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Micro Four Thirds Lens Rumors and Speculation

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by Amin Sabet, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Many of you have heard the rumors of about upcoming lenses for the Micro Four Thirds System. Other rumor sites such as 43 Rumors and Photo Rumors have made a variety of predictions including:

    According to several sources, the Lumix 25/1.4 is basically a sure thing, but don't expect it to be cheap. Although many people are quick to point out that a 25mm f/1.4 lens for Micro 4/3 will produce the same angle of view and depth of field as a 50mm f/2.8 lens for 35mm format, a good f/1.4 lens simply costs more to design and produce than an f/2.8 lens does. If the shallowest DOF for your buck is a priority, 35mm or medium format is the way to go.

    Even within a given format such as 35mm, there are f/1.4 normal lenses and there are f/1.4 "normal" lenses...

    [Warning: rampant speculation and opinion ahead]


    The best indicator of what we might expect in terms of pricing for an upcoming Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 lens for Micro 4/3 is probably the price for the existing Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens for (non-Micro) Four Thirds. Knock a couple hundred bucks off if the lens isn't labeled "Leica" or "Summilux", but we're still likely looking at a $750+ lens (initial pricing).

    As long as I'm speculating, here are some thoughts on the other rumored lenses:

    Olympus 12mm prime seems both plausible and likely. There is a lot of desire within our circles for a prime lens bordering on ultrawide, but it's sometimes difficult to say whether enthusiasts are a major target market or just an echo chamber. Sony's research clearly determined that there was a market for such a lens, increasing the likelihood that Olympus would be thinking along the same lines.

    Olympus 50mm prime also seems plausible, though perhaps not as likely. There is no lens I would rather see than a 50mm lens faster than f/2, squarely within the traditional "portrait" lens category. The fact that Sony has such a lens on their (? rumor ? official) NEX roadmap again indicates that their market research shows that such a product could be successful, and it seems that 50mm lenses are amongst the best selling lenses on APS-C DSLRs.

    That said, I'm not convinced that a great 50mm f/1.8 lens for Micro 4/3 could be produced and sold at the super low prices we see for 50mm f/1.8 lenses originally designed for 35mm format and used on APS-C DSLRs. Even at a considerably higher price point (I'm guessing $400-500), I would stand in line to buy such a lens, but I don't have a good feel for just how long that line would be.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and call BS on the Panasonic 7-14mm OIS redesign rumor. It seems totally implausible that Panasonic would devote the resources to redesign a universally lauded ultrawide lens to put image stabilization in the lens. OIS would be almost worthless for still photography with such a wide lens. Perhaps the addition of OIS could be useful for handheld video, but again, this would have to be a low priority for Panasonic research and development.

    For the same reason, a Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 redesign seems highly improbable. It's already a great macro and general use lens (currently my favorite lens from amongst all my Micro 4/3 and Pentax lenses), and I don't see what has to be a small target market for a revision as justifying the R&D necessary to make it happen. Frankly, there is no precedent for such a short term iteration of a high end macro lens. How long did it take for Canon to bring out a 100mm macro redesign?

    The most interesting to me of all the rumored lenses is the Panasonic 12-50mm f/2.5-3.3. I'd like to see a faster, higher end, standard zoom lens for Micro 4/3, but here I think we have a case of wishful thinking from the enthusiast crowd. A faster zoom is almost certain to come at some point, but I don't think it will be this year, and I am nearly certain it won't have these specs. Through their current lens offerings, all of the compact system camera companies have established small size as a key differentiating feature from DSLRs.

    There are several ways to keep a lens small:

    • Use software to correct optical flaws like barrel distortion (not a bad thing - benefits size and price while maintaining great end results)
    • Limit the lens speed: A faster option for Micro 4/3 will likely be f/2.8-f/4 variable aperture, not f/2.5-3.3
    • Limit the lens focal length range: A faster lens for Micro 4/3 will likely be limited to less than or equal to 3x zoom, not 4.2x as in the case of this rumor
    The current rumor sounds like it came from someone daydreaming about the current high-end lens offerings for (non-Micro) Four Thirds. Lots of people in our circles want such a lens, but if it has to be larger and heavier than the current 14-140mm lens, how many of us who came to this system because it is small are going to plunk down for it? Same goes for weather resistance: quite a few loud voices calling out for it, but I suspect that the target market is quite small.

