Monday, April 13, 2015

Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR VS Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3

Another FX versus m43 comparison.  Today, let's look at the Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR against the Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3.

Both are "kit" lenses, in that the respective companies often bundle them with cameras.
Image © Olympus America
The 12-50 Pro list:
  • Slightly longer field of view ~100mm versus the Nikon's 85mm
  • Weather sealed
  • Electronic zoom for use in movie recording
  • Macro mode - locked at 43mm
  • Not as large in diameter and lighter than the Nikon
  • Fast AF
  • Internal zoom and focus
  • can have MF override if setup that way in camera menu
The 12-50 Con list:
  • Slower on the long end
  • Needs stopped down a bit in order to be sharp
  • No built in IS - only matters if you are going to use it on a Panasonic body
Image © Nikon USA
The 24-85 Pro list:
  • built in IS
  • Not as long as the 12-50
  • MF override without having to setup as option in camera
  • internal focusing
  • quite AF-S lens with respectable focus speed
The 24-85 Con list:
  • Having the MF focus always "on" and toward the camera body can cause accidental misfocus until you get used to it.
  • not weather sealed.
  • significant barrel distortion at the wide end(correctable in post)
  • telescopes when zooming
  • no macro mode
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Focal Lengths

We shall not get into any equivalence debates, as I don;t much care for them.  I feel a photographer should know their gear and learn to adapt to it and use it accordingly.  These 2 lenses come close in field of view(FOV), which I shall define here for our purposes as follows:  If I am standing in the same location with each camera and lens and go from wide to telephoto, the view I see in the viewfinder is relatively the same.

Obviously, if we do the math, the Nikon lens FOV used on an FX camera is going to be 24mm to 85mm.  The Olympus OMD cameras I have need to have a 2x multiplier so going from 12mm focal length gives us a FOV of 24mm and at the long end, 50mm focal length gives us a 100mm FOV.

Pretty close except for that last 15mm.  The Olympus pulls ahead in the pure reach factor.  However, a lot of zoom lenses tend to get a little soft when they go from one extreme to the other.  Sometimes stopping the aperture down helps.
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Image Stabilization

The Nikon has it in the lens, the Olympus relies on the camera body that it is mounted.  Both systems work great, so a wash here.  If you have a need for stabilization then you are covered.
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Auto Focus Performance

The Olympus cameras are great AF performers in great to good light and suffer a little bit in speed when light starts to get challenging.  With that said, the Olympus 12-50 was the lens that convinced me on the m43 system over the Fuji X-T1.  It will get you there quickly and accurately.

The Nikon, even with AF-S is decent, but not the same speed as in single point AF as the 12-50.  We do need to bring up the point of continuous AF both speed and ability to lock.  as good as the S-AF is on the m43 cameras, they do still have a ways to go in the C-AF department.  They are decent when tracking a moving subject that is going in a predictable trajectory.  
Also, for perspective - AF performance is a package deal, both the camera body and the lens systems have to work together.  You can really only judge a lens on its AF performance based on its ability to keep up with the target.

Bottom line S-AF goes to the 12-50, where as C-AF goes to the 24-85.  
In real world use, I don't see the AF speed of either of these camera/lens combos holding me back.

Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Image Quality

We've done this before with the Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC vs Olympus 40-150/4-5.6
We are going to look at real world use and not shoot targets.  How well can the respective cameras and kit lenses compare to each other?

On the Nikon side, we will shoot with the D700 or Df and on the Olympus side, the OM-D E-M1 or E-M5.

The Olympus micro four thirds kits are not far behind.  Mirrorless gear keeps getting better and better. Fuji is improving their AF performance and the responsiveness of their cameras grows stronger with each generation.  While mirrorless might not be  an option for you right now, it is definitely a strong competitor in a camera rich environment that is still dominated here in the USA by DSLRs.

Olympus 12-50

Nikon 24-85

Nikon 24-85

Olympus 12-50

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