Getting into Micro Four Thirds properly

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by jamespetts, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I originally joined this forum last year when I was thinking of upgrading my Canon G10 for an Olympus E-PL2. (I had been into photography in the film days and had acquired a fairly extensive set of secondhand Canon FD equipment which I used to take colour slide photographs). Unfortunately, that camera was faulty when it arrived, and, even more unfortunately, the vendor went into administration before I obtained a refund. Later last year, after some deliberation, I acquired the Olympus E-P3, with which I have so far been happy.

    I managed to get some lovely photographs of a formal dinner using it with an adapted Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens, although I found the results from the Olympus 14-42mm Mk. II lens that came with the camera a little disappointing. I also did not get on well with Olympus Viewer 2 (it was awkward to get the white balance right, it was often unresponsive and there were also few tutorials available about getting the most out of it).

    Further, I was always a little unsure about what exactly to do with the photographs once I had taken them - they were all stored neatly in subfolders in my "My Pictures" folder, which I suppose is the approximate digital equivalent of having boxes of slides neatly categorised in one's study. I uploaded photographs to Facebook (mainly holiday and social pictures), but not a great deal else.

    Recently, I resolved to take the hobby a little more seriously now that I have a rather more serious camera with which to do it. I upgraded my old and dormant Flickr account to the "pro" setting, and decided to upload a selection of what I consider to be my better photographs henceforth to it, properly categorised, as well as some archive pictures that might be of interest to others (including a batch that I took last year at the National Railway Museum), all under the Creative Commons "attribution share alike" licence. I did upload a few pictures to Wikimedia Commons, although found that process very cumbersome indeed. I have also been trying the beta of Lightroom 4 (the full version of which was announced to-day at a rather encouraging price), which I have so far found very powerful and easy to use (and that is without yet having found any proper tutorials on learning it in depth). May I ask - do any seasoned users of Flickr and/or Lightroom have any particular tips of how to get the most out of each for those in my position?

    I have also been considering the question of lenses and accessories. A few weeks ago, I acquired my second native :43: lens, the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 for a very good price indeed on eBay, the results from which I find greatly more satisfying than those of the 14-42mm, although it is slower to focus and its wide angle of view is not well suited to all situations. In my film days, I generally preferred using fixed focal length lenses, especially at standard and wide-angle lengths, and am impressed by the ever expanding set of fixed focal length lenses for the Micro Four Thirds format.

    For a standard lens, I was originally drawn to the acclaimed Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, but am a little put off by reports of slow focussing, especially on Olympus cameras, and am now seriously considering the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 instead. One of the main reasons that I was interested in Micro Four Thirds was the compactness, being rather jaded at the enormous and heavy bag of equipment that I had acquired in the days of 35mm, and I did rather like the idea of having a very small pancake lens (and the idea of being able to go out with just the 20mm on the camera, the 14mm unobtrusively in my pocket, and being able to swap the two as the occasion demanded). However, another thing that is important to me is focussing speed, as I grew tired of missing good photographs with my Canon G10 because of its relatively slow reactions. Having read the thread dedicated to the subject with some care, I am provisionally leaning towards the 25mm, but should appreciate any input on the matter. As an aside, I should also mention that I have previously considered using my Canon FD 24mm f/2.8 as a standard lens, and went as far as trying it once, but manual focussing in low light on moving subjects using an OLED screen is not the easiest of tasks, and, whilst the image quality of the Canon lens is very good, whilst I hate to put my existing equipment to waste, and whilst one of the attractions of Micro Four Thirds for me was the ability to use some of my old lenses, I am also reluctant to have for my standard lens something that does not take advantage of many of the camera's relatively basic features, such as autofocus and automatic aperture control, especially since I remember from my film camera days that I was increasingly finding that the 50mm lens was the one that I used more than all the others.

    As to moderate wide-angle, I already have the little 14mm, with which I am happy. The 17mm focal length is a useful one, too, especially for social situations (indeed, there would be much to be said for using just a 17mm lens at party, and travelling light - I tried this with the 14mm, but found it a bit wide), but the only offering in this length by Olympus is not well-renowned. I did consider getting the camera with this lens as a kit instead of the 14-42mm, but when I tried it in the shop, it focussed so slowly compared to the 14-42, and reports were that the image quality was no better than the 14-42, even though the latter is a zoom, that I thought that the better value for money lay with the more flexible zoom. There are some rumours that Olympus might release a Mark II 17mm lens, and I should be happy if they did so, but these are unconfirmed. If secondhand 17mm lenses were available for knockdown prices on eBay, I'd consider that, too, but for reasons which I have yet to fathom, they seem to be selling for considerably more than the somewhat superior Panasonic 14mm.

    For more extreme wide-angle, I am very attracted by the Olympus 12mm (for scenic and interior photographs), but am a little worried about how much space that this plus the hood will take in my very small bag. I also like the idea of trying a fish-eye lens (I never managed to get one for my 35mm cameras), and note with interest the two offerings in this field, especially the less expensive one (after all - automatic focus is not a priority in a fish-eye lens, and it will not be used often), but this is currently a low priority.

