Olympus OM 50mm comparison: 50/1.8 vs 50/1.4


Instagram: @MRSallee
May 3, 2013
I picked up an OM 50/1.8 lens midway through 2015, totally on a whim, and it turned out to be my most-used lens of the year.

It inspired me to go all-in on OM lenses, so I picked up a 100/2.8 and a 24/2.8. ...And, for no real good reason, a 50/1.4.

The 50/1.8 lens is a "made in japan" variant, considered to be the best of the line. The 50/1.4 is a "Zuiko" 1.1+ million serial number lens, also considered to be the best of the line. I've been using the two lenses somewhat interchangeably, since I almost never shoot wide open, but was curious which one really was the better performer.

I set up a test scene with my EM5ii on a tripod, and set the camera to shoot in 40-megapixel high-res mode -- why not? The images in this thread are screenshots of the comparison view in Lightroom.

(The 50/1.4 (right) is ever-so-slightly wider than the 50/1.8 (left).)

Both lenses were focused on the motorcycle illustration on the Dan Walsh book, both refocused with each aperture change to account for any focus shifting. I was careful to match the front edges of each of the books against the same shelf edge to keep flat with the focus plane.


You can click through each photo to Flickr for the full-res screenshots.

50/[email protected] vs. 50/[email protected]

Wide open test. The 50/1.8 lens is stronger, a bit sharper and with much less glow on contrasty edges.

50/[email protected] vs. 50/[email protected]

(The 50/1.8 does not have an f/2.0 setting, both lenses adjust in full stops.)

Two notes. First, the 50/[email protected] gets a bit sharper than the 50/1.8. The glow from the 50/1.4 is gone, and you can make out some detail in the green "Silmarillion" title that's just solid color in the 50/1.8 lens.

Second, the 50/1.4 appears to gather more light at f/2.0 vs. the 50/[email protected] -- the scene is a bit brighter in the 50/1.4 shot, AND the camera picked a faster shutter speed (1/100 vs 1/80) for the 50/1.4 lens.

50/[email protected] vs. 50/[email protected]

Both lenses performing quite well, but with a definite advantage to the 50/1.4; contrast and sharpness a step above.

50/[email protected] vs. 50/[email protected]

Both lenses are very strong at f/4.0, but the 50/1.4 is still ahead here in sharpness, especially at the center. Corners are much closer, maybe even a slight edge to the 50/1.8.


Both lenses are great, and honestly I expected the 50/1.4 to lose this match -- just because wide open it's obviously the more compromised, which is the only easy comparison without setting up a test scene like this.

Is it worth the extra dosh? Probably not. I'm unlikely to shoot the 50/1.4 wide open because of the glow, unless shooting a low-light portrait. Though I am more like to use the 50/[email protected] vs. the 50/[email protected], and sacrifice nothing in terms of shutter speed. At f/2.8, both lenses are completely satisfactory.

Probably the biggest preference I have is that the aperture ring on the 50/1.4 is a lot nicer than the 50/1.8 lens -- the latter has pretty cheap/plasticky feel, that makes sense when you consider it was a kit lens. The 50/1.8 lens is significantly smaller and lighter, but really both are quite compact. I will probably leave the 50/1.8 on a basic adapter, and use the 50/1.4 with my Metabones Speed Booster (not used in this comparison).
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Mu-43 All-Pro
Jun 20, 2014
If not shooting wide open I generally go for the last edition of the 50mm f3.5 macro, it's was one of the last floating element designs which means the focusing ring is much lighter and smoother than any of the other 50s (with the exception of the f2.0 macro), it's generally just a really nice lens to use.

I've been thinking of doing something along this comparison with the handful of lenses I have sitting around (Canon 50mm f1.4, Olympus 50mm f1.2, 1.4, 1.8, 3.5, Rodenstock 50mm f2.8 APO, probably others), I just haven't had the motivation as it takes a lot of effort to get all the equipment out and take the pictures so thank you for doing so :)


Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Feb 10, 2010
Killarney, OzTrailEYa
Real Name
The fifty f1.8's are great stuff aren't they: cheap, available and great quality.

An FD 50mm f1.8 was my first legacy lens (in 2009) and soon after that I bought an OM50f1.8

I found the OM50f1.8 to be a fantastic in close portrait lens without equal on m43 for some years. Some of my personal favs were taken using that lens.

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Super Moderator
Feb 6, 2015
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
I had the same outcome as above when comparing Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 to 55mm f1.8 and Yashica ML 50mm f1.4 to 50mm f2. I don't think very many f1.4's from the manual focus era are very good until you stop them down. And then you render the f1.4 aperture moot. And the f1.8/2 lenses are cheap and compact.


Mu-43 Regular
Feb 14, 2012
Perfect timing. I was just looking at Mark's videos the other day. It sounds like OM1.8 and a cheap adapter is all I need?

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