Canon lenses vs Olympus lenses

by Enche Tjin on December 18, 2008

Like other big manufacturer of Digital SLR system, Olympus offers full range of lenses for their system. Compared to Canon lens collection, Olympus has a good collection of standard general purpose and telephoto zoom lenses but not so many in low light prime lenses.

Note: The price might change, and if the market price change, it tends to be lower.
BC is build quality, IQ is image quality

Canon vs Olympus Lens

Prime lenses

As a said before, Olympus does not have many collection of prime lenses. Prime lens is a fixed focal length lenses which are used greatly by photographers in many occasions such as for sports, portraits, social events, etc. For prime and zoom lens differences click here.

Telephoto, zoom and Macro lenses

Telephoto, zoom and Macro lenses

In general purpose lens category (wide to telephoto zoom), Olympus offers a good selection of lenses. Some of the lenses are exceptional in image and built quality. One of the star is 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD. This lens has a versatile focal length equivalent to 24-120mm or 15-75mm (Canon range). That because Olympus has crop factor multiplier of 2 and Canon has 1.6. This lens has very fast and quiet focusing due to SWD (Supersonic wave drive) technology.

Along with 12-60mm, Olympus also offers other high quality and worth to mention which is 14-35mm f/2 SWD. This lens is very advance because it has a very big aperture and great focusing speed.

Both of the lens come out with a premium price tag of $850 and $2200.

In Telephoto zoom lens category, Olympus is also have some lenses that are good for wildlife photography such as high power zoom 70-300mm and 90-250mm. Both focal length are equivalent to 87.5 x 375mm and 112.5 x 312mm (Compared to Canon length) respectively.

This focal length of Olympus telephoto zoom lens is significant because Olympus lenses have longer coverage than Canon famous 70-200mm series and also the 90-250mm has big max aperture of f/2.8 while in the same length, Canon only offer 100-400mm lens which has significantly smaller aperture of f/4.5-5.6. Of course the Olympus 90-250mm comes with hefty price tag of $5400 compare to Canon’s $1400.

In macro lens category, Olympus only offer two macro lens while Canon offers many more. But do not underestimate Olympus macro lens just yet. The 50mm macro for example can go down to f/2 which is great for low light, and both of the lenses have a decent price tag. Unfortunately, Olympus macro lens built quality and focusing mechanism are not as good as the image quality provided.

In conclusion
Olympus offers many lenses which capable to produce high quality images. It seems to me that the Olympus philosophy are less is good. If you love to use general “all you can do” lens and high quality long telephoto zoom lens in the market, then Olympus collection might be appealing.

The other advantage of Olympus lenses is the fact that most of Olympus digital slr cameras have built-in stabilization (Except E4X0 and some older models). So all lenses that you connect to the camera will have the benefit of image stabilization whereas in Canon only certain lenses have image stabilization feature.

But if you fond of prime lenses and macro, Olympus does not have many to offer. There is also a gap from Olympus lenses for example, to upgrade to a better lenses, the price different between the standard and the professional grade lens is very significant. For example, standard lenses costs around $200-500 but professional grade lenses starts from $850 and many costs thousands. This might be big a turn off for enthusiasts that desire more affordable pro grade lenses.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Toni Allardyce June 27, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Hi – I found your website while researching Olympus DSLR cameras – I am an old OM2 user and have a selection of Olympus and Vivitar (olympus bayonet mounted) lenses. I am trying to find out if my old lenses are adaptable with the OM 4/3 adapter (there are 3 but that is confusing too) – I also am looking at the new E-PL1 camera vs an E620 – but again the changeover to digital SLR with a large investment in my old lenses – leaves me cold to change technology. What can you recommend? or should I just start over again? I have my favorites – a standard Vivitar 135 – step down adapters for entomology work – and my good old Zuiko 50 mm.

If you have the time I would appreciate your opinion.

Ms. Toni Allardyce
Aldergrove BC

Enche Tjin June 28, 2010 at 5:15 am

wow, it is a tough question, I have no idea whether using adapter will be a good solution or not. The best way is to try the adapter in the store.

I am not a fan of using adapter, because you might not get full advantage of camera features. But if you have many high quality legacy lenses, it might worth to try.

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