This is the final part in the series reviewing the Olympus 7-14 and the 9-18. In Part 1 we reviewed the 9-18mm. In Part 2 we reviewed the 7-14. Now we look at these two lenses compared to each other. Is the (relatively) larger, faster, more expensive lens the better choice to the small, lightweight, lens? Let’s see.
These are non-scientific tests. I don’t bother with charts, and lines, etc… because my clients don’t buy charts and lines. They buy photographs. I don’t put charts and lines on my walls or my albums either. I am concerned with the end result. I am most concerned with how a file holds up to my typical usage and editing. I want to know what my results will be like. Not some “ideal” and marginal number comparison. So that is what I am presenting here. My technique is as such…camera is an E-M1 v1 with an RRS L bracket mounted on a Feisol Elite tripod with no leg extensions open. It was fully closed for maximum stability. I use an RRS BH55 ballhead. Both cameras were set to base ISO of 200. The Wide open images were set wide open (the 9-18 is variable, so I adjusted speed to keep the same exposure). The stopped down images were set to F/7.1. I focused manually to the point just around the leaf in front of the third pavement stone. I used a 2-second timer and anti-shock 0 mode to ensure the least camera vibration.
This mirrors how I usually set my wide angle scenes. I typically use hyperfocal distance, or focus on something midway through the scene, set to F/7.1 and use a self timer. Note close corner focus would be different if I focused closer, or if I used a deeper F-stop. Again, I shot these how I typically work, so that’s what we see.
You can see settings of each camera ontop of the image in the screen shots. These are all screen shots out of lightroom. The crops are 100%. Feel free to click on the screen shots to open them up large in a new tab.
I also only compared at the widest overlapping and longest overlapping focal lengths. I wanted to see how these two lenses stack up in an even comparison. The 7-14 is generally on the left and the 9-18 is generally on the right. Double check the text to make sure!
Now the same set stopped down to F/7.1.
The next two are at 14mm stopped down.
Now the same two wide open.
Here is a comparison of another scene between 7mm and 9mm field of view. There is definitely a difference. How huge…but it’s there. You could easily step back another foot and match distance with the 9mm though.
The previous scene comparing 7mm to 9mm field of view as well.
And just for fun, here is a corner crop of 7mm wide open compared to 9mm wide open. Basically both lenses wide open at their widest focal length.
Here is an image I shot with the 9-18mm at 9mm. I also had a ND filter to slow the shutter down. There is a center crop and a corner crop.
Here is a scene from the 7-14mm showing an edge and a corner.
This last shot is what impresses me the most. Look at the corner of the 7-14mm!!! Not only does it have good definition…it does not have the smearing a lot of wide angles have in the extreme corner. For being a 7mm lens…this is pretty amazing.
My conclusion is that both lenses hold up against each other very well in the center. You really don’t give up too much with the 9-18. It is a good lens. It just doesn’t have as much fine detail rendering. Very slight, but noticeable. The corners on the 7-14 are better. Even with the depth of field advantage that the slower 9-18 has…the corners on the 7-14 wide open are still better in most cases. The 7-14 did show some purple fringing in highlight edges wide open. It wasn’t much though, and easily removable in lightroom with a single click. Both lenses make prints that are excellent. I’ve printed with both lenses and in most prints below 24 inches, you probably wouldn’t think twice about either one.
If you use High Resolution mode a lot, or print 16 – 30″ prints primarily, I would go for the Pro lens. The slightly higher fine detail rendering will be appreciated. If you just use this focal length occasionally, or want an ultra wide in your bag just in case… get the 9-18. It is more convenient. And it takes filters. It will fit into your workflow with other lenses better. If you do a lot of landscape work or architectural images, I would opt for the 7-14. The weather sealing is worth it in the field. The extra field of view lets you get closer and have more to work with in terms of cropping a fake shift or digitally fixing lines. The 7-14 needs a specialized filter setup though. Keep that in mind. I honestly don’t use extreme wide that often. I think an 8mm Pro prime would have been a good idea. Something around the size of the fisheye lens but rectilinear. If I am using an ultra wide…it’s to go ultra wide. Rarely do I end up zooming these lenses. Your use may be different. I know a lot of people that use a 9-18mm as a standard lens, have a middle range prime, and then a telephoto zoom. It’s a tough decision. Especially with the price of the 9-18mm being so much more attractive. I honestly can’t call one a hands down winner over the other in this case. For landscapes I actually prefer the 9-18 for filter use, and for other work I prefer the 7-14. Which do you prefer?