12-35/12-40 vs Primes

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by tjdean01, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Primes are smaller, cheaper, and faster, but a lot of people opt for either of the f2.8 zooms. I don't have either zoom but might be getting one. Below is me just remembering what I've read. Feel free to agree or disagree:

    At f2.8, which produces better images, the prime or the zoom? By how much?

    12/2 - at 2.8 it seems the 12 is only marginally better and not worth buying if you already have a zoom
    14/2.5 - size/price has a lot to do with this lens, but again, the 14 is only a touch better, if at all
    17/1.8 - again, the prime seems only marginally better at f2.8 and up
    19/2.8 - ??
    20/1.7 - I don't think the zooms can match this lens at any aperture
    25/1.4 - ditto
    30/1.8 - Phenomenally sharp, even corners, wide open. I don't think the zooms can match this
    45/1.8 - From samples I'd say the 45 would beat the 12-40 @ 40mm and f2.8 and up by a noticeable margin

    Do you guys agree with the above? (Below is just me babbling again :tongue: )

    Wide: based on this, if I'm right, if you don't need shallow DOF or small size, you might want to forgo buying the wider primes if you can get an f2.8 fast zoom. Normal: but from 20-45mm you might want to get a couple primes (Oly and Panny, how about a 37mm f1.4, huh? :wink: ). (Tele: it's funny that for anything 50mm and up, because of the crop factor, you'd do good buying nothing but adapted lenses, selling the plastic zoom(s), and getting a 2.8 zoom.) Finally, come to think of it, a 12-35, 25, 45, and an adapted 50/1.4, 85/1.4, and 135/2.8 is pretty much all most of us would need. That's under $3000. Eat your heart out DSLRs!
  2. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I mostly agree. The 12-35 is no worse in IQ for all practical purposes than the primes in its range. However, f2.8 is not f2, f1.8, f1.7 or f1.4 and in many cases, esp for dof control, this is a big deal. The zooms are much bigger and heavier too, so don't balance too well on smaller u43 bodies.

    I'm not with you on adapted lenses though. I find them big, heavy, not always good IQ and personally, I don't like faffing about with manual aperture and MF. If you want a short Tele, the 75/1.8 is just superb and considering its IQ and build quality is worth its price tag. For long lenses (200mm and up) there may be a better argument given the lack of u43 long primes.

    You pays your money and you takes your choice...
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  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    When zooms get as good as the 12-35 and 12-40, I don't think the prime/zoom decision is really about "quality" or sharpness or how good the images look anymore. At least for 99% of us. I think it's down to lens speed (f2 is still a stop faster than f2.8, f1.4 another stop, and f1.7/1.8 about a stop and a third or so and this matters in low light), depth of field (same basic relationship - faster gets you narrower DOF than slower), and just fundamentally what you like to carry and how you like to shoot.

    Some people prefer the always available versatility of the zoom, some prefer the constancy of vision and discipline that comes with shooting primes. I tend to prefer primes the vast majority of the time, but sometimes a zoom as a change of pace and there are some types of "event" type shooting where zooms are pretty handy and would almost always be my choice. And even with these sometimes the faster aperture of a prime matters. For family get-togethers in low-ish light, for example, I'd generally prefer to use the zoom range of the 35-100 to a prime, but a full stop plus change really matters a lot in this situation so I always end up shooting with the 75mm f1.8 instead.

    If you're just thinking about image quality and sharpness, I think the differences are too small to matter to 99% of us 99% of the time. But primes and zooms are atill very different lenses with differences that matter and each shooter should be thinking more about how they shoot best than the ultimate IQ between primes and these premium zooms these days.

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  4. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    The 12-35 and 12-40 are at least as sharp, if not sharper than my 14/2.5. By most accounts I've read, the 12-40 is sharper than pretty much all the primes in its range, with the possible exception of the 20/1.7 or the 25/1.4. Honestly, though, they serve different purposes for me. A standard fast zoom is a godsend for me in travel situations, where I can't always control timing and my own position for a shot, and often don't want to be swapping lenses (dust, potential for thieves, etc.) too often. Both the 12-35 (which I had, was stolen) and the 12-40 (which I now own) are truly spectacular lenses.

    I love shooting primes as well, and they do different things. A fast prime has those wide open stops that differentiate it from the 'fast' f/2.8 zoom, and those few stops can make a significant artistic difference and exposure difference. Plus the pancakes make for a dinky package when you want to be a little less obtrusive.
  5. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    Some resolution charts...
    Oly 12-40mm: http://www.lenstip.com/392.4-Lens_r...l_12-40_mm_f_2.8_ED_PRO_Image_resolution.html
    Pana 14mm: http://www.lenstip.com/273.4-Lens_review-Panasonic_G_14_mm_f_2.5_ASPH._Image_resolution.html

    Summary for these two: Oly zoom beats Lumix 14mm prime in almost everything.

