Leica 100-400mm Comparison Lumix Olympus

Posted Feb. 10th, 2017 by Daniel J. Cox

Leica 100-400mm Comparison Lumix & Olympus

This morning I was inspired by a question on the blog to do a quick and dirty little test, comparing the Leica 100-400mm on both the new Lumix G85 (with updated firmware V.1.2), 100-400mm firmware update V1.1, and the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark ll.

Leica 100-400mm Comparison Lumix 85 & Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark ll

A lamp in my home was used to test the IS capabilities of the Leica 100-400mm on the G85 and OM-D EM-1 Mark ll.

Here’s the question from reader Anthony D.

Though I’m getting excellent results from the EM1.1 with the 100-400 I’m thinking whether it is worth spending on a second body for the dual IS of the G85/100-400 pair. Your insights from using both bodies in terms of IS would be most appreciated!

Well Anthony, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward as I would like, which I will explain a bit later. But in general, based on the tests I just shot, I’m seeing about a 1 stop advantage by using the Lumix G85 with the Leica 100-400mm zoom. Not as much as I would like or guessed but the images speak for themselves. I’ve uploaded the entire series of photos for anyone to download so you anyone can take a look for yourselves.

Here is the link to download all images.
Password: lumixoly100400test

Details of Test

Color or WB of Images

The photos I shot were of a lamp across the room. The Olympus files are the ones that are less orange and were shot on Auto WB. The warmer, more orange colored images are Lumix and were shot on Auto WB with custom adjustment for very warm. I did this to help keep track of which file came from each particular camera. Yes, you can see that info in Metadata, but it’s just quicker and easier to have them a bit different in color to quickly know what you’re looking at.

Position and Camera-holding Technique

I was sitting in a chair, the lens was set to 400mm (800mm Full Frame equivalent), and I held the lens exactly as I would if I were shooting in the field. In other words, left hand-bracing the barrel of the lens, left elbow braced against my side, camera to my eye and slowly squeezing the shutter for each image. Doing it just like in the field when shooting a very slow shutter speed. Each shot was focused using Single AF, waiting for the beep to confirm focus, then I took a slight breath in, held it, and pressed the shutter. All the while concentrating to keep the camera as still as possible. Just like I would do and have done, hundreds of thousands of times in actual field conditions. Forgive me for belaboring this “in the field” point. But I’ve been criticized in past Blog posts that my quick and dirty tests aren’t actually field tests and therefore suspect. I stand by the accuracy of this test even though it was shot in my house with a cup of coffee within easy reach 🙂

Camera Settings

Both cameras were set to Auto ISO. Olympus was set to Auto WB. Lumix was set to Auto WB with custom adjustment to very warm. Both cameras were set to Shutter Priority and I started with 1/8th of a second on each body. Every shot was adjusted one stop faster which took me through the shutter speeds of 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, and finished with 1/250th of a second.

Obviously, there could be a difference in depth of field and diffraction since many of the images were shot at the smallest aperture. Even so, we’re looking for how the two cameras did as far as Image Stabilization so I’m not concerned about depth of field or diffraction.

The Olympus was shot with its in-camera image stabilization off since that feature doesn’t work with the Leica lens. This may explain why the Lumix seems to give about 1 stop better performance (1 stop slower shutter speed) than the OM-D EM-1 Mark ll.

Conclusion

Based on looking at each image in Photo Mechanic at 100%, I rated each frame 1, 2, or 3 stars. 1 star was completely soft due to camera shake. 2 stars was probably acceptable if printed very small or shared on social media. T3 stars was very sharp. There could be some difference of opinions on the 2 stars, but I rated these as I would if I were looking at my work for a client. With that in mind, I wouldn’t send any of the 2 star images to any of the publishers I work with; only the 3 stars would make the grade. Based on the above ratings you’ll see that the G85 was giving me very sharp images at 1/60th of a second. The Olympus starting showing very sharp images at 1/125th of a second. Both pretty amazing when you understand that I was handholding an 800mm lens. Just crazy what these two companies are giving us.

Feel Free to Download All Images

I’m happy to offer all of these images to whoever wants to download them and take a closer look. As always they are for your own personal use. Feel free to share them as long as it’s not commercial in nature and the watermark with my credit line remains intact.

