Ultrawide (rectilinear) thoughts

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by jamespetts, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I am wondering whether to get an ultrawide rectilinear lens for my E-M1. I am in any event going to be getting the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens very soon (and I have had that lens before and liked it), but I have never used a rectilinear lens shorter than 12mm (or 24mm with 35mm film) before. I have read Ken Rockwell's guide to using ultrawide rectilinear lenses, and think that one might be quite useful for interiors, landscapes and cityscapes, all photographic subjects that I particularly like (although owing to living in London, I do not get the chance to take rural landscapes very often).

    I suspect that I should find better value in a secondhand lens than a new one by some considerable margin, and it is at secondhand lenses of this type that I have been looking. Setting aside for a moment the future Olympus pro ultra-wide zoom which will not be with us for over a year (and which I suspect will probably be a 7-12mm f/2.8), there are four options:

    (1) the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Micro Four Thirds;
    (2) the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Four Thirds;
    (3) the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 Micro Four Thirds; or
    (4) the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 Four Thirds.

    No. 1 is the most convenient and compact option, the second cheapest, and will focus quickly; but it is known to be soft in the corners, which is far from ideal for landscapes or interiors. No. 2 is a feasible option with the E-M1; it is, I think, about the same size as the 12-40mm but lighter and sharper in the corners than the Micro Four Thirds version. It is also the cheapest of the four. Both 9-18mm lenses, however, overlap rather more with my existing 12-40mm lens than the 7-14mm lenses do. The overlap being on the shorter end, however, does mean that the optical quality and maximum aperture of the lenses will be at its best in the lens's most useful range.

    No. 3 is considerably more expensive (nearly twice as much) as the 9-18mm lenses, and has the additional disadvantages of the serious flare problems, especially with the Sony sensors on the most recent Olympus cameras (and apparently, to a lesser extent even with more recent Panasonic sensors). It is, however, a wonderfully compact lens otherwise capable of high optical quality and a very wide angle of view indeed.

    No. 4 is probably optically the most superior of the lot, and, although notionally the most expensive, there is actually a poor fellow who has been trying to sell his secondhand on eBay in the UK for about a month without luck and keeps reducing the starting bid by £10 each time, with the result that the thing costs less than a secondhand Panasonic 7-14mm. I was somewhat tempted by this (which is also the only weather sealed option) until I checked the Four Thirds website and saw that it weighed over 700g, which is a bit much for a lens that I cannot see myself using terribly often.

    I am currently leaning strongly towards the cheapest option, the Four Thirds 9-18mm, but I should appreciate input from people who have used any of these lenses on the subject before making any final decisions, not least because I have only been able to find one review of the Four Thirds 9-18mm which was quite positive, but its metrics, especially for sharpness, were not easily comparable those of other lenses on other review sites, and there are also few sample photographs to inspect.

    Beyond the question of the lenses themselves, I am also interested in people's views on how useful that they find ultra-wide rectilinear lenses generally, for what subjects that people tend to use them, and the extent to which (for each sort of subject) the difference between 7mm and 9mm makes a real difference.

    My provisional thinking on the topic, incidentally, was that there is much to be said for using the fish-eye when an extreme wide-angle view is desired (on the basis that the fish-eye, although it distorts shape, at least does not distort perspective, which is arguably a more useful thing to keep undistorted in extreme wide-angle situations) and that the less extreme 9mm is actually likely to be a more usable focal length for general cityscapes, landscapes and interiors than the more extreme 7mm, which, in its rectilinear form, can do very weird things to perspectives indeed.

    I am very interested in people's views on the various issues discussed here.
  2. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    Option #3 is the best of that bunch. You get lighting fast compact autofocus lens, incredible IQ, 7mm is really a lot wider than 9mm... But you need to use a rear gel filter to avoid issues with purple blobs...
  3. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    That rear gel solution sounds like more trouble than it is worth, especially since they have to be cut manually and changed regularly. Also, from what I understand, the gel does not eliminate the flare, but makes it less obvious by making it a light yellow instead of purple. This can be done in Lightroom, too, but the flare still degrades the quality of the image.

    Do you happen to know of any comparison between the image quality of the Panasonic 7-14mm and Olympus Four Thirds 9-18mm?
  4. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    I've been using the Lumix 7-14mm quite a bit recently on my EM5 and to be honest I'd forgotten how good it really is. Optically it's basically indistinguishable from the ZD 7-14mm, especially when you consider the massive size advantage. The only real issue I've found is the lack of CA correction on the EM5, although this is easily fixed in post and EM1 jpegs will fix it in-camera.

    Not saying the flare issue doesn't exist but I haven't had any problems with it.


