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Primes or Zooms?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by acnomad, Mar 27, 2016.

  1. acnomad

    acnomad Mu-43 Veteran

    284
    Jan 5, 2016
    Andy
    As it looks like we're going to take it slowly this morning and go to the late morning Easter service, I thought I would start a thread to seek some advice as I have been rethinking my kit. I'm shooting native primes at the moment, but intrigued by the convenience of fast zooms. Not in a hurry to change - just pondering...

    Present kit: P14/2.5, P20/1.7, O25/1.8, P42.5/1.7, O75/1.8 (bodies: EM1, EP3, GM1)
    Strongly considering: P12-35/2.8 or O12-40/2.8
    Willing to consider: P35-100/2.8
    Less likely, but intriguing: O40-150/2.8

    I'm a hobbyist, shooting a fairly equal blend of family, kids sports, travel, attempts at artistic images. I also have a variety of adapted Nikon glass (24, 35, 50, 55 Micro, 105, 80-200, 500).

    Here's the table I made to analyze the options:
    Zooms-Primes Grid.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
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  2. Be ready for opinions in all shapes and sizes. For those of us using m43, lens choice has become a double edged sword with the huge line up of possibilities..you're tasked with making decisions that you may not fully understand until you have the lens on the camera and out in the field. The other half is that we have these options that many other camera systems don't have. A true dilemma. With the choices being so personal, you really need to sit and think about you're shooting priorities..what you like to do the most and what you'll likely try in the future. Your choices might start by looking at the weakest links in what you have now and seeing if you can consolidate some focal lengths into a zoom. The other thing to consider is the camera line up. With the GM1, some of these lenses will work better than others. Would it be better to swap that out for an Oly? If you don't mind the extra size and weight of the 12-40, and learn to appreciate it's positives, I would say try one and simplify your prime choices. Try renting a 12-40 for a few days and see if you like it.
     
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  3. manju69

    manju69 Mu-43 Veteran

    493
    Jul 1, 2011
    Stroud, UK
    Pete
    Have been beck and forth on this one - starting with zooms, then all primes then realised it was a pain to be changing all the time especially in family type situations...then I bought the 12-40mm and was very, very happy with it... and kept my favourite prime - the 25 f1.8. - for low light and it's small form...I have since added the 75mm also.. I have considered the 12-35 but really like the close focusing of the 12-40.

    So for me, in the end it's not an "or", it's an "and" ...Primes and Zooms! The 35-100 F2.8 is amazing by the way (though I just sold it to fund the 75) and bought a cheap 45-175 for those times when i need the reach.
     
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  4. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    I have a good number of great primes and the same with zooms. I tend to shoot with ultra wide a lot, which puts me with my Pany 7-14 or Oly 9-18. With them both, I tend to shoot them like primes - at the widest focal length. So I could get by with a 7 or 8mm prime just fine (as long as it was rectilinear).

    I've spent a lot of time over the decades juggling lenses on and off of bodies. Now, I prefer not to juggle lenses unless and until a particular instance calls for a particular prime lens. If I'm doing the photo-walk/tourist thing, I like two bodies, one with 7-14 or 9-18 and the other with 12-34 (or upcoming Pany 12-60). No lens juggling.

    When it comes to the longer focal lengths, unless I'm going for super shallow DOF, I find the zooms to be the most useful and enjoyable, particularly the 12-35/2.8 lens. And on the GM5 and Pen-F, the 12-32 lens. I greatly prefer the 12-xx lenses over the 14-xx lenses because that extra 2mm on the wide end is significant and I use it a lot.

    I pull out the 60/2.8, 75/1.8, 45/1.8, 25/1.4, 20/1.7, 17/1.8, 15/1.7, and 100-300 for "special needs" applications. So, I like having access to both zooms and primes, but find the convenience of zooms to rule most of the time. I'm really looking forward to checking out Pany's upcoming 12-60 lens for outdoor, daylight walk-around - I think it is going to be a great lens.

    ZOOM WITH YOUR FEET
    I do not like to "zoom with my feet" because I want to select a particular vantage point based on the all-important composition and perspective (and sometimes convenience). Having to zoom with the feet messes up all of that. This is one reason why zooms are so great.

    I could happily live with the 7-14 (or 9-18) and the 12-35/2.8 about 90% of the time. But fast primes are very nice to have on hand for those occasional special applications where they do their special thing.

