Micro 4/3 Pan 14mm / PanLeica 15mm / Oly 17mm / Pan 12-32mm (IMAGE HEAVY)

Location
Boston Burbs
Real Name
David
This won't be a direct "how is the corner sharpness at f/4" type of review. Instead it will be a much more personal review. How does the different angle of view look on an image like this? Can I focus close enough at this focal length with this lens to get the image I'm looking for? Are there handling and size issues that make me like one over the other? I'm going to start with the needs I'm trying to fill, some handling observations, a few sample images from each, and completely personal (irrational?) thoughts about each.

I've owned all of these lenses multiple times (3 to 5 times for each). But this was the first time I'd owned them all at the same time, actually just sold off the P12-32 today (more on that later). I have the E-M1.2 and Pen F; I also have the O12-100 Pro and expect to add the O12-45 Pro. I like the opticals and build/features of Pro lenses and pairing them f/1.4-1.8 primes. For me f/2.8 zooms aren't fast enough when I need speed.

I expect this review to continue with new sets of images added over time and as this is my first real review, it will probably ramble a bit. :oops: In the end I will probably end up keeping 2 of the 4.

The 1st requirement, I want something that will fit in my REALLY small bag (see the attached image).
The 2nd requirement, something in this focal range to pair with the f/4 zooms.

Lenses:
P12-32
- The collapsible nature of the P12-32 has never been an issue for me. It's the most convenient / flexible given the range and I use an auto cap from the O14-42EZ, so that's simple. It's the only lens I own that I have to think about IBIS settings. Not really a problem, but this is my only Panasonic lens with OIS. The different in close focus distance at different focal lengths can be annoying. I have the plastic mount version and atually prefer it over the metal mount. The metal mount copies I've owned of this lens have been tighter to mount and I think that probably contributed to one of them suffering the separation issue that you use to hear about regularly. With various bodies I've owned I've had at least 5 (maybe 6) copies of this lens.

It's a fine lens and might be in a class all by it's self with it's combination of size, flexibility, and image quality. But of the 4 it's also the least enjoyable to use and I'm not sure it would have a place in my bag once I have a copy of the O12-45 Pro. The PL15/O17 + PL25 + O12-45 Pro would make a great kit in my ONA Bowery.


P14 - Smallest by a little, closet focusing by a little. Way back one of these was the first lens I bought to go with my E-PM1 kit lens. It's fast focusing, simple, and fun to use. I've also never felt the need to add a hood on the P14 so that also keeps it simple.

One REALLY big plus for the P14 is that my absolute favorite fixed lens camera is the Fuji X70 which is also a close focusing 28mm EQ. I sold my 2nd X70 to consolidate into one system. But I've gone on vacations and road trips with just the X70 including a 2 week trip with just the X70 and 21mm EQ converter. While the P14 + Pen F isn't as small or light as the X70, it is 20mp vs 16mp and the AF is much faster even with the X70 having PDAF while the Pen F is only CDAF.

If this was an f/2 instead of f/2.5 this could be the only one standing at the end.

PL15 - This is the third time I've owned this and it was actually the subject of a thread I started about "the best lens you don't like".

Most of the issues were handling and odd / silly things. The last time I had one I also had a GX85, so the aperture ring was active and it was easy to hit it off it's setting. One of the reasons I decided to consolidate into m4/3 (again) from Fuji and m4/3 was the handling of the X-E3 and the lenses that made sense for that system. Some had aperture rings with markings, some had a ring without markings, and some were just controled from the body. I also wasn't a fan of the hood, it isn't reversable, the lens is wider at the end without the hood, and when I don't have the hood on I really want to have the trim ring on. I did mention the word irrational before.

Since then I've gotten the Pen F, so the aperture ring is not active. I've also owned the Fuji 18mm and PL25, both with pretty unque hoods. With the PL15 and PL25 I don't HAVE to put the front cap on at every lens change as the deep, fixed hood does a great job protecting the front.

Also with the Pen F I've found I'm enjoying more B&W shooting and the PL15 seems to have a bit more contrast, another plus.

