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Japanese Lens Fight

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by EarthQuake, May 17, 2014.

  1. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    So, after planing a vacation to Japan with my wife for the past 2 years or so, we finally have all of our hotels and plane tickets booked. Only problem, we aren't leaving for another 6 months or so, which gives me way, way too much time to fuss about lens selection. Before I get the obligatory "just take a superzoom and enjoy the vacation you idiot!" post, I will mention this trip for me is as much a photographic opportunity as it is a vacation, and my wife is a bit of a photographer herself/very supportive as well (and I in turn am very supportive of her obsession with tea ceremonies and gardens, which will make excellent subjects, so it should be a nice balance).

    Ok, so the premise of the thread: I do not intend to do any sort of scientific testing, reviews, etc. From my perspective, every lens I own is great to fantastic optically, and test metrics are of little concern at this point. With that out of the way, I would like to share a bit of my thought process, as it may be interesting to other people, and it would be good to hear alternative perspectives as well. My goal is to get the best kit, pound for pound that will cover all of my uses, as possible. Weight is primarily a concern for general transportation, getting to Japan, and then getting from city to city, day to day I will carry a small messenger bag with generally about 3 lenses, suited to the particular activity.

    We will be staying in Tokyo (shibuya/harajuku area), then off to Mount Koya (koyasan), Nara, and finally Kyoto. The sort of photography I am likely to do includes cityscapes, landscapes, architecture/temples, nature/wildlife (mostly the deer in Nara but probably birds and other random creatures that we find), portraits, food, street, basically a bit of everything.

    Here is the current list that I am definitely bringing with:
    EM1 - main camera
    EM5 - backup/wife's camera
    25/1.4 - standard prime lens, mainly for low light and narrow DOF shooting
    42.5/1.2 - portrait lens, I know this isn't the best choice for size and weight, but it is my favorite lens and a focal length/aperture combo that I will often put to good use
    7-14/4 - ultrawide zoom, one of my most used lenses
    12-32 - wife's main lens, weighs little more than a lens cap (70g!!)
    12-40/2.8 - standard zoom, can't really live without it
    35-100/2.8 - while I just received this lens today, it seems perfect for my needs (will outline further)
    100-300/4-5.6 - wildlife/nature zoom lens, not a lens I use a lot, but the sort of lens that when you need it, no other lens will do the job

    Mefoto Backpacker tripod

    Here are a few I am considering:
    7.5/3.5 - fisheye prime, fun lens, not sure how often I will use it, probably redundant with the 7-14/4 (unless I plan to take 360 hdr panos), though small enough that it doesn't make a big dent weight wise
    12/2 - I will almost certainly bring this, as it makes a great 3 lens low-light kit (12/25/42.5), only reservation is the 12-40/2.8 is basically just as good and only a stop slower, though again this lens is light enough (130g) that it doesn't factor heavily into the weight equation

    And here are the ones I have already ruled out:
    17/1.8 - decent lens which I barely ever use, I always reach for the 12/2 or 25/1.4 instead, this was an easy call
    45/1.8 - redundant now that I have the nocti
    75/1.8 - this was tough, the 75 is a fantastic lens, but... (will outline below)

    So, to the topic of the thread, here are some previous LENS FIGHTS, (keep in mind these are simply my reasons for choosing X over Y, not an argument for one lens being better than another, and certain factors like cost have little bearing, as I already own all of these or can afford to buy the ones I am considering)
    45 v 42.5
    45/1.8 - lovely little lens, can't really say anything bad about it.
    42.5 - better in every regard except size/weight, this is one of my favorite focal lengths to shoot with, and having a lens this fast at this FL knocks off one of the big limitations for me personally with the M43 system, control over DOF. I would have loved it if this lens was 100g less and built to 25/1.4 specs, but for what it does, I will begrudgingly live with the size/weight (its also significantly smaller/lighter than my old Sigma 85/1.4).

