Newbie: Help with Prime Lens concept

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Spanish Johnny, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. Spanish Johnny

    Spanish Johnny New to Mu-43

    Apr 1, 2013
    Hi all,

    I just picked up an OMD, and am having a great time with it.
    I am a regular, family guy. Not a pro or anything.
    Lots of family pics, scenery, whatever.
    I am used to just having a camera, and one lens -- a zoom.

    With the OMD I currently have the kit lens (12-50), along with the zoom lens (14-150), and the Panasonic prime 25. I'm still sorting out which one I like and will swap some out later, I assume.

    I like the idea of one lens that stays put (maybe the Panasonic 12-35?).

    However, I really like the 25mm I currently have, for it's low light, quick response, and blurred backgrounds.

    What I can't grasp yet, is if you have a few prime lenses, and you are going to a evening dinner party, what do you do? Do you just roll the dice and pick one lens for that event, or do you take your camera bag with a few lenses and swap 'em out throughout the night? Seems like a hassle.

    What if you are going to Disneyland or something.
    I'd rather have only one lens, and not deal with the extra lenses and bag, however, it might be nice to have a 75mm and a 20mm or whatever.
    Seems to me, that if I get a few prime lenses and ditch the zooms, that I may miss a lot of shots since I didn't have the right lens at the right time. And the beauty of the OMD is that it is small...easy to lug around.

    Does any of that make sense? ha.

    Your "everyday, regular, family man" type thoughts would be much appreciated.

    I'm thinking that maybe I should try the Panasonic 12-35mm, but it costs so much, and the reviews aren't all that exciting.

    Thanks in advance, and thanks for whoever runs this site.
    Very helpful!

  2. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Yes, it makes perfect sense. Your concerns constitute the very reason why wedding/event photographers gravitate to fast zooms like the excellent 12-35/2.8 and 35-100/2.8.

    I would argue though that if you are just shooting gatherings where you can easily get close to your subject (because they're people you know personally) by "step zooming" that the 25mm should be able to take the place of a 12-35 especially at night for its light gathering ability. On the other hand, keep in mind that most P&S have a 14-15mm POV so if you want the tourist-type photos for when you go to Disneyland for example with the castle in the background, the 25mm may have too tight a POV. You may want to try the 17/1.8 which is a bit more flexible for what you're describing as your needs.

    With regards to the 75/1.8, what type of portraits are you planning to shoot? The 75/1.8 is an exceptional lens but be mindful that not everyone is comfortable with using it because it needs a certain working distance between photographer and subject. I wonder if you want to look into the 45/1.8 instead.

    So I think you have a few possibilites here, 12-35/2.8 plus 75/1.8 or 25/1.4 plus 45/1.8 or 25/1.4 plus 75/1.8 or 17/1.8 plus 45/1.8. Choices are hard but sometimes you have to play around to figure out what your own work style is. :smile:
  3. Pecos

    Pecos Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 20, 2013
    The Natural State
    What's a regular guy to do?

    Good answers above.
    My take is - for a dinner party or a fun family gathering I like just one prime and take whatever I think would be the most useful - either a wide or a normal. It is a hassle to change lenses and fret about getting the "right" shot at times like those. Have fun: get close, back up, do what you need to to make your lens work for the situation.
    For Disneyland or similar areas (you want good shots of your kids and the environment) I'd take a zoom that would most likely cover the focal lengths needed. By hauling too much stuff around you defeat the idea of a small camera.

    Attached Files:

  4. skellington

    skellington Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 4, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    If you are shooting with primes, you may miss the perfect shot because you have the wrong lens on the camera. Hopefully you can "zoom with your feet" or crop a wider shot, and get a picture, but sometimes it just doesn't work.

    Of course, there are some pictures you just can't get with the kit zoom i.e. blurry backgrounds (bokeh) or low light (especially without flash.) And 3 primes covering 14-45 are faster and slightly cheaper than the 12-35.

    And the primes are, for the most part, much smaller than a zoom making the camera more convenient to carry. And some of the primes are small enough you can put 1 or 2 in a jacket pocket or small padded bag without carrying around a big camera bag. (The 14mm and 20mm pancakes are especially portable. The 45mm is also tiny.) So the bulk is less of a big deal than with a DSLR.

