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Jun 21

Panasonic 7-14mm vs Olympus 9-18mm

The Micro 4/3 system has been around for a while now, and early on, each of the two main Micro 4/3 companies released their ultra wide-angle lenses.  Panasonic came out with the impressively specified 7-14mm f/4, while Olympus went a little more moderate, but shot for size, creating the incredibly tiny 9-18mm f/4-5.6.

I’ve owned the 7-14mm for several years now, and it’s been a fantastic lens for me.  I love the extreme wide-angle possibilities at 7mm, and there’s no denying it’s got quality optics.  However, I’ve recently noticed I tend to leave it at home unless I know I’ll be shooting really wide-angle stuff.  It takes up a lot of space in the bag, as it’s one of the larger Micro 4/3 lenses out there, and as you may have heard, it also can occasionally suffer from excessively purple flare when used in conjunction with the latest Olympus sensors (in the OM-D, E-PL5, E-PM2 and E-P5).  So, I started giving the Olympus another look.

I was hesitant to go down this road, as I love the 7-14.  That extra width would be hard to give up, and by all accounts, it’s superior optically as well…but the size and lack of purple flare with the Olympus intrigued me, so I snagged a 9-18 to test out and decide which direction I would go…would I keep the 7-14 or swap it for the 9-18 (picking up some extra money in the process)?  So, of course, I have been testing the 9-18 out the last several days and comparing it to the venerable 7-14mm.

If you’re buying an ultra-wide for Micro 4/3, which lens should you get?  Let’s take a look…

Micro 4/3 Wide-Angles.  Olympus 9-18mm on the left, Panasonic 7-14mm on the right.

Micro 4/3 Wide-Angles. Olympus 9-18mm on the left, Panasonic 7-14mm on the right.

 

The Lenses

The Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 is quite small for such an extreme wide-angle, equivalent in angle of view to a 14mm-28mm lens on full frame.  However, it’s still a little on the bulky side for a Micro 4/3 lens, especially with the rather large front element and built in hood and its large lens cap that fits over that built in hood.  It’s a solidly built lens with no wobbles and very tight tolerances.  It feels like a pro-grade lens.

Micro 4/3 Wide angles (top) - Olympus 9-18mm on left, Panasonc 7-14mm on right.

Micro 4/3 Wide angles (top) – Olympus 9-18mm on left, Panasonc 7-14mm on right.

The Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, on the other hand, is downright tiny.  It uses a collapsible design, similar to the 14-42mm kit lenses from Olympus, though with a little higher end build than those.  It shares the same cheap plastic look that the original 14-42mm lens carries, but thankfully, it feels MUCH better put together than that lens.  The zoom action is beautifully damped and smooth and the overall fit and finish is very nice, though not quite as solid as the Panasonic.  However, the unique collapsing design means that when you aren’t using the lens, it is very small.  It’s almost half the length of the Panasonic, and has a much smaller diameter as well, making it take up a lot less space in a bag.  It also has front filter threads, allowing you to mount filters.  The 7-14mm can’t take filters unless you create a home-made rig to hold square filters.

The 7-14 certainly feels like the better built lens, but there is something eminently satisfying about using the 9-18mm.  It’s just so tiny for an ultra-wide that it’s hard to believe it actually does what it does.

On the next page, let’s take a look at how they perform optically:

Continue: Comparison Tests

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

14 comments

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  1. Mike Aubrey

    Before you go and get rid of the 7-14mm, you may want to check out this solution to the purple blob problem…assuming you haven’t seen it already:

    http://www.mu-43.com/f38/my-definitive-post-7-14mm-purple-blob-problem-45013/index7.html#post467068

    1. Jordan Steele

      That is very interesting. The purple blob issue isn’t the main impetus here, to be honest…it’s size related. I still love the 7-14, and I am not 100% made up, but I think for how I shoot nowadays, the 9-18 may make more sense at the moment. Thanks for the link, though…very nice, and if I keep the 7-14, I’ll look at doing that. (I have the 8mm fisheye now, but of course, I don’t really want to cannibalize that…)

      1. Mike Aubrey

        Yeah, I totally understand. I have the 9-18mm, but regularly debate whether I should switch to the 7-14mm. It’s really tempting…I get tired of stitching 9mm shots together, for example here: 6.85mm-equivalent stitch.

