Why are the m4/3 "normal" primes all compromised?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by sfmurph, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. sfmurph

    sfmurph Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2013
    San Francisco
    In the film days, every maker worked hard to have a good, cheap, bright/fast normal lens. For m4/3, it seems that all the autofocus primes with a full-frame equivalent FOV from 35-60mm have some compromise.

    • Olympus 17mm f/2.8: pancake sure, but not very bright, and not that sharp
    • Olympus 17mm f/1.8: better, but lacking compared to the similarly styled 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8
    • Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX & Art: cheap, but big and dim
    • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7: very popular; small & bright. The autofocus isn't the greatest and there were problems with banding and some purple fringing on Olympus bodies. We'll see if the updated II model is any better.
    • Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: lots of folks like the subjective "look" and "microcontrast" of this lens, but objectively it doesn't resolve the details that well
    • Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX & Art: like the 19mm, cheap, big and dim

    Maybe the rumored Olympus 25mm will perform more like the 45mm or 75mm, but with this track record, I'd bet it ends up like the 17mm f/1.8 - good, not great. (And I do hope I'm proven wrong.)

    The Sigmas have an excuse as they were designed to work well for Sony's APS-C format. But what about Panasonic and Olympus? Is it that much harder to design normal lenses for m4/3?
  2. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Hi and welcome to the forum! :smile:

    Lens design by its very nature involves compromises -- no one has yet designed a "perfect" lens for all users and all usage scenarios.

    To me, the PL25 is probably the best of the bunch...the only real complaint I have with it is its size. I'm curious as to where you've come by the statement that "objectively it doesn't resolve the details that well." The objective tests I've read (and I'll admit I likely haven't seen them all) seem to indicate that based on things like MTF charts it has no problems with resolution. That has been borne out by my personal experience (though I am no expert photographer nor pixel-peeper).
  3. gochugogi

    gochugogi Mu-43 Veteran

    All lenses have compromises. You pick what's most important to you and get out and take pictures. If you wait for perfect, you'll be waiting and waiting and waiting...
  4. sfmurph

    sfmurph Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2013
    San Francisco
    For the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, I've read some complaints, but the objective results came from Roger Cicala at LensRentals:

    LensRentals.com - Wide-Angle Micro 4/3 Imatest Results

    Of course, there are always compromises in lens design (as in anything), but it seemed that for 35mm film, the fewest compromises were found around the "normal" 40-55mm focal lengths. For m4/3, it somehow seems harder.
  5. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    Please show us an uncompromised lens. What does it look like?
  6. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Mostly I agree but what "objective" data have you seen to support this resolution claim? Or are you just referring to wide open where almost every fast prime is soft but the PL25mm is still sharper than most wide open.

    Panasonic Leica DG SUMMILUX 25 mm f/1.4 ASPH. review - Image resolution - Lenstip.com

    Panasonic Lens: Primes - Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX (Tested) - SLRgear.com!
  7. htc

    htc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 11, 2011

    sfmurph; If those all are in your opinion "compromised", then I think you are paying attention to irrelevant. Most of us can't tell which is which if we are looking the results. I think some times WE ALL are paying way too much attention to irrelevant.

    If your hobby is MFT charts, then its different. They are not MFT perfect. They are "compromised" like every other lens in the market so far.

    Also there are lot of us that are after "this and that punch" what they believe they can find from the results. Yet, pro level photoshop user can make that "punch" from every file taken with every lens you mentioned earlier.

    Maybe pixel peeping IS our hobby but that has nothing to do with every day life pictures, IMHO.
  8. Uncle Frank

    Uncle Frank Photo Enthusiast

    Jul 26, 2012
    San Jose, CA
    Like this. :wink:

  9. htc

    htc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 11, 2011
    Should you look the same focal length, not the equivalent "focal length". There are 45 mm from Olympus and Panasonic and 75 from Olympus...
  10. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Too bad it's not a 1.2...and it's a little bulky. :tongue:
  11. pcnyc

    pcnyc Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 15, 2010
    well, it's 85mm, hardly normal. and purple fringing sometimes get out of hand.

  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    The 20mm only had banding issues on certain cameras some of the time. And I've never had a complaint about the AF being slow. I stand there for 30 seconds fiddling with settings anyway. Who care if I have to wait another half a second? So, to me anyway, the two issues people have with this lens are not issues to me. It is the best lens for me. And the second best is the 45mm 1.8
  13. FlyPenFly

    FlyPenFly Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 15, 2011
    The MTF charts are a funny thing. You need to look at many different MTF charts measuring different frequencies and charts from infinity and different focus distances to have an idea of lens performance.

    Or you can go shoot and quickly find that the PL25 is a far better lens than the P20 or Olympus 45mm. I had multiple copies of both the O45 and P20, they are rather mediocre boring lenses compared to the PL25.

