E-PL6 + Budget Lens: What's The Best Compromise?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Airth, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    I'm finally going to pick up a Micro Four Thirds camera after many years of using my much loved E-410. I'm more than happy with the quality of the pictures it produces but I'm often frustrated by its poor ISO capabilities and lack of stabilization, not to mention its tendency to clip highlights and somewhat narrow dynamic range. To be honest, I kind of enjoy fighting with it but it's about time I moved on.

    I'd ideally like to get an E-M10 but it's out of my price range, even at a knockdown $328 (I'm in Japan but I'll use dollars to keep things simple). My budget is as tight as a really tight thing so I've decided on a new E-PL6 (no battery, flash or lens) for $118. Am I right in assuming my BLS1 batteries are going to work OK?

    Next up, I'll buy an MMF-2 for $68 so that I can use my 35mm macro and, now and then, the double kit lens. I don't think it's worth trying to save $16 by buying the Viltrox JY-43F as most of the reviews I've seen say it has a bit too much play. I know the auto focus is going to be rubbish with my Four Thirds lenses but I absolutely love the 35mm. I currently use it about 90% of the time. It's just too bad the E-PL6 doesn't have focus peeking. I'll give the Key Line hack a go but it doesn't sound like it's an enjoyable way to shoot.

    So, here's my question. What lens would you choose to pair with an EPL, bearing in mind I'm on a tight budget and will be using my 35mm? For your information, I'm not interested in portraits or street photography. I sometimes take pictures of my dogs and chickens but I'm usually looking for details, finding shapes in nature, abstract junk and stuff. Indoors, I usually use an off camera flash. I'm quite happy to have a go at most focal lengths. I'm only looking at primes unless anyone can convince me there are any decent low price zooms. Anyway, here are the choices in price order (converted from yen and including shipping):

    Olympus 17mm f2.8 - $101 used
    I tend not to shoot this wide but I think I'd enjoy working on my composition with it. I like the compact size. Reviews are mixed, sometimes scathing. (Total price $287)

    Panasonic 14mm 2.5 - $118 used
    Perhaps a better lens than the 17mm but I don't think I'd enjoy shooting this wide. I suppose I should I try my zoom at the same length for a couple of days though the prospect doesn't exactly fill me with excitement. (Total price $304)

    Sigma 19mm 2.8 - $118 used

    Good lens. Handy focal length. Good price. Maybe a bit plump? Tempted by this one. (Total price $304)

    Sigma 30mm 2.8 - $143 used
    The focal length is probably too close to my 35mm. I'll give this one a miss. (Total price $329)

    Sigma 60mm 2.8 - $143 NEW

    Absolutely fabulous lens by all accounts. Amazing price. I wonder how it handles on an EPL. This would hardly be the most practical focal length for my only native lens but I think this would push me creatively. It would no doubt also frustrate me indoors, though. (Total price $329)

    Olympus 45mm 1.8 - $160 used

    Another great lens. It's fast to focus and fast in terms of light gathering. It's sharp. It's a classic lens. The focal length, however, isn't that much different from my 35mm. (Total price $346)

    Panasonic 20mm 1.7 - $168 used

    Wonderful lens that people love to hate. Nice and small. Nice focal length. Maybe it'll produce banding at high ISOs. Fast, but not to focus. Then again I'm used to the 35mm, which can be a dog to focus. I'd probably find the focus speed on this incredible. I seem to keep coming back to this one. (Total price $354)

    25mm 1.8 - $235 used

    I don't know if my budget can stretch this far. It's a bit of a jump in price. I realize this is a fine lens but is it really worth the extra cost? (Total price $421)

    I think that's everything. Let me know if I'm missing anything obvious. And thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
  2. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    Sorry, I think I should have posted this in the 'This or That?' forum. Can someone shift me over, please?
  3. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    Real Name:
    I'll leave it to the creatives to suggest a lens for you, but I use the Oly 17 a lot and have had wonderful results.
  4. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    35 equivalent is a very useful FL.
    Plus, the 17/2.8 is small. That'd be my choice.
  5. Droogie

    Droogie Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 23, 2013
    Washington State
    I absolutely love both of the Sigmas (19 and 30)on my EPL2. I'd go for the 19mm.
  6. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    A very good morning from Japan to you both, fsuscotphoto and Pecos. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Those are the kinds of answers I was hoping for. I was half expecting everyone to say just save up for the 25mm, but I'd much prefer to hear what's good about the cheaper options. It's great to know you've had good results, it's a useful focal length and a great fit for the E-PL6. Definitely high on my list.

    Would anyone else suggest differently?
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    Hello there, Droogie. I've heard only good things about the Sigmas. I was thinking that the 19mm would make a good match for an EPL but I'm unfortunately unable to handle one to check the weight, size and feel. It's good to know that you love the Sigmas so much. Thanks.
  8. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    The 19 is real deal. Who hates the 20 1.7, also a possibility? I also enjoy my 17 2.8, reviews be damned.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. mnhoj

    mnhoj There and back again

    Dec 3, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Real Name:
    John M
    I've been thinking of revisiting m43 with a 14mm and 45mm.
    I'd probably go for the 20mm in your case.
    Btw, lovely prices.
  10. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    Thanks, drd1135. It might come down to a choice between the 19 and the 17 2.8. From what I understand, the 19 is much sharper and quicker to focus. The 17 is all about the form factor and the wider angle of view, though I don't have any particular preference between 34mm and 38mm. Something to mull over.

