…. for these three lenses, to experience a new digital future :)
I used to have a Sony NEX-5 camera about two years ago and gave these Contarex lenses a try, see my old posts here:
From those days, I kept the NEX-Contarex adapter …. with the vague hope that Sony would ever release a 24x36mm digital camera …. so watch this space ;)
I did this photo back in 1992 when I just got my Nikon F, and just found it in an old box a couple of days ago. I was 17 :) … apparently I took this through a mirror and now I just flipped the scan.
The two Nikons were mine while the Olympus and the Zeiss Ikon Ikarex belonged two other photographers. But even back then, the Ikarex was only a paperweight cause both camera and lens were not working any more. Really …. the Ikarex was a terrible, heavy and ugly camera, no match at all for the Nikkormat.
There’s a cheap zoom lens on the Nikon F, at the time I still needed some time to save for a Nikkor 35/2 :) But a much nicer 50/1.4 Non-AI was mounted on the Nikkormat.
Ah, I love those old memories ….! Sadly, no one of us still owns any of the cameras on that picture today. Either they were sold at some time or (in the case of the Olympus) stolen ….
NOTE: I originally posted this at August 25th, but we have a couple of recent updates regarding the new releases. So I edited some parts of this blog entry and also added the first “official” picture that we have of the upcoming Olympus E-M1.
So many new mirrorless cameras and lenses are going to emerge within the next few weeks. Some have already been presented to the public, such as the Panasonic GX7 or the ever-increasing number of Fuji X camera bodies. Some have leaked on the Internet such as the mightly Olympus E-M1 and its new 12-40/2.8 “PRO” zoom lens. And others are still an unknown quantity, such as Sony’s NEX-7 replacement and their upcoming 35mm NEX. So, it’s still too early to discuss all these camera news in depth, but of course I think we do know enough at this point to draw some conclusions as to what mirrorless camera manufacturers are going to offer within the next, say, half year. So I’ll give some of my personal and probably biased thoughts here, being a current happy There’s so much to choose, but still some big gaps are left to be covered only by the traditional Canon and Nikon DSLR systems.
These three are probably the big Olympus news this year. Together with the trusty E-M5 that was launched in early 2012 and the 17/1.8 lens from late 2012, they form the base of an increasingly comprehensive high-end mirrorless system based around the Micro Four Thirds sensor. We now have the “professional” bodies E-M5 and E-M1 and the slightly downgraded, but still very capable E-P5. And we have a selection of higher-quality Olympus lenses as follows:
As for the lenses, a second “PRO” lens – the 40-150/2.8 – has now been confirmed as a 2014 release. And the new E-M1 offers sensor-based phase-detection auto focus as a first in an Olympus body. This means that all old Four Thirds lenses should now finally work with fast and reliable auto focus on the new E-M1, of course you still need the FT-MFT adapter to mount them. This is a very welcome feature for anyone owning old Four Thirds glass such as the mighty 150/2 or 35-100/2 zoom – but at this point of little interest to anyone else, as the auto focus systems of current Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras already is so good that it leaves very little – if anything at all – to be desired.
It seems that Olympus publishes only very few press photos showing their E-P5 with the external viewfinder mounted! Panasonic adds the viewfinder – even swiveling – inside their GX7 body. Hmm, Olympus, how long do you think you can get away with making new high-grade mirrorless cameras without built-in viewfinder….?
But anyway, here’s finally a picture of the new mighty Micro Four Thirds beauty from Olympus, the E-M1:
As promising as all this looks, we have one or two catches here. First will probably be the cost of the new cameras. The E-P5 comes in at a minimum of €900 (street price) without the dedicated external viewfinder, and according to Daily Camera News, the E-M1 body will be $1450 (normally that translates 1:1 into €1450). That’s a whole lot of money, especially when you think about how good and capable the “old” E-M5 already is – at this time only for €700 in some places! Apart from some firmware issues (such as the dreaded selection of small auto focus fields) and the slightly worse viewfinder, the new E-M1 does not really offer that much more over the E-M5. There are a lot of welcome detail changes, of course, but are these really worth so much money to a lot of potential buyers? Image quality is rumored to be only slightly above the E-M5, as basically all these cameras (the E-P5 included) share the same 16 MP Sony sensor, now upgraded with phase-detection auto focus, most likely an upgraded JPG engine, and (possibly) no anti aliasing filter on the E-M1.