O17 - I've owned at least 3 of these or is it 4? It's odd, I think I really prefer the 28mm EQ so why do I keep buying this? The only thing I can point a finger at is build and handling. But I do seem to adapt pretty quickly between the 2. I like the build of the O17 best, the proportions, and the way it looks. It's also got a really nice grip around the lens that makes it easier than either of the other two to mount or dismount. I also have the hood and while I like the way it looks on the lens, but it's a pain. It's fiddly, the screw loosens up and the hood can fall off. Or if you tighten it too much it marks up the lens.

So that's the first description section.
 

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Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
David, after looking at this set, you should basically be able to choose whatever you *like* best. You're able to make the lenses look so similar that there's really not much in it if you don't get into tiny niggles about transitions and backgrounds. What I find most interesting is how close the 15mm and 17mm tend to look; both show (slight to very slight) outlining, but somewhat differently, the 15mm has a bit cleaner transitions, but it's minute. The 14mm isn't quite as punchy, but holds its own - still, a tad behind the other two. The 15mm wins (for me) by a hair's width that's completely irrelavant in day-to-day shooting, at least for the subject matter you present here. The 17mm is the slightly better people lens than the 15mm in my experience because it's a bit more forgiving, the 15mm is better behaved in urban environments and excels for documentary work. Tough decision - but basic IQ isn't the issue here. I know this doesn't help you much, but I think in this case, choice really comes down to "package", not optics - I feel you'll be very well served by the 14mm and 17mm lenses ... (I've explained my choice, the 15mm, in another thread).

Also interesting: The 12-32mm is quite a good performer when compared to the primes! Intriguing - though I completely agree with what you said about usability, and on the whole, the construction does have its issues - I've had four of these lenses so far (and won't get a fifth if the current one breaks - 12-45mm f/4 PRO again); the first three had something (mechanical) wrong with them: The first one, the one I used longest, got the separation issue, the third one was dead on arrival so I kept the second one on which the locking mechanism didn't work properly, though it could still be used. However, the newer, plastic mount version works fine so far (to be fair, I haven't used it extensively, but everything seems really smooth, better even than on my really well-loved first unit). For everyday shooting, it may eben be preferable over the primes.

Thanks for sharing this - very well done, very helpful! :2thumbs:

M.
 

pictogramax

All-Pro
Location
Zemun, Serbia
Very nice and interesting, thank you - your first paragraph tackles exactly what I'm looking for in reviews.

As of late I'm in love again with my old Pana G3, so I started exploring again the M43 options. A lot has happened since I've been looking a few years ago, including some nice bodies with great IBIS now being offered at nice prices.

From your sets I constantly preferred the Pana 15, it renders in a way that's right up my alley. Which is bad news as it's too expensive for me :)

All are good and great images can be made with any. I guess Pana 14 is no brainer, seems like a great, small, affordable and very practical option.

Oly 17 does not seem for me (apart from the fact that maybe I would like it more if I could handle it and appreciate in person it's build quality). It's not cheap either, and If I would contemplate selling a portion of gear to fund it, then I would go all the way to Pana 15.

And as everybody already said, that little Pana 12-32 is impressive, holding it's ground beside bigger guns.
 
Location
Boston Burbs
Real Name
David
David, after looking at this set, you should basically be able to choose whatever you *like* best. You're able to make the lenses look so similar that there's really not much in it if you don't get into tiny niggles about transitions and backgrounds. What I find most interesting is how close the 15mm and 17mm tend to look; both show (slight to very slight) outlining, but somewhat differently, the 15mm has a bit cleaner transitions, but it's minute. The 14mm isn't quite as punchy, but holds its own - still, a tad behind the other two. The 15mm wins (for me) by a hair's width that's completely irrelavant in day-to-day shooting, at least for the subject matter you present here. The 17mm is the slightly better people lens than the 15mm in my experience because it's a bit more forgiving, the 15mm is better behaved in urban environments and excels for documentary work. Tough decision - but basic IQ isn't the issue here. I know this doesn't help you much, but I think in this case, choice really comes down to "package", not optics - I feel you'll be very well served by the 14mm and 17mm lenses ... (I've explained my choice, the 15mm, in another thread).

