Monday, 21 April 2008

Weekly digest #1: 14/4/2008

We are planning various types of entries here, the weekly digest being one of them. There is a lot of pieces of information floating around and we found it useful to pick out the technically important of them. You'll find that many of these refer to dpreview forum entries. No wonder - the most lively Olympus forum operates over there.

There are two important product announcements that has been keeping us interested during the past week (weeks). The E-420 is out with the ZD 28mm f2.8 and so is the ED 14-35mm f2. Besides the newcomers, weak points (?) of the E-3 and its more serious kit lens, the E 12-60mm f2.8-3.5 continues to be discussed.

There does not seem to be reliable information available on whether the E-420 shares the sensor of the E-3, but colour rendition and banding seems to be similar. On the whole, the former is great news! E-3 image quality in such a small package is wonderful. Of course, other aspects of the E-420 are discussed wildly, including SAT, high iso performance and a comparison with Sigma's DP1. I am not crazy for SAT - perhaps as I am afraid of everything that is uncontrollable, but the high iso performance of the E-420 does not fail to impress me. Although Michael Reichmann seems to be fond of the Sigma because of its sensor size, I think that even if the Sigma's IQ was somewhat better, usability (speed of AF and in general, that is) puts the E-420 way ahead of it, sensor size notwithstanding.

Photo courtesy of takuhitosotome

With the possibility to attach to any 4/3 camera, the 25mm f2.8 pancake is clearly aimed at users of the E-420. Looking at the MTF curves, we have already seen a couple of weeks before that it will not be bad at all, although clearly setting aside the aim of telecentricity. Not many really nice sample pictures are out yet with either part of the minuscule setup, but the shot of Takuhito Sotome of his Leica shows the important point of the lens well. It is quite sharp, but because of the lack of ED elements, it clearly shows chromatic aberration, especially in the out of focus areas (thanks to Takuhito for the image and the fact that we can zoom in on to 100%).

On the other extreme of the lens range, we find the monstrous but potentially wonderful 14-35mm f2. We know that producing a really high quality lens is truly a challenge. Creating a zoom with similar qualities is even harder. Well, Olympus could not do it either: the 14-35 is almost a kilo. But how is image quality? Both and was kind enough to post full-size samples for us to scrutinize, the former even posting RAWs. The lens is clearly very fine and even without a side by side comparison, we can see that it delivers superb microcontrast and almost CA-free bokeh and edge rendition (see church and bumper of the car in particular).

Regarding the E-3, the problem of the strong anti-aliasing (AA) filter seem to come up all the time. Although we are not saying that this should go without any comment, it seems that people can not believe their own eyes when they see a sharp E-3 shot and are not comforted by the fact that Getty has approved the E-3 as one of the "base" cameras. Krisztián has already produced a thorough introduction to aliasing, AA and Moire, but it is available only in Hungarian at the moment. If there is a need for it, we shall translate it.

Regarding the 12-60, there still are issues with its wobbly front barrel and now a possibly related problem of off-axis alignment has appeared. What can I say? It's sharp, it focuses fast, but I am happy with my 14-54.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. One of the busiest thread was the one suggesting that Olympus produced a 300mm f4 tele lens. Well, this idea is not without history. We shall talk a bit more about it next time.

Until then: happy shooting!

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