Sunday, 10 January 2010

Micro Four Thirds lens lineup

Here is a summary of the lenses currently available, the known upcoming lenses, and some thoughts about future lens needs.

See also my Lens Buyers' Guide for Micro Four Thirds.

Currently available lenses
Panasonic Lumix G 7-14mm f/4 (HF007014)
An extreme wide angle zoom. It is the widest rectilinear lens for the Micro Four Thirds format. This lens is among the most expensive in the Micro Four Thirds lineup, and is popular for its very good sharpness. It has a hood built in, and you cannot mount a filter on the front, due to the curved front lens element.

Short review

Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye
A third party manual focus full frame fisheye lens. Full frame, in this context, refers to the fact that the lens illuminates the full sensor image, as opposed to circular fisheye lenses, which only illuminate a disc inside the sensor area. The lens covers a 180° field of view from corner to corner.

It is marketed under the names Samyang and Rokinon.

Review

Comparison of the field of view with the Lumix G 7-14mm f/4 wide angle zoom lens

Defishing fisheye images and videos

Example video: Fireworks

Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 fisheye
With a 35mm camera equivalent field of view of 16mm, this is a traditional fisheye lens, covering a 180° diagonal field of view, illuminating the whole sensor area.

Review

Using the fisheye lens as a macro lens

Projection comparison with the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens

Kowa 8.5mm f/2.8
Japanese optical company Kowa is going to release this ultra wide angle lens in the summer of 2014.

This will be the widest rectilinear prime (non-zoom) lens with a Micro Four Thirds mount. The brightness (f/2.8) is quite good for such an ultra wide lens.

Olympus 9mm f/8
Launched in January 2014, the second body cap lens is a fisheye lens. As you can see from the picture, the lens is recessed into front, meaning that it is not capable of a 180° field of view, as you would expect from a fisheye lens. The field of view is 140°.

The lens is expected to cost around US$100 upon launch.

Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6
This is a reasonably priced, compact ultra wide zoom lens. One of the reasons why it is compact, is the collapsible construction, much like the Olympus 14-42. When extended for use, it is much longer.

Currently, this is the most affordable ultra wide angle zoom for the Micro Four Thirds lineup. It provides a good value for money, and is generally liked for the good optical qualities. You can expect to see some Chromatic Aberration artefacts in the corners, which is quite normal for such a lens, and you can remove them by using a number of image processing programs, e.g., Photoshop.

Samyang 10mm f/2.8
This lens is designed for use on APS-C DSLR lenses. Being designed for a larger sensor than Four Thirds, and for a longer register distance, it requires a complicated retrofocal optical design, and is a very big lens, weighting in at a whopping 710g. If the lens had been designed for mirrorless camera systems only, it could have been much more compact. The same lens is sold with a number of different mounts.
Tokina 11-16mm T/3 Cine
This lens is designed for use on APS-C DSLR lenses. The Micro Four Thirds version of the lens comes with an adapter built in: Notice the long tube behind the aperture ring.

The lens retails at US$1900, which is a fairly high price. This price tag is due to the cine specifications: The aperture, zoom and focus rings are smooth, suitable for stepless changes during video recording. The rings are also geared, for use on video rigs.

Panasonic Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S.
A high end standard zoom lens, with a constant max aperture of f/2.8. It was announced in 2012, and features weather protection. It corresponds to the traditional professional standard zoom, 24-70mm in 35mm equivalent terms.

Review

Sharpness comparison with the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lenses

Sharpness comparison at 12mm.

Sharpness comparison with other lenses at 30mm.

Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
In September 2013, after being anticipated for a long time, Olympus launched their first "PRO" designated lenses. This is a high end standard zoom lens. Compared with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, it is a bit longer, due to the focal length covering a larger range. The extra reach is a very good feature, and will be a good selling argument over the corresponding lens from Panasonic.
Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2

A high end wide prime lens.

This is one of the few Olympus lenses with a focus scale. The focus ring can be pushed back and forth, to toggle between automatic and manual focus.

The lens is generally well regarded, and considered to be sharp and well designed.

