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Shootout Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro vs. Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/2.0 Macro

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by WT21, May 25, 2011.

  1. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I’ve been using a legacy OM 50mm 2.0 macro lens for portrait and macro needs. Honestly, I don’t shoot true “macro” much, but I like flower shots and some insect shots, as well as portrait. At first I had the OM50mm 3.5 macro, which I sold off because it didn’t open up wide enough for me, for portrait work. I also have a Super Takumar 50mm 1.4, but it’s soft at 1.4 and doesn’t really sharpen up until 2.8.

    So, I picked up an OM 50mm 2.0, and have been fairly pleased with it.

    My knocks on the lens, though, are some white bleed (or ghosting) at 2.0 in high contrast situations and even a little at 2.8, though it’s pretty much gone by 4.0. I also thought it a bit heavy and awkward and, of course, I get tired of full time MF.

    The used price of PL45 lenses have come down enough that I picked one up last week to test it out. Nice lens. But how does it compare to the OM50 2.0?

    My quick evaluation of these lenses follows the following points:

    1) Size and ergonomics
    2) Operation of focus and aperture adjustment
    3) Filters and hood options
    4) Price
    5) Image quality

    1) Size and ergonomics
    First off, I was very surprised that the PL45 was not nearly as small compared to the 50/2.0 as I expected.

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    Granted, the PL45 comes with IS built in, which probably takes up some space, and also focuses internally. Meanwhile, the OM50 requires an adapter and extends quite a bit when focusing close. On the flip side, they are nearly the same length at their shortest, and the OM50 has a recessed front element, and therefore has a defacto hood.

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    The PL45 element is close to the front, making the hood somewhat important when shooting. So, you have to have an adapter on the OM, but you also need the hood on the PL45. In these configurations, they are again pretty much the same length, and both are of similar length to the mZD 14-150 without hood.

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    The OM50 is a bit heavier by about 100g (225g vs. 320g – without the OM lens adapter). The PL45 is better balanced on the E-P1. The OM50 is distinctly front heavy. Advantage goes to the PL45, but surprisingly not by the clear margin I expected. I thought I’d be getting a much smaller, lighter lens.

    2) Operation of focus and aperture adjustment
    I generally favor an aperture ring, but the OM50’s aperture ring is full stops only. In real life shooting, it hasn’t been a big deal. The PL45 can handle 1/3 stops, but requires the thumb wheel to adjust. One benefit of the OM50’s physical aperture ring is that the camera always has DOF preview. With the PL45, I had to set my Fn button to give me DOF preview. I had been using the Fn button for MF/AF toggle street shooting with my 20mm 1.7. So, this is somewhat of a negative on the part of the PL45 (and also brings up one of my sore spots on the EP1 – no on-dial “Custom” setting).

    In terms of Focus operation, I have generally disliked the focus by wire of my other lenses (20/1.7 and 14-150 as well as my former 45-200). However, the focus ring on the PL45 is very smooth, and it works for this lens. The OM of course has an MF focus ring, which is very nice – smooth with a long throw. With the PL45, because I’ve lost the MF/AF toggle of my Fn key (in order to get DOF preview – see above), I’m back to half-pressing the shutter, then fine tuning in MF while holding the half-press, which is a pain. Alternatively, I can toggle between MF and AF using the 4-way control, which is also a pain.

    One other thing I had to do with the PL45 is shut off MF assist. The focal length is too long (100mm Equivalent) to automatically have the zoom assist come on. If I’m doing manual focus, I have to grossly focus with the full FOV, then turn on focus zoom to fine tune it.

    In terms of speed of focus, though, I found that I can focus just as fast manually as the AF does, and if tracking something moving, can sometimes be more sure of my focus target, whereas CDAF with the PL45 is prone to grab focus on the background instead of the subject. Also, with it’s long throw, it takes a while to get back to the right focus.

    Another issue I’ve found that I didn’t expect is that the PL45 has added some shutter lag to my already slow EP1. If I’m shooting at f2.8, it’s OK, but if I’m shooting at, say, f5.6, the camera will introduce a lag if I’m using AF, where (I believe) it will open up to f/2.8, focus and then shoot. With the manual focus and manual aperture OM, this is obviously not an issue.

