Monday, April 06, 2009

ZD 14-35 f2 vs. 12-60 f2.8-4

I've received several questions from visitors who frequent my blog. Here's one of the more interesting ones:

"Hello from geelong. A few days ago I came across your website as I was trying to get some information about zuiko lenses. Would you have the time and be so kind to give me your opinion on the difference in picture quality between the 12-60 f2.8 (correction: f2.8 - 4) lens and the 14-35 f2.0 lens. I am well aware of the technical specifications but what is the difference in actual prints. I am a member of the Geelong camera club and print manly at 14 by 12 inches. Do you see a difference in sharpness, contrast, bokeh [ at the same aperture], color fringing, flare? Or do you perceive a more subjective difference which is often hard to describe. For example a month ago I shot with one of my OM cameras with portra film and I must say that the results have a certain magic about it I haven't replicated in digital yet. Thanks for your efforts."

Since you are well aware of their technical (and price) differences, I should perhaps refer you to some DIWA lab results beforehand.

1. Blur

The 12-60 shows more blur at its telephoto end (60mm) compared to the 14-35 (which shows some corner blur at f2 throughout its focal length. Otherwise both lenses are pretty sharp.

A website has stated:
"The Olympus 14-35mm ƒ/2 is a very sharp lens indeed. It is so sharp, in fact, that it is hard to decide on the optimum aperture / focal length combination for optimum sharpness. According to our test results, 18mm at ƒ/4 seems to yield about as perfect sharpness as can be obtained, but in reality, you'll be very hard-pressed to notice any differences for sharpness at any aperture below ƒ/11"

2. Geometric distortion

the 12-60 has a complex geometrical distortion at 12mm. As I am not very fond of this fact (especially for architectural purposes), I use the 7-14 instead.

3. chromatic Aberration

The 14-35 wins in this regard. The 12-60 has 'annoying' CAs at 12mm and 60mm.

4. MTF

Both lenses display adequate center and edge resolution, with slight degradation towards the edges when used at larger apertures.

5. Vignetting

The 12-60's vignetting is very well controlled (also due to the fact that the 14-35 has the f2 aperture)

Regarding the specifics:

1. contrast, detail, dynamic range -all the zuiko super high grade lenses (the 14-35, 35-100 and 7-14, for example) are in a league of their own compared to the pro SWD lenses (the 12-60 and 50-200). The differences are subtle, but noticeable (in my opinion).

2. bokeh - The 14-35 definitely gives less DOF compared to the variable aperture 12-60. The bokeh is very pleasing when used at f2 (refer to the user galleries on the Olympus global website, especially the macro images).

3. flare - Zuiko lenses are in general quite resistant to flare. Mounting a low quality UV filter would of course add flare - which is why I prefer not to use UV filters at all.

Another good test result for the 14-35 is viewable here

One of my good friends, Dave, swears that the 14-35 is the best general purpose lens that he has ever used.

In short, if money is no object (which I think happens to be your situation), the 14-35 is the way to go. The best way to find out is by trying the lens out yourself (by borrowing the lens for a day or test it at the stores). The cheapest price I can find for this lens is AUD 2500 (after GST returns), if this helps. The 12-60 has a RRP of AUD 1.5K.

As always, I end this post with some pictures taken with the 14-35, to show how good its bokeh is.

* These pictures are for personal viewing, and are not meant to be reproduced without prior consent.

The DOF is still quite shallow, so the cockatoo is rendered out of focus beyond its owner's face.

Each strand of hair on the horse's face is shown in its finest detail.

Some wider shots to highlight its application for architecture / landscapes.

True-to-life blue skies are the strength of the Olympus 4/3rds sensor.


Anonymous said...

Just get 14-35/2, and marvel at its WONDERS!!!

I know, coz I am using one... :D

brandon said...

yes.. i do know that i really have to get this lens. is this fahrur btw? :p


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