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Oly 12mm prime or Oly 12-40mm zoom (@ 12mm)

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by zensu, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. zensu

    zensu Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 8, 2012
    Alabama USA
    With arthritis affecting my grip more each day I'm trying to lighten up the weight of my camera bag. The heavy lens in my bag is the 12-40 Pro f2.8 zoom and I already have the 17mm f1.8 and getting the 45mm f1.8 for christmas the only other prime that would complete this focal range would be the 12mm f2.0. I left off the 25mm focal length because I don't like that focal length. I realize the combination of the 12mm, 17mm, and 45mm will be 12.91 oz. while the 12-40mm is 13.47 oz. so the overall weight would be about the same but in using individual primes they would be much easier to use as far as handling weight wise although I would loose the zooms convenience.
    The basic question I still have is that on many forums I've read that the 12-40mm Pro zoom (@ 12mm) has better IQ than the 12mm prime. This sounds a little odd to me as I've always read (in the last 40+ years) that primes always out perform zooms.
    Any opinions about the 12mm vs. the 12-40mm IQ wise (@ 12mm) would be more than helpful.
  2. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    In practical purposes, I don't think you are going to lose/gain any significant IQ at the 12mm focal length on either lens.

    Truth of the matter is, you are in what we like to call "a nice problem to have" in regards to the quality of the optics you have to pick from.

    My big question to you, though, is this: Will switching primes a lot cause you more pain/discomfort than dealing with the zoom?
    If the issue really is the holding of the camera and lens, rotating the zoom ring, then I can see your desire to move to the primes.

    I was one of those people that actually started out using zooms and now I prefer primes, especially in the wide to medium telephoto range. Right now, my Oly prime collection consists of the 17, 25, 45/1.8. I'd love to add the 75/1.8 in the future.
    • Like Like x 3
  3. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    I am currently not home, therefore not able to dig into my Lightroom catalouge for some pictures taken with both lenses. In my opinion, however, the difference in image quality between those two is irrelevant for pratical shooting.

    Here are some arbitrary aditional thoughts:
    - f2.0 vs. f2.8
    - minimum focus distance of the 12-40 at 40mm (can be used as light macro)
    - "character" of the 12mm prime
    - weather sealing of the 12-40
    - you can bring only a single prime (less weight) vs. always the complete 13oz of the zoom

    In case you are using filters, you might also need to factor in the costs of additional filters/step-down-rings for three primes vs. more expenisve filters (due to the larger diameter) for the 12-40.

    I hope some of the points will help you in your decition.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I just did some research and found that the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 is only 10.7 ounces compared to the olympus 12-40, which is 13.5.

    Is the Panasonic an option?
    • Like Like x 2
  5. zensu

    zensu Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 8, 2012
    Alabama USA
    The Panasonic 12-35mm is an option as without the Oly 12-40mm my heaviest lens would be the 75mm which is the same weight of the Panny 12-35mm. The 75mms' weight (when mounted on the E-P5) is centered more towards the lens mount than the 12-40 which is centered more forward when mounted.
    How is the balance on the Panny 12-35mm?
  6. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I'm not sure as I have not handled one myself, but it is physically smaller as well, so It very well might balance better.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. TassieFig

    TassieFig Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    Tasmania, Australia
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    I have, oddly enough, both the 12-40 mm f/2.8 PRO and the 12 mm f2.0. I use the f2 for wide landscapes but find it just too wide for a standard "walk-around" lens.

    The f2 is sharp, small, very light, has push/pull AF/MF and has aperture markings for manual and zone focusing, which is something I miss with modern lenses.

    For general walk-around, I stay with the 12-40 mm f/2.8 PRO, which is admittedly heavy, or the Panny 25 mm f1.4. The Oly 45 mm f/1.8 is a superb portrait lens but just too much tele for general use.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. Chris5107

    Chris5107 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 28, 2011
    I had the 12mm prime and the Panasonic 12-35mm. I went out on several days and shot the same scenes back to back. Maybe I had a marginal copy of the 12mm, but it was clear that at 12mm, the Panasonic 12-35mm lens was sharper (comparing photos at the same f-stops) This was especially true away from the center. On both sides of the frame, the zoom did better. In the center it was not so clear cut but I still gave the edge to the zoom. I sold the 12mm at that point.

    The 12mm was nice but for landscapes for potential prints, the 12-35mm was a clear winner. The 12-35mm is significantly smaller than the 12-40mm Olympus too. Look at the weight and size differences in percentage terms and this becomes clear.

    The 12mm is of course a very small and well built lens and you would likely enjoy using it. For the money it is worth, I could not hold on to it while keeping the 12-35mm Panasonic too.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Jonnieb

    Jonnieb Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 10, 2014
    Ontario, Canada
    Jon Barnett
    I have both the 12-40, and the 12mm. Incidentally, I bought the 12mm after I got the zoom.

    I don't think it is fair to say that the 12-40mm has better IQ than the prime lens. The prime lens is slightly sharper in the center at f2, while the 12-40, I believe, is perhaps a tad sharper in the corners wide open at f2.8.

    However, I still find the 12mm prime has a lovely rendering; it makes me think of my 17mm 1.8 lens. And my copy is pretty sharp across the frame.

    I bought the prime, as I have slowly collected several of the great m 4/3 primes, including the incomparable 75mm 1.8. I think I prefer a prime on each of my two EM-1s vs the zoom on one camera.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Like so many of the "which is better" questions posted here, yours begs the follow-up: "For what?" For use as a hammer, I think the zoom will provide more heft than the 12/2.

