Geek Articles

Finally, Some More m4/3 MTF Testing: Are the 40s Fabulous?

It took me a bit longer to get back to m4/3 testing than I expected, but we have an interesting set of primes to look at today, the ‘about 45mm’ group, which includes several 42.5mm and a couple of 45mm lenses. Please don’t get all worked up about that small difference in focal lengths; it’s really not significant. One of the 45mm lenses is a 43.5mm, one of the 42.5mm is a 43mm lens. Plus if you (or your camera) does any distortion correction that may change a bit.  Anyway, I really can’t imagine anyone going ‘wait, I need to change my 42.5mm to a 45mm for this shot’, so it seems a reasonable grouping.

For those of you who haven’t read our previous m4/3 tests, I want to emphasize a couple of things. First, we’re testing the lenses with no camera involved; all we’re evaluating is the optics. My interest is in the lenses, and the lenses only. Making lenses for a smaller imaging circle has some distinct theoretical advantages. Whether the lensmakers use those advantages for good and make better lenses, or for evil to cut corners and raise profit margins, well, that interests me quite a bit.

When you take a picture, you’re using the system (the camera and lens each add their limitations). Despite what many self-described experts say, it is very, very rare that just the lens or just the camera limits the output of the system. In practical terms, unless you have a really horrid lens or a 4-megapixel camera, both camera and lens contribute to the final output. (If you have both a horrid lens and a 4-megapixel camera then you don’t need to be reading this.)

One other point: with m4/3 lenses you can’t make broad generalizations about the name on the outside, because that doesn’t necessarily reflect who made the components on the inside. So if a given Olympus or Panasonic lens is superb (many are), don’t take that to mean all that brands lenses are pretty awesome (many aren’t). The name on the outside means “We paid the people who designed the lens, made the different components, and assembled it. Some of them actually get paychecks with our name on them, some don’t, and the ones who did this lens didn’t necessarily do that other lens.”

Let’s Meet Today’s Players

We have several lenses that meet the criteria of being around 45mm primes and being testable on our machine.

Because some of theses aren’t common renters, I wasn’t able to get a complete set of 10 tested for every model, as noted above.

I think the big question I have today is do they make the name longer because of some inferiority complex? If my theory is correct (it seems to hold for SLR lenses), then a graph of image quality should look like this:

Roger Cicala, 2018

If that holds true, then pretty soon we won’t have to do these tests. We’ll just go ‘that things got five words and six initials in the name, it’s gotta be horrid’.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

At $400 this isn’t a cheap lens by any means, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than some of those we’re looking at. At f/1.8 it’s not the fastest, either, and its seven aperture blades aren’t the most. But it is nice and small; 2.2 inches long and 116 grams in weight, and it does come in your choice of silver or black, so it’s got that going for it.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.2 ED PRO

It’s priced equivalently to three Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses ($1200) but you get over three times the weight (410 grams) for your money, so that seems fair. Seriously, this lens is reported to be excellent, with a lot of design care for smooth bokeh, nine aperture blades, and reportedly excellent image quality.

Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8

This lens is probably not fairly compared to the others since it’s a 1:1 macro lens and not a wide-aperture prime, but well, it had to get tested somewhere. It’s a bit pricey at $800, and moderate in size compared to the others. It’s also an older design, and I didn’t expect it to be awesome.

Panasonic Leica DG Noctitron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS

Of course, this is mainly about the Battle of the f/1.2 lenses, and Panasonic’s f/1.2 entry is the most expensive ($1,400), the heaviest by a hair (425 grams), and a clumsy hood design. But it has the Leica name on it, which means, well, nothing. But it does have the nice 9-blade aperture and the Power OIS system. So while we’ll compare it optically to the Olympus, your choice is probably going to come down to which body you shoot. And because I like to put my preconceived notions out there since they do affect my judgment, I want to not like this lens because it has both the longest name and the pretentious, yet meaningless, Leica badge on the outside; a Marketing Perfecta.

Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH Power OIS

Of course, if what you’re most interested in is having Power OIS, this gives you that, along with the lowest price of the group ($350) in a nice small package. I always root for the underdog, because, well, I’m cheap. So I’m going into this test hoping this lens will kick serious butt; or at least run with the big dogs.

Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Aspherical

OK, I stated on the last set of tests that I despise Voigtlander lenses. That’s because they simply can’t be repaired reasonably and parts are not available, so they are basically disposable lenses. But, I have to say, I was markedly impressed by the 25mm Voigtlander’s performance. And this lens provides by far the widest aperture at a middle-of-the-road $800 price tag. You pay a weight penalty because of the metal housing (and if you think a metal housing makes lenses more reliable, come spend a day in our repair shop). But you get a 10-bladed aperture with that. And yes, I’m aware a lot of you won’t consider a manually focusing lens. But some of you will.


For this section, please remember that the wide-open MTF is the average of 10 copies unless otherwise noted, taken at the widest aperture. As we’ll show later, MTF will be higher with smaller apertures, so the f/1.2 and f/0.95 lenses are at a disadvantage wide open, while the f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit has a big advantage.

So let’s change the order a bit and start from the smallest aperture to the largest; that should make scrolling up and down easier.

Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 (8 copies only)

Well, just to get it out of the way, this isn’t a very good performance. MTF is fairly even with only a moderate amount of sagittal – tangential separation, but it’s low. It’s extraordinarily low given this is a f/2.8 lens, and particularly low at the higher frequencies which are where the fine detail lives. That being said, some macro lenses do perform better close up than at distant focus, which is where this test is done. But if you aren’t looking for a macro lens, there’s not much on the MTF chart to recommend this one.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

This is a pretty impressive performance at a f/1.8 aperture; in fact, it’s far better at f/1.8 than the Macro was at f/2.8. There’s a bit of sag-tan separation and performance does drop off away from the center, but this is pretty good.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018


Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.7 ASPH OIS (6 copies)

The smaller Panasonic also does very well. It has a little bit more separation of sagittal and tangential out at the edges of the image but otherwise is nearly identical to the f/1.8 Olympus as far as sharpness goes. I won’t hair-split the slightly wider aperture because m4/3 manufacturers run a bit fast and loose with f/# and I honestly can’t say for sure this is really wider than the f/1.8.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.2 PRO

Remember you’re at much wider aperture now, so we expect a fall-off in MTF compared to the lenses above. The Digital Pro looks quite good for an ultra-wide aperture. It has a good resolution that it maintains across the field and a mild-to-moderate amount of sagittal-tangential separation.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Leica DG Noctitron 42.5mm f1.2 ASPH Power OIS

The Panasonic f/1.2 is very similar to the Olympus. The MTF is a tiny bit higher in the center but lower at the edges, but probably not enough of either that you’d notice a difference in an image.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Aspherical

As expected, when we get to mega ultra-wide apertures, resolution falls off. This is a pretty decent performance for a f/0.95 lens, though.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Stop-Down Tests

These are not 10-copy tests; we picked one average copy of the lenses to do stop-downs on.

Voigtlander at f/1.4

This was the first easily measurable stop-down for the Voigt, just to get an idea if it would be similar to the f/1.2 lenses once it was stopped down a bit. The answer is yes, it is. In the middle 1/2 of the image, it’s actually sharper now than any of the others, although it fades quite a bit in the outer 1/3 of the image. Still, it’s nice to know you can get very high resolution in the center if the aperture is stopped down just a bit.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018


All Lenses at f/2.8

We’ll make side-by-side comparisons of each lens at wide open and f/2.8. Again, these are single copies so that the wide open MTF will be a little different than the averages above.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

If your question is ‘how did it get sharper in the center, but softer in the edges when stopped down,’ well, the answer is it didn’t. This can happen when a lens has a lot of field curvature. We’re focused in the center for the MTF test, the field curvature (we’ll show that in a minute) is significant enough that the edges remain out of focus despite being stopped down. I explain in more detail in an addendum, if you’re interested.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.7 ASPH OIS

