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Author Topic: Four-Thirds Lenses  (Read 4486 times)

Chris Pollock

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Four-Thirds Lenses
« on: September 03, 2009, 08:29:09 am »

I'm interested in the new Panasonic DMC-GF1. It looks like it might finally be a good large sensor compact camera.

The only problem is the lens selection. Most of the micro four-thirds lenses are slow zooms, which would be a serious limitation for the sort of photography that I'd use the GF1 for. There are a lot of good (non-micro) four-thirds lenses, but they'd need an adaptor to work with the GF1, thereby partially removing its size advantage. Some of them may not work well with contrast-detect AF, if they work at all.

The other problem is the cost. Browsing the selection at Yodobashi Camera's online shop, I realised that most four-thirds lenses are at least as expensive as the equivalent lenses for full-frame cameras. Since the four-thirds lenses are a lot smaller than their full-frame equivalents, and require a lot less glass, shouldn't they be cheaper to make?

The  20mm F1.7 looks like it might be a winner though, and you can buy one with the camera for only 20,000 yen more than the camera alone.
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bg2b

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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2009, 10:30:06 am »

The pile of raw materials may be cheaper, but the smaller sensors also demand more of the lenses.  And the Olympus middle and upper range ZD lenses have robust build and are very very good optically.  They just don't sell that performance cheaply.
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BJL

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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2009, 05:21:57 pm »

Quote from: Chris Pollock
... most four-thirds lenses are at least as expensive as the equivalent lenses for full-frame cameras. Since the four-thirds lenses are a lot smaller than their full-frame equivalents, and require a lot less glass, shouldn't they be cheaper to make?
The "equivalent" Four Thirds lens will require less materials if you mean equivalent field of view (half the focal length) and the same minimum f-stops. But most Four Thirds lenses do not match up with 35mm format lenses like that, except the entry level f/3.5-5.6 kit lenses, where the quantity of glass involved is probably to low to dominate the pricing. For example, I have 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 and 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 Four Thirds lenses, but do not see anything like a 28-108 f/2.8-3.5 or 100-400 f/2.8-3.5 lens for 35mm at similar cost.

If you mean equivalent for FOV, DOF and low light handling (allowing for ISO speed difference), the equivalent Four Thirds lens has about half the minimum f-stop too, and so as much glass as its 35mm counterpart. You do not get many options like that either, and when you do, the Four Thirds lens is one of unusually low minimum f-stop, and so a difficult optical design, like the 14-35 and 35-100 f/2 lenses compared to 28-70 and 70-200 f/4 lenses. To me, those super-fast Four Thirds lenses are not very interesting: for high speed and low DOF needs, a larger format is probably the better way to go. "Horses for courses" as Michael likes to say.

If by equivalent you mean same focal length and aperture; no, the format difference has no effect on the amount of glass needed, except with wide angle lenses.
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DarkPenguin

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Four-Thirds Lenses
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2009, 08:18:41 pm »

Making the lenses required they send out for really tiny tools.
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Lisa Nikodym

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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2009, 12:23:04 pm »

Quote
Making the lenses required they send out for really tiny tools.
 

Lisa
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Chris Pollock

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« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2009, 05:14:16 am »

Quote from: DarkPenguin
Making the lenses required they send out for really tiny tools.
That being the case, the lenses for small sensor compact cameras must cost a fortune to make. I guess they sell the cameras at a loss, and make a profit from sales of camera cases and other accessories.
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Chris Pollock

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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2009, 07:13:04 am »

Quote from: BJL
The "equivalent" Four Thirds lens will require less materials if you mean equivalent field of view (half the focal length) and the same minimum f-stops. But most Four Thirds lenses do not match up with 35mm format lenses like that, except the entry level f/3.5-5.6 kit lenses, where the quantity of glass involved is probably to low to dominate the pricing. For example, I have 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 and 50-200 f/2.8-3.5 Four Thirds lenses, but do not see anything like a 28-108 f/2.8-3.5 or 100-400 f/2.8-3.5 lens for 35mm at similar cost.
By equivalent I meant roughly the same field of view and lens speed. For example, your 14-54 is roughly equivalent to my Canon 24-105 F4 - a bit faster, but lacking image stablization in the lens. I see that it is in fact a lot cheaper than the 24-105, so I may have been too hasty in my initial conclusion.

I still think that a lack of good micro four thirds lenses is the biggest problem with the format right now. The only zooms available are slow and apparently not particularly good optically, although they're not bad for the price. What I'd really like is a sharp, reasonably fast "standard" zoom. Something like your 14-54 would be just the ticket, if they made a micro four thirds version and added image stablization.

Some fast primes would also be acceptable. If the 20mm F1.7 had some counterparts at around 12mm and 40mm the platform would be a lot more inviting.
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Er1kksen

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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2009, 10:13:55 am »

Quote from: Chris Pollock
By equivalent I meant roughly the same field of view and lens speed. For example, your 14-54 is roughly equivalent to my Canon 24-105 F4 - a bit faster, but lacking image stablization in the lens. I see that it is in fact a lot cheaper than the 24-105, so I may have been too hasty in my initial conclusion.

