Shootout Portrait lenses: Oly 45mm f/1.8 vs. Yi 42.5mm f/1.8

ibd

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Jun 5, 2016
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All shots are handheld (but checked for camera shake), so this is more of an informal shootout. Furthermore, there were some lighting changes because of the weather.
Camera was E-M1 II, ISO 200.

Special note: The Yi 42.5mm f/1.8 has a special "macro" switch on the side of the lens. This decreases the minimum focusing distance, but increases the maximum aperture from f/1.8 to f/3.5. This can be switched while the camera is running, and works flawlessly.

Comparison shots are taken (1) wide open (2) stopped down by about 1.5 stops. So f/1.8 and f/2.8, and f/3.5 and f/5.6.
100% crops are added after every shot.
Autofocus was set to small spot in the very center of the image for most shots. 100% crops show the focus point.

Conclusions
Build
- Lens weight is identical for all intents and purposes.
- Yi is larger, but still small. Oly is tiny. Oly is almost too small to handle IMHO.
- Yi is cheaper and feels a bit cheaper. Still solid though.
- That fake focussing ring on the Yi is stupid.
- Yi takes larger filters (49mm) than the Oly. This is a very uncommon filter size for m4/3 lenses. Since the front element is not so big, a step-down ring combined with the extremely common 46mm filter size could work without vignetting, but I haven't tried.
Autofocus
- AF performance is equal on both lenses for all intents and purposes (including speed, accuracy, silent operation)
- Minimum focus distance is about equal when the Yi is set to "normal" mode. In "macro" mode, the Yi can get significantly closer.
Image quality
- Yi is significantly sharper wide open than the Oly.
- When stopped down by about 1.5 stops, the lenses are similarly sharp. The oly when stopped down is a hair sharper. But both are excellently sharp.
- There is visible vignetting on the Yi when shooting wide open. It is not corrected in-camera in contrary to the Oly. It goes away completely when stopping down.
- Bokeh & color is comparable on the two lenses, but I did not check in great detail. Bokeh is maybe a touch rounder on the Oly.
- Light transmission seems to be identical on the two lenses.
- Oly has less longitudinal CA.
Which one to get / keep?
I got the Oly for $100 used, and the Yi for $80 new. See here for discussion on the Yi lens deal: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/yi-42-5mm-f-1-8-lens-for-usd-80-free-shipping.104625
Since I will mainly use the lens wide open, and the Yi is much sharper there than my copy of the Oly, I will keep the Yi lens.
I also found the "macro" switch very useful for getting closer than typical "portrait distance". The vignetting wide open doesn't bother me, on the contrary, vignetting is actually pleasing for portraits IMHO.

Images
All images can be downloaded here (including raws): https://drive.google.com/open?id=15VF-YehVg5nE0jUSI5rFOKdonA7FbGOX
Sharpness at portrait distance
Yi wide open / stopped down
P8064766.JPG
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P8064766.jpg
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P8064765.JPG
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P8064765.jpg
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Oly
P8064762.JPG
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P8064763.JPG
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Sharpness at portrait distance 2
Yi
P8064770.JPG
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P8064769.JPG
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P8064769.jpg
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Oly
P8064771.JPG
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P8064772.JPG
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ibd

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Sharpness at infinity
Yi wide open / stopped down
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Oly
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Minimum focus distance (all stopped down)
Yi in "normal" mode
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Yi in "macro" mode
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Oly
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ibd

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Lateral CA / backlit with high contrast
Yi wide open / stopped down
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Oly
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Longitudinal CA (at near minimum focus distance)
Yi "normal" mode
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Yi "macro" mode
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Oly
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ibd

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Extra test 1
Yi wide open / stopped down
P8064781.JPG
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P8064782.JPG
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Oly
P8064784.JPG
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P8064783.JPG
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Extra test 2
Yi
P8064788.JPG
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P8064791.JPG
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Oly
P8064785.JPG
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Sharpness isn't everything, especially in a portrait lens. The bokeh in the 42.5mm is not nice in my opinion, and it pulls attention from the subject. If I wanted that effect, I could buy a secondhand Helios 58mm for half the cost.

A useful test all the same - there will be people out there who prefer the 42mm lens. Each to their own.
 

ibd

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Sharpness isn't everything, especially in a portrait lens. The bokeh in the 42.5mm is not nice in my opinion, and it pulls attention from the subject. If I wanted that effect, I could buy a secondhand Helios 58mm for half the cost.

A useful test all the same - there will be people out there who prefer the 42mm lens. Each to their own.
Thanks for the fast reply! ;)
I agree that sharpness isn't everything. In the case of my Oly 45mm though, I find it unacceptable wide open. Besides, it's very easy to make a sharp image blurry (remove clarity), but it's not easy to make a blurry image sharp.
I also agree that the bokeh is ever so slightly better on the Oly -- both aren't buttery smooth though. In the shot of the ash tray, I actually prefer the Yi lens.
I think the Helios 58mm is not directly comparable to these lenses because of (no) AF, weight and size, and so on. The look is certainly more extreme, though.
 
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zzffnn

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Great comparison. I may get a Yi. What is the maximum macro magnification ration (on m4/3 sensor or full frame equivalent)? Thank you!

Edit: I found 9.8" or 0.25 meters to be its minimal macro focus distance. But did not find maximum macro magnification.
 
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ibd

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Attached image is about as close as I can get. The m4/3 sensor is 18mm in width. The ruler shows about 63mm at macro mode and minimum focus distance. That's about 0.29x or 1:3 magnification.
Keep in mind, it's not a great macro lens because of the faux focus ring. On Olympus bodies, I actually don't know how to adjust focus manually at all.

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zzffnn

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Thank you very much! So it is not a true macro lens, but still pretty good at less than $100 new!
 
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Thanks for getting the lens and making the comparison. I got the Oly 45mm f1.8 when it is first came out but didn't like the pics (hard to explain) and sold it off. I prefer the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7. Might get the Yi - its cheap and the macro is a nice feature.
 
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