Disappointed with Oly 9-18 lens. RANT

Art

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I acquired Oly 9-18 lens during recent sale on refurbished lenses so I got a good deal. I decided to return the lens as I found the results not even worth the discounted $400. Without a doubt, it was by far the worst performing lens I have used on m43 format. IMO, it lacks colors, contrast and sharpness at 9mm, details are smeared in the corners. Very dull images unless post-processed. Granted, I am not experienced in UWA so I am comparing this lens to Panny 14, 20, PL25, Oly 40-150, Pany 14-45, Oly 45mm, Pany 45-175, Rokinon 7.5. All of those lenses are just so much better, it's not even funny.
I tried to like it and even posted some pictures in the image archive section. The images seriously lack punch and required a lot of post-processing for CA/purple fringing, sharpening, contrast, saturation, etc. None of the images could come close to the sharpness I'm getting with RX100. The sharpest setting on 9-18 was 18mm (not the reason I bought the lens).
To conclude, IMO, 9-18 only has its FL going for it. I'd rather do stitching or defishing than dealing with dullness. Rokinon gives me lush, contrasty images with incredible sharpness and punch which are retained even after defishing w/Hemi plugin. No pixel peeping needed, one can just mount another lens and see the colors pop on LCD or EVF.

I have no desire to try another 9-18 copy. Will stick with my trust Panny 14 and Rok 7.5. After over 3 years with m43, I finally got.a mediocre lens.
 

mrjr

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As someone who is very keen to own a 9-18mm, I'm curious about what type of subjects and settings you were shooting. I'm wondering if it would be disappointing with dull light, but quite better with good light. Most people seem to think highly of the 9-18mm, as offering good performance, good build, and a very useful range. It's good to hear another viewpoint, though.


(I'm interested to use it for hiking and urban settings, mainly. My main concerns aren't with sharpness, and not so much with contrast, either. I'm aware I'd have to deal with or live with some CA, though, which is a downer.)
 

MAubrey

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Art: when just about every review on the web says the the lens is best at 9mm and yours is the worst at 9mm, that should be a red flag. I'm sorry you got a lemon. That's never fun.

mrjr: On the CA question, it certainly does exist. But it's also significantly less of a problem on the 9-18mm than it is on the 7-14mm, which until Olympus releases their 7-14mm f/2.8, is the only real alternative.
 

HarryS

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My refurbished 9-18 zoom is the most expensive lens I own at $500, and I had expected less of the plastic feel and more of a prime-like image quality, so I was initially disappointed.

I have grown to appreciate it. The compact form and plastic build is an asset on small camera, and makes it easy to carry in a bag or pocket. Compared to lens I already own, it's better than the 14-42 zoom where they overlap, as it should be. It's better, a bit sharper, far less fringing, and more versatile than my Panasonic 14mm with/without the 11mm GWC1 adapter. I don't have anything else like it at the wider end unless I consider the Rokinon fisheye. In light where one pops, both pop is my experience. If neither pops, there's LR4.

By the way, stitching in hugin is great fun, but I never know what's going to happen with a defish. Sometimes it works. Other times nothing happens In any case, I wouldn't want to do more than one image a day with either process.

I find the overall product to be in line with the formal reviews. It's pretty good, but not great. The 7-14 is great, or better anyway. I'm not taking on the size penalty and paying $968 for greatness (current amazon price). I do think the 9-18 is not a $699 lens (current BH photo price). It's more like $500, and the $399 refurbished price at the Olympus store when they are in stock would be very fair.
 

alexcox

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My experience with this lens has been very good. It's the 35 equivalent of an 18-36mm which is a nice wide zoom, and mine is sharp at both ends. Perhaps its greatest virtue is its tiny size (much smaller than the Panasonics) which makes it a very good match for a small camera body like the GF1. So perhaps the poster did get a bad version.
 