    Yet on the other hand, AF is very nice outside in full light, or just in general – I can glance at the LCD to judge framing, half press to focus (maybe recompose) and shoot. With full time MF, it’s definitely a struggle to focus the lens with just the LCD when in full daylight, and also, having to focus my eyes and really concentrate on the LCD for focusing, gets tiring.

    The final point is lens noise during video. I don’t shoot video often, but the OM is quiet. The PL45 has an audible noise to it as you pull focus.

    So, this is a toss up for me, and I’m having trouble getting off the fence. Having an option for AF, relief from LCD squinting but with some issues of speed vs. having the buttons the way I like them and a physical aperture ring. There’s no clear winner here.

    3) Filters and Hood Options
    As I mentioned above, the 50mm OM comes with a recessed front element, making a hood unneeded. The PL45 has a pretty cool-looking square hood. Not sure why its not deeper, though. The FOV is narrow enough. My guess is that it's designed this way because a round, deep hood would make getting the lens cap on/off much harder, but having even this hood on makes using a circular polarizer on the PL45 challenging. With the PL45, you have to take the hood on/off to change filters. With the OM50, filters fit on what is essentially the end of the hood. It's also 58mm – a very standard size (though the PL45 filter size is the same as the 20mm/1.7 lens, which is also convenient). I’m not a huge filter user, so this isn’t a giant concern for me, but when you need one, you need one, and the advantage here belongs to the OM.

    4) Price
    I purchased my PL45 used in the mid $600s. To me, that’s still a little pricey, and the regular retail price for the PL45 is too much in my opinion (comparing to a Canon 60mm or 100mm macro new at $500-600 street price, $300-400 used). The OM50 can only be purchased used, usually in the high $300s. This is where I would rather be buying this lens, but with AF. One issue I have with m43 lenses and focus-by-wire is the longevity of these lenses. The OM is built like a tank, and I’ve no fear of circuitry breaking or the focus mechanism becoming obsolete. The OM could be used on my NEX or 5D if I wanted to use it. The PL45 is tied to the digital m43 system. The edge is to the OM50 in terms of price, being cheaper by almost 50%, and overall value in the long run.

    5) Image Quality
    This is the rub for many, though not necessarily for me. Not because I don’t care about IQ, but because the EP1 has limitations in resolution and DR, which creates a ceiling for max performance for any lens. As macros, both lenses are pretty sharp. The OM50 is one of the best legacy 50mms I’ve found on my EP1 – having tried an OM 3.5 macro, Canon FD 50 1.4, Takumar 50 1.4, Voigtlander 35 1.4, and Rokkor 57 1.4. The OM produces the cleanest, sharpest images of any of the legacy lenses I’ve tried, and has a relatively pleasant bokeh (as does the PL45).

    I did expect the PL45 to be sharper, better color and better contrast, but I was surprised that the lenses essentially performed the same. Similar sharpness, similar color and similar contrast (maybe a small color and contract nod to the PL45, but not by much). The PL45 seems to vignette more at 2.8 than the OM even at 2.0 (and certainly more than the OM at 2.8), but the OM does suffer a bit of ghosting/bleed in high contrast, full light situations at 2.0 and even a little at 2.8 (pretty much gone after 4.0), which the PL45 doesn’t. Of course, the PL45 only starts at 2.8. So, the ghosting/bleeding at 2.0 on the OM lens can be forgiven, given that the PL45 can’t even open that wide.

    Therefore, surprisingly to me, the IQ contest actually leans just slightly to the OM, but mainly because of its max aperture. Without the 2.0 consideration, they would be even, with the PL45 having a slight edge at 2.8 with less bleeding/ghosting, though with more vignetting.

    Some 100% crops (with the larger FOV for context):

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    Shot showing two OM50 and two PL45 shots. The PL45 2.8 shot (lower left) shows more vignetting than any of the others.

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    100% crops from the same picture as above. The 2.8 shots are of course softer than the 5.6 shots, but the lenses are fairly evenly matched.

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    Shot for context

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    100% crops. A slight color and contrast edge to the PL45, but not a tremendous difference.

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    Shot for framing.

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    100% crops. Nothing much different between lenses here.

    The out of focus blur on these lenses are both relatively pleasing to my eye. They are not standouts, but neither are they particularly busy.

