Crazy Comparison Day #3, the Panasonic GH1, Olympus E-P2 & Leica M9

QUICK OUT OF CAMERA JPEG COMPARISON BY STEVE HUFF  – Olympus E-P2 with 20 1.7 and Leica M9 with 50 Summicron  – all at F2

It’s been raining all day but last night I had a dream that I went out and did some oddball comparison with the Olympus E-P2 and 20 1.7 at F2 with a Leica M9 and 50 Summicron but using only out of camera JPEGS.

In my dream the E-P2 won becuase it is well known that the E-P2 JPEGS are very good while the general thoughts about the M9 are that you must shoot RAW for the best quality. So, I woke up with a “Crazy Comparison” on my mind and wanted to see how a $7000 camera with alleged so so JPEG performance would compare to a $1000 camera with super JPEG performance.

As with past comparisons, this is just for fun so take it for what it is. It can show you how each camera and lens combo will render the scene. Of course you will get less depth of field (more background blur) with the Leica due to the 50mm focal length. The Olympus with the 20 1.7 is giving you a 40mm equivalent focal length but with 20mm equivalent depth of field (less background blur). This is very apparent in the portrait below. No matter the sensor size, a 20mm lens will remain a 20mm lens in regards to depth of field. The E-P2 may turn that 20mm in to a 40mm in focal length equivalent but you will not get the depth of field of a 40mm lens. You will get the DOF of the 20mm lens.

Also, a reader of the site sent me his comparisons with his M9 and Panasonic GH1 and those will be posted after this one 🙂

Let’s get started! ALL IMAGES IN THIS COMPARISON ARE OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS! Both cams set to “A” mode.  Click any image for 1800 pixel wide version!

The M9 straight from camera JPEG – 50 cron at F2 – ISO 160 –

UPDATE – Just added the FULL SIZE file – CLICK HERE FOR 18MP M9, BUT THIS ONE FROM RAW

E-P2 straight from camera JPEG with 20 1.7 at F2

UPDATE – Click HERE FOR FULL SIZE FILE from RAW!

Leica M9 straight JPEG  50 cron at F2

Olympus E-P2 straight JPEG – 20 1.7 at F2

Leica M9 straight JPEG – 50 cron at F2

E-P2 with 20 1.7 at F2 – This one shows that AF is not always on target! I used single point AF and focused on the yellow pillar/post but the camera focused on the dirt behind it.

There you go! The E-P2 does great but it certainly cannot give you the look of the M9 with its full frame sensor. Still, $7k + separate these cameras/lens combo. Wow! In my opinion Leica shines the most when shooting fast lenses wide open and for people/portraits the Leica always pulls out the magic 🙂 I did one more comparison with a portrait to see the differences. I had a few requests for this last month, but it was already getting dark out by the time my wife arrived home from work so I was running out of light and the AWB of BOTH shots were really odd so what I did was convert each to B&W and did a little of the same processing on each image.

The M9 is with the 50 F2 at F2 and the E-P2 is with the 20 1.7 at F2.

M9, 50 Cron at F2 – Converted to B&W with SIlver Efex Pro – Click for larger

Olympus E-P2 with 20 1.7 at F2 – converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro – Click for larger

What this shows more than anything else is the kind of “bokeh” you will get from the 20 1.7 at F2 compared to a 50 F2 on the M9. Notice how the background is more blurred with the Leica even though both were shot at F2? This is because you are getting more depth of field with the 20 1.7 as it is a wider lens. Even with its 2X crop and the E-P2 making it a 40mm equivalent you still get 20mm “bokeh”.


ANOTHER QUICK COMPARISON BY JERRY RUDZINSKI – Panasonic GH1 with 14-140 and the Leica M9 with 90 Elmarit and 35 Summarit. This time with RAW files.

