Olympus 12-50mm vs Panasonic 12-35mm MFT Lens Comparison

October 9, 2012

In this article I will be comparing the Panasonic 12-35mm vs Olympus 12-50mm, two standard Micro Four Thirds zoom lenses. Their is around $700 price difference between those two lenses, with the Panasonic being the more expensive one. It might sound that it’s isn’t such a fair comparison, but I know that many of you want to know the differences between the two so I’ve decided to write this post to help you out.


Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 Lens

The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH Power O.I.S. is belongs to the Lumix G X Premium lens lineup. A collection of professional-grade very high-quality lenses for the MFT format. The lens is equivalent to 24-70 mm on a 35mm camera. This is a very popular range among enthusiasts and professional. The lens boasts a fast f/2.8 aperture that give it very strong long-light capabilities and the option to shoot subject with very shallow out-of-focus background. Furthermore, the 12-25 is very compact and lightweight lens when comparing it to Canon or Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lenses.

Panasonic Lumix G X 12-35mm F2.8 vs Nikon 24-70mm

Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 vs Panasonic Lumix G X 12-35mm F2.8 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

*The length specifies approximately the total length of the lens, not the one specified in the specs, which is calculated from the front element to the back element.

The above image perfectly illustrated the strength of the MFT format, same focal length and aperture equivalent but in more compact size. I must admit that I was personally quite shocked when I saw the size of this lens, even for a MFT standard and considering the specs, it’s relatively very compact lens. You can compare camera sizes with interchangeable lenses using compact camera comparison app.

The 12-35 F2.8 is an amazing lens which is built with the highest standards. This includes Nano Surface Coating, Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion lens and Ultra High Refractive Index lens, Power O.I.S. image stabilization which is twice more effective than Mega O.I.S., 7 blade circular aperture diaphragm for smooth creamy Bokeh and a durable metal mount. The 12-35mm has weather resistant capabilities, it’s splash/dust proof which means that it’s the perfect match for the Panasonic Lumix GH3 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 weather-sealed MFT cameras.

The image-quality that this lens produces is amazing, at f/2.8 the sharpness is excellent (see MTF chart on ephotozine.com), stopping down this lens results in mind blowing sharpness. The sharpness at the edges are good at 12mm at the wide-angle but gets better as you zoom in.Distortions are low and this lens focuses very fast. The main downside of this lens is of course its stiff price and this means that many people won’t be able to afford it. This lens can be your perfect walkaround lens and its suits for many type of scenes, including closeups, landscapes, indoors, night shots, portraits, etc. This why this lens is so popular, and its one of those lenses that you probably will use more then any other lenses in your camera bag. So this why I personally recommend investing in a good standard-zoom lens, and the 12-35mm f/2.8 is that kind of lens that worth every cent.


Panasonic 12-35mm sample images:

Benji Eating Watermelon-2 Hikarigaoka Yosakoi Matsuri #10 Botanischer Garten Berlin Botanischer Garten Berlin Extra Slot
中延ねぶた祭り'12 Stanford Cabin Saturday Market Carrots Keyser Barn Sunset Pears




Olympus 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 Lens

The Olympus M.Zuiko digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ is one of Olympus best standard-zoom lenses for the Micro Four Thirds. The first thing that you notice is that it’s not as fast as the Pany. It lacks the F2.8 aperture and that by itself put this lens in a completely different category. This lens is also much cheaper, costs around $400, it’s not the cheapest of the lenses, but it’s certainly more affordable than the Pany one. Affordable doesn’t mean low-quality, not at all.

Olympus 12-50mm vs Panasonic 12-25mm size comparison

Olympus 12-50mm vs Panasonic 12-25mm size comparison


The Olympus 12-50mm lens is equivalent to 24-100 mm (35mm), which gives you a bit more reach than the Panasonic 12-35mm. This lens lens features a unique mechanism called MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) which includes a linear motor drive that allows the lens to focus faster and quieter than other model that don’t adapt this technology. This is something that resembles Panasonic’s ‘HD Video Support’ functionality, each company with its own names and technology implementation. Olympus 12-50mmis supposed to attract videographer for its smooth constant zooming functionality, which is crucial when you want to shoot videos that look professional and not amateurishThe lens has weather-sealing capabilities. It’s dust-proof and splash-proof like the Panasonic lens, which means that it’s a perfect companion to both the Panasonic GH3 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 weather-sealed cameras. A great lens for outdoor’s photographers who are shooting in humid and wet environment and don’t want to risk their equipment. This gives you the freedom to shoot outdoors without daunting what the weather will be in the next few hours. Just go out and shoot great photos!