Kowa 12mm f/1.8
Japanese optical company expects to ship this fast wide angle lens around the summer 2014. It is a manual focus lens.
SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6
An exceptionally fast wide prime lens. It features manual focusing and has a manual aperture ring.

The focus and aperture rings are geared, for use on motorized cine rigs.

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ
A premium standard lens. It features power zoom, and is weather proofed, meaning that it can withstand some moisture.

Both the zooming and focusing is internal, meaning that the length of the lens stays constant at all times. This is a useful feature, and makes the lens feel very solid.

The lens is often disliked in online discussions, due to the very unimpressive maximum aperture, especially in the long end, f/6.3. However, I think the lens looks very interesting. At this time of writing, it is the only lens which combines a near ultra wide angle (24mm equivalent) and a portrait focal length (around 85mm equivalent).

That, combined with the power zoom function and macro, makes it a very versatile lens indeed. For macro use, you would probably stop it down to at least f/6.3 anyway, so the aperture is not really a limitation.

In terms of sharpness, it tends to get average scores. Not stellar, but good enough for most uses you could think of.

Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6

Launched together with the ultra compact Lumix GM1 camera, this is a collapsible wide angle zoom lens. Twisting the zoom ring to 12mm extends the front section, to make it ready for use.

Sharpness comparison at 12mm.

Sharpness comparison with other lenses at 30mm.

Kodak 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3

This is the basic kit zoom lens for sale together with the Kodak S-1, the first Kodak branded mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera. The camera is made by JK Imaging, which owns the right for the Kodak brand name. The camera and lens appear to have a lot in common with previous equipment produced by Olympus, so I would guess there is some kind of licensing deal between them.

This lens may look interesting due to starting at 12mm, while most other kit zoom lenses from Olympus and Panasonic start at 14mm. However, I would rather go for the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3, which is most likely the better lens.

The S-1 camera with this kit zoom lens is expected to cost US$500.

Panasonic Lumix G 12.5mm f/12 3D lens (H-FT012)

Review

The lens has two separate lenses for a 3D effect. While the focal length of the two lenses is 12.5mm, they project two smaller images on the sensor, so the effective focal length is 65mm in 35mm equivalent. This means that in reality, this is a long normal lens.

The lens has a fixed aperture of f/12, and a fixed focus from 0.6m to infinity.

You could cover the electrical contacts of the lens, enabling you to use more of the sensor area, for larger resolution 3D images. This also enables video recording.

I would not recommend buying this lens. The 3D base length is only around 1cm, which is very little. Hence, you get a very limited 3D effect. If you are truly interested in 3D, you should rather get one of the compact 3D cameras, like the Fujifilm Real 3D W3 or the Panasonic Lumix 3D DMC-3D1-K


Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 Pancake lens (H-H014)
The second pancake lens from Panasonic, being even smaller than the original Lumix 20mm f/1.7. It is a traditional wide prime lens, covering 28mm in 35mm equivalents. The main benefits of this lens are the very fast and inaudible focus, the very compact size, and the good image quality.

Review

Sharpness comparison with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 lens

Comparison with the Lumix 20mm pancake

Distortion correction

Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6
A basic kit zoom lens for the Olympus camera system. Most people don't buy this lens alone, but rather together with a camera as a kit.

The lens is collapsible, taking up less space when not in use. The illustration shows the lens in collapsed state. It is approximately twice as long when ready for use.

This lens has been released in several versions. The last version has the postfix "II R", and is the one you want.

Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ
Launched in January 2014, this collapsible standard kit zoom lens is designed to be as compact as possible. At a length of 23mm, it is even shorter than the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6.

Despite its compact size, it has both a zoom ring and a focus ring. When powering on the camera, the lens will extend automatically.

The lens is expected to cost around US$350.


Panasonic Lumix G X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. (HPS14042)

A kit lens from the premium "X" range. It features power zoom, which can only be operated with the zoom lever. There is no zoom ring, and neither is there any focus ring. The lens must be extended (motorized, automatic) before using. When collapsed, it is remarkably compact. This lens is good for those who value the compactness, and the image quality is not as good as the non-collapsing zoom lens, in my experience.

