Crazy Comparison Day #2 – M9, 7D, D300s, E-P2

Yes I know these crazy comparisons are kind of silly but they are a way to pass the time on nasty wet winter days and besides, my M9 was MIA last time πŸ™‚ This time I have four cameras, two of which are midline DSLR’s. I then have a $7000 camera with a $2000 lens and a m4/3 $1100 camera/lens combo. The DSLR’s, the M4/3 and Leica M are all different types of cameras right? But which one will give you the best picture quality with each lens set to F5.6? I did this quick test in my living room using a tripod to avoid any hand shake.

The Canon 7D used the kit 28-135 zoom, the Nikon D300s used the 18-200 kit zoom , the E-P2 used its 14-42 kit zoom and the Leica used a 50 Summicron which used to be the kit lens with the M7.

So lets see how it went shall we? Again, let me stress! I do these things for fun. I had some positive e-mails about these comparisons so I decided to keep doing them even though they can be off the wall. I was surprised to see that the worst of the bunch here was the Canon 7D and its kit zoom. The best was the Leica M9, followed by the little E-P2. Here is the image and then crops with links to download the full size files. These were all shot RAW and converted in ACR 5.6 using defaults.

Here is the scene. My dusty fireplace mantle.

download the full size imagesM97DD300sE-P2

and now the crops:

That 7D kit lens is a dog, I am sorry but its true. Let me add that I took each shot three times and all ended up with the same result. If you download the full size originals you will see the Leica M9 is WAY ahead (as it should be for the $$) and what was surprising was the little E-P2 with its cheap-o kit zoom! In my opinion, it beat out those big DSLR’s in this one. You really can’t blame the lenses as the Oly Kit Zoom is a $200 lens and the Nikon 18-200 is about $800 with Canons 28-135 Zoom coming in at under $500. I have to wonder why Canon would release such a sweet DSLR and pack it with such a mediocre zoom? Why even offer a kit if the kit lens is going t o make the camera look bad?

I have shot with the Canon 7D for a while now and find the kit zoom lackluster in so many ways. The cheap $99 50 1.8 gave me much better results with this camera. I suggest if you buy a 7D, skip the one with the kit zoom and go for a body only with a better lens. The Nikon 18-200 Zoom is pretty good except at 18mm where it has some barrel distortion and vignetting. Other Β than that I like the 18-200 and find its a great lens to put in to a kit with the D300s. The little Olympus continues to surprise me. Even with its kit zoom that many moan and groan about, it performed well here. The Leica 50 Cron is a Mandler designed legend and I have fallen for this lens in a big big way. I love it and I have shot with EVERY Leica 50mm currently available. I will have a review of the 50 Summicron soon!


  1. I have the Canon 7d with the 18- 135efs IS I was totally blown away by this kit lens even in the reviews it comes up as excellent The image stablization is of the newer ones its up to four stops Of compensation no problem I did comparisons with the 50 1.8 And this lens holds its on in all focal Lengths very close to the 50

  2. comparing ZOOM lens to normal primes isnt fair enough. since M9 only comes with their fixed lens.
    how about comparing M9 7D D300s EP2 using Canon&Nikon normal 50mm f1.8?
    willing to hear the updates!

  3. It would be very interesting to some some images using the ‘cron on all of the camera bodies (via adapters) to compare the actual ability of the sensors & software. I know this is not a practical solution for every day shooting, but it certainly would show what each is capable of capturing with quality glass.

    By the way, I love the concept of your “Crazy Comparisons”. It is both a “good read” and useful information.


  4. Do they still ship cams with that 28-135mm at Canons? I’m really surprised as well! Even back in the days of the 10D, that lens was… well, mediocre.. at best. It kinda ruined my experience with the rather good 20D.
    You think your camera is disappointing, while it is the lens that is your eye on the picture πŸ™‚

  5. I think there is a little backfocus effect on the 7D image (the wall appears to be sharper than the vase).
    The EP2 made a good piece of work!
    I have tested EP1 and GH1 with the 7-14 Lumix lens. Comparing the same shots, the image from EP1 looks much more “natural” and is sharper (even on the edges).
    Best regards!

  6. Amazing how far the M9 is.

    But I’m waiting for my E-P2 to get hot-rodded to remove the AAF, and then we shall see it come even closer πŸ™‚

  7. These really are fun. But let’s all keep in mind that there can be significant sample variation in lenses and bodies, including focus accuracy and registration. Yes, even brand new Leica bodies may need fine-tuning ;). It was not uncommon for really picky/serious dedicated Leica shooters to send in their new bodies with all their lenses to be calibrated together.

    These conclusions (like any other lens test) only apply to these individual samples. And it should not shock anyone that a recently factory-adjusted body with a legendary, hand-crafted lens would show results far superior to mass produced off-the-shelf samples.

  8. Hey Andreas, thanks for the comment. I did use the 50 with the 7D and D300s for the comparison before this one. The 7D did better there. The KIT zoom is weak IMO. I shot some “real” stuff with it yesterday and it did OK, but like you said it is weak at the wider angles.

    Thanks again!

  9. The Leica is only marginally better. And that only because of the bigger sensor which needs less resolution from the lenses. All the DSLRs would deliver almost identical images if they were used with any of the many available 50mm prime lenses. I think my own copy of the 28-135 IS performs better at 50mm than the one shown here. But I have to produce a similar comparison test to be sure. I just realized that the photo was probaly taken at 35mm to compensate for the crop factor. The 28-135 IS is known to be weak around 35 and 135mm. At 50mm it should be ok. But if the photographer tried to get a similar frame than the Leica he would have hit the 35mm weak spot of the lens exactly. He should have cropped a 28mm photo instead or use a longer focal lenght and step back a bit.