Regarding the lenses, they are all a proven quality by now. Personally, however, I still prefer the Panasonic 20/1.7 over the Olympus 17/1.8. Let’s say these both are very good, but – in my opinion – still leave something to be desired when you think of building up a system around a €1000+ body. Really, there should be a 17/1.4 or something like this at some point, that deliveres even crisper and cleaner images than the current 17 and 20 lenses especially when stopped down a bit.
The beautiful new 12-40/2.8 also is $900. In my book, that’s quite a lot for such a lens, but it’s at least somewhat less than the initial cost of the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 lens was. As much as they want us to believe it, these lenses simply are not the same as a 24-70/2.8 for a 35mm camera. The Micro Four Thirds lenses are smaller and give very good image quality, that’s true, but still I think that prices should match capabilities more closely. There is a reason that most mirrorless manufacturers face a downward trend in sales!
Okay, I admit, this is a very personal statement. But as a photographer, I never fancied the previous Panasonic bodies because (first) I found most of them rather ugly and (second) why buy a Panasonic body without image stabilisation when there are so many Olympus bodies available with it?
The new GX7, in my opinion, is a game changer for Panasonic. It not only adds in-body stabilisation, even though it might be a bit inferior to the amazing unit found in the Olympus E-M1, E-M5 and E-P5. But it also has that design sexiness of Panasonic’s old DMC L1 of 2006.
There are two exiting new lenses around the corner. The Leica-branded 43/1.2 (they call it a “42.5/1.2″, isn’t that a bit cheesy?) and a 150/2.8 telephoto prime. I assume at this point that the 150 will be a 2014 release, the 43 might probably arrive a bit earlier. When they will be available, the lineup of higher-grade Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses will look like this:
And, of course, there are some higher quality first-generation Panasonic lenses with the old plastic barrel type but still worth a look for quality:
Note the somewhat weird situation that Panasonic has maneuvered themselves into, offering some lenses with OIS (image stabilisation) while others lack it. So, even though the new GX7 has in-body stabilisation, they also added it to the new 43/1.2 lens. It really does not make that much sense, as optical stabilisation tends to complicate lens design and manufacture. But anyway, the good news here is that you’ll have stabilisation at all for all lenses.
I really love the 20/1.7 (even considering its shortcomings) and welcome the arrival of the cosmetically much nicer, albeit technically identical 20/1.7 II. I am not that much a fan of the 25/1.4, though, realising that most people on the Internet would probably disagree with me here, but anyway, for low depth of field on Micro Four Thirds I much prefer a 45mm lens. Thus I am very interested in the upcoming 43/1.2. Pictures show that it will feature a dedicated f-stop ring, yummy! But, inevitably, there will be the next possible catch: How likely is it that this f-stop ring will work on Olympus cameras as well?
So, Panasonic’s good news are bad news for Olympus: You will get a really nice two-lens All-Panasonic high end kit for your general photography: The Panasonic GX7 with the 20/1.7 II and 43/1.2. The body is below €1000 so, when compared to the E-P5 with viewfinder or the E-M1, you can save your bucks for that upcoming 43/1.2. It’s an appealing alternative to all-Olympus equipment.
Well, Fuji is a known quantity in mirrorless land. They have the X-Pro 1, the X-E1, and a new breed of down-specced bodies like the X-M1. Personally, I don’t care for any viewfinder-less cameras at all, so my choice here would be the X-E1. Their cheaper bodies are an interesting, bold move showing that Fuji wants to penetrate the market more deeply, but they’re not made for me (nor, probably, for most of you reading of this blog) so I won’t go into detail there. I’d much more like to see an X-E1 with sensor-based phase-detection auto focus. That sensor is already made in the X100s. I really love that digital split-image feature of the X100s! We’ll see how much time it will take them to release a system camera with that feature.
As to lenses, their 23/1.4 and 55/1.4 are still to hit the shelves. Of course, the new Zeiss “Touit” lenses are also available for Fuji, but in contrast to the Sony NEX system they are probably not needed at all here, as Fuji’s own lenses are very good and also almost cover the same specifications. Here’s a selection of what they offer (I include the two upcoming f/1.4 lenses here), leaving away their new entry level kit zoom lenses:
It’s a comprehensive lineup. Only very few of these lenses do come with some real compromises in optical quality, such as the 18/2. The others are really very well! It always amazes me as to how many nice pictures are published everywhere that were taken with these Fuji cameras.