Review

Comparison with the Sony NEX 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, which also combines a pancake appearance and a power zoom function.

It is a very impressive technological feat to cram all these features into such a compact lens.

Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (HFS014042)
The basic kit lens offered with Panasonic G2 and G10. The difference to the 14-45mm kit lens, is that this one has a different optical formula, no metal mount, and no on/off switch for image stabilization.

A comparison with the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

A comparison with the Lumix G 14-45mm

A simple bokeh and sharpness comparison with the 14mm pancake, and the 14-140mm superzoom

Sharpness comparison with the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/4-5.6

Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II Mega O.I.S.
This lens was launched early in 2013, for use as a kit lens with the new Panasonic GF6 and G6 cameras. It is smaller than the lens it replaces, the Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (HFS014042).

In terms of lens mount material, the lens appears to come in two versions: The lenses that are sold as part of camera kits have a plastic lens mount, while some that are sold in stand alone boxes have a metal mount. There doesn't appear to be any difference in the version number for these two varieties of the lens.

So far, the reports indicate that this is a sharp and capable lens in a small package. On the negative side, it appears to have a smaller aperture in the mid-focal-range. Read more about the lens here.


Panasonic Lumix G 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (HFS014045)


The basic kit lens offered with Panasonic G1 and GF1. It has since been discontinued.

This lens is generally considered very sharp, sharper than the predecessors Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6.

Panasonic Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8 Mega O.I.S. (HVS014140)
    A video optimized superzoom lens, first only sold as a kit with Panasonic GH1, later available alone. I've found the image quality for still images to be somewhat lacking in the widest and the longest ends of this lens. For video, on the other hand, it is more than sharp enough.

    Review

    Autofocus speed comparison

    In 2013, a new version of this lens became available. The new version is smaller, has a 58mm filter thread, rather than 67mm with the original, and a better aperture range. It is also cheaper. While I haven't tried it, it certainly sounds better judging from the specification. I have not been too happy with the first version of the lens. If you can choose, I would recommend getting the new version of the lens, see below.

    Panasonic Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S.

      My review of the lens.

      Comparing this lens at 140mm with four other lenses.

      Sharpness comparison at 100mm.

      This is the new version of the Panasonic superzoom lens, introduced spring 2013. Reading the specifications, it improves upon the first version of the lens in many ways: It is smaller in size, with a 58mm front lens thread, down from 67mm. Both ends of the aperture range are larger: f/3.5-5.6. And finally, the price is lower.

      I found the first version of the lens disappointing, so I would advice getting the newest. In the mean time, Panasonic has gained a lot of lens design experience, and I trust the second version is much better.

      With the second version being cheaper, I think Tamron will find it more difficult to market their third party alternative, the Tamron 14-150mm F/3.5-5.8 Di III VC.


      Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4-5.6
      A superzoom, with slightly better specifications than the corresponding lens from Panasonic. On the other hand, it does not have built in image stabilization. Olympus camera bodies have image stabilization based on sensor shift, and so you don't need this lens property with an Olympus camera body. One could also guess that the Panasonic lens is better suited for video recording.
      Tamron 14-150mm F/3.5-5.8 Di III VC

      This superzoom lens was announced in 2013, and will be Tamron's first Micro Four Thirds lens. Since it features Optical Image Stabilization, I guess it is mostly useful with Panasonic cameras, and hence, will be competing with the Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Hence, I'm guessing Tamron don't need to price it much below the Olympus 14-150mm lens.

      Almost a year after being announced, this lens has still not materialized. Is it vaporware? Time will show.
      Lumix Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7
      In October 2013, this new fast wide angle lens was announced.

      The lens is priced similarly to the Lumix Leica 25mm f/1.4 at US$600. The new 15mm lens is the first Micro Four Thirds lens to feature an aperture ring.

      Of course, the aperture ring doesn't control the aperture mechanically. The aperture is still controlled electronically, like most other lenses. So the ring simply communicates the preferred aperture to the camera, which can set the lens aperture electronically through the mount.

