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Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II vs Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm

Hi all,

I had a chance to compare one of Canon's sharpest primes (EF 200mm f/2.8L II) with a Four/Thirds mid-range pro lens, the Zuiko 50-200mm late last year, and never posted the result.

Both were shot wide open at the same 35mm-equiv focal length (around 250mm) tripod-mounted, the Canon on a EOS-1D MkIIN (ISO200), the Zuiko on an Olympus E-3 (ISO100 - shower shutter speed acceptable because of in-body IS). We shot this just as the E-3 came out, so no RAW converter conveniently available for apple, so the zuiko shot is out-of-camera JPEG, and the Canon shot RAW processed with Aperture (no processing other than slight USM - absolutely no noise reduction or any other fiddling)

These are 100% crops centre-frame:
Canon prime on the left (at f/2.8), Zuiko zoom on the right (around f/2.9).

This was a tricky exposure, and the Canon handled it much better (the E-3 had blown the flower's sunlit reds to the point of bright orange) and I couldn't recover it because of JPEG shooting - so please ignore exposure differences.

This image proves my statement over in an E-3 post that one generally has to use Canon primes in order to get the performance of the zuiko zooms - very impressive! We did many tests, and the 200L generally outperformed the Zuiko, but to such a slight manner as to be almost insignificant.

This shot also shows the much shallower apparent DOF a near-35mm system has to the four/thirds system at the same apparent angle of view.

We also compared the Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 Macro to Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro (for taking portraits), and, again, the results were for all practical purposes identical (and Canon's 100 macro is a near-perfect lens).

Then, of course, there is the great jealousy-maker Zuiko lens, the 7-14mm. Though my 16-35L MkI is, in some aspects, sharper in certain areas of the image (and an f/2.8, of course) in all other aspects the Zuiko lens trashes any Canon wide-angle lens (including the 14mm prime) for sharp, distortion-free images across the frame. And it is so so so incredibly wide! It looks like the new Nikon 14-24 may match or exceed it, but at a huge cost and size.

I am sure we will do some more testing in the future as time allows... and post the results.

Eric Hiss

the zuikos are very good optics

Hi David,
We're in agreement here I think....I own several older zuiko's and am consistently impressed by how well they perform and would suspect the newer ones are even better. Some of them are real bargains considering the quality. Some of the very old ones without coating can be flare prone but all are very sharp. One hidden advantage of the older lenses is lower contrast in low frequency space. This allows for more complete capture of higher contrast scenes.