    These companies have much more to gain by investing research money in designing smaller, cheaper zooms than they do in larger, more expensive ones. Consider the size of these current standard zoom options from Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony:

    [​IMG]

    A few observations from the above:

    1. The Sony NEX zoom is not large relative to its peers. It has a reputation for being a huge lens, a reputation explained by the fact that it gets mounted to a tiny camera.
    2. The Olympus zoom is the only one which barely makes for a coat-pocketable pocketable camera. This is achieved by using a collapsible design, a tradeoff which in practice suits some but not all photographers.
    3. Panasonic actually made the 14-42mm lens larger than the 14-45mm lens it replaced. I have no idea why they did this, but they did at least make it a bit lighter.
    Why are the Panasonic lenses, designed for a Four Thirds sensor, as large as the Sony lens designed for APS-C? In part, this may be attributable to Panasonic's desire to produce very high performance kit zooms. Indeed, the two Panasonic zooms have better edge/corner performance than the APS-C zooms from Sony and Samsung. Here is a representative f/5.6 corner crop from a shootout I published at Serious Compacts (Note: The Olympus lens used here was the previous 14-42, not the higher-performing redesigned lens currently packaged with the E-PL2):

    [​IMG]

    I can't help but think that Olympus and Panasonic could make their standard kit zooms even smaller. With the smaller Four Thirds sensor, could Olympus and Panasonic perhaps sacrifice a bit of edge performance to design a standard zoom in the "coat-pocketable" size range without a collapsing design? That remains to be seen, but it's a sure bet that considerably research is being done towards that end.

    In closing, I predict that we'll see new smaller Micro 4/3 standard zooms before we see new faster ones.
     
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  2. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    Oh man, Amin... I saw a long post.. saw oly 12 in bold... I nearly jumped because I thought there was some new official word on it =)

    I have to somewhat disagree w/ a 7-14 OIS redesign. I honestly think Panasonic will go head first into making the AF100 work (and it's successors). It would not surprise me to see an ultrawide OIS lens for that purpose. BUT, I do not believe we'll see it this year. I would argue it's of medium priority.

    I'm with you on the lens size. I was actually surprised how close the sony was to the 14-45. Though, being slightly narrower does make a difference to me. I'm totally baffled at the increase in size of the new panasonic 14-42
     
  3. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    I'm really hoping for the 50mm at 1.4. That would just be an incredible addition to the system and really convince some of the "pros" to move in, which would drive the system further. And if it's $500.00 then the line will be a long one. I think you'll nearly double that.

    The fast zoom would already be nice.

    I already have both the 20mm 1.7 and PL25mm 1.4 and unless it's significantly better than the former or smaller/cheaper than the latter I can't see why they would bother with a 25mm at this stage. Same for the Oly 12. Why, when there's the panasonic already there. They're better off going for a hole in the range. But I've seen Olympus do some very strange things before, so who knows.

    But, I will say that it's an exciting time for us gear heads!

    Gordon
     
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Sorry, Linh! I did my best to avoid that by putting "Rumors" and "Speculation" in the thread title, but I know how it can go :rofl:.
     
  5. sherlock

    sherlock Mu-43 Regular

    83
    Mar 31, 2011
    I'd definitely jump on a 12mm prime — there's definitely a market for something like that. Wide-angle is the new black, or so they say.

    A 35mm or 50mm prime would also fit the bill (I like a three-prime kit), especially if it was a pancake. Voigtlander does MF 35mm, 40mm & 50mm pancakes in M-mount, but a Pana, Olympus or Pana-Leica lens in this range would be fantastic.
     
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  6. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    while I agree with you that enthusiasts often forget we represent a tiny part of the market, I would argue that there are some VERY good marketing reasons for them to produce fast lenses - the most significant being an upgrade path. How many people are out there like me that are essentially done buying lenses until something significantly better is available? The other is low light performance. Let's face it, m43 will always be at a sensor disadvantage to APS-C and FF, however, this could easily be made up for by bright lenses.

    Lastly, about the size comment ... I bought into m43 because it is a smaller alternative. A bright m43 zoom will always be smaller than the same focal length range and aperture in FF. LENSES DON'T HAVE TO BE DESIGNED FOR MICROMINIATURE proportions at the expense of aperture! For evidence, look at the size reductions on the 7-14, 9-18, and for that matter ALL the lenses converted from 43 to m43. But what does that mean in $? This is a business after all ...

    The high ISO performance gap between m43 and APS-C appears to be widening, not shrinking. The temptation is not to buy a newer m43 body, but to switch completely. It costs a company much less to keep a customer than to gain a new one. For the m43 to keep customers, and therefore make money, they need bright lenses to minimize the low light performance gap and provide an upgrade path.
     
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  7. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    892
    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    I have no opinion on Panasonic rumors, but they seem to have a clear strategical plan for :43:. Basically, they dipped a toe into regular 4:3, backed out, burned their bridges and are now in the process of creating a convergence between still imaging and video. This implies they only release top notch lenses, useful for both applications. And they do it at a very tight price point for each new :43: piece they release - kudos to them, they do a tremendous amount of effort to spread :43: into the mass market !