      It is expected to be available early 2014.

      Olympus 15mm f/8
      This is more of a novelty than a useful lens, in my opinion. It is a very compact 15mm lens, with a fixed aperture of f/8. This means that it can only be used outdoors, or indoors with a flash at a short range.

      There is no autofocus, however, with a small aperture of f/8, the depth of focus is quite large anyway. There is a possibility to change between "far" and "near" focus, which is enough at this aperture.

      No information is transferred between the lens and the camera. If you are using an Olympus camera, you need to manually set the focal length to 15mm for the In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) to function. You must also enable the "shoot without lens" option for the camera to operate when using this lens.

      Samyang/Rokinon 16mm f/2


      This lens has been designed to be used on a host of formats, e.g., Canon EF, Nikon F (DX), Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds. It is a manual focus lens, with a manual focus ring and a manual aperture ring.

      The lens is designed to cover an APS-C sensor, on which it becomes a quite wide lens (24mm equivalent).

      On Micro Four Thirds, the crop factor is larger (2x), and it only becomes a 32mm (equivalent) lens, i.e., a normal wide lens. Due to being designed for SLR cameras as well, with a longer register distance, the lens is quite large, requiring a complicated retrofocus design. Had it been designed for mirrorless cameras exclusively, it could have been much smaller, and presumably, less expensive.

      The lens was announced the summer 2013.


      Samyang/Rokinon 16mm t/2.2 Cine

      Exactly the same lens as the Samyang 16mm f/2 above, however, designed for video use with gear racks around the focus and aperture rings. This allows for using the lens in a rig with a motorized focus or aperture control, for smooth control.

      t/2.2 in the specifications refer to how much light is transmitted through it, while f/2 refers to the relative size of the aperture opening. The difference between the aperture stops f/2 and t/2.2 is the light lost inside the lens due to reflections.

      The lens was announced August 2013.

      SLR Magic 17mm T/1.6
      A manual focus traditional wide angle lens. Both the focus ring and aperture ring are geared, for use on video recording rigs. The aperture ring is stopless, for more smooth transitions, useful for video recording.
      Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8
      Pancake wide prime lens. For a prime, it has been criticized for having a not very impressive max aperture, and also somewhat disappointing sharpness.
      Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8
      A premium prime lens in the classic wide angle format. Corresponding to 34mm (equivalent) field of view, this is Olympus's take on the classic wide angle lens. While not as wide as the zoom lenses, this is a focal length favoured by quite some people. The lens comes in the premium metal finish, just like the Olympus 12mm f/2 and Olympus 75mm f/1.8.

      About this lens, people tend to say that it has a curved focus field. This means that the focus plane is not straight, but spherical. Hence, if you focus on infinity using a large aperture, the corners are going to be focused closed than infinity, usually causing them to be out of focus. This can also be an issue if you focus on a close object, and then reframe before taking the picture.

      Cosina Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
      Ultra bright lens with a very impressive maximum aperture of f/0.95. This is a mechanical construction with no electronics at all. Both the focus and the aperture is controlled through rings on the lens, in the traditional way.

      This lens has a clickless aperture ring, often liked by videographers, as it allows you to change the aperture smoothly.


      Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN


      A third party lens from Sigma, giving nearly the same field of view as the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7. Compared with the Lumix 20mm lens, it is not as sharp, but focuses quicker, and is less expensive.

      Review

      Sharpness comparison with the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake.

      The focus speed is very good, compared with the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7.

      In 2013, a new version of the lens was launched. The difference is largely cosmetic, with the new version having a metal exterior.



      Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 (HH020 and H-HS020A)

      Pancake prime lens. This lens has become very popular, with small its footprint, large aperture, and good sharpness. It does not come with a hood, but you can buy a third party 46mm screw in hood.

      Comparison with the Lumix 14mm pancake

      An example video capture with the Panasonic Lumix GH1

      Bokeh comparison with the Lumix G HD 14-140mm

      Using the Lumix 20mm as a portrait lens

      In the summer 2013, this lens was discontinued, and a new version of the lens, Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II (H-HS020A) was released. The new version has the same basic specifications, and appears to have the same optical design. The exterior design is new, though, with a black or silver metal finish.

