oly primes better than the 12-40 2.8

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by travelbug, May 10, 2016.

  1. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    a lot of reviews say the 12-40pro is one of the best lenses from oly and is better than many primes. so discounting the o75 and 0300, what primes come out sharper than the the 012-40 2.8 pro?
  2. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2013
    The are all sharp really, with a few exceptions on the lower price end. Just different uses. Having the zoom is more about convenience and flexibility, with a little sacrifice in speed (light gathering) and gaining weather sealing. Sharpness isn't anything worry about from choosing the prime/zoom. You're not losing anything there IMO. It's more about lens size, lens speed, budget, primary use, whether or not you want to change lenses often.
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  3. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    yeah i basically bought this for the safety/convenience of not changing lenses and the weather sealing for wet, sandy and icy conditions (although i can handle those sufficiently enough with a non weather sealed if i prepare). i just wanted to know where it stands vs the primes in sharpness as an fyi more than anything else.
  4. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Do you mean both wide open or both at f/2.8 or at other matching apertures or each at their own best apertures?

    I think that the Sigma 60, the Nocticron, the Voigtlander 25, the PL25, maybe the P42.5/1.7 may be a little more sharp at corresponding or similar focal lengths and specific apertures.
    I doubt you'll notice this difference unless you do a side by side comparison of the same shot. To give you a real world idea of what I mean have a look at this thread (the 12-40 is included):

    UPDATED: The Great 40ish Landscape Test (10 Lenses in 40MP HR Mode)
  5. The 12-40 really starts to drop off beyond about 30mm. Below that it's at least comparable or better than any of the primes.
  6. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    sorry dont quite get what youre saying here. is it sharper above 30mm or below?
  7. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    originally i meant to compare them at their sharpest aperture, irregardless of what that value may be. although im also interested to know which are sharper are f16.
  8. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    At f/16 you're far enough into diffraction that the lens will, at best, make very little difference. Most likely no difference across all the current m43 lenses.

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  9. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    In my opinion, these days Zooms can be (and often are) as good as any primes. It all depends on the design choices & manufacturing and more specifically what a company wants to put into a particular lens design and what its target price range is to be.

    For most of the lenses that most of us are likely to consider (read: excluding a lot of the really nice high end stuff) the main advantage of primes these days mostly comes down to available aperture. If you need, for example, something like f1.8 or larger then you likely want to go to a prime simply to get that aperture. But if you were to take that same prime and shoot it at, say, f4 and compare the same photo from a decent zoom using the same focal length and aperture, you are not likely to see any real advantage of the prime.

    I do think one exception might be if talking about ultra wide angles where something like a 12mm prime is likely to be much better controlled for things like distortion and light fall off than a zoom lens where 12mm is one extreme of its zoom range. But if you are talking a middle of the road focal length prime like a 25mm for example, you might find many zooms at the same focal length perform just as well in those aperture the two lenses overlap.
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  10. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 25, 2014
    The more one thinks about this question, the more difficult it may become - so I'll try a straightforward answer:

    Primes I find generally sharper than the 12-40mm (i.e. even wide open at their respective focal lengths): Panasonic 20mm, Olympus 25mm, Olympus 45mm, Sigma 60mm (okay, a bit long already). The crispest of this lot is the Olympus 25mm - heaps of contrast, great detail. All of those lenses clearly beat the 12-40mm at f/2.8, but the first three also equal it wide open (or at f/2.0, in case of the 45mm). This fact (and their great size advantage) is my reason for keeping them.

    Just as sharp, but with little to no advantage: Olympus 12mm - this was my first wide prime for :mu43:, and while it's an endearing lens to shoot (it's built like a tank and feels exceedingly nice in the hand), it's a bit unpredictable in terms of IQ - so: YMMV. Best at f/5.6, and a little soft at apertures wider than f/4, btw. - so f/2 isn't that much of a gain. I keep it more out of nostalgia - though it's also part of a "holy trinity" setup I used to love travelling with: 12mm, 17mm/20mm, 45mm. But the 12-40mm conveniently replaces this set and more or less equals it in terms of IQ ...

    Less sharp: Olympus 17mm, Sigma 30mm (Art) - still good performance and pleasing rendering from those two (especially the 17mm), but less pop and contrast. I like both lenses for street photography and portraiture, though. As a general purpose lens, the 17mm is hard to beat.

    More for novelty's sake than real competition: The Samyang 7.5mm is a very sharp lens that I'd put on par with the Panasonic 20mm, and the Olympus 15mm bodycap is, well ... let's call it soft (it's more like mushy - or even murky), apart from a small center portion.

    All that said, I have no resevervations about using the 12-40mm wide open - which is a feat in itself; f/4 may be marginally better overall, f/5.6 offers better corners, but f/2.8, right out of the gate, is really good and reliable. That's the reason why it virtually lives on my E-M10 ...

