I wanted to try the Olympus 50mm f/2 macro on my GH1. So I added my 20mm f/1.7 and yesterday headed off to my favourite old ruin, Witley Court in Worcestershire.
The Olympus 50mm doesn't AF on the GH1 but it wasn't as much of a problem as I imagined. As soon as I touched the focus ring, the view magnified in the viewfinder and it was then easy to focus. A little slower than AF but I did get a 100% success rate, something I've never achieved with this lens and AF before.
The results were even better than on my Olympus E-P2. I can't remember seeing anything sharper than this and that includes images shot on the Leica M9. To my eyes the GH1 has the best sensor (so far) of all the m4/3 cameras. It doesn't have the colour richness and depth of the M9, but at low ISO's the clarity and resolution are very impressive. Something most of the DSLR's (and other cameras) I've used have struggled to produce. The 50mm macro f/2 is the best lens I've ever used. The Nikon MF 50mm f/1.2 and Zeiss 50mm f/2 M Mount are terrifically sharp but the Olympus wins because of its performance wide-open which is the best I've ever seen. If Olympus can make a lens like this, why have they never produced a camera with a sensor that does it justice? Maybe the E-5 with the right raw development programme could produce a true reflection of its quality, but none of the samples I've seen so far shot with this lens come close to what I was getting yesterday.
The 20mm f/1.7 also performed extremely well. I realised when editing these pictures that in all the time I've had the GH1 and 20mm lens I don't think I've ever used them together for stills on a "serious" photographic shoot. I've used the combination for video and I did shoot some test shots with it for various comparisons, but never on a stock shooting trip. B used the lens on his GH1 for the last wedding we did, and I said at the time that I was impressed with the sharpness of the images, now I know why.
Above is an image shot with the 20mm. It wasn't wide enough to get everything in so I shot four images and combined them in Photoshop. 100MB + and staggeringly sharp.
I enjoyed using the camera and lenses enormously, it was a very light, small combination that produced incredible results.
I read a few comments over the weekend on various forums and in a magazine that should know better, that again asserted that m4/3 and 4/3 in general can't produce results as good as even a "low-end" DSLR. Its a commonly held view. But then I even saw a letter in the same magazine recommending that someone starting out in stock photography should use film rather than digital because it was "better". Theres no real answer to these kind of views. They are as laughable as they are inaccurate, and usually the result of ignorance and prejudice purporting to be informed opinion.
From my point of view:-
The images I shot yesterday are amongst the best I have ever taken in terms of sharpness and resolution. I blew several of them up to 56MB and they still looked great.
I prefer them to anything I've ever shot on a DSLR (excluding the NIkon D3X)
By using the best lenses I can, shooting raw and processing in Photoshop I'm able to produce files that are close to the quality that I get from my Leica M9.
My images shot on m4/3 sell just as many (if not more as I shoot most of my output on it) as my images shot on DSLR's.
Its a much more enjoyable photographic experience for me because of the reduced size and weight.
While m4/3 may currently suffer from some speed and robustness issues, for most of my work this is something I can live with. The GH2 may address the first point and to be honest I've yet to encounter problems with my m4/3 gear, though I do know people who haven't been so lucky.
Yesterdays experience has made me even more impatient for the GH2. I can't wait to try the Olympus 50mm on that camera. If its only the same quality as the GH1 within a 45MB file I'll be pleased, if its better then that will be a real bonus.
Words - D
Images D & A