      As the new lens has the same optical design, it still has the old style focus assembly which moves all the lenses back and forth.Reports so far indicate that it has the same (slow) focus speed as the old lens, hence, the changes between the old and new version appears to be only cosmetic.

      When using this lens in combination with some recent sensor, e.g., GH3, Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-P5 and Olympus E-PL5, some users have reported horizontal banding in dark areas at high ISO. This appears to happen also with the new version of the lens, the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II (H-HS020A).



      Kowa 25mm f/1.8
      In the summer 2014, Japanese optical company Kowa will ship this fast, manual focusing normal lens.
      Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f/1.4
      Fast normal prime lens. It is much more compact than the similarly specified lens for the Four Thirds format.

      My review of the lens.

      A comparison of the bokeh of this lens with other lenses.

      Is it a portrait lens?

      When using the lens on a camera, some people complain that it makes "clicking" sounds. This is due to the large aperture: In bright light, the camera stops down the aperture for the optimal live view performance. When focusing, though, it will revert to the maximum aperture for the highest accuracy. The aperture change causes the clicking sounds, and this is harmless.

      Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8
      Announced in January 2014, this is Olympus's take on the standard fast normal lens. It is not as fast as the Leica 25mm f/1.4, but it is significantly smaller, and somewhat less expensive. If size is important for you, you could consider this lens. Otherwise, I would recommend the Leica 25mm f/1.4 as it isn't much more expensive.

      The lens is expected to cost US$400 upon launch.



      Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95
      Ultra fast normal lens. This lens has manual focus and manual aperture selection only. There is no electronic contact between the lens and the camera, meaning that the camera cannot record the aperture used as EXIF information.

      The first version of this lens has click stops on the aperture ring. A second version was launched in 2014, doing away with the clicks, for better use during video recording.

      SLR Magic 25mm T/0.95 Hyperprime Cine
      Launched in 2013, this lens is rumoured to be a good alternative to the Cosina Voigtländer Nokton lens with similar specifications. It is a very fast normal lens. This lens has manual focus and manual aperture selection only. There is no electronic contact between the lens and the camera, meaning that the camera cannot record the aperture used as EXIF information.

      The "Cine" part of the name indicates that it has geared aperture and focus rings, and, further, that it has a clickless aperture ring. The "T/0.95" specification refers to the light transmission, commonly used for cinema lenses. Normally, the light gathering capability is given with an f-number, indication the relationship between the aperture opening and the focal length. The T-specification takes the light loss inside the lens into consideration, hence, the aperture of this lens is probably around f/0.90.

      Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN


      A short tele lens in a compact and light package. Good image quality and fast autofocus. Note that this lens rattles when not in use on a camera.

      Review.

      Sharpness comparison with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 lens

      Sharpness comparison with other lenses at 30mm.

      In 2013, a new version of the lens was launched. The difference is largely cosmetic, with the new version having a metal exterior. The new version also gains a hood.



      Jackar Snapshooter 34mm f1.8

      A compact prime lens with a nostalgic retro design, and a relatively fast maximum aperture.

      The lens was designed for both the Sony NEX E-mount and Micro Four Thirds. On Sony NEX, it has an equivalent focal length of around 50mm, corresponding to the classic normal lens. On Micro Four Thirds, it has an equivalent focal length of 68mm, i.e., a short tele lens. It can be used, e.g., as a portrait lens.

      The aperture ring is clickless, which is useful for video recording.


      Lumix G 35-100mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S.
      Announced in 2013, together with the Panasonic GM1 camera, and styled similarly. It is a very compact, short tele zoom. It is not a lot more compact than the Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6, though. So I would seriously consider the longer of the two, unless you specifically want a lens which is styled similarly as the GM1 camera.
      Lumix G X 35-100mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S.

      Announced in 2012, this is Panasonic's answer to the professional fast telezoom. Just like the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, it is weather protected.

      This lens is considered to be one of the best in the Micro Four Thirds lineup. Then again, it is also one of the most expensive lenses. It has internal focusing and zooming, and hence, always retains the same shape.

