View Full Version : 50 mm 4/3:s Shoot-Out (test).

04-28-2008, 02:09 PM
Which ~50 mm lens should I use for portraits?

Well, having thought about that for a while, I finally desided to check it out with some side-by side comparisons.

I compared my lenses at f/1.8-f/16:

Zuiko Digital ED 50/2.0 Macro
Zuiko Digital ED 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD
Zuiko Digital ED 50-200/2.8-3.5 "Classic"
Zuiko Digital ED 12-60/2.8-4 SWD
Zuiko Digital 14-54/2.8-3.5
Zuiko Digital ED 40-150/4.0-5.6
Zuiko Digital ED 14-42/3.5-5.6
OM-Zuiko 50/1.8 "made in japan"
OM-Zuiko 50/1.8 "Silver Nose"
OM-Zuiko 35/2.8 + Zuiko Digital EC-14
Helios-44M-4 58/2.0

Overall Winner in Image Quality: ZD ED 50/2.0 Macro http://www.birdforum.net/images/smilies/appl.gifhttp://www.birdforum.net/images/smilies/appl.gifhttp://www.birdforum.net/images/smilies/appl.gif

Some of my personal conclusions are:

Zuiko Digital ED 50/2.0 Macro is the sharpest and gives thenicest rendering of out-of-focus features (bokeh) across the aperture range. The overall winner in image quality .
Zuiko Digital ED 50-200/2.8-3.5 - SWD and "Classic" are both equivalent in image qualities and are sharp with nice bokeh across the apertures.
There is no appreciable difference between the sharpness of the ZD ED 12-60/2.8-4 and the ZD 14-54/2.8-3.5. Both lenses give OK bokeh at some combinations of aperture and distance.
The ZD ED 40-150 is a very nice lens considering its small size, price, and limited aperture range.
The ZD ED 12-42 with its shorter focal length can't keep up with any of the other Zuiko Digital lenses tested here. It has a lower sharpness as well as the less pleasing bokeh.
The OMZ 50/1.8 "made in japan" is not as sharp as the ZD 50/2.0 Macro wide open but it is sharper than its older sibling "Silver Nose". At other apertures, both lenses are approximately as sharp as the ZD 50-200 but never touches the ZD 50/2.0 in that respect. The bokeh of these lenses is OK except for the hexagonal highlight rendering.
The Helios 58 is not sharp enough wide open but seems to have a potential for a very nice bokeh stopped down. I will have to investigate that more when I have got a functional adapter.
Making a shortcut by combining the OMZ 35/2.8 prime with the ZD EC-14 teleconverter is not a good idea.

This is my personal opinion and some of you may come to different conclusions. In addition there are heaps of other things to discover among the test images.

Please feel welcome to peep the pixels or just get the general impression of each lens at each aperture at: http://people.ifm.liu.se/jebir/box/bilder/50mm_shoot_out/

Cheers, Jens

04-28-2008, 03:39 PM
Please feel welcome to peep the pixels or just get the general impression of each lens at each aperture at: http://www.jensbirch.eu/jensbirch/50mm/

Cheers, Jens

No bluejay. Only a big space between blocks of text. But what that said was good to know. Interestingly, the 12-60 and 14-54 were rated equal in IQ. (If I understood you correctly)

04-28-2008, 05:08 PM
That test must have been time consuming, not to mention posting the results!
Thank you for the effort, and I agree fully with your conclusion.
I really like the 50mm ED also, and I'm glad I purchased it.

04-28-2008, 05:25 PM
Very well executed test with an attractive presentation. No real surprises, but sometimes it's good to have conventional wisdom confirmed.

Some day it'd be interesting to see a ZD 50/2 versus OMZ 50/2, OMZ 35-75/3.6 (good for its day), and OMZ 35-80/2.8ED (great for its day) shootout. I don't expect the zooms could keep up, but the old macro might pull close to the new one.

04-28-2008, 05:30 PM
Very nice information! Thank you. I am surprised that the curved aperture blades on the 50-200 SWD didn't give a little better bokeh than the earlier 50-200mm.

04-28-2008, 05:42 PM

The photo of the subject is not showing on teh link. I'd like to see the subject photo.

BTW, I've taken a lot of portraits for friends and family during the Holiday laste year and I mainly used the 12-60mm. I didn't have the 50mm f2.0 at the time but my next shoot will include using the 50mm.

One thing I noticed in some of my portraits was that when shopoting multiple subjects sometimes the front person would be OOF and the back people in focus. Sometimes vice versus. This even at f8-f10.

I expect I probably need to step back a little farthur when shooting to avoid any bokeh issues when shooting multiple subjects.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

04-28-2008, 05:42 PM
That test must have been time consuming, not to mention posting the results!
Thank you for the effort, and I agree fully with your conclusion.

