[ ZD Lens Field Test ] : 12-60 vs 14-54 vs 14-54 Mk II vs 14-42


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Oly5050

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Wanted to see for myself whether there is any difference in IQ and sharpness between the venerable 14-54 Mk I and II, 12-60, and the 14-42.

Setup :
E3 on tripod
USB control to OS 2
FL36R Wireless Flash bouncing off ceiling
IS off
Anti-shock 2s
Unless otherwise specified, all S-AF
f 3.5
Shutter 1/100 s

Setup



Subject
 

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Oly5050

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Results :

Photo 1


Photo 2


Photo 3


Photo 4
 

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Oly5050

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Photo 1 is 14-42 at f3.5

Photo 2 is 14-54 at f3.5

Photo 3 is 14-54 Mk II at f3.5

Photo 4 is 12-60 at 3.5 (actually shot at 12 mm)

All photos are cropped down to focus on details shown

In terms of sharpness and image quality, I used the letters and numbers on the reel and on the rings of the OM lens, it appears that the best IQ from 1 to 4 is :

1. 14-54 Mk II
2. 12-60
3. 14-42
4. 14-54

This is quite a surprising result considering that the 14-42 is a kit lens and the 14-54 is a HQ lens. Remember, all these shots are taken in S-AF with focus point on the letters on the fishing reel.
 

Oly5050

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I suspected that the 14-54 was not focusing right. I decided to use LV to double check and true enough, for some reason, it was not focusing properly on the letters. I thus repeated the tests for the 14-54 using manual focus.

Here is what I got between S-AF on 14-54 versus MF on 14-54.

14-54 S-AF


14-54 Manual Focus


The difference is night and day. It appears there is some focus problem, at least with this 14-54 lens, that I am testing with.
 

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Oly5050

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So if we were to re-compare the 14-54 full manual focused with the others once again, looking at the words PERFECT CAST and 49 MM:

Photo 1 14-42


Photo 2 14-54


Photo 3 14-54 Mk II


Photo 4 12-60
 

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Oly5050

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Once the 14-54 is manually focused right, it appears to be comparable to the 14-54 Mk II in S-AF.

In terms of sharpness, I rank from 1st to 4th :

1. 14-54 Mk II
1. 14-54 (tied - only when manually focused)
3. 12-60
4. 14-42

These results are quite surprising to me considering that I had the impression that the 12-60 was the sharper lens and the 14-54 is a tad softer. I know now, in the conditions that we tested it in, the 14-54 is indeed the better lens in terms of sharpness.

Having made all these comparisons, I need to highlight that these differences are probably very subtle. The difference between number 1 and number 4 is really very small. For the price and the weight etc, the 14-42 kit lens is a very commendable performer and I would say that it is nearly comparable to the HG lenses. It is lightweight and compact, and throughout the testing, focused well without any fuss whatsoever.

If anyone feels that their kit lenses are not giving them sharp photos, they should try to work on their photography technique and learn more about their DSLR, instead of upgrading the lenses.

Based on these studies, I can see now the only good reasons for upgrading to the high-grade (HG) lenses, ie 14-54 and 12-60, are for the performance of the HG lenses, rather than for the optics per se. The performance features of the HG lenses that I feel may be of benefit not present in the kit lenses are:

1. The HG lenses tend to have larger aperture, so may be better performers in low light.
2. The HG lenses are weatherproof.
3. They may be more durable - metal mount etc.
4. Better range of focal length, 12-60, 14-54 versus 14-42
5. Less distortion at wide angle ie. 14 mm

However, there is something I did notice with the 14 mm range of the 14-42 compared to the 14-54. It appears that the 14-42 14 mm is "wider" than the 14-54 14 mm. It seems that much of it may be due to distortion.

14-42 at 14 mm


14-54 Mk II at 14 mm
 

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stunna88

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Great comparison!
Thanks a lot for the contribution
 

blurboiboi

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wow... tats alot of effort put in... good job :thumbsup::thumbsup:

but its pretty surprising that the 14-54, both versions turns out to be sharper than the 12-60....
and you might juz miss out that HG lens focuses faster than the kits...
 

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dorts

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Mar 10, 2007
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What's more surpising is that the 14-42mm is comparable to the HQ lenses.
 

pinholeview

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Mar 22, 2005
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What's more surpising is that the 14-42mm is comparable to the HQ lenses.
I think another consideration is consistency.

As far as I can tell from trying out a couple of 14-42s, quality is random. Some units are pretty good, some are so-so.

