12-40 2.8 or prime lenses?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by wsedf, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. wsedf

    wsedf New to Mu-43

    Sep 15, 2015
    I have an E-PL6 with double zoom kit. So, it is really a beginner set. I think about an upgrade. At first only in lenses. A better body may come later.

    After a lot of searching and reading, I found the following options. At the end I would like to use the smallest system if it is possible. Smallest means: pieces of lenses, weight and of course the price.

    Option 1:
    O 17/1.8, O 45/1.8 and the 2 kit zooms
    Option 2:
    S 19/30/60 2.8 trinity and the 2 kit zooms
    Option 3:
    O 12-40/2.8, the 40-150 kit zoom and later, if necessary, a used S 60/2.8

    I have only limited resources for that.

    I planned to use for a general situations and the most important, images about my little twins.

    What's your opinion? If I choose option 1 or 2, and later I would/could buy a 12-40/2.8, the spent money for primes wouldn't be the most efficient way in budget, if the primes aren't significantly better. I doubt that. If the primes aren't much better as the 12-40/2.8, I should sell them, but in this case, I will loose money with that.

    Which is the better, regarding image quality/sharpness/AF-speed/AF-accuracy/bokeh? (Without the effects between the max. aperture).
  2. rezatravilla

    rezatravilla Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 7, 2013
    Real Name:
    Reza Travilla
    vote for 12-40mm. Primes will make your bank account's drained.
  3. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    There's obviously no single correct answer here, but option 1 allows for the most versatility. You have far more subject isolation at f1.8 vs 2.8 and you can shoot in about 1/3 of the light. The slow kit zoom is far lighter for when you don't need that.

    In terms of size and weight, overall they are probably similar. A single 380g lens vs 3 that are about 120g. The 12-40 means you ALWAYS have a heavier lens on the camera. The primes and a kit zoom mean you can carry all 3 and swap lenses or decide to carry one small lens and live with the limitations in focal length or aperture. There are pros and cons, but again, I think the multiple small lenses is more flexible overall at the cost of more lens swaps. Having just a 12-40 and a 40-150 means no options for traveling light and f2.8 limitations in low light.

    The three slow primes in option 2 have the cons of the zoom in term of f2.8 aperture, and the cons of the primes in terms of lens swaps. Also, 19 and 30mm are both kind of normal-ish which makes them redundant. If you want slow cheap primes I'd use a 14mm f2.5 in place of the 19mm in that kit. But again, I think #1 makes more sense.

    I shoot mostly portraits and pics of my kids (Aged 2+) and I have 15/25/45/75mm primes. I find 25mm to be the best for indoor portraits, 15mm the best for travel, environmental and general pics and 75mm to be the best for outdoor portraits. 45mm is a close second for outdoor portrait, but I feel it might be redundant in my kit. Often I find 45mm too close in capability to the 25mm and too long to use indoors. If I had to pick two primes, I think I would go 25mm and 75mm and use the wide end of a kit lens (14mm 3.5) in place of my 15mm. If I had to pick two primes on a budget, I think I would go 60mm f2.8 for outdoor portraits (f2.8 does nice isolation at longer focal lengths) and pre-order that Panasonic 25mm f1.7 at $250.
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  4. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 4, 2014
    Real Name:
    There's no one right answer to the standard primes versus 12-40 Pro debate. It's a tradeoff, and which you choose all depends on your preferences. You get one stop faster light gathering, speed and shallow depth of field, or you get convenience. I'll tell you my thinking, but other people's differing opinions on it are just as valid.

    I think the f/1.8 prime lenses are too close to the 12-40 Pro in the types of images they produce to make them worth it, so I have no interest in them. For a prime to be worth considering, I would need it to be at a minimum f/1.4. Those faster primes have characteristics that sufficiently differentiate themselves from the 12-40, and IMO make them worth having. Fortunately, there are more and more of those types coming available, as they are great for overcoming the noise performance and depth of field limitations of :mu43:. If you look at it in terms of cost savings, they can even go a long way to obviating any advantage to owning a full frame camera (assuming that was something you would be interested in).
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  5. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    First this:


    The 12-40 is much bigger then the other lenses. And heavier. The only prime that could be a little better I think is the Sigma 60 (but is also the only one with the same max aperture).

    Then why exactly and for what purpose do you need to buy other lenses? If you want a better lens for the twins pictures the Oly 25 or 45 or the sigma 30 or 60 are perfect (which one depends if you prefer tight portraits or wider shots). No need to replace everything. It seems quite a drastic move to me.

    Five lenses so similar are a lot: which one are you going to use and why? And it's not going to be a very compact kit.

