*Olympus 75mm f/1.8 vs Canon 135 f/2 L

the showdown

One of my absolute all time favorite lenses has been my EF 135mm f/2 L USM.  Before I’d acquired this lens, I was looking for a mid range tele lens that I could use for portrait work as well as use for events, sports, etc.  The 135L a few years back cost me exactly as much as the Oly 75mm f/1.8 does today.  Yes, the Oly uses much less in the way of materials, far less glass, and is actually a 75mm lens, not a 135mm (or 150mm to be more accurate) lens, but, for the Micro 4/3 format, it is as close to that magical piece of glass that the 135L is for the Canon system.  Both are metal, neither are weather sealed and they’re each their own system’s mid-tele master.  Even with the extra glass, the 135L is a noticeably faster focuser (I’d assume largely due to the USM focusing motor and a superior PDAF in the EOS DSLR’s) but as to the quality of the actual images…

75 on OMD 135 on 5D2

For those who may see this (or may begin to see this, trust me, it’s pretty gratuitous) as a lengthy and unnecessary back and forth, the article is broken down to show the center sharpness (whisky bottles), the corner sharpness between different sensors (wall painting) and then what I’d consider to be these lenses strength, Portraiture all laid out below.  Feel free to skip ahead if you get bored.  I just tried to read through it and did so myself, so no offense taken :)

SHARPNESS

The Olympus 75mm has been touted as the sharpest lens for the Micro 4/3 system yet.  The EF 135mm is no slouch in it’s own right.  Below there are a series of shots from a tripod with the lenses focused manually on the “OF” in “Product of …” at the top of the square Lagavulin label, for each shot with the shots switching back and forth between the Oly 75mm on the OMD EM5 and the EF 135mm on the Canon 5DmkII with the aperture used being listed below each shot.  First, the full shot from each lens wide open.

 Oly75-iso200-1/10sec-f1.8

Oly75-iso200-1/10sec-f1.8

EF135-ISO200-1/8sec-f2

EF135-ISO200-1/8sec-f2

Here are 100% crops from images framed as above at varying aperture and equivalent exposure settings, noted below each crop.  Click any to see the cropped area from the full sized image.

Oly 75mm wide open @ f/1.8

Oly 75mm wide open @ f/1.8

EF 135mm wide open @ f/2

EF 135mm wide open @ f/2

Oly 75mm @ f/2

Oly 75mm @ f/2

EF135mm @ f/2.8

EF135mm @ f/2.8

Oly 75mm @ f/2.8

Oly 75mm @ f/2.8

EF 135mm @ f/4

EF 135mm @ f/4

Oly 75mm @ f/4

Oly 75mm @ f/4

EF 135mm @ f/5.6

EF 135mm @ f/5.6

Oly 75mm @ f/5.6

Oly 75mm @ f/5.6

EF 135mm @ f/8

EF 135mm @ f/8

Oly 75mm @ f/8

Oly 75mm @ f/8

While it may appear, at like aperture setting, that the 75mm is “sharper” from these crops due to the full frame exhibiting a shallower depth of field, looking at the point of focus (the “of” just above the “V” in Lagavulin) both are very sharp, even wide open you can see the fine texture in the paper label.  Here is a closer equivalent for comparison as far as equivalent DOF with the 135mm at f/8 and the 75mm at f/4:

EF 135mm @ f/8

EF 135mm @ f/8

Oly 75mm @ f/4

Oly 75mm @ f/4

If wanting to achieve a shallower DOF at the same working distance, the smaller sensor will require a larger aperture, and conversely, if needing to keep more of a subject in focus, the larger sensor will need to stop down further (requiring an adjustment in higher ISO and/or slower shutter speed) to achieve the same DOF.  Feel free to squint at the above crops, but to me, having looked long and hard at each of these in full screen mode at 300%+, I can say that either of these lenses is plenty sharp, I’d say equally as sharp as the other, for any realistic application and it kinda makes me wonder why I even included all these crops, so, sorry :)  Long experiment short, neither of these lenses is noticeably sharper than the other as both are sharp wide open and when looking at equal f-stops, or (nearly) equaling the DOF by looking at a two stop difference shows the same thing, sharp as Stephen Hawking.  Both lenses are deadly sharp when in focus, period.