Also interesting: The 12-32mm is quite a good performer when compared to the primes! Intriguing - though I completely agree with what you said about usability, and on the whole, the construction does have its issues - I've had four of these lenses so far (and won't get a fifth if the current one breaks - 12-45mm f/4 PRO again); the first three had something (mechanical) wrong with them: The first one, the one I used longest, got the separation issue, the third one was dead on arrival so I kept the second one on which the locking mechanism didn't work properly, though it could still be used. However, the newer, plastic mount version works fine so far (to be fair, I haven't used it extensively, but everything seems really smooth, better even than on my really well-loved first unit). For everyday shooting, it may eben be preferable over the primes.

Thanks for sharing this - very well done, very helpful! :2thumbs:

M.
I think you might have actually hit on my problem more succinctly than I've ever been able to figure out. Consciously or unconsciously when I use each of these I adjust.

Which other thread?

I had one P12-32 that came apart, but that was easy enough to fix.

Very nice and interesting, thank you - your first paragraph tackles exactly what I'm looking for in reviews.

As of late I'm in love again with my old Pana G3, so I started exploring again the M43 options. A lot has happened since I've been looking a few years ago, including some nice bodies with great IBIS now being offered at nice prices.

From your sets I constantly preferred the Pana 15, it renders in a way that's right up my alley. Which is bad news as it's too expensive for me :)

All are good and great images can be made with any. I guess Pana 14 is no brainer, seems like a great, small, affordable and very practical option.

Oly 17 does not seem for me (apart from the fact that maybe I would like it more if I could handle it and appreciate in person it's build quality). It's not cheap either, and If I would contemplate selling a portion of gear to fund it, then I would go all the way to Pana 15.

And as everybody already said, that little Pana 12-32 is impressive, holding it's ground beside bigger guns.
The P14 will stay, I need it for my "small" bag. It's something I sometimes forget, in the states there is still a good bit of difference between the O17 and PL15. $!50 new and about $100 used.

One of the reasons I decided to let the P12-32 go was it's the least Pen F 'ish if you get me. Back in January I was shooting with the Pen and PL25 with it's it's unique hood when I brought my car in for service. Someone came up to me to ask about my Leica, he lost interest when he realized what is actually was (I almost laughed).
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
I think you might have actually hit on my problem more succinctly than I've ever been able to figure out. Consciously or unconsciously when I use each of these I adjust.

Which other thread?

I had one P12-32 that came apart, but that was easy enough to fix.


The P14 will stay, I need it for my "small" bag. It's something I sometimes forget, in the states there is still a good bit of difference between the O17 and PL15. $!50 new and about $100 used.

One of the reasons I decided to let the P12-32 go was it's the least Pen F 'ish if you get me. Back in January I was shooting with the Pen and PL25 with it's it's unique hood when I brought my car in for service. Someone came up to me to ask about my Leica, he lost interest when he realized what is actually was (I almost laughed).
I'm ashamed to say I don't remember where I put my post concerning the 15mm ... But you've already seen that post and answered to it if I remember correctly; it was some time ago ... The gist of it: For me, in spite of all my troubles with 28mm-e lenses, the 15mm just works - its rendering seems very neutral, yet not boring and surprisingly versatile. Furthermore, it's a joy to shoot on the GX9, they feel like they're made for each other, so it's basically glued to that body; even though I like the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 as well on that body, the 15mm is what I usually pick, and that's saying something (I considered the 25mm f/1.8 the "Mini-Summicron" for a while).

Essentially, the GX9 feels best with small primes and the 12-32mm - though I do use the 14-150mm II as well when travelling (not an option at the moment), but to be honest, that lens works a lot better on the E-M5 III - just like all "bigger" zooms, including (somewhat surprisingly, because of Dual I.S.) the 100-300mm II. The same goes even for slightly bigger primes ...

I hear you about the 12-32mm - as well as it works, it just doesn't feel as suitable as a fast, small prime on RF style bodies. But I guess that's just a matter of personal taste - I've seen some very good results from comparable combos, and I do remember fondly my times with just the E-PM1 and the 12-32mm - wonderful setup. However, for me, RF style nowadays *denotes* primes (don't forget that I own Leica bodies as well - and consider them my main cameras).