This is so cool and yes, it is another crazy comparison! This time a reader of this website sent me his comparisons and I asked if I could share them with all of you. He went out at night with his Leica M9/35 Summarit/90 Elmarit, and his Panasonic GH1/14-140 to do some low light comparisons. Again, as with the last few of these I know that this is not a fair comparison. You have a $7000 camera with a $1800 lens on one side and a $1200 combo on the other. These were sent into me by Jerry Rudzinski and he did use a tripod with the GF1 and 14-140. Here is what he had to say about this comparison:

Small comparison between M9 (35mm Summarit 2.5, 90mm 2.8 Tele Elmarit) and GH1 (14-140mm) on ISO 200 & tripod

– all photos are processed RAW files in LR

– the same vignetting, clarity, contrast & medium sharpening were applied

– I regret I had no 20mm 1.7 with me, that would cause better quality of u43

– M9 aperture is only approximation wrote by camera to EXIF

Purpose was not to compare everything exactly (there are test portals for that), but just general overview.


In other words, Jerry did this for fun 🙂 I do the same things and I think these are pretty fun comparisons to do. Also note that he did not try to match up the aperture or do anything scientific. These were done out of curiosity and to show how each camera renders the scene. He even shot the M9 pretty much wide open and kept the Panasonic at F8. With that said, ONTO THE PICS!

Leica M9/90 Elmarit – 2.8

GH1 with 14-140 at F8 – Tripod

The M9 and 90 Elmarit between F2.8-F4

The GH1 combo at 48mm and F8

M9 and 90 Elmarit at 2.8

GH1 at F5.5 – 48MM

M9 and 35 Summarit F2.5-F2.8

GH1 at 18mm (36mm equiv) and F8

Thanks Jerry for the samples!


38 Comments

  1. HEY STEVE:
    YOU’VE COMPARED TWO OF THE SAME SHOT. THE BLOND LADY PURPORTEDLY SHOT WITH THE LEICA AND THE EP-2. THE LEGEND IN THE LEFT LOWER CORNER SAYS LEICA IN BOTH PICTURES. OOPS.

    LOVE YOUR REVIEWS,

    BOB

    In my opinion Leica shines the most when shooting fast lenses wide open and for people/portraits the Leica always pulls out the magic I did one more comparison with a portrait to see the differences. I had a few requests for this last month, but it was already getting dark out by the time my wife arrived home from work so I was running out of light and the AWB of BOTH shots were really odd so what I did was convert each to B&W and did a little of the same processing on each image.

    The M9 is with the 50 F2 at F2 and the E-P2 is with the 20 1.7 at F2.

    M9, 50 Cron at F2 – Converted to B&W with SIlver Efex Pro – Click for larger

    Olympus E-P2 with 20 1.7 at F2 – converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro – Click for larger

    What this shows more than anything else is the kind of “bokeh” you will get from the 20 1.7 at F2 compared to a 50 F2 on the M9. Notice how the background is more blurred with the Leica even though both were shot at F2? This is because you are getting more depth of field with the 20 1.7 as it is a wider lens. Even with its 2X crop and the E-P2 making it a 40mm equivalent you still get 20mm “bokeh”.

  2. Your wife’s two outdoor B&W portraits differ a bit. The Leica’s seems a big darker with more detail in her hair while the Panny’s seems a bit oversexposed and thus loses some hair detail though what’s there is still pretty good. Perhaps less exposure in the Panny’s would bring out more hair detail though this is nit-picking. As you say, for the money, the Panny does a helluva job. The Leica’s has a small edge but so it should at that price. For me as a non-pro and non-rich Joe Photog the Panny is just fine. I plan on getting it soon, graduating so to speak from the Panny LX3 which is also good for the $$$.

  3. Great Photos the M9 is awesome

    How close would IQ be with the 5D Mk2 with a 50mm F1.4 compared with the M9

  4. The difference between the two is almost nothing. It’s all RGB data and can be easily adjusted in PP.
    An easy way to start is use ‘camera calibration’ in Camera Raw (also with a jpeg).
    The two sensors see color different, that’s all there is to it. Adjusting color and contrast the right way will give you two almost identical images.
    Both files can be sharpened nicely to get good output.
    The only real difference between most camera’s these days is the way they chance your bank account.

  5. I think that what makes this topic interesting, is that it is happening at all. Who could have considered even a few years ago that images from a full-frame Leica could be compared with those from a M43 camera?

    Of course the M9 produces better images – what a shock it would be if did not. So no surprise there then. The question the user has to ask is: is it better in direct proportion to it’s price? My view would be – clearly not.