    For telephoto lenses, I am currently leaning towards making good use of my old manual lenses, which are more useful in the telephoto than wide-angle department. My Canon 50mm f/1.8 is proving to be an excellent portrait lens (see for example this photograph of a colleague of mine that I took for a professional website), and is also good for general medium telephoto work. I also have a lovely Pentax 135mm f/3.5 in an M42 screw mount, for which I also have an adapter, which is of lovely quality, as well as a Vivitar Series 1 70-210 f/2.8-4, which is really quite a lens.

    One complication, however, is size. One of the main things attracting me to Micro Four Thirds was portability: when I first started using a digital compact for holiday photographs in 2006, it was so liberating in comparison to carrying a huge bag of 35mm kit that I never wanted to return to the large bag again. I deliberately acquired a very small bag for my Micro Four Thirds equipment - a Lowepro ILC Classic 100 - so that that convenience could be retained. The idea is that I will swap equipment in and out of the bag and take what I anticipate needing for wherever I am going (although any tips about how to anticipate such eventualities would be gratefully received!). This is why the pancake lenses appealed to me, as they take very little bag space.

    The 135mm lens will not fit into the bag with almost anything else there, although this lens came with its own velvet lined case when I bought it secondhand in 1996. I have now lost the strap for it, but a strap could easily be acquired, I suppose, so that I could carry it over my shoulder as necessity occasions. The problem is that it will not fit into its case with the Micro Four Thirds adapter attached, so that would have to be carried separately in the bag. This arrangement strikes me as potentially cumbersome, especially considering that it is a somewhat tricky task attaching a screw mount adapter (which, I presume, is why bayonet type mounts found favour with camera manufacturers over screw mounts from the 1960s onwards). Further, the M42 adapter is somewhat suboptimal in that, when tightened, the lens is upside down on the camera, which does not interfere with the optics, but is very annoying to use, especially in respect of the aperture ring and distance scale. The 135mm lens will also give a very narrow angle of view - the equivalent of 270mm on 35mm film. This is useful for some situations, but rather too much in others, and perhaps a little bit too far from 50mm.

    The other lens, the Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm in Canon FD fit, has optical quality that probably more or less equals that of the 135mm lens, but it is truly enormous and does not come with a case. It is so large that I worry that it might damage the mount on the camera if not supported at all times, and so I worry that this might be a somewhat impractical proposition. I am currently leaning towards doing the best that I can with the 135mm whenever I need serious telephoto (I tend towards not using long telephoto very much, although there are always situations now and again where it can be very useful), although any thoughts from people who have had similar issues would be most welcome.

    (I note as an aside that Olympus is planning to release a 75mm f/1.8 lens by the end of the year that is likely to be built to the same standard as the 12mm, and priced similarly - I am somewhat reluctant to consider such things while I have a bag full of good quality 35mm lenses, but I wonder how practical that using them will transpire to be).

    I also like the idea of a macro lens, although, as there is only so much that one can justify buying at considerable cost in a short time, and only so much space in my camera bag, this will have to be something to be considered in the rather more distant future, I fear.

    As to tripods, I still have my rather nice and sturdy Vanguard tripod from my film days, which, of course, is just as compatible with a camera built in 2011 than one built in 1964 (as was my oldest film camera, a lovely old all-mechanical Canon FX that I bought secondhand in 1996 as I was just getting into photography, long before the days of Micro Four Thirds, Lightroom or Flickr). On the basis of my penchant to travel light, however, I also have the mirrorless version of the Gorillapod, which, although, I have discovered, is too big for my camera bag, will happily fit into my trouser pocket, albeit sticking out a little. The larger tripod I can carry when I identify a specific need to do so (and am considering taking it one day and joining the throngs of photographers who regularly line up along the Eastern pavement of Waterloo Bridge at and after dusk to take the lovely cityscape photographs that can be had from that spot after dark; perhaps when the weather is a little warmer).

    I was never the greatest fan of flash photography, and much prefer using available light (which is one reason that I prefer the fixed focal length lenses, which tend to have better maximum apertures), although flash can come in very useful on occasions, particularly the fill-in variety. My provisional view is that the unit built into the camera is sufficient for my purposes, although I should be interested in the views of any seasoned flash user who thinks that reconsideration is in order.

    As to other accessories, I have a spare battery, very large memory card (32Gb), brush and cloth for cleaning the lens (and also an air puffer, which is probably the only safe way of cleaning the sensor in the event that the vibration cleaning system should for some reason not suffice, but this is rather bulky and might best be left at home), a much smaller spare memory card, and a remote release. Given the size of my camera bag, if I end up buying the two lenses that currently interest me the most - the 25mm and the 12mm - I should probably have to leave the 14-42mm at home if I were to take with me all the others, although a further pancake could probably be squeezed in.

    For reference, I like landscape photography and railway photography, as well as the more general sort of photography that one inevitably engages in on holiday, and the sort of social photography that provides hours of amusement for slightly less than sober friends - often in amusing fancy dress - on Facebook.