As for sharpness at the corners, I’m finding it has more to do with the sensor than it does the lens.  I did a setup with four cameras; the Original 5D and the 5DII with the 135L, and the GX1 and OM-D E-M5 using the Oly 75.  We saw that both lenses are very sharp near the center, now here are a couple shots with subsequent crops to show the lenses wide open, and at f/5.6 for comparison in the corner.

Framing for the EM5/GX1 with the 75/1.8

Framing for the EM5/GX1 with the 75/1.8

Framing for the 5D/5DII with the 135L

Framing for the 5D/5DII with the 135L

First, all cameras are set to capture the image in RAW, without any sharpening applied in camera or in post.  Exposure settings were set to ISO200, aperture was shot wide open, and stopped down to f/5.6 on both lenses, and all cameras with white balance set to incandescent and shutter speed matched from one to the next to duplicate exposure.  the 10 or 12 second self timer was employed and multiple shots were taken at each setting to find the cleanest, sharpest image with the aforementioned combinations while on a tripod 8 feet away from the painting.

Here are 100% crops wide open, click on any to see the full res, full sized 100% cropped portion of the images:

EM5 corner at f/1.8

EM5 corner at f/1.8

GX1 corner at f/1.8

GX1 corner at f/1.8

5DmkII corner at f/2

5DmkII corner at f/2

5D corner at f/2

5D corner at f/2

Wide open, it is obvious that the EM-5 and 5D mark 2 best their counterparts with the Old 5D looking pretty horrible by comparison.  I thought that the EM-5 + 75/1.8 might just beat out the 5D2 + 135L in the corners, but I can see no real difference.  Both are wonderfully sharp wide open.  The GX1, while fine, shows the difference (of course without any sharpening) between the last generation Panasonic sensor and the newer Sony sensor.  Not a huge gap, but the Pana sensor’s RAW capture is slightly softer to my eye.

Now, stopped down to f/5.6:

EM5 corner at f/5.6

EM5 corner at f/5.6

GX1 corner at f/5.6

GX1 corner at f/5.6

5DmkII corner at f/5.6

5DmkII corner at f/5.6

5D corner at f/5.6

5D corner at f/5.6

When stopped down, just about all difference is more or less erased.  The EM-5 and 5D2 are still better than their counterparts, but the gap has largely been covered.  Head to head, again, both lenses at their best look comparable to my eye.  Long article short, these lenses are more affected by the sensor and depending on which camera you’re shooting one of these camera + lens combinations can prove to be sharper or duller than a different combination offering varying results.  

Verdict: Both of these lenses are equally as sharp, or hindered, in my eyes in real world testing.  I will focus on taking pictures with both of these beautiful lenses and stop paying complete attention to charts and graphs, or at least making declarations that lens X is sharper than lens Y because a chart says so.  While I see the value in using a chart to determine the sharpness of a lens, I do not shoot charts.  Perhaps two lenses from the same manufacturer, shot on the same exact camera body can tell us how one performs vs another, but as I’ve found here, the sensor is a large variable in and of its own, even two of the same sensor can vary (this is my second 5D classic, and I don’t remember the older one behaving this way with the 135L).

What about my poor ol’ 5D?  I love the old guy, but this has shown it’s age.  In the 5D’s defense, there is no way for me to calibrate the lens to the body myself, and it could be an issue that if I were to send the lens and camera to Canon, they could calibrate it so that it would be sharper in the corners wide open.  I never had any complaints when using the lens on the 5D wide open, so I doubt I’d ever take the time and pay the money to do that, unless I start getting paid to shoot resolution charts I guess.

