The 35mm conundrum...

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by nickthetasmaniac, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    Ok, so I have a bit of a dilemma... I really, really like shooting with the classic 35mm (equivalent) focal length, especially for environmental portraiture and documentary/journalistic/travel style photography. One thing I especially like about a 35mm lens (on full-frame/film) is the ability to get decent subject separation while still having a wide enough field of view to give the subject context.

    However, I've been struggling to find a lens that allows me to do this on Micro Four Thirds. I've owned both the m.ZD 17mm f2.8 and Lumix 20mm f1.7 and found both too slow to give the subject separation I'm after, and I haven't really enjoyed either lens anyway (I like a good tactile experience with the gear I use...). I'm guessing that the new m.ZD 17mm f1.8 will be similar for the former issue. Circa-f2 just isn't fast enough on a 17mm...

    I currently own the Nokton 17.5mm f0.95 and while it's amazing in some respects (speed and tactically chief amongst them) I simply don't like it's rendering (notably it's up close performance and problematic field curvature) and it feels slightly too big and unbalanced on my GH2 (my Nokton 25mm is fine in this respect), and I'll be selling it in the next few weeks.

    So, this leaves me with a bit of a quandary. What do I use for this type of photography? There's a whole bunch of options on the market (perhaps more than ever before) and all have fairly distinct *characteristics*... I know which one I'm leaning towards, but I'd love to hear people's thoughts here!

    These are the ones I've considered.

    - GH2 + Nokton 17.5/f0.95
    - GH2 + m.ZD 17/f1.8
    - Sony RX1
    - Sony NEX6/7 + CZ 24mm f1.8
    - Fuji X100s
    - Fuji XE-1 + X 23mm f1.4 (not yet available)
    - 5D/6D/D600/D800/A99 + 35mm f1.5
    - Leica M9 + CV Nokton 35mm f1.4
    - Something else...?

    Please take into account that money is a pretty personal issue, so I'm not really interested in comments along the lines of 'such and such is too expensive'. I'll make that call when the time comes.
  2. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 12, 2012
    Real Name:
    X100s seems to be great. Bigger sensor. Stuck with one nice lens. Not too leicaexpensive(you can bring it without being anxious about damage etc). Its very nice looking. Fuji colours!
  3. yekimrd

    yekimrd Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 14, 2012
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Name:
    I have the 17/1.8 and I really like its rendering. I've owned the 17/2.8 and 20/1.7 and have decided to keep the 17/1.8. A small drop in sharpness is the only issue IQ-wise. It's metal in build and definitely has some weight and tactile feel to it without being too bulky like the 20/1.4, which is the only lens of these 4 that beats the 17/1.8 rendering-wise. See some of my samples on the 17/1.8 image thread.
  4. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Real Name:
    G'day Nick.

    I've been contemplating the same thing mate. Picked up the new Oly 17 a week ago and have been taking a few random test snaps around the yard and while its a nice lens and certainly fulfills my desire to try the 'snap to' focus is certainly not in the same league in pure optical quality terms as the P20 or PL25 (to my eye at this early stage), for what it's worth I think even my P14 is better....but like I said, I got it for its focus ring to use for quick street shooting, pure optical excellence is not a pre-requisite here I don't think. I doubt VERY much whether it will give you what you want other than the focal length. In my tests so far I need to be super close to the subject to get any real isolation going on, 17mm @ f1.8 on a m43 sensor just isn't going to do it.

    The Fuji x100/S are a really fine option, had an X100 for a month and loved output but hated the crappy EVF. Its slightly larger sensor and f2 lens will make it little easier to get that separation you speak of but still not drastically different to what I am getting from my EM5 and 17/1.8.....noticeable, but not significantly so. What makes the Fuji X100/S great though is that as a compact travel/documentary camera it's a dream. Simple, intuitive, compact and a sensor/lens combo built for each other. I think the same could be said of the RX1 as a compact travel/documentary camera with the added bonus of having a seemingly stunning CZ f2 lens on a FF sensor. I was so tempted to snap one up (helps that I know a guy who knows a guy at Sony) but decided that for wasn't worth the money.