    75 v 42.5
    75 - I should have known better than to buy this lens as a stop gap to the 42.5(which was unavailable when I bought the 75), I wanted more DOF control but I've never been a fan of this focal length. Like the Minolta Maxxum 135mm 2.8 (which is surprisingly similar in size, weight, and AF speed, IQ is quite good too), I simply reach for this sort of lens too infrequently.
    42.5 - Again, this lens is simply fantastic, similar DOF control as the 75/1.8, but at a working distance that I much prefer

    75 v 35-100
    75 - The 75 on the chopping block yet again, it is truly the best lens that I never use.
    35-100 - I just got it but wow am I impressed. The combination of size, weight, constant 2.8 aperture, image quality and focus speed, all on a package that doesn't extend while zooming? I'm sold, boy does this make my old A900 + Sigma 70-200/2.8 seem ridiculously large and heavy (I understand 2.8 = 5.6 for DOF on m43 vs ff, even still!). I can comfortably carry the EM1+this lens with two fingers, just crazy. Anyway, the combination of size and convenience of a zoom really makes a lot more sense for me in this range, as again a 150mm equivalent lens never seems quite right for me.

    Future lens fights:
    75-300 v 100-300 - Just purchased the 75-300 from a fellow MU43 member, will report back, am hoping the 75-300 will offer the same performance but save me a bit on size/weight.

    9-18 v 7-14??? - I looked at the lightroom analytics for the 7-14 and I use the 7mm end about 90% of the time, so I'm not sure I could live with 9mm, but I do like the sound of half the weight and the ability to use filters (I have already modded mine with the gel filter and have installed a filter to cut the purple glare). The concept of doing long exposures with NDs and an ultrawide is very interesting though.

    12-35 v 12-40??? - I would lose the close focus ability of the 12-40, which means I might have to take a macro lens as well, so that would probably be a net gain in size/weight.

    I hope if this was not informative, that it was at least amusing for some of you. Any other suggestions for future battles?
    • Like Like x 2
  2. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Hi, do you have rain resistant bags?


    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43
  3. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Thanks for the response. No, not currently. I have a Tamrac 5273(the older style) small camera backpack (which miraculously holds most of the gear, except for the tripod) and a waxed canvas messenger bag which I have retrofitted as a camera bag.

    We will be there from mid to late November, which from my research puts us in the least rainy part of the year (about 60mm of rain per month), but its our first time going so I don't really know what to expect.

    I will probably carry an umbrella, along with the weather sealed EM1, EM5, 12-40 and 35-100. Will that be enough? Probably not if we get stuck in a torrential downpour.
  4. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    I'll reply further, as I'm running out the door. But bring an ultrawide for the deer in Nara, not a telephoto. I've been to Japan 7 times in the past year and a half, and heading there again on the first weekend of June. From what you've written, there's a *TON* of stuff you don't need, the first one being the 100-300. The deer in Nara are more like pests (cute, sweet, adorable little pests) that come begging for food and try to take whatever it is in your hands/pocket away from you, hoping it'll make a delicious snack. They're certainly not "wildlife."

    I'll write more later...for now, I'm heading out for a hike. :D 
  5. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Yeah I pretty much always have an ultrawide with me. I've heard similar about the deer, and honestly I'm not exactly sure why I need a XX-300mm lens, which probably makes it a good candidate to drop entirely. Look forward to hearing what else you have to say!
    • Like Like x 1
  6. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Most of your lenses aren't sealed, so I'd take enough zip lock bags to put them in, in case it's rainy.


    Sent from my SM-N900T using Mu-43 mobile app
  7. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    You've already put a lot of thought into this, so I'd say just go with your first set up. Your thought process makes sense for your purposes.

    If you really want to shed a little more weight, I'd swap the PL42.5 for the O45mm, but you've already considered this. Also I'd consider dropping the 12-40mm if your not expecting much rain. 12-32mm can be your walkaround daytime zoom instead. You have 25/42.5 for low light performance.