Here is the link to download all images.
Password: lumixoly100400test

 

Final Thoughts

Another thing to consider when deciding if you should buy a G85 to go with your 100-400mm is the difference in AF systems. I was reminded of the downside to Phase Detection AF with the Olympus and the Olympus 300m F/4 with the 1.4x teleconverter on my recent trip to Kenya. While in Kenya, after the first two days of not getting as sharp of images as I expected from the OM-D EM-1 and the 300mm, I finally came to the conclusion the new camera was front focusing. Thankfully, Olympus has an AF Adjust option Custom Settings Menu so I was able to fine-tune the focus for the camera and  lens, and I finally started getting the results I expected. And I will say, once the AF was adjusted, it was as sharp as anything I’ve ever shot, including the Nikkor 600mm F/4 I recently sold.

This whole AF adjustment idea came about by way of Canon when they released the Canon EOS 1 Mark lll that had horrific either front or back focus issues. It took them forever to get it figured out and, if I recall correctly, the problems only ended once they released the Mark lV. Nikon also had back focus issues that I dealt with for two years in their D2H and D2X cameras. Eventually, both Nikon and Canon added the Micro Adjustment AF option to all their high-end bodies. What makes me a bit crazy is how these outrageously expensive cameras and lenses can be problematic right from the factory. It suggests to me that Contrast Detection AF, the only system Lumix uses, is much more accurate since it focuses off the camera sensor. With Phase Detection AF the camera uses a separate module that’s separate from the sensor the image is captured with. Having Contrast Detection AF where the focus is determined to be correct, actually on the sensor, is definitely more accurate.

That said, many are going to argue that Contrast AF isn’t as fast, and so far they would be right. But the G85 did exceptionally well on relatively fast moving subjects during my last shoot in Kenya, and the coming GH5 is rumored to be exceptionally fast and accurate. Once I get the GH5, some time hopefully in early spring, I’ll be putting the GH5, the G85, and the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark ll through the Speeding Pooch AF Test.

Leica 100-400mm Comparison Lumix 85 & Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark ll

Lappet-faced vulture, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Lumix G85 with Leica 100-400mm zoom

Finally, there is a substantial benefit of using the 100-400mm with the G85 because it just works. With the EM-1 you have to go in and turn the camera IS off. To me that’s a pain in the keister. With the G85 there’s no need for dinking around trying to figure out what settings to turn on or off like you do with the Olympus. However, in general the 100-400mm does for very well, just not as convenient as it is with the G85.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Keep in mind I’m about ready to publish a so-called “review” of the Lumix G85 which I’ve been shooting for the past three months. It will contain details based on the way I typically use these cameras. Once again, I’ll mention that I’ve been criticized for “reviews” that were so-called “late to the party” as one person put it. But hey, I don’t just jump on a camera and start spewing the same details any half wit can find in the manual or brochure. I might be late to the party, but my reviews are based on having actually used the camera for a relatively decent amount of time. Stay tuned, hope to have it out within a week.

One last note. I forgot to check if the issue where the 100-400mm would go wonky and freeze up when the AF Limiter Switch was set to 5-Infinity. I’m happy to say this was fixed and it works perfectly with the Olympus camera now.

Add Your Voice!
There are 30 comments on this post…
  1. Karen MartinOn Mar. 13th, 2017 (2 weeks ago)

    Dan, wondering if you tried comparing the Oly/100-400 combo with the IBIS turned on in the camera, as well? That’s the pair I’m using often, and I can’t seem to decide whether the Olympus EM1.2 IBIS or the Leica IS should get the nod. I’ve read a few trials from other folks, but not sure whom to trust (I know you’ll be honest!). Thanks in advance for any insights.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 13th, 2017 (2 weeks ago)

      Karen, from what I’ve found, on longer lenses which the 100-400mm obviously is, in lens IS or OIS, generally speaking, does a better job. This is why Panasonic added in lens IS to their beautiful 300mm F/4 that works in tandem with their In Body IS to give us Sync IS. When I’m shooting the 100-400mm with the OM-D EM-1 Mark ll body I turn the IBIS off, as their manual suggests and it works very well. Not as well as having the Dual IS the 100-400mm gets with the Lumix G85 but overall the lens OIS does an excellent job with the Olympus. You can expect about one stop slower shutter speed with the Dual IS combination.

