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Picking a Lens to Suit Your Personal Shooting Style

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by CWRailman, Aug 17, 2015.

  1. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Denny
    In anticipation of delivery of my Panasonic Lumix GM-5, which I have ordered to facilitate yet another attempt at “street shooting” (HA!HA!), I was perusing reviews of some lenses including the Panny 15mm, f1.7. I just read this review of the Panasonic 15 mm lens and quite honestly I took some exception to it’s assessments of “normal” lenses which the writer has obviously based on the near religious concept that evolved sometime in the early development stages of 35mm SLR cameras. I am not going to argue the points brought out in this article because everyone has their personal feelings and if someone wants to embrace a standard of normalcy set by some previous accepted criteria then so be it.

    For my personal use, when entering a new format whether it is full frame, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds or the 1/1.7 format, (Check out my CWRailman WEB site to see why I use that format.) I do a bit of experimenting. Whenever I purchase a camera I always get the standard kit zoom lens. (The 12-35 is coming with my GM-5) Yes, it might not be the best but it serves a purpose as it provides me with a lot of different focal lengths to experiment with. For a month or more I shoot my usual subject matter using this lens. (This is a hint for those who like to get on boards like these and ask “What is the best lens for me to shoot with”) After that period of time I sit back and view all of the images that impressed me and check the set focal lengths. What was my most often used focal length? Was it 17mm or 35 or 50 or what? That is what determines what fixed focal length lens, if any, will best suite my particular shooting style with that particular format. And guess what, it’s not the same for all three formats that I am currently shooting.

    As an example, when shooting 35 film my most often used lens was one of two 35-70 mm lenses that I have. Though I had them, I seldom used my longer focal length lenses and never desired a “wide” angle lens, which was also in my kit, because I really prefer closer more detailed images. The 35-70mm was my choice for my style and my interests. In perusing images shot during that time period it appears that the 45-70 mm range was the most often used. Previously in shooting my Pentax digital APS-C format cameras, a review of my images across many different subjects (excluding the portraits I do for people) shows that my most often used focal length is 30 mm (x 1.5 = 45mm) . Now in shooting my Oly E-M10, 4/3 format my most often used focal length is 18 mm (x2.0 = 36mm). This discovery led to my purchase of a Panny 20mm 1.7 lens which fit into my budget and demonstrated more sharpness than the Oly 17mm lens. While they are close, they really do not agree with the “normal” focal lengths suggested in this article. So maybe I am not “normal” but these are the focal lengths that are comfortable for me and suit my particular shooting style using those formats.

    Another issue I have found is that shooters automatically assume that a fixed focal length lens (prime for you youngsters) will automatically provide a higher image quality than a variable focal length (zoom) lens. This is NOT true. Check out this comparison of the Panasonic 14-45mm lens and the Oly 17mm lens. You can then shut off the Oly lens and bring up the highly rated Panasonic 20mm lens and see that the 14-45 Panny also gives that a run for it’s money in sharpness. Yes, both these lenses are faster, but again, not everyone has that need.

    By the way, I should mention that I do not have deep pockets nor believe in using one of those elastic plastic cards to cover my photographic equipment purchases so each purchase is evaluated for relevancy to my needs before taking the plunge.
     
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  2. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    I just spent 2 full days shooting an event with an "old" Nikon 28-85/3.5-4.5 lens. This lens cost me $62 used. Some of the most memorable moments from that event were captured with that lens and the clients are ever so happy.

    I wish more people would understand that the best tool for the job is not always the fastest, most expensive, newest kit on the block. The best tool for the job is the one that gets you the images you are looking for in a way that makes sense for you.
    I also purchased a Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR lens. While on paper it is supposed to be superior to the older lens in every way, plus it includes VR....there is something about the character and rendering of the images from the older lens that just resonates.

    Denny, I agree with a lot of your points and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.
     
  3. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    Denny, when you say "the Oly 17mm lens" you really need to tell us which one. While I think the 17/2.8 is not as bad as it is given credit for being, I would agree that in a sharpness test vs the 14-45 it is not going to mop the floor with the zoom (except at f/2.8). The Oly 17/1.8 may do a bit better.
     
  4. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Denny
    While the link I provided shows a comparison between the Panny 14-45 and the Oly 17mm f2.8, and does not show the f1.8 version, when I was doing my original lens comparison prior to purchasing my Panny 20mm, I found this review which indicated that when it came to image quality the new Oly 17mm f1.8 lens was no better than the f2.8 lens or if it was there was insufficient difference to recommend upgrading to the f1.8 version. Besides the sharpness I also compare the Chromatic Aberration which I am less informed about but is another issue to consider for those of us who do not run every image through PP.
     