    Do you like to use primes? Can be quite annoying, especially with children running around everywhere.

    How much have you used the current lenses? Those are not bad lenses. The 40-150 in the wide end is really good. The main limit is the slow aperture but I do not know if this is the problem you are trying to solve.

    The smallest kit could be a P12-32 + P35-100/3.5-5.6 + one favourite prime for a clear purpose (street, portraits, etc.).
  6. siftu

    siftu Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 26, 2015
    Bay Area, CA
    Real Name:
    I am a huge fan of the 12-40mm. It's my go to travel lens on my OM-D. Saying that I don't like it on my E-PL6, its sits on the lens when you put it on a table etc and just doesn't feel right.. I feel that camera is more suited to the smaller primes. The sigma primes I'm sure are great IQ wise, but I mainly use my primes indoors and appreciate the extra stop+ of light the O and P primes offer.

    Of course it comes down to what you like and your budget.
  7. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Real Name:
    Do you shoot in low light, indoors often? Do you value blurred backgrounds?

    If yes to the above, option 1 might be best.

    if no to the above, size, weight, convenience become the determining factors. Only you can judge.

    FWIW I don't change lenses much. Despite best intentions and good theory, I find it a nuisance and I wind up not doing it often. However, I do usually carry one of the f1.x lenses just in case, but switching lenses shot-by-shot I've realized I'll never do. YMMV.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  8. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    And I feel like 12-40 doesn't differentiate enough from the 14mm f3.5 and 40mm f4 ends of the two kit zooms. Nor does it provide enough low light capability or subject isolation.

    Not saying your opinion is wrong, just saying we can take that logic onward.

    This is a bit like arguing what to eat for dinner, though! I can't tell you what you like to eat.
  9. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 4, 2014
    Real Name:
    I hear you. But I'm at heart a zoom guy, so a prime is going to have to be extra special to get me to sacrifice the convenience of a zoom. I have a few of them, and F/1.8 just isn't enough IMO in any of those categories.

    And I'm having leftovers for dinner as I type this, but it's surf and turf (plus an Alewerks Pumpkin Ale), so I'm not complaining.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
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  10. wsedf

    wsedf New to Mu-43

    Sep 15, 2015
    Thanks for your replies and aspects. Its not so obvious. Speed-weight-price. Main fields would be: indoor children, daylight city and landscape, outdoor portrait/children.
  11. kingduct

    kingduct Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2013
    I've got two young children as well and basically agree with tkbslc. If you plan to shoot indoors, you will want something that can handle the low light and can allow for a faster shutter speed to freeze little kids running around.

    I'll echo tkbslc and with his suggested fourth option: keep the two kit zooms, add a 25mm lens (either of the Panasonics or the Olympus) for your indoors portraits and get the Sigma 60mm for outdoors shots. This should actually be slightly cheaper than any of the options you listed. Bear in mind that while the kit lens isn't the best, it is perfectly serviceable and at the wide end is f3.5, so not too far behind the 12-40mm.

    For what it's worth, my current kit is not too far off what I suggest: I've got the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens, the Panasonic 20mm, the Sigma 60mm, and the Panasonic 45-150mm. Between these four lenses, I'm pretty happy right now. I periodically consider switching out the 20mm for a 25mm, but know it would involve sacrifices that might not be worth it.

    Disclaimer: I still own a Sigma 30mm and used to use it a ton before I got the Panasonic 20mm. It's a great lens, but I find I prefer keeping the 20mm on the camera as my go-to lens and that the difference between 20mm and 30mm is never great enough to motivate me to switch lenses.
  12. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 25, 2014
    Real Name:
    I'm pretty certain that the 12-40mm will be rather cumbersome on the E-PL6 - it sure feels front-heavy on my E-PL7. On the other hand, it's one of the best standard zooms out there *for any system*, and as these things go, it's actually reasonably compact and sports an awesome build quality. On the OM-D bodies, it feels right at home (though I personally like having the additional grip to help balancing it). So it might be considered a future-proof investment ... but maybe not a short-time solution.

    Looking at the OP's options, I'd - somewhat grudgingly - vote for the two small primes (option 1 - the Olympus 17mm and 45mm). Those two are the ones I use the most apart from the 12-40mm, and for good reasons: They're small, fast and render in an appealing way. That's why the 17mm more or less lives on the E-PL7, and the 45mm in a side pocket ... As an additional suggestion, even if money is an issue, I'd look into getting the Sigma 60mm, too - it punches way above its weight (i.e. price).

    Shooting primes makes for a worthwhile experience - and the IQ is way better than that of the kit zooms.

