Olympus 45mm F1.8 versus Olympus 50mm F2 on the Panasonic G2

In an earlier post I wrote about the use of lens adapters on the Panasonic G2 that provide for the attachment of "legacy" and other non-micro four thirds lenses.  One evening I tested several "portrait" lenses:
  • Olympus 50mm F2 macro (with Panasonic 43-to-m43 adapter)
  • Nikon 58mm F1.4 (with Cowboy Studio's Nikon-to-m43 adapter)
  • Rokinon 85mm F1.4 in 4/3 mount (with Panasonic 43-to-m43 adapter)
  • Olympus 45mm F1.8 (this lens is a m43 lens and did not need an adapter)

In this post I will compare the Olympus m43 45mm F1.8 lens and the Olympus 43 50mm F2. 


I will state my conclusion first, then show some sample photos. 

I found the new m4/3 Oly 45mm to give essentially identical image quality to the older, regular-4/3 Oly 50mm macro, when images were taken at F2, F4, and F8. With the 50mm I stepped back from my subject slightly to provide a similarly framed image to what I captured with the 45mm.  The images were taken indoors under limited light, because that is how I mostly use fast prime lenses.

The Panasonic Lumix 43-to-m43 adapter
With both lenses, there was excellent sharpness in the center and excellent sharpness at the edges. Color and contrast seemed identical as well.  I did not use a tripod, as that would not be a "real world" situation for me; however, the slowest shutter speed I used was 1/320th so there should be not camera shake. I shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 3 at default settings.

I compared both images taken at F2, then both taken at F4, then both taken at F8.  I compared by viewing at up to 300% on my monitor.  If I were forced to pick the sharper lens at F2 I would pick the 50mm, but only when viewed at 200%-300% and only in the center.  At 100% I can't see the difference.  I also printed at 8x10 and couldn't see a difference. At F4 and F8, I would have to flip a coin.  (Let me make it clear that I was only comparing F2 versus F2, F4 versus F4, and F8 versus F8.  I was not comparing F2 versus F4 versus F8.)

For all I know, if I shot additional samples, I'd get different comparative results.  But I really don't care, as both lenses are sharper than I am.  Every day I shoot with lenses less sharp than these two, and I am perfectly happy.


Note that the Oly 50mm, because it was designed for regular 4/3 bodies, requires a 43-to-m43 adapter.  The adapters made by Panasonic and Olympus provide electrical connections between the lens and body.  Either will work fine.  They are expensive, so buy whichever is cheaper.  Either adapter will allow the 50mm to use many of the automatic features offered by the G2 body, such as autofocus (albeit, as slow as molasses), and automatic exposure.  The autofocus is so slow and noisy with the 50mm, that I use manual focus.

G2 with Olympus 50mm F2 macro, connected with Panasonic 43-to-m43 lens adapter

The 45mm is specifically designed for m43 and has screachingly fast and very quiet autofocus.  With a maximum aperture of F1.8, it has a half-stop advantage over the 50mm F2.  But you need to give up the macro capability of the 50mm.  It is very small in size; but I disliked using it on the G2.  Frankly, it looks ugly on the G2 (little silver lens attached to a black body).  More importantly, I don't like the ergonomics and balance of this small lens on the G2 because I can't comfortably hold the lens barrel with my left hand.  Probably with more time, I would get used to holding the camera body with two hands like a point and shoot as there is no (or limited) need to use the focus ring and there is no aperature ring. 

G2 with Olympus 45mm F1.8. Even without the blue plastic packing tape this combination is ugly and the ergonomics unenticing
I ended up returning this lens.  Its value to me would be the fast autofocus.  But because I already own the 50mm, I decided that it just wasn't worth the money for my needs.  If I ever buy a smaller m43 camera, like a silver PEN, it is possible that I will re-purchase this lens.


If I didn't own either lens and could afford to buy only one, which would I'd buy? 

Actually, for me the answer is neither.  That's because they are expensive at $450 (50mm) and $385 (45mm).  And I suppose if I didn't already own the $100 Panasonic 43-to-m43 adapter, that would completely put the 50mm off limits.  The thing is, I am currently having fun covering the same territory with two old Nikon lens:  My nearly 50 year old 58mm F1.4 (inherited in 1975-ish from a friend of my dad's; according to the serial number it was built about 1963) gives me a portrait lens and my 55mm F3.5 micro (from eBay for $100) gives me macro capabilities.  I don't mind that everything is manual, including flash settings.  It's actually kind of fun, and I think it makes me a better photographer... or at least more focused (clichĂ©d pun intended).

Digesting what I just wrote in the above paragraph, it seems that I ought to consider selling the 50mm.  After all, I just wrote that I wouldn't buy it if I didn't already own it.  Hmmm.

Six images (two each at F2, F4, and F8) are viewable as downsized images and can also be downloaded as full size images on my Zenfolio-powered site here:


William Liew said...

Thanks for the review. Made me stand back and think, do i really need this lens? I like your second to last para "Digesting what I just wrote in the above paragraph, it seems that I ought to consider selling the 50mm. After all, I just wrote that I wouldn't buy it if I didn't already own it. Hmmm." Very funny.

Peter F. said...

Thanks for the comment, William. Guess we'd likely all do things differently if we were starting our gear collection from scratch.

Mika said...

Hey, would you mind selling the lens to me? i'm really interested in the lens but cannot seem to find it.

Peter F. said...

Mika, As logical as it seems to sell the 50mm F2, I've got the E-M5 on pre-order and want to see how it feels/operates/focuses on that camera. If the E-M5 doesnt' speed up the autofocus compared with the G2 (and I now own the GH2), then this lens will be on the chopping block.

Mika said...

Sure. If you really decide to sell this lens, please reply here and contact me asap, i really really want this lens :) when is your E-M5 coming in?

Peter F. said...

I will do that. I notice that I can't email you. When I click on your name it tells me that your blogger profile is not available to the public. Anyway, I will post it here, but you may want to send me an email via my contact information in the side panel.

I have pre-ordered the black E-M5 and the grip through Adorama. I think it is expected the middle of April. Wish I had a tax refund coming in with which to pay for it. LOL.

Peter F.

Justin B. said...

Thanks for the info. Currently weighing whether to sell my 50/2 and get the 45 for my new EM5. I mostly do portraits, and it would be nice to have the snappy autofocus. But I LOVE the 50, and still have an E620 and E30. Sigh, decisions, decisions...

Peter F. said...

Justin, I sold and then repurchased more recently the 45mm. Since I also now have the 60 F2.8 macro, I too might be selling the 50 F2. I am waiting to see what Oly comes up with for a combo body that will work well with both the reg4/3 lens and the m4/3. The 50/2 is certainly an awesome spec.