Primarily a similar improvement in the center, but since this lens doesn’t have field curvature, a more predictable result away from the axis.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.2 PRO

Really impressive f/2.8 performance here, and better at f/2.8 than either of the less expensive lenses.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Leica DG Noctitron 42.5mm f1.2 ASPH Power OIS

Another impressive improvement, although not quite as sharp in the center as the Olympus. On the other hand, it holds sharpness better in the middle of the field before fading at the edges.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Aspherical

With its ultra-wide aperture, I’m impressed that the Voigtlander can sharpen up comparably to the two f/1.2 lenses. In the outer half of the image, it’s not quite as good, but I think within ‘sample variation’ of the other two.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Field Curvature (MTF vs. Field vs. Focus)

For those of you who don’t read our technical articles very often, the field curvature may be the most useful thing we give you. This is NOT distortion; rather it’s how the plane of best focus curves. The tangential and sagittal fields often curve differently; when they do you know, there will be astigmatism in those areas.

There’s other information you can get from field curvatures and if you’re interested here are some background articles: Fun with Fields of Focus 1Fun with Fields of Focus IIField Curvature and Stopping Down. I should mention these are done at f/5.6 because that gives a nice, clear picture of the field. Stopping down (or opening up) doesn’t change the curvature significantly. Keep in mind that when you’re shooting at a wider aperture, though, the field is much narrower.

Also, the fields shown are a single copy, so you’ll see some field tilt. That’s relatively common in these lenses.

Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 (8 copies)

You’ll notice this field is both tilted and the tangential curve decentered. This is pretty typical for the copies of this lens we tested. It’s theoretically quite flat, which a macro lens should be, but in reality, is generally going to be a bit tilted.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

The little Olympus has quite significant U-shaped curvature, and in a photo, you should quickly notice that it’s not going to get everything from side to side in focus, even stopped down. This explains the MTF fall-off at the edges we saw above, even stopped down. Note also that the tangential field curves more than the sagittal, so you’ll always have astigmatism (red area in the difference graph) out at the edges, again, even stopped down.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.7 ASPH OIS (6 copies)

Now, how about this one for a nice, flat field with little astigmatism? I’ll take it. But you can notice there is a little curve in the sagittal field. Wide open with a narrower depth of field, this does give a little astigmatism, which you can see in the wide-open MTF graphs above. Still, very nice.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.2 PRO (8 copies)

The Olympus Pro is also fairly flat. You can see a bit of inverted “U” in the tangential curvature, and some mild resultant edge astigmatism.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Leica DG Noctitron 42.5mm f1.2 ASPH Power OIS

Another slightly tilted and decentered tangential field, but again the field is fairly flat. Notice how in this copy the field tilt results in increased astigmatism on one side of the lens. You might notice this one if you pixel peeped a bit.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Aspherical

The Voigtlander again surprises me. I didn’t expect so flat of a field in such a wider aperture lens.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Copy-to-Copy Variation

Micro 4/3 lenses, in general, have a lot of sample variation. Why this is I can’t say. What I can say is it’s not the fabled “they need to up their QA check” that people imagine happens. Micro 4/3 lenses, as a rule, don’t have any compensating adjustable elements, so what you get at the end of the assembly line is what you get unless something is broken inside.

Because we didn’t have 10 copies of each lens, I was hesitant to use our usual variance numbers and graphs; that system depends on having 10 copies. What it did show,  in general terms, was that the Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 Macro has what we consider unacceptable amounts of variance, the other two Panasonics were fairly high. The two Olympus lenses and the Voigtlander were all in the ‘usual’ range for primes.

But I’ll let you judge for yourselves. For each lens below I’ve put thumbnails of our Full Frame MTF map for the first eight copies tested. Remember, with m4/3 you can’t make manufacturer generalizations. One brand looks better at these focal lengths. It is NOT any predictor of how any of the brands will look with lenses of different focal lengths.

Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 (8 copies)

As I said above, this amount of variance is not OK, but a good copy is pretty good.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

There’s obvious variance here, but if you are shooting centered subjects, these would all be good. It’s a good example of a lot of lab variation that probably doesn’t affect pictures very much.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.7 ASPH OIS (6 copies)

Yes, you can tell the difference between the better two and the others.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.2 PRO (8 copies)

This one is pretty danged impressive for a f/1.2. The center of sharpness is in the center of the lens pretty much in every copy. A couple aren’t quite as sharp as the others, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Panasonic Leica DG Noctitron 42.5mm f1.2 ASPH Power OIS

Here’s a great example of why we have internet arguments. Two of these eight lenses are better than any of the Olympus Pros; three are worse. Reviewers or photographers who compared one copy of each are probably going to draw different conclusions.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Aspherical

Lower resolution wide open because this is f/0.95. But for this ultra-wide aperture, I have to say this is very reasonable.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

So What Did We Learn Today?

Well, I learned that no matter how much I dislike Voigtlander, the company, I sure do admire Voigtlander lenses. The performance of the 42.5mm f/0.95 is spectacular. Of course, you also have to be OK with manually focusing, but still, that’s a lens worth considering.

If you want a f/1.2 lens in this focal length, well, let’s face it, it will probably come down to whether you want Power OIS or not. If you don’t, the Olympus 42.5mm f/1.2 PRO is slightly less expensive and has less variation. But a good copy of the Panasonic 42.5 Noctitron is excellent.

Both of the less expensive lenses in this range deliver a lot of bang for the buck. They have very good image quality, and if you don’t need the widest aperture, they give you a lot for 1/3 the price of the wide-aperture duo. If I were most interested in this focal length for portraits, I’d probably want the Zuiko Digital f/1.8; that field curvature will help throw everything other than the subject out of focus. For landscapes or architectural shooting, the flat field of the Panasonic f/1.7 would be an advantage.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

March 2018

Addendum: Field Curvature and MTF

When we looked at the stop-down curves for the Olympus 45mm f1.8, I mentioned that off-axis the MTF didn’t raise because the field curvature was so significant. This is a discussion of why that is so, even stopped down.

First, let’s look at the field curvature of the lens at 20 lp/mm frequency (the orange lines in the MTF graphs above). Below is the sagittal and then tangential field curvatures. For each, I’ve put a black line across the graph at the center focus position.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

If you wanted to mentally read the MTF as you follow the line from center to edge, you’d get curves very similar to the MTF measure above for f/2.8. You should notice that the sagittal field isn’t as curved as the tangential, and therefore the sagittal MTF is higher. But I’ll do that for you below (this is only going to 8mm away from the center, but that’s plenty to make the point).

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

You might ask the very pertinent question, “The MTF is higher away from the center at a different focus position than best center focus. What if I focus out on the edges”? Well, you’ll get a much sharper image. The lens is very sharp away from the center; it’s just that the sharp area is in a different focus plane. But we can graph the best MTF for each point and get something very different; a graph that shows how sharp the lens could be if you focus off-axis. We call this the BIF graph, for Best Individual Focus.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2018

The BIF isn’t real, though, it’s theoretical. If you focused at that point 5mm away from the center, your image at that point would be very sharp, but then the center of the image would be very soft. So with a lens like this, you can get a sharp portrait, for example, anywhere in the field of view. But you can’t make the image sharp from one side to the other, even stopped down.

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Geek Articles
  • David Bateman

    Thank you Brandon,
    That makes sense. Sounds similar to waiting for a metalens with a negative refractive index to transmit the evanescent spectrum. Not likely to occur in my lifetime.

  • Brandon Dube

    The field curvature could potentially be very different at a closer distance to at infinity. Especially in fast internal focus lenses.

  • Brandon Dube

    We select an “average” lens for the stop down.