Recent batch of 14-54Mk2 I tested is consistent across the board in terms of quality, so one unit is just about as good as the next save for very small variations at wide open aperture. I go with the 12-60 / 14-54 as the tele end has max apertures that are 1-1.3 stops faster that what the kit lens can give.

As blurboiboi points out, another factor is the focusing speed: the 12-60 / 14-54MK2 is -to me- noticeably faster than the kit lens (on 520/620/30), even in LV AF modes.

My 2-cents,
 

MC42

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Thanks for the useful test. Yes I agree that the 14-42 is a seriously good lense. Especially when people are selling it second hand for less than the price of a restaurant meal for two!
 

drakon09

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Personally I prefer the output from the 12-60, because the 14-54 fringes at the edges.

The difference in sharpness is really, really slight. It's not something you would notice on normal viewing.
 

mingzo

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Nov 21, 2008
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I believe the 12-60 is more rear focused. Look at the "TP" wording beside the reel handle, it's more blurred than the rest. Perhaps you should MF all in LV. Great work and this substantiate my previous test result of these two lens. Kudo Olympus produces such darn good kit lens.
 

Oly5050

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Thanks guys for kind words. I am very glad that you all found it useful.

wow... tats alot of effort put in... good job :thumbsup::thumbsup:

but its pretty surprising that the 14-54, both versions turns out to be sharper than the 12-60....
and you might juz miss out that HG lens focuses faster than the kits...
You are right. It was not within the scope of my test, so I din want to mention that. I think someone has already tested AF speeds using sound.

Thanks for the efforts and contribution. :)

Question - how come the FL-36R is clamped that way? Don't you have a flash stand and you can point the flash-head upwards?
Yah...in retrospect, could have used a flash stand. But it was already on the clamp so I just transferred it.

Personally I prefer the output from the 12-60, because the 14-54 fringes at the edges.

The difference in sharpness is really, really slight. It's not something you would notice on normal viewing.
Yes, the difference in sharpness is indeed very slight. Unless u pixel peep, it would be hard to discern the difference. How do u look for the fringing on the 14-54? I think there is probably a lot of info in the images. I only know how to look for sharpness, but there probably are other things one could get too.
I believe the 12-60 is more rear focused. Look at the "TP" wording beside the reel handle, it's more blurred than the rest. Perhaps you should MF all in LV. Great work and this substantiate my previous test result of these two lens. Kudo Olympus produces such darn good kit lens.
 

coffee3in1

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Jun 30, 2007
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:think: I like the 14-42 for its size n weight. How do we audit/test a lens for sharpness? Setup a similar test like that at the shop?

I think another consideration is consistency.

As far as I can tell from trying out a couple of 14-42s, quality is random. Some units are pretty good, some are so-so.

Recent batch of 14-54Mk2 I tested is consistent across the board in terms of quality, so one unit is just about as good as the next save for very small variations at wide open aperture.
 

Oly5050

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Feb 1, 2005
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:think: I like the 14-42 for its size n weight. How do we audit/test a lens for sharpness? Setup a similar test like that at the shop?
No need lar. If I buy brand new, I usually inspect it and if it looks fine, it is good. Usually I buy from places that offer a 1 week exchange. If not, there is always Olympus Service Center. So far, I have not had any problems with any of my Olympus lenses bought brand new. I am confident of their quality.
 

headfonz

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Apr 6, 2006
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thanks for putting your lens collection for this test. not many of us can do such a comparison test for obvious reasons :sweat:

i agree with mingzo that the 12-60 might have rear focused a little. the centre of the 12-60 image (where the 3 circular grooves are located) is very similarly focused as the original 14-54 image.

another point to add is that the 12-60 and 14-54mkII has better close focusing capabilties than the other ZD standard zooms.
 

headfonz

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Punggol
to the mods. perhaps we can permalink this in the Users Lens Review sticky?
 

drewdam

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Jun 18, 2005
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thanks for putting your lens collection for this test. not many of us can do such a comparison test for obvious reasons :sweat:

i agree with mingzo that the 12-60 might have rear focused a little. the centre of the 12-60 image (where the 3 circular grooves are located) is very similarly focused as the original 14-54 image.

another point to add is that the 12-60 and 14-54mkII has better close focusing capabilties than the other ZD standard zooms.
14-42 can focus at 25mm which is the same as 12-60 but not 14-54 (at 22mm) if can can recall it...
 

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