If You Had to Choose One Lens Only...

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by April, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. April

    April Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 18, 2015
    Hi! I'm new the forums, new-ish to the micro 4/3rds (I have a Pan D6), and new again to photography. Meaning...I took B&W photography throughout high school with my grandfather's old manual camera. I wasn't bad. In fact, I thought I was pretty good. I'd probably cringe at the photos now, but my interest has been once again sparked...too many years later.

    I have only the kit lens and an Olympus 45mm 1.8. I love the 45mm, but I'm thinking a good telephoto lens would give me more variety in my photos. The kit lens isn't terrible, but the more I (re)learn about photography and the more I learn about this camera, the more I realize it's not that great either.

    If you could buy only one lens...and not for more than $500 (is that even possible?)...what would you buy? Would you go 3rd party rather than brand name?

    I know there are threads similar to this out there, but the few I saw were from years ago, so I thought technology has improved, and there are probably more options out there now than then.

    I'm sure I'll be asking many, many questions in the months to come, so I thank all of you experts ahead of time. :)
  2. laser8

    laser8 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 29, 2013
    Mare nostrum, Istria
    Hi there! Personally, I'd check which focal length you use most (there are programs on the web that scan your files and tell you that) and buy a prime in that range. I personally went from a lot of 45mm pics to a lot of 12mm and now seem to have stabilized on 25...
  3. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA

    If I had to choose one m4/3 lens (at any price) it would be the Panasonic 20mm 1.7. Although I have owned a lot of m4/3 lenses over time, its one that I come back to over and over and over. Most of my favorite photos were taken with the 20mm. Its combination of "wide-normal" field of view, great sharpness, decent depth of field control, small size, and value for cost makes it hard to beat!

    Others will say the 17mm and 25mm lenses focus faster, offer more depth of field control, have more consistent image quality, etc., but I've tried many of them and found that they just don't wow me the way the 20mm always has...
    • Agree Agree x 9
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Welcome to the forum. As far as affordable "normal range" zooms, I think the 14-45 and the 12-32 are two with reasonably high IQ. The latest 14-42 Pany kit lens also has its fans. And if you can stretch your budget a bit, a refurbished 12-40 on sale might be your best best.

    As far as primes, it depends what you like to shoot. And for a budget telephoto, the 40-150 is the "plastic fantastic".

    Good luck,

  5. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    Telephoto? Short telephoto would be O12-40 P12-35 but they are over your price range. For medium telephone the Olympus 40-150 f/4.0-5.6 is a bargain. If you did not mean telephoto I was going to suggest the O17, there are a number of posters here who use the O17 & O45 in combination with each other. You can substitute the P15, P20, P25, and O25 for the O17 if those are your preferred focal lengths.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Well at your price range there is nothing for me. I prefer telephoto lenses and if I could have only one lens it would be the same lens I use 90% of the time now. The 4/3 ZD 150mm F/2.0 combined with both TCs.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  7. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Hi April, welcome to the forum. The 45mm is already a good telephoto lens (90mm equivalent). If you want something longer the Sigma 60 and the Oly 75 are both excellent options. But if you are looking to get really different kind of shots these are not going to do it.

    The classic "one lens" primes that works well for many things are focal lengths from 17 to 30. So you have the Pana 20/1.7, the PanaLeica 25/1.4, Oly 25/1.8. Probably the new Pana 25/1.7, but is so new that there are not many reviews around. If you really love manual focus only you could consider more exotic lenses like the Mitakon 25/0.95.

    If you are into a specific type of photography (landscapes, sport, wildlife, portraits, etc.) other more specialized lenses could be better. Or if it often happened to you to need more reach or a wider view with the kit zoom.
    What do you plan to shoot most? Is there something in particular that you would expect from a better lens?

    For zooms there's the Pana 12-35/2.8, a "pro" lens that can replace all of those primes except for low light shooting. You can get a used one for about your full budget. Size is quite different from the lens you own too: Compact Camera Meter

    BTW $500 is quite a good budget for a single lens. But if you want something really better then the kit zoom you should consider primes or a used pro zoom.

    You can have a look at the showcase section of the forum too: Native Lens Sample Image Showcase
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  8. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    My suggestion as well.
  9. skellington

    skellington Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 4, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    This VERY much depends on what you want to shoot. For me, I'd need a wider, faster lens as I like to shoot indoor shots of my child, and of dancing (in really bad light).

