Prime Lens Recommendation

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by birdie, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. birdie

    birdie Mu-43 Regular

    I recently purchased the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for travel and other situations where I don't want to take my large, heavy DSLR kit.

    Now I purchased the OM-D 2nd hand with the kit 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 which isn't a bad lens, just quite slow at the long end...

    So I am wanting to get one fast prime for my holiday in Bali in January... The 3 primes I have been tossing up between are:

    - Olympus 17mm f/1.8
    - Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
    - Panasonic 25mm f/1.4

    I am thinking maybe the 17mm (34mm equivalent) might be a bit too wide for street shooting... the 25mm would be nice but its a bit expensive at the moment... So I am leaning towards the 20mm but I am unsure if that will be suitable...

    I am wanting to use it on my holiday for tourist shoots of the markets and other interesting scenes... I am thinking I can use the 12-50mm at the 12mm end for wide landscape type of shots...

    Later down the track I would like to get the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 as well but for now I can probably only manage to get the one prime before the holiday...
  2. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I have recently gone down the same route of E-M5 12-50 plus prime, for similar but slightly different reasons. In the end I purchased a used PL25 for handheld low light scenes, shallow DoF, and less distortion of faces.

    I wouldn't say it's my preferred focal length for dense city street scenes, however - I would actually go with the P14 or O17 for their FoV in Asia and Europe. For more spacious cities like in the US a longer FL might suit. They are also compact for going out hand about, whereas PL25 is a bit bulky by comparison. It really depends on your preferred FL in my opinion.

    I would not get the P20 as it induces color banding on the E-M5. It is otherwise an excellent lens. :(
  3. birdie

    birdie Mu-43 Regular

    Someone suggested on one of the other forums I use, the Sigma trio - 19mm, 30mm, 60mm but my reservations with them are they "only" f/2.8 which won't give the nice shallow DOF that I can get with my large DSLR kit...
  4. RuffDraft

    RuffDraft Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 13, 2013

    I also purchased an EM-5 for travel photography. I ended up going with a range of primes to go with the 12-50, in that I purchased the 12mm f2, 25mm f1.4 and the 45mm f1.8.

    All in all, the 25mm was my favourite for shooting on the streets. I loved this lens and felt that the 50mm equivalent focal length suited shooting on my holiday to Asia greatly, in which I used it a lot during the night times for night market stuff...

    That said, why not go out and shoot at each equivalent on your 12-50 if you have a place that's local that will meet the shooting requirements of your travels? You seem to have a good kit already, have you not got a similar selection of photos from previous trips that you could use to locate your favourite focal length?

    I have only wanted the Oly 17mm once, and that was when I was shooting within a confined space that required portraiture. My 12mm was too wide, and the 25mm wasn't wide enough.

    Otherwise, I think any of these focal lengths could be adapted to your shooting style.

    The 20mm sounds great, but it depends on how fast you want to focus. If you're not fussy and money is an issue, I'd definitely spring for the 20mm, especially due to its size advantage. If money isn't as much of an issue once you've evaluated everything thoroughly, then spring for your preferred focal length.

    After reading wjiang's post, I'd perhaps opt for the 17mm or 25mm if that's the case on the EM-5! I personally couldn't be happier with the 25mm and found it perfect for Asia. But the 17mm would have been useful had I found myself in really confined spaces... whatever works for you though.
  5. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    I thought the banding issue was only at high ISO. If you keep the ISO reasonable, my understanding is that banding is not an issue. In general, the 20mm is a great bargain lens that will deliver sharp shots at a nice FOV for a walk around lens in an urban environment.

    The 17mm is a nice lens with fast focus and really not too different in FOV from the 20. The higher rated IQ of the 20 leads me towards that lens but the 17 is no slouch and I was always happy with the results from it. The 25 is also nice but is a little tighter of course and this is not always good when you are up close and need the wider FOV.

    For me, the 20mm just feels right.
  6. mh2000

    mh2000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    The 60 will give you nice shallow DoF, even the 30 will give you decent isolation for closer subjects... probably the 20 won't give you much more isolation than the 30 and definitely as much as the 60, but for stop action handheld work, any of the faster primes give you an advantage. For an all around fast prime *I'd* get the 25 because I like the FoV.


  7. mh2000

    mh2000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    Actually, a 35mm eq. FL is probably the most popular for classic street shooting, it is alse very useful for scenic travel photos. 25 might be a little tight for travel if you want to capture more scenes instead of isolating your subject. Generally, more isolated scenes are more interesting to me, but then you give up the wide aspect.

    My travel pair is the 17/2.8+30, very good for me and barely feel the less used 17 in my pocket while out shooting.

  8. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The banding is a pretty well known problem - you can Google it and evaluate for yourself. It happens on the GH3 and other cameras with the same Sony sensor as well. It can show up even at the moderately high ISOs which I would shoot at for streets at night. It seems somewhat sporadic where it appears, but I just didn't want to risk it.

    I was perhaps a bit misleading about FL - the PL25 is great for shooting people on the street, it's just that I like shooting wider street scenes :p
  9. birdie

    birdie Mu-43 Regular

    Hmm I have this niggling thought in the back of my head that keeps wondering if I might be better off, since I already have a nice Canon kit, grabbing a 2nd hand xxx series body and just taking a couple of primes...

    Probably would be cheaper (could sell the OM-D and lens) and would have the benefit of using my current lenses so could be a second camera for event shoots, along with shallower DOF than the M4/3 at the same aperture...

    I could take my 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8 and then get another wider prime for wider angle shots (would prefer not to take the heavy 24-105, plus crop factor would make it less wide...)

