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Mirrorless Camera Standard Zoom Shootout and Impressions

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Amin Sabet, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    In this part of our Mirrorless Camera Shootout, I'll present some representative crops of various mirrorless camera standard zooms used at the wide end of their respective zoom ranges and then make some general observations about each of the lenses from a user standpoint.

    Those amongst the anti-pixel peeping movement will want to skip this post, and those who want 50% crops (rather than 100%) are advised to sit further from the screen to simulate that experience. You have been warned :wink:.

    The following lenses are examined:

    • Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit zoom for Sony NEX cameras) tested on Sony NEX5
    • Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit zoom for and tested on Samsung NX10)
    • Panasonic G 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit zoom for Panasonic G1 (discontinued) and GF1)
    • Panasonic G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit zoom for Panasonic G2, G10, and GH2)
    • Olympus mZD 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit zoom for Olympus Digital Pen Cameras)
    It is virtually impossible to have a perfectly objective, controlled shootout between these lenses and systems. Before moving on with the data, here are some details about the decisions I made in producing the data:

    • I am showing you the data primarily from f/5.6 because there is sufficient depth of field at that setting for comparison.
    • Distortion was left uncorrected because correcting distortion affects detail to a degree which depends on the method of distortion correction (ie PT Lens vs Lightroom vs DxO vs Photoshop) and the subsequent sharpening used to make up for the softening induced by distortion correction. It introduces too much variability into the testing process.
    • Color fringing (primarily lateral chromatic aberration) was left uncorrected. Since not everyone uses a RAW processor which corrects CA, I left it there for you to see. This was done using Raw Developer (Iridient Digital) as the RAW processor, since this program does not apply any of the lens correction information passed along by Panasonic bodies. Raw Developer was set to noise reduction off and a default level of R-L sharpening (which brings out fine detail but accentuates noise as well).
    • The Micro 4/3 lenses were all tested on a Panasonic GH1 body since that camera has a true 3:2 aspect ratio which makes it easier to test against the APS-C systems.
    • Sony and Samsung files were downsized using Photoshop Bicubic Sharper to match the final image size of the Panasonic GH1 files. Another option would have been to upsize the GH1 files, but the results there would be highly dependent on the method of upsizing and subsequent sharpening.
    • I made no effort to match colors in Raw Developer, and lighting conditions were not perfectly fixed. Cameras were at base ISO in aperture priority mode and used different shutter speeds. Thus the samples presented are not appropriate for judging color, dynamic range, or noise.
    Each of the above decisions affected the outcomes, so I will try to qualify some of the results as they are presented. If you have a better way of doing the comparison, download the RAW files available towards the end, and get to work. I've saved you the trouble of setting up a tripod and shooting multiple takes at each setting (with image stabilization off and self-timer applied).

    Here is a sense of the degree of barrel distortion seen with each of these lenses:

    1.

    As you can see, the Sony and Samsung have less barrel distortion than the other three lenses. Although I did not accomplish perfectly matched framing with these lenses, the framing after barrel distortion correction is closer than what you see above.

    Here is the center crop at f/5.6:

    2.

    Based on the above, the Sony and two Panasonic lenses are putting in the strongest performance and the Olympus is a bit weaker than the Samsung. Here's how the Sony compares to the Panasonic 14-45 when both crops are viewed at native size:

    Mismatch.

    Level of detail is very close.

    Next up is the left edge at f/5.6. This is the part of my house where lateral CA tends to come out:

    3.

    All lenses are showing some lateral CA, but the Sony is most affected. The Panasonic 14-45 leads the pack in sharpness with the Panasonic 14-42 not far behind.

    Right edge at f/5.6 tells a similar story with the Sony showing the most CA and the Samsung lagging behind in sharpness:

    6.


    Left upper corner at f/5.6:

    4.

    Here two Panasonic lenses look very strong, especially the Panasonic 14-45. However, keep in mind that when you correct the barrel distortion with those lenses, the performance gap narrows a bit.

    Right upper corner at f/5.6:

    5.