      Sharpness comparison at 45mm.

      A comparison with the Sigma 60mm f/2.8.

      Sharpness comparison at 100mm.

      Kipon IBELUX 40mm f/0.85
      This lens is expected to go on sale in February 2014. It will be available in Sony NEX, Fuji X, Canon EOS M and Micro Four Thirds mounts. The price is expected to be just above US$2000.

      According to the marketing, the lens is the fastest in the world, which is certainly not bad.

      Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6
      Compact tele zoom available October 2010.

      This lens exists in several versions, and the last one has the postfix "II R". That is the one you want.

      Kodak 42.5-160mm f/3.9-5.9

      Released together with the Kodak S-1 Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera, it can be gotten with their twin kit option. The twin kit option, containing also the 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3 standard zoom lens, is expected to cost US$600.
      Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2

      This lens intends to introduce a high end portrait lens for the Micro Four Thirds format, and was announced in August 2013. It is expected to be available in the shops in December 2013. The very large maximum aperture of f/1.2 allows you to get a very selective focus, and blur the background effectively when photographing people.

      Currently, this lens is the fastest autofocus lens for the Micro Four Thirds system, and also the fastest lens to feature OIS. The lens is co-branded with Leica, and will probably sell at a high price. It is fairly large, with a front lens thread diameter of 67mm. It has an aperture ring around the lens barrel.

      Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95

      A large aperture portrait lens, announced in 2013. It is a completely mechanical lens, with manual focus and manual aperture control.

      This lens has a clickless aperture ring, often liked by videographers, as it allows you to change the aperture smoothly.
      Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
      A long awaited portrait lens for the Micro Four Thirds format.

      Review

      This lens is good optically, although not the sharpest wide open. It focuses very quickly, and inaudibly.

      Sharpness comparison at 45mm.

      Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Mega O.I.S. (HES045)
      Leica co-branded combination of macro and portrait lens. The Leica name stands for a high price point, but also good quality.

      A study of the bokeh at various apertures

      A study of the diffraction effects when using smaller apertures

      Example use of the touch screen AF with Panasonic GH2

      Sharpness comparison at 45mm.

      Panasonic Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (HFS45150)
      Announced in 2012, I guess this lens will replace the Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 as the value tele zoom lens. It is much more compact, slightly shorter than the Panasonic Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6.

      Sharpness comparison at 45mm.

      Sharpness comparison at 100mm.

      Choose this lens if you prefer a compact lens over a large focal range. The 45-150mm lens is widely regarded as having a good image quality.

      Panasonic Lumix G X PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 Power O.I.S. (HPS45175)
      A compact tele zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system. This belongs to the premium "X" range, and features power zoom. The power zoom can be operated with the zoom ring (zoom by wire), or with the zoom lever. There is no mechanical coupling between the zoom ring and the actual zooming.

      Review

      Sharpness comparison with the older Lumix G 45-200mm

      Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (HFS045200)
      A fairly compact tele zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system. This lens provides good value for money, especially for Panasonic camera users who will want O.I.S. in the lens.

      Review

      Bokeh comparison with Lumix G HD 14-140mm and Panasonic Leica Lumix DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro, all at 45mm

      An example video capture

      The lens was released as one of the first in the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lineup. I has since been complemented with the Power Zoom Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6, and the more compact Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6.

      Choose this lens for a value tele zoom with a long reach.

      SLR Magic Noktor 50mm f/0.95 HyperPrime

      An expensive, but fast manual focusing tele lens. It can be used for, e.g., portrait photography.
      Photex 50mm f/2 Tilt Shift
      This lens allows both tilting and shifting. It appears to be useful, with a maximum tilt of +/- 8°, and a maximum shift of 11mm. The lens can be rotated 360°, so that the shift can be applied in any direction.

      On the negative side, though, the focal length of 50mm is quite long, and the lens would be difficult to use for architecture. You would need to get very far away from a building to be able to photograph it with a focal length of 50mm, often impossible due to narrow streets.


      Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 1:1 macro

      A macro lens with similar enlargement capability as the Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro.

