Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Micro 4/3 lens Disappointment

It has been two years since the first Micro 4/3 camera, the Panasonic G1, was introduced.  Quite a few lenses have been made for this format, but where are the small and fast primes, except the 20mm f1.7?  The potential for very small and fast primes for Micro 4/3 is there.  If they want to, it's not difficult to create 25mm f0.95, or 50mm f0.95 and still keep it relatively small.  So, where is the 7mm f2, 12mm f1.4, 25mm f1.2 and 50mm f1.0?  Instead, we are bombarded with uber long zooms with aperture as small as a pin hole.  Look at the Olympus 75-300mm f4.8-6.7!

Add to this frustration is the lack of truly wide angles.  OK there is the Panasonic 7-14mm f4, but it's priced to the wazoo at $1500. It's kind of insane for an f4 lens.

The only thing that keeps me interested in the M4/3 is that I can mount cine lens on it, but the NEX is looking might good right now.

William -- G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 @ f0.95, ISO 400. Click to enlarge.


  1. Well, they just announced a 14mm f2.8 lens that is very small. Then there is the Voigtlander 25 f0.95 coming soon. I do think the system has a lot of potential for small prime lenses but at the same time, the zoom lenses made so far are fairly small and lightweight so there isn't a huge penalty for using zooms.

  2. Hi there

    indeed, you have hit the same finding I made some year or so ago (looking at the slated developments). I feel that the strength of the 4/3 format is with normal to tele views rather than wides, where I still prefer the "feel" of larger formats. I love the look of wide angles on 35mm frames (such as the Oly 21f3.5 which has great bokeh).

    People normally seem to get confused with f numbers thinking this has something to do with DoF and other lens looks, where as I understood it the f-number system developed to assist in determining exposures.

    For a 4/3 lens to share DoF and look it needs to be 2 stops larger in diameter ... meaning that for a wide on a 4/3 to be equal to a wide on a 35mm it'll need to be insanely bright.

    I love the 24mm f2.8 I have for my EOS system, but to get that frame of view on a 4/3 I'd need a 12mm f1.4

    The 14mm at f2.8 is about as useful as a 28mm f5.6 which would be about as popular as a hip pocket on a T-shirt. 28mm was hardly ever the photographers choice for wide back in the 35mm heyday and certainly noone would be impressed with a f5.6 28mm lens

    If I want total focus (front to background) I can use my pocket camera, the reason I want to use something bigger than a IXUS camera or my Nokia phone is to get more control over focus.

    Annoyingly enough in the micro 4/3 there is nothing like a fast focusing decent telephoto ... which is ok for me as I mainly use my FD 200 and 300mm lenses for that role. (cheaper too)

  3. @Jallu: 14mm is still only 28mm, and not terribly fast either. The Voigtlander 25mm is not an auto focus lens, but a good addition as a native M4/3 mount lens.

    @obakesan: there is disadvantage being a small sensor, when dof control is concerned. I think the strength of the m4/3 system is the small fast primes, like a range finder system was. I am sure they can make a 300mm f2.8 lens smaller than the Canon 135mm f2, if they want to.

  4. I agree that the 14mm f2.4 is not very fast. However, it only weighs 50 gms. I can't think of any lens any recent history that is so small and lightweight. The Olympus 9-18 lens is only about 150 gms - again unparalleled in the DSLR world. Even the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 is only 430 gms and has an impressive reach.

    Of course, it would be great if these lenses were faster but with every generation of sensors, we get at least one stop of ISO improvement. Having very fast lenses is not as important as it used to be in the film era.

    I agree with Obakesan about the control over depth of field but I also feel that the shallow depth of field look is overrated. I prefer to have at least some depth of field in most of my pictures and find that m43 format does that quite well while still allowing some separation from the background. This format does need an autofocus lens for portraits though - perhaps a 45mm f0.95.

  5. Hi

    well, its a disadvantage and an advantage depending on what you want. As Jallu mentioned if one is not after ultra shallow DoF you can do quite some more with the 4/3 format. I can use a 50mm lens at f2 and get the effect of using a 100mm at f4 on a full frame. This is 2 stops brighter.

    This is not inconsiderable as when one looks at the high ISO performance of the G1 it does not compare to that of (say) the 5D; a 5D at 1600 ISO is usable while the G1 1600 sucks.

    So what one gains with the left one losses with the right.

    I would be very keen on getting a fast slight autofocus lenses aside from the existing zooms.

  6. @Jallu, I agree with you regarding the size of the lenses, but are we willing to sacrifice optical performance for smaller size? Unfortunately, due to the physical size of the M4/3 sensor, it will never be as good as a full frame or APS-C sensor, when compared at the same technological level or time period. Depth of field can be increased, but not easily be decreased, and this is the advantage of larger sensors.

    I guess the selling point for most people for the M4/3 system is the small size. The majority of the the M4/3 owners probably do not care much about fast lenses, as long as their lenses have focal length they want.

  7. 4/3 is good for me to use my MF lenses from 28mm and up, I do most Closeup fotos and for wide angelshot I use my horseman, Film B&W, selfdeveloped, nothing better.