  5. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Well, I've got both 17mm lenses and I can tell you that the image quality from the 1.8 is noticeably better than from the 2.8. It's not only sharpness but something else about the rendering. I don't think the 2.8 is anywhere near as bad as some people claim, and I kept it because of the pancake factor because it makes a small size package on my E-M5 which I can just throw into my shoulder bag so I have a camera with me when I go out, but if I specifically want to shoot with a 17mm prime then I will always grab the 1.8 and I have no complaints about the results.
     
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  6. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    Yeah, no question the 1.8 is better than the 2.8.

    It is pretty dangerous to read one review and then put that in the memory banks as fact. The 17/1.8 was somewhat widely panned initially, and that opinion was oft-repeated by many forum denizens without any first hand experience with the lens. Based on all that nonsense it took me a long time to try the 17/1.8, and to discover what a great lens it is. The 14-45 is the best kit lens I've used (vs a bunch of 14-42s and the 12-32), but it does not compare to the 17/1.8 imo, whether we're talking sharpness, rendering, or just the simple "my pics look better with this lens".
     
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  7. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    I too read that article awhile back and wondered why the author is so set on "legacy" focal lengths to accomplish his purposes. While 15mm may not function as a true wide-angle, it does sit very nicely between the 14mm and 17mm lenses and is a great focal length, the images just seem to "work" at 15mm. Please note I say this as a yearning observer rather than an owner of that fantastic lens ;)

    After my time spent with the 20mm lens, I see that as a "normal" lens more than anything else, in spite of its closeness to 17mm which is wide enough to really work with. I don't have a preference that says my normal lens has to be 25mm rather than 20mm, although since I already have the lightning-fast and sharp Olympus 25mm I shall be hanging onto that rather than the 20mm I think. But it has nothing to do with the traditionalness of the focal length.
     
  8. gr6825

    gr6825 Mu-43 Veteran

    277
    Oct 10, 2012
    When talking about lenses, "normal" tends to have a particular meaning. You are talking about why photographers like classic FOV? (i.e. 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc) I think you are right - no one size fits all. I really like the range from 35mm to 50mm and my favorite lens is a Sigma 30mm on Nikon DX. I do agree with the author about the 15mm - kind of an odd choice compared with 17.5mm. But people seem to like the PL 15mm. For those who use it, I wonder whether the M43 aspect ratio played into the 15mm choice?
     
  9. svenkarma

    svenkarma Mu-43 Top Veteran

    566
    Feb 5, 2013
    mark evans
    My 'personal shooting style' has gone P20->O17/1.8->O17/2.8. I guess I prioritize rendering over sharpness.
     
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  10. gr6825

    gr6825 Mu-43 Veteran

    277
    Oct 10, 2012
    I don't understand why the pancake 17mm is not more popular - totally embraces the M43 size advantage. And I agree with svenkarma's: I also liked the way the pancake Oly rendered.
     
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  11. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    It's strange. The 17mm f2.8 is just such a cheerful little lens, focuses faster than the 20mm, is smaller, is super affordable, and really does look good - it's everyone's obsession with clinical sharpness that kills it in tests.
     
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  12. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Interesting discussion. I guess for me it simply highlights the importance of personal choice. My opinions on focal length for my own use are nearly opposite your own.

    In using my zooms, I find that the focal lengths I use most often(besides the extremes), tend to line up very well with classic normal focals. I could do almost every bit of my non-wildlife work with 17mm, 25mm, and 42.5/45mm lenses. I tried the Panny 20mm, and despite it being a sharp little banger of a lens, could never get myself in sync with the focal length. It was never wide enough, or long enough. I had hoped it would be able to remove my desire for both a 17 and 25, but alas, it just never worked for me. 15mm would likely be a similar story for me. Horses for courses.

    As to the Oly 17/1.8, it's a shame that for the most part, critical sharpness is the only measure of a lens that tends to have value placed on it, in reviews. There's so much more to the character of glass than simple sharpness. But I guess that's the way of it when you enter into these kind of subjective matters. We all have our own unique viewpoint, and there is no one size fits all lens, even if you find one that looks like it on paper.
     
  13. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I do find it a little odd to dismiss focal lengths just because they aren't 'standard' without actually trying them. The typical focal lengths don't match very well anyway given that this format is 4:3 rather than 3:2...
     
  14. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    For me it's that f2.8 at 17mm has almost no DOF control.
     