    Olympus strategy is much less clear cut. Again, I think all this boils down to 4:3 ultimate fate. At the moment, it seems they still view :43: as a mid-price consumer object, and still target the more lucrative amateur high end market with 4:3. After all they need to recoup their investment into the e-5. But to avoid denting the 4:3 user base, they have to hold back on high quality, pro-grade stuff. Tellingly, the latest low-end camera (e-pl2) has everything the high-end one (e-p2) offers, and then some, for half the price. Dumbfounding, to say the least. So, either regular 4:3 is on the way out, and we can expect 2 high end lenses to pave the road for an hypothetical pro featured e-p3, with integrated viewfinder and other expected pro amenities, or they stick to their 4:3 cash cow for a couple of years more, the to-be-released e-p3 being simply a step up from the current e-p2 (maybe with pany G3 16Mpix livemos sensor), and I bet the expected lenses will be again consumer grade items, just a slight notch cheaper than Panasonic's counterparts, and of much less optical quality.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers,
     
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  8. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    that and dynamic range. the clipping my GF1 hits sometimes is quite annoying. So far, the NEX lens lineup and lack of a real hotshoe keep me with m43. But if we see more X100 type things... I could possibly jump ship if we don't see some gains in the next generation of sensors. Well, jump whenever my GF1 finally breaks, heh.
     
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  9. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    Very interesting and informative post! I'm new to M43 and very interested in where the platform is going. Like most, I ask the fundamental question - is M43 going where I am going? Put another way, will the platform evolve to the point where a semi-pro like myself can completely abandon APS-C and larger formats? I look at the tea leaves and see the following:

    1 - Waning support for 4/3. Not surprising, really, when you look at where the development effort has gone. The Oly E-5 looks to be a fine camera, but one camera from PanOly in x-years does not a platform make.

    2 - An interview with Panasonic suggesting that their future efforts will be centered around GF-style cameras. GH-style cameras will still have a role, but they are most certainly a niche.

    3 - Suggestions from Olympus that they will introduce a "pro-level" M43.

    From this, we can deduce:

    A - If 43 will be left to wither on the vine, Olympus needs to come up with an M43 camera that is a worthy successor to the E-5 so that current E-5 owners can transition seamlessly to M43.

    B - Based on 2 above, Panasonic is not likely to produce the fast zooms that many are begging for. Sigh.

    C - If Oly is planning higher spec M43 bodies, wouldn't higher-spec M43 lenses be part of the strategy? Are some of those sweet Zuiko zooms coming to M43? Drool...

    In a way, this makes sense and helps PanOly split the market while relying on their respective strengths (Oly zoom, Pan electronics).

    So within this, the rumored fast Pan zoom seems unlikely, and Amin's idea of focusing on small but not-so-fast zooms makes sense.


    My $.02, non-refundable. Objects in crystal ball are close than they appear.
     
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  10. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    Good write up.

    One of the reasons I chose the olympus is because of the collapsable zoom. One reason that the panny is larger is OiS vs sensor stabilization.

    The problem with fast zooms is that they will be I think too large for the epxx cameras. I see panasonic doing this to compliment the slr styled cameras.
     
  11. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Amin

    Thanks for putting together this summary. This is very useful for me. I recently sold my 5D. It was much loved, and remains my preferred camera for quality output, but the photography I enjoy has shifted - less landscape and more street / travel / architecture. I need and want a smaller kit.

    I noticed you have the GH2 and 14 / 20 / 45 and this is very tempting. The barrier for me is final mage quality. I like large prints, and although M4/3 can print large, I am hesitant because I miss the depth and dynamic range of my 5D. So I want it all: small gear size, plus image quality.

    This summary is helpful because a lens roadmap gives some indication of where Olympus / Panasonic priorities lie and helps me guess where they might go in terms of bodies and sensors.

    In terms of particulars I agree with your assessments, especially around the 7-14 and 45. Also, I think, about weather resistance. It seems to me the latter would require a larger body and most certainly larger lenses and negate a key M4/3 advantage.

    I am very, very curious about the Panasonic G3. If it has much reduced manual controls I will be saddened...
     
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  12. jimr.pdx

    jimr.pdx Mu-43 Veteran

    342
    Dec 5, 2010
    near Longview ~1hr from PDX
    Jim R
    This is why my 'dream team' is a (relatively) bright 12-36 + a 35-105.
    Classic 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 designs have been small even for film (e.g. 2nd-gen Maxxum), so that design stays small and below 300g - plus in crop terms I like that it's a 'throwback' 70-210 zoom! :smile: It also fits very well with the 100-300! A 12-36 can stay compact & bright (hopefully both) with a less ambitious range, and fewer optical compromises will be needed.
     