    Instead I will patiently wait for the Fuji X 23mm f1.4 ....if that lens is anything like its older brother the 35mm it'll be worth the wait and coupled with a lovely X-E1/2 I suspect it'll give just narrow enough a depth of field and subject separation even on such a wide FOV....a look which I too am really fond of. The bonus for me, and this was the clincher....going down this road I can then pick and choose from Fujis other X lenses in the near future as they get released....of greatest interest to me is their planned UWA zoom that if I recall will be f2.8 and filter compatible !!!! The Fuji X series promises those 2 things....a super fast 35mm eq and a relatively large aperture UWA zoom that takes !!
    • Like Like x 5
  5. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    If you're patient, I think you should look at Fuji X-E1 and future 35mm equiv. The output from the xtrans sensor is great and the lenses have all been very good to date. Even the worse lens (18mm) is still pretty decent.

    The biggest risk is that you will abandon your m43 gear. :p
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    If I liked that focal length as much as you do, I'd get an X100s. I had an X100 and loved it, flaws and all, except for the focal length. I have an X-Pro and shoot it with the 28mm equivalent nearly all the time because that's MY go-to focal length. But other than that I liked the X100 more and the X100s sounds like its taken care of all of the quirks with the X100, which they'd ironed a lot out through firmware anyway.

    The RX1 could be pretty tempting if you're into a fairly contemplative way of shooting. Sounds like its got at least as many issues as the X100 had at launch, and I've never found a Sony interface I could love, so that wouldn't be MY choice, but if you're OK with the early issues that cam seems to have and really like that full frame IQ, it should deliver that in spades.

    But I don't see any BAD options on your list, so whatever floats your boat.

  7. harry_s

    harry_s Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 19, 2011
    Wiltshire, UK
    At that length I've not found anything that comes close to the Canon 35mm 1.4. Until recently I had one pretty much permanently attached to a 5D Classic, I was very surprised at how good the subject separation was for such a wide lens.

    For subject separation even at a bit of a distance I think full frame is the only serious option, smaller sensors are really going to struggle to be fast enough.
  8. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    I'm inclined to agree. I've been shooting the Nokton 17.5mm with the aperture ring sitting between f1.4-2 (around f1.7/8 I'm guessing) for a little while now just to see if it'll produce the effect I'm after and I honestly don't think it will. I actually had the m.ZD 17mm f1.8 on pre-order but I've since cancelled due to this... I'm sure it's a great lens in many ways but I don't think it'll do what I'm after.

    I also had an X100 (with v1.0 firmware mind) for a few months and sold it. I loved the rendering of the sensor/lens combo, but the well publicised operational 'quirks' made made me want to through it/me out a window... The very impressive looking 'S' update seems to have fixed most of these issues and added some nice looking extras ('split-image' MF and the fantastic 16mp X-Trans chip) but at the end of the day, it's still f2 on APS, which I just don't think is quite enough...

    This is the one that tempts me at the moment. Amazing sensor/lens combo. Ridiculously tiny (this matters for what I want it for). Similar subject separation to the Nokton 17.5mm @ f0.95 on MFT. Even the lack of in-built EVF doesn't bother me (considering the size that allows). The cost of an additional EVF bothers me a great deal though, as does the battery life and the (idiotic) USD-charging :confused:

    Very, very tempting. I think a 23mm f1.4 would give similar subject separation to a 35mm f2?

    No risk there. The Nokton 25mm and m.ZD 75mm have made sure of that :smile:

    Having had quite a bit of experience with the X100's 'quirks', I'm curious what issues you're referring to with the RX1? I haven't heard anything overly dramatic (with the exception of the pricing and usb-charging mentioned above...)

    I've played with a few 35mm f1.4's on full-frame dSLR's (mainly with an A900 + Sony G 35/f1.4) and I agree, the look is something pretty unique. That said, after moving to mirrorless I just don't think I'd happily buy another big SLR...

    In the end though I'm inclined to agree - I think this is the one area where the Four Thirds sensor size just becomes too much of a hurdle.
  9. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I'd be very, very tempted by the RX1 if I had the monies for it. Or a full frame mirrorless EOS body I could simply mount my 35L to.
  10. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    It sounds like what you mostly want is shallow depth-of-field, so the X-E1 + future 23/1.4 or the Sony RX1 would seem the most suitable amongst the smaller options.
  12. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Real Name:
    Have to chime in here. After checking out reviews and images around the web i bought a rokinon (samyang) 35 f1.4 for my d600. Just got it on Friday and haven't been feeling well enough to take it out yet but the few shots I've taken around the house are impressing me so far.
  13. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    If size is critical (and the m4/3 options don't do it for you), I suppose the Sony RX1 or Fuji X100s is the best choice. If it's image quality you're after, I'd go for a Nikon D600 and Sigma 35/1.4.

