background: why?I happen to like wides. As a kid with 35mm I just couldn't afford wide enough, the typical zoom back then was 35-80 or perhaps 28-70 and most affordable wide primes were 28 anyway.
When I got my first 24mm lens I was quite happy, finally I could see things as I liked to see them.
Some people see things up close only in 'mental macro' and focus on the details, but as I move in closer to things I like to look around and see the shapes, the relationships to the backgrounds and to see the perspective of being close.
28mm (on a full 35mm frame) is just not wide enough for me, 24mm or 21mm is where I like it most, although modern lenses have shown me that sometimes I like it that bit wider.
Sadly I just can't afford the 15mm or the 12mm lenses which can really only be used for very specific subjects (to me). Of course most of that sort of thing can now be done with stitching. Stitching images also gives increases in resolution which is good too.
Anyway, on my G series cameras I have lamented that there isn't really much in the wide area which is compact (and affordable). For some time I have been using the Olympus 9-18mm zoom via an adapter on the G series cameras and have been really happy with it optically. I've written about that lens back in 2009, and found it to be a great lens except for its bulk. Note that this comparison shows my 9-18mm on its adapter ready to use alongside my 14-45 and my friends 7-14 beside his 14-45 ... it was the only way to compare them ... its a long story (read the blog post from 2009 if you are interested ;-)
So you can see that the Olympus 9-18mm on the adaptor is actually a bit larger than the kit 14-45 and even bigger than the 7-14 Panasonic.
With my G1 / GH1 the 7-14 may be attractive, but with my GF1 its not an attractive alternative (and certainly not a cheap one) because its not compact. When I bought the GF camera it had the 14mm f2.5 pancake lens on it, which is exactly what I was looking for as a compact camera. However its not really very wide, it being the equivalent of a 28mm lens, which isn't what I'm really fond of.
Enter the Panasonic 0.79x adapterI was initially skeptical that the adaptor would be optically any good, as my experience in the past was that such things were not any good. The adapter would turn the 14mm lens into a 11mm lens or in full frame context a 22mm lens. This is right in my ballpark. So, rather than keep wondering I bought one to see. The image below shows the 14mm with the adapter already mounted on it, beside my Olympus 9-18mm 4/3 lens.
As you can see even when the adapter is mounted on the 14mm its significantly smaller than the Olympus 9-18mm 4/3 lens. Now the 9-18 there is the ZD lens for 4/3, which of course needs an adapter to use on micro 4/3 (you know, because its gone without the mirror to make everything more compact) With the 9-18mm on the adapter it looks less attractive.
Now the purpose of the adapter is to hold the lens that bit further away from the sensor to allow the mirror to flap around (recalling SLR cameras have mirrors between the sensor and the eyepiece). this of course adds to the price of the ZD 9-18mm zoom.
The reason I mention this is that it has been an option for me to consider getting a compact regular 4/3 body (like the Olympus E-420) and putting the 9-18mm onto that ... as when its mounted on the body the whole thing really just doesn't feel much bigger than it did on my G1 ... and the laughingly called "micro" 4/3 lens isn't really that micro at all. Sure when you see it sitting beside the three lenses (the ZD 9-18 without an adapter, the "new" 9-18mm and the Panasonic 7-14) it looks a bit smaller than the old Oly ...
So much for the promise of compact.
All marketing bullshit if you ask me, which drives me spakko. Worse than this from what I read the new 9-18mm designed for micro4/3 is not optically as good as the older ZD lens anyway ...
So we're back to the wide angle adapter on the pancake 14mm as the most compact alternative (and lower cost too).
So getting back to the 14mm with the 0.79x VS the 9-18mm zoom what do images look like?
Well below is an overlay of 3 shots taken with camera on a tripod just the other day, widest is the 9mm end of the 9-18mm zoom, middle (orange frame) is the wide adapter on the 14mm and the inner most image the segment (green frame) of the image that the 14mm sees.
So the step from 9mm to 14mm is huge, but the 11mm is (as expected right in the middle). Knowing that I'm already happy with the view of a "24" (full frame) then this 11mm (equaling a 22mm) will be wide enough for me, and as you can see is quite a bit wider than the 14mm view. The overviews are taken from the JPGs
So, lets have a look at some of the edges. To make this 'even' I have used dcraw to convert the RAW files.
Why dcraw? Well dcraw can produce regular exposures and uncompensated images this allows me to see the lens as it is, without any corrections. It is important to remember that with micro4/3 (especially Panasonic) that lens corrections are built into the lens / camera system and JPG images are built in camera including these corrections. Many RAW converters also use the metadata to build in the corrections too ... using dcraw allows me to side step this and see exactly what the lens produces. Essentially it means also that perhaps it can be improved from there.
Below are 100% crops from the images above. Tone and contrast vary from the above because these come from linear TIFF conversions from the RAW files.
You will need to load these in windows and look carefully to see the differences.
Now, over to the right hand side:
Again there is some subtle difference in quality between the two images, but its not chalk and cheese. One is really pixel peeping here, and so unless its a prize shot which you are going to blow up to A3 sized print its going to be neck and neck really.
The Olympus 9-18mm zoom has a long standing reputation as being a solid performer and a well corrected optic. It comes from back in the days where lens corrections were part of lens design, not post processing. The 14mm requires corrections and with the adapter more so again. While the 14mm is corrected in JPG (and you can really see the differences when you look at the uncorrected RAW files) it is not corrected in combination with the adapter (well, and if you think about it it can't be as the lens won't know that its looking through the adapter).
So what this means is there is room for improvement in the images with the simple addition of a tool like PTLens. I've used PTLens on other lenses in the past with very pleasing results. As it only costs $25 to buy you can then essentially get even better output from the 14mm + 0.79 adapter than we see here.
Currently the combo is not part of PTLens's database of lens combos, but I will hopefully submit some test images to the author of PTLens soon and then it will be supported.
ConclusionThe 14mm is a compact lens, and if you already have it the 0.79x adapter makes it into a nice wide lens. The adapter is quite modestly priced (about $150), so bang for buck this gets you into the area of a 9-18mm at less than 1/4 of the price!
If you happen to be after a wide and don't want to spend a lot of money then this pair is the ticket. The adapter dismounts from the 14 when you don't want it on there, so you essentially get a "28" walk around wide lens for your micro4/3 camera with a slap on conversion to make it a "21" for those times when you want that wider look.
The down side is that you have to handle an adapter ring and put the lens on and off. That sort of required a blog post of its own, so I'll do that soon ;-)
PS: I've done that now, and that post is here