I still think that a lack of good micro four thirds lenses is the biggest problem with the format right now. The only zooms available are slow and apparently not particularly good optically, although they're not bad for the price. What I'd really like is a sharp, reasonably fast "standard" zoom. Something like your 14-54 would be just the ticket, if they made a micro four thirds version and added image stablization.

Some fast primes would also be acceptable. If the 20mm F1.7 had some counterparts at around 12mm and 40mm the platform would be a lot more inviting.

Keep in mind with the prices, in your comparison, the 14-54 also has rock solid, weathersealed construction to its advantage.

As far as good m4/3 lenses go, the 20mm is looking pretty good so far (much better than the 17mm pancake). There's a 14mm f2.8 pancake and 8mm fisheye pancake coming and a 45mm 2.8 macro out already (I'd like something faster in the 40mm range too but I'd probably just adapt an old fast fifty for the time being). As far as zooms for m4/3, the Oly kit lens isn't fantastic but it's quite good, while the Panasonic mostly looks good due to software correction. They've said there will be "higher end" m4/3 zooms and other lenses, so it's really just a matter of waiting. Economically, it makes sense that they got the consumer products out first, to capture a bit of a market before they roll out the nicer stuff.

The 7-14, however, is pretty darn good and it's one of the overlooked advantages of m4/3, in my eyes. The next-smallest rig that gets that wide would be a Canon 5D with a 14mm prime, and the next smallest rig to get that wide with the same zoom range would be the D700 with the 14-24. If you want a compact ultrawide setup there's really no alternative unless you want to shoot film.
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250swb

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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2009, 12:02:55 pm »

Quote from: Chris Pollock
I still think that a lack of good micro four thirds lenses is the biggest problem with the format right now. The only zooms available are slow and apparently not particularly good optically, although they're not bad for the price.


The 14-45mm lens is very good indeed, and only gets its 'kit' designation because of its speed. The 45-200mm is also very good but is a little soft at the far end. I would not say they are 'not particularly good optically' at all, they beat some very high end Nikon and Canon lenses in the sweet spots. The early test reports of the Panasonic 7-14mm lens have it as slightly better than the Olympus 7-14mm, and that is a world class lens. There is a lot of false information put about on 4/3 and m4/3 cameras and lenses. The idea that because they are smaller they should be cheaper is offset by the fact they are optically better than a Canon equivalent in nearly all cases for the high end Olympus lenses. And as somebody else has said, they are weather sealed, thats torrential rain type sealing, not a light shower (although you'd need the E3 body to go with them for that type of use).

But putting a 4/3 Olympus lens on the GF1 is going to give you a very unbalanced camera, and even on the slightly larger G1/GH1 they aren't ideal. If you have some 4/3 lenses its an ideal way to utilise them, but I wouldn't go out and buy them specifically for the GF1, or G1. The current state of the firmware makes Olympus lenses on the G1 slow because they are MF only. But this could change in the future, its a different strategy, Olympus want all their lenses to work on the m4/3 EP-1, and so write the lens and camera firmware with that in mind, Panasonic on the other hand want only the dedicated m4/3 lenses to work with AF on the G1 and GF1, and hence they can programme them for a faster AF speed.

Steve
« Last Edit: September 07, 2009, 12:07:37 pm by 250swb »
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Dan Wells

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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2009, 03:50:43 pm »

In the primes, there are of course easily adapted M-mount lenses with prices ranging from moderate to stratospheric and optical qualities from quite good to the best in the world. The shortest M prime is the 12mm Voigtlander, which is equivalent to 24mm on micro 4/3, while the widest non - Voigtlander lenses are the 15mm Zeiss Distagon and the 16mm setting on the Leica Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar. At the long end, M primes run as long as 135mm (with multiple options at 90mm). The only hole in the M lens lineup is very wide angles at reasonable sizes (the 12mm Voigtlander that covers 35mm is going to be quite a bit larger than a 12mm that only has to cover 4/3), and extreme wide angles (period - there is not, and will probably never be, a rectilinear 8mm lens that covers 35mm, while that IS possible and useful for micro 4/3).

                             -Dan

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Er1kksen

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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2009, 08:00:24 pm »

Quote from: Dan Wells
In the primes, there are of course easily adapted M-mount lenses with prices ranging from moderate to stratospheric and optical qualities from quite good to the best in the world. The shortest M prime is the 12mm Voigtlander, which is equivalent to 24mm on micro 4/3, while the widest non - Voigtlander lenses are the 15mm Zeiss Distagon and the 16mm setting on the Leica Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar. At the long end, M primes run as long as 135mm (with multiple options at 90mm). The only hole in the M lens lineup is very wide angles at reasonable sizes (the 12mm Voigtlander that covers 35mm is going to be quite a bit larger than a 12mm that only has to cover 4/3), and extreme wide angles (period - there is not, and will probably never be, a rectilinear 8mm lens that covers 35mm, while that IS possible and useful for micro 4/3).

                             -Dan

If we're going to talk adapters, I know several have been using adapted c-mount lenses as wide as 10mm, though some of them suffer from slightly reduced frame coverage. I couldn't tell you which, but the info is out there.
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