M.
 
Location
Boston Burbs
Real Name
David
I'm ashamed to say I don't remember where I put my post concerning the 15mm ... But you've already seen that post and answered to it if I remember correctly; it was some time ago ... ......
Don't be ashamed, I assumed the same thing and can't remember either so I was looking to review it again and refresh my memory.

..... The gist of it: For me, in spite of all my troubles with 28mm-e lenses, the 15mm just works - its rendering seems very neutral, yet not boring and surprisingly versatile. Furthermore, it's a joy to shoot on the GX9, they feel like they're made for each other, so it's basically glued to that body; even though I like the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 as well on that body, the 15mm is what I usually pick, and that's saying something (I considered the 25mm f/1.8 the "Mini-Summicron" for a while).

Essentially, the GX9 feels best with small primes and the 12-32mm - though I do use the 14-150mm II as well when traveling (not an option at the moment), but to be honest, that lens works a lot better on the E-M5 III - just like all "bigger" zooms, including (somewhat surprisingly, because of Dual I.S.) the 100-300mm II. The same goes even for slightly bigger primes ...

I hear you about the 12-32mm - as well as it works, it just doesn't feel as suitable as a fast, small prime on RF style bodies. But I guess that's just a matter of personal taste - I've seen some very good results from comparable combos, and I do remember fondly my times with just the E-PM1 and the 12-32mm - wonderful setup. However, for me, RF style nowadays *denotes* primes (don't forget that I own Leica bodies as well - and consider them my main cameras).

M.
It's odd, the P12-32 seemed fine on my old GX85. But then even though I liked L-Monochrome, I rarely used it. I use Mono a lot more on the Pen F even though it requires me to go into the Olympus Workspace and export RAWs to TIFFs and then import into LR.

Longer glass is why even if Olympus does come out with a Pen F II that's sealed with the phase AF sensor I'd still probably keep my E-M1.2.
 

MiguelATF

Hall of Famer
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
Great post David - and your images and comments have been quite illuminating for me. As were Matt's observations as well. It (your post) also almost made me rethink my love for and fascination with my 15mm PanaLeica - to which both the lowly 14mm pancake and the faster 17mm Olympus really compare favorably in the pictures you posted. Matt's comment however, about the 15mm's 'neutral' rendering - isn't my experience: rather than neutral, I would describe my 15mm's performance as either punchy, surprisingly vibrant, or occasionally manifesting the almost impossible (for me to define, anyway) qualities of micro-contrast. Which is why it's become my almost most-used and definitely most-favorite mu-43 lens ever. But---

But your post also made me miss my old 14mm Lumix pancake - with which I shot some of what I think are my best pictures ever. Owning the 15mm has made me not miss it but seeing your images again reminds me of what a versatile lens it is - not to mention what a great bargain.

In my own photography, the tiny 12-32 pancake zoom, almost seems to be a forgotten step-child - except, it keeps on giving me great, great images. First on my old GM5 (which it seemed made for), but then on my GX8 (which with the 12-32 attached becomes an almost svelte all-purpose street camera), and lately on my infrared-converted GX1; no matter what camera it goes on, it somehow just quietly delivers truly fine images.

Thanks, again, for taking the time and trouble to put all of these images neck-to-neck, so to speak....it has made for an interesting photographic horse race with the winners literally almost too close to call, down the stretch.

I also can't help mentioning one of my former wide-angle pancake micro-four-thirds lenses that I still miss, a lens with a generally spotty not to say lousy reputation: the Olympus 17mm f/2.8, a tiny lens which was not renowned for its stellar IQ or its speed. But I must have lucked out: my copy, which I had for a few years, was sharp and crisp and more than equal to my old Lumix 14mm - and possibly the others as well. It lived full-time on another bygone camera that was probably more fun than frustrating - the semi-classic Olympus E-P1 which, in spite of its CMOS sensor, always seemed to give me that strangely warm and rich look I still associate with my older CCD-sensored Pentax DSLR. The combination of lens and camera is one I still miss at moments, and occasionally scratch my head on why I thought I needed to let it go, once upon a time.

