Shootout Superzoom shootout: Oly 12-100 / Oly 12-200 / Pana 14-140

ibd

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As a follow-up to my other thread, I've done tests with these three superzoom lenses. As a new test, I've mixed in high-res shots using the E-M1 II to better showcase the lenses' imaging capabilities.

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As usual, all files can be downloaded here for your own inspection: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hYrQFgDfQftRa79zxvHHsMmskyOqh_0Y/view?usp=sharing

Insights & Conclusion
- All lenses somehow represent a valid optimal point in their respective niche -- they're all great compromises:
- Oly 12-100 offers the best overall image quality
- Oly 12-200 offers the biggest zoom range and largest reach
- Pana 14-140 offers the smallest and lightest package
- All lenses (The Pana 14-140 in its latest version) are weather sealed
- At f/8, you're in diffraction territory. The Oly 12-200 and Pana 14-140 sharpen up marginally at the tele end at f/8, especially in the corners. You're better off using a wider aperture in all other cases.
- Given the somewhat soft results of the Oly 12-200, I will sell it.

Testing methodology
All shots on a tripod at or near base ISO.
Shot at wide open, f/5.6 (if sufficiently different from wide open), and f/8 apertures.
Weather conditions were a bit unfortunate in some of the shots. There were some light changes, and some wind. I tried to check each shot for motion blur.
Some shots were taken at 20MP, some at 50MP using the E-M1 II's high-res shot feature.
At the tele end, I took pictures at 100mm, 140mm, and 200mm (wherever that focal length is possible with the lens).
Posted here are center crops, all wide open. All other views are not posted in this thread, but must be downloaded. This is to make for easier scrolling / navigation of this thread.

Wide end
At the wide end, results are very close.
Some advantage goes to the two Olympus lenses for offering 12mm over Panasonic's 14mm.
Center sharpness is almost the same for all lenses, and is very good.
In the extremes of the imaging circle, so borders and corners, the ranking is quite clearly (best to worst): Oly 12-100 > Pana 14-140 > Oly 12-200.

Oly 12-200
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Pana 14-140
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Oly 12-100

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Tele end
Things become much more interesting at the tele end.
Oly 12-200
At 100mm and 140mm, the center sharpness is very good.
Borders and corners are weak. Stopping down to f/8 helps a great deal.
At 200mm, the center sharpness remains very good. The borders and corners improve a bit over 100-140mm, I would say the performance there is "fair" at 200mm.
At 140mm and 200mm, there is visible vignetting wide open. It disappears when stopped down.
P1022486.jpg
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P1022490.jpg
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P1022497.jpg
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Pana 14-140
At 100mm and 140mm, the center is very good.
Borders and corners are fair to good. They clean up a bit more when stopping down to f/8.
At 140mm, there is visible vignetting wide open. It disappears when stopped down.
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Oly 12-100
Center sharpness is outstanding at f/4. Keep it there for best results.
Corner sharpness is good to excellent as well. In my copy, the lower right corner is slightly weaker.
There is moderate vignetting which disappears when stopped down.
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Last edited:

ibd

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Happy to get this good reception. I made some further tests, asking: "At maximum reach, how much fine detail can be resolved between these lenses?".
For this, I took the same scene with the three lenses at their maximum focal length, and did a severe crop to the same field of view (about 500mm - 700mm FoV). When viewed at the same size, it should answer the question.

In each case, I only kept the sharpest shot from a few for comparison.

Not surprisingly, The Oly 12-200 is the most convincing in this test.
The 20 MP shot with the Pana 14-140 of the tree trunk might have slightly missed auto focus. The high res shot shows a bit better results.

20 MP sensor
Left to right: Oly 12-100 / Pana 14-140 / Oly 12-200
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"50 MP sensor" using high-res mode
Left to right: Oly 12-100 / Pana 14-140 / Oly 12-200

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barry13

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Thanks for this shootout.