  • Brandon Dube

    Yes, it is very difficult to do that. Consider an object at infinity, no matter the angle of view the object is the same distance away. The image, then, wants to be an equal distance from the lens, along a sphere with radius of the focal length, not a plane. To make the field curvature go the other way, you need the sum of the power of the negative elements in your lens to be bigger than the sum of the power of the positive elements in your lens.

    Doing that without having a negative focal length is hard. Doing it with a positive focal length and the rest of the aberrations well-corrected is harder.

  • tom

    Hello David and thx a lot for your interesting and quick answer;-)!
    .. what you are describing -unfortunately- remembers me of my 25 1.2 experience: from 4 examples only one was top, two were average and one was really bad over the complete field from center to edges… and what was even much more disappointing: also after “servicing” this lens by Oly. the optical quality was still rather bad… so i only kept the “best” .. and when i bought the 17 1.2 i also had the chance to compare 2 examples; here the variations were very small…(but the focus ring on both was a bit loose and shows some minor slippage (other than the 25 and 45..). But at the end i will keep all these great lenses because of their really fantastic image overall image “effects”: a comprehensive approach to integrate ALL pictorial effects for an aesthetical image … so the sheer will or intention of Olympus in todays competitive markets has to be appreciated (for example in comparison the the Sony approach with “normal” lenses, G-Master optics and Zeiss glass….) cheers, Tom

  • David Bateman

    Question, is it hard to design lenses with the field curvature going in the opposite direction as what you have presented for the Olympus f1.8 lens?
    I was thinking about many photographs and rarely is there lots of stuff in front of the model. To quiet the razer thin 135 format people, a lens designed that way would give you an apparent thin DOF, as long as your object of focus is not blossoms on a tree.

  • Hendrick, I recommend a day taking pictures and then spending a little time looking at 50% magnification images. If something is really wrong with the lens, you’ll notice it.

  • David Bateman

    This is an easy question the answer is they are both correct. The top mtf curves are an average of 6 to 10 lenses. The stop down curves are a single lens. The single Panasonic stop down curve is a less than average performer. The single Olympus stop down curve is an average performer.
    What is concerning is the sample viariation in M43rds lenses.

  • tom

    … Once again my question …

    Hello… Great work again and actually the best technical evaluation of optics around the Web…

    In his publication i wonder whether the curves of the Olympus 45 1.2 and Pana 42.5 1.2 for ‘ 1.2 ‘ are different in the charts at the beginning and when stopped down… my personal experience when using both: the latter curves seem to be more realistic because the olympus really is sharper already in the center and especially in the corners

    Which graphics are correct?

  • “Here’s a great example of why we have internet arguments. Two of these eight lenses are better than any of the Olympus Pros; three are worse. Reviewers or photographers who compared one copy of each are probably going to draw different conclusions.”

    Such an important point to keep in mind. Copy variation is and always has been a fact of life with all manufacturers and formats. It’s also notable that even the good copies which have a center of sharpness in the center of the lens tend to have some degree of asymmetric sharpness which is noticeable if you go looking for it. I try NOT to go looking for it :).

  • So which is best as legacy lens? I would think Voigtlander. Is their customer service for repair not the same as pre digital lenses, thinking Mamiya medium format. Went ahead and got the Voigtlander as saving for Lumix G9 during slow winter season. It is so clear but first time heard about repairs. Like idea having lens all manual focus so don’t feel lose investment when af tech changes. Also discovered Austrian heritage and liked company was first sponsored there. Take time to craft for quality.

  • Hendrik

    Re: Handling copy-to-copy variation

    Thanks Roger for yet another great article! The copy-to-copy variation in m4/3 lenses you’ve mentioned before and it is a little worrying. I wonder which procedure you would recommend (or maybe there is a post here about it already) for the home user to choose among serveral specimen of a lens?