Yes, thank you, Jens. It was a valuable piece of information. I have saved it to a word processor for future reference as to making decisions.

04-28-2008, 05:44 PM
Jens: Great job! I must say I'm not at all surprised the 50 macro "won"


04-28-2008, 06:51 PM
Thanks for the effort you must have gone to, and sharing of the results.

Having just purchased 14-54 and 50-200 "Classic" these results are very reassuring :smile:

I guess the fact that the High Grade prime lens is the winner at its FL is no great surprise....but I'm looking forward to playing with my new glass whilst knowing that if I want "more" at 50mm I know how to get it.

04-28-2008, 07:56 PM
If you're talking about the link jebir posted, it seems to work fine for me.

Sounds like a routine depth of field issue. If you're using a 50mm focal length and the subject is 10 feet away, at f8 you have a depth of field of only 2.94 feet so a group of people not all equal distance from the camera probably would have someone out of focus. That might be an occasion to stop down to f16 or even f22. Playing with the DOF calculator (http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html)can give you a pretty good idea what to expect. Also, the DOF preview feature on your camera will be of use in determining what is outside the DOF after you train your eye to use it. It is a little bit of a knack and I can only use it successfully myself in very good lighting.

04-28-2008, 08:54 PM

Thanks for taking so much time to do this for us. It's a very well done test and really helps some of us in making decisions on which lens to purchase. I'm glad to see the 14-54 doing as well as it did with the 12-60. I bought the 14-54 to save money but it's good to see I didn't give up anything in the IQ dept.

04-28-2008, 09:29 PM
Thats one heck of a test Jens, thank you for sharing with us.
I have most of the lenses you mentioned and agree that the DZ 50mm is at the top of the heap when it comes to sharpness.
I do think the 50-200s and 12-60 are more than up to the task and I've had excellent results out of my OM 1.8 too. That said it is way too easy to slap the 50mm on and go.


Henk Peter
04-28-2008, 10:23 PM
Excellent job Jens. Thank you!:worship: You just saved me the price difference between the 50-200mkI and 50-200SWD.

04-28-2008, 11:01 PM
I bought the 14-54 to save money but it's good to see I didn't give up anything in the IQ dept.

So did I :smile: and perhaps I'm biased because of that but I'm more than happy with the choice.
Interesting too that the 50-200 (either version) looks the better lens (on my screen) at this portrait length in direct comparison. I thought it might....

04-28-2008, 11:47 PM
Hi Leonard,

I have checked the site and the image is there - also when I go to another computer. This is on my own server connected to an ordinary bradband connection so if you happened to retrieve the test page at the same time as a bunch of others, it may be a bit slow. So just have some patience and it will show.

Cheers, Jens

04-28-2008, 11:57 PM
Thanks acme,

No real surprises, but sometimes it's good to have conventional wisdom confirmed.
... and to have it documented for reference.

I find that there are too many undocumented opponions about new and old lenses that are spread as if they were facts. I often got the feeling that they are more wishes.

Therefore, I spent quite some effort to do the test and to put all the cards on the table so that people can discuss based on what they see - not what they read.

Cheers, Jens.

04-29-2008, 12:01 AM
You are welcome E B.

I'm also surprised that there was less difference between the two 50-200. Anyhow, any of the SWD or "Classic" are very fine lenses and my rationale for getting the SWD was not the image quality but the faster focusing.

Cheers, Jens.

04-29-2008, 12:06 AM
Hi greg,

be patient, the shoot-out is on my own server which is standing under my stairs connected to an ordinary broadband connection. So if many are accessing the site at the same time, it may load images a bit slow. The images are minimally compressed to not hamper the appearance of the test images.

Regarding your focus problem, I think it is DOF asE B already mentioned. I would ask the subject individuals to gather more and also make sure to use only the center AF-point to have control of where the camera chose to focus.

Cheers, Jens

04-29-2008, 12:17 AM
Thanks very much for this, Jens! My subjective impression of the lenses I have from that group was pretty much the same, but I've always been too lazy to test it out.

About the 50-200's bokeh, poor translation ("improved color blur") raised a lot of expectations for the new one. When a few of us examined Olympus' original Japanese, it turned out that they were most likely talking about CA/fringing rather than bokeh.

04-29-2008, 12:25 AM
Well, it's been some five minutes and no jays. The picture of the lenses popped up instantly. I have broadband and a fast (2.16GHz) processor--and 2 gigs of ram.