    But for Disney with the family, putting on a 14-140 might be just perfect.
  5. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    You've already got a great kit. Although having both the 12-50 and 14-150 may be a bit overkill, these two lenses do the exact same thing in the mid-range and then 14-150 also doubles as a telephoto. I started out the same way, and sold the 12-50 relatively quickly. I do the occasional macro shot but it wasn't something I had to have.

    14-150 + 25. You've got a killer combo there. I wouldn't worry too much about buying anything new, prime or zoom, until you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely have to have a certain shot. Having a prime kit requires more thinking but it doesn't mean that you can't be doing the same with the zoom.

    I would step into primes slowly, you've got a killer prime lens in that 25/1.4. For many people it is the only lens they use. My suggestion to you is to just shoot with it for a while and discipline yourself while doing it. Try different angles, lighting and see what it can do for you. If you find it too tight, try another focal length by using your zoom for a while. You will eventually find a focal length that you really like. It could very well be the 25/1.4, but if it turns out to be something else, then invest the money in that focal length.

    I have long discovered that I love the 35 mm equivalent field of view. But when I started out with my conversion to m4/3 from a Nikon DSLR kit I found that there wasn't a really good prime in this focal length. The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is a lens that was only announced at the end of last year. So while I was waiting for Olympus or Panasonic to fulfill this need, I picked up a 25/1.4 myself.

    Though I like prime lenses and try to shoot them as much as possible, I find that often times a trip with family requires a zoom. It doesn't matter how good you are, your family isn't going to wait around for you.
  6. slothead

    slothead Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 14, 2012
    Frederick, MD
    Hi Johnny,
    I didn't read what everyone else wrote, but if I were going to take a camera to a dinner party, I would take the body and two lenses, one wide (12) and one portrait (45 - 75). If I didn't have the carrying capacity for two lenses, I'd just put the 12-50 on that you already have, but I would take along the flash because you might need it as slow as the 12-50 is. At a primarily outdoor activity (Disneyland, baseball game, etc.) where the light is abundant, I'd just take a wide range zoom like your 14-150.
  7. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    Like several others already wrote, for some things a zoom is simply better, there is a reason why wedding photographers use mid zooms that cost an arm and a leg. If I am the designated photographer, I will use a zoom to make sure I get it all.

    Having said that, I usually take a 12mm and a 45mm. on most social occasions when I shoot for my own pleasure or just to add something to the pictures already made by others. The 12mm is a bit wide, with some less desirable distortion along the edges, but it does allow me to get 'the whole thing' if need be. Most pictures are taken with the 12mm and cropped to something between 14 and 17mm field of view. At some point I will switch to the 45mm to shoot some close ups and portraits. Using primes on these occasions is all about taking deciding what you want before you raise your camera. And with 16mp, there is room to crop afterwards!
  8. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    A few things:

    1. Most reviews I've read on the 12-35 are at least complimentary. The only real complaints I've seen regarding that lens (for stills shooting) relate to its price, and some complaining it's not as sharp as the mark II versions of Canon and Nikon's fullframe versions. It is a very sharp lens with good rendering and is incredibly useful for a 'one lens fits all' solution.

    2. I have also quite frequently shot a body with a single prime. You just work with what you have. My preferences are 35mm (17) and 50mm (25) full frame equivalent. Sometimes a slightly longer lens would be nice, but for a fairly intimate setting like a dinner party, I find it's enough. Having said that, the MFT system is so small that you can mount the 25 and pocket a 14 for the wide end. No 'camera bag' need be taken along.

    I love the flexibility of a normal range zoom (starting at 12mm...14 doesn't quite do it for me), so I spent money to get a good one. But I also really enjoy shooting primes, so I have a few in the bag - my fullframe system has recently downsized to only include the one zoom (standard range) and a selection of primes. My minimalist 'travel combo' if no wildlife is expected is a normal range zoom with a prime medium/moderate telephoto - for Canon that was a 24-105 and a 135L. Right now I'm 'limited' to the 45 for MFT until I save up for the 75 :)
  9. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    I take only one lens for indoor social gatherings: My Pana Leica 25mm. Why would you need a zoom? You're inside.

    I'm a prime guy, and I don't have a problem finding a shot with my fixed focal lengths. But I can see how a zoom has it's appeal. For outdoor trips, take the zoom. If you don't want to invest in the 12-35 then use the existing ones you have. For outdoor daytime wide angle shots I find a large aperture unnecessary.
    And the long ends of zooms can do pretty decent portraits in good light.