    However, considering that your biggest complaint about the Voigtlander 17/0.95 seems to be the rendering, it probably makes sense to pick a lens first, and then figure out a body.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Real Name:
    There's a lot of really great information here, but re-reading your original post, for the kind of subject separation you want with the the 35mm (EFL) point of view, you might just need to bite the bullet and go full frame. I guess that would mean the Sony RX1, which is too expensive IMHO. Like Ray, I'd go with the Fuji, but when you reduce the area of the sensor you automatically increase DOF for the same point of view. That's why I'm thinking that for the 35mm experience you are after, you might have to go 35mm.
  15. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    FWIW, in terms of subject separation, the Voigtlander the OP has and the RX1 are about equal, and the Fuji offers less than either.
  16. drewbot

    drewbot Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    For me, it would be the X-E1 with the 23 f/1.4 combo.

    Judging by the size of the lens mockup, it looks to achieve optical perfection without the use of software correction.

    I think it'll be safe to say it'll beat the pants off the Oly 17/1.8 (which I do own)
  17. feilb

    feilb Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    I think 35 equivalent is the weak spot of the m43 system.

    From my experience, the 25/1.4 offers the separation i desire. Longer focal lengths (45/1.8 etc) have no problem.

    Much wider than 17mm and you tend to want more DOF, not less. Hence the excellent 7-14mm.

    The trouble is, for people more comfy with the 35mm equiv FOV v 50mm equiv FOV, options are slim to produce that nice DOF separation you'd get at a larger sensor size.

    I assumed that the lower level of bokeh on m43 would cause me to hate it. Truly it's only at the wide end where it's just not quite the same. Aside from that spot, the format holds its own.
  18. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Real Name:
    Mike Aubrey
    This has been my experience, too. And I've been tempted to buy a used Canon 5D with either the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm or 24mm f/1.4...but they're just so big...
  19. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    Here's my comments/feedback on the ones I can offer any insight into. I'd say that if you want wide angle with subject isolation m4/3 just isn't the right place to look for it - especially if you're already ruling out the CV 17.5mm since it certainly isn't going to get any more shallow DoF than that's capable of.

    Sony RX1
    I've been shooting with an RX1 off and on since early December. The 35mm f/2 on the RX1 is capable nice subject isolation and it's excellent optical quality as well. I have absolutely no complaints about the output on this camera and honestly can't even come up with anything negative to say about the IQ. I'm also really impressed with the ISO performance - I'm happy with 12,800 on it and have even recovered a few 25,600 shots in LightRoom just to see if it was doable. The build quality is outstanding also, and while it's not my favorite interface, it's usable.

    My 2 only real issues with the RX1 since I got it is the slow AF indoors, and the lack of a viewfinder (still out of stock). The biggest issue with the RX1 is definitely the slow autofocus, especially in low light. Manual focus is usable, unlike the Fuji X100, and it does have focus peaking. However the peaking is only available when using focus assist/magnification for some odd reason. I'm hoping they change that in a firmware update since it'd be a boon to be able to use it without the magnification. I am withholding my final judgement on the RX1 until I've had some time to use it with the attached EVF also. I just can't get used to going back to a viewfinder-less experience so I can't bond properly with the camera just yet. If you like 35mm and FF's subject isolation capabilities in a small package, this camera is pretty slick and might be just right for you.

    Fuji X100s
    I haven't used one of these of course, but the X100 I did have and use for a while. I loved the output from the Fuji sensor and quality optics, excellent all the way. The two things I never quite got along with was the OVF (I couldn't adapt to the parallax effect making the viewfinder framing and focus point slightly different than pictured), and the AF speed. The manual focus on the X100 is atrocious also, literally unusable. The AF was slow but ok providing you weren't after action shots, but since I only got along with it in the EVF there wasn't much point in sticking with the X100. I did however get an X-E1 as soon as it came out since it was everything I liked about the X100, without the OVF but with interchangeable lenses, and cheaper than the X-Pro1.

    With the X100s supposedly addressing the AF speed issues once and for all, I'd take a good hard look at the X100s if you're interested in a fixed lens 35mm also. Main question is would you get enough subject isolation at f/2.0 on APS-C to suit you.

    Fuji XE-1 + X 23mm f1.4 (not yet available)
    I have the X-E1 and love it with the 