      The Olympus lens has a longer focal length, hence, you get a longer working distance, the distance from the front of your lens to the subject.

      Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN

      A medium long tele prime lens. It has good sharpness, and a smooth bokeh, which is important for a lens like this.

      The lens can be used, e.g., as a portrait lens. At portrait distance (about 1-2m distance), you get a quite good selective focus and background blur, even with a moderate f/2.8 aperture.

      A comparison with the Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8 at 60mm.

      Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8

      A high end medium tele prime lens, also usable as a portrait lens.

      This lens is widely considered one of the best Micro Four Thirds lens in terms of optical properties. On the other hand, one can say that it is a bit unfair to compare lenses like this, since it is relatively easier to design a medium long lens than a wide angle lens.

      Some patent details have emerged, which indicate that this lens was probably designed by Sigma. It is not uncommon that third party producers design lenses also for major lens producers.

      Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II



      A compact, premium long tele zoom. On the positive side, it is very small, and has some exotic lens elements. On the negative side, the aperture range is not very impressive.

      In 2013, a new version of the lens was launched. The difference is largely the design of the lens barrel, which now better matches the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. The optical design is the same, and the new lens comes at a significantly lower price.

      Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. (H-FS100300)
      This is a long tele zoom. Typical uses for this lens would be sports and wildlife. Compared with professional safari lenses, though, it has a somewhat small maximum aperture.

      Review

      When using the ETC feature of the GH2 camera, this lens gives an enormous reach

      Tokina 300mm f/6.3 Mirror Reflex

      My review.

      This lens was launched in 2012, and is a mirror reflex tele lens (catadioptric). The advantage of this design is that it keeps the lens relatively short, for a tele lens of this focal length. The lens does not have autofocus, and there is no optical image stabilization. Focusing manually with a lens like this can be somewhat difficult, and requires exercise. Also, with such a long lens, using a tripod is pretty much a necessity. Sure, you could use a fast shutter speed and get images without motion blur. But framing the image correctly is not easy without a tripod at 300mm.

      Due to the mirror reflex design, out of focus highlights become donuts when using this lens, rather than the discs you might be used to. Also, it tends to lose a lot of contrast when the background is bright, e.g., against a bright sky.

      Samyang/Rokinon 300mm f/6.3 reflex
      In the summer 2013, Samyang announced that they would release their 300m f/6.3 mirror reflex tele lens. It has similar specifications as the Tokina 300mm f/6.3, but is somewhat larger and heavier. Probably because the Samyang lens is designed for the larger APS-C sensor format, to be released also for Sony NEX, Canon EOS M, and Fujifilm X.

      While I certainly respect Samyang for the lenses they have made so far, I think there are so many inherent issues with a reflex lens that they can probably not make something significantly better than the existing Tokina 300mm f/6.3, my review here.

      Just like the Tokina lens, this one is manual focus, and does not have any aperture ring, let alone any aperture mechanism at all. You only have f/6.3 available.

      Unlike the Tokina lens, though, the Samyang does not have any electrical contacts. So it cannot communicate the aperture, focal length or focus distance information to the camera, like the Tokina lens does.

      Yasuhara NANOHA x5 f/11

      This is a very unusual lens. It has a magnification rate adjustable from x4 to x5. What this means, is that it can take pictures of subjects with a size from 1/4 to 1/5 of the sensor diagonal. This corresponds to around 4mm x 3mm, which is extremely small.

      Many macro lenses can also be used as portrait lenses, given a fairly long focal length. Not this lens. The minimum magnification is 4x, which is a lot. Hence, you can only take pictures of very small items.

      The working distance is rather small, around 11mm from the front lens. What this means, is that you can hardly use this lens to take pictures of live insects: You would scare them off before getting close enough. There are LEDs in the front of the lens, to aid lightning the objects you want to photograph.

      The max aperture is f/11, and you can also use f/22 and f/32. This might sound very unimpressive. However, keep in mind that at these extreme magnifications, you must stop down a lot anyway, to be able to get almost anything in focus. So f/11 makes good sense.