Note that Fuji, however, does have some shortcomings when you want minimum equipment size: A Fuji X-E1 with the 27/2.8 pancake will probably never be as versatile as a Panasonic GX7 or Olympus E-M5 with 20/1.7. Also, Fuji still lacks behind in speed and auto focus, even though they constantly pump out firmware updates to improve things. (Note to Olympus: Ever heard of firmware updates to improve your cameras? You really should!)
Fuji f/1.4 lenses do offer more than what Micro Four Thirds can offer, regarding low depth-of-field and overall lens quality. And as long as you don’t go cheaper than the X-E1, you’ll also get beautiful handling with dedicated f-stop and exposure time rings on lens and camera body.
So, my overall point is that Fuji has created a very nice, well thought-out system on it’s own, even though 2013 is probably a somewhat calmer year for them. (Yet still I personally stick with Micro Four Thirds! Isn’t it great that we have so many really nice camera systems to choose from?)
I am personally not involved into anything Sony-related at the moment but I do realise that they also have exiting new stuff to come. They just keep on pumping out new cameras and lenses and even realise ideas that really no one has ever seen before! In my book, the single most important event 2013 for the Sony NEX system was the market release of the Zeiss “Touit” lenses 12/2.8, 32/1.8 and 50/2.8 macro. Together with the existing Sony-Zeiss 24/1.8, these finally form the base of a high quality lens system for NEX! Now, Sony is going to release two new high-grade zoom lenses (both have already leaked on the Internet) as well, so that will give us the following choice of high quality lenses for NEX bodies:
So, when you want a serious Sony NEX system, my strong advice at the moment is to go for these Zeiss lenses:
While I personally am more a fixed focal length guy, I find the two zoom lenses very interesting: Especially the 16-70/4 is going to offer a lot more over the “high quality” Micro Four Thirds zooms, the already existing Panasonic 12-35/2.8 and the brand-new Olympus 12-40/2.8. The Sony will go all the way to 105mm in 35mm terms where the Panny stops at 70mm and the Oly at 80mm. And f/4 on APS-C gives you the same creative possibilities than f/2.8 on the Micro Four Thirds.
The next high-grade NEX body should also be just around the corner, there are rumors of a beefed-up NEX-7 replacement with in-body image stabilisation (taken from their partner Olympus’ E-M5 … yee-ha!). Now there’s even rumor of a sensor-based Autofocus unit such as in the mighty classic Contax AX from the 1990s.
Although no images or definite specifications have been published yet, it’s clear at this point that Sony will launch a 35mm NEX body probably as early as September 10th, 2013. Rumors are that it will come with a choice of three Zeiss-designed lenses and a fourth Sony G lens, the G being their designation for high-grade stuff. I won’t see this as competition to Micro Four Thirds or even Sony’s own current APS-C NEX system, as the 35mm stuff will be much more expensive and thus appeal to a different crowd. But it’s fascinating and it will finally fulfill that old dream of a state-of-the-art, extremely capable and compact 35mm camera system.
Yes. It’s probably very early, but anyway: Already have an Olympus E-M5 and don’t own old Four Thirds glass? Keep it, skip the new bodies for now until they are bargained. If you are looking for a higher-grade standard zoom, watch the 12-40/2.8 closely. If you don’t own any Four Thirds glass, you could be interested in getting a (used) 50-200/2.8-3.5, but really, I’d rather wait if they are going to announce that rumored native new Micro Four Thirds 40-200/4 instead. My personal bet is that this one will come.
Don’t have any up-to-date Micro Four Thirds stuff but want to keep or enter this system? Have a close look at the GX7, 20/1.7 II, and regarding a portrait lens, either check out the cheap but good Olympus 45/1.8 or wait for that new Leica-branded 43/1.2. You can also go all-Olympus and buy a discounted E-M5, as image quality is on par with the GX7 – see this first comparison done by Spanish DSLR Magazine while the in-body stabilisation of the E-M5 is more sophisticated. Even then, I’d suggest the Panasonic 20/1.7 II (or even the first generation 20/1.7, if you can find a good deal) over the Olympus 17/1.8, even though they are very similar in quality.
Not sure if Micro Four Thirds is for you? Check not only out Fuji, but also Sony for what’s coming up next. They have a nice Zeiss lens lineup by now, the zooms are somewhat bigger but much more versatile than what Olympus and Panasonic offer so far, and the next high end NEX bodies probably will be very very nice.
Every month or so, I meet up with some friends who are into photography, and always a lot of different cameras gather up on the table. Really, there are so many wildly different cameras, lenses and accessories out there. And it’s always great fun to review and compare the results that all these cameras and lenses deliver. Regarding quality and creativity, they are all so remarkably similar!