  2. Alain BOn Mar. 1st, 2017 (4 weeks ago)

    Nice “quick and dirty” test Dan. The short focus distance might skew the results quite a bit though since a “squirm” of a fraction of a degree in whatever direction / rotation axis would result in a minute resolution difference at 3 m but a huge difference at 300 m.

    Your thoughts?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 1st, 2017 (4 weeks ago)

      Alain, it’s possible but that’s why I refered to it as “quick and dirty”. I’m not 100% sure of your logic but willing to hear more if you care to elaborate.

  3. Dean SwartzOn Feb. 18th, 2017 (1 month ago)

    Once again, you have provided invaluable and erudite commentary on the current state of the art in photography. The combination of your expertise in “real world” nature shooting situations combined with your honest evaluations of equipment make you a “one of a kind” authority.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 18th, 2017 (1 month ago)

      Thanks Dean. I do have my preferences but work hard to keep my mind open and will always call it like I see it. There is no other way to do it in my mind. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. TimOn Feb. 16th, 2017 (1 month ago)

    DxOmark rates the E-M1 Mk2 sensor about 1 stop faster then the G85 – does that mean that in low light conditions the two would perform about the same as you could push the ISO a little harder in Oly and thus compensate for need for a faster shutter?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 17th, 2017 (1 month ago)

      That would make sense Tim.

  5. Brenda LaddOn Feb. 15th, 2017 (1 month ago)

    Many MANY thanks, Daniel. I have been waiting to purchase a 4/3 to shoot in the field – Nature and Music Festivals. Seems my procrastination and your WONDERFUL experience and willingness to SHARE have answered my search questions. I will look into the G85 and keep my fingers crossed that the G5 will be out soon. Am I correct in this assumption? Should I wait for the G5?
    Brenda Ladd, Austin, TX

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 16th, 2017 (1 month ago)

      Brenda, I have to say that I really, really am enjoying the G85. I’m about ready to release a Blog post on this camera and one of the huge pluses to the G85 is the small amount of cash you get for such a small, technically advanced power house. In short the G85 will run you less than half that of the GH5. Nice I’ve not had a chance to shoot the GH5 yet I can’t say for sure which one I would suggest you move to. I do know the GH5 will be s stunning camera but I also think the G85 is an amazing amount of camera for the price. Sorry I can’t be more help. Stay tuned to the Blog for more info on the GH5 and thanks for adding your voice.

  6. Jon RolfOn Feb. 13th, 2017 (1 month ago)

    Mirrorless PDAF, DOF, and fine tuning AF on Olympus M1 bodies. The comment by Anurag is correct in that the phase detect sensors are imbedded in the sensor matrix for mirrorless cameras and not in a separate module like most DSLRs. I was surprised to see the Olympus M1 have a AF fine tuning feature (although it was a must do procedure for calibrating my Nikon DSLRs and telephoto lenses with and without a teleconverter). It makes sense for Olympus to have the AF fine tuning feature as there can well be individual differences in AF accuracy as functions of manufacturing tolerance variations, use of legacy 43 lenses with adapters, and the mating of a lens with teleconverter. The need for fine tuning increases with the focal length of the lens too as a function of reduced DOF. The m43/43 format has an advantage in this regard (think supertelephoto) given its DOF is twice that of full-frame sized sensors for a given focal length. This DOF advantage pays dividends when using supertelephoto lenses for BIF and big critters and with macro photography.

  7. mike wilkinsonOn Feb. 12th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Thanks for a great look at the G85,i am still thinking about changing my GX8 for one if i can convince myself its CAF can match the GX8,my only complaint about the GX8 is i catch buttons and change settings too easily but it is good for BIF.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 16th, 2017 (1 month ago)

      I haven’t had a chance to really put the G85 to the test for AF (Speeding Pooch Test) but I’ve had very good luck in situations where I’ve needed fast Predictive AF. But that has been sporadic and so I don’t want to give you false information. I plan to do more detailed and technical AF tests in the coming months. Sorry I can’t be more help but we should now more in a few months. Thanks for the question and adding your voice to the blog.

  8. Mike GOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Thanks for comparing stability on these two cameras with the Leica. Personally I much prefer your real world reviews after you’ve used the equipment for a decent amount of time. I do think that the ones that are done within a few days of release do have some value for the early adopters, but will never be as good as what you’re doing. Please keep going with the great work regarding micro 4/3s.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 12th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      Thanks Mike. Greatly appreciated.