      If you need an extreme close up lens, this is a very good choice. There are few lenses on the market like it. One lens that comes to my mind is the Canon MP-E 65mm, which is a 1x-5x macro lens.



      Gaps in the lens lineup

      The Micro Four Thirds lens lineup has gotten very good now. One could still want some more lenses. For example, a compact, inexpensive ultra wide prime lens would be good. Say, something like 10mm f/4.5 or thereabouts. If such a lens could be priced at around US$300, then it would be a game changer for the mirrorless camera market.

      There are too few standard zooms that start wider than 14mm. So far, there is only the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3, and the Lumix X 12.35mm f/2.8.

      Also, a fast, long tele prime lens would be useful. For example, something like 300mm f/4 with image stabilization.

      A circular fisheye lens could have been fun. Such a lens would probably have a focal length of around 4mm.

      See also

      This is a graphical presentation of the Micro Four Thirds prime (non-zoom) lenses.
      I have drawn up three zoom lenses in the diagram as well, the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, Lumix X 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, and the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3:


      As you can see, the zoom lenses often have a smaller maximum aperture than the prime lenses. This is one of the reason why some people like prime lenses.

      Also, you can note that the Lumix G 14-42mm and the more compact Lumix X 14-42mm share the same end-points in terms of aperture range, but the more compact lens has a smaller available aperture inside the range. I have written about this phenomenon here.

      Read more about the prime lens overview here.

      Expected future lenses

      Samyang 12mm f/2

      Unlike the 10mm lens described above, this lens is supposedly designed for mirrorless cameras from the start, which should enable it to become much more compact.
      Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4
      Yasuhara have announced that this circular fisheye lens will be released for Micro Four Thirds. However, I don't believe it will be. The reason is simple: It has an image circle diameter of 15.1mm, way larger than the vertical size of the Four Thirds sensor. So the lens works fine on an APS-C sensor, but not on Four Thirds.

      Read my review of the lens for Sony NEX here.

      The only circular fisheye lens that I know about which has an image circle suitable for the Four Thirds sensor is the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC. It can be used on Micro Four Thirds with an adaptor.
      Lumix 150mm f/2.8
      A long and fast tele lens. This lens type is suitable for, e.g., safari, bird and sports photography.

      The lens has been announced by Panasonic, originally expected to be available in 2014, first quarter. It will feature OIS, and will probably be very expensive.

      As of October 2013, the lens has been removed from the roadmap, and perhaps it will not be produced anyway. This makes some sense, given that Olympus has the 40-150mm f/2.8 in the pipeline, with an overlapping focal length and the same aperture.
      Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8
      Olympus is going to release this long, bright tele zoom, according to their roadmap. It will probably be quite large and expensive. It is expected to be released in 2014, probably in the second half.
      Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8
      In February 2014, Olympus announced that they intend to release a pro grade fast ultra wide zoom lens. It is expected to be released in 2015.
      Olympus 300mm f/4
      The Micro Four Thirds lens lineup lacks a high quality long lens, and here it is. Olympus is going to release it in 2015, so you'll still have to wait, though. The lens ir PRO rated, meaning that it is weather protected, and will be expensive. This type of lens is frequently used by bird and wildlife photographers, and spectator sports photographers.
      Kodak 8mm f/3.0 fisheye
      Sakar has announced that they intend to launch Kodak branded 8mm f/3.0 fisheye lens. Based on the picture, it has a petal shaped built in hood, and hence, it is most likely a full frame fisheye.

      If the quality is good, the lens could be a good deal at the expected $400 cost. However, I would rather go for the Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens, which is proven to be very good, at a reasonable cost
      Kodak 25mm f/0.95 normal lens
      Another Kodak branded lens announced by Sakar. It is expected to cost $400, which could be a nice price if the quality is good.
      Kodak 50mm f/1.1 portrait lens
      The third Kodak branded Sakar lens. This one is a classic fast portrait lens. Given that this is a short tele, the choice of a short petal shaped hood is really strange. It doesn't look very professional, to say the least. The price is expected to be $400, which is an interesting price level.