^) I still shoot m43, four-thirds, Nikon V1 and enjoy them all. It's just that at $899, the 18-55mm Fujinon (with camera, heh) is an amazing value for landscape.

    Oh, and when you're ready for the next Fuji lens - the Fujinon 14mm. Look it up on Just a fantastic "really-wide-angle" landscape prime. Sharp as all get out, very low chromatic aberration, and surprisingly linear considering it's field-of-view: 10.5mm equivalent for m43 (i.e., wider than the Oly 12mm).
  19. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    I've been tempted by Fuji many times (love the primes), but I would really question whether a Fuji is an ideal choice for a landscape focused camera given the X's challenges with green foliage, even with jpegs or careful processing in Photo Ninja and other 3rd party raw converters. Also, seems like there is a trade of base ISO detail versus high ISO noise. They seem a lot better suited for people, street, reportage, etc.?
  20. Ranger Rick

    Ranger Rick Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 11, 2009
    Tempe, AZ
    Real Name:

    Where I live (Arizona), no problem with dealing with green... :)