Art

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Quite possibly a lemon, considering it was refurbished. However, I am somewhat discouraged to try another copy. While I think another copy might be sharper, I doubt it'll have better color/contrast. The low quality build is also quite annoying. I can't recall a $400 lens which felt as cheap.
 

MAubrey

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Art, there's always variation, especially in zooms. Look at how bad the variation is for the $2300 Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II:
http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/11/canon-24-70-mk-ii-variation

If you look at the reviews, you can see that there's variation there, too. Photozone.de has the worst (reviewed) copy, though it sounds like yours was still much worse. DxO and Ephotozine must have received excellent copies, since at identical focal lengths, the Olympus 9-18mm is essentially identical in to the Panasonic 7-14mm with less CA. And DxO is actually testing actuance (contrast) rather than resolution.
 

GBarrington

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Have you tried the DSLR version?

Have you considered the DSLR version? When I bought my E-M10, the sales clerk and I tried all of my Olympus DSLR lenses out on the M10 with the Olympus 4/3s adapter. What surprised BOTH of us was just how FAST the DSLR 9-18 was to auto-focus, and by all accounts I've read, the DSLR version is superior in optical quality. And I could see and feel the difference in build quality.

We had no way to actually test the speed difference in the shop, of course, but I felt that if someone could live with the slightly larger lens, they would be much happier with the DSLR version. For me, the 9-18 is a low volume lens in that it isn't something I use every day, so the extra bulk is acceptable to me.
 

FlyPenFly

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If you look at SLRGEAR's graphs, the 9-18 is a decent lens stopped down a stop but nothing really close to the 7-14.

That about reflects the performance of the 3 copies I've had. Of course a single 7-14 takes the same amount of volume of three 9-18.
 

dhazeghi

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It sounds to me like you got a bad copy of the 9-18. Yes, it is weaker than the other lenses you mention, but those are differences that will be visible viewing at 100%, not at 50% or smaller (except maybe CA).
 

MAubrey

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If you look at SLRGEAR's graphs, the 9-18 is a decent lens stopped down a stop but nothing really close to the 7-14.
Indeed, but we need to rephrase that. What you actually meant was this:

If you look at SLRGEAR's graphs, the copy of the 9-18 that they had available for testing is a decent lens stopped down a stop but nothing really close to the 7-14.
Assuming we all know something about lens testing, then we also all know that a divergence that huge on the Olympus test at f/4 is evidence of a decentered element. And that evidence is easily confirmed when take in comparison with the results of other review sites.

But beyond that, did you also notice that at f/5.6 both the 7-14mm and the 9-18mm have very nearly identical corners at SLRGear? At f/5.6 the difference is miniscule.

Let's go through the other reviews on the internet...

DxO (SLRGear, incidentally is using DxO's software):
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Or in graph form:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)



Here, there is little difference at all. In fact the only reason we're stopped down to f/5.6 in DxO's tests was because the 7-14mm that they tested is noticeably weaker at 10mm than their copy of the Olympus 9-18mm is at 9mm.

So in the case of DxO, you might have instead written:

If you look at DxO's graphs, the copy of the 9-18 that they had available for testing is an excellent lens both wide open and stopped down a stop and superior to the 7-14mm both wide open and stopped down.
Ephotozine for the 9-18mm:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Ephotozine for the 7-14mm:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Here, the Olympus is weaker in the corners wide open, but at f/5.6 and at f/8, the Olympus is significantly sharper in the corners than the 7-14mm is at any aperture.

So in the case of Ephotozine, you might have written:

If you look at Ephotozine's's graphs, the copy of the 9-18 that they had available for testing is a decent lens wide open but it's quite excellent at both f/5.6 and f/8 where its corner resolution completely trounces anything the 7-14mm can do at any aperture.
I don't doubt your experience of your three lenses, FlyPenFly. And I don't doubt that Art quite unfortunately got a lemon--especially since lemons always leave a bad taste in your mouth. And I'm sorry that your three copies look more like SLRGear's copy than they look like DxO's copy or Ephotozine's copy. I truly am. My own looks like DxO. But let's not pretend that your experience is universal for all copies of this lens.