    I'd probably look at the 25mm Panasonic F1.7. (It just came out, and was selling for $200 on pre-sale. It looks like it will be part of lots of kits in the near future, so I expect you will be able to find one for that or less soon.) That's a faster lens for comparable prices to the Sigma 19mm and 30mm.

    The telephoto zooms in this price range are handy (if that's what you want to shoot), but are more or less kit lens quality. The 45-150 is cheap and good for a kit zoom. The 45-175 is reported to be *slightly* better, and is in theory better for video, but is more expensive. The 45-200 is older and not particularly recommended (although I'll sell you a used one cheap!)

    You can, in fact, get the 25mm AND the 45-150 for $500 total.

    You might get the 100-300 on sale or used for under $500. I'm looking to pick that up at some point.

    But if you wanted to do Macro, you could get the Panasonic 30mm or Olympus 60mm Macro lens for under $500. They're not as fast as the pure primes, but the Panasonic 30mm is stabilized (and the 25mm isn't) and the Olympus 60mm is a nice focal length for portraits (and they're both faster than the kit zooms.)

    I haven't used it a ton, but I like the Rokinon 7.5mm fish-eye. But it's a pretty special purpose lens (although de-fishing software makes it more useful.)

    The Sigma 60mm gets good reviews and is only $209 right now. I'm not sure it adds much since you've got the 45mm, but if you wanted a bit more telephoto reach with higher quality than the kit zooms.

    And you should keep an eye on the "Hot Deals" page. The Olympus 75mm (which is amazing) is available as a refurb for $560. I got the Costco package of a GF7, 12-32mm and 35-100mm (f4) for $500, and I'll be selling the GF7 and my 14-42 shortly so my out of pocket will hopefully be under $300. That gives me a bit wider option (12mm) and the new zooms are tiny and good quality.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  10. bacil

    bacil Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 24, 2012
    Oly 75mm
  11. April

    April Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 18, 2015
    Eeek! I am getting a bit overwhelmed. I don't even know what I want anymore. I do love my 45mm...I'm just not sure where I want to go from there.

    My Pany kit lens is the 14-42. It's not too bad. I would like to be able to open it up a bit more than I can, though.

    That's the problem. I don't know what my preferred focal lengths are yet! I'm not making this easy for your guys to help, am I?

    I love playing with depth of field, so I like open apertures. However, I do take some landscape photos occasionally, though I think my favorite is nature - up close. Not macro, (one day macro, but not now), but close.

    I think what I'm asking for right now is a decent lens with variety. Something that could do well at a family reunion but also on a nature walk. Something that would work for street photography but also at home during my daughter's birthday.

    I am writing all these lenses down though! I have a lot to research!

    One thing though - someone mentioned that my 45 is a good telephoto lens...but it's a prime. There's no zoom.

    What are your thoughts on the Oly 14-150mm f/4-5.6?
  12. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    1) Look at buying used from a reputable store with a good warranty.
    2) If shallow DOF is what you crave, then stick with the primes. You already have one of the best in the 45/1.8.
    3) You can get a good deal on an Olympus 17/1.8 and a new Sigma 60/2.8 for under your $500 budget.
    4) If you want more reach on a budget, swap out the Sigma 60/2.8 and look at the Olympus 40-150/4-5.6. It is not the shallow DOF monster by any means, but it will be a great portrait alternative for you and give you some reach for nature stuff.
    5) If you like fisheye and want a bargain, the Olympus 9mm BCL can be had for $100 new and about $60-$70 used. It is f/8 so is only good in low light, but the IQ is surprisingly good for the price point.
  13. skellington

    skellington Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 4, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    Well, the inexpensive zooms won't give you tons of options with aperture. If that's what really excites you, I'd go for one of the fast primes.

    So why isn't the 14-42mm not good enough for these?

    Lenses are either zoom or prime. But that doesn't say anything about being "wide" or "telephoto". Wide is <15mm or so. "Normal" is 15-40mm. Telephoto is 40mm+

    Panasonic makes a 7-14mm zoom (which is from wide to wider.) And Olympus is coming out with a 300mm prime which is very telephoto.

    On a panasonic body, I'd look for the panasonic version of this lens for image stabilization. They just upgraded it, and you may be able to find the older version really inexpensively if you're patient and shop around.

