Mirrorless System Bang for Buck, Quantified!

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Turbofrog, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    So as a necessary caveat whenever discussing equivalence, I should say that this is definitely not meant to be taken too seriously, and leaves out some important variables (both tangible and intangible) but I do think it's somewhat interesting nonetheless.

    So I decided out of curiosity to throw together a chart of the prime lenses in the different mirrorless systems then compare by equivalent aperture and price. After converting to equivalent F-numbers, I transformed those to logarithmic Aperture Values to accurately describe the total light captured [=2*LOG(Fnumber)/LOG(2)]. Then I multiplied that AV by the price in dollars listed on B&H Photo. Lowest number wins.

    So guess who wins? By a long shot? Samsung. If they have the lenses you're looking for, it's not even close, definitely the best value mirrorless system on the market. Sony's best value lens is (obviously) the 28mm/f2, Fuji's is the 35mm/1.4, and M4/3s is the 20mm/1.7. In general though, M4/3 has better value than Fuji and Sony FE unless you only buy the highest end lenses.

    Obviously this is just a bit of math, and doesn't take into account the individual merits of the lenses (like field of view, sharpness, bokeh quality, rendering, maximum magnification, OIS, etc...). But it's definitely objective, shows no favours, and is maybe some form of truth. Think of it what you will! I certainly learned something in making it (though having bought the lenses for my girlfriend's Samsung NX210, I already knew they were incredible value).

    Another obvious thing it teaches you - if you can stop chasing highly marginal improvements in lens speed, even within any given system, you'll save a whole sack of cash.

    UPDATED: Table below with latest lens additions, color-coded by system.


    UPDATED: Here's a scatter plot with focal lengths to visualize the data more easily. I've added labels to the plots, and all the macro lenses in the systems for completeness (as well as the Olympus Body Cap Lenses...which are a questionable addition, but apparently still count as good value by this metric due to their extremely low price).


    UPDATED: And here are the zooms! Possibly the format is a bit confusing, but I think it still showcases the same interesting trends in a fairly intelligible manner.

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
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  2. gr6825

    gr6825 Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 10, 2012
    In the Nikon world, they have a great line of f/1.8 primes to go with the pro f/1.4 primes. For most focal lengths, you are going to pay about 2-3x to go from 1.8 to 1.4. Like you say, marginal aperture increase gets very expensive the faster you go.
  3. CiaranCReilly

    CiaranCReilly Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 18, 2012
    Real Name:
    Ciaran Reilly
    Ha! Cool comparison, the Samsung lenses really do stand out as being good value!
  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    This would be useful if we grouped them by like lenses. I mean dividing effective f-stop by $ means nothing if you are comparing a 30mm and a 90mm lens. I can't exactly just interchange those lenses. You might as well say a wheelbarrow is cheaper than a tractor.

    However, if you'd grouped the fuji 27/2 next to the Samsung 30/2, then those comparisons become more meaningful because those are similar lenses.

    I think probably the most useful would be to put together reference lens kits from each system and compare total cost.
  5. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    That doesn't make any sense.
    An f2 in every single system in the world is an f2 : no conversion necessary.
  6. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    equivalent apertures exist if equivalent focal lengths do. I'd be happy to get rid of both.....
  7. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Real Name:
    If I understand this correctly, "equivalent apertures" only matter if you're talking about DOF. If you're talking light gathering ability, then f2 is f2 regardless. Isn't that right?
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  8. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    I really don't want to get into an equivalence argument - I recognize the merit in both sides of that discussion, but that's not really the point of this exercise. In this chart, a lens that has the same log AV with have exactly the same signal-to-noise ratio (assuming similar sensor technology, of course), regardless of the system. So you can consider an FF lens and an M4/3 lens equally without saying "oh, but M4/3 sensors are noisier because they're smaller." This gets rid of that argument entirely.

    I think you're possibly right, but I put in every single non-macro native prime in the system, so I'm going based on the assumption that all of them offer at least a reasonable range of focal lengths.
  9. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    Real Name:
    Total light and equivalent apertures

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  10. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    Real Name:
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  11. alan1972

    alan1972 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 23, 2012
    Malaga, Spain
    Real Name:
    Alan Grant
    The 20mm may be the best from a M43 manufacturer but if I am reading the table right I think it says that the 3 Sigma lenses are slightly better value?

    I think the two body cap lenses would come in at numbers 1 and 4 in the list!
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  12. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    No, it also normalizes (to a degree) the maximum usable ISO on different sensor sizes. Maximum ISO definitely impact light gathering.

    Quick comparison:

    If I use:

    m4/3 @ 25mm, 1/100, f2, ISO 3200
    FF @ 50mm, 1/100, f4, ISO 12800

    I've gathered the same light, used the same shutter speed and my shot has the same DOF and FOV. And in equivalent aperture theory, I'd have the same noise.

    Last I'll say on it.
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  13. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    Real Name:
    call me Arg
    Heh heh, price per kg in a market where weight saving is valued -- can't make up my mind whether a high score is better or worse!
  14. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    Real Name:
    call me Arg
    Same issue with the lens table, a low score might be a good indicator of the junkiest lenses, i.e. what to avoid.
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    If by "objective" you mean that the data is verifiable and the calculations are applied in the same way to all data, yes it's objective and it shows no favours, but that doesn't mean it's a fair comparison or even a useful one.

    For a start, the focal lengths in the table for each of the 3 sensor sizes don't cover the same equivalent range. For example we have an equivalent FL range from 24mm to 150mm for M43 and only a range from 28mm to 85mm for full frame. Covering different equivalent ranges for each sensor size means you've got a difference in the representative sample for each señor size and that difference could well affect the overall trend of the comparisons since there is some relationship between focal length and cost.

    Second, the quality of a lens' performance also has an effect upon price and ignoring quality in the comparison doesn't help you make a reasoned choice. As Arg pointed out, "a low score might be a good indicator of the junkiest lenses, i.e. what to avoid". Why would anyone think that there's anything fair about a comparison which purports to demonstrate "bang for the buck", i.e. what you get for your dollar when that comparison ignores how well the lens performs?

    Finally, a system is more than just lenses. It's more than lenses and bodies. Depending on the use to which you want to put it, you may also be interested in things like tilt and shift adjustments, macro focussing range, remote control options, or one or more of a number of other factors including size and weight which seem to be a big factor for many M43 fans. A simple comparison of lenses based on a cost/aperture metric tells you very little about what the different systems actually offer you, and it certainly wouldn't be regarded as an objective comparison of systems even if it did have some merit as an objective comparison of the bang for the buck offered by lenses, and I'd argue that any value comparison which ignores quality of results and lens build and durability isn't a reliable indicator of bang for the buck for lenses.
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  16. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    A piece of PVC pipe and some plate glass would win this contest.
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  17. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Except that you couldn't sell that to anyone for a $1.
  18. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    Real Name:
    call me Arg
    Try me.
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  19. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Classic. I bet he could sell more than a few...just need a hipsteriffic Kickstarter video.
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  20. PMCC

    PMCC Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 18, 2013
    :lol IMO the biggest limitation of this table is the price list. The fair market price of a new P14 is more like $150. Not sure if other brands have similarly ridiculous RRP, though.