    I guess what I'm saying is you don't really need to spend more money. Practice with what you have. After all, it's practice that will make you a better photographer, not buying more gear.
  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    It's pretty much been covered I think, but I'll just chime in to say I look at it much the same as others have posted; they're just for different purposes. To me it works like this: I use zooms when I'm traveling or expecting less control over my shooting environment (i.e. can't zoom with my feet). Fast zooms just mean they can stay on the camera longer as the light drops, offer more shallow DoF capability, and/or offer faster shutter speeds or lower ISO.

    Prime lenses I use when I want the larger aperture for shallow DoF or low light, especially when I will be able to move around more to get a shot. I used to be in love with 25mm on m4/3. However, in the past year or so I've totally changed my opinion and now prefer a wider lens for a "grab and go" single lens type of shooting. I shoot 28mm and 35mm equivalent now much more frequently than 50mm equivalent and on m4/3 I'd be most likely to reach for the 17mm f/1.8 if I am only bringing one lens.

    To answer your question, if I was going to an evening dinner party I'd take a prime lens for the fast aperture (even f/2.8 is usually a little too slow for most indoor events). Most of the time I'm happy enough just shooting one versatile lens and accepting I may miss the occasional shot or need to do more footwork. If I were really wanting more options, I'd be inclined to do something like bring the 17mm on the camera and stick a couple small primes like the 12mm or 45mm in a pocket.

    If I were going to Disneyland, that's a great time for a zoom lens that covers the focal lengths you need, so you don't have to change lenses. When I shot in Alaska I used a 14-140mm for just everything except distant wildlife and didn't change lenses nearly at all. But, I also knew going into that trip it was going to be daylight for 20 hours a day and the slow aperture wasn't going to be a problem.

    For travel, my kit will consist of a couple well chosen zooms and one or two fast primes for when the sun goes down or we're indoors etc.
  11. Gary Ramey

    Gary Ramey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 27, 2012
    Aurora Colorado
    Indoors I always have my fast prime in my pocket. You just never know when someone will play the "no flash photography" card on you. I usually wear a coat or dinner jacket and throw the small prime in the pocket and have the fl;exible zoom mounted.

    Outdoors in plenty of light at a family function...any zoom usually will work fine.

    I like the suggestion above to force yourself to be creative and shoot the lens you have. It will make you a better photographer.
  12. napilopez

    napilopez Contributing Editor

    Feb 21, 2012
    NYC Area
    Napier Lopez
    People have mostly covered the essentials. You have to remember photography is the art of compromise. Do you isolate more of your subject at the expense of sharpness, do you sacrifice angle of view to prevent perspective distortion, etc etc. The same goes for choosing lenses.

    I always have my camera bag with me, usually with 3 lenses(12-50, 25mm, 45mm f1.8) as well as accessories, pen and paper, etc, so this generally is not a problem for me anymore. However, during my earliest days, I often travelled with one zoom and one prime.

    If you're concerned about the practicality of a prime for social events, you may want to consider getting the 17mm f1.8 or the 20mm f1.7. These focal lengths are, in my opinion, much more useful in everyday outings with friends and family than 25mm, which is just a little too close. I can comfortably use the former two across a typical dinner table for example, whereas the 25mm tends to necessitate me getting up. Perhaps more importantly however, those two lenses are very small, with the 20mm being particularly easy to put in a pocket.
  13. BLT

    BLT Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 13, 2013
    Yes changing lenses is a hassle for people like the OP. Me too.

    I normally gamble on what lens will be best for a day/afternoon/event and take one lens, mostly the 20mm or 45mm. (Mostly 20mm)

    But the 14mm is so small that it can often easily be put in a bag or pocket just in case. Every now and again my 14mm goes 'missing', so I have to go and check all my coat pockets.
  14. kponds

    kponds Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 18, 2013
    It's not really rolling the dice. You have to plan for it, depending on the event.

    Good event coverage requires planning, visualization, and shot lists (formal or just in your head), so it's nothing different really.

    So let's say you are going to do a dinner party. You know you are going to want a portrait of each attendee, probably as they come in, a wide angle shot of the spread and a few of people sitting and drinking and socializing, and from there forward, photojournalistic coverage.

    So you start with the 45mm, get your portraits. Then you switch to the 12mm, 14mm, or 17mm and get your table shots. Then you switch to the 25mm for the rest of the evening. So, you can cover the event very well with two lens changes. Not too bad.