    The images from my full-frame Canon 1Ds are also better than those from my E-P2, but the margin is very, very small. Small enough for me to consider using the E-P2 is situations where previously I would only have considered the full-frame SLR.

    Now that really is progress.

  6. Sorry to add a non-gear oriented comment (I am researching the GF1/EP2), but that playground scene, with the snow and the lighting look right out of the movie Let the Right One In.

  7. Steve, the 20mm inherently has pale colors. Comparison is fine since that’s a m4/3 system against the Leica one.

    But color will certainly improve with the Summicron on the E-P2, or the Olympus 177mm m4/3 camera (actually almost all m4/3 lenses will have more vivid color than the 20mm, IMHO.

  8. I will repeat the heresy in that I agree with Frank M. For me, when an image has a large background/subject ratio, drastically OOF backgrounds distract me from the subject. In a scene like that, I’d rather have the more gentle out-of focus effect of the E-P2.

  9. Yes, if you want to achieve the same look with the full frame as the m4/3 you would do that but who would want to match the look of the m4/3 on a ff? I see it the other way around as how to get the ff look on m4/3. To do so is prety much impossible, and is one weakness of the smaller sensor cameras like the m4/3 cameras.

    Doesn’t mean I do not love the E-P2, it just means that shallow DOF is not a strong point of m4/3. Never has been.

    The other way to look at this is:

    I stand in one place with a ff and m4/3 camera
    I frame my subject
    I have a 50 F2 on the ff M9
    I would need a 25mm F1 to get the same look of the M9 in regards to DOF because the 20 1.7 will still give me 20mm DOF even though it is acting like a 40mm in focal length.

    Thanks!

  10. True, indeed 😉
    Many people imagine the situation like:

    – they stand in one place with two cameras
    – they frame the same subject
    – u43 camera has attached eg. 20mm 1.7
    – in order to achieve the same FRAMING and DOF – other 35mm camera should have 40mm f/3.4 attached

    That is one of many points of view of course 😉

  11. Jerry,

    What you are saying is the same thing I am saying but in a different way 🙂 Lotso f confusion over nothing really.

    Yes, a 20 1.7 will give you the DOF of a 20 1.7 lens, NOT a 40 1.7 lens. Therefore, you can say it will give you the equivalent of a 40 at F3.4 but it is also giving you the equivalent of a 20 1.7 in regards to DOF.

    Either way is correct and no matter the sensor size the lens is still giving you the DOF of a 20Mm 1.7 lens.

    Thanks for all of the responses!

  12. Steve, Tregix is right.

    Everybody from u43 world I know – treats 20mm 1.7 as corresponding 35mm lens and compares:

    – 40mm f/1.7 – in terms of LIGHT (what affects EXPOSURE)
    – 40mm f/3.4 – in terms of DOF

    Another example:
    – when me and my friends tested BOKEH of Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 on u43 – EVERYBODY compared it to 110mm f/ 2.4 in 35mm world.

  13. Tregix,

    Sorry but it absolutely DOES have everything to do with it being a wider lens. You get much more depth of field with a 20mm lens over a 50 no matter what the sensor. A 20mm is still a 20mm lens, even on an e-p2! Many people get confused about this for some reason.

    If I shoot a 20mm on an M9 and a 20mm on the E-P2, the depth of field will be the same. The E-P2 will give you an effective 40mm, but not a “real” 40mm in regards to DOF. If the sensor in the e-p2 was FF then the 20 1.7 image would not show you less DOF, you would just have a wider view.

    As for it not being “fair”…this was a for fun test to show each lens at the same aperture, therefore showing one of the weaknesses of the m4/3 sensor. As someone else pointed out in another post, you would need a 25 F1 lens to equal the DOF of the 50 F2 on the M9.

  14. Nice review and good pictures.

    However this:

    “What this shows more than anything else is the kind of “bokeh” you will get from the 20 1.7 at F2 compared to a 50 F2 on the M9. Notice how the background is more blurred with the Leica even though both were shot at F2? This is because you are getting more depth of field with the 20 1.7 as it is a wider lens. Even with its 2X crop and the E-P2 making it a 40mm equivalent you still get 20mm “bokeh”.”

    is wrong. It has almost nothing to do with the 20mm being a wider lens. It is related to the smaller size sensor of the 4/3 camera.