The lens has a metal-like finish, and its 52mm filter thread does not rotate during use. This means that you can safely put a filter on it like graduated filters, for example. However, the most interesting thing about this lens is its zoom mechanism. The lens ring has three positions (you can see the selected setting in the small window on the lens): M-ZOOM (Manual Zoom), E-ZOOM (Power Zoom) and MACRO.

With “M-ZOOM” you use the zoom as with a conventional zooming mechanism by rotating the zoom ring left or right to zoom in or out. When you push the zoom ring forward your enter the “E-ZOOM” mode, which was particularly designed for movie mode. In this mode, you only need to turn the ring slightly to either sides and the lens will slowly zoom in or out so the camera remains steady and this hinders sharp camera movements when recording videos. You can make the lens zoom faster by making a harsher twist.

The third mode is “MACRO” and it works for…well… macro photos of course. You need to press and hold the macro button on the lens and push the ring forward all the way. By doing this you actually lock the zoom at 43mm and the minimum focusing distance to 20 cm, now the lens is capable of shooting at 0.36x magnification..

As you can see, this lens is far from being an average lens, in fact, it’s one of the most interesting lens designs I’ve seen in years. This lens perform great, with excellent sharpness at the center of the frame and with very low distortion. slrgear.com mentioned extraordinary CA at 12mm, but that’s about it. also note that this is the Kit lens for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.


Olympus 12-50mm sample images:

PA040311 Late Summer Colors: Moth with a Fur Coat Late Summer Colors: Watching the Skies When Things Go Wrong: Getting a Lift Jurong Bird Park
Beetlejuice^3 Waterworld @ Universal Studios _5260100_2 _5080108_2 _5070038_2 _7070378_2



OK Cool But I can’t Still Decide Which One to Buy?

Now that you understand what each lens has to offer, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two lenses.

This comparison table will give you a good overview of the difference between the two lenses:

Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8Olympus 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZNotes
Focal Length12-35mm (24-70mm equiv.)12-50mm (24-100mm equiv.)The Oly have a broader zoom range, you gain 30mm difference at the telephoto end, which might appeal more to amateurs and those who usually want to carry just one lens
Max. ApertureF2.8F3.5-6.3The 12-35 has constant f/2.8 aperture, which makes this lens much better for low-light shooting as well it can produce shallower depth of field. Certainly a big advantage here
Filter Size58mm52mm
Filter Ring Rotates?NoNoYou can mount graduated and polarizing filters with those two lenses because the filter ring does not rotate
Internal FocusingYesYes
Internal ZoomNo (Extending front, lens extends when zooming)Yes (lens does not extend when zooming)The Olympus has internal zoom, lens does not extends when you zooming, stays the same length
Weather SealingYes (Splash/Dust Proof)Yes (Splash/Dust Proof)Both are weather-sealed lenses that are great companion to weather-sealed MFT cameras like the GH3 and OM-D E-M5 cameras
Lens Construction10 elements in 9 groups
- 4 aspherical
- 1 UED
- 1 UHR
14 elements in 8 groups
- Dual Super ashperical
- Aspherical
- ED
- HR
Build Qualitymetal-barreled constructionplastic, metal mount12-35 has better more durable build quality
Closest Focusing Distance25cm20cm (macro mode)
Maximum Image Magnification0.17x (0.34x 35mm equiv.)0.36x (0.72x 35mm equiv.)
Number of Blades7 diaphragm blades / Circular aperture diaphragm5 diaphragm blades / Circular aperture diaphragmPanasonic has more diaphragm blades. 5 blades you get five-sides pentagons shaped out-of-focus highlights, 7 blades start to get a more rounded shape, a seven-sided heptagons which defocused highlights look more pleasing. It's not related to the Bokeh, but the shape of defocused highlights
Weight305 g211 g
Dimensions (diameter / length)67.6 mm / 73.8 mm57 mm / 83 mm
SharpnessOutstanding at 12mm when stopped a bit, excellent trough out the range. Edge is fairly good at wide, gets better at longer focal lengthsExcellent at wide angle (12mm), falls a bit at 27mm and very good at 50mm12-35 produces has better sharpness overall, but both perform extremely well
Chromatic AberrationsKept low throughout the zoom rangeKept low throughout the zoom rangeA slight edge to the Panasonic
Vignetting GoodVery goodThe Olympus actually performs better than the Panasonic
DistortionLowLowBoth lenses have very low distortion
Image StabilizationPower OIS
NoThe Panasonic offers an image stabilization mechanism built-in the lens, the Oly does not, you rely on the camera to provide that
AwardsEISA Award Best Compact System Lens 2012-2013Didn't find any mentioned
Ratings*slrgear: 9.0 (overall)
Amazon: 4.5/5 (17 customers)
ephotozine: 4.5/5 (Highly Recommended)
photographyblog: 4.5/5 (Highly Recommended)
slrgear.com: 8.5 (overall)
Amazon: 4.5/5 (8 customers)
ephotozine: 3.5/5
photographyblog: 4.5/5 (Highly Recommended)
Standard AccessoriesLens cap, Lens rear cap, Lens storage bag, Lens hoodLens Cap (LC-52C), Lens Rear Cap (LR-2), Oly doesn't come with hood. The 12-50mm Lens Hood (LH-55B) is an optional accessorym as well as the lens case (LSC-0814)