    I've heard several people say they've bought, sold and re-bought the 20 1.7. It sounds like the kind of lens people have a love hate relationship with. There's no doubting the quality of the images it produces, though.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    Thanks for the advice, mnhoj. The 20mm is the lens I've had my eye on for years. I always thought it would be the one to get when I finally made the jump to Micro Four Thirds. Just when I think I've made my mind up, I hear voices in my head saying it's not as good on Oly bodies, it hunts in low light, it's noisy and it might produce banding. It's too bad I can't just try it out for a day and make up my own mind.

    The prices are pretty good, aren't they? They're all from Yahoo Auction in Japan. Everything I've ever bought off it has looked just like new.
  12. nzdigital

    nzdigital Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 20, 2010
    New Zealand
    Real Name:
    I'll give another nod to the 17mm f2.8. I love the lens and have it on my E-M5 most of the time. Would be a great with the small EPL-6.

    Wrote a review of the lens recently on my blog nzdigital.blogspot.co.nz
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. a_hit_of_meth

    a_hit_of_meth Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 7, 2012
    It's a wonderful lens, IQ every bit as good as everyone says it is. I sold mine due to frustrations with the AF but have often considered getting another despite hearing the same voices in my head about AF and banding. If you don't need the quick AF for those stealthy street or candid shots then I would highly recommend it as a first or sole prime in your setup. Plus, the slow AF and noise will make you appreciate the speed and silence of the other lenses even more when you get them later on.
  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Hi Airth, welcome to the forum. About the battery officially you can not use it but in practice is a little more complicated then that as you probably already found out (I have no personal experience on this):


    Autofocus for "four third" lenses without PDAF should not be super fast but definitely usable.

    About the lenses I'd consider the focal length first or the size or the speed, the most significant to you, before the IQ. As you already have a 35mm I'd look for a different focal lengths. At the same time if you are not too much into normal/wide lenses...why get one? You say you are into details, outdoor shots and you use the 35 most of the time. What other lenses do you have for the other 10%? If this is going to be your "main" lens I'd consider the 90%. So maybe the Sigma 60 could be an option: not too close to the 35, a little faster and good outdoor. The 45 is much faster, better indoor but gets closer to the 35. Wider is usually better: you can crop but can not add.
    I'd use the zoom you already have (with digital TC) for getting comfortable with different focal lengths before committing to one you do not currently use.

    No single lens is good for everything, if you plan to build a set of primes you should consider the full set, like 14 + 35 + 60 for example. Unless you want to keep the 35 for macro only and you are looking for a replacement.

    For me, for example, the P20 always feels a little too wide, while the 25 is just right (I think this is just about habits). I like 50mm and 35mm too. 60mm is borderline and 75 is almost always too long. And if I want to go wide I go for 12.

    The P20 on E-M10 needs a little baby-sitting: you need to point it on good contrast and it will lock. In low light finding a good spot at the correct distance gets increasingly harder.

    You can also get an adapted manual focus 50/1.8 for a few dollars if you like the rendering of old lenses.
  15. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I'd go with 20/1.7 I think, given your shooting priorities. It won't be the best "dog and chicken" lens, but not as bad as many would have you believe. If action is a priority over nature, shapes etc. then the 17/1.8 would be my recommendation. Super-fast AF on every Olympus body I've used it with.
  16. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Real Name:
    I don't know if this would be the best compromise, but I'd want the 45/1.8 or the 60/2.8. Considering you have and love the 35/3.5 I'd probably go for the 60/2.8.

    My choice for the second lens to add as finances allow would be from the 17, 19, 20mm group. The 17/2.8 is just as slow focusing as the 20/1.7. They both are unit focusing lenses and have to throw a lot of weight around. I'd pick from the 19 or 20 for the focal length. I have the 17/2.8 but can't swap now for financial reasons.

  17. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    Thanks for the great review. I felt like you were writing directly to me. I've also been thinking hard about the relationship between gear, image quality and my photography. I'm moving more towards the idea that if someone looks at one of my images and only talks about things like noise, softness and chromatic aberration, I must be doing something wrong. Technical perfection and a compelling image are two completely separate things. The 17mm 2.8 is undoubtedly good enough for me.

    I have a couple of quick questions. You wrote there's a lot of software manipulation being done in camera. Does that include the RAW file or just the Jpeg? Also, does the rubber lens hood you mentioned roll back over the lens when you don't need it? It sounds like a neat idea but I'm wondering whether it gets in the way of the focus ring at all.
  18. Airth

    Airth Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 2, 2015
    Japan Alps
    I really wonder why Panasonic have never given the lens a proper overhaul. They must surely know how much it's loved and yet how much it frustrates. Your final sentence put a smile on my face; we need a little pain in life in order to appreciate the joy all the more.

    You know, there's more to life and photography than super slick autofocus but I can't decide whether I want to take this jump into a potential world of AF frustration. I already battle with the at times jittery, at times unresponsive AF served up by my 35mm macro on a daily basis.
  19. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Real Name:
    David Dornblaser
    Hi Airth, I like the 17mm focal length so my vote would be for the 17mm. I would think that the 14-42 II R would be competitive with most of the lenses that you are considering. Given that it is a kit lens, you should be able to find one at an attractive price. We have taken some nice pictures with that lens.
  20. billbooz

    billbooz Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 23, 2014
    Lynchburg, VA USA
    Real Name:
    William H. Booz
    Airth, my vote would also be on the 17mm, f/2.8. I had this lens and loved, especially, it's small, 'pancake' size. I sold it to a friend, but wish now I had kept it. I am not a pixel peeper, so never was concerned by those who were negative about the 2.8 vs the 1.8, plus the smaller size is what got me anyway. I ended up getting the Panasonic 20mm, f/1.7, the older version, used. Like it and it pretty much lives on my E-PL6 which is my walk-around camera. I also have the 60mm which is a great lens, but for your described situation, I think the 17mm is perfect.