The Battle of the f2.8 Zooms. Which is Optically More Superior?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by dissembled, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. dissembled

    dissembled Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2013
    A. Alabanza
    I'm requesting a comparison from members here on the optical properties of the Olympus 12-40 and the Panasonic 12-35.

    The characteristics I personally find to be most relevant include the following: sharpness,
    creaminess of out of focus areas, a capable enough macro mode and price. I'm leaning more towards the 12-35 because it's a bit less expensive and the fact that it's smaller, a property that consequently makes it balance better on the non-gripped E-M10 that I hope to couple it with. The Olympus' macro mode and better reach are certainly enticing characteristics, however.

    Which is a better match for me personally given my criteria? Which do you think is more optically superior overall?
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
  2. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    Don't have either of them but have seen a lot of posts from both lenses. The fact that you'll use the lens on the E-M10 means you probably won't take advantage of DFD focus and O.I.S. on the 12-35, however it's said that the 12-35 has creamier bokeh whereas the 12-40, much like the 40-150 pro which I have, has rather nervous OOF blur. I believe the 12-40 is very sharp edge to edge and has little to none CA, the 12-35 OTOH has more CA according to the test results on DxOMark, which then gives identical sharpness index to both.

    So the way I see it is, for sharpness you're not going wrong with either one, however if you plan to pair it later with Panasonic bodies, or if you pay attention to the OOF quality you are probably going to favour the 12-35. I personally don't mind lenses being big, neither of them are small enough to put into pockets anyway, that said if I own the 12-35, I'd wish it had more reach; and with the 12-40, I'd probably want better bokeh, or a deeper grip on the body.
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  3. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Seoul, South Korea
    For me, size and weight played the biggest factor. The olympus lenses are larger and don't have the OIS the Panny's do, which is nice to have if I'm shooting Panny bodies, which I currently am (though eyeing that EM5ii). Another thought was the filter size. The Panny's 2.8 zooms are both 58mm, while the Oly's are 62mm and 72mm.

    And as much as I hate to admit to it... it really bugs me that they attach the "Pro" tag line to it. It's a really lowbrow marketing technique to sucker people into thinking it's gear choice that makes someone a Pro Photographer.
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  4. dissembled

    dissembled Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2013
    A. Alabanza
    Thanks so much for that detailed comparison.

    So both lenses are identical sharpness-wise. I always assumed the Olympus was sharper for some reason. And yes, the appearance of out of focus areas is very important to me. The creamier, the better.
  5. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 25, 2014
    I own the 12-40mm and haven't tried the 12-35mm. So it's obvious what my preference and recommendation would be. However, I think you won't go wrong with either lens - their basic qualities are very impressive, though from what I've seen and read (and I did a lot of reading before committing to the 12-40mm), I came away with the impression the 12-40mm is still the slightly(!) better lens.

    So, referring to the title of the thread, I fear you'll really not end up with a result that's as clear cut as you might want it to be. I may have seen more (comparatively) negative reports on the 12-35mm, but that probably doesn't mean a lot since even those mostly emphasise the qualities of the lens, not its weaknesses (with the noteable exception of the Photozone review - but I think their review sample may have been faulty).

    All I can say is that it's actually quite difficult to fault the 12-40mm optically - the zoom beats many otherwise very good primes in terms of sharpness and rendering, though as a true pro zoom, it renders more neutrally than most of them. That's something I really appreciate - no buzz, no fuss, just solid goodness.

    As for bokeh, I think the 12-40mm performs very, very well for a zoom lens, and I'm not at all sure if the 12-35mm is actually better or not. That said, I'm not someone who hunts for bokeh, so someone else might have a more informed opinion. Anyhow, to get an idea of what bokeh's really like, I suggest reading the reviews Chris Gambat did for both lenses over at The Phoblographer - he's someone who's decidedly into this stuff, and he's not that impressed with the 12-35mm in this respect. He's got lots and lots of (street) portraits in his reviews:

    Review: Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 (Micro Four Thirds) - The Phoblographer
    Review: Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 (Micro Four Thirds) - The Phoblographer

    That said, the 12-35mm *is* smaller and lighter, very sharp, and it's got O.I.S., which you might be glad for when using anything other than an Olympus body (or the GX8). I use the 12-40mm with an additional grip on the E-M10 and find the combo very, very comfortable.

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  6. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I've got the 12-35 and have used the 12-40 a little. Optically I doubt anyone on a real world photograph (or even pixel peeking) could separate them. However the 12-35 is notably smaller and IMHO is better balanced on most bodies, especially the smaller ones like the E-M10. Having said that, the 12-40 focuses quite a bit closer so if pseudo-macro is important, then get the 12-40 (or pickup a Raynox as well).
    • Agree Agree x 2
  7. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 25, 2012
    I've had both... I preferred my copy of the 12-40 vs the 12-35. I dunno could have just been psychological... I thought the 12-40 was sharper at 12mm in the edges/corners vs the 12-35. For some reason, I never really bonded with the 12-35 despite using it for quite a long time.
  8. Chris5107

    Chris5107 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 28, 2011
    I don't have the 12-40 and bought the 12-35mm before the 12-40 was available. I have owned 5 or 6 Olympus bodies.

    From what I know, I would pick the 12-35mm again over the 12-40 if I had a choice.

