A couple of weekends ago I had to come up with a “plan C” for Saturday morning. Plan A was to go fly fishing, but with winds in the 10-15 mph range this would not have been wise. The wind makes casting a fly quite difficult and you never know when the fly will end up in the back of your head.
I also had to nix Plan B. That was to go to the local botanic garden and look for flowers to photograph. As you would imagine, a windy day makes it quite difficult to photograph flowers outdoors.
I had to come up with Plan C.
The view from Gibbet Hill.
Panasonic 35-100 F4-F5.6 @ 35mm (70mm equivalent)
Plan C became a walk along some paths in Groton with a stop at the top of Gibbet Hill with a tripod, Olympus E-M1, and several zoom lenses. The view was beautiful and I had a nice time “playing around” with these lenses. I was curious about relative sharpness, and the church in the background gave me something distant to focus each lens on. I had my Olympus 12-100 F4 (highest quality), Panasonic 100-300 F4-F5.6 (consumer quality), Panasonic 45-175 F4-F5.6 (consumer quality), and Panasonic 35-100 F4-F5.6 (the miniature and consumer quality kit version).
Note that Olympus and Panasonic have 2x crop factor sensors. To obtain the equivalent focal length one must multiple by 2x. For example, the 12-100mm has an equivalent focal length of 24-200mm.
I believed that the 12-100 is “more than good/sharp enough” and that the other three are “good/sharp enough” for my use. The results of my experimentation atop Gibbet Hill confirmed this.
Left to right in order of sharpness:
Olympus 12-100, Panasonic 100-300, Panasonic 45-175, and Panasonic 35-100
I used these focal lengths:
- 125mm (two Panasonics only)
- 175mm (two Panasonics only)
I used these apertures:
What I found out was not surprising. It was just as you might expect. The bigger and more expensive the lens, the better it performed (in this test, on a tripod, on an Olympus body)… except that the 12-100 is slightly shorter than the 100-300, though heavier and twice the price.
- The 12-100 is sharper across the frame than the three below (except equal to the 100-300 at 100mm)
- The 100-300 is sharper across the frame than the two below
- The 45-175 is sharper across the frame than the one below
- The 35-100 is the least sharp (but still sharp enough in my view)
I don’t think I would notice the difference in the three Panasonic lenses over their common focal lengths, except that I examined them at 1:1 and side-by-side in Lightroom. Going forward, I feel equally comfortable with any of these three Panasonic zooms. It would just be a matter of what my use for them would be.
The 12-100 is my default lens. That is a given. It is a superb lens and 90% of my images since purchasing it when it was introduced have been with this lens.
I would add the 100-300 to my bag if I were visiting Yellowstone again, as I used it for large animal images last summer. I also used it along the Maine coast because I can zoom into operating lobster boats and schooners in Penobscot Bay.
Without the animals and the boats, the 45-175 is an adequate and smaller/lighter solution. It is compact too, as the zoom is completely internal.
Finally, the 35-100 is very small and matches and balances nicely with my 12-32 and the diminutive Panasonic GM5 camera. That’s a nice package for hiking or bicycling, or any situation where photography is not your main mission but you want something better than a cell phone.
I should note that while on the tripod for this experiment, image stabilization was off. It may be that my results would be different if I had hand-held the camera instead and used image stabilization. Perhaps that will be an experiment for another day on top of Gibbet Hill.