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…
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.
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:
21 thoughts on “Panasonic 7-14mm vs Olympus 9-18mm”
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:
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…)
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.
You may want to check out this solution, which allows you to put filters on the back end of the 7-14mm…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
It’s bad, really bad. I had many ruined shots that exhibited strong CA, purple blobs and flare. I sold my copy of the Panasonic 7-14mm. I mainly photographed indoor. Although sharpness and contrast are fine, the rest is not.
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.
When will we see a PRIME 7mm 2.8?
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…
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.
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.
I recently started using a GH4 and I have come to the conclusion that the Lumix 12-35 is no longer wide enough with the additional crop shooting 4K . . .and so it back-to-the-future, 9-18 or 7-14? I wouldn’t be concerned about the slight res hit with the Olympus if I was using it strictly for 1080 or 720p acquisition, but of course in our 4K future everything is bigger and sharper. I can live with the flare on the Lumix and even the CA, the most annoying real practical issue is filter mount, 52mm ND is soooo cheap and the Lumix doesn’t even have threads so its build-your-own or fork out $300-500 for the ‘solutions’ from Fotodiox or Formatt. I’m still leaning towards the 7-14mm but I do have the nagging suspicion that there might be an update in the pipeline from Panasonic–has anyone heard that rumor?
If you even compare these two lenses you have been lucky with the Oly lens: I´ve had both and my copy of 9-18 was so bad that after buying it I sent it straight away to be serviced because I thought it was totally faulty (soft edges). The lens edge resolution was concidered “normal in factory limits”.
I ran both these lenses for a while and decided to drop the 7-14. However, after finding too many of my 9-18 shots lacking bite and resolution in the corners, I eventually swapped and went back to the 7-14. It’s certainly better optically – still not perfect in the corners, but better; and its inability to take filters is annoying, but all in all it’s the better lens for me. I’ve fashioned up a homemade 10-stop ND using some foam and an 82mm filter. It works without vignetting at 8mm or more so whilst it’s clumsy and ugly, it does the job.
What I really want us an 8mm rectilinear prime that takes filters – the Kowa 8.5mm looks interesting, but it’s even bigger and heavier than the 7-14 and the price is eye-watering.
Thank You Jordan..
This real world comparison was exactly what I was looking for…. except for the brand of the 7-14mm.. Yes I know… A bit hard to test the Oly version in 2013…. 🙂
Something tells me that if you insert the new Oly 7-14mm into this picture you will come up with the same basic result… minus the purple fringing. Slightly different tit for tats but very close optically at 9mm and f/5.6. Since I want a two day hiking lens, I guess I will stop swooning after the 7-14mm and stay with the zoom and a 12mm.
Would need to also test a Panny body to be fair due to the difference in the cameras’ IR filter or whatever that makes some panny lenses not work as well on Oly bodies, plus any software/firmware corrections might be done better for Oly lenses by Oly bodies and visa versa.