  10. Quite shocking to see how much better that M9 is than anything else there.. I can see what people say when they mention it approaches medium format quality.

    For such a nice camera as the 7D it is quite shocking to see Canon bundles it with such a low quality zoom. People should do themselves a favor and save up for one of the L zooms, 24-105 or 24-70. Sure you miss out on wide angle, but there’s simply no comparison with this kit zoom. Maybe the EF-S 17-55 2.8 or 17-40L is also a good option if you’re more into wide angles.

  11. Did you try and calibrate the focus with this lens? I only ask because the 7d allows in camera adjustment of the focus for a lens and to me, it looks like wall is in sharper focus than the vase, while all the other cameras are focused on the vase.

  12. The edge really goes to the EP2 when you consider it can mount any Leica M lens made. The M9 is still a much better camera, but at ten times the cost of an EP2.

    If Olympus ever gets the EP2 price down around $500 to $600 then they won’t be able to build them fast enough. At the $900 price it will be a niche product. Of course, so are the other three cameras you tested.

    Thanks for your review.

  13. Fully agree Steve – the 20/1.7 is great at what it does best – 1.7. I’m just curious if my incoming EP1/20mm combo is going to be sharper than my previous D90/18-200 combo πŸ™‚ I guess I’ll try to find the same things around my house and shoot them for a side-by-side comparison.

    I’m 30% there wrt convincing my wife we need an M9! That rangefinder focus video you mentioned via email will bump it 10% I’m sure…. hopefully up.

  14. Lukas, I used the 50 1.8 in my last comparison with the 7D a few days ago. That lens does MUCH better. Here I was just doing a silly “kit zoom” comparison πŸ™‚ Yes, the 50 cron used to be the pack in lens for the M7 kit. Ha ha.

  15. Jonathan, to me, the purpose of the 20 1.7 is its 1.7 aperture. I have yet to shoot it for any real images past F2.2. If I wanted to go to F5.6 or F8 I would just keep the zoom on the camera. Also, I am used to my Leica glass being razor sharp at F1.4, or F2. No compromises. The 20 1.7 is great at 1.7 and the only reason I have one is so I can do low light and achieve shallow DOF. I would NEVER shoot a portrait with my 50 cron at F5.6. F2.8 yes, but why 5.6? By then you are too sharp, too flat and the background would be too “in focus”. Just not my style I guess πŸ™‚

    Regardless, I love the E-P2 but its not ever going to beat any M9 file, no matter the lens or aperture. Just not possible. With that said, it can come very close to the D300s and 7D IQ wise, and that is excellent!

    Nick – M9 ISO 160, 7D ISO 160, D300s, ISO 200, EP2 ISO 200. I have been finding the 7D to be somewhat grainy even at low ISO’s when looking at the 100% image.


  16. Maybe you should try the cheapo $90 canon 50mm f/1.8 II :] that’s considered to be the lens you buy with a (semi)pro body when you’re out of money for the moment but wanna have something to shoot with before you get the money to buy those Ls

  17. Steve: the Imatest sharpness test does indeed indicate that the 20 1.7 is equal in sharpness to the 14-42 at f/5.6.

    But why f/5.6? Why not test each lens at its sharpest? If I were a photographer, I would try to get the sharpest shot (who wouldn’t?) and I’d like to know which gear would give me the best results.

    (i.e. I want to see the 20/1.7 at 2.8 or faster :))

  18. I thought the E-P2 did GREAT here. I think even with the 20 1.7 at 5.6 the E-P2 result would not be any different. The kit zoom is sharp at F5.6 and even with the 20 you have the limits of the sensor in play. No 35mm format digital file is going to be as smooth, clean and detailed as the M9 πŸ™‚

    BUT, I will do a portrait comparison with the 20 1.7/E-P2 and M9 50 cron soon. That way we can see how each does at F2 with a more interesting subject, not just checking for detail.

  19. Marcin: Maybe Steve has already tested the 20/1.7 and doesn’t want to show it here to save the M9 some face! πŸ™‚

  20. Would be interesting to see if the EP2 would do even better with your M series lens.

    Oh, and it seems f5.6 is a sweet spot for the EP2. I find that the 17mm pancake starts to get sharper at f5.6 on my EP1.

  21. Allright, that’s enough! this confirms it, I ordered a M9 but still had a few months to decide wether or not I should go ahead with this crazy expense… does anyone want to buy a D300S ? Its 3 months old!

  22. The Canon 7d is also sold in kit (at least here in Sweden) with the new ef-s 15-85 3.5-5.6 IS wich I think (no personal experience) is a better lens than the 28-135. Although that combo is more expensive of course.
    Still wouldn’t come close to the M9 though πŸ™‚

  23. I had the 28-135 kit lens with my first DSLR, a Canon 40D. Seeing these photos and reflecting on my experience with it, I wonder if Canon has quality control issues with this product? Images I made has visible sharpness issues in even modest crops. It was especially stark when I compared them to images I made with 50 f/1.4.

  24. Would you mind to test E-P2 with Panasonic 20/1.7 against all these competitors? I’d love to see how they get their ass kicked.
    Apart from Leica, of course….. :):):)

  25. Hey Martin,

    The only kit zoom I found to be kind of on the low side of the quality chain was the Canon. When out taking photos the Nikon and Oly do great. I feel Canon should have a better kit zoom as the 7D is actually a great DSLR.

  26. Hi Steve,
    first I thought the non leica crops were simply out of focus, but you did 3 shots each so they must be in focus.
    Well, what do we learn from this? Resolution and sharpness are not the strenghts of kit zooms – they are light given their focal range.

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  1. a little bit of everything…
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  3. Les comparaisons dingues de Steve

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