Sample variation

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by cptobvious, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. cptobvious

    cptobvious Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 8, 2013
    Over the past several years I've bought/sold more camera systems than I care to remember (I finally decided to stop this year after losing a chunk of change selling my D610). I switched in/out/in of Micro 4/3 a few times (E-PL5, E-P5, and now the E-M10).

    Looking at my Lightroom catalog and comparing serial numbers, I realized I used 4 copies of the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 and 4 copies of the 45mm f/1.8 (most were sold, a couple were returned for defects). I always thought the 17mm f/1.8 was different from the other Oly primes I've owned (12/25/45/75) in that it was somewhat soft wide open but with smoother OOF rendering, but became sharper stopped down. Most of the reviews on the web seemed to confirm this. I never thought any of my 17mm were soft or 'different'.

    That was until I bought my newest copy of the 17mm, which is tack sharp wide open in the center. It seems to have a bit more field curvature than my previous copies, which means a bit more OOF corners shooting stopped down for landscape, and there is a slight bit of decentering, but since I normally use this lens for environmental portraiture it was a welcome trade-off.

    Conversely, the last two 45mm lenses I bought seem to be noticeably softer wide open (and until about f/2.8) than my first two copies, especially at medium to long distances. There seems to be some longitudinal CA that makes fine details hazy. Both of these lenses have pretty close serial numbering and were made in Vietnam vs. the older lenses made in China. I don't know if that means anything. I've returned the last 45mm I bought for an exchange to see if I can get a better copy.

    I also used two copies of the Olympus 12mm, one that was terrible at all apertures and the second that was sharp.

    Certainly Olympus isn't the only company prone to this - I've had the same issue with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and Tamron (and haven't tried Fuji, but I'm sure they're the same). With cameras only continuing to increase in resolution, I think companies also need to focus more on the lens side of the equation for QC.
  2. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    The amount of sample variation seems to be different for different lenses.
    I've seen and heard quite a bit of variation in those 45mm lenses : my copy is very nice but I wouldn't say its very sharp,
    unlike my 20mm Lumix which seems to be good in every respect, when other folk have slower or noisier focus.
    I've owned two Lumix 14-45 which had different colour shift and perhaps slightly different sharpness : but the colour was very different.
    There were some truly awful Lumix 14-42 that came out with G3 kits but at the same time some users had good sharp copies.
    We all have to just roll the dice and hope : or do what you do CptObvious and buy enough to eventually get the one you want.
  3. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 5, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    I'm curious if anyone else has the same experience with the Oly 17 1.8. I agree that the "internet consensus" is that it's decent, but not quite on the same level as the higher-end m43 lenses. But if they are moving manufacturing locations and such, maybe they are making subtle improvements to the optics without really announcing it?
  4. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I've had two copies of the 45/1.8. The first was silver and super sharp. The second (which I still have) is black and somewhat less sharp. I only swapped for the colour! It's still acceptable, but doesn't have the same bite and shows some decentering.
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