  • Horst Kath

    Hello Roger, It was very interesting to read your publication about 4/3 mft lenses. The most surprising thing for me is the value of deviation between the same lens but different copies. As I read your review about the 45 mm lenses I found that there must be a mistake in comparing the zuiko 45 / 1.8 at an aperture of 1.8 and 2.8. I can’t believe that the performance at an aperture of 2.8 is so much worth than at 1.8. May be the charts has been exchanged? Bests regards Horst

  • Ilya Zakharevich

    Keep in mind that for the diagrams above, radius of curvature in the object space is about 20cm for tangential, and about 40cm for saggital. So to get 10cm, you need something with more dramatic curvature!


    How to to see this starting from your 2d colormaps: rescale them 20× w.r.t. HORIZONTAL markings (so that the width becomes 36cm instead of 18mm). Place them horizontally so that the vertical midline goes along the optical axis, and so that the horizontal midline is “the subject”. Now it is a color map of MTF in the target space provided the field of view is 36cm wide.

    (The only ”magic number” in the recipe above is the factor 20. This is the ratio of scales on the vertical and horizontal axes of your colormaps.)

  • Brandon Dube

    If there’s a lot of astigmatism (T and S curve in opposite direction or one curves and one does not) then the image has highly directional defocus. If you watch quite a lot of movies – especially from the 80s and 90s using anamorphic lenses – the very top and bottom of the frame is really blurry. That’s what astigmatism looks like in a picture when taken to an extreme.

    I can simulate images of astigmatism from a reference frame, but not with the proper dependence over the field of view (which is a significant part of the “look”). Simulating with the dependence of the FoV efficiently is a highly complicated algorithm I haven’t implemented yet.

  • > is there an easy-ish way to figure out if there’s some significant field curvature for a lens at home?
    Based on what I’ve gotten from these articles so far:

    Shoot a chart or brick wall focused in the center, then shoot again focused in a corner.
    If there’s no difference, then no field curvature (unless it’s “M-shaped”).
    If all the corners got better, then it’s field curvature.
    If the corner of focus got better but the opposite corner got worse, then it’s field tilt (and possibly also field curvature).

    Did I get it right?

  • Jan Stenberg

    I understand how you think even though I believe it would be hard to get focus of the outside of the sphere from the inside of a sphere. 😉 Maybe it would be true for an uncorrected lens, but these system of lenses are probably corrected for many types of abberations. My personal experience of a lens with that “feature” is the Voigtlander 21mm f/1.8 which on a full frame camera would do just that, render pictures with both nose and ears sharp at the right distance to the subject. 🙂

  • That’s definitely not right.
    That’s not how uncorrected lenses work.
    If you took a picture of the inside of a hemisphere it would be in focus, not the outside.

  • Clayton Taylor

    So, shooting with a wide-open aperture, the family in the center of the frame posing with Mickey Mouse is at the point of focus, and the Magic Kingdom castle and other fantasy structures at the edges will be in better focus than if the lens design had a flat-field. Genius.

  • Carleton Foxx

    If I may offer a bit of real-world observation, I’ve watched guys load the trucks at my local Fedex office and they regularly heave the lighter boxes 10 feet into the back of their trucks, so the fact that OIS elements work at all is a testament to their well-built-ness.

  • That was awesome. And now I have to post this PS thing Joey did of Aaron and me a while back.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Do Cosina do most of their lenses in-house as well? Seeing that they’re one of the better-known for-hire lens manufacturers, I’d have thought so.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Noctritron… wasn’t that a brand of TV’s made by Sony? Maybe they’re the ones behind this lens!? /jk

  • Goblin

    Blast !!! The mystery of the yellow paint tube – finally solved ???

    Long live Mr Cicala 🙂

    So. About that yellow paint tube. Let me tell you a tale

    One upon of time, in a kingdom far far away (kingdom moved from UK to Seattle at some point) called DPReview, there was this beautiful, helpful, easy to use Studio Scene.

    On said scene, some bored pixel peeper (me), noticed something disturbing…

    ALL the m43 cameras reviewed after the Olympus E-M5 mk1 (that was in 2012) looked worse than said E-M5 mk1.
    Especially flagrant was the yellow paint tube on the lower right. Ah, that yellow paint tube !!! It looked fuzzier and worse on anything after that E-M5 mk1. Panny bodies, Oly bodies, you name it.