    In terms of specular highlights, there is a difference due to the OM’s lower number of aperture blades. As the lens stops down, the highlights on the OM get more angular, though at f/2.0, specular highlights are better than the PL45 at 2.8, which exhibits more of an oval shape. Below are some sample shots.

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    My plan was to keep one and sell the other, but this is, on balance, difficult for me to resolve. I want to sell the PL45, to use those funds for something else and also because the OM50 is easier with filters, but I want to keep the PL45 and sell the OM because I like the look of the PL45, it feels more balanced on the EP1, and I do appreciate the opportunity for AF again at this focal length.

    Sometimes on the AF/MF debate (the debate in my head), I wonder if I should keep the OM 50 and get an EPL2 with a VF2 and see if the MF experience would be better than with my EP1.

    I hope these musings help some others who might be facing the same kind of decision. I’m very pleased with both lenses. I would LOVE an Oly 50mm 2.0 macro for m43 with AF, but with Oly spinning it’s wheels, I’m not sure that’s ever coming.

    Happy Shooting!

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    Olympus E-P1, OM 50mm f/2 macro

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    Olympus E-P1, OM 50mm f/2 macro

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    Olympus E-P1, PL45mm f/2.8 macro

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    Olympus E-P1, PL45mm f/2.8 macro
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. Grinch

    Grinch Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2011
    Well you may still be second guessing, but this has cleared things up for me. Hello Olympus, I will be watching for you.
  3. A good indicator of the worth of the OM50/2 is that it is often barely cheaper to buy than the 4/3 version despite having no AF or all that other fancy electronic stuff.
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    The OM 50/2 is a top rate lens. Here's what Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer once had to say (source): "Here's one lens that's utterly forgotten yet absolutely magnificent: the Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2 Macro. You can use it as a normal lens and I promise you, you will never use a better 50mm. No matter what name is engraved on the barrel."

    The ZD 50/2 is also terrific. Olympus has a very strong record with those two, so I expect them to bring a great macro to Micro 4/3 as well.

    That said, I think the PL45 is an absolute winner. It hasn't gotten the best reviews, in part because of the price, and in part because it isn't quite as sharp as the ZD 50/2. However, in use it has become my favorite lens in the system and one of my favorite lenses of any system. It's a lens which I wish I had bought sooner despite the less than glowing reviews.
  5. ismailfaruqi

    ismailfaruqi Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 17, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    I like the idea combining Pana cameras with touch screen swivel screen + PL45... just touch it here and there.. seems the best way to take macro shoots for me! It's a shame that Panas doesnt have IBIS... which is deal breaker for me...
  6. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    I haven't heard of that lens before. Is it 1:1 macro on m43? (OM 50mm f3.5 is only 1:2). I am using ZD 50mm f2 lens with E-PL2 and I think it's a good combo because it balances nicely (the lens + adapter weighs less than the camera body). PL45mm has quite smaller aperture at f2.8 and thus is not really suitable for portraiture on m43 cameras. I think PL45 is mostly useful for macro being 1:1. Even then, I'd rather pick up a MUCH cheaper ZD 35mm f3.5 even though it has slightly working distance. f2.8 is acceptable for portraits on APS-C or full frame sensors though. Even with ZD 50mm f2, I am not blurring the backgrounds completely which made me wonder into Ronkinon 85mm f1.4 lens (=Samyang). I am imagining using it in the sun outdoors with strong ND filter. The focal legth is way too telephoto to be usable indoors.
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  7. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Thanks WT, a really comprehensive set of test pictures that seem to show ... almost the exact same optical quality from each lens. Amazingly close!
    • Like Like x 1
  8. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    Yes I used to think that. I did however get so frustrated with it that I decided to get a 45mm Panasonic and while I had the two I did some serious tests comparing the two and absolutely couldn't tell the difference.