  15. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Clint
    People have seemed to have a need to classify lenses for a variety of reasons for decades. There is not one specific general set of standards for ultra-wide-angle, wide-angle, normal, long, and telephoto, etc. Many have tried to classify the lenses according to the dimension of film/sensor while others by final use of the image such as in cinema photography where the final image will be much larger than a print.

    Over the decades of 35mm still photography generally lens fit into these categories, but they are all arguable.
    • Ultra-wide angle – less than 24mm
    • Wide angle – 28mm > 35mm
    • Normal – 40mm > 58mm
    • Long – 60mm > 130mm
    • Telephoto - > 135mm

    But these cannot just be converted by division or multiplication to other formats as 8 x 10 and 5 x 7 large formats have their own interpolations because of format ratios. Medium format cameras come in several flavors, so as many varied definitions as well. Since APC and 4/3s are all proportional to 35mm one could use the multiple to establish focal length for each, yet the 2:3 and 3:4 aspects throw a kink into that.

    In generality, the focal lengths listed above work for general conversation purposes. As for standardized focal lengths like; 20, 24, 28, 35, 50, 85, 105, 135, 200, 300, 400, etc. These focal lengths may be more popular than others, but they never have been the only 35mm focal lengths produced through time.

    In essence I don’t disagree with CWRailman on what he stated, but I have learned that if I only take a single lens of one focal length out to shoot or on a trip – I will find a way to make it work and get some pretty good photos.

    While I do select lenses pretty much as RWRailman does (and that is how I teach or advise others on how to select their lenses), yet since the time I could afford more than one lens I have never shot 100% the same style and have pretty much always had lenses from each of the categories above. When zooms became popular, they really complicated my life and choices.

    If I get conflicted about what to take out shooting, I'll often just grab one lens each in the ultra-wide and longish categories. Over the last two years that has often seemed to be the 7-14mm and 75mm lenses.
     
  16. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oh man, that blogger you linked to is just too much!

    I can kind of see calling out the 15mm as "non-standard" given that ~30mm lenses are not common. But he also mocks 20mm and 45mm and seems to have to mention that 17mm lacks that last 0.5mm to make it a "Real" focal length.

    Some people really start to believe that their opinion is fact, don't they?[/QUOTE]
     
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  17. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Equally true with the P14mm, which seems to get recommended a lot more often, but I see your point. The P20mm with its large max aperture does do a better job isolating subjects, when you need that. For a pancake, though, I don't consider that a necessity.
     
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  18. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I don't fully understand why different formats (FF, u43, 1" etc) should influence the preferred FOV/perspective. If you like an approx 65 degree diagonal field of view then you should be happy with a 17mm lens on u43, a 22mm lens on APSC and a 35mm lens on FF. I appreciate that there'll be subtle differences due to aspect ratio changes and of course the DOF will shorten as the frame size increases, but the perspective and framing won't, and these are the biggest aspects of making a picture aren't they?

    For me, I use quite a wide range of FOVs depending on what I'm shooting.
     
  19. tyrphoto

    tyrphoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2014
    Seoul | NYC
    ㅇtㅈyㅅr
    I agree. To say the 17 isn't a a true 35mm is rubbish. If one understands the fact that many lenses don't offer the true FoV that is advertised on the lens, then they'd understand this. This is clearly evidenced by the different FoV on the P25 vs O25.

    With the P15, my guess is that if you're comfortable with 28mm and 35mm focal lengths, it wouldn't take long to readjust to the 30mm focal length of the P15.

    [/QUOTE]
     
  20. tyrphoto

    tyrphoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2014
    Seoul | NYC
    ㅇtㅈyㅅr
    I also agree with this and don't understand why one's favorite focal length would change due to format change. I grew up in the film days, then switched to Canon DSLRs in 2000 and then to full frame. In 2009, I got serious with smaller sensor cameras like my Ricoh and then last year dipped my feet into mirrorless.

    In all that time, my "standard" prime lenses have been 28/35/50/85 along with 100/135 that I used on certain occasions. I've also owned various L zooms with my Canon DSLRs including a 16-35/2.8L, 17-40/4L, 24-70/2.8, 24-105/4L, 28-70/2.8L and a 70-200/2.8L IS which basically covered the "standard" wide/standard/tele zoom ranges.

    Now that I only shoot with Olympus, Fuji and the little Ricoh, I've come full circle and only shoot primes like I did when I shot film with the same focal lengths of 28/35/50/90 and 120mm for good measure. If I still shot zooms, I'd pick up the O7-14/2.8, O12-40/2.8 and O40-150/2.8 in a heartbeat.