    Best you can do is look at your usual applications, decide on your preference for juggling lenses or not, analyze your need for particular types of lenses and go from there. Ideally, a few zooms and a few primes will serve a variety of needs very well.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
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  5. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Most of my photography is travel, where changing lenses can be problematic for many reasons. Last year I took three zooms (9-18,14-140,100-300), three primes(12,20,45), and two GX7 bodies to Ethiopia for three weeks. The zooms did all the work; I never even mounted a prime. That was pretty typical of my travel photography; primes mostly as dead weight. When I got back to the US I sold all the primes.

    If I were doing studio or indoor/outdoor portrait work I would be shooting primes. The 45 mostly.
     
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  6. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    772
    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Ron
    In general, I like the discipline that using primes enforces. For outdoor travel use, I have the 14-140, especially when I can't stop to change lenses out of consideration for the others in my (family) group.

    But indoors, it's a different story. I photograph many church interiors, especially altars. That's prime territory, to keep ISO in reasonable bounds. For wide, I can take multiple shots and combine them in post, or use the camera's panorama function.

    But like Don, I would love a really wide prime.
     
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  7. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    @acnomad@acnomad, I noticed an error in your chart: The Oly 9-18mm is not an f2.8. It is f4-5.6. So not super-fast but it's a great lens with a wonderfully and uniquely versatile range.
     
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  8. acnomad

    acnomad Mu-43 Veteran

    284
    Jan 5, 2016
    Andy
    Good catch. I'll fix it and edit the OP.
     
  9. acnomad

    acnomad Mu-43 Veteran

    284
    Jan 5, 2016
    Andy
    The GM1, for all its limitations, is still the camera I carry when I'm only carrying a single body/lens combo - the small size is extremely valuable to me.
     
  10. acnomad

    acnomad Mu-43 Veteran

    284
    Jan 5, 2016
    Andy
    This is almost precisely the direction I thought I could be heading. I'm thinking I could manage with two zooms (a wide-normal + a tele) and the P42.5/1.7. I just wonder if I'd miss having the 25.
     
  11. jimr.pdx

    jimr.pdx Mu-43 Veteran

    342
    Dec 5, 2010
    near Longview ~1hr from PDX
    Jim R
    I always prefer wide primes, tele zooms myself. For convenience times I'd toss in the 12-32 Lumix then concentrate on what the needs are for telephoto. Right now I have just the 30 Sigma and 40-150 Amateur :p - so I'd love a 20, 14 and a wide Samyang but limited funds say a kit 14-42 might do for now. I have a NX300 with 16-50PZ, so right now it's Samsung wide :mu43: long :roflmao:
     
  12. I get the size thing..those are pretty tiny. Was just thinking that you might be able to simplify/reorganize your lens "thoughts". ;)
     
  13. acnomad

    acnomad Mu-43 Veteran

    284
    Jan 5, 2016
    Andy
    So do I. It's for this very reason that I even asked for the advice from this forum. I have always forced myself into primes and convinced myself that it is a worthy challenge. Yet lately, I have longed for the ease of composition by twist of a ring rather by the shuffling of feet.
     
  14. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    David
    I'm making my way toward this type of setup. A zoom set, a prime set, and plenty of mix and match options. While the zooms might get most of the use I know that at least the O17 and P42.5 will see use.

    P7-14
    P14-140 or P12-60
    P100-300
    R7.5
    O17 f/1.8
    P42.5 f/1.7
    S60

    I have two zooms I'll probably sell off (12-32 and 45-175).
    And I might add the 35-100 /f2.8 to the list if I stop shooting events and sell off my Nikons. But since I currently have 2 versions of the 70-200 (f/2.8 & f/4) it's hard to justify it.
     
  15. GnedTheGnome

    GnedTheGnome Mu-43 Regular

    At one time primes offered significantly better IQ than zooms. Today, I'm not sure that's necessarily the case. Yet, primes still seem to hold onto a certain mystique - a sense that they are more "serious" lenses.

    Personally, my most used lens is the Panasonic 14-140ii, and I am very pleased with the images it produces. For me, the only drawback is its limited aperture range. (That being said, I'm not shooting with a gm1. The size of that lens may very well overwhelm such a tiny camera, and would certainly make its size less of a feature. :wink: ) Being able to take a shot at a moment's notice without having to futz about with different lenses is more valuable to me than whatever tiny improvement in IQ I could acheive by using a prime, under most circumstances. But then, I'm not a purist, and love fiddling about with software after the fact, maybe even more than actually shooting, so... ymmv.