    During my past visit to Japan (before my interest in photography), we went to tokyo, kyoto, osaka, nikko, takayama, hakone. To be honest, I never really noticed the wildlife during my time there. There was a monkey sanctuary around a small mountain near arashima, kyoto, but it's pretty much like being in a zoo. I haven't been to Nara, so can't comment on the deers. Lowriders sounds pretty familiar with the situation, so I'd sure he'll provide some better insight on this matter. But from my experience, I would also consider dropping the 100-300mm.

    I really enjoyed my time in Japan, and would love to go back again. I'm sure you'll have fun while your there!
    • Like Like x 1
  8. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    I'm not actually suggesting you change, but I had a generally lighter weight approach to my last extended trip.

    Cameras: E-M1 + GX7
    Primes: 17/1.8 + 45/1.8
    Zooms: 9-18, 12-35, 45-150, 14-42
    Tripod: MeFoto Traveler

    The idea was the GX7 + 14-42 was the lightweight daytime walk around, the E-M1 with its RRS L-plate was the more formal, tripod-capable piece. The two primes for evenings.

    I pretty much never found myself wishing I had any other lenses. Faster/longer is always welcome, but I was able to pack any day kit into my ThinkTank Hubba Hubba Hiney. In fact, everything but the GX7/14-45 and the tripod could go in that bag, albeit very tight.
  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Personally, way too many lenses, far too much overlap. You'll end up thinking too much about the lenses, rather than subjects.
    • Like Like x 6
  10. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team Subscribing Member

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Yes, I agree. You've got an excellent library to chose from, but I'd be tempted to go much lighter:

    - The 7-14, 12-35/12-40 and 75-100 is a superb 3 lens zoom kit that will cover a massive range.
    - The 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 (or 42.5/1.2 if you insist :wink:) will give you low-light wide and long options.
    - The 12-32 will provide a light and easy option when a camera is secondary to the activity.

    Do need anything more? The 300 zooms are unlikely to be needed unless you're planning serious wildlife or such like.
  11. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    I will be in Japan a month before you and I have also dropped the P100-300 from my travel kit.
    I suggest that you give a visit to Map camera http://news.mapcamera.com/shop.php it is west of Shinjuku.

    It is advised to get JR pass for the train portion of your travel it will give you a big saving.
  12. penWS

    penWS Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 7, 2013
    New Zealand
    ^^^ Second both MAP and and JR Pass suggestions (single ticket cheaper if you are traveling one way only).

    When I was in Japan several months ago I used 12mm 2.0, 45mm 1.8, and Rokinon 7.5mm most of the time. I would highly recommend the fisheye, used it a lot more than I thought I would and very happy with the results. Had 14mm 2.5 and kit zoom but did not use both much. It is near winter, I am guessing you will be shooting at night a lot and the extra stop of the primes over the pro zoom will help when you are not using tripod. I also find that there are not many occasions when I really wanted a long zoom. Have fun!
    • Like Like x 1
  13. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Hi again! Okay...so a bit of background on me. I've been to Japan 7 times, including Tokyo/Yokohama (5 days), Osaka (bunch of times), Tsushima Island (3 days), Kyoto/Nara (5 days), Hiroshima (3 days), Kagoshima/Sakurajima/Nagasaki/Fukuoka (10 or 12 days, I can't remember), plus a few other short trips. In addition, I've travelled a ton throughout Europe and Asia. I always backpack, staying in hostels, etc...your style of travel might be different, which would make the amount of gear you want to/can carry a different story. Feel free to check out my Flickr (link in my signature) for an idea of what I shoot.

    One thing about Japan: I've yet to see any true wildlife. Generally speaking, if you see wildlife in this part of the world (Korea, Japan, Taiwan), it'll be boring (squirrels, deer, magpies) or fairly tame (ie: snow monkeys in Japan, or monkeys in Taiwan), so you can use even a relatively short lens (45 or 75) to capture good photos of them. So, your 100-300 would probably not get used.