PORTRAITS

Now, with my busy schedule, and Mrs Squeeze refusing to sit for me (I don’t blame her, I would be absolutely fed up with my photo requests too) I decided to sit in.  With my finely tuned self portrait techniques and zen like facial expression re-creation, I fired off two frames.  Here are the two shots with a 100% crop of my mug following each, with the same setup, lighting, exposure settings and shot from the same location.  One is with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 on the OMD EM5, the other from the EF 135mm f/2 L on a 5DmkII.  Captured in RAW, converted in Aperture 3.4 and absolutely nothing but cropping the 5DII image to 3:4 (and exporting the full images in modified dimensions, the 100%crops are just that) has been done to either of these images.  As close to straight out of the camera as the limited upload space on wordpress will allow.  Fun fact, by cropping into the full frame images from the 5DII using the full height at 3:4, it just about equals the framing, and viewing angle from the micro 4/3 sensors with that 150mm EFOV.  To keep it as close as I could, both cameras were set up at ISO200, 1/125sec at f/8, a custom WB of 5400k lit by a single Alien Bee B800 fired at 1/4 power, camera left through an Apollo softbox via a Pocket Wizard.  See if your pixel peeping is up to snuff and distinguish which is which.

135v75 1

135v75-100crop 1

135v75 2

135v75-100crop 2

Can you tell which is which?  Obviously there is a difference in the way the sensors capture color, and for the tell tale, there is a visible difference in the depth of field which is a dead giveaway.  If we want to nitpick, there is a slight difference in tonal range, but again this is down to the files bit depths, not the lenses.  As for sharpness, I see very, very little difference and any preference I would have comes down to the differences in the sensors, with both lenses being more than capable, nay, amazing in my opinion (purely in rendering optical quality, subject matter entirely debatable).  The first was the 5DII w/135 f/2 and the second was the EM5 w/75 f/1.8 for those interested.

Speaking of the difference in sensors, even shooting RAW, different sensors show a noticeable shift in recording the different color channels (as one would assume, not all RAW files are created equal).  Over the last few weeks for this unscientific test, I’ve been shooting the EF 135L on an old (original) 5D and a 5DmarkII.  The Oly 75mm has been switched between the OMD EM5 with the Sony sensor and the Panasonic G3 and GX1 with the Panasonic sensor (you can read my comparison between the Sony and Panasonic sensors HERE).  Much of the differences can be adjusted and neutralized in post processing, but I’ve been finding that the Canon sensor’s CR2 files are far more muted and neutral with more requirement for post sharpening through default conversion, the G3/GX1 seems to take a similar tack while the Sony sensor comes through over saturated (to me), especially in the red channel, and over sharpened (again to my eye) through neutral, default conversion settings.  I’m of the opinion that I can always add sharpening, saturation, et al after the fact, but it is harder to remove it.  That said, I took the two images from above and ran them through Photoshop CS6 to look at how they’d do with my normal enhancement and sharpening workflow.  I didn’t color correct, mostly just to avoid potentially altering the pixels when I really wanted to look at sharpening and just eyeballing resolution (pun entirely intended).

IMG_3917 - Version 2 (1)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After sharpening both files with my default final sharpening action, the above 200% crops are what come out on the other side.  Both are noticeably and acceptably sharp as far as I’m concerned.  The 135mm on the 5DII sensor shows me a little more resolution (as determined by the fine detail in the eyebrows) but this is something that to notice, you’ll have to really magnify a file to truly tell any difference.  It also exhibits a bit of noticeable CA in the two small catch lights in my eye (the purple fringing) which is from a reflection off of a mercury lamp to my left (cam right).  That said, this does show me that from this test, the 135 on the 5DII is capable of providing a sharper final image vs the 75mm on the OMD EM5.  I know it may conflict with some of the charts out there, but I don’t shoot charts, and hope you don’t spend your time doing so either.  If I measured a lens solely on how it resolved when shooting charts, I’d probably come to the conclusion that I have not been spending enough time with and photo documenting my family and probably should reassess my passion.  I’m sure I’ll get flamed by people citing DXO this, or Lenstest that, but to me, a comparative image under controlled conditions will show me how a lens and camera work for real pictures with the cameras and lenses that I have and use.  I, and anyone I’d be getting paid by would be happy with the sharpness and resolution from either of these images, although I’d probably need to neutralize quite a bit of the red from the OMD file.