    I do also like to carry a small, fast, wide-ish prime for indoor and nighttime shots.
     
  16. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Primes AND zooms for me. As for the OP, a 12-40 would be a sensible addition to the kit, fitting in nicely with the 75mm on the long end. I predict that with a 12-40 the 14mm, 20mm, 25mm, 42.5mm will get a lot less use on the E-M1 with its IBIS but remain useful for the compact bodies. The 14mm at f/2.5 then doesn't have much going for it except for size, perhaps change into a compact prime set with a 17mm f/1.8 instead of the two Panasonic primes.
     
  17. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Analyze your focal length usage and determine which lenses you use the most and what aperture you use the most. I use the Nikon Image Space service and it recently added a reporting feature to show your shooting habit. Suffice to say, it gave me so much useful information over a 4 year shooting period that showed my f/1.8 primes are less used than my f/2.8 zooms. I will be trading those primes for a 12-40mm f/2.8 lens so I don't need to swap lenses anymore. The 12-40mm f/2.8 I found to be sharp enough for the job.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
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  18. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    I really like primes too, when they are just the right focal length for the situation at hand. When a prime is not the right focal length for the situation at hand, though, what some people might call 'discipline' I might call inconvenience (need to switch to a different lens, if you can) or compromise (you can't compose as you would really like to and are forced to accept something other than what you might prefer.)

    The same can be said for a zoom lens, of course, if you need f/1.4 and the zoom happens to be 2.8 (or slower) or you need the 7-14 and your mounted zoom is 12-35.

    Any lens you might be shooting with involves some sort of compromise, but I try to minimize inconvenience and compromise when image making as much as I reasonably can and more often than not I find that reasonably fast zooms (2.8) often help with that objective. It is ideal to have both zooms and primes, if possible, then choose as the situation dictates.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  19. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    Given this, I'd say you would be thrilled with the 12-35/2.8 (or 12-40/2.8) which may likely become your most often used lens. My 12-35 has kept most of my primes in the case, most of the time. For kids sports, you would probably find the 35-100/2.8 to be ideal. Following that, I would pick up a 7-14 or 9-18 and get working with the ultra-wides... They are capable of creating some fantastic, intriguing, and dramatic images.

    I can see you well equipped with 7-14, 12-35, and 35-100... Add in a prime like the 15/1.7 or 17/1.8 for dim interiors. And perhaps the 42.5/1.7 or 75/1.8 for portraits and you've got a kit capable of the vast majority of what you are likely to shoot.
     
  20. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    I have a problem with this old school principle, because you can do the same with a zoom lens too. Just restrict yourself shooting just with 1 focal length and you can shuffle with your feet to your heart's content. So that defeats the purpose of owning a prime if it's solely for the purpose of learning composition. The only benefit prime lenses provide is speed, but what I found is that, I rarely appreciate a little more than 1 stop benefit from f/1.7-f/1.8 lens as opposed to a 2 or more full stop advantage of what a f/1.4 and f/1.2 lens can provide me against a PRO zoom lens. Unless you have specific needs like portraiture or Macro work where you need the 45 f/1.8 or f/1.2 lens or the 60 f/2.8 or 45 f/2.8 Macro or 30mm for that matter, it makes more sense to consolidate the primes for a zoom and use your existing zoom lens to learn to see each focal lengths by shifting to a different one by zooming. And then when you realize your favourite focal length or lengths later; enhance it by adding prime lenses to either get more speed or better sharper or more bokeh rendering. According to my Nikon Image Space report, my most favourite focal length is the nifty fifty for full frame or 25mm for m43. And sure enough, it so happens I spent most of my time shooting the 25mm despite having the zoom that covers the same focal length. But my 25mm does f/1.4. The zoom only f/2.8.

    Personally, I don't subscribe to the method of collecting lenses and having them sit predominantly in my bag, only to take them out on special occasions. That's money sitting in the bag loosing a bit of value every year and not being photographically productive. Rather, I prefer using it so when I do sell the lens for something better, I can treat the loss of value to what you would pay for rental fee of the same lens.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
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