    On a crop sensor you have to multiply the aperture by the crop factor to get the 35mm equivalent depth of field just like for the focal length.

    In your shot you are comparing

    M9 @ 50mm F2
    EP-2@ 20F2 is equivalent to 40mm F4 in 35mm.

    This is not a fair comparison. If you redo your test with

    M9 @50mm F4
    EP-2@20mm F2 which is equivalent to 40mm F4 in 35mm.

    you will get very similar depth of field in both images.

    Cheers,

    Tregix.

  15. Wow, What a great test. Very interesting comparison between the EP2 and the leica.

    I may be the only one here, but for the first 3 shots the EP2 wins hands down. But I think its apples to oranges. The crop on the ep2 shot of the car wash is much better, and the luck of geting the sun spot and the green grass lined up makes it a great shot and much better than the dull Leica version. The EP2 colours (artifical as may be) look better for someone who was not there. I feel the EP2 wins the first three shots.

    But then you did a portrait, and I will say the Leica blew the EP2 away. I am shocked by the difference there. The very hard background, is very smooth and pleasent with the leica, but the 20mm makes it look destracting. For this shot, Its too bad you didn’t have a M to 4/3rds adapter and put that lens on the EP2! That would have made the difference.

    What your comparison showed me is that the EP2 is beter for landscape and art shots. But the leica is beter for people and portraits. I would hands down take the EP2, buy an M adapter and test out leica glass. That from this seems to be the winning combination!

    Thank you for your comparison

  16. Boyz n gerlz, I cannot give a straight, unbiased opinion here.
    Why?
    1st: apples and oranges.
    2nd: local Leica dealer just called that my M9 was in the latest shipment and it’s waiting for me in the shop. So, if you ask me, the M9 wins hands down, but hey, the G1 is a great performer for such an ugly muffaka.
    Mind you, Panasonic is about to announce ‘something new’ in lieu of the late RIP G1, on 18 Feb. Can’t wait! If it’s anything like the Digilux 2 was, but with MFT mount and same no nonsense controls and decent EVF, THAT is going to be my spare body with an M adapter, perfect for portraits when the 90 elmarit proves too short on the M9, or when video is needed. Or a pop-up flash.
    Keep up the good work, Steve.

  17. I’ll probably be crucified for saying this, by actually prefer the portrait photo taken with the EP-2. The background is definitely less blurred, but the fence and the tree provide a very nice frame for the model. IMHO, a very blurred background is not necessarily better in a portrait. A good composition and an interesting model can do the job quite well.

  18. Okay, I looked at the pics first and decided which one I liked more before looking at which camera took it. For me, the GH1 is the hands down winner. As far as the Leica vs EP2- I thought it was split down the middle. I liked some of the Leica shots a little bit more and some of the EP2 a bit more. Anyway, for me, the GH1 is the clear winner. I own none of these cameras by the way. Thanks for doing this.

  19. There is little difference in term of color or sharpness, all of this can be corrected by software. But look at the portrait, i love the M9 output, not because it’s a leica but because it’s a full frame, The out of focus zone is far better with a FF rather than a 4/3. And there is a complete system with leica, from wide to small tele. In µ4/3 system, there is no fast wide angle. I’m waiting for the future pana 14 f2.8 to see if i buy a µ4/3 or a small dslr like the Pentax kx or perhaps the new Samsung nx. But there is a lack of fast fixed wide angle with the apcs system.

  20. Great news is that computerised photography is subject to Moore’s law. Leica S2 quality will soon be available to you and eventually from your typical disposable camera. Digital cameras are still immature unlike film/optic limited classics such as the M7. Advances in noise reduction, depth of field control, resolution & diffraction mitigation are on exponential growth. It’s a great time for this art.

  21. Ste ve, in the shot of the yellow lamp post with rubble around it, what film/colour did you set the EP2 at? If it was on vibrant or dynamic or some such setting ,it would create that orange cast.Try a neutral setting and you will get natural colours.
    Also, in the same shot,the Leica image has 2 blue dots/lights on the “peak” of one of those rocks,which is not present in the Oly image.