    In general, the quality will be slightly lower than the kit zooms with slightly worse aperture. But if you have enough light, and you're happy enough with the quality, you don't ever have to change lenses..
  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    If I got it right the problem with the kit zoom is not image quality but that there is not much difference from one end and the other. And you are looking for another zoom.

    The 14-150 is a good lens that does everything well but nothing exceptionally. I'd consider the Panasonic version because it has image stabilization.
    Otherwise you can add the Pana 45-150 (with OIS) that complements the kit zoom on the tele end: together they cover the same range.

    Or you can choose to focus on a very specific focal length with a prime to get the best for that one only: speed, DoF, size, cost and image quality.

    The problem with zooms is that they are slow (f4-5.6) so they are not great for shallow DoF except on the longer focal lengths. But you already have the 45/1.8 for the classic portrait look so that should not be a problem. Pro zoom are faster but are way more expensive and I'm not sure are the best option here.

    What could be more difficult is taking shots of kids at home after the sunset when the light is low. You can solve this with the 45/1.8 or with the Pana 25/1.7. Or with any lens simply using the flash in the right way.

    Just to state the obvious: there is not one perfect lens for everything, that's why you can change it.
  15. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    There's a lot of good advice here.

    Any of the 2.8 zooms, especially the 12-35/12-40, can be great do-it-all lenses that will give you as much DOF control as one can get in a m4/3 zoom. They don't come cheap, but deals can be had with refurbished or used copies. For a Panasonic body without sensor stabilization, the 12-35 is about as good as it gets with for an "every situation" zoom.
  16. Hendrik

    Hendrik Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Feb 27, 2015
    Wayland MA
    I suspect I would put the kit zoom back on the camera and shoot with it for a few weeks straight and then ask myself how I most feel constrained. What shots did I miss? What could have been done better or more easily? When I did that (essentially my first year with an E-M5 and the O12-50) I came up with two answers: telephoto and low light. After a short dalliance with the O40-150 I arrived at my ultimate response (O12-40 f2.8 and P100-300 variable). This certainly busts your budget and the one-lens specification. I don't grieve for their cost but, rather, for the shots I might have missed before I acquired them. These are my two most-used lenses and I now face a much higher bar to meet when justifying further additions. But that's just me and all I'm doing is following my bliss.

    If I could really have only one body and lens and had to keep to some fig leaf of a budget, I would keep the E-M5 and probably opt for a relatively fast medium telephoto zoom like the O40-150 f2.8. This would be a reasonable compromise between telephoto and low light. On the other hand, the proposition might come a-cropper with the sample of that lens that would cost (under) $500. ;)

    Your question suggests you already feel constrained on the long end. If so, the O40-150 is a bona fide bargain but it does not have in-lens O.I.S. so might be a bit frustrating if your body (Pan D6?) doesn't have IBIS (in-body stabilization). You would then likely be looking at the longer Panasonic O.I.S. lenses.
  17. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Since you already have the 45mm, and seem to like it, I would recommend getting a faster prime on the wider end to accompany it. 17mm f1.8 or 15mm f1.7 are likely candidates.
  18. April

    April Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 18, 2015
    See, this is why I'm here. :)

    I didn't know...that's why I was asking. I thought maybe there was something better that I was missing.

    Oookay...I guess I was being a dummy and combining zoom with telephoto. I don't really think I need a telephoto. I would like the ability to have a wide lens with zoom, so maybe I'll take a look at the Panasonic. Don't get me wrong. I love my 45mm. It takes getting used to when you've only ever worked with zooms in your life. But I love it. But I'd also like the ability to zoom in or out a bit.

    Ah, good info. Thank you.
  19. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2013
    Keep the 45 and get the 12-50mm & 40-150mm kit zooms. Both are pretty good and better than people give them credit for (especially the 40-150mm...for under $100 you must have this one). You can have both for about $300 on used market....then you can consider something like the Sigma 60mm F2.8 or the Olympus 60mm F2.8 macro with the leftover $...both outstanding lenses. One can be found under $200, the other around $300-400 used.

    The 17mm F1.8 is also good if you need a wide prime. Really, there are not many bad choices. All the 25's are good, but you said you wanted telephoto.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  20. April

    April Mu-43 Rookie

    Nov 18, 2015
    See!? LOL This is exactly what I wanted. Someone to tell me exactly what to do. :)
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.