    Right now my travel kit is the Samyang 7.5FE, the Oly 9-18 and the Oly 45. I used to travel with the O75 instead of the O45, but left that one in Canada the last time I went home, as I'll be travelling to places where I'd like to carry as little flashy/expensive gear as possible. Japan, however, is 100% safe. I've never once felt unsafe in any way in Japan, and I love night shooting, wandering random neighbourhoods all hours of the day, etc.

    I would definitely pick up a Samyang FE because it's cheap, incredibly sharp and produces the kind of shots nothing else in your current bag can. I love mine. I would go with an O9-18 vs. the P7-14 (the subject of much heated debate around here) for this reason: The 9-18 makes a wonderful travel walkaround. I find a 28mm equiv. long end to be too limiting. On the other hand, 36mm equiv. is good enough. With the ultra-super wide being covered by the Samyang, the 9-18 should be good enough for a UWA. As an added bonus, the Samyang and the 9-18 TOGETHER weigh as much as a 7-14 alone (and are roughly the same size).

    Leave one of your 12-XX lenses at home. I'd leave the 12-40. The FE and 9-18 will get you through most situations (landscape, architecture, etc), and your fast primes will take care of the rest. If it was up to me, I'd take the FE, 9-18, 25 1.4, and the 75. I know you said you don't like that focal length, but I find it excellent for street candids. I get to hang back, not disturb my subject and capture people in their element. Taking the 75 would also take care of your long end problem. I really have not run into any situations in Japan where I wished I had something longer than 150mm equiv.

    MAP camera is awesome, their prices are good, BUT...I'm not sure it's worth spending your time there instead of wandering out and about. You already have a ton of lenses, and if you have access to handling lenses back home, give MAP a pass (nothing bad about them, the people there have been nothing but amazing to me, and they do have great prices on stuff - especially second-hand gear -, but in Korea it's really hard to find any M4/3 stuff beyond kit lenses and E-PL cameras, so I spent an hour or two there before catching my flight back once. Nothing was cheap enough that I just had to have it, though).

    JR Passes are great, but make sure you do the math. The last time I went to Japan, I went with a friend...our schedules overlapped for a while, then we separated...the way it worked out, the pass was cheaper for her, but individual tickets worked out better for me. So do the math when you figure out where/when you want to go and buy or not buy JR tickets accordingly. By the way...the Shinkansen is awesome, and ridiculously expensive. Far more expensive than other bullet trains in the area (ie: KTX in Korea and HSR in Taiwan).

    I'm by no means an expert in Japan, but I absolutely love the country and spend as much time there as possible. The people are nothing short of amazing, and the culture, history, architecture, etc are all fascinating. If you have any questions, please feel free to message me and I'll do my best to help you out as much as I can! :) 
  14. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    PenWS, you japanese photo set is absolutly gorgeous, I would take your advice very seriously!

    I would say that traveling is not fun with lots of weight on the shoulder, and a minimalistic kit is the way to go:

    Fisheye Rokinon or the likes

    7-14mm P

    25mm PL

    42.5mm PL

    and buy the 15mm PL there!
  15. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    For train fare prices use this site. http://www.hyperdia.com/

    The total price is at the top of the route, in Japan the travel price is calculated using fare plus sitting.
  16. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    You have all the lenses, and very sensibly argued.

    You need to buy an e-pM1/e-pM2 body for third-camera backup : think of it as a rear lens cap.
  17. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Thanks for the input, I've actually considered picking up the GX7 as well (especially at the price it sells for these days) but taking 3 bodies is probably excessive, I would probably swap the EM5 for the GX7 if I did that, but I don't think my wife would appreciate it.

    Yes it does seem like a lot when I add it all up, however, aside from traveling town to town I will not carry it all at once, so I'm not really worried about overlap or have too much choice.