  13. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Real Name:
    On a tight budget option 1 offers a lot of versatility. Buy used to stretch your budget and minimize or eliminate loss if you sell down the road. Theyre not as fast, but you can save even more with a used 17/2.8 or 14/2.5.

    Leave the normal zoom at home for a light kit with the 17, 45 and long zoom.

    This is pretty much what I've been doing. I use my 14-45 primarily as a 14mm lens these days.
  14. datagov

    datagov Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2012
    New York
    I got a 12-40 from Japan on ebay for about $700. Took a couple of weeks to get here but so what. Sold my primes and have NEVER regretted it. I keep some long manual primes (50,90,100mm) but when I travel I shoot the O12-40 90% of the time and the only other lens that gets a workout is the O60.
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  15. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    Consider the Panasonic 12-35mm. On a percentage basis it is significantly smaller than the 12-40 and it is optically just as good. Even this lens is large, however, on a small Pen compared to something like the O17 or O45.

    I want small too but I did end up getting the 12-35mm. It ends up staying on the camera 95% of the time.

    Perhaps take it slow. You have the nice kit zooms which work well outdoors in good light. Get a single used prime and see if you like it. The 17mm or the Panasonic 20mm are great primes to start with (the 45mm is not as versatile for most as a 90mm equivalent). If you like the prime, you are all set. If not, sell it. You bought it used, you will sell it as used and probably not come out too far behind.
  16. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    Real Name:
    call me Arg
    That's a good suggestion about the 12-35, for that camera size. But I have never tried the 12-35.

    When I entered m43 I ran with zooms for ultra-wide and ultra-long (9-18 and 100-300), and primes in the gap (14, 25, 45, 75). Mixed brands with impunity :rolleyes-38:. I wanted most of my photography to benefit from that little something extra that good prime lenses offer.

    The only time it didn't work for me (it's my main system) is when travelling. The vast majority of walkabout shooting as a tourist is in that 14, 25, 45 area, where I was constantly wishing I had another lens on for the next shot. And, eventually, not changing lenses as often as I probably should have. I still got plenty of satisfaction from my images but the constant feeling of frustration in the field was unpleasant.

    So, just before travelling to Japan last March, I considered the 1240PRO. I even opened a thread to discuss the sanity of buying it and keeping my primes, which I love. Plenty of brilliant input in that thread from my m43 friends (thanks again, everyone), BTW.

    So, in the end I bought it and took it to Japan (shades of coals to Newcastle). I have to say, I was happy and frustration-free. That 12-40 range is so satisfying for so much of the general needs of walkabout travel photography, plus the 1240PRO has better-than-normal close-up ability, it covers off 90% of shots. And 100% for image quality; check the reviews and bench tests, it is typically described as stunning for this type of lens.

    Having said all that, I am loth to point you towards a system that has no primes. The m43 system is exceptional for its excellent range and quality of primes, and you know what? -they offer something special that you wouldn't want to miss out on. When I rated the 1240PRO 100% for image quality, I mean it is 100% for excellence, but I don't mean it is 100% for specialness, character, 'feel', or expression, in the way of a reasonably fast prime. Yet your nominated prime-lens kits, option 1 and option 2, don't go wide enough, so you are going to spend too much time using the stock zoom lens.

    I think I have a sense of your budget, so my suggestion, drawing on my comments above, is the 1240PRO and the new 42.5mm f/1.7 Lumix. That's about $1000, only 30% above budget!
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  17. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    I used to be a zoom guy, but when I went to m43 I started buying primes. I thought I wouldn't like them, but I wanted to give it a shot. I have found that I actually prefer shooting with primes now. For me, 25mm is my most used prime, but I know this is a very personal preference and many prefer 17mm. I also find that I shoot the primes wide open most of the time. So, for me the PL25 and O45 are my most used lenses, with the PL25 being my most used lens. So, I guess if I was choosing from your choices I'd go with option 1, but I'd substitute a 25 instead of the 17.
  18. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I would go the 12-40mm hands down, people are saying it's not fast enough for low light however the primes are only one stop faster - is one stop higher ISO going to make a difference when modern cameras are so good?

    If you can't get the picture at 6400 and f2.8 then you're not going to get it at f1.8 either, it's really past time that you bought out a flash.
  19. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    might as well say the kit zooms are fast then.
  20. DekHog

    DekHog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 3, 2011
    As much as I love my primes for the quality, lens changing is a pain, and you'll find you normally have the 'wrong' one on the end of the camera unless it's a set-up shooting situation..... unless you have more than two hands, or a table handy, lens changing then means the chance of dropping expensive things or missing shots you'd otherwise have got......
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