Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Panasonic 7-14 = Bad Combo

After reading rave reviews about the Panasonic 7-14 f/4.0 Micro four-thirds, I ordered it a week before my trip to Turkey last month. When it arrived, I fell it love with it immediately if for nothing else than it’s size. It was TINY compared to ultra-wide angle SLR lenses. If it could live up to the superb image quality people were raving about, this would be one of my go-to lenses.

Unfortunately, after traveling to Turkey for 3 weeks with it, I ended up selling it upon my return.  It turns out that when it’s paired with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, you get some pretty viscous purple flare and spottin in scenes you least expect it.

Sure, lens flare is nothing new when your shooting offset from a strong light source, but what I saw was atypical from any other lens I tried in in the past, even UWA lenses on my D700 and D7000.  Here is an example image I shot in Turkey:

Here is the center magnified where you can see the purple spots:

Throughout my trip, I kept getting these purple spots in shots where I least expected it.  I could post over 50 photos that are ruined due to the flare.

When I got back home, I went on the hunt to do some research to determine whether my expectations were too high, or there was indeed something wrong with the lens or camera+lens combo.  After doing some digging, I found quite a few mentions of the same problem, and ultimately lead to this thread on the mu-43.com forums where the original poster says:

I like UW lenses, and the images I can produce with them. Unfortunately, for those of us who want a non-fisheye lens, we really have one choice – the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 zoom. As has been documented all over the net, this lens produces a nasty purple flare when used in combination with the E-M5 body.

Other posters in the thread contributed some of their own great examples that matched my experiences:

Photo By 夏天

Photo by hkpzee

It’s unclear why this lens is such a bad combo with the OM-D — it’s either lens flare, internal reflection, a bug in how the OM-D works with this particular lens, etc… At this point it doesn’t matter  since I shouldn’t have to put up with this on a $900 lens.  The purple flare and spots are so bad in some of my shots that I’m not able correct it in post-process without a significant commitment in time. In some cases, I couldn’t correct it without massive surgery to the files, which almost erased the  joy I experienced originally taking the photo!

In the end,  I ended up deciding to sell the 7-14 in favor of a Olympus 9-18.  I shouldn’t have to put up with the flare due  I hate that I’m giving up a constant f/4.0 aperture for a variable f/4.0-5.6, but if it means getting more consistent and usable shots, it’s worth it!