Here’s just two examples: A friend’s beautiful Leica M8 with a Summicron 50 vs. a Sony NEX equipped with a Lens Turbo adapter and Minolta 35/1.8 lens; and on the second picture next to my old Exa 1c with Pentacon 50/1.8, a camera that was sold new in 1986 in the former GDR and that I deeply love for its extreme simplicity!
You probably all know the “crazy comparisons” that Steve Huff frequently publishes …. taking the same picture with wildly different cameras that one probably should never compare because they are just uncomparable …. well are they?
Currently, I still have a Canon EOS 1Ds Mk.2 with the trusty EF 24-105L f/4 lens and I really almost never use it. On very rare occasions, I need the 24 mm wide-angle because my widest Micro Four Third lens equals 40 mm. But anyway, the 1Ds2 always was – and still is – to me the benchmark camera regarding general performance and image quality. I love the 1Ds2 files. They were so detailed and rich! Remember this was a 2004 release, it’s almost ten years old by now!
Of course, the camera was insanely expensive when new, but in 2009 or thereabouts, they were beginning to become more affordable to normal people. I always felt that this camera would give me exactly the image quality that just makes me happy. 16 megapixels are ample for A4 double spread offset print and still enough for even very large posters. There are cameras today that offer much more resolution but people realised that it’s often hard to really make use of this resolution, due to diffraction kicking in, ever-so-slight blurriness in your everyday photography, and so on.
Now, the little Olympus E-M5 was, for me, the next big benchmark camera after the 1Ds2. Gone is the huge size and the complicated SLR mirror system. It also has 16 megapixels, albeit on a much, much smaller sensor. But it’s a 2012 sensor from another leading manufacturer in this field – Sony – and I found the eight years of true technological advantage were able to offset the small sensor size.
OK enough said, here’s my crazy comparison: The same subject, same field of view, same real depth of field, cameras on a tripod, and all that. One picture was taken with my little E-M5 and the 45/1.8 at f/5.6, ISO 200, and the other one with the Canon 1Ds Mk.2 and 24-105L f/4 at f/11, ISO 100. I was able, however, to overexpose the Olympus shot by +0.7 stops (as I always do) to compensate for the ISO 200 penalty. (With the new E-P5, Olympus has corrected this design flaw of the E-M5 by enabling it to shoot at ISO 100.)
Both RAW files were subject to exactly the same settings in Lightroom. I found that auto white balance on the EOS 1Ds2 was way off so I did a manual white balance for both files, roughly based on the settings the E-M5 chose.
Of course, the two lenses are different in their imaging characteristics and I realise that a nice 85 mm lens on the 1Ds2 would probably be a more fair comparison. But on the other hand, this zoom is really good enough at f/11. It’s not a cheap kit zoom like the stuff that Olympus currently sells. You’ll notice that the focus plane is differing somewhat, especially at the edges of the frames (see the detail on the old Kodak camera at the bottom of the shot). I did not align that camera to be in precise focus, instead I just focused on the nose of the teddy tiger (and took even several shots to make sure that one is really in perfect focus for this comparison).
Now these files are available as full-size downloads (just click the images below for a full size view). Both are cropped a bit to 3:2 format. You can’t tell from the pixel dimensions of these files which is which. I also removed EXIF date (hopefully) and also removed the sensor dust spots of the Canon shot in LR4. Sharpness for both files in LR4 was set to 40%, radius 0.5.
Compare for yourself and try to tell me which camera is which!
I got my E-M5 in May 2012. They were fairly new at the time. I paid € 1.099 for the body which was the standard pricing of the day. So far, so good. From day one, the camera had its great performance, but also its ergonomic limitations and a few quirks in the firmware. Nothing that a good firmware update could fix, though. Could!
Do you know how to set up small AF points for added accuracy with the E-M5? There’s no menu point or something that says “small AF points” or the like. Instead, you have to fool the E-M5 by going into viewfinder loupe mode, select maximum magnification, and then the camera will use that small portion of the image as AF point. To make it at least a little bit manageable, the camera can be set up so that you have viewfinder lupe on an Fn button, you press that and voilà: small AF point. But this is a workaround, not a real feature of the camera, and you will notice that all-too-clearly when photographing. For example, there are several actions that put the camera back in standard AF mode with too big AF points. Then, if you like to focus manually and would prefer a smaller-than-maximum loupe magnification for that, you always have to switch magnifications when going from manual focus to AF. Last thing: The way to move that small AF point around is very cumbersome.