  22. I like the shots from both cameras. Does that mean I’m going blind? LOL!

    Love that M9, but that GH1 is a nice camera doe what it is.

  23. Thank you for the fun comparison.

    With these straight from the camera images, I personally preferred the images from the E-P2 and the 20mm lens. Specifically because these images showed more “punch” or contrast to my eye. I realize this could be added later with PS etc. but I was very surprised at the straight from camera output.

    Again, this is merely my personal preference. Others commenting here seem to much prefer the M9.

    The E-P1 with the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is my personal choice for work and play purposes. We are truly blesses to have so many great small camera choices these days :-).

    Best regards,
    -J.D.

  24. Eric, yes I will be doing a VERY thorough Bokeh test with the E-P2 and M9 with M lenses on the E_P2 thrown in. Working on it now actually. This one was just a quick “for fun” thing. Thanks!

    Steve

  25. Very interesting crazy comparison indeed 🙂
    The conclusion for me is that it is good idea having Leica adapter to u43 camera body 🙂
    I’m having fun now shooting very cheap Pentax manual lens SMC 50mm f/1,4 on Panasonic G1 body, the results are very interesting and pleasing the eyes. My next adapter would be Leica M to u43 for sure…
    It’s nice to see someone not so stick to all these serious tests and comparisons. I feel a fresh breeze of fun and enjoyment reading “crazy comparison” like this one 🙂
    Great job, many thanks for it!

  26. Is there any chance of you doing a more thorough bokeh test with a m4/3’s camera vs the M9? I honestly think m4/3’s might be the only camera system I need; it has enough resolution for me, I love olympus’ colors, and high ISO noise is good enough; but that bokeh comparison shows the one giant fear I have of 4/3’s. The DOF on that 20mm portrait is unacceptable to me. Given, it’s not exactly a portrait lens though.

    I’d love to see a comparison of the Leica M9 with the 35/40mm lens vs the EP-2 and the 20mm f/1.7 lens. Then maybe a second test with a Summicron 50mm on the E-P2 vs a 90mm Summicron on the M9.

  27. I am willing to bet that if you had not labelled the images many would not be able to tell the diffference. I’m with the critic who nailed it on the head when he said that Leica is a Veblin good. As defined in Wikipedia:

    “Veblen goods are a group of commodities for which peoples’ preference for buying them increases as a direct function of their price, as greater price confers greater status, instead of decreasing according to the law of demand.
    Some types of high-status goods, such as high-end wines, designer handbags and luxury cars, are Veblen goods, in that decreasing their prices decreases people’s preference for buying them because they are no longer perceived as exclusive or high status products.

    Similarly, a price increase may increase that high status and perception of exclusivity, thereby making the good even more preferable. The Veblen effect is named after the economist Thorstein Veblen, who first pointed out the concepts of conspicuous consumption and status-seeking.”

  28. Thanks for posting I love these comparison posts. I think the M9 clearly wins on image quality, color and contrast. The 35mm Summarit is a great lens, but the 50 ‘cron is the bomb!

  29. I can see an obvious difference – with the images from the M9 being so much better. If you are interested in IQ (and who isn’t) then the M9 will bring a lot of satisfaction. It’s not a case of a ‘pro’ needing better IQ than an ‘amateur’. It’s really a case of being a photographer dedicated to IQ.

    Thanks Steve for these comparisons. You have been using the 75mm ‘cron right? Now I’d love to see some of the images you’ve taken with that lens. If you could borrow a 75mm ‘lux for comparison then that would make very interesting reading.
    By the way the 50 ‘cron looks stunning on the M9.

  30. jimmy,

    I’m not a “Pro” and don’t own a Leica.. But Man! Those photos above are showing a HUGE difference mainly on the color.. And PROs are looking for this type of performance from Lenses and Cameras.. If I had the money, I’d definitely spend it on an M9.. But I’ll stick with my Panny GF1 for now.. Cheers!

    john

  31. Modern lenses and camera systems have become so good IMO, one just can’t justify spending huge sums on a Leica system….. NOT EVEN for pro use !

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