But that said, I have to say, though, your 17mm f/1.8 Olympus....really stands out for me, of all the images you posted.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
Great post David - and your images and comments have been quite illuminating for me. As were Matt's observations as well. It (your post) also almost made me rethink my love for and fascination with my 15mm PanaLeica - to which both the lowly 14mm pancake and the faster 17mm Olympus really compare favorably in the pictures you posted. Matt's comment however, about the 15mm's 'neutral' rendering - isn't my experience: rather than neutral, I would describe my 15mm's performance as either punchy, surprisingly vibrant, or occasionally manifesting the almost impossible (for me to define, anyway) qualities of micro-contrast. Which is why it's become my almost most-used and definitely most-favorite mu-43 lens ever. But---

But your post also made me miss my old 14mm Lumix pancake - with which I shot some of what I think are my best pictures ever. Owning the 15mm has made me not miss it but seeing your images again reminds me of what a versatile lens it is - not to mention what a great bargain.

In my own photography, the tiny 12-32 pancake zoom, almost seems to be a forgotten step-child - except, it keeps on giving me great, great images. First on my old GM5 (which it seemed made for), but then on my GX8 (which with the 12-32 attached becomes an almost svelte all-purpose street camera), and lately on my infrared-converted GX1; no matter what camera it goes on, it somehow just quietly delivers truly fine images.

Thanks, again, for taking the time and trouble to put all of these images neck-to-neck, so to speak....it has made for an interesting photographic horse race with the winners literally almost too close to call, down the stretch.

I also can't help mentioning one of my former wide-angle pancake micro-four-thirds lenses that I still miss, a lens with a generally spotty not to say lousy reputation: the Olympus 17mm f/2.8, a tiny lens which was not renowned for its stellar IQ or its speed. But I must have lucked out: my copy, which I had for a few years, was sharp and crisp and more than equal to my old Lumix 14mm - and possibly the others as well. It lived full-time on another bygone camera that was probably more fun than frustrating - the semi-classic Olympus E-P1 which, in spite of its CMOS sensor, always seemed to give me that strangely warm and rich look I still associate with my older CCD-sensored Pentax DSLR. The combination of lens and camera is one I still miss at moments, and occasionally scratch my head on why I thought I needed to let it go, once upon a time.

But that said, I have to say, though, your 17mm f/1.8 Olympus....really stands out for me, of all the images you posted.
After reading your response, I seriously started to doubt my choice of words. I think "neutral" may be the wrong word for what I meant - my bad. I guess it was more along the lines of "reliable" and "predictable", but in a good way ... I personally wouldn't contradict your findings about the 15mm in any way. I consider the 17mm f/1.8 "mild" (and the Zeiss 35mm C Biogon "bold") whereas the 15mm is just a really solid performer that enables me to reliably reproduce whatever I tried to previsualise - of course, EVFs do help with that. But the main thing: no nasty surprises, just serious quality. That said, if you're after a specific "look", I think you won't get much of one (except for some drama and, yes, copious amounts of contrast on all levels); I consider that a strength in a lens that strives to be universally useful. I think that's what triggered me to call the lens "neutral" - but it's certainly not subdued ... The 17mm f/1.8 is the more forgiving lens, though. And it *does* render a pleasing image.

M.
 
Location
Boston Burbs
Real Name
David
@MiguelATF, the P14 will stay. That and the little bag I have fit in the center section in my car. So it's handy for that and acting like my old X70. I can also look back fondly on many of my early m4/3 images taken with the P14 on an E-PM1 and GX1. Shame it's not an f/2, but there are times I need that extra for SS.

One of the reasons I've had so many P12-32s is that I've owned a GM1 and 2 GM5s, so there's 3 copies right there. It's a nice little lens on a small body, I even used it a bit on my E-M10.1.

@MoonMind / @MiguelATF, I think in the end it's the wall, both the color and especially the B&W version.