    Oh, you meant for taking pictures? What kind of pictures? My pair in that region is the 9-18mm and the 12/2, with the 12/2 chosen specifically for its speed. Most of my photos are travel photos and there are a lot of dim churches, castles, and caves in the world.

    So if you shoot a lot of low light, the 12/2 is a better choice. If light handling weight is paramount, the 12/2 wins again. Absent those priorities, the zoom's flexibility probably wins.
  12. Whtrbt7

    Whtrbt7 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 7, 2014
    I had both the 12/2 and the 12-40/2.8 and figured out that I was using the 12-40/2.8 a LOT more. So here are a couple of heads up comparisons:

    The 12/2 has slightly better low light usage

    Wide open, the 12-40/2.8 is sharper than the 12/2

    At f/4 the 12-40/2.8 is still sharper than the 12/2 by a tiny bit especially nearing the edges

    The 12/2 compared to the 12-40/2.8 bokeh is smoother. The 12-40/2.8 displays onion rings.

    The 12/2 is lighter compared to the 12-40/2.8

    It really depends on how you shoot and what you're shooting in order to compare the two lenses. The flexibility of the zoom with its sharpness were my main driving factors for the 12-40/2.8. The 12/2 tended to stay in the bag a lot more because that one stop of extra light for me wasn't worth the drop in sharpness and the flexibility of a zoom. YMMV compared to me. If you own a PEN camera, I would definitely recommend the 12/2 over the 12-40/2.8 just due to the size. I sold the 12/2 since I didn't own a PEN until recently but even with the 12-40/2.8 on the PEN, it's still decently compact but it starts to look more and more DSLRish which is the look I'm trying to avoid.
  13. silver92b

    silver92b Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 7, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    I never had the 12 f2 prime, but I had the PL 20 f1.7, PL25 f1.4 and I still have the 17 f1.8 I also have a number of manual primes of the Voigtlander variety. I sold the 12-35 f2.8 when I ordered the OM-1 with the 12-40 f2.8. I also have the 35-100 f2.8 and the 4/3 zuiko 9-18

    Way back I found that the primes did not get used nearly as much as the zooms. Particularly after I got the PRO series ones. The IQ of the PL25 f1.4 was as good as I've seem but the FL was not useful. The PL20 was no good because of the AF issues. The 17 f1.8 is more useful but I'm not a big fan of it. The 12-40 f2.8 gets the most use followed by the 35-100 and the 9-18.

    I'm wondering if the OP might have more problems with changing lenses than the extra 1 ounce of weight of the combined primes (lots cheaper too).... The 12-40 f2.8 is definitely a large lens for an M43, but it is such a nice, versatile and useful lens (weather sealed too), that I think it's the best in my bag.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. zensu

    zensu Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 8, 2012
    Alabama USA
    After reading everyones' post and thinking about what you are saying satisfy me as an enthusiast photo buff I've decided to keep the 12-40mm zoom. It is very sharp at all focal lengths and even though it is heavy it's also darn convenient.
    Thanks to all who took your valuable time to give me your valued opinions!
    • Like Like x 3
  15. rogergu

    rogergu Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 11, 2013
    I used to own 12, 17, 25 and 12-40 all together and now only 12-40. The only thing I sometime miss is 25. I did the comparison personally and 12 is not as sharp as 12-40, even though what I had was the original JP version(not made in China). I think I would only switch to 12 for lightweight, but nothing else.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Sep 3, 2011
    Southern California
    I've also had a never-ending debate in my head as between my current primes (12, 17, 20, 45) and replacing with or adding a 12-35. I know that if I got the zoom, the convenience and my laziness will result in the primes collecting dust. But like Oldracer, I have a need for the speed of primes during travel and also indoor family photos.

    Adding further to the conundrum is that on family vacations, I need the flexibility and speed of a super zoom, so I have the Oly 14-150, which has proven remarkably good for my hobbyist needs and family's sanity. That may obviate the need for the 12-35.

    So my current travel outfit is the 9-18, 14-150, and one or two of the primes depending on the destination. If I have space for two bodies, I may replace the 14-150 with the 35-100.

    Horses for courses. Dilemma, dilemma.
  17. bigal1000

    bigal1000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 10, 2010
    New Hampshire
    That's about 2.7 oz difference, I'm 66 and loaded with arthritis in my hands 2.7 oz's would not matter a bit to me. I would rather carry one pro quality zoom like Oly 12-40 then a bag full of primes switching them out all day !!
    • Like Like x 1
  18. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Interesting. B&H reports the Panny 14-140mm f3.5 at 9.35 ounces. I'm happy to trade a half-stop of light gathering for the superzoom range, but I wouldn't have expected it to win the weigh-in as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    It won't be as sharp, either, but the 14-140 is a heck of a lens. Even my old f4 version that I bought used sees a lot of use on my camera, despite being a full 200g heavier and much bulkier. Having that flexibility is really hard to beat.
  20. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    I have both as well and I would agree that optically, neither is really better than the other, they are about even with the big differences being the obvious tradeoffs:

    12: small/light, 1 stop fast for low light and extra DOF control, bokeh is a little nicer
    12-40: large/heavy(relatively), 1 stop slower, much more versatile, macro capability on long end very good for closeups

    Generally, I take my 12 out when I know I'll be shooting in low light, with the 25/1.4 and 42/1.2, as I like to have something wider than 25. Though often I just take the 7-14 instead of the 12 or 12-40, the 12 has seen pretty limited use since buying the 12-40. 12-40 is used mostly when I know I'll be shooting during the day and won't need to bump iso very high, in which case its an excellent and extremely versatile lens.
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