    I guess what's getting me thinking is, whether I really want to start investing in a whole new system with expensive lenses of its own that are unique to just that system... whereas a xxx series body could work as a 2nd body for when I'm doing events and other things and also will work with my current investment/system of lenses...
  10. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Depends how much the compactness matters I guess. For me, being a small Asian guy who likes to walk everywhere when I travel, any kind of DSLR is a no go due to lens weight and system size.

    Is the DoF difference between Canon APS-C and MFT actually that big? The sensors aren't too different in size, and of course neither compares with FF sensor sizes.
  11. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    If you are getting this kit to travel and do street photography, I'm not getting your obsession with thin DOF. For travel and street photography I'd think you'd want most things in focus.

    I don't really do street photography myself, except when I am on vacation and want photos of the areas I am visiting. At those times I know I want the buildings or landscapes in focus.

    When you do want to generate thinner DOF, it is possible to do with u43, but of course not like full frame. If that is what is most important to you, sell everything and get a 6D.
  12. broody

    broody Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 8, 2013
    In my experience, the difference in DoF is not only not critical, but it is negated by how sharp M43 lenses are wide open compared to APS-C. If you have to stop down that 1.8G Nikkor to 2.8 to get good sharpness, where does that vaunted advantage go?

    Truth be told, DoF is not M43's forte, but it's not a weakness at all either.
  13. birdie

    birdie Mu-43 Regular

    I did some googling and it appears that the APS-C sensors only have about a 2/3 stop DOF advantage over the M4/3 so thats not such a big deal... (whereas there's about a 2 stop advantage with FF over M4/3...)

    Yeah I have never been overseas yet, all my holidays have just been to citys within Australia, so haven't done much in the way of street/travel photography...

    Not much advantage getting a 6D when I already have a 5DMkII... :)

    The DOF difference isn't so big of a deal more that as I said earlier I'm unsure whether I really want to start investing in a whole new system with expensive lenses of its own that are unique to just that system... whereas a xxx series body could work as a 2nd body for when I'm doing events and other things and also will work with my current investment/system of lenses...

    That's more the issue that's making me think about it...

    I just found out today that I might be getting another paid job coming up in about 6 weeks so I could use the money from that to put towards a prime for the M4/3....
  14. tzortst

    tzortst Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 3, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    I was in similar boat. had 60D, heading to Vietnam and didn't want to lug around the 60D, Sold it all off and moved to to OMD EM5 and was trying to decide between the same lens. Went out and had a play with the kit lens and tried to only shoot at each focal length for a period of time.

    I did find the 25 to be a bit tight at times, and 17 was a bit wide. So decided to get them both! Was put off the 20 due to the issues it has with the OMD and slow focusing. They are both on their way, and hanging give them a good work out!

    Also tempted to get the 45mm for the trip as well...

    I must say shooting with the EM5 has been a lot more fun then the 60D due to it's size!

    Edit: So that doesn't really help your situation as you only want one. Just go out and shoot and both the focal lengths and get an idea of which you prefer...
  15. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 5, 2013
    Real Name:
    I mentioned the 6D specifically because it is the smallest Canon full frame and I figured the reason you were looking at a Rebel line camera was because they are smaller than your working camera. I thought a 6D might work as both if shallow DOF was really important to you in your travel camera.
  16. TransientEye

    TransientEye Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 18, 2013
    Real Name:
    Yes, but changing lenses while out and about is never much fun. Surely the difference is small enough that you could stick with (say) the 17mm and compensate by moving position?

    I use a 12/25/45 set of primes with an E-M5. For the most part, the 25mm stays on the camera.

    I actually prefer the focal length and image quality from the 20mm to the 25mm. However, because of the slower AF and visible shadow banding at ISO 1600 on my E-M5 (without dodging) I have switched to the 25mm. I would prefer to replace the 45mm with a 75mm, but the price premium for the black version (for street use) is prohibitive here.

    For comparison, my analogous "serious" FF prime set is 17/35/135. But the camera body plus one lens is already larger and heavier than the entire u4/3 system.
  17. tzortst

    tzortst Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 3, 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Yeah this is very true, Honestly it was probably overkill, will see how I go after the trip, Might actually end up selling one...
  18. mh2000

    mh2000 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 3, 2010
    "I did some googling and it appears that the APS-C sensors only have about a 2/3 stop DOF advantage... "

    for most travel photography, the larger sensor "advantage" is not an advantage at all because travel photos usually look much better with *more* DoF and not less.
  19. LovinTheEP2

    LovinTheEP2 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2011
    You started your post saying the 12-50 was slow on the long end as a complaint.. But then you list 3 short primes? Maybe the 45mm is a better option for you.

    I wouldn't get 17 1.8 unless you plan on wide thin dof. That said, 1.8 isn't that thin when compared to 2.8 especially on m43 sensors and at 2.8 both lens in my opinion are similar in IQ. The 2.8 will save you a bit of funds and be way smaller.

    I would suggest the 14 by panasonic but you are concerned about the 17 being wide so its a no go.

    I would either due the 25 or 45 or 12-35 (yeah not a prime but for its aperature is very close to the 17 and 25 at the same aperature and gives you some flexibilty. That said 25 is awesome as is the 45. The 20 is IMO the perfect focal length but its sluggish focus and stupid banding issue on the em5 ep5 is a big knock now whereas in the ep2 era was perfect.
  20. birdie

    birdie Mu-43 Regular

    After doing some more research I'm now thinking that I will try pick up a Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 as they are pretty cheap and try to find a reasonably priced 25mm f/1.4 for the trip and once I have them I may even try sell the 12-50mm to fund a 45mm f/1.8...