    Any thoughts on whether my provisional views are sane and whether there is anything else that I ought be considering would be most welcome.

    Edit: I did not expect this post to be this long! Apologies.
     
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  2. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    I added you as a contact on flickr and look forward to going through your properly organized photostream. I need to do some serious organization on mine.

    Just a few quick comments on some of the native lenses... I have the 12mm and love it for a general walk-around, architecture and landscape/environment lens. I am almost always at f4 - f5.6 and it is pretty dang sharp edge to edge for me. I am still tempted by the 7-14mm, especially when I go to the image thread here, but I have so far been able to do what I want with the 24mm FoV, and I appreciate the small size of the 12/2.

    I have both the 20/1.7 and the 25/1.4 and like both. I do think it is worth picking up a 20, when it becomes available again, just for the character, sharpness and especially because of the size. The E-P3 with 20/1.7 mounted has some serious IQ density going on. =) Okay, it does focus a bit more slowly than the latest m4/3 lenses, but the only time I have felt it didn't get the job done was when trying to capture fast moving children. I love the 25/1.4, but I really keep that for more of a low light/indoor family events specialist lens due to the size. One other thing to keep in mind on the PL25, is that it makes a good deal of noise on Oly bodies.

    The last thing I would say, is that you should really consider the 45/1.8 Oly lens. It is small and the image quality is just fantastic.
     
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  3. Do you mean to say that you don't have everything organised my genre, place, event, lens, camera..? Get to it! :biggrin:

    To the OP, the focusing speed of the 20/1.7 will depend on your frame or reference. I find it to be slower than the average lens, but certainly not tap your foot, look at your watch slow. However, if you need virtually instantaneous focus, this is not the lens for you.
     
  4. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    I am copying your layout as I type this message! :biggrin:

    I think right now my genres are Weird, Rusty Things, Rural Decay, and maybe No People (everything else would be a sub set of this collection).
     
  5. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Flickr is just where I throw up all the stuff I want a place for that's a little more visible than my harddrive. ;) I don't need much organization for it, but I try for a little bit...

    I added all three of you guys, for your Flickr expertise. ;)
     
  6. capodave

    capodave Mu-43 Top Veteran

    514
    Jul 4, 2010
    Southern Cal
    Dave
    The images posted on your Flickr photostream are quite amazing.
    Look forward to seeing more.
    Thank You!
     
  7. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Thank you all for your replies, and for adding me on Flickr! I am somewhat reluctant to get both the 20mm and the 25mm, as that would seem to involve a somewhat inefficient element of duplication, and likewise the 45mm f/1.8 would seem to duplicate my existing manual 50mm f/1.8. Am I right in thinking that the 25mm lens is similar in size to the Olympus 14-42mm Mark II lens when unextended?
     
  8. Adobres

    Adobres Mu-43 Regular

    90
    Nov 25, 2011
    The 25mm is a lot fatter than the 14-42. I really dont see the size as an issue. There is something really beautiful about the 25mm I cant really put words to. There is a dimension, and life to it, cant really explain. I highly recomend the 45mm 1.8. It blows my mind, I am so happy with it.
     
  9. BarefootPilgrim

    BarefootPilgrim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    517
    Dec 23, 2009
    Westchester, IL
    Bob
    Kyle, does that mean that all the people are in the "Wierd" or "Rural Decay" categories? :biggrin:
     
  10. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    :rofl: Good point!

    Hmmmm.... no, I think I am still in the too-shy-to-actually-photograph people phase. Well, that, and I do kind of like the abandoned/dream-like feel.

    I do actually have some people stuff, but it has all been family and friends and mostly kept on smugmug for this sharing.
     
  11. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I'd be interested, incidentally, on people's views on adapted telephoto lenses...
     
  12. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I have now ordered the 12mm f/2.0 (plus hood) and 25mm f/1.4, and look forward to taking delivery of them and seeing how they perform. I shall stick to adapted lenses for telephoto focal lengths for the time being.
     
  13. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Unless you can make use of a slow lens (which I can't), then adapting telephoto lenses are your only option. There's nothing to think about for me, I just do what I need to do.

    If you go legacy (ie, as opposed to Four-Thirds or other modern lineups), then stick with primes. Zooms were not of the same quality until the digital age, but great quality primes have always been around.
     
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  14. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Ned,

    thank you for the advice. I have noticed that the native Micro Four Thirds telezooms are all rather slow. There seems to be some movement towards faster telephoto fixed focal length lenses, such as the 45 f/1.8 and forthcoming 75 f/1.8, although nothing yet equivalent to a 135mm f/3.5.

    Incidentally, I'm not sure that it's right that all pre-digital era zooms are substantially inferior to fixed focal length lenses: some of the better modest range telephoto zooms produced images of the same quality as fixed focal length lenses. I have, for example, a lovely Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8 - 4.0 that I used to use with my Canon FD cameras, and the quality of that is really excellent. The only trouble with it is that it is enormous and very heavy, and thus not really practical to use on a Micro Four Thirds camera (where I risk damaging the mount on the camera unless I support the lens the whole time).