    I wrote it up here.
    Soundimageplus: Comparison between Olympus 50mm f/2 Macro and Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 Macro lenses

    43rumors have just published a rumour that says the Olympus m4/3 50mm might not be a macro, which is a bit disappointing.
    43 Rumors | Blog | (FT2) Olympus 50mm f/1.8 coming? The 12mm is expensive...
    • Like Like x 1
  9. MaxElmar

    MaxElmar Mu-43 Regular

    May 18, 2011
    New Jersey, USA
    Great review/comparison - really well done! Thank you.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    For me, it would be an obvious choice to go with an mZD 50mm Macro 2.0. I've been waiting for this lens for something like 18 months. It is clearly one of their most famous primes, and sits in a niche no one else occupies. The fact that Oly hasn't released this lens shows they really are struggling with strategy.

    I'm sure they are thinking "we already have that with the ZD50" and they are releasing light weight zooms to try and show the compact system. Or maybe they have extra stock of the ZD50 and were hoping people would buy it down. Either way, this line-up is missing a potential winner!

  11. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    1:1 macros have a technical definition that I haven't bothered that much to pay attention to. I can say this -- it gives the same FOV on my m43 as I believe my 100mm macro did on my 5D (a 1:1 macro that I had a while back).

    The PL45 does OK with portraits, but the 50mm/2.0 is better still. It's still not true "portrait" though -- it's similar to the shots I used to get at the long end of my 24-105/f4.0 on my 5D (another lens I sold). A 50/1.4 would finally be in acceptable territory. Or better still a 60 or 65/1.4.

    I have the Rokinon 85/1.4 also. I like lenses I can adapt to my 5D, NEX and m43. That lens is fantastic on the NEX in terms of IQ, but the NEX lacks IBIS. I've mainly used the 85/1.4 on my 5D, just because of it's size.
  12. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    For those who care about video, I did this video with the OM50/2 a while back.

    [ame=http://vimeo.com/12017846]Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad at TCC Coffee House using Olympus E-P1 on Vimeo[/ame]

    (btw -- the artists name is Kalani Trinidad, and he's finally released some music on iTunes)
  13. RetroBoy

    RetroBoy Mu-43 Regular

    There it is right there.

    I use my EPL1 almost solely with my VF2.
    Whether I'm shooting macros, landscapes, video...whatever. It is indespensible.

    I use a lot of MF lenses as well as AF M43 lenses and can say that for me, the ability to use this EVF is head and shoulders more appreciable than spotting the difference between a couple of similar lenses.

    The fact that you can sell that lens to get an EPL2 with EVF is a no brainer IMHO.
    For your macro and critical stuff you'll want MF anyway. And for that you'll want the EVF.

    BTW, nice write up and comparo, I enjoyed reading it. And that OM50 looks great!
    • Like Like x 1
  14. antifuse

    antifuse Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2011
    Great review/write up. I personally went for the PL45 with my G2... I tried doing the MF thing with my adapted 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens, and yeah, I just can't stand having to manually focus. The AF on the G2, is amazing, and for macro stuff, the touch screen is just... Wow.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Touch screen macro would be da bomb.
  16. antifuse

    antifuse Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2011
    It has really changed how I think about macro photography.

    Oh, and to answer whoever had asked about the PL45 being 1:1? According to DPReview's review of the lens (link goes to page mentioning it), it is.
  17. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Fabulous Post!

    Hello WT21,

    This is a really terrific post. Thanks for all the hard work, I can tell you it is very much appreciated.

    Cheers and thanks again. Alan

    :2thumbs: :2thumbs: :2thumbs:
    • Like Like x 1
  18. MP Burke

    MP Burke Mu-43 Rookie

    Jul 3, 2010
    I have a Panasonic G2 and like the idea of an autofocus macro, but for me 45mm is a bit short. I have been using my Pentax 50mm f2.8 macro for photographing dragonflies and damselflies and it is often difficult to get close enough to the subject.
    I am still hoping that a longer AF macro will become available in MFT mount, such as the 70mm Sigma. I would personally prefer a long but relatively slow compact macro, something like the 90mm f4 collapsible Leica. Perhaps if the "portrait" lens lots of people seem to be lobbying for becomes available, the tele-macro lens will be added next.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. iliakoltsov

    iliakoltsov Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 7, 2010
    MP Burke Sigma did a 105 macro on 4/3 now how does the AF perform on M4/3 i do not know. lets hope it will migrate to M4/3.
  20. duke

    duke Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 4, 2010
    San Francisco Bay Area
    If you do decide to sell your om 50 I would definitely be interested in buying it ;) 
    • Like Like x 1
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