I wanted to see the 3 shots at 100mm side-by-side, so here they are:
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Brownie

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For this, I took the same scene with the three lenses at their maximum focal length, and did a severe crop to the same field of view (about 500mm - 700mm FoV). When viewed at the same size, it should answer the question.
Not sure that's a true statement. My understanding is that optical zoom is going to beat a large crop hands down, all things being equal. using the same focal length (let's say 500mm) per your post, the 100 will need a 5x crop, the 140 a 3.6x crop, and the 200 a 2.5x crop. This seems to be borne out in the results.

If I'm incorrect please someone set me straight.
 

danelkins

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Thanks for sharing your test results. If you decide to extend to your comparison I think some of us would appreciate some more common situations like handheld shots where the iso might hit 400 or 800 to accommodate a higher shutterspeed. Example: 1/125, f5.6 @ iso800 when shooting in forested areas or shaded areas. I have noticed a greater difference in lens IQ when the iso goes up. I have the Lumix 14-140mm and it holds well against others when shooting at iso800.
 

ibd

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So that's what happens when your thread gets put on the front page! Never got so many notifications before! :D

Not sure that's a true statement. My understanding is that optical zoom is going to beat a large crop hands down, all things being equal. using the same focal length (let's say 500mm) per your post, the 100 will need a 5x crop, the 140 a 3.6x crop, and the 200 a 2.5x crop. This seems to be borne out in the results.
You got it exactly right. Maybe my explanation could have been clearer. Indeed, in the second comparison, the crop at the 100mm field of view is twice as much as at 200mm.

Thanks for sharing your test results. If you decide to extend to your comparison I think some of us would appreciate some more common situations like handheld shots where the iso might hit 400 or 800 to accommodate a higher shutterspeed. Example: 1/125, f5.6 @ iso800 when shooting in forested areas or shaded areas. I have noticed a greater difference in lens IQ when the iso goes up. I have the Lumix 14-140mm and it holds well against others when shooting at iso800.
I'm not sure what would be gained from that. Shooting a bright subject with minimal ISO should highlight the differences in the lenses. If ISO goes up, or the detail in the subject goes down (for example, a lower-contrast forest scene), it will only bring the lenses closer. Basically, all lenses give the same result when shooting a black cat in a coal mine. :D
 

Brownie

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You got it exactly right. Maybe my explanation could have been clearer. Indeed, in the second comparison, the crop at the 100mm field of view is twice as much as at 200mm.
So then can you clarify how comparing a crop of 5x to a crop of 2.5x indicates lens resolution?
 

ibd

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Thanks for the comparison, Shame the 12-200 is not a bit sharper
I agree.

Let me show you the two pictures that prompted me to buy the 12-200 in the first place. These were taken at a photography (gear) event where Olympus was demoing the E-M5 III.

One shot was taken with my Pana 14-140 (the same used for the tests in this thread). The other shot was taken with the Oly 12-200 that was present at the event -- I was able to try it out on my camera. I'm showing crops here with a 1600 px side length.

Clearly, there is a significant sample variation. The Oly 12-200 that they had at that event was really quite contrasty and sharp at 200mm -- better than the Pana 14-140 @ 140mm. I wish the lens I bought was as sharp. But, I'm not willing to play the "sample lottery" until I get a really good one.

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ibd

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So then can you clarify how comparing a crop of 5x to a crop of 2.5x indicates lens resolution?
It does not; at least not in real-world scenarios with 20 MP sensors.
I deliberately tried to word the comparison introduction for that second test such that the dependency on the telephoto reach is clear.

Hypothetically, if we had a sensor with infinite resolution, we could crop as much as we wanted. We would only be limited by the lens resolution (neglecting other physical and optical phenomena).

As the first test has shown, the Oly 12-100 has excellent resolution at 100mm. The second test merely aims to show how close you can get to the results of the Oly 12-200 if you're willing to crop to the same field of view. As the sensor resolution increases, this gap will become closer -- as the high-res shots also show.
 

Brownie

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The second test merely aims to show how close you can get to the results of the Oly 12-200 if you're willing to crop to the same field of view.
Thanks, this is where I was trying to get. Your initial post on this particular set of images belies that explanation. This is a much better description.