    I've mostly shot with the beloved 14mm for the past 2 years but now that I've had the pleasure to use the 12-40mm I can honestly say the Oly zoom is way better than the 14mm. Sharper, more contrast, more versatile. What's there not to like? At first I was afraid of its size but now that I've used it: It's not too big after all.
  6. WasOM3user

    WasOM3user Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2012
    Lancashire, UK
    Real Name:
    Hmmmm......looking at the resolution chart for the Oly 12-40 it looks like you are going to need ND filters so you can use it wide open all the time (@F5.6 the 14mm is sharper in the centre but worse at the edges). Again the 14mm is not doing too badly against a lens costing almost 8 times as much (using UK prices).

    Don't get me wrong a lens with such a good resolution at the edges wide open as the 12-40 is very, very impressive and if you can afford it then go for it. However I still think you would need the Oly 45mm in addition to the Pana 12-35 (doesn't reach) or Oly 12-40 (performance drops at the long end). If you then also need a 17/20/25 for low light levels you end up spending ~£1,400.

    For the same amount you could have the O12/F2.0, PL25/F1.4 and O45/F1.8 or save money with 12/20/45 or 14/25/45.

    I think the performance of both the P12-35 and O12-40 would appear to be "special" enough to justify their costs. Which one would I buy? Probably the Pana if I had a smaller body GX7, EM-5 (un gripped) and the Oly for a EM-1 or GH3 etc.

    I think either approach I.e. Zoom or a trio of primes is perfectly valid and I would never criticise anyones choice of either zoom or any of the sets of trio of primes as each photographer will have a different set of "needs" or " wishes" which is why I enjoy reading each person's view on topics like this.

    Anyway - enough of sitting on the fence - for me personally I am going down the prime route. The reasons for this are:-

    1 Over 35 years of using 28,50,90 + 80-210 means swapping lenses is second nature to me.
    2 I got the 45 mm "free" with my EM-5 kit so part way there.
    3 Don't really like the handling of the EM-5 with the 12-50 kit lens.
    4 Love the pictures taken by members with the PL25 f1.4 ( I suppose this is not really valid as there are a lot of impressive pictures taken with other lenses as well).

    Because I will still have the 12-50 available for when I need the 12mm POV then I went for the 14/25/45 trio of primes ( just about to order the 25) but as above your own choices may differ. As I have access to Oly 40-150 (daughter's) and Pana 45-175 (wife's) my next purchase might be the Oly 75mm f1.8 followed by Pana 100-300 ( to be shared by all of us). Just need to persuade daughter/wife they need the 12mm f2.0 and then I've got access to lots of very, very good glass.
  7. rogergu

    rogergu Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 11, 2013
    Did both results come from the same camera? Otherwise, I think they are not comparable.

    From this review - http://m43photo.blogspot.com/2012/12/lumix-x-12-35mm-f28-sharpness-evaluation.html, it seems 14mm and 12-35mm are close in terms of sharpness.

  8. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Hi.. I just bought 12-35 and I can simpler tell this lens is superb. I have used 14 mm 2.5 , 20mm , 25 mm and even olympus 12 mm which is the only prime which is probably better but not by a narrow margin . Now interestingly if price is concern and weight is not an issue then my tank like ex-love Olympus 14-54mm II is as good as these new zooms are and offers extra reach.
  9. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Real Name:
    First of all, what do you shoot mainly for the creative or technical aspect?!? And at what focal lengths do you mainly shoot at?

    Figure that out first, then it will be easier for you to know which lens will suit you best.

    Creative photographers aren't measurebators who are so fixated with perfection. They are looking for a lens that can maximize their ability to convey the theme, feeling, atmosphere and meaning of the photo in one photo. The late famous Galen Rowell used a cheap plastic 35-80 f4-5.6 zoom lens to make some of the most fantastic jaw dropping photos. His advice to me then was to go out and SHOOT with whatever lens you've got. Look at your photos and find the ones you like and then think how can you improve it. If you can't improve it with your skills, you then go buy a better lens to make it look better.

    His advise was golden and it applied very well for me even today.

    • Like Like x 4
  10. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Real Name:
    Doug Green
    Try putting any body with the 12-40mm lens on it in your pocket. An E-PL5 or E-PM2 with the 14mm lens on it pockets pretty easily.
  11. nardoleo

    nardoleo Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 2, 2013
    Real Name:
    I had a Panasonic 12-35mm, was not impress with the images as compared to my 12th f2 and 25th f1. 4. For me, after trying around different lenses, realise that I am pretty much a prime guy.

    Setup 1: EM5 with 25mm + EPL1 with 12mm

    Setup 2: EM5 with 17.5mm + EPL1 with 45mm f1.8

    Throw in my 75mm f1.8 in the mix when needed.

    Bottomline, only u will know which lens is best for u.

    Sent from my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 2
  12. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Why not both? It's the classic zooms versus primes debate, except that these zooms are extremely good too, so why not use both?

    Almost all my photography is done candidly in the company of friends or family (usually my fiancee), except for random closeup shots wandering around the house and garden. I have found that in many situations I can't afford to keep changing between the primes I've got, let alone a full prime set (e.g. 12, 14/17, 25, 45, 75), as

    a) I don't like to make people keep waiting on me (both lens changing and wandering off to zoom with my feet),

    b) fiddling with multiple lenses in questionable environments feels very risky (e.g., beach, rain, mist, hiking on windy hill tops), and

    c) makes me really conspicuous, which is not helpful for street and candids (yes, I take photos of random strangers with my fiancee around).