    If I could give one piece of advice on the world of internet photography, it would be never, ever, under any circumstances, read Ken Rockwell.
  5. Jeff1:1

    Jeff1:1 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 2, 2013
    The ultrawide lenses, even rectilinear, require much more composition thinking and finding a good shooting spot than 12mm view. Personally I use the cheap 0.18x fisheye attachment with my 14-42mm zoom. Gives a circular image with 4:3 or 1:1 at 14mm & ultrawide rectangle with 3:2 at other mm's. Yes, lots of curved lines & such, but again camera placement other than my 6 foot eye level helps minimize them to less noticeable. Also it's a case of me finding a way to use it than the scene needing it. A stitched panorama using a few 18mm verticals gives no distortion & wider view vs. a 7mm view with careful camera placement.
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  6. Dave in Wales

    Dave in Wales Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 5, 2011
    West Wales
  7. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    KR's ultra wide writing is pretty good, just avoid his reviews.

    MZD 9-18 sharpens up well in post. It's easier to sharpen than to correct the purple blobs in post for me, YMMV.

    The legacy FT lenses are great but I would rather fill the gap with lenses that doesn't exist in the MFT world, like the f/2 zooms. The native lenses are only slightly inferior to their FT counterparts. It's negligible when size and weight reductions are accounted for.

    If you're getting the 7.5 FE no matter what, de-fishing it with Lightroom is easy and the result is wider than 7mm. Try it before committing to a rectilinear UWA!
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  8. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you for your suggestions. As to de-fishing: does that not make the corners soft and lacking in detail in the same way as the Olympus lenses with large amounts of barrel distortion corrected electronically such as the 9-18 or 17 f/1.8? As to sharpening in post; firstly, given that the issue is probably caused in part by electronic correction of barrel distortion such that actual resolution and detail is lost, can sharpening really help; and also, does sharpening an image enough for the edges then not oversharpen the centre?
  9. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    De-fishing is a mathematical transform and works pretty well with the Samyang fisheye. I suggest trying that when you get the fish first.
  10. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    As indicated above, I had this lens before (unfortunately, it, together with the rest of my photographic equipment, was stolen in a burglary, and I have been replacing what I have lost), so I do have some photographs taken with this lens. I had also previously downloaded some de-fishing lens profiles for Lightroom for it.

    I have just now tried this with a few photographs. What I noticed was that there was an enormous amount of stretching on the edges (and "edges" here in a very broad definition of anything not right at the centre); a photograph taken inside a room at work last year, when de-fished, showed lever arch files stretched and lacking in sharpness (owing to them being much bigger in the de-fished image than they were in the original). Door knobs ceased to be round and became stretched, and box files took on very unusual shapes. I do not think that software de-fishing is a very satisfactory answer, especially as the finished effect cannot be shown in the camera before the photograph is taken.
  11. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord Subscribing Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    I can only sing praises to the Panny 7-14. Sharp great FOV light and small (for an UWA).

    I agree to some posts above that UWAs require a lot of thinking and better framing but once you get a hang of it, UWAs produce really stunning images... But you knew that. :)
  12. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    The idea that lenses affect perspective distortion is a fallacy that has been discussed many places, including here, in detail. This article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective_distortion_(photography) explains the situation pretty well. Bottom line: Perspective "distortion" is determined only by the camera's distance from the subject, not by the focal length of the lens.

    Switching gears, my choice is the M43 9-18mm. It is amazingly small and versatile. Sure, I'd like an extra 2mm on the wide end, but not at the expense of losing on the long end and the significantly extra bulk and money. As it sits it's a great UWD and a great street lens. In fact, with the excellent low light performance of my new GX7, I'm considering selling my 12/2 as it may have become superfluous to my needs, primarily tourist photography.
  13. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    On a general note, I love UWA lenses and highly encourage people to give them a solid try. One of the mistakes people make is not giving them enough time and practice - stick one on your camera and shoot with just that one lens for a while, until it feels natural. At least for me it eventually "clicked", and while I shoot UWA less often than other FOVs I also get a disproportionate number of keepers from it.

    Assuming you have the basics (interesting subject, good exposure, good composition), then one of the key things that can make photographs stand out is using a FOV we don't see every day. Going really wide so your'e right up inside a scene, or shooting a compressed telephoto view gives us something unique to look at, which means an image gains interest.

    Most importantly, it is absolutely not limited to landscapes & architecture use :smile:

    Foot Long by jloden, on Flickr

    Out of Frame by jloden, on Flickr

    Cherry Blossoms by jloden, on Flickr

    View attachment 330721
    CRNBD5_P1010763 by jloden, on Flickr

    I have owned both the 9-18mm and 7-14mm native m4/3 lenses before and I ended up selling the 9-18 and keeping the 7-14. Here's my take on both of then, if it helps any:

    9-18mm: It's *tiny*. If you're looking for portability this lens wins hands down. It's actually the same size or even a tiny bit smaller than the collapsing 14-42 Olympus zoom which I also had at the time.

    It's slower at the longer end, but since I only ever really use an UWA at the widest setting, that didn't make much difference to me. Optically I didn't find it bad per se, but it wasn't great like the 7-14 either. The zoom mechanism I found annoying because it's backwards from all my other zooms since I shoot all Panasonic zooms.