12-35mm is much more expensive


The Olympus 12-50 is really a a great lens and offers the best volume features/price wise. I personally think that the main problem with this lens is that it’s slow at 50mm (f/6.3). If that’s not a problem, the 12-50mm lens is probably the first lens I would buy with a new Olympus (or Panasonic) MFT camera. It has internal focus and zoom mechanism, it’s weather-sealed, it features this very useful 3 mode zoom mechanism, the sharpness is excellent overall and distortions, CA and vignetting are low. The lens doesn’t come with image stabilization, so you need to rely on your camera to provide that if it provides that.

The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Power OIS belongs to Panasonic line of premium lenses. It features a very popular 24-70mm range (35mm equiv.) and fast f/2.8 aperture, which makes it the ideal lens for low light shooting. You also have the ability to better control DOF and get more defocused background due to the fast aperture. The build quality of this lens is very high and the performance is absolutely outstanding in every way. It’s an expensive lens, but one of those lenses that you need to shoot with in order to understand its value. It’s downside is probably the vignetting, which are relatively high compare to the Oly, but far way from being a problem that will make you think twice, and that can easily be solved using photo-editing software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.

So the question is whether you need the fast aperture, the built-in Optical Image Stabilization and build quality and could afford to pay for it. Both lenses focus very fast and quiet. With the 12-35mm price you can buy a GH3 camera. For a beginner, I recommend starting with the 12-50mm and when the time comes you’ll know whether you need that kind of lens or not. If you can afford it without making your bank account manager call you a few minutes later, GET IT!

It really depends on your specific needs as a photographer. For me having an f/2.8 lens is not a ‘must have’ feature; I can leave without it, and for me the 12-35mm f/2.8 is a bit too expensive. I would probably get the Oly for it’s all around great performance if I had to pick one now. I’m pretty sure that if you consider getting the 12-35mm you apparently can afford it, but it’s might be a bit over what you planned to pay for initially. If you are serious about becoming a better photographer, you don’t want to be limited in any way and see yourself using the f/2.8 and taking advantage of it, by all means, get this lens now.

I hope that you find this comparison useful, if you find any inaccuracies, please comment below. I will also like to hear what you think about those two lenses, especially if you already used them and have a firm opinion about one of those lenses or both. Spend a few moments and comments below to help other people decide. Thanks again, and see you soon on the next comparison (don’t forget to LIKE if you like :) )

Buy the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 from B&H Photo Video

Buy the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 from B&H Photo Video


More Reviews and Articles

Related posts:

  1. Panasonic Lumix G X 12-35mm vs 14-42mm Comparison Review
  2. Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5 mm f/1.8 lens (50mm equivalent Fast Prime Lens)
  3. Sony 16-50mm F2.8 DT SSM Lens Preview
  4. Panasonic 45-150mm Lens Review – vs 45-200, 45-175, 35-100
  5. Panasonic Lumix G X 35-100mm F2.8 Lens Review
  6. Panasonic G X Vario 14-42mm Premium pancake Lens Revealed
  7. Panasonic G5 vs G3 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Comparison
  8. Olympus 75mm f1.8 MFT Lens Price Announced
  9. Beautiful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Test Videos (nature, underwater, 12mm lens)
  • http://blog.entropicremnants.com John Griggs

    Very good comparison actually. I’ve been saying that while the 12-50mm is not really an excellent lens — it’s certainly better than it is often said to be. Nice to see a good comparison and appreciation of the 12-50mm for what it really is.

    You used some of my photos for the samples and that’s fine — I appreciate that you thought they were good examples. If you are interested, link out from my website link to my blog where I offer my opinions on micro four thirds — which I have embraced whole heartedly.

    Keep up the good work,
    John Griggs aka Entropic Remnants Photography