  9. Marko KoskenojaOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Interesting review and valueable information for me as a G85 user needing to buy a long telephoto lens.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      Happy to help Marko

  10. Keith FergusonOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Hi Daniel I thought I heard reps from Panasonic say in videos that the in camera IS is only effective to 280mm. Possibly because the camera IS can only move so far to compensate for movements on a long lens. If true (hope I’m not spreading “fake news) that could explain the only 1 stop gain with dual IS at 400mm.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      I hadn’t heard that exact figure Keith but it makes sense. Only so much in IBIS can do to sort the movement of a powerful telephoto. One of the reasons I suspect Olympus put IS in the 300mm.

  11. Anurag AgnihotriOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Hi
    The phase detection system in SLRs are not the same as in Mirrorless bodies. As far as i know, the phase detection pixels are on the sensor itself so there is no separate module for this. And it should be as accurate as contrast detect. Wonder why you had focus issues with EM12 then?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 11th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      Well that’s good to now if it’s correct. I was mainly referring to the large Nikon and Canon full frame cameras but there is the Sony A7 line which does not get great marks for fast AF. Not sure about accuracy. Thanks for your input.

  12. Anthony D.On Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Daniel great write-up! Thanks for taking the time to do this it was very insightful and helpful! I think looking at the results I will end up getting a GX85 to complement the EM1 for the 100-400 and as a backup body. Got to love m43 that my oly lenses can also be put onto the gx85 for maximum versatility!
    I did find your thoughts on the AF systems quite interesting and would love to see your review of the GX85 when it comes out.
    Cheers!

  13. George ShubinOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    One of several reasons why I bought a GX8 last year was because of a couple of your videos shooting wildlife with the 100-400 and your experience with the GX8 in cold weather. I do not regret my decision and think the GX8 is a terrific camera, but it seems the GX8 never did catch on in popularity. In terms of public awareness, it seems to be a flash in the pan.

    With that said, do you have any feel for the speed of focusing and IS effectiveness of the GX8 vs. the G85, or maybe even the GH5, with the 100-400? And, do you prefer the rangefinder style body or the DSLR style body for wildlife photography? It seems my big hands are always inadvertantlyt hitting the wrong button when I don’t want to on my GX8. Perhaps the larger body of the GH5 will alleviate that problem for me.

    Thanks!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      I love the GX8 as a travel camera George. I did use it for awhile for wildlife because it was the newest technology but the rangefinder design is not great for wildlife photography. A more traditional DSLR design is much better since the EVF is directly over the lens and makes it easier to find your subject with a powerful telephoto like the 100-400mm.

      The second issue is the buttons you mention. The GH4 is the best designed camera as fa as where the buttons are places of any camera I’ve ever used. Good news is they kept the same button layout, on top and just behind the shutter button for +/-. WB and ISO which makes a huge difference in the accidentally button posing phenomenon. I wished so badly they would replicate the buttons on all their cameras to math those on the GH4 and now GH5.

      The focus speed n the GX8 is excellent but I think the G85 is even better and the GH5 will but much better still. If you are even thinking about a GH5, you should hold off until it’s released. It really will be the premiere Lumix camera and may even be more effective than the new Olympus.

  14. Daniel LeffelOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    Great update, Daniel! I appreciate all you do to checkout both the Olympus and Panasonic Micro 4/3 equipment! Thank you!

    Dan Leffel

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      It’s my pleasure Daniel. Thanks for stopping but to be part of the community.

  15. Portrait of Fred Kurtz

    Fred KurtzOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    I just updated the 100-400 firmware and in the process found my two GH 4’s and GX8 a couple of versions behind so updated those too. It is easy to forget to check on this. And I can confirm the focus limiter on the 100-400 with the em1 Mark II is fixed. Thanks for this post Dan.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      You got it Freddy. Thanks for adding your voice. Love hearing from my peeps.

  16. Paul GraberOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

    You don’t have to switch Body IS off on the Oly – providing you’ve got it set to lens priority, if you have IS switched on on the lens, the body IS will automatically switch off.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 10th, 2017 (2 months ago)

      I’m had some strange issues with relying on the camera automatically shutting IS off so I’ve been doing it manually. But thanks for your input. I’ll give it another try. Would certainly be nice to not have to remember each time.

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