    One can make a good argument that f/5.6 on Micro 4/3 and f/5.6 on APS-C is not apples to apples. In terms of matching depth of field, f/5.6 on Micro 4/3 is closer to f/7.1-f/7.3 (assuming native 3:2 aspect on the Micro 4/3 and depending on the exact size of the APS-C, eg 1.5X). Therefore, here are some representative samples with the Panasonic 14-45mm lens at f/5.6 compared with the Sony and Samsung lenses at f/8:

    Left edge:

    10.


    Right edge:

    12.


    Left upper corner:

    9.


    Right upper corner:

    11.

    As you can see, stopping down the APS-C lenses brings them closer to the level of the Panasonic.


    Conclusions:

    • Sony and Samsung have less barrel distortion than Panasonic and Olympus.
    • Panasonic lenses have the sharpest edge/corner performance, an advantage which is partially lost (data not shown) after correcting for differences in barrel distortion.
    • Sony has the most problems with lateral CA at the aperture and focal length shown (and generally worse than the other lenses at other settings as well - data not shown)

    Here are the RAW files for download:




    Other impressions from use:

    Size, handling, and build
    - The Olympus is a collapsible design, making it the smallest to store. Some will find the need to collapse and expand an inconvenience. There is some barrel wobble with the Olympus lens extended.
    - The Samsung lens feels like a lower-quality plastic than the others.
    - The Sony and Panasonic 14-45 have metal mounts, while the others are plastic.

    Autofocus speed and reliability
    - The two Panasonic lenses focus quickly and reliably. Samsung was also quick to focus, if not quite as fast.
    - Sony is a bit slower than Panasonic and seemed a bit less reliable as well.
    - Olympus is the slowest to focus but reliable.

    Image stabilization
    - The Olympus lens is designed for use with in-body stabilization and therefore does not have in-lens stabilization.
    - Samsung and Panasonic stabilization systems are effective but not as effective as Sony.

    Depth of field and bokeh
    - Both the Sony and Samsung zooms allow for a bit more shallow depth of field than the Micro 4/3 lenses.
    - I found nothing objectionable about the quality of background blur with any of these lenses.

    Macro
    - None of these are true macro lenses, but all are useful for close up photography (especially Olympus and Sony).
    - The Olympus and Sony lenses have the greatest magnification ~1:3, while the Samsung is ~1:4 and the Panasonics ~1:5.
    - At typical macro f-stops (smaller apertures), all of these lenses show good performance.


    Thanks to B&H Photo for providing these cameras and lenses for review.

    Please help support Serious Compacts by clicking the button below before you make your next purchase from B&H Photo.

     
    • Like Like x 11
  2. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    Amin, thank you for all the work that had to have gone into this shootout! Although I am not a peeper, per se, I do find these trials interesting. I take my hat off to you!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Boyzo

    Boyzo SC Veteran

    258
    Jul 14, 2010
    I have to second BB's remarks ... your a Stalwart :wink:

    What a pity the little Oly lens did not fare better its a sweet lens to use, most have said the Pany 14-45 is excellent and your testing bears this out.

    Amin I hope you get some rain to improve your lawn :wink:
     
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Alexramos

    Alexramos New to SC

    Excellent, thanks...:2thumbs:

    Would be interesting a comparative between the Oly 14-42mm and the new Samsung 20-50mm.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Very good review. Thanks
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia SC Veteran

    242
    Nov 10, 2010
    Los Angeles
    It is interesting that many malign the new Panasonic 14-42, but it's not really bad at all- in between the Pana 14-45 and the Oly 14-42.

    Thanks Amin for another great shootout, I think your shootouts give good sense of real-life performance.
     
  7. I probably is but I think a comparison between the Panasonic 14-42 and the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42 Mk II would be more interesting. I would expect it would be pretty close.
     
  8. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia SC Veteran

    242
    Nov 10, 2010
    Los Angeles
    My other observation about this comparison is that the color fringing on the Sony 18-55 makes my eyes hurt. Good thing the 5N and newer bodies now correct it, making it a good lens overall.