But now it looks like I might need to start another thread. PL25 vs O25 vs P20. :hmmm: :doh:
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
But now it looks like I might need to start another thread. PL25 vs O25 vs P20.
Definitely interesting - and yes, another can of worms ... I ended up keeping the 20mm in spite of all alternatives, but the 25mm f/1.8 is one charming lens; that said, the new 25mm f/1.4 II seems to eat them all for breakfast. Unfortunately, it costs the equivalent of about $850 in Switzerland - so it's ridiculously overpriced ... (even if you can certainly get it cheaper, the official price makes acceptable offers completely improbable).

I know you're after small lenses, so I won't suggest the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 C - I do love that lens, especially on :mu43: where it doubles as a nice portrait lens, plus it has certainly helped keeping me from going after the 25mm f/1.4 II. But it's definitely not suitable for the frame you established.

Looking forward to the next discussion ;)

M.
 

agentlossing

Top Veteran
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
First off, this was a really interesting comparison, and a great idea!

Okay, my gut feelings from looking at each of these pictures: first, I think the 14mm f2.5 produces some of the most natural pictures I've seen. I can't think of another word that fits quite as well. Just "natural" - understated, but pleasing, nice focus falloff, pleasing contrast. I owned one near the beginning of my M4/3 stint, and I think that sample was really soft on one side, and at the time it suffered from the lack of IBIS in my early Panasonic bodies. I wish I still owned it, now, with the GX9 (or maybe a better copy).

Next, the 15mm f1.7 has wow factor: lots of color and contrast, some bokeh... yet it doesn't quite do it for me. The images "feel" Leica-like, but with enough of the magic drained out due to the 2X crop that what's left doesn't speak to me... but I think with some skill it can easily turn into a consistently impressive lens.

Last, the 17mm f1.8 shots left me consistently unimpressed. There's just something about them that I really did not like. Not sure what it is. I expected better from that lens, especially on an Olympus body. Testing these lenses on an Oly body you have a range of corrected and partially uncorrected lens characteristics - if I remember right, Panasonic corrects for certain things in software whereas Olympus more often corrects optically. So we might possibly be seeing more "raw" optical characteristics out of the Panny's, yet I like 'em better.

It would be interesting to see how the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 performed compared to these lenses. My guess would be sharper, more contrasty, but less smooth transitions. The 20mm cuts like broken glass but it's unsubtle. That's why I like it for a street lens.
 
Location
Boston Burbs
Real Name
David
First off, this was a really interesting comparison, and a great idea!

Okay, my gut feelings from looking at each of these pictures: first, I think the 14mm f2.5 produces some of the most natural pictures I've seen. I can't think of another word that fits quite as well. Just "natural" - understated, but pleasing, nice focus falloff, pleasing contrast. I owned one near the beginning of my M4/3 stint, and I think that sample was really soft on one side, and at the time it suffered from the lack of IBIS in my early Panasonic bodies. I wish I still owned it, now, with the GX9 (or maybe a better copy).

Next, the 15mm f1.7 has wow factor: lots of color and contrast, some bokeh... yet it doesn't quite do it for me. The images "feel" Leica-like, but with enough of the magic drained out due to the 2X crop that what's left doesn't speak to me... but I think with some skill it can easily turn into a consistently impressive lens.

Last, the 17mm f1.8 shots left me consistently unimpressed. There's just something about them that I really did not like. Not sure what it is. I expected better from that lens, especially on an Olympus body. Testing these lenses on an Oly body you have a range of corrected and partially uncorrected lens characteristics - if I remember right, Panasonic corrects for certain things in software whereas Olympus more often corrects optically. So we might possibly be seeing more "raw" optical characteristics out of the Panny's, yet I like 'em better.

It would be interesting to see how the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 performed compared to these lenses. My guess would be sharper, more contrasty, but less smooth transitions. The 20mm cuts like broken glass but it's unsubtle. That's why I like it for a street lens.
I half wander what the results would be if I actually took the time to process each image. The only thing I did for the color images was adjust the overall exposure and select the camera processing profile, no shadow/highlight/contrast/etc. And for the B&W images I just used the same settings in Olympus Workspace. Going from the O17 to the PL15, maybe I won't have to PP as much?

I agree about the P14, if it were only an f/2.
 

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