Olympus 12-200 vs 14-150 II — gratuitous MTF comparison

alex g

Mu-43 All-Pro
Mar 30, 2016
New York / Bath
Always with an eye for inconsequential curiosities, I superimposed the published MTF curves of the Olympus 12-200 over those of the older 14-150 mk II, to see if anything emerged worth basing a conspiracy theory on. :)

Disappointingly, I saw no evidence of one, but the comparison is still quite interesting. In the chart, the red and blue lines represent the 12-200; the orange and cyan lines are the 14-150.

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At the wide end, both contrast (red/orange) and detail (blue/cyan) are identical in the frame centre. Contrast across the frame is pretty similar in both lenses, while the newer lens shows rather less astigmatism, with less blurring of meridional details.

At the long end, however, the situation is a bit different. While the general shape of the curves are fairly similar, meaning that both lenses show roughly similar amounts of astigmatism at the telephoto end, the actual values are noticeably different. In the case of the 14-150, the MTF values for contrast and detail at the frame centre drop by just 3% and 7% respectively, whereas those of the 12-200 drop by a far greater 8% and 22%. Although the 12-200 has a zoom ratio roughly 1.5 times that of the 14-150 (16.7 vs 10.7), meaning that it has a more challenging job to do in the first place, I'm still surprised by how much weaker its MTF performance appears to be at the long end, particularly in terms of resolution of fine detail.

Of course, manufacturers MTF charts only show the theoretical performance of a lens, and don't take into account manufacturing tolerances, so you can only read so much into them. But I wonder how much of the difference between the two lenses may be due to a conscious decision on the part of Olympus to favour overall rendering quality over maximum possible sharpness, and how much is simply down to the additional difficulty of extending the zoom range by a further 50%. Anyway, just idle speculation. Hmmm. :)
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