Do you step down your 12-40mm when taking landscape pictures?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by mesmerized, Apr 24, 2014.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Hello there,

    The aperture of the 12-40mm lens is 2.8 Do you have to step it down when you're taking landscape pictures? I'm asking because I'm having another lens on my mind (10-24mm f/4) and Fuji forum users told me that making that lens faster wouldn't help much anyway because it's supposed to be designed for landscape photos and they said that even if that lens was faster (say 2.8) then they would have to step it down anyway.

    Looking forward to your insights.

  2. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Real Name:
    How much depth of field do you want? Traditionally, landscape photographers liked extensive depth of field, so they stopped their lenses down as much as they felt comfortable.

  3. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm simply wondering if the 2.8 at 12mm has to be stopped down for landscapes.
  4. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    Does it have to be? No. Will most people use it that way? Yes. But it's perfectly possible to take a landscape photo at 12mm f/2.8 (or for that matter at 40mm f/2.8). You're just going to have less DoF.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. brettmaxwell

    brettmaxwell Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 8, 2012
    everything is a tradeoff.

    if you want max sharpness, you'll want to be around f5
    if you want max DOF, you'll want to be at f11-f16, but you'll lose some sharpness
    if you want minimum DOF, you'll want to be at f2.8, but you'll lose some sharpness
    if you want max light gathering, you'll want to be at f2.8, but you'll lose some sharpness and DOF
    if you want motion blur (moving water), you'll want to be at f11-f16, or use ND, but you'll lose some sharpness
    • Like Like x 2
  6. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    Depends. If the lighting is good and there's plenty of things I want to be sharp then yes. If the lighting isn't that great and/or I'm only interested in a certain part of the landscape then no. I try to use f/4-f/8 when possible but it's hard to say what is the current ratio (2.8 vs 4-8) of my pictures at the moment...
  7. Zee

    Zee Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I think you should stop up or down based on what you want to achieve with your photo. No one ever said a landscape had to have a large DoF, no one ever said it had to be taken in landscape view either...

  8. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Generally speaking (VERY generally), most lenses hit their optical sweet spot (sharpness, CA, contrast, etc) a stop or two stopped down from wide open. Of course, with M4/3, diffraction is more of an issue at moderate apertures than with APS-C or FF cameras, so our "sweet spot" is a lot less forgiving/lot smaller than other systems'. At 12mm with a small sensor like ours, even at f2.8, you'll have enough DOF for landscape photography...however, I'd stop down to about f4-5-ish for maximum sharpness. I usually stop my 9-18 and Samyang 7.5 FE down to about f5 for this reason.
  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Real Name:
    Ray, not Oz
    Doesn't it depend on what you want in focus, the actual subject matter at hand, the main feature of interest? A landscape photograph doesn't mean that everything has to be in focus from the front of your feet to as far as you can see. It's all subject dependent and what feature/s of your landscape might be of greatest importance.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    Real Name:
    I think someone probably did say that somewhere, it's just that they were wrong.:smile::rolleyes:
  11. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    The hyperfocal distance for a 12mm lens at f/2.8 is about 3.5 meters. This means that if you focus at 3.5 meters you will have the maximum possible DOF, in this case from about 1.5 meters to infinity. If you focus on a more distant point you loose some DOF in the foreground, but very very little, like 3 meters focusing at 2km.
    So, regarding dof, there is no reason to stop down the lens at 12mm.
    At 40mm f/2.8 the hyperfocal is 40 meters, so if you have something very close (less than 20 meters) that you want in focus you could have to stop it down a little.

    The problem is that DOF just means "acceptable" focus area and there are different degrees of "acceptable". Smaller apertures can give you more resolution, even more when combined with the "best" focus distance for the specific picture. For this case f5.6 should be the best at 12mm and f8/11 at 40mm for this case (not more to avoid diffraction).
    It is explained here in details:

    As already told, you could choose to stop down the lens to hit the sweet spot of the lens, but the 12-40 is very good even full open:
    • Like Like x 2
  12. wushumr2

    wushumr2 Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2013
    You could also focus stack.
  13. ttomino1980

    ttomino1980 Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 19, 2014
    nicely written

    somewere I saw that as FF users usualy goes max f8-16 due to diffraction that for the m43 the optimal is somewhere between f4-8

    I would say that using tripod is the next thing which can improve the landscape photography
  14. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    For me, I want clear and sharp features on my landscape. If lighting is good, I would want to stop down a little into what I assume is the sharpest f-stop range of my lens. Typically 4-5.6 on many m4/3 lenses.

    If I had my choice, however, I would still want an f2.8 lens over an f4 lens. There are times where I might simply need more light.

    IMO, the guy with the f4 lens who says you don't need f2.8 because you stop down anyway is simply justifying his own choice.
  15. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    If you want near to infinity sharpness, you shoot 3-5 shots at ~f8 with focus points from near to far. Then you focus stack the shoots in Helicon Focus, Photoshop or other program. You can not get great sharpness near to infinity with one shoot. Past f16 defraction on the aperture blades starts to be a factor. By the time you are at f22 or higher.....sharpness can get a major hit.

    If the lighting is also extreme, you may need to an exposure bracket of 3 shots at each of the different focus points. Run those bucketed shots through HDR software (with no grunge effect) to create a wide range composite. Then that those 3-5 composite shots and run them through focus stacking. You can end up with some of the killer shots you will see in Outdoor Photographer or other photo mags.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    It took me a while to understand (I hope!) the article I linked before, maybe this could be a quick summary:


    When you focus on the tree you have perfect focus on the tree only. As you move away everything starts to micro blur. Eventually you reach a point when you choose that the blur is too much (the blue bars) and you "declare" that the DoF is finished.
    With a smaller "lens size" this point is reached farthest (the purple dashed line) and this means that you have more dof but also that the flower, the house and anything in between are less micro blurry. With the small "lens size" the light "spread" at the flower is about one third of the "spread" of the big lens.

    The "lens size" in this context is focal length divided by aperture. So 12mm f/2.8 is 4.2mm, 40mm f/4 is 10mm, etc. This is the "base resolution" you start with, the smaller the better, 3 to 5mm is good for landscapes.

    When you focus at infinity the two lines runs parallel and you know that your resolution will be the "lens size" for everything. If your subject does not have small features this could be a good choice because you give up the maximum resolution in a specific point to avoid the "micro blur" of the close/far objects.

    MFT charts do not show this because they are shot at perfect focus distance. Let's say that I have a lens ultra sharp at f/2 and good at f/8. With the small aperture the sharpness is lost a lot faster, so for landscapes one could prefer to have a good sharpness everywhere.

    Does all of this matter in practice? There is only one way to find out... :)
  17. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    For which there are good practical and optical reasons. The slower lens will be smaller and less expensive - often significantly so. Moreover, at the same price, you can make a sharper f/4 lens than an f/2.8 lens (see e.g. the Canon 24-70/2.8 and 24-70/4) although due to the cachet of f/2.8 this isn't done so often any more. It's the same principle though by which f/1.8 primes generally used to be better than f/1.4 primes, when used at the same aperture.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. owczi

    owczi nareteV 34-uM

    Normally true and I'd default to that, however in the particular case of the Oly 12-40 f/2.8, the lens actually achieves the best resolution at the wide end (12mm) at maximum aperture (f2.8) :) multiple tests show that, but only at the wide end.

    Anyhow, this lens behaves in the most uniform way across the whole zoom range at f/4 - f/5.6,

    To the OP - treat this as a learning exercise. Take a series of shots all the way from f/2.8 to f/11 (I wouldn't go above f/8 for sharpness) and compare / pixel peep for yourself. It all depends on the actual scene. You can have scenery in the foreground that will not matter (or help) if it's slightly out of focus, but you can have cases where it will be an issue. Just experiment - you can map a button to DoF preview that will close down the aperture for you and show you what's in focus. If it's a "classical" wide open landscape, you can always zoom in a little so the very near objects are not in the frame.

    If you look at an example depth of field calculator: - you'll see that for a 4/3 sensor, at 12mm and f/2.8, when focusing past 10 metres / 30 feet into the scene, everything from about 2.5 m will be sharp. When you change that to f/4, it's only 1.8m, at f/8 it's 1m to infinity. At f/11 it's 0.8m.

    With landscapes, with the aperture you're really fighting for extending the DoF closer towards the camera - once your focus is past the hyperfocal distance for the given FL and aperture (, it's only the near end of the DoF range that changes - the far end remains at infinity. For wide angles you achieve that from shorter distances on, and for landscapes you will usually be focused quite far anyway. Obviously, the sharpness is not linear, it's not that it drops from razor to butter after crossing the DoF range. DoF is only an indication of what should be considered acceptably sharp. Also the shorter the focal length, the more DoF at the same apertures.

    To sum this all up very simply, I'd say go with f/4 or f/5.6 if the scene permits it and you're happy with the results, otherwise go up to f/8 - go above if your maximum shutter speed doesn't let you go f/8. Also don't confuse motion blur (which may happen if you close down) with focus or lens specific sharpness. If the lighting conditions start getting tricky, you may get a better result wide open but steady than closed down and getting motion blur.
  19. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    The diffraction <> aperture isn't a problem in m4/3 cameras like E-M1. Why? Because you can see the effect so easily before you even release shutter. Use a max magnification zoom and then change aperture and you can see what it does to details. And of course a 15x zoom in preview presents the effect very well, using front wheel to quickly browse trough shots so you can see difference very easily between shots taken with different aperture.

    To me the limit is f/11 but if needed I can go to f/22. But I don't find any need to stop down from f/2.8 with a 12-40 Pro. Sharp as needed and no need for vignetting correction either, unless really pixel peeping (= doesn't care photography)

    We are not living on film age anymore or DSLR where preview is required or going around with bad preview zooms.

    And now with a touchscreen, it is playing fast to change focus point and scroll around preview.
  20. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    IMO, you're wrong.

    I rarely shoot anything moving with my UWA. So, I got the "slow" lens. Why? Because the bulk of the work I do with this lens is either in good light or on a tripod and non-moving (allowing me to take advantage of my camera's superb IBIS). The ridiculously few times I shoot things that don't fall into these categories don't justify having a bigger, heavier, more expensive lens.