    It takes filters - if you plan to do any long exposure landscapes and such this is a huge help and I'd recommend the 9-18mm unless the 2mm wider width is more important to you than the filters. Also, if you plan to use it as a walkaround zoom as well as doing landscapes and architecture and such, the longer 18mm end might be a plus.

    7-14mm: This lens is one of my favorites, except for the lack of ability to take filters on the front. It's bigger and heavier than the 9-18mm. However,18mm equivalent is not wide enough for the UWA look I crave. I shoot my 7-14mm at 7mm almost exclusively and anything narrower than 16mm equivalent doesn't have the same punch for me. I know it doesn't sound like a lot but 14mm -> 18mm equivalent focal length is a big jump in FOV.

    The purple blob issue is real, but also overly emphasized I think, especially since it's manageable. Like all UWA lenses the 7-14mm will flare. If you use the rear element filter holder with the UV filter it resolves the purple color to a normal green/yellow, so you're just left dealing with "normal" flare. I shoot a GH3 so the purple blobs aren't nearly as pronounced as on the EM-5, not sure how the EM-1 compares. However, in my case it was only an issue shooting outdoors in bright sunlight and in most other conditions I don't even run into it.

    Ultimately the reason I sold the 9-18mm was it felt like it wasn't all that much wider feeling than my 12-35mm, and I wasn't blown away by the optics. I'd still consider one if I was in the market for the smallest solution wide angle but otherwise I prefer the 7-14mm.
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  14. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Like Jloden, I have owned both the 7-14 and the 9-18 - in fact, I had both in the bag for well over 6 months. Unlike Jloden, I sold the 7-14. Here are my reasons:

    - Yes, the 7-14 is a tad sharper, but TBH, there really wasn't enough in it to matter. Wide open, they are both sharper in the corners than the 17-40L I had on my 5dii. Stopped down (f11) the 17-40 probably wins out over both the MFT lenses but even then differences need v.large print sizes to be detectable.

    - The purple blob flare problem on the 7-14 can be a real nuisance in many shooting scenarios. It's quite a significant issue, although careful composition can minimise it. Sometimes it's even "artistic". However, I'd rather not have to deal with it. I bought a rear filter holder and put a gel filter in, but found that although it did reduce the flare a lot, it also reduced sharpness and brought some blooming on bright light sources. Not a great solution.

    - I love high stop ND filters and whilst the 7-14 can be made to take Lee filters, it's expensive and cumbersome compared to a simple screw-in filter.

    - The 7-14 is notably bigger and heavier than the 9-18. It's not that the 7-14 is big (it's actually rather small for what it is), just that the 9-18 really is a fantastic piece of compact engineering.

    - The extra FOV of the 7-14 is nice to have, and actually, this is an area where I still do miss the 7-14 a bit. I make up for it by having the Sammy fisheye, but if you defish, there is a big drop in resolution in the corners. OTOH, the FOV, if defished, is quite a bit wider than the 7-14 so when cropped to match, it's not as bad as it might seem at first glimpse.

    - Finally, the contrast and colours off the 9-18 are really very good and it's always a pleasure to process images from it.

    I do love the 7-14 though and wouldn't criticise anyone for going that way. But we all need to make decisions, and the 9-18 is mine.
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  15. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Pdk, my thoughts exactly. The purple flare was a problem for me, and I don't pixel peep at large enough magnifications to see a noticeable difference between the 7-14 and the 9-18.

    That said, a prime in the range 8 to 10mm would probably do it for me ...
  16. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you very much! That is all very helpful. No-one here with experience of the Four Thirds 9-18mm, which is apparently sharper in the corners than the M.ZD version?
  17. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    Not even for entertainment purposes and examples of what NOT to do?
  18. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    Given how sharp the corners are on my Lumix 7-14mm and m.ZD 12mm, both of which feature software-corrected barrel distortion, I don't know how much truth there is in that statement. Software corrected or optically corrected, all rectilinear wide-angles are 'corrected' in the corners, and all correction will take it's toll.

    As discussed in other threads, all rectilinear wide-angles (as a de-fished fish-eye essentially is) 'stretch' the corners, its one of the fundamental properties of such lenses. The Lumix 7-14, Nikkor 14-28, Canon 17-40 - all will turn a round blob oval if you stick it in a corner. This has nothing to do with the de-fishing process as such.

    Sharpness though is another issue...
  19. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    I agree that the 7-14 is a great lens albeit more expensive now than it was when I purchased mine.




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  20. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you again all for your thoughts. I managed to get a very good deal on a second hand Four Thirds 9-18mm f/4-5.6, so I shall see how that works out for me for the time being. A second hand item does not diminish so much in sale value, so if I find it somehow unsatisfactory, I can re-sell it again. It may well be that, in 18 months' time, the forthcoming Olympus Pro series Micro Four Thirds ultra-wide zoom displaces this, but I shall have had a chance to practise with ultra-wideness in the meantime.