Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus 17mm f1.8 vs Fuji x100

Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus 17mm f1.8 vs Fuji x100

There are many capable camera systems out there but for the best all round camera that wins in image quality, handling, speed and size, Grant and I chose the Olympus OM-D EM-5.

But the camera is only just the start and lenses are what help make the final image (unless you are a fan of images taken without lenses) which is another area that Micro 4/3 excels at.
On a regular trip, the car will be filled with: Panasonic 25mm f1.4, Panasonic 14mm f2.5, Olympus 45mm f1.8, Olympus 75mm f1.8, Panasonic 45-250mm and a slew of manual focus OM Zuiko lenses.

But there is one focal length missing in what is an otherwise stellar lineup: the 'normal' 35mm equivalent lens. There are times when the 14mm is too wide and there are other times where the 25mm is too tele. From the small amount of trial and experimentation with a 12-50mm kit lens we both found the 17mm (35mm for you oversized camera people) focal length to be the best field of view of easy and natural composition. This is a view that has been around for years so nothing new here.

The eternal dilemma with the 21st world is the internet and the shear amount of options available in anything you could possibly think of researching and the same can be said for Micro 4/3 lenses.
Between the assortment of companies that make these lenses there are the following offered:

Samyang 16mm f2.0
Olympus 17mm f2.8
Olympus 17mm f1.8
Jackar 17mm f1.8
Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95
Zeiss  ZM 18mm f4
Sigma 19mm f2.8
Panasonic 20mm f1.7

Grant started out with a Pansonic GF1 and the 20mm f1.7 so we knew how great that lens is but since we both own Panasonic 25mm f1.4 lenses then this lens doesn't really makes sense. The 3 other auto focus lenses are the Olympus lenses and the Sigma. The Sigma lenses get very good reviews and are super cheap but testing 19mm with the zoom lens we felt that it wasn't going to be a wide enough field of view for a one lens to rule them all situation. The Samyang is huge and was designed for Nikon and Canon DSLR so probably wouldn't fit the bill of something we would take every where and the Zeiss 18mm was f4 and rather expensive. The Voigtlander is something I would love to own but maybe another year when I can justify it.

So this left us with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and 2.8. The 2.8 version has been around for a few years and is lauded as being basically crap and not even as good as a kit zoom, while the 1.8 version was just released and received mixed reviews so not the easiest decision to make when there aren't any copies of either in the local stores (thanks Nikon and Canon for not letting anyone know how great m43 is).

But then I started thinking about how we were both off overseas soon to do some travel and a second camera would be helpful. This was the same time that the Panasonic GX1 dropped to $199USD and we almost bought it but couldn't help thinking that whats the point of buying a camera that is so similar to our current cameras yet not quite as good?

Enter the Fuji x100.

For the same price to buy a new Olympus 17mm f1.8, you can buy a used Fuji x100.

Both offer a 35mm equivalent field of view.
Both are metal (one of the reasons why I own an OM-D and not a plastic Canon)
Both are fast (f1.8 and f2)
Both are sexy

But the major unknown was which one would produce better images and be more fun to use during the process?

Grant bought the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and I found a Fuji x100 on Ebay. Below are a series of comparisons and a conclusion that probable won't help many people out.

So on a sunny day we took both cameras to the Auckland Domain for lunch and tested them out. In all the images the Olympus is on the LEFT and the Fuji is on the RIGHT

 1/800th f5.6 iso 200 (focussed on the building)

What is immediately apparent that neither of us were prepared for is the difference in sensor format, the Olympus being 4:3 and the Fuji 3:2. Both lenses offer a 35mm equivalent field of view horizontally but vertically, the Olympus has more information. Just a side note but it makes the Olympus 17mm look wider than it actually is. 

I processed both images through ACR the same but missed out any sharpening so you can see if there is any difference in sharpness. There isn't. Shot both at f5.6, both lenses are sharp and contrasty with the Fuji having a tiny bit more dynamic range.

1/800th f5.6 iso 200 (focussed on the plaque)

This time we focussed on something close with something in the background. Both images are very good in my eyes and even when you view the plaques at 100% it is hard to tell the difference. The only thing that I could find was that the white lettering on the plaque in the Olympus image has a bit of Chromatic Aberration which I would normally just remove. The Fuji is also a little sharper with a bit more detail.

 1/1000th f1.8 iso 200             1/500th f2.0 iso 200

Playing with macro brings up a point of difference. The Fuji focusses MUCH closer than the Olympus can but at this close image and wide open the images have a hazy personality. This goes away when stopped down but this was a 'what does it look like if you stick you camera in a flower wide open' test. When the Fuji is pulled back to a distance that the Olympus can close focus at (30cm), the images look pretty similar with the Olympus being sharper and having more depth of field.

1/500th f2.0 iso 200

These two images were taken at about 50-60cm away from the flowers. What is noticeable is that the Olympus is still much sharper wide open at the close distances but the Fuji has different colours and a more ethereal image.

1/125th f2.8 iso 200 (focussed on the bench)

Stopping down both lenses a little bit brings the test on to fairer ground. We noticed that the Fuji colours were a bit nicer but that was before I processed them the same so if you shoot RAW then colours is only a minor concern (unless they are really shit).
This is another example of why I like 4:3 sensors over 3:2 sensors; there is more information to play with and the 4:3 aspect looks more succinct to my eyes. It also makes the Olympus lens look wider when maths tells us otherwise.
Another point to look for is that the Fuji background leaves are a bit nicer with more detail and better shadows/highlights while the Olympus image is sharper but it's shadows quickly turn darker. But then again I could have just bumped up the shadows more in ACR so the point is moot.

1/1250th f8 iso 200                 1/2000th f4 iso 200

One thing that I noticed the day I bought my Olympus OM-D is that the blues that come out of it are stunning. I love how saturated and punchy skies look and here is a good example. And you can also see how the Fuji brings better yellows and greens to the table. As always it is a tough game to call.

It would have been more fair if both of these images were taken at the same shutter speeds and aperture but it is what it is.


What started as a need for a walk around lens that would deliver the best image possible should end the same way. Here we have 2 very capable cameras that can deliver superb images. But wait a second, that Olympus OM-D, before it had a 17mm lens on it and now it has a 45mm? This is madness! No, that is just the benefit of interchangeable lens cameras which is why Fuji made the x-pro1 after the x100.

The size difference is pretty negligible with the Olympus OM-D being physically smaller but the Fuji X100 feels more compact with its small, built-in lens.

As a travel camera system the Olympus makes sense. It is an amazing camera to use that you can customize to your hearts content, it is tiny (like really tiny, so small that if it is sitting on the desk away from me I struggle to see how it gives me better images than any of my old Canon gear) and is a pleasure to use.

On the other hand, the Fuji has proper mechanical dials and the optical viewfinder is more fun than you would imagine. It also takes stellar images.

But, and this is a big subject but that depends on the person using it, when I want to switch from 17mm to 25mm or 14mm or 45mm or 75mm, I just swap the camera in my hand from Fuji to Olympus. With the 17mm lens and only one body you are required to change lenses more often and that is probably one of the major plusses with having the Fuji AND the Olympus. The drawback to having both is that I have to take both cameras out if I want to shoot the 17mm focal length along with something else.

For our money though, we still haven't fallen in love with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 like we have with the Fuji. There are still many times that we have gone out with the 17mm and it has brought back sub-par images that are flat, lifeless and lack punch and expression. Sure it autofocuses faster than any other lens we have but the Fuji x100 isn't as slow as everyone says.

For the record, I'm stoked that I own both, but Grant wants an x100 now and I would still like to own an Olympus 17mm...