Is there an advantage to using either one of these lenses over the other?  Simply put, no.  Both are amazing and are going to be more affected by the sensor they’re recording light onto than the optics involved.  As far as optical performance, really, the difference to my eye is negligible.  I think the fact that the 135L is designed to be used on larger sensors would benefit from those larger sensor’s advantages in resolution as well as benefit someone needing a lens to be a faster focuser (again due to the superior AF systems in the EOS DSLRs).  In real life?   See my above sentiment toward basing my whole opinion on a lens from lab/chart test shots, and unless I’m shooting pro sports, I don’t think the AF speed difference is going to be a major hindrance (honestly in higher contrast situations, the 75mm is just about on par AF speed wise).  For overall size and weight savings?  The Oly 75mm wins and provides quality with half the weight.  Shallower DOF for subject isolation?  The 135L wins.  A quality image file?  You can’t go wrong and I feel both of these lenses are fully capable, only really limited by those of us who decide to stand behind them and point them at stuff.  As the micro 4/3 system continues to progress, and we see the sensors continue to get better, the Olympus Zuiko 75mm lens will continue to get better as well I feel, and I’m excited to see that.

Being that these two lenses are comparably priced for their respective systems with the current prices shading on the 135L being about 10% more expensive, the only real “advantage” I’d say would be the desire, or need for a particular camera body and more importantly, the sensor that these two optical juggernauts would be placed in front of.

Here are a few more hand held shots with altering combinations to show that either lens on various cameras will be plenty capable and, in my opinion, good investments.

EF 135mm on the EOS 5D (ISO800 1/50sec f/4 - looking at DOF)

EF 135mm on the EOS 5D (ISO800 1/50sec f/4 – looking at more or less equaling DOF)

Oly 75mm on the Panasonic G3 (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5)

Oly 75mm on the Panasonic G3 (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5)

EF 135mm on the EOS 5D (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5 - looking at exposure)

EF 135mm on the EOS 5D (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5 – looking at equivalent exposure/dyn range)

Oly 75mm on the Panasonic G3 (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5)

Oly 75mm on the Panasonic G3 (ISO800 1/100sec f/2.5)

This is why Olympus can get away with what it charges for this lens, it provides quality on par with lenses providing a similar field of view on larger sensors with equal quality.  This is our reality, and as much as it may piss me off, the micro 4/3 system knows that they can play to the “equivalent” field of view as opposed to explaining how less material, less exotic glass or lens coatings by area, etc can command in cases, much more than an actual equivalent for a different format.  If we micro 4/3 system users want this type of quality, at this focal length, the price has been set.  Now, to Olympus and Panasonic, please do what you can to employ a 14 (or 16!) bit RAW file.  +/- 16 megapixels are plenty, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing better tonal gradation and depth along with a broader dynamic range with future sensors…please?  To Canon, well, I feel the writing is on the wall, and while I still vastly prefer the functionality of a traditional DSLR when working, the pricing for these bodies is going to need to keep coming down to stay competitive.  If the micro 4/3 system starts providing more practical functionality along the lines of the GH3, with all the function and external control that a larger, bulkier system camera does, and continues to make leaps in sensor technology, optical offerings and IQ, DSLR’s, as much as I love ‘em, are going to be hanging on to a shrinking piece of the pie.  Maybe not next year, or the year after, but the gauntlet has been thrown down and while I don’t think we’ll see the DSLR’s become extinct anytime soon, I think you are going to continue to see fewer and fewer around when you can squeeze as much quality out of a $1000 body (or even $250 Camera Body in the case of the GX1 or G3 right now) and $900 lens (vs a $2700 body and $900 lens in this particular scenario).  Is a full frame camera with comparable lens really $1700 better?  Not for the average shot in my personal opinion.  I’m not going to say that a full frame camera doesn’t produce better files or have benefits over a micro 4/3 camera, but for the daily photographic tasks, I’d rather save the weight (and money) knowing I’ve got comparable quality in the bag.  Times, they are a changin’.