    I still enjoy shooting primes for lots of reasons. But I'd own less of them had I bought the 12-40mm earlier ...

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  11. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    My 12-40 is sharp enough that I have a 20"x 30" and a 20"x 20" print on my livingroom wall that have sharp detail across the entire image in both cases. The 20x30 is a window with lots of muntins dividing it up (ISO 250, 14mm, f4.0) and the other is a closeup (ISO 200, 40mm, f6.3). The bee in the corner of the square print has all the detail you could want in a print.
  12. JDK504

    JDK504 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 28, 2013
    I'm in the same boat as you (well kind of).

    I currently have the PL 15 1.7, PL 25 1.4, PL 42.5 1.2 and I am considering picking up this lens or the Panasonic 12-35 although I like the extra reach with the Olympus among other things.

    I just can't decide if having the convenience of this zoom is worth $500+. I'm sure once I start using the lens it will be just like when I bought the Nocticron lol.

    Good luck!
  13. walter_j

    walter_j Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Sep 10, 2013
    Hagwilget, B.C., Canada
    The bokeh of the 12-40 is ok. Thats it - ok. The cv 25 bokeh is much better, as is the 17.5. I'm getting spoiled by AF though.
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  14. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 5, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    My experience:

    The 12-40 is a beast at the wide end. Better at f2.8 than the Oly 12/2, PL 15/1.7 and Oly 17/1.8 are at f2.8.
    In the middle, it ties with the Oly 25/1.8 and PL25/1.4 at f2.8.
    The Oly 45/1.8 is better at f2.8. The difference is greater at portrait distance, at infinity focus the 45mm falls off a bit and the difference is minor.

    One heckuva lens.
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  15. Sharper below 30mm. In fact it's sharpest at 12mm.
  16. damianmkv

    damianmkv Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 7, 2014
    Surrey, England
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  17. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Sharpness is not everything. Nearly all the Oly primes and the 12-40 are more than sharp enough for 99% of uses. The defining differences are in maximum aperture and size/weight. For me, a bag of four primes (12, 25, 45 and 75) is small, light and a delight to use. I use zooms too, but although they deliver the goods optically, they don't have the same tactility or deliver as much pleasure in their use.
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  18. MNm43

    MNm43 Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 19, 2014
    My experience squares with johnvanatta above. I have to take polite exception to wjiang above. It may in fact be sharper below 30, but to say it "really starts to drop off beyond about 30mm" is a stretch - at least with my copy.

    "One heckuva lens" indeed.

    The bokeh ain't bad either:
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  19. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Truer words were never said :) 

    To which I'll add:

    - Are we talking centre sharpness or edge sharpness, and is it important to have the sharpness across the frame as even as possible given that the centre is always going to be sharper than the edges? If you're shooting portraits for example and your subject is in the centre of the frame and there's nothing important in the background, centre sharpness is what you are concerned about. If you're shooting architectural interiors or some forms of landscape photography, or some types of macro, edge sharpness can be important and evenness of sharpness across the frame is also going to be important. There's usually a trade off between centre sharpness and edge sharpness/evenness across the field. One person's sharper lens may not be another person's sharper lens because they're looking for different sorts of performance when it comes to sharpness. If you're going to compare sharpness then you need to compare it in relation to the kind of performance you're looking for and not everyone is looking for the same sort of performance.

    - how are you going to be viewing your images and at what size? If you aren't viewing at large sizes or if you are downscaling your resolution for display on a screen, one lens may be sharper than another but you may never be able to see the difference. In practical terms they are going to be equally sharp for your purposes.

    - if getting the absolute sharpest result you can get is important, then are you using a tripod and remote release of some kind, plus a high shutter speed? Are you shooting RAW and processing to extract the maximum sharpness or are you shooting JPEG and using some level of file compression on your JPEGs because your shooting choices can throw sharpness away very easily.

    Getting a sharper lens can make a difference if the difference in sharpness is going to be visible in the final result and you need to extract the maximum amount of sharpness from the image but that isn't always the case. If you aren't going to shoot the image in a way which captures the greatest amount of detail possible and then process and view it in a way that reveals all that detail, you may never be able to tell the difference between 2 lenses which don't deliver the same amount of sharpness.
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  20. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    i definitely agree. in my op i did state this was more of an fyi and not a criteria for choosing or buying the lens.
    my gear before the 12-40pro was me bringing my 12,25,45-200, filters, macro/close up accessories literally everyday cause it was just so compact. but when going on out of town shoots it can be near impossible to change lenses when its wet,sandy, windy, etc. and although i have a camera raincoat, the weathersealing does provide some extra peace of mind and actual protection. so more than the convenience of having a zoom, its really more for protection/security during those trips with less than ideal environmental conditions. i was juggling between getting the 75/1.8 and the 12-40, and the pro won out specifically for this reason.

    oh and just to make things crystal, i already have the 12-40pro. this is just an fyi/til kinda question/post.
    Last edited: May 10, 2016
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