    By the way, as an old Nikon shooter, I have to say the 85mm F1.4 AF-D is a poor example of an un-compromised lens... you need to look at Leica ASPH lenses which cost a bundle and do not have AF to find a true un-compromised lens.
  14. mnhoj

    mnhoj There and back again

    Dec 3, 2011
    Los Angeles
    John M
    I would say the 20mm and 25mm are at least as good as anything in their price range. I've tried quite a bit of them and can testify.
  15. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Of course, to some lack of AF constitutes a compromise. Not to mention telling my kids they're going to have to go to pay their own way through community college so that I can afford those lenses. :biggrin:
  16. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    Honestly, if you can't find something that meets your needs, between the

    Oly 17mm f1.8, the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, or the Panasonic 25mm f1.4,

    I'm forced to ask exactly what your needs are. Personally, of those three lenses, I went for the Panasonic 20mm, but I would have been satisfied with any one of them.

    And if those three lenses are all too expensive for you, the Sigma 19mm f2.8 is reputed to be excellent as well - of course it's a bit slower, but it costs a fraction of what the others cost.
  17. McBob

    McBob Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 22, 2012
    I partly understand... what I'd really like as a walk-around m43 lens is a 20/1.7 pancake with the AF performance of the PL25/1.4 . Maybe that's what's about to debut in the 20/1.7 v2?

    Hard to say, though... I have about 8 lenses in the 17-30 range and use most of them for different things.
  18. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Never found the PL25 lacking in ability to resolve fine detail. But I'm going on my own results, not the numbers gleened from MFT charts -- useful, but not definitively so.
  19. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Hi Sfmurph!

    Well, I was there "back in the day" and the reason that every maker worked hard to have a "good, cheap, bright/fast normal lens" (Leica excepted; nothing about Leica has ever been cheap :biggrin:) is because zoom lenses were junk.

    The "kit" lens back in the '60s ranged from 45mm prime to the 58mm prime, generally settling in the 50mm range (such as the Nikon "nifty fifty" :thumbup:).

    My PenFT (Olympus half frame 35mm) came with, as I recall, a 38mm as the "normal" lens - and Olympus made some delicious prime lenses.

    The typical hobbyist purchaser wanted "what you see is what you get" (thus the "normal" view of 50mm) and then would perhaps later on add wide angle "landscape", a short telephoto "portrait" and, possibly, a long telephoto "wildlife" lenses. Everyone else bought a Kodak.

    The "normal" lens was the bread 'n butter lens - if that was considered junk there was every chance that the purchaser would avoid the brand entirely.

    Today zooms rule (except in forums such as this one, where we members are more experienced, more discerning, and obviously better looking than the typical camera purchaser :biggrin:).

    And even today only pros or very serious amateurs opt for premium zooms - the Nikon 12-24, 24-70, and 70-200 mm lenses (all at f/2.8) are large, heavy, and expensive. (The primary reason I moved to the OM-D E-M5 was due to the weight of Nikon gear; performance was outstanding but schlepping the kit around became a pain (literally)).

    So - if you were a manufacturer would you pony up R&D funds for an uncompromising "normal" lens which would, perhaps, not hit a sweet spot with a majority of purchasers, or would you place your bet on reasonably compromised zoom lenses?

    Certainly the 45mm and 75mm :43: aren't shabby by any standards; however in the larger scheme of things they have a somewhat limited market and do not, AFAIAW, come as "kit" lenses.

    For some reason (unfathomable to me} folks will buy a camera that supports interchangeable lenses and then look for a lens that they won't have to change :confused:.

    If I worked for Olympus or Panasonic that's the segment of engineering and marketing that I'd put the money into.

    A "normal" lens? I'd assign enough resources to make the design "close enough" and move on. "50mm equivalent? Yeah, we've got one of those around here somewhere, lemme check in back..."

    Secondary manufacturers such as Sigma tend to bring in "close enough" designs that undersell the OEM gear. To design an uncompromised lens would, perhaps, command a premium price and that's not the market that Sigma has chosen to play in. (I have their 30mm :43: lens and like it very much).

    I'm happy enough with my Panasonic 20mm; I don't shoot sports and so don't notice any focusing lag and I've not seen any banding issues on my E-M5. Is it as sharp/fast/cheap as my Nikon 50mm? Nope.

    But the Nikon design is decades old (a 1960's 50mm Nikon will work just fine on a D300 as far as optics go. Autofocus maybe not so much :wink:) and R&D was paid for years ago.

    I don't see a reasonable payback for Olympus or Panasonic to design and market an uncompromised "normal" lens.

    Just my 2 cents, fully worth at least half of that.


  20. garfield_cz

    garfield_cz Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 9, 2011
    Czech Republic
    I don't think so, even during film days every lens was unique having its own compromises. Some lenses were sharp and some soft, but both valuated if used as artistic tool. Current m4/3 lenses have its own weaknesses and strengths as well, but for me all native primes are producing way better images in Lightroom than I ever had in Darkroom :thumbup: