Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nikon 12-24 f/4 v Panasonic 7-14 f/4

Battle of the Super-Wide Zoom!

I love Super-Wide lenses!

Way back in 1975, I got acquainted with and fell in love with the Nikkor 20mm f/4; this was quickly replaced by the f/3.5 and finally the f/2.8.

"Looking For Shoes" at the KL National Mosque was shot with a Nikon 20/2.8.

In 1994, while working in Singapore; I found a new love, the Canon 14mm and promptly deserted my first love!

This fashion shot was shot with a 14mm on a Canon EOS1 on Kodak film. The pigeons were at a town square not far from the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Some of my best shots were done with the 14mm super-wide!

At about the same time of my 14mm liaison, I was also acquainted with the 17-35/2.8 super-wide zoom! For day in day out photography, this baby is much more versatile than the 14mm and not surprisingly it became the De facto "standard" lens of the news photographers of the day.

SUBWAY Vienna style was shot through the glass with a Canon 17-35 L zoom on Kodak film.

When photographers celebrates the arrival of DSLR in the early nineties they also discovered to their dismay, the beginning of "dark ages of super-wide"!

Due to the usage of smaller than 35mm film size ccd, wide angle lenses has "became longer" and pro shooters like me discovered to our horror; the 14mm has suddenly behaved like a 20mm lens!

Granted, you can retain the expansive coverage of our super-wide by using a "full-frame" DSLR like the Kodak DCS 560, but at US$22,000 a camera body; who can afford it?

I remembered in 1997, on my third time working for The Star in Kuala Lumpur; Kodak Malaysia loaned me a unit to test and the camera body cost a whopping RM 120,000 to buy!

I took this digital wonder-boy to take pictures of our May-N's graduation in Wellington and half way through my shoot, the 120K camera died on me!!

May-N at her graduation march in Wellington, taken with the very expensive Kodak DCS 560 DSLR.

Cut To The Chase...

Fast forward to the present, I now own a Nikon 12-24mm f/4 AF-S DX for my Nikon D300 and the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 ASPH LUMIX G VARIO which I use on my Olympus E-P2 m4/3 camera.

The Nikon has an equivalent field of view of an 18-36mm lens on a film body and the Panasonic, behave like a 14-28mm.

Wide and wider... the Nikon 12-24, left and the Panasonic 7-14.

Saturday morning, the sky did a reprieve and the sun shines; I try to pack the two cameras (with the test lenses) into my small Domke bag...

But the Nikon D300 with the 12-24mm is BIG! It took out the space in the whole bag! I ended up carrying the E-P2 (with the 7-14mm) on my shoulder.

My Test Subject...

To compare the two super-wides I decided to photograph our old Government Buildings.

According to Wikipedia:

"The Government Buildings Historic Reserve, or more commonly referred to as the Old Government Buildings, is situated on Lambton Quay in Wellington. It was completed in 1876, is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second-largest wooden building in the world (after Tōdai-ji in Nara, Japan).
It was built to house New Zealand's civil service, and now houses the Victoria University of Wellington's Law School. The building, is classified as a "Category I" ("places of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'") historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust."
First shot...

Part of the old Government Buildings with the "Beehive" at the foreground.
Obviously the Panasonic, at 14mm and 114° angle of view is much wider than the Nikon. The Nikon can only managed 18mm and 90°.
Both lens exhibits the classical "leaning building" symptom of a super-wide lens, more so the Panasonic. In my next post I will show you how to correct this shortfall.
Second Shot...

From these pictures you can see both lens are of the rectilinear design, I cannot see any barrel distortion; can you? Both glass are real bang for the buck!
3rd Shot...

Both lens resolve shadow detail well in difficult lighting, notice how much more real estate the Panasonic captured! The Nikon seems to have more cyan cast (in the shadow) from the blue sky.
4th Shot...

The extra coverage power of the Panasonic is a winner here! Of course you can argue that I could have kneel lower with the Nikon and thus capture more of the building, that of course defeat the purpose of this test ;)
5th Shot...

Yes, those huge pillars are made of wood! Yes, I did knuckled them; they ARE wood!
Noticed the lens flares in both shots? Super-wides are very susceptible to lens flares, the Nikon came with a large metal lens hood; which make the already BIG lens even BIGGER.. well, it is lost somewhere among my junk anyway. The Panasonic is too wide to wear hood, the two "lips" on the front make do.
The Last Shot...

