Olympus vs. Panasonic Lenses
Saturday 26 January 2013 — Category: Equipment
When I first started building my Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) lens kit in July 2012 — see Building the Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit — a number of lenses I wanted to buy had been announced but not yet released. It wasn’t until four months later in November that the dust finally settled and my µ4/3 lens kit became complete, as I shared in Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit Revisited, and as you can see in the photo to the right.
During these months of purchasing and using lenses from both Olympus and Panasonic, I've noticed some similarities and difference when comparing lenses from these two manufacturers. The primary similarities are that they are pretty nice lenses — and pretty darn expensive too! Of course, both companies sell cheaper, plastic-bodied, consumer-grade lenses which are all fairly slow, and way below my standard. My lens kit it comprised mostly of lenses which would be considered more professional-grade. Now let’s look at some of the differences.
P A N A S O N I C
All four of my zoom lenses are by Panasonic, as Olympus has not yet made any fast zoom lenses, although there are rumors arising that that may change this year. My main lens, which stays on my camera by default, their 12-35mm, as well as it’s big brother, the 35-100mm, both have a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, and have metal, weather-sealed bodies. They are also the two most expensive lenses in my kit. The 7-14mm wide-angle has a respectable f/4.0, while the 100-300mm telephoto has an acceptable f/4.0-5.6 range. My final Panasonic lens is their Leica 25mm f/1.4 prime.
For all of these lenses, Panasonic was considerate enough to include a lens hood, a lens cap that works when using the lens hood, and a storage sack, which I don’t really use, but is a nice touch nevertheless. Of course, in order to protect my lens investments, I always put a clear UV filter on each lens so that the front glass lens never gets scratched. However, I can’t do that with the 7-14 wide-angle, as that lens does not accept filters, so I need to be especially careful with that one. There was nothing else I had to buy before using these Panasonic lenses — they were completely functional right out of the box. Which is more than I can say for the other guys....
O L Y M P U S
Although Olympus has not quite got its act together on high-end zoom lenses, its prime lenses are a totally different story. All three of my Olympus lenses are primes, and, as mentioned above, only one of my primes is made by Panasonic. Unfortunately, Olympus' out-of-box experience is quite different than Panasonic’s, even though the lenses themselves are just as good. Their lenses do NOT come with a lens hood, and the lens hoods they sell as accessories are outrageously expensive. Furthermore, the lens cap included with the lens does not work properly with the lens hoods, so you have to buy a new lens cap too. Finally, their lenses do not come with a storage sack, which, as I mentioned above, is no big deal for me, but still, in combination with the other issues, further demonstrates Olympus' lack of concern for their customers. Let me give you some specific examples.
Olympus' awesome aluminum-bodied 75mm f/1.8 prime sells for $900. At that high price, you would be forgiven for assuming that it comes with a matching lens hood. But NO! Olympus greedily wants an additional $75 for their aluminum hood! I absolutely refused to give in to such extortion, so I bought an identical third-party aluminum hood for “only” $30. And it’s a good thing I wasn’t too stingy to shell out for one, because I recently dropped this lens — the lens hood took the brunt of the damage and saved the lens. At $30, a second lens hood along with the first is still cheaper the Olympus' offering!
Olympus' $800 12mm f/2.0 prime lens is another aluminum beauty. But once again, they screw their customers by charging an idiotic $90 for the small accompanying lens hood! For a “mere” $36, you can get yourself an identical third-party version.
Finally, the new Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro sells for $500, but the cheapest I could find their matching plastic lens hood was a ridiculous $50. Because this lens hood is a special design which is meant to always remain on the lens, and simply slides into place, or retracts when not in use, it is unclear whether any third parties will be making a cheaper version. So the only way to have a hood on this lens is to pay the outlandish price Olympus charges! It almost becomes enough to start hating Olympus for their stupidity and greed!
If all that wasn’t bad enough, the lens caps which come with Olympus lenses have releases which you press from the edges. But you can’t press those releases when that expensive optional lens hood you just bought is attached to the lens! So I've also had to go through the hassle and expense of buying third-party lens caps which release from the middle, so I can use them at the same time as the hoods. Really, this is just plain stupid! Doesn’t anybody at Olympus THINK?! About their products ... AND their customers?!
Well, there you have it. Both Olympus and Panasonic make great Micro Four Thirds lenses, but Olympus' greed — by selling lens hoods separately at outrageous prices rather than including them with their lenses — reduces the satisfaction their customers have with their products. The problems I mentioned above could be easily fixed, IF Olympus wanted to. Don’t hold your breath! Until then, in order to enjoy their lovely lenses, we will just have to give them extra money for lens hoods to try to satisfy their unreasonable avarice.
SPECIAL NOTE: This article is now a bit out-of-date. In April 2014 I updated my lens kit —
see Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit 2014 Update for all the details.
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