Okay. That was May 2012. I knew about this when I bought the camera. Why rant? Because in September 2012, Olympus put two much cheaper cameras on the market – the E-PL5 and E-PM5 – that both offered a true, beautiful improvement to that AF point stuff. You could just select the size of the AF points in menu once, and you were done.
Now we have August 2013. Olympus brought another new camera, the E-P5. But still, they did not manage to give us a firmware update for the E-M5? Why? Do they really think that E-M5 owners will happily go and buy another second cheaper camera without integrated viewfinder, just to get smaller AF points?
It’s not only better configuration of AF points that is missing in the E-P5 firmware. It’s also focus peaking, but this, at least, only came to Olympus cameras at all with the brand-new E-P5. Yet still, I feel a bit fooled by Olympus. And trouble for you, Olympus, is that competition is catching up. The E-M5 is no longer the only mirrorless camera with integrated viewfinder, body IS and all that stuff. And that means that E-M5 owners might be moving elsewhere, at some point.
Recently, I got an E-P5 in my hands. It’s not my own camera as I’m also waiting for the arrival of the Panasonic GX7 and the next Olympus OM-D body before buying anything new. But anyway, I could compare these two bodies right now… and I have to say it’s much simpler than I thought:
The new viewfinder of the E-P5 is huge. By huge I don’t refer to its physical appearance which you can judge on the photo below. Huge is the image it gives. Coming from the E-M5, the impression is like switching from a small APS-C SLR to a 35mm one. It’s bright and big and stunningly detailed and its appearance is very natural.
The rest of these cameras is very similar. But you already knew that. I personally prefer the E-P5′s thumbwheel over the arrangement of the E-M5. There is also not that ugly dreaded play and FN1 button. The E-P5 adds focus peaking and a very easy way to select a smaller AF field. Time has shown that the Olympus guys just don’t give you any important firmware updates for the E-M5, even if they could easily: The small AF field thingy has already been introduces a long time ago with the entry-level E-PM5 and E-PL5! Really, how Olympus deals with their E-M5 customers sets me up so much that it alone might shift me towards a Panasonic body next time!
The overall build of the E-P5 feels very tight and solid and the silver finish is much better than on almost any other modern camera, it really looks the part. Image quality is, by all means, identical but of course the E-P5 gives you ISO 100 and 1/8000 seconds which the E-M5 lacks. All in all a lot of small advantages but the probably biggest wow effect is that different viewfinder experience.
So here is my E-P5 advice for you:
If you can live with the tacked-on looks, and if they sell that E-P5 kit with the viewfinder and 17/1.8 lens for €1499 in your country, get it and don’t think about the E-M5 any more. That is, of course, if you are sure you want Micro Four Thirds and also sure that you want a Olympus body and not a Panasonic. (The upcoming GX7 will most likely have a slightly worse image stabiliser but we’ll have to see, haven’t we….)
If you already have an E-M5, forget selling that one for the E-P5, though, and wait just two more months like I will do myself. In the meantime, the E-M5 is more compact and gives just the same image quality.
Really, the biggest trouble of the E-P5 is that there will be so strong competition in so short a time after it finally hit the market: Especially the GX7, but also the next OM-D. I just can’t imagine the GX7 giving the same huge viewfinder image but again, we’ll have to see how good it will be, and also it’s cheaper and much more compact than the E-P5 with viewfinder.
Oh, I forgot to say anything about the lenses: By all practical means, my Panasonic 20/1.7 gives the same kind of image quality as the new Olympus 17/1.8 of the E-P5. When looking very closely, I’d say that all the reviews and tests are, of course, correct, in that the 20 is slightly sharper. But you’ll probably never notice in real world! And the 17 does not give those dreaded blue color fringes. But really, with Lightroom 4 these are easily corrected most of the time (not always, though!).
I would be hard pressed to select one of these lenses over the other. If you get your E-P5 as a kit, just use the 17. If they’ll ever give you a good deal with the E-P5 and viewfinder without 17 mm lens, and you already own the Panasonic 20/1.7, then just continue with that lens. Basically they are both good and both small lenses, but not perfect. The difference in their field of view – due to their slightly different focal lengths – is probably bigger than you’d expect, but see that for yourself:
Anyway, watch this space when the GX7 and next OM-D have arrived…! I am almost sure I’ll get one of these two as a replacement for my own Olympus E-M5. :)