Both pictures were shot at exactly the same spots.

Again, these pictures brought home the importance of the extra coverage the Panasonic 7-14mm offered. I am sure, during your travel photography; you sometimes wish you have more backing-up space so you can "get everything in"?

Famous Last Words:

So which is the better super-wide zoom?

For me, without reservation, the Panasonic 7-14mm!

It is wider, smaller; lighter and cost about the same as the Nikon.

Personally I think the days of DSLR are numbered, I for one are unwilling to let a HEAVY DSLR spoil my travel and photography! Viva micro 4/3!

Just receive a comment from a reader and it is encouraging words like this that drive me on!

Thanks yfc008! You make my day!!

yfc008 said...
Hi CY,

Thanks for your time spend blogging. I'm a recent reader of your blog having just discover you last month! Am thoroughly enjoying your exposition of the E-P2 and the lenses, especially the Pana 7-14 f4.

I've just bought this lens as inspire by you and am enjoying many low light shots like never before. The built in IS of the E-P2 is the best reason I didn't choose the Panasonic m43! A real blessing as I've got some Canon FD lens with adapter:
55/1.2 SSC Asph

Seeing you use the E-P2 with low ISOs has renewed my fervor for the E-P2 as I had earlier resign it to the cupboard for being too noisy.


p/s: I had made a comment earlier but it for no apparent reason had disappeared!

Side Bar:

The 1876 photo showing the Government Buildings sitting on reclaimed land.

Can it survive the next "Big One" ? I sure do not want to be in the vicinity when that happen ;)

While photographing the old Government Buildings I met Terry Martin, 69; who is a retired joiner and now a volunteer guided tour person at the Buildings.

On every Saturday till the 26th April, Terry will take you on a tour inside the Buildings. The tours are at 11am and 2pm.

I'll Be Back!

You Might Also Like:

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14 mm f4.0 ASPH

Fantastic 14 mm!

Ultra-Wide Distortion Fix.

A Paparazzi Tale!


yfc008 said...


Ahem...your current blog on super-wides or ultrawides is like a libido!...of erotic proportion...Sorry I meant it struck a nerve in me...The reason I got interested in cameras in the 1st place. KRockwell's UUW articles did the same..haha
I'm watching closely your shots!...

Your historical revelations of the full-frame DSLR development is most glad to be able to buy one today at less than 1/10 of its debut price!

On another note...thought it appropriate to introduce myself
Hail from Sabah Malaysia...and have been bitten by the shutterbug since 2008!..late I know..

Also graduated from RMIT as Civil Engineer in idea of my age..
Cheers Yap Fook Chin or as the NZealanders would call me Fook Chin Yap

cy.leow said...

Hi again FC

All these years the Kiwi still cannot get our name correctly.

If you are in NZ they will address you as Fook ;) They never understand why there are two words in our second name (Christian name)!

So to make it easy for them, I told them to call me CY instead of Chuan! Ha ha ha...

Happy to know we were from the same RMIT!



Margie said...

Hi CY,

Margie here (Ming-n's friend). As you know I'm going on my big trip soon, and was thinking about upgrading my camera. To be honest, it's so cheap, that it would be very hard to downgrade from it. But I'm undecided.

My friend suggested that I get a Micro 4/3 as I'm not yet an avid photographer, so I would still get good pics, it would be easy to travel with, and not too expensive. He also suggested a Sony NEX-5.

I noticed that you use an Olympus Micro 4/3, so I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what would be a better camera for my purpose?

Mum suggested I don't upgrade at all, as she didn't want me to be a target as I travel alone and I should save money... Good advice, but I am going to some photogenic places!

cy.leow said...

Hi Margie
Yes, Ming told me about your big trip! Wow! Sound very exciting!!
I would recommend the Olympus E-PL2 with the 14-42 lens. It is very compact and give really good result.
If you are stopping at Singapore, buy it there; you will save some $$ :)

Margie said...


I got the Olympus Pen E-PL2 just last night (ordered online because my first stop is Hawaii). I'll have to get some practice with using it before I'm any good though!

Thanks for your advice. Let me know if you would like to have a play with it too. I wouldn't mind getting some tips for basic touristy shots!