    Then, somewhere along the tests, DPR’s reviewers kindly shared that the 45mm f:1.8 M.Zuiko, although “not as good” as the 50mm f:2 4/3 Zuiko Macro previously used, was “good enough” to become the new reference lens after 2012. And all further tests were shot with it.

    And that thing has – wait – field curvature ? And the paint tube is on the corner of the studio scene… And the center of the scene is fine…

    The difference was once more highlighted during the test of the then new Pixel Shift feature on the then new E-M5 mk2. For the Pixel Shift tests only, the Panaleica 42.5mm f:1.2 was used, because they “felt” a better lens than the 45mm f:1.8 was needed for that one. And the difference was there.

    Funnily enough, when testing the Pixel Shift option on the E-M1 mk2 later, the 45mm f:1.8 lens was used even for the Pixel Shift pictures.

    Want to bet what the yellow paint tube looks like on the Pixel Shift images between the E-M5 mk2 and E-M1 mk2, on that studio scene ?

    Check it out 🙂

    I have them all except the Zuiko 45mm f:1.2. Pretty please, can someone give me an excuse to get it as well ?


  • Athanasius Kirchner

    That’s a brilliant explanation, thanks.
    The worst case scenario for corner sharpness, then, is obviously when the plane of focus is very curved, and there’s focus shift in the same direction.
    How do images look when both sagittal and tangential planes of focus curve in opposite directions? I’d expect better resolution than in the case of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8, or is a good sagittal performance offset by a terrible tangential one (or vice-versa)?

  • This gave me one of those ‘of course’ moments. Now I’m going to get one of those lenses and see if I can actually accomplish this thing!!! 🙂

  • Thank you. I just grab the B&H prices, so it’s good to know it’s worth comparison shopping these.

  • s.wolters

    Thank you for this solid review. I will dig in your archives to consume some more. A few remarks though.
    – The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is not even close to $400. In fact you will find it everywhere in the world far below $300.
    – The most obvious and visible differences between these lenses can be noticed when comparing the final images. Panasonic usually aims at a higher contrast and the colors are different from Olympus. Personally I find the images too hard and the colors are a bit out of balance. This keeps me in the Olympus camp, certainly when buying cameras.
    (Minor error: the Olympus PRO is a 45mm, not 42,5mm)

  • Samuel H

    Argh, then NO, field curvature is working AGAINST you!!!

    Thanks again <3

  • Ivar Brekke

    If I remember correctly Sigma has a m43 25mm f1.4 patent on a lens design that looks identical to the PL 25. If Sigma are the designer and producer of the lens, would I trust them to produce good quality? I think I would. Panasonic are also investing in moulding of aspherical lenses, so they probably produce some parts themselves, and also deliver elements to many other lens brands.

    Premium definition in the Oxford dictionary: An amount that is more than usual. If I could choose freely between the Olympus 45 f1.8 or the f1.2 I would always choose the f1.2 indicating that it is a premium lens. If I could choose freely between the Panasonic 12-60 vs the PL 12-60, I would always choose the PL, I think most people would, and I believe the quality on average would be some steps up.

    You could question that Panasonic use the Leica branding for their premium/pro lenses, but these company do seem to have a close collaboration. Many Panasonic cameras comes in both Panasonic and Leica branding. Also cameras like the Leica Q and SL line have a lot of resemblance with the Panasonic cameras, indicating that Leica are using a similar strategy and that the cooperation is a two way thing. Leica is a much stronger brand in the photo universe than Panasonic. why not benefit on it? It is a business after all.

    You could even argue that businesses that do everything inhouse at one point will have a harder time adapting to changes in technology and marketplace. And you can kind of see it in Canon and Nikons slow adaption of mirrorless.

    Still I can see that a lens could be considered premium if it is hand made according to years of tradition and perfection by some japanese optical master, much like a cuban cigar has a premium brand.

Follow on Feedly