Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lens test: M.Zuiko 14-42mm II vs. Zuiko 14-54mm

The purpose of this test was to see how the M.Zuiko 14-42mm II kit lens compares to the Zuiko 14-54mm (the original version and not the II version) at the 42mm focal length. Why 42mm? Because I’ve had the impression that 14-42mm II isn’t quite as sharp at 42mm as it is at shorter focal lengths, and I wanted to test that theory.

I did this test by using a tripod, and shooting a Microsoft Word document displayed on my computer screen. The 14-42mm II lens was mounted on the Olympus E-PM1 and the 14-54mm was mounted on the Olympus E-620. Unfortunately, I don’t have the adapter to use the 14-54mm lens on the E-PM1. However, both cameras use the same (or very similar) 12MP sensors, so the results should be comparable. Unfortunately, the E-620 doesn’t display the focal length that the lens is zoomed to on the LCD screen, so I had to guess based on the markings on the lens, and as you can see I overshot by 1mm.

You are looking at 100% crops from the center of the images. The top row shows the unsharpened images from Adobe Camera Raw, and the bottom row has the Photoshop Smart Sharpen filter applied (71%, 0.3px, Remove: Lens Blur, More Accurate checked).

I think the results show that there’s a noticeable improvement stopping down the 14-42mm II lens from f/5.6 to f/8.0. I didn’t show the intermediary f-stops, but trust me that you have to stop down to f/8.0 for maximum sharpness in the center (at least on my copy of the lens). However, the 14-54mm lens is noticeable sharper and it’s only stopped down to f/6.3.

I think I was correct in my impression that the 14-42mm II lens isn’t as sharp when fully zoomed in to 42mm. But I want to remind my readers that this is the lens’ worst focal length. I think this lens is only barely less sharp than the highly regarded 25mm f/1.4 and has the same sharpness as the 14mm f/2.5, although in both cases this zoom lens needs to be stopped down more to equal the same sharpness as the prime lenses. It’s disappointing that this lens drops off a little in quality at 42mm, but I still love this lens for being so small and light yet covering a such a useful range of focal lengths.

My take is that you probably won’t notice the lack of sharpness if you are making 8 x 10” prints, and you won’t notice it in the 800 pixel wide photos I post on my blog, but if your goal is to print really large, or if you want to do a lot of cropping, then you will get some benefit from using the 14-54mm if you intend to shoot at the longer focal lengths. Perhaps the benefit of the 14-54mm will be even more apparent on the newer 16 MP cameras.

On my future testing to do list:

1. Figure out exactly at what focal length the 14-42mm II falls off in quality. At slrgear.com, the test shows that this lens, when stopped down is very sharp at 35mm and only falls off at 42mm.

2. Take some real-world photo with both lenses in order to get a better real-world comparison, rather than a comparison based on taking pictures of my computer monitor.

But I also think that it took a lot of time to do this test, so I can’t guarantee that I will ever get around to this follow-up testing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Symphony House

Olympus E-PM1 with Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens @ f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/250 sec

ISO 500 may seem an odd choice for this photo given that there was plenty of light available to use a lower ISO which would produce a photo with less noise and more dynamic range. But the problem was that I looked at the camera and thought I saw ISO 200 because the “5” kind of looked like a “2.” Oops. Luckily, the photo still came out fine.

* * *

“Symphony House” is the name of the terracotta-colored building with the balconies. It’s a rental apartment building on 56th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway. Or you can simply call it 235 W. 56th St. I think the developer named it “Symphony House” because of its proximity to Carnegie Hall.

I checked the prices online, and I see that for $3,350 you can rent an “alcove studio” which includes your very own balcony. It’s a pretty large studio for Manhattan, although I don’t really get the “alcove” part because the floorplan just shows a big square room. And for this price, you still don’t get your own washer/dryer, but I guess the theory is that if you can afford to live there, you can afford to have a housekeeper stop by your apartment while you’re not home and do your laundry for you.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The laundry room

Olympus E-PM1 with Lumix 14mm f/2.5 @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/40 sec

Another photo from my basement series. I think this photo captures the ugliness of the space.

Manhattan is the only place in the United States where people pay $2400 per month for an apartment and their apartment doesn’t even come with its own washer/dryer. I once rented an apartment in Phoenix Arizona that was less than $600 per month and a washer/dryer was included. What a wonderful convenience! How I miss it.

* * *

You may notice that this photo and the one from my previous post were both cropped to a 3:2 aspect ratio. Maybe it’s an odd way to start out a blog dedicated to Micro Four Thirds which has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but both of these photos seemed to benefit from having a little bit of the top and bottom cropped away.

I'm not really sure why the left side of the photo has a reddish cast to it. Was the lighting weird down there, or is it caused by lens vignetting?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First post, from the basement

Olympus E-PM1 with Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens

Maybe not the greatest photo ever taken, but I took the photo last night while doing my laundry, and I created my blog today, so that's why it gets the coveted spot of first photo posted on my new blog.

It wasn't really that dark in the basement, and I'd say that the photo was accidentally underexposed (I had the exposure compensation set to -1.3 EV, what was I thinking?), but I think the darkness gives the photo a mood, and makes you feel like you're in a dingy dark basement, a slightly scary place full of cockroaches and mice—yes, they are really down there, although they stay hidden from humans most of the time.