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Image quality loss inherent with all adapted lenses?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by 996gt2, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. 996gt2

    996gt2 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 27, 2010
    SLRgear.com reviewed the Olympus OM 50mm f/1.8 on the E-P1, and the results were far from good (especially at large apertures).

    Here is the review if you want to see the results for yourself: http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1279/cat/14

    Specifically, this line in the review made me wonder:

    Does that basically mean that ANY adapted 35mm film lens will suffer significant image quality losses when mounted to a Micro 4/3 camera?
    • Like Like x 3
  2. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    kinda pointless argument... doesn't matter whether the lens is better or worse on m43 than it is on film - its how it looks to you on the m43 is all that counts.

    Yes there are issues with excessive light bouncing around with some lenses, and yes wider lenses suffer more because while film was happy to take light from any angle whereas a digital sensor likes the light arriving perpendicular to the sensor.

    but at the end of the its how the picture looks to you that counts

    Legacy lenses - a set on Flickr

    • Like Like x 4
  3. BillN

    BillN Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    SW France
    Thanks for the link - really interesting

    The review indicates that "wide open" at f1.8 - yes

    once you get to f5.6 things improve significantly

    If you're looking for sharp edge-to-edge performance wide open, you're out of luck with the older 50mm ƒ/1.8, but stop it down to ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6 and it's a different story all together. Its extremely soft corners wide open at ƒ/1.8 would make it quite the portrait lens on the EP-1, with its effective focal length of 100mm.

    Mounting the old 50mm on the new EP-1 was an interesting combination, and if you already have a collection of older OM glass looking for a home, the Olympus adapter could give them a new lease on life"


    Wide open at ƒ/1.8, the 50mm is not a sharp lens, particularly in the corners. At this setting we note a fairly linear progression from a center point of relative sharpness (2 blur units) to corners which are very soft (9-12 blur units). Stopped down to ƒ/2.8 however, this corner softness is very effectively reduced (4-5 blur units) and we see a larger and sharper central region (1.5 blur units).

    Stopping the lens down to ƒ/4 improves sharpness further, and by ƒ/5.6 the lens is essentially as sharp as it will get, with results of around 1.5 blur units across the frame. There is some negligible improvement at ƒ/8, and diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11 (even so, the lens is sharp at 1.5 blur units across the image). Fully stopped down at ƒ/16, the lens provided results of 2 blur units across the frame.

    Obviously, sharp corner-to-corner performance is out of the question when used wide open at ƒ/1.8, but for portraits this isolating corner softness could be very useful."
    • Like Like x 2
  4. grebeman

    grebeman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2010
    South Brent, south Devon (UK)
    It is almost certainly the case that adapted lenses do suffer cause loss of image quality as shown by the test quoted. That loss is significant when the lens is used wide open, but as pointed out in the test might be more acceptable in for example portrait photography.
    Once stopped down as might be the case for more general photography the softness evident when wide open is much less.
    Of some importance I feel is the reasonable control of chromatic aberration and the excellent control of distortion built into the lens from the design stage, there is no reliance on software to control such problems as evidenced in modern lens design.
    Also of course there is build quality and the sheer joy (for me anyway) of using these older lens (although I am an unashamed Luddite), that makes any short comings seem to be less of a problem when using these lenses in more general photography (not to mention the cost factor).

  5. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I've red about this issue and seen it in my OM 50mm macro, rokkor 58mm and supertak 50mm, also to a lesser extent, a couple of zooms.

    It seems to me that a wider lens, like 1.4, gets acceptably sharp sooner than say a 1.8, but i have not done any real testing on that.

    Also, that's been one reason I've not gotten more expensive glass like leica or voigts, because I'm assuming the same effect would be there???
  6. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    Here is list of compatible OM lens' that are preferred for 4/3 & mu4/3, this list is taken from the Olympus site, sorry I don't have the link, hope you can view this list, may need to be enlarged.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
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    • Like Like x 7
  7. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    Here is the list for zoom lens.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    • Like Like x 3
  8. robertro

    robertro Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 22, 2010
    Be cautious about generalizing...

    One old 50mm f1.8 (there were 5 different varieties of this lens, this is one of the oldest) does not a very good sample make for generalizations. The problem is that 30 year old lenses have each experienced a different history of bumping/cleaning/etc... The one they've tested performs reasonably well, but I wouldn't read much into this test beyond that.

    • Like Like x 1
  9. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Fantastic. Thanks so much. Just what was needed. I wonder if this list applies to other digital cameras of different formats. For instance, I wonder how they'd do on my canon 5d.

  10. 996gt2

    996gt2 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 27, 2010
    I wasn't reading too much into the test. I was simply interpreting the quote from Olympus regarding light bouncing around in the adapter and sensor chamber.

    They way it was stated implies that any lens designed for 35mm film will have the same issues on a Micro 4/3 body.
  11. stingOM

    stingOM Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 24, 2010
    Folks, I would not worry about such things unless you are striving for perfection! It is how you use the lens (composition and lighting) that ultimately counts.

