ISO performance of m4/3 lens @ 45mm – Indoor Handheld

I have four lenses that cover the same focal length of 45mm ( Why four ? Interesting question but the good thing my wife doesn’t read my blog! And the people who read this blog most likely have similar lenses).

Update  12/18/16 : Still learning how Wordpress formats images, so added the screen capture again for 100% view

  1. Olympus 40-150mm f/4 to f/5.6 $100
  2. Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5 to f/6.3 $200
  3. Olympus 45mm f/1.8 $299
  4. Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 $899

Though each lens is for different purpose, I wanted to test if it’s worth carrying all thelenses and more importantly is it even worth changing the lens just for image quality.   Camera tested OM-D E-M5, (Waiting to get E-M1 Mark II) so I will do an update after getting the new camera.

ISO 200 45mm & 35-100 f/2.8

The light was barely enough for handheld shot at ISO200. With other lenses it was not possible to get hand held shot at ISO 200.


Left : 35-100mm f/2.8                                           Right : 45mm f/1.8


Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 10.14.26 AM.png

The difference is barely visible, but obviously the prime is sharper only when viewed at 100% as noticed on certain  “No Diving Allowed” letters.  Unless I am planning to print, it’s not worth changing the lens for f/2.8 and above.

Color and Contrast:

Identical,  maybe I slightly prefer Panasonic rendering.

ISO 500

The difference is very stark. I don’t even need to zoom 100%, just looking at the preview the difference was very obvious…12-50mm is not good at 45mm.

The prime f/1.8 and the f/2.8 zoom are close at f/5.6. The prime lens captured red little bit better.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 10.17.26 AM.png

35-100mm f/1.8                     12-50mm                            45mm


When looking at the people in the picture, 12-50mm lens makes the face very blurry. But the prime and the expensive panasonic lens were similar and produced cleaner results.

ISO 1250

I tried the same at ISO1250, with speed of 1/100th of second to avoid any handshake, the difference is much more apparent between 12-50mm and other lenses. Still panasonic lens is closely matched to the prime lens.

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 8.47.05 AM.png

 45mm f/1.8                12-50mm   f/3.5 – 6.3           35-100mm f/2.8


ISO 1600:

Top Left : 40-150mm @f/6.3                                 T0p Right :  12-50mm @ f/6.2

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 10.47.11 AM.png

Bottom Left : Panasonic 12-35mm @f/6.3          Bottom Right:    Olympus 45mm @ f/6.3

The results very obvious, I don’t even need to look at the meta data. The ranking is very clear:

  1. Olympus 45mm f/1.8 prime and close
  2. Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
  3. Olympus 40-150mm f/4 – f/5.6 and a distant
  4. Olympus 12-50mm  f/3.5 – f/6.3

12-50mm is not bad lens, but looks it should be avoided in the tele-zoom range.

Here are all the photos shown above..

Which lens to swap at 45mm (90mm equivalent) :

45mm f/1.8

While shooting portraits, to get  the equivalent DoF of  45mm f/1.8 I have to use 70mm f/2.8 with 35-100mm lens.  Which means moving further back and not at a comfortable talking distance. The full frame equivalent is like choice between 85mm lens at f/3.5 or 135mm lens at f/5.4.

Or when the light is ver low and the extra stop of aperture is keeping from moving above ISO3200.

35-100m f/2.8

Everything else, no need to swap to prime for the sharpness.

40-150mm f/4 to f/5.6

When the light is decent enough, very good at the lower end of the zoom

12-50mm f/3.5 to f/6.3

Should be avoided at longer end of the zoom. Should be used just as wide angle zoom


I started this topic to compare the sharpness of the lens, but looks like the ISO performance of the lens is lot more apparent than that of the camera. So, for the same camera at the same aperture, ISO1600 of one lens is better than ISO500 of the other lens.

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 7.44.44 PM.png

Even at the same aperture, the out put IQ  of the lenses are quite different. The difference isn’t obvious at low ISO, but quite obvious in a high ISO. Though I have posted the images of brick and flag, for the faces at the same lighting condition, the image ranges from being blurry even for  screen view to sharp enough for printing.

This helps me understand why my results with the high ISO D810 (link to review) , are quite different from most of the reviews. The reviews of the camera generally use the best lens available for that camera, and the lens reviews typically test the sharpness at different aperture at the lowest ISO in best camera.

So quite happy with the purchase of f/2.8 zoom lens,  wish Olympus has brought their f/2 zooms in the m4/3 system.

8 thoughts on “ISO performance of m4/3 lens @ 45mm – Indoor Handheld

  1. Hi! Very interesting test but very strange results. My assumption is that this is more related to “motion blur” or shutter shock – meaning results are more impacted by shutter speed than ISO. I recommend that you verify by using a tripod and antishock with at least 2 seconds delay.

  2. Hey,

    Results are quite obvious. There is nothing mistical.
    Panasonic has much better contrast characteristics. Which could be caused by a better coating. But 45mm 1.8 is definitely a sharper lens and I would say a better lens for portraits. Lower contrast is not a bad thing for portraits.
    DOF equivalence for these 2 lenses is around 80-85mm F2.8 on a Panasonic lens.


  3. K Nathan,
    I might be wrong here but my understanding is that the iso affects the graininess, contrast and dynamic range of a image not whether its sharp or not. The sharpness is only affected when the noise reduction is applied to remove the artefacts caused by high iso.

    Based on the images you submitted, if you’re controlling the aperture and iso the only thing the camera could change to keep the exposure is the shutterspeed. I notice that in the 500 iso shot your shutterspeed is 1/40th while for the image from the 1600 iso the shutter speed is 1/100th. Now @45mm 1/40th is below the recommended minimum shutterspeed to combat handshake which would be 1/90th+ . This could explain the blurriness you’re seeing, which indeed looks like motion blur, despite the IBIS being active. By allowing the camera to go to 1600 iso u’re giving it the leeway to go above this recommended minimum of 1/90th and hit 1/100th and thats why the image is sharp.

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