    I like and use the 'middle' PL25 and O45 primes where I can (and that's quite a bit), but usually in environments where I can anticipate what's going on, and won't need to move around too much. I favour them not because of the superior IQ necessarily, but because of their low light AF and light gathering ability, shallow DoF options, and flattering perspective, all really helpful for candid shots of people.

    At the wide and telephoto end, I really favour zooms, as the FoV changes so much between FL that it becomes quite annoying to change lenses or move to compose. I can't really move around to change framing with wide angles on a mountain, nor can I do it when picking out details with a telephoto. And actually, the size of 2 non-pancake primes is the size of a zoom anyway...

    Consequently, my set up consists of zooms at both ends, O12-50 (I might replace this with an f/2.8 zoom one day) and O40-150, with primes in the middle.
    • Like Like x 3
  13. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Well, I appreciate the posts and opinions in the thread. This has kind of derailed into a price, size, and speed vs versatility discussion whereas I was rather interested in how the fast zooms fare vs the primes.

    I did get a few answers, however. For lenses like the 14/2.5, they seem redundant if you don't need the size.

    I'm still interested in hearing about the sigma 30. The lens seems better than the 20 I owned. I can't image sharpness surpassing this....so boy will I be surprised when I can afford a 75, right? ;)
  14. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    I have E-PM2 for that. My aim with E-M5 is maximum image quality - not whether it will fit my pockets. Now that I can skip the PP cropping (what I did for 2 years) my image quality will rise quite a lot.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
  16. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Well, I don't think derailed is the right phrase. The two f2.8 std zooms are optically as good, for all practical purposes, as the primes they cover. So, what you're left with are considerations of price, weight, handling etc.
  17. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Real Name:
    I find that most of the A-list brand lenses in the m43 line up are quite good. If you are looking in terms of pure MTF, then www.photozone.de is the site you should look into and compare. But you see, image sharpness is not only what make a picture tick. It's composition, subject matter, feeling and a sense of atmosphere that make up a great photo. Being sharper than a sharp lens helps too, but seemingly you are asking this question, I think you are frustrated by the fact that your photos are just not all that great. Am I correct? And that you are trying to buy technology to offset some of your deficiencies?

    This is a normal phase. I had gone through this myself 20+ years ago. Unless you have a lot of money to burn, stick with what you've got and trust.

    I own a pair of zooms (kit and 40-150) and I supplement them with a prime. So far, that's what I need. I only use the m43 for fun while making a living shooting with the big boys, so I just justify using what I've got.

    The advantage of a prime is to force you to move and force you to think and compose well. Not such a bad thing really. We all need to exercise right -- moving more to burn calories I hope.

    The advantage of a zoom is compactness for travel.

    Is it necessary to get a f/2.8 zoom? Only if you do a lot of low light photography with no flash and you need some subject isolation. The 14-42 and the 40-150 aren't bad lenses and if you have them, use them. They are fairly sharp, but their downside is that you must shoot with higher ISO to maintain high shutter speeds in low challenging light situations.
  18. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I'm a 'both' shooter, and the reason I prefer a higher end zoom (though if I'm honest, an F4 constant would do fine) is better performance for landscape combined with relatively wide max aperture. Since it's invariably my most used lens (over half the large prints I have come from the canon 24-105 from my FF canon days) it's worth a little outlay.

    It's a mood thing. Right now I'm living the Zeiss primes on the A7r, and usually take the 12-40 out on the E-M1.
  19. BobbyTan

    BobbyTan Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 26, 2013
    Long Beach, CA
    Zooms are great when you have to change FL frequently and quickly. When I was in Death Valley navigating through the dunes I wish I had the 12-40 so I didn't have to change lenses which is a bad thing because of the airborne dust. When I had the 12-40 and did a ballerina shoot with it I wished I had fast lens like the 17/1.8 as the 12-40 had way too much DOF and in-focus backgrounds are a distraction and does not make for good environmental portrait images. So I got myself a 17/1.8 when Olympus offered a $100 rebate on that lens. Bottom line - both primes are zooms have a place in my bag. IQ-wise I believe they are both equal. The 12-40 is better for landscape lens and the 17/1.8 is better for environmental portraits at f1.8.
  20. m43_user

    m43_user Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 4, 2010
    In the past I've owned the Oly 45mm f/1.8, pana/leica 25mm f/1.4 and the Oly 12 f2. I currently only have the 17mm f/1.8 and the Oly 12-40 f/2.8. The 12-40 is a great lens and I think it would be silly for ME to consider the 12 f/2. It's not needed for my purposes and I would question whether anyone really needs it other than the smaller size, given that the 12-40 is so good. The only other prime I'm interested in and might get some day is the Oly 75mm f/1.8. That would be great for my nature stuff, in my opinion. Otherwise the usage for that lens will be very limited for me. I'm not one to get out somewhere and regret missing lots of shots I want because I can't get wide enough or can't get close enough....and I refuse (or just can't) be changing lenses constantly. If other people want to, that's great for them....but I just won't do it ;-)