    In my tests, it is clear that at f2.8, the 12-35mm is sharper than the Olympus 12mm and 17mm primes. IMO, IQ is essentially on par with the 25mm prime when looking at photographs. Bokeh is pleasing in shots where it is present.

    The 12-40 gets good reviews and is surely a great lens. However, I don't see you getting any potential image quality benefits from the 12-40. The 12-35mm is already so good.

    With Image quality a toss up, you need to consider other features. For me, the size of the 12-35mm (look at weight on a percentage basis) makes it the obvious choice.

    IMO, you would be happy with either lens and surely there are features of the Olympus that, if desired, would make it a better choice. I use m43 because of its size advantage over other systems and for that reason, the 12-35mm is my first choice.
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  9. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    • Informative Informative x 3
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  10. JuhoMadCraft

    JuhoMadCraft New to Mu-43

    Dec 29, 2015
  11. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    We have had both and currently have the 12-40. I prefer the 12-40. FWIW - my wife uses the 12-40 on her E-M10 without a problem, she has never used the grip that we have.
  12. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
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  13. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    I did a brief review of all the zooms here: Native and Adapted Normal Zooms - a contrarian review

    In the last post I linked to a French review of the 12-35 vs 12-40, which I thought was really well done. The interesting thing was the finding that the 12-35 was generally sharper in the center at all FLs. Originally my feeling was the 12-40 had the edge at the wide end in general.

    In keeping with the contrarian approach I personally prefer the 12-35 primarily because it is smaller and lighter.

    PS - of course I also have the 14-35f2 - contrarian indeed.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
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  14. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    So to throw in a slightly different comparison and thoughts...

    For the first full year of owning my E-M1, I used my old 4/3rds 12-60mm lens. This past summer I decided to finally get a real micro-4/3rds lens to take on the family vacation to try and reduce camera equipment bulk a bit (the old 12-60mm is a big old beast of a lens, but really good). I picked up a nice used Panny 12-35mm from someone in the Buy & Sell section.

    I tend to be mostly a wider angle shooter (24mm and wider) or a longer zoom shooter (60mm+), so moving to the 12-35mm from 12-60mm wasn't that big of an adjustment for me and I was able to do just fine losing that 36-60mm zoom end. To me the difference between the 12-35mm & 12-40mm Pro would be unnoticeable.

    So here is the real reason for this post. After I got back and had almost a thousand shots with various lenses off two bodies (the other camera was an infrared converted E-P2), over the next couple months going through them and editing them I had this feeling that more than a usual number of my 12-35mm shots were a bit soft that I recalled getting with the old 12-60mm. Keeping in mind these were vacation shots so most were shot on the fly and all handheld and all sorts of focal lengths and apertures, there was no "control group" here. So mostly just a, "huh" type feeling about some of the shots. I am not a pixel peeper but I would notice it when trying to zoom in on part of a photo to read a sign or get a better look at something I didn't notice when i was there in person. I seemed to have a lot more softer details than I think I had when I used my 12-60mm on previous vacations.

    Two thoughts on this. One is I really should set up a controlled test to see if this is really true or not and if my 12-60mm really is a bit sharper. The other thought is that the 12-35 is a lot smaller and lighter than the 12-60mm, so perhaps the heft of that old 12-60mm might have helped get ever so slightly sharper shots by dampening out slight camera shake that the 12-35mm is not able to assist with.

    Again, I have nothing to back up this but if I get around to testing the two lenses I would have to be sure and try both on a steady surface AND hand held experimentation.
  15. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    In real world conditions I doubt you could tell the lenses apart using two pictures of an identical scene, by all means choose one over the other due to handling or OIS or range however don't justify it on optical performance because there's really nothing there (liking a lens is going to bias you towards results from it, it's called the Leica effect).
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  16. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    There has been some 12-60 vs 12-40 tests. The 12-40 is generally a bit better and the 12-35 is effectively indistinguishable from the 12-40. Not that there is anything wrong with the 12-60.
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  17. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    I've had some similar experience. A lot of shots I took on my second trip to New Zealand with EPL5+14-45 turned out strangely not sharp, under broad daylight, I've considered shutter shock, OIS issue, focus error and thing is, I could never figure it out, this combo is never "not sharp". Such things happens.
  18. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Yep, I own both and in real world use there is nothing to it. Get the one with the features/specs that are more appealing to you.

    Less range

    Longer range
    Closer close focusing distance
    Snap focus ring

    These are the differences that matter IMO, both have weather sealing, both have exceptional image quality (you have to pixel peep to extreme levels to notice smaller differences), pricing depends on where you live but you can find both for about the same amount of money if you look hard enough/shop used/import.
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  19. Heat shimmer will make everything in the distance blurry. Around summer especially, broad daylight in NZ is extremely bright and strong in UV. Depending on where you are, there can be a lot of pollen or salt spray in diffused in the atmosphere as well.
  20. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I have owned both, the 12-35 was stolen and I replaced it with a 12-40 (kit with E-M1). I prefer the handling (size, balance, solid feel with no sliding focus rings) of the 12-35 by a small margin, the close focus ability of the 12-40 is an advantage, and image quality is really a wash. If I bought new now? Probably the Panasonic. Maybe. Too close to call.
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