It isn't.
 

orfeo

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Will Art buy a 9-18mm at retail price so that he can have that illusive sharpness from a non lemon? I doubt so...
When you have a lemon with any kind of equiment, it's only logical and understandable to question the quality of the item in question isn't it?
 
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Funny story: I also had both the 9-18mm and the 14mm at one point, and ended up getting rid of the 14mm because I disliked the vignetting and was always having to make an allowance for cropping because of corners that were never sharp at any aperture.

Amazing the difference that sample variation will make.
 

dhazeghi

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Will Art buy a 9-18mm at retail price so that he can have that illusive sharpness from a non lemon? I doubt so...
Why should he? They've got a 30-day refund/exchange policy. It may take a little time, but there's no need to pay retail.
 

heli-mech

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If you look at SLRGEAR's graphs, the 9-18 is a decent lens stopped down a stop but nothing really close to the 7-14.

That about reflects the performance of the 3 copies I've had. Of course a single 7-14 takes the same amount of volume of three 9-18.
Well when looking at SLRgear's graphs with both set at 9mm f/5.6 (pretty reasonable aperture for general wide angle use, and both 1 stop down) the 7-14mm has better center sharpness, slight edge advantage but everything equals out by the corner. The 9-18 has higher average CA but the 7-14mm has noticeably higher maximum CA. I will admit the 9-18mm is very weak at 7mm though:wink:
 

HarryS

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Art, I looked at the shots you submitted to the 9-18 gallery when the zoom intrigued you.. They are too small, so I cannot see anything to complain. The color and composition look igood. Is the rant that all of these needed PP to be presentable?

courtroom
San Mateo Museum
Buildings
 

Art

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Art, I looked at the shots you submitted to the 9-18 gallery when the zoom intrigued you.. They are too small, so I cannot see anything to complain. The color and composition look igood. Is the rant that all of these needed PP to be presentable?

courtroom
San Mateo Museum
Buildings
I had to a lot of PP to add some punch. Those are downsized, sharpened, levels/contrast adjusted, CA corrected, etc. They are not sharp at 50%. I typically take pictures of family/friends so I don't post a lot of those. Those images are much harder to process cause of skin tones involved. Bottom-line, the results are way worse than I get with any of the above mentioned lenses. Mind you that all of those lenses are cheaper.

It's not about FL anymore, I'd rather use my Panny 14 with plenty of micro-contrast, vibrant colors and superb sharpness without the need to sharpen anything extra. Since other users report getting excellent results with 9-18, I may try another copy in the future.

Again, this is not pixel peeping thread, dullness is obvious at normal viewing size. Mount another lens and magical Oly colors and punch are back (e.g. Rokinon 7.5). I can see the difference instantly in live view on the LCD and EVF.
 

Bif

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Quite possibly a lemon, considering it was refurbished. However, I am somewhat discouraged to try another copy. While I think another copy might be sharper, I doubt it'll have better color/contrast. The low quality build is also quite annoying. I can't recall a $400 lens which felt as cheap.
I just finished working a batch of images shot with this lens on a Panasonic GH3, subject was railroad junkyard stuff. I routinely run the LEVELS command on all work to snap a bit more "life" into images that are OK out of the camera but much better with a few seconds of work.

I got colors and contrast that look much like what I used to get with Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome 64 (which were my two favorite color slide films) with strong brilliant yellows, greens, blue skies, and great earth tones.

I shoot with both Panasonic bodies and with an Olympus OMD E-M5, I have an assortment of both brand lenses including the 14, 20, 25mm Pan/Leica, 45-250, Oly 45mm, 75, 40-150, and of course the 9-18.

I used to have Canon 7D, 60D, and T3i with 2 "L" series (one being the 17-40 f4L) lenses along with some EF primes and a couple of EF-s zooms so I know what good optical performance is.
 

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