  2. R. V. Abbott

    You may want to check out this solution, which allows you to put filters on the back end of the 7-14mm…
    http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3480692

    By the way, do you think it makes sense to own the 9-18mm if you own the 12-35mm? I used to use the 9-18mm a lot for sightseeing. Very handy focal length and very compact. But after getting the 12-35mm, I thought there was too much overlap, so I replaced the 9-18 with the 7-14mm. A great lens, but I haven’t used it as much as I expected to… I use it mainly for architectural shots.

  3. lisandra

    holy crap! the difference between 7 and 9 is way more noticeable than I expected!
    Id keep the panny, but you know how I am.

  4. mike davis

    Purple flare was not a problem with the 7-14 on my Panasonic G1; but can be on my OM-D. If you follow some of the links above (to which I contributed) you will see that it’s as much an Olympus problem as a 7-14mm.

    I still love the lens with either camera.
    M.

  5. Vladislav

    Thanks for excellent and practical review! Don’t you just hate when a better made (all metal), better optically, about the same size, and cheaper lens is introduced… but there is no good camera body to use it with?! I am talking about Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, see: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/canon-efm-11-22-4-5p6-is-stm But… could I really force myself to use Canon EOS M and enjoy the experience? Probably not, so unless EOS M MkII comes out, Olympus 9-18 is on the top of my list.

  6. Andrew

    Thanks, I had the 9-18mm for my OM-D but sold it once I got the 12-35mm. It just wasn’t wide enough for me, plus the extra width gained (9mm vs 12mm) seemed rather soft and I usually ended up cropping some of it away.
    I really want to get the 7-14mm but being a OM-D user I am definitely hesitant due to the purple blob issue. How often do you run into it with the OM-D, how about indoors with window light? Is there any issue with the 7-14mm and the GH3?

    1. Simon

      Andrew, I have used my 7-14mm on my GH1, and since my OMD, I also use my 12-35mm on the OMD (it’s my main system for working shoots now). I can tell you that the purple you see in the test images are not as dark in the JPG, they become more prominent when processing the raw files in either Lightroom or CaptureOne v7. If you are a JPG shooter, it’s there when there is strong spot light sources in the image (eg sun, lamp etc) but it’s usually not as bad or distracting as in this test, and strong window backlight does create some flare but hardly noticeable. If you process you raw files, you can desaturate the purple colour seperately and this helps a lot. This also helps for the purple fringing which also is visible and often annoying on strong contrast areas. With all that bad news behind us, the 7-14mm is awesome for exteriors and interiors even with window backlighting, and is sharp all through the range. The purple fringing rarely bothers me, and flares you can see in the viewfinder and control them. I however like using a Cokin Graduated ND filter on my 12-35mm and would have liked to try the 9-18mm to use this filter. Pity the edge quality is a bit soft.

  7. Andy M

    An interesting read. I’ve just bought a used 7-14, and now waiting for delivery. I’m going to look into some of the options for creating a self build filter mount.

  8. Zuzullo

    When will we see a PRIME 7mm 2.8?

  9. norm

    good review…I’ve had the 9-18 for a couple of years now and really like it. For me, the size and price were better. The other point of view about the difference between 7 vs 9mm is the difference at the other end of 14 vs18mm. That 36mm equivalent just works better for me as an all purpose lens…

  10. Sam White

    I bought a lightly used Panasonic 7-14mm F/4 for use with my Olympus E-M5 recently. The lens looks excellent, it functions perfectly and it came with all the original accessories. Couldn’t pass it up for the ridiculously low price. I’d take the Panasonic over the Olympus any day. With wide angle lenses it’s all about the sharpness at the edges and the Panasonic does a great job here. Center sharpness is excellent, the field of view is noticeably wider (that’s why we buy a wide angle in the first place) and it’s a constant f/4 lens. No need to stop down, it’s that good wide open. Combined with the five axis stabilization this thing rocks in good and bad light.

    1. Mick 1968

      I agree with you Sam. The Panasonic obviously is the better lens. Never had any problems with purple blobs and CA can be corrected so easy in Lightroom. However, if size and weight are more important then image quality, the Olympus is a nice alternative. The Olympus is not the lens for me. I need a larger FOV and the best quality. I’d rather pay a little more and be totally satisfied when I look at the results, then keep on wishing that my images where a little sharper.

  1. Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 vs Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 - Blog for micro four third and competing cameras

    [...] Source: http://admiringlight.com/blog/panasonic-7-14mm-vs-olympus-9-18mm/2/ [...]

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