Here are links to the lenses (from B&H), and guess what?  I’ve finally, after three years, decided to incorporate an affiliate link!  If you purchase through these links, I get a small commission which will be put back into the blog to help me keep this going (aka justifying the time spent to the lovely Mrs.), so, thank you for the consideration.

Olympus 75mm f/1.8 Lens

Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM Lens

I’m now (finally) on facebook as well HERE, so if you’re into that type of thing, I’d love to connect with you guys there as well.

Thanks everyone for the continued support and for reading through.  Any questions?  Fire them off and I’ll get back to you.

Happy shooting,

Tyson

About these ads

32 thoughts on “*Olympus 75mm f/1.8 vs Canon 135 f/2 L

  1. Pingback: *Olympus 75mm f/1.8, all it’s cracked up to be? | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  2. Should I find the funds to by the Olympus lens I will click on your link for sure. I need to get some use out of my Oly 45mm f/1.8 lens first though. Thanks for the comparison. And thank the Missus from all of us for her patience. It is appreciated.

    • Greatly appreciated Steve.

      Mrs Squeeze will enjoy hearing that her enduring love and endless patience is the topic of internet chatter :) One of the big reasons I chose to get the 75mm (on top of returning the 60mm macro) was because I didn’t already have the 45/1.8 (as I use an adapted Contax G Zeiss 45/2). I think that the Oly 45 is one of the best tools for the money that the system has, so, while I think the 75 is a wonderful lens, one doesn’t NEED both it and the 45 as long as the 45 is taking care of business. I think once we start to see some of the longer tele primes (I’d love to see a 100mm f/2 – 2.8ish) and the soon to be 150mm f/2.8, it may make the 75 somewhat surplus to those who already have their short tele/portrait lens needs taken care of and can then opt to go a little longer for things like sideline sports, wildlife, etc. Choices, and quality choices at that is one huge reason this system is really solidified itself as a well rounded and serious set of tools.

      thanks again,

      Tyson

      • I have both olympus 45/1.8 and 75/f1.8. What I can tell is 75/1.8 is superior to the 45/f1.8 I believe the 45mm is still the best value for money.

        I haven’t tested the new sigma 60 f2.8 as well but I’ll be losing half a stop and I don’t think it will be anywhere as sharp as the 75mm which its just incredible.
        As you said also, I would love to see as you a M4/3 100mm f2 or 150mm f2 for long range shooting as wildlife, safaris etc..

        However, I usually use 30% of my time my 45mm and 50% of my time the 75mm. the rest is for my 17mm f1.8 which is also a good lens, but not a pro grade like the 75mm.

        But I know many people who have sold their 45mm after getting the 75mm.

        and when it comes to the M4/3 or hybrid vs fullframe SLR, it will be like computer and tablet, both will always be existing but one will adress mass market and other professional.
        However when I go out for shooting with my friends I can see the difference in the encumbrance.

        btw nice comparison, I really enjoy reading it

      • Thank you Son,

        I appreciate it. I would really like to shoot with the 17/1.8 because I do enjoy the 35mm (~34mm) angle of view for an “everything” type lens, but its just not quite different enough for me from the 20/1.7 or even the 25/1.4 for me to pull the trigger at the current price. Someday perhaps.

        Cheers,

        Tyson

  3. Thanks for the great post Tyson!
    Some time ago I did my own personal (completely non scientific) comparison with my OMD and the 45mm 1.8 versus my Nikon D600 and the 85mm 1.8. I did my usual Post Processing in Light Room, and let the photo-lab make some large prints of my best pictures.
    I was amazed when I got the results. I had to check the files in Lightroom which pictures were taken with the Nikon and which were from the OMD :-)

    I love both my cameras very much, but the little OMD keeps amazing me time after time :-)

    Kris

    • Actually Nicholas, it isn’t. At best they’re “equal” with the 135L on the 5DII capable of better resolution vs the 75 on the OMD EM5, if you take my portraiture example as a citable test. Both are deadly sharp, and it comes down to the sensor. I prefer the look of the full frame sensors if truth be told, but that really is nitpicking as you need to magnify the files quite a bit to start to really notice any difference in sensor performance.