    Also, many who cover events, especially professionally, will use two bodies. I will be doing an indoor family reunion here in a couple of weeks, and I will be bringing 2 OM-Ds, one with a 17mm mounted and the other with a 45mm mounted. I don't expect to need anything else for the event. If it's an important event, renting gear is very reasonable.

    When I am just "shooting" extemporaneously, ie doing a photowalk or something, I tend to just bring one lens for the day (usually a standard or moderate wide angle). If my shoot has a purpose, I have the shoot and lens changes planned out on the front end.

    If I were to do disneyland, I would just rent a zoom lens, or a P&S with zoom like the LX7, and not think about the shooting too much and just enjoy the vacation and family time.
  15. Heavy Doody

    Heavy Doody Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 17, 2012
    Like many have eluded to, different tools for different jobs.

    I think jloden summed it up for me when he described situations you may find yourself in where you can't zoom with your feet. I do a lot of travel/vacation photography, shooting pictures of famous landmarks. There are many times I'm not allowed to go past the rope and don't have the option of backing up. For that reason, I work mostly with zooms.

    I also have two lenses for all-purpose shooting that travel in my bag with me to and from work every day. I may go weeks without shooting anything, so I really have no clue what I'm going to need. I carry the same two zooms daily.

    The only time I really use my primes is when I have absolute control over the situation, like when I'm shooting portraits in my favorite spots that I'm familiar with, and are (partially) selected for my ability to get the reach I want with those primes.

    You've probably heard a lot of talk about how fantastic the Olympus prime lenses are, and want to take advantage of them. What isn't spoken as often is that this is nothing new. Primes are generally faster and sharper than zooms for any system. Many people have been very happy shooting with zooms on DSLRs for years. There's no reason MFT users can't continue that tradition. In other words, don't feel like you have to "get" the prime lens concept. Use what works for you.
  16. gugarci

    gugarci Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 8, 2012
    Lyndhurst, NJ
    I get better spontaneous images with primes lenses. With a prime I see my image and shoot. With a zoom lens I tend to play with the zoom range and in the past have miss too many spontaneous shots due to this fact. Indoors I prefer wide or normal lenses, outdoors I have used wides and telephotos. In open spaces telephotos make great landscape lenses although too many people think incorrectly that wide angles lenses are best for landscapes.
  17. MSnap

    MSnap Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 27, 2013
    I guess I can't add much to this. I recently picked up the 20mm f1.7 to use at indoor social events. Compared to my kit lens it's fast, small, and doesn't need to be unlocked. It's wide enough to get most shots while long enough for people shots, if not full on portraits. At least that's the theory. I've only done test shots so far but they are noticeably better at wide apertures.

    Like you I'm not convinced by the idea of swapping primes, but I bought this prime for a specific purpose. So yes, I would just take one lens, but I'd take a moment to choose which one.

    That said, I might pop the Pinwide in my pocket just for fun :D
  18. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Unless you need / want über quality, the 12-35 is probably unnecessary and not much more versatile than having a prime or two. I find that I use my primes most of the year, not only because of their low light capability, but the extra special rendering they offer. However for family travel, which usually involves lots of sunny outdoors, I find the 14-140 very useful and it takes great shots in daylight. I just went on spring break without it this year because I've been nearly exclusively primes this year and thought i wouldnt need it but boy did I miss it. I love the 25 and find it perfect for gatherings / dinner parties. That's my 2c :)
  19. iamajai

    iamajai Mu-43 Regular

    I've got two kids and started out using the kit 14-45mm zoom with my G1. Once I got a 20mm/1.7 it's been my go to lens for almost all family outings and locations. It's versatile enough that I can use it for indoor gatherings and hikes/outdoor scenery without any issues. The only occasion I've gone back to the kit zoom was for a outing to the fair, where going between normal shots and shots of kids on rides would have meant too many lens changes.

    The past few weeks I've actually gone with my two Canon fd primes for all occasions, but I that's just because I've caught the manual focus/non-native lens bug. I miss a few kids shots, but the ones I do get I really like. I think it's a case of mild insanity.:smile:
  20. Anthon

    Anthon Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 8, 2012
    For the price of the 12-35 yo can't buy a 12mm f2 + 25mm f1.4 or 12mm f2 + 45mm f1.8