  13. linkedit

    linkedit Mu-43 Top Veteran

    649
    Aug 6, 2010
    New Jersey, USA
    I'm hopeful for the 12mm. It gets me closer to my all time favorite lens from my old F3, the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8
     
  14. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Agreed on both. I'd be standing behind you for the 50mm. I'm having problems focusing MF lenses on m4/3, and to be honest also finding it a bit of chore, I'm also fed up with missing shots.

    Again, I agree. With everything going on in Japan plus other more important product considerations, would Panasonic really take the time and resources to add OIS to an ultra-wide? If they did, we might question their priorities anyway. Plus as you say the 45mm is another terrific lens.
    I hope this becomes a reality soon. It would basically live on my GH2 for most of what I do. I'm currently using Panasonic/Leica 4/3 lenses with an adapter. While they are superb lenses, they are heavy and I'd love to see this lens in a manageable size and weight. Plus the 25mm f/1.4 of course, which is probably more than a rumour, since Panasonic reps are talking about it.

    12mm f?, 12-50mm f/2.5-3.3, 25mm f/1.4, 50mm f? sounds like a nice collection to me. I certainly hope they materialise.
     
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  15. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    To jump in here, I have the same camera and lenses (GH2 and 14 / 20 / 45 ) and use them to earn my living. Unless you are doing a lot of low-light work, I suspect you really won't miss the 5D. (I'm presuming its the MK 1) Plus the GH2 is pretty good up to ISO 1600. Much is made of the dynamic range difference between full-frame and m4/3, but its nowhere near as significant as its often made out. The GH2 does tend towards highlight protection with its exposure anyway. I also use a Sony a850 and the difference between that and the GH2 in terms of DR is not that great.

    Having used a 5D (I had 3!!) and the 5DMKII, I would say that I personally prefer the GH2 output over both Canons. I think the colour is better, the images are sharper and there's a much more "punchy" look to the images, if you shoot raw. Find some raw files from the GH2 and have a look at them. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
     
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  16. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks - I really appreciate your note. I do shoot RAW, and grabbing some GH2 RAW files to look at is great advice. One of the things I appreciate about the GH2 is the extensive manual controls: I think the interface is superior to that of my Canons.

    Thanks again.
     
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  17. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I don't have David's eye, expertise, or experience, but I'll agree with everything he just said. I used a Canon 5D for a couple of years before switching to a Nikon D700. With both systems, I used high end zooms and primes. In the case of the Nikon, I used the AF-S 24-70/2.8, Zeiss ZF 35/2, and AF 85/1.4.

    Bottom line is I couldn't be more pleased from the image quality I'm getting from the GH2 and Panasonic primes.
     
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  18. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks Amin. Good to know the background and journey to your current setup. it's very powerful when you mention a D700 and those lenses. That's seriously capable equipment.

    I have also been influenced by Michael Rechmann's take on the GH2 for stills. I know his work well (I visited his Toronto studio and discussed some of his work with him) as he is local to me. He is obsessive about quality, but also real-world: in other words, he focuses on what really matters. I am increasingly convinced of the GH2.

    What I will probably do is wait for the G3 and see what it brings, and then go shopping.

    Thanks again. I appreciate the advice and input.
     
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  19. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Thanks for the kind words.

    No matter what cameras I try, I always keep coming back to m4/3 and Panasonic in particular. I think I'm actually moving towards a situation where I will work with it exclusively, and dispense with everything else, Leica and all. Pelao mentions Michael Reichmann, and I read him a lot. He works in a very similar vein to me and we have pretty much the same cameras. He's very enthusiastic for the GH2 also.

    The frustration I feel about Panasonic, and Amin alluded to it in his original piece, is that I would be disappointed if they ignored those of us who really want to do what I indicated, and completely go down the m4/3 route. I would do it in an instant if the lenses Amin talked about appeared and Panasonic just added a few bits and pieces to turn the whole thing into a small-scale quality system. I'm not expecting Contax G2 build quality but those are the lines I'm thinking along. Or the Pentax MZ system and the limited lenses.

    Things like a battery grip, and some decent flash equipment would be a good start. I realise these are minority items, but they just make the system a little more serious. Thats all it would need for me to go in the direction I want to. Like Amin I wonder who else would want this & Panasonic have to be aware of making a profit and not getting stuck with a product line nobody wants. But isn't this an opportunity for a company like Olympus, who generally do "upmarket" quite well. I just get the impression Panasonic really want to go for the mass-market compact camera user, and thats where they will concentrate in the future. I hope I'm wrong and they hear our voices. We are after all the "Camera Guys and Girls" and the ones who get asked "What camera should I buy?"
     
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  20. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    It's a whole lot easier to push an entry-level consumer "upmarket" than it is to sell "down" an enthusiast user.

    You'll sell a hell of a lot more bigger bright zooms to entry level people than you will slow zooms to enthusiasts, no matter how compact they are.

    Once again, let me say, smallER is good enough, please give us image quality and aperture to aspire and grow in to.