04-29-2008, 12:27 AM
Hi Julie,

that's what the white piece of cardboard with the note on is for in the scene. However, since I had to manually focus on Jay's eye (in order to get reproducible results), the cardboard and the note became slightly out of focus. Also, the sunlight made it over exposed compared to the rest of the scene. So, to avoid confused comments by viewers not familiar with the various issues associated with the lighting/scene composition I chose not to compare that part as separate crops. (I actually haven't had time to scrutinize the images much myself yet - too busy putting together this shoot-out webpage.) Maybe I will include them later if I feel that they will say something useful.

Cheers, Jens.

04-29-2008, 12:30 AM
Hi Leonard,

that's strange. Can you see the scenes shown in any of the links in the matrix at the bottom of the page?

Cheers, Jens.

04-29-2008, 12:35 AM
OK, found it! The webpage editor had for some reason changed the link to point at the local directory on the harddisk of my PC... Should be fixed now.

Thanks for being persistent in pointing it out, Jens

04-29-2008, 12:36 AM
Was using Safari. Camino & Firefox close up the space. Opera leaves an indentation, and even after some 5 minutes, nothing more. Wondered about a popup blocker, but can't find anything in Opera to quit.

04-29-2008, 12:39 AM
Can't tell you what's different, but Safari suddenly decided to fill in the picture. Suddenly.

04-29-2008, 02:35 AM
Great test, thank you very much for the effort! Would be interesting though to see how the Panaleica 14-50 f2.8-3.5 would cope in the competition.

Rockin Ronnie
04-29-2008, 03:34 AM
Wonderful job and I appreciate the effort you went to so that you could give us these results.


04-29-2008, 09:32 PM

Where do you think the 35-100/F2 would fit in your list? And do you have that lens as well?

04-30-2008, 01:09 AM
Quick! Everyone send jebir your lenses before he finds something better to do with his time!!!

04-30-2008, 02:42 AM
Hi johnblue,

I don't have that lens so I don't know how it will fare in this comparison. However, I would be surprised if it isn't better than the other zooms that I tested.

Cheers, Jens.

04-30-2008, 11:56 AM
Thanks for the exhaustive test, Jens!

I'm glad to see the attention you paid to the bokeh of these lenses... The 50/2 performs extremely well in that regard. I'm not surprised to see the 50/2 do well given the other pictures I've seen from it, but I'm surprised to see it perform so much better than your competition. Its rendering of the ball in the extreme background and the foliage is wonderful... it's hard to get much better than what you showed us.

I'm surprised to see significant differences in highlight rendering between the lenses you tested... well, at least between the FT lenses; I know many older "film" lenses fall short in this regard. Most surprising to me is that all these big zooms (and even the little 14-42) retain more highlight detail in the card than the 50/2. I'd pick the 12-60 as the best by a good margin, with the 50-200SWD, 14-54, and 14-42 next best. The 50/2 seems to beat only the cheaper 50/1.8... although the OM 50's show us that famous Zuiko shadow detail, so perhaps they might improve with a slight underexposure and a tone curve more suited to their rendering.

Lots of food for thought here, Jens. Thanks again!

05-01-2008, 01:56 PM
Jens , a very good in depth study of comparisons of sharpness of old world and new world lens! You have even compared and concluded differences of the SWD and classics of the 50-200mm and 12-60mm and 14-54mm very well.. which a lot of people were asking about one over the other in buying. The 50m /2.0 macro has been on my list for some time. Thank you, cheers Pete

05-07-2008, 07:18 PM
I also wonder how the Sigma 18-50 would fare in this test - especially against the 12-60 and 14-54. The 18-50 is a possible alternative to the 14-54 if you were considering the 11-22 and wanted to avoid the overlap.

05-09-2008, 12:27 PM
Just posted another photo taken with the Leica 14-50mm @ 50mm focal lengths:


This lens on the E-1 is a perfect fit, IMO.


05-11-2008, 04:44 AM
I just found this test, and want to add my word of appreciation to Jens for doing the test. Very nice results.

11-22-2009, 10:35 PM
problem on the link?

11-25-2009, 08:06 AM
I also wonder how the Sigma 18-50/2.8 would fare in this test - especially against the 12-60 and 14-54. The 18-50 is a possible alternative to the 14-54 if you were considering the 11-22 and wanted to avoid the overlap.

g'day Bob
i just swapped a 14-54 (I) for an 18-50 that i had previously borrowed for that reason. Its quite a good lens and fun to shoot, I like its FL containment that forces me to look for shots in 35mm (EFL), and its sharp enough wide open to be useful on this format with a pretty smooth bokeh. Hard to work into the real estate trade, mostly for fun

It has that constant F2.8 aperture too...




12-16-2009, 01:41 AM
Sorry, the server went down and never came up again.

Here is a new location of the data:

12-17-2009, 12:29 AM
Very interesting review. Swayed the tide a little for my possible 14-54 upgrade!