    See for example E-300 + Zuiko 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I know what I am talking about...
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    • Like Like x 9
  12. brnmatsumoto

    brnmatsumoto Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 18, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    This is a fascinating article and series of posts.

    It always struck me that the attraction of using legacy lenses is the adventure of finding something that would work on a Micro Four Thirds body. As such, we simply used what worked and enjoyed using our cameras to take pictures. Whether the results matched or exceeded what we could have accomplished with a Micro Four Thirds lens never seemed to be the main attraction for using these lenses.

    Subjectively, I compared a Nikon MicroNikkor lens to the Olympus Four Thirds Macro on my Panasonic G2 body and it seemed that the Nikon lens generated a softer, less contrasty image than the Panasonic. But the difference was not so great that I abandoned using my MicroNikkor. Indeed, I use it more than my Olympus lens because manual focusing in macro felt more precise with the Nikon lens over the Olympus. In this instance the practical aspect of what felt better in the field was more important than the improvement in optical performance.

    If there is a moral to this story is one has to test ones legacy lens to see if its performance satisfies the photographer.

    • Like Like x 1
  13. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I believe there will always be some relative loss in using a legacy lens on m4/3 compared to a full fame equivalent simply because of the resolving power of the lens itself. By taking just the center crop of a 50mm lens you cannot help but lose some resolution.

    But when I would use my 4x5 view lenses on my medium format technical camera I had the same issue with resolution loss and excessive coverage bringing in a larger image circle. It is always a trade off. I think the excessive light is a real, but small, issue, that would probably affect contrast slightly at worst and be easily corrected post processing.

    Can I make bigger prints with a full frame? Sure. Am I printing at all? Very rarely. Just the occasional 8x10 and 11x14 and m4/3 is fine for that, and definitely great for digital - I am still out resolving any digital TV out there.
  14. NetizenSmith

    NetizenSmith Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 28, 2010
    Simply not true. I took this last week using a 50mm Canon fd f/1.8 wide open. This is a 100% crop JPEG straight from the camera.


    This lens is probably able to resolve more on a 35mm film camera but then a good low ISO film is higher resolution than my G2's sensor anyway so there really isn't a problem.
    • Like Like x 2
  15. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    It's going to be near impossible to derived any sort of generalized conclusion regarding image quality across "all adapted lenses". There are just way to many variables... from the quality of the lens, adapter, focal length, and condition.

    In the end all that matters is the quality satisfies you personally. I am pretty convinced that the lenses I like to adapt out perform the native lenses from 35mm and on. I haven't made up my opinion on wider angle lenses which is why I purchased the 9-18mm native zoom.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. NetizenSmith

    NetizenSmith Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 28, 2010
    Well quite, I just wanted to dismiss the subject of this thread. This 50mm FD lens is at least as sharp at f/1.8 as my 14-42mm kit lens is wide open. So, for me, image quality of manual adapted lenses is not an issue. Size, weight and lack of autofocus is another matter of course!
  17. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
  18. Photography Is About Difference . . .

    . . . in the film days it was about
    cross-processing, creating soft focus
    using petroleum jelly on a lens filter,
    dodging and burning with custom
    instruments, boiling negatives (a la
    Erwin Blumenfeld), or any other
    technique you can think of to
    create 'imperfection'.

    In these days of digital one option
    is to use legacy lenses. Uncoated
    lenses will produce slanted colours
    and other aberrations, older lenses
    will be soft providing wonderful
    'antiqued' images.

    Then, as if that's not enough, some
    legacy lenses provide wonderfully
    sharp results such as the Pen F Zuiko
    25mm 2.8.

    Forget about sharpness and camera
    magazines, instead pick up a woman's
    fashion publication. I guarantee many
    of the most interesting portfolios will
    be 'imperfect' in terms of camera-club

    • Like Like x 1
  19. michaelfinch

    michaelfinch Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 24, 2010
    Lancashire, England
    A crude measure: I downloaded the two test images. At 300dpi they are approx 12inches x 10in. I sharpened them 200% (Radius 1.5/threshold 3) and at normal viewing distance they look fine. If that translates into the real world..........
  20. robertro

    robertro Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 22, 2010
    No, there's nothing "inherently" bad about m4/3 native lenses or about 35mm legacy lenses adapted to m4/3 bodies.

    If you accept lack of autofocus, and dismiss lenses that have been abused, you will find as many good and bad lenses as you do from vendors today. You'll certainly find a greater variety of legacy manual focus lenses - e.g. you can often get a faster lens and/or a smaller lens - consider the superb Rokkor 58/1.2 or the pin-sharp and tiny Zeiss/Contax 45/2.8 pancake. Legacy manual focus lenses can provide you with capabilities that Panny and Oly will likely never get to, in their continuing drive to provide a minimal product line and then change lens mounts ;-)

    BTW, there's plently of research/evidence on legacy lens performance on the manual focus forums that can help you differentiate between the better and not-so-good lenses out there.
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