The last set of images you posted tell a big story though. A good copy of the 12-200 is that much better than the 14-140, and the 12-200 seems to have a much wider IQ from copy to copy than one would like to see. Did you contact Oly for their input? I'd be tempted to start being a squeaky wheel on that, especially since the copy you tried out at their booth appears to be excellent.
 

ibd

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The last set of images you posted tell a big story though. A good copy of the 12-200 is that much better than the 14-140, and the 12-200 seems to have a much wider IQ from copy to copy than one would like to see. Did you contact Oly for their input? I'd be tempted to start being a squeaky wheel on that, especially since the copy you tried out at their booth appears to be excellent.
I did not contact them. What would be the main point of complaint I could raise? Copy variation is a known issue across manufacturers, and thus "accepted". See for example the Olympus 17mm and 42.5mm f/1.8 lenses, Panasonic's 100-400mm (regarding the lens mount and zoom mechanism), or Laowa's 7.5mm f/2.

Besides, my copy seems to fall in line with most reviews of the lens out there, while the lens at their booth seemed to be exceptionally good. Finally, the lens was imported from abroad through a third party seller -- since my lens does not perform "below expectations", it would be difficult to even exchange it on these grounds.
 

Brownie

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I did not contact them. What would be the main point of complaint I could raise? Copy variation is a known issue across manufacturers, and thus "accepted". See for example the Olympus 17mm and 42.5mm f/1.8 lenses, Panasonic's 100-400mm (regarding the lens mount and zoom mechanism), or Laowa's 7.5mm f/2.

Besides, my copy seems to fall in line with most reviews of the lens out there, while the lens at their booth seemed to be exceptionally good. Finally, the lens was imported from abroad through a third party seller -- since my lens does not perform "below expectations", it would be difficult to even exchange it on these grounds.
So then they purposely misrepresent IQ at shows by choosing lenses that perform better than what the consumer can buy? That would be the main point of my complaint. I wouldn't expect an exchange, or for them to even do anything. But I surely would call them out and make it public if need be. While I'm also certain that this practice is wide-spread, it is nonetheless disingenuous.

I guess if you purchased the lens knowing that what 'normal' is and your copy represents that, then I agree. It sounds like you also chose to purchase in a manner that isn't conducive to communication with the manufacturer. All good points to remember, things to keep in the back of my mind when purchasing a new lens.
 

ibd

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While that would truly be something to get annoyed about, it seems a bit of a stretch that they would go through the trouble to pick a "good copy" for all the lenses they have at trade shows. I don't know how many people will pixel peep at comparison shots at home, taken with lenses from a trade show, but I guess I'm in the tiny minority here.

Not sure how I can make it more public than on a forum like here. I don't think my Facebook friends would care about that at all... ;)
 
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Happy to get this good reception. I made some further tests, asking: "At maximum reach, how much fine detail can be resolved between these lenses?".
For this, I took the same scene with the three lenses at their maximum focal length, and did a severe crop to the same field of view (about 500mm - 700mm FoV). When viewed at the same size, it should answer the question.

In each case, I only kept the sharpest shot from a few for comparison.

Not surprisingly, The Oly 12-200 is the most convincing in this test.
The 20 MP shot with the Pana 14-140 of the tree trunk might have slightly missed auto focus. The high res shot shows a bit better results.

20 MP sensor
Left to right: Oly 12-100 / Pana 14-140 / Oly 12-200
View attachment 803828View attachment 803824View attachment 803826

View attachment 803830View attachment 803834View attachment 803832

"50 MP sensor" using high-res mode
Left to right: Oly 12-100 / Pana 14-140 / Oly 12-200

View attachment 803829View attachment 803825View attachment 803827
View attachment 803831View attachment 803835View attachment 803833
This is awesome stuff. Thanks so much for doing this. I have been toying with the idea of the 12-200mm as a travel lens, but I already own the 12-100. I find I shoot a lot at the tele end while traveling so the extra reach is tempting. Also, I recently got the 40-150 2.8 so the non-traveling use of the 12-100 may be going down quite a bit. This shootout will help when I decide what to do. Thanks!
 

FabledFew

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When announced, the Olympus 12-200 seemed so tempting for an all-around travel lens. However, seeing as it is not as sharp as you'd want, I think the Panasonic is a better compromise between quality/size.
 
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