    Generally, I will go out for the day with a few lenses, and possibly swap at night, for instance:
    7-14, 25, 12-40
    7-14, 25, 35-100
    12, 25, 42.5

    I carried a similar setup a few years back around London and Scotland (near Aberdeen and the Isle of Skye), though that was a DSLR kit and I've already cut 1/3rd of the weight by going mirrorless this time. I also recently went to Italy with a similar setup, so I'm not really worried about having too many choices, but I do sort of agree that it seems like overkill, and will continue to think about what I can drop. Thanks for the response.

    Well it seems like if there is any consensus so far, its to leave the XX-300 at home. :biggrin:

    Yes, we are planing on getting a JR pass and will use the trains/subway for the majority of our travel.

    Yeah, I will shoot quite a lot of lowlight, so fast primes are important to me (and I like primes in the 12-45 range quite a bit in general). I have and like the 7.5, but I use is more for HDR 360 panos (for my day job), and its not a lens I really think of as a general purpose vacation lens, but again its so light that I might just slip it in a pocket of one of my bags anyway.

    Thanks for all of the comments!
  18. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    So a bit more background, in Tokyo and Kyoto(5 nights each), we are renting apartments (homeaway and airbnb, which I highly recommend!) so we will have a large (for japan) homebase, and having a lot of gear isn't really a big issue, aside from the pain of getting from the airport and around towns. In Nara(3 nights) we're staying in a pretty nice hotel so I think space won't be a big concern there, in Koyasan we're staying in a temple/hotel with the monks, which will probably be pretty small but that's only for 2 nights so I'm not real concerned. We will have a washer/drier in Tokyo and Kyoto which means I can pack very light in terms of clothes, I plan on bringing a small-medium sized roller suitcase(checked), my small tamrack backpack(overhead) and my messenger bag on the plane, which shouldn't be too bad. Pretty much half of what I bring will be photo equipment, which isn't new for me. :biggrin:

    Thanks for the input, I'm begging to think that perhaps the 35-100 will be all I need. My only reservation is that with this sort of lens, when you need it, 100mm probably won't be nearly enough. I will likely want to take photos of squirrels etc, no matter how boring they are I always tend to like them. =) But if that justifies taking a XX-300 is a very good point that I will think long and hard about.

    Yeah I think I will seriously consider the 9-18, and which point I would almost certainly take the 7.5 as well, buttttt, for the same weight as those two I could just take the 7-14. So many choices.

    The 12-32mm will be basically glued to my wife's camera almost most of the time, and the 12-40 for me is the lens I would take if I want to go super light for the day with just one camera/lens, so its really tough for me to leave it behind. The 35-100 is only about 60g heavier than the 75, and I think I'll appreciate the zoom range more than a prime there (though the 75 is absolutely fantastic). I took the 75 on my trip to Italy and I got some use out of it, but generally would have preferred it to zoom.

    We're staying in Shibuya which isn't far from Map camera/that whole camera shop area, so I will definitely stop by, but doubtful I will buy anything, should be a fun couple hour activity though.

    I think we will go for the JR Pass, even if its a little more expensive it should be much more convenient, we only speak a little japanese and read barely any (though we are both working on it with Rosetta Stone!), so I worry that having to buy individual tickets will be a hassle. We plan on taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, its more expensive but a lot faster and we're really excited to ride the bullet train as well.

    Thank you so much for the detailed response. We are big fans of the culture in general and super excited, so excited that I'm not going to be able to sleep properly for the next 6 months!
    • Like Like x 1
  19. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Certainly, my day to day kit will often consist of those lenses and nothing else, those are my most used by a wide margin.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Hehe, I've thought about it (GX7), but I think if I really need to pick up a third, well, I'll be in Japan and I'm sure I can find one. :smile:
  20. penWS

    penWS Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 7, 2013
    New Zealand
    Thanks! But no.. many people offering better advices. I'm just a rookie, camera yet to celebrate 1 year old birthday.:biggrin:
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