      To summarize the article: “Both lenses are remarkably sharp and are more affected by the sensors than anything else. Ignoring charts, and shooting real pictures, either is capable of beautiful results and can’t be directly compared as they’re not used for the same system. The 75 is sharper on the OMD than the 135 is on the original 5D (or MY original 5D anyway), but the 135L is sharper on the 5DII than the 75 is on either the OMD EM5 or GX1 based on fine detail at high magnifications.”

      I also state that charts may contradict my findings, but I don’t shoot charts and don’t particularly care how charts look. I’m more interested in how pictures I’ll actually take will look, and with either of these lenses, on most any camera bodies will be capable of producing a beautiful picture.

      Thanks for the comment,

      tyson

  4. Thanks Tyson for comparison.
    Really enjoyed.
    I have E M5 & Oly 75mm & have been very happy.
    Paid $a 900 but Canon 135 would be $ A 1385.
    My best decision to go m 4/3.
    Thanks again for all your excellent blogs.

    Donald

    • Thank you Donald,

      The gap in the IQ variables seem to be shrinking with each new sensor release. While the newer full frame sensors will always have certain advantages, I think that it is clear that the micro 4/3 sensors are close enough to the APS-C bunch and best the early digital FF sensors making it a completely capable system, compact or otherwise :)

      I still use the old 5D for work as well as the 5D2 and the micro 4/3 cams too more recently, and there is very little that I’d hope to see change (at least realistically anyway ;) ) That isn’t already there with the m4/3 system.

      Thanks again,

      Tyson

  5. I’ve been fascinated by how many Canon users have embraced micro Four-Thirds after seeing so many drones recite how you just couldn’t get a good image from anything smaller than an APS-C sized sensor.

    I’ve been shooting with Olympus Four-Thirds equipment and recently bought a Panasonic GH3, and I’m learning. I fall back on my Four-Thirds lenses quite often, finding the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 not enough. Obviously, some lenses are quite good, as you’ve shown here. Thanks for an eye opener!

    • Thank you for the read! I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never been overly impressed with the APS-C format personally. The size benefits aren’t substantial vs a full frame setup and the IQ gap, at least on the Canon side, has been fairly substantial. The cost vs a full frame has certainly been a genuine argument, but with recent full frame options coming down in price, I don’t think there will be much room for the APS-C DSLRs into the future. The Micro 4/3 system (again, for me) came into being at a perfect time. It offered a substantial size reduction with a comparably high image quality which has grown to rival APS-C and even FF in well exposed, good light scenarios. I still see certain benefits to a full frame set up, but also feel the quality and size reduction possible with the m4/3 system to wonderfully compliment my FF setup (and replace an APS -C option).

      I appreciate taking the time to comment! Thank you for the continued conversation.

      t

      • I was recently considering the Nikon D7100 over the Panasonic GH3 because the 70-200mm would have that 1.5x telephoto boost, whereas Panasonic’s 35-100mm only matches the 135 format 70-200mm range, as does my Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0. However, the GH3 points to the future and the D7100 points to the past. They may meet somewhere in the middle but they’re opposites.

        I was finally of the opinion that micro Four-Thirds, with the E-M5 and the GH3, had become good enough to get my money, but it still needs to gain image quality.

      • I’m really looking forward to two things for the system. Firstly, faster telephoto lenses. The 100-300 f/4-5.6 is a good lens, perhaps not great, but for the cost, a good tool and to gain a 600mm equivalent able to shoot at f/5.6 for under $500 is pretty impressive. I am excited to see the 150mm f/2.8 and would love to see a 200mm f/4 and 300mm f/4 (perhaps f/5.6 for cost and size) and even a 400mm f/5.6 (maybe f/6.3, etc) or so, to play to the crop factor. Secondly, and more importantly is to incorporate a good, on sensor PDAF solution that works seamlessly with the CDAF to allow accurate tracking, especially with these long tele lenses. I believe it is coming and will help further define the system as a more serious competitor enabling shooters fewer tradeoffs versus the larger SLR systems.

        As far as IQ goes, I agree to an extent. I feel that the RAW files provide a good enough file, but would love to see a higher bit depth with an emphasis on expanding and smoothing tonal gradation and increasing the overall dynamic range. 16mp is fine for my use and aside from huge prints, or the need to really crop into images, would be enough for me for 99% of what I like to do. If I need a larger file, I can shoot panos or composites, or use one of my other cameras (or rent).

        Thanks again, and I will head on over to your blog as well.

        Cheers,
        Tyson

      • Yes, there are many possibilities for micro Four-Thirds. I wish that Olympus would bring their SHG line to micro Four-Thirds but they’re so worried about what other people think that they won’t do it. The 90-250mm f/2.8 is a great lens but it requires a tripod or monopod, as well as some spare change.

        Thanks for providing another opinion that isn’t swayed by advertising.

  6. Just a small comment about relative resolution – although the 5DII has more pixels, it has a much harsher AA filter than the OMD. The actual winner may quite easily be the OMD. I regularly process both cameras’ output and the ‘per pixel’ sharpness seems to be with the OMD by some margin. Also, another observation (in terms of dynamic range) – the 5DII raw has very little range above the the ‘blown out’ white – LR4.4 can recover, maybe, half a stop. The OMD (and indeed, the E5 with its lowly Panasonic sensor) can recover at least one stop. We (my partner and I) have a regular job photographing used cars for a dealer (glamorous, not). The conditions are often in sunshine with high contrast. We need decent shadow detail and highlight detail. I find the Olympus RAW files much more flexible for this purpose despite being only 12 bit. I would like to see 14 bit and greater tonal graduation, however.

    • Thanks Andy,

      Interesting. I find that the above 200% crops show a very different story. Being that when cropped to a 4:3 ratio, the 5DII files are very close in pixel dimensions creating a very similar reproduction size, and show, to my eye, a noticeably sharper image at the pixel level. I also have the opposite experience with the overall dynamic range and highlight recovery between the two RAW files, but this may be down to using Aperture and Apple’s RAW conversion vs Adobe’s. The 12 vs 14 bit shows how much bit depth matters when looking at tonal gradation and tonal falloff. I still regard this as the single largest performance bump going from the old 5D to the 5D mark II and having worked with thousands of files from each over the years, I cannot say how much I appreciate the extra bit depth. Regardless, either camera is fully capable of a very, very usable file and when looking at the cost difference, the OMD EM5 certainly makes a huge argument in its favor.

      I will say though, I shy away from the EM5 whenever I shoot people as the reds are poorly replicated and take too much tweaking in post. As an example, I’ve been doing an ongoing series for a tattoo artist and of the 4 shoots we’ve done so far, I shot with the OMD EM5 and Oly 75 on one of them. Same exact settings with a manual WB temp dialed in to “match” my light temps (same lights used for each shoot at the same power output, through same soft boxes) with the only difference being that I had to adjust my exposure in camera to account for the base ISO of 200 on the OMD vs 100 on the 5DII (with my base aperture set to f/5.6 and f/11 respectively for the shoots). I always shoot a gray/white and black target for further WB in post. The OMD EM5 shots look really rough by comparison on caucasian skin, especially those who have a red base to begin with. I even did a WB bracket and the reds in all (I think about a 400K swing on either side of my base WB temp) come out with a huge magenta shift. It took me about a half an hour to finally get a WB setting in post to even get close enough to making me happy. I’ve not shot with the OMD EM5 on a “people” shoot since.

      It’s a great camera, and I know it’s a very popular camera, but I’m also not going to say it’s anywhere near a perfect camera, and as much as I’d like to replace my more expensive setup with a micro 4/3 setup entirely, I still see a big enough benefit to shooting with the Full Frame gear for the time being, especially with skin tones.

      Thank you for the comment, and if you have links to images, I’d love to see your work with the OMD, no matter how glamorous it may be :) (you did see my “portraiture” above, right?).

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      • Thanks for an interesting article!
        I’d like to point out an observation I’ve made on Aperture’s raw conversion of the E-M5 .ORF files: skin tones are a bit reddish in artificial light, whereas the corresponding JPEGs when shooting raw+JPEG always have excellent skin tones. Lightroom 4, on the other hand, renders skin tones from the same ORFs much better. In fact, Aperture seems to have a problem with skin tones in artificial light specifically for the E-M5 raw files: When I make the same Aperture–Lightroom comparison of skin tones from raw files from my 5D Mk II, there is no difference.
        I’ve tried to tweak the Aperture raw conversion, and I can almost make it as good as the JPEGs, but not just as good. So, I always shoot raw+JPEG in artificial light.

      • Thanks Lennart,

        While I technically own LR4, I have come to vastly prefer Ap3 for file management and use it exclusively for my library and cataloging. If I can carve out some time, I’ll try to explore the RAW conversion comparison more intimately.

        Cheers,

        Tyson

  7. Tyson

    Thanks for reading through my post. The skin tones I am happy with, but I also use the colorchecker passport to create a custom Adobe Camera RAW profile for the E-M5. This does seem to help matters a lot. The 14 vs 12 bit debate is something I see a lot of rubbish spoken about as though it some sort of limit on the dynamic range of the camera! The extra bits mean finer gradation – I, like you, would appreciate this. The resolving power of the sensor is something DPReview attempt to measure. It could be that the difference I’m seeing is down to the lenses my partner has for her 5DII – they are good, but probably not 135/2L good. My wildlife photos using the stellar Zuiko 300 f2.8 have won a lot of praise from my camera club colleagues (many with D4 and 600/4 and 1DIV and 600/4 combos). I’ll post some links to my work soon!

    Andy

    • You bet Andy.

      The conversation is why I like to write these articles in the first place!

      Bit depth, tonal gradation and dynamic range, and their relationships are often misunderstood and misquoted, definitely. With 16,384 bits per color channel in a 14 bit file (vs 4,096 per channel in a 12 bit file) it provides a finer transition in tonality, which, while not a direct measurement of dynamic range (which is total stops of exposure technically), it does expand the tonality within the dynamic range which can make for a smoother range of tonality (with each tone essentially being divided four times allowing for a (theoretically) more accurate representation on a pixel by pixel level). Yes, this does nothing for the bookends (extreme shadow and highlight info) or total expansion of the total dynamic range in a High/Low sense, but it can expand what is already there (for those not quite following that may be reading) by multiplying the tonal range by four times. This of course becomes largely moot when compressing the file down to an 8 bit jpeg anyway, but I’m of the opinion that having the information originally allows for finer control in post, and does actually translate to the compressed file by smoothing the transitions (as seen, by my eye anyway in the jpeg files/portraits, particularly in the falloff areas). This, by definition, is pixel peeping though, and while it is fun to discuss and understand a bit, it can largely be ignored for most all practical purposes nowadays with most any current sensor capable of producing a beautiful file. It won’t stop many of us from wanting to see these things continue to advance though :)

      Thanks again Andy. I’d love to see some of the super tele shots! I’m really excited to see the m4/3 system start to play to that strength (namely in an integrated hybrid PDAF system), regaining some of the panache that the four thirds standard was able to boast with the new weight savings and sensor advancement.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

  8. Pingback: Non Scientific Comparison: Olympus 75mm f/1.8 vs Canon Ef 135 f/2L | CanonWatch CanonWatch

  9. Pingback: Insects in Flight | Alien Skin Software

  10. Hi Tyson,

    thank you for your article. I wand to switch from Canon 6D to M43 (GX7) and I hope you will do same comparison between Lumix 12-35 f2.8 and Canon 24/70 f4 and/or f2.8, and between Lumix 35-100 f2.8 and Canon 70-200 f4 and/or f2.8. It could help me to switch or not ;)

  11. Pingback: *Olympus 75mm f/1.8 vs Canon 135 f/2 L | Photog...

  12. Pingback: *Another set of this guy’s opinions, or Mirrorless Lens buying guide! | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s