m43-FF Comparison (Olympus E-M5 vs. EOS 6D)
When I bought my Canon 6D I got rid of my Tokina 11-16. It’s a crop lens and I figured I wasn’t going to use it a lot even if I kept my 50D (and even if the lens actually works on a 35 mm camera from 15-16 mm). I’m now thinking about getting a wide angle lens again but I can’t decide if I should get one for the Canon or the m43 system. Using the full frame camera should result in better images but that also depends on the lens and from what I have seen the wide angle alternatives for Canon full frames seems far from perfect. The Canon EF 17-40 f/4L is a quite slow lens and needs to be stopped down for sharp corners and EF 16-35 f/2.8L is much more expensive. They are also heavy and I would be really happy if I could convince myself that the m43 options, e.g. Panasonic 7-14 and Olympus 9-18) would do just as good.
In order to get a better understanding of the differences in sharpness and details between the two systems I did a couple of test shots with my Olympus E-M5 with the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and my Canon 6D with my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. Both decent lenses, especially when stopped down a little.
The Tamron was set to 28 mm (the FF equivalent for the Panasonic 14mm on the E-M5) and I used f/4 on the m43 lens and f/8 on the Tamron lens in order to get the same DOF and the same shutter speed on both cameras. I also thought it would be best to set ISO instead of letting the camera decide, but here I missed that the two steps difference in ISO is from 200 (which is the base ISO on the E-M5) to 800 and I incorrectly used 400 on the Canon. I have tried to correct this in post processing but I assume it resulted in unnecessary noise in the Canon shots.
The first shot. One general comment is that the files from the Canon are a little warmer and I have tried to adjust that in Lightroom to get as similar looking shots as possible. In web size resolutions there really isn’t any noticeable difference between them and the RAW files from the Olympus are just as easy to work with. One immediate conclusion from that is that for publishing on the web the m43 cameras do just fine (razor thin DOF will always be more difficult if that’s your thing).
Below are 100% crops from both shots.
Here it’s easier to see differences. The full frame Canon clearly has more details even with the fairly cheap Tamron normal zoom. I assume the amount of details and the sharpness is very much dependent on the lens but I still think it gives an idea of what is possible to achieve with the different systems.
I did some quick checks on slrgear.com of how the 14mm Pansonic performs and it seems to be about the same (at least in the center of the frame) as the Panasonic 7-14 and Panasonic 12-35mm @ 14 mm, both expensive and well regarded m43 zooms. Especially the comparison against the Panasonic 7-14mm is interesting since what triggered all this was me thinking about buying a wide angle zoom and Panasonic 7-14mm is probably the one to get for m43. My specific copy of the Panasonic 14mm have been involved in a mountain bike crash and has some battle scars from that but I don’t believe it has impacted the performance of the lens. I will do an additional test of it against my Pansonic Leica 25 mm f/1.4 which is one of the sharpest lenses on m43 to get a better understanding of what I’m seeing are limitations of the system or the lens.
Second image and the same result. At web sizes the images looks almost identical (as expected).
These crops are from the center of the frame so here the Pansonic 14 mm is as good as it gets. Again a clear difference in details but not huge by any means.
Third image, Nordiska Museet (museum) in Stockholm. You know the story, not much difference at web sizes.
More details and sharper on the Canon 6D.
Last image (finally, this is starting to get boring).
My conclusion from all this is that if details are important the full frame system has an edge (but it’s not huge). Then again I have submitted lots of files shot with the Panasonic GF3 to micro stock sites and haven’t had any real problems with getting enough details. I think what it comes down to will be which camera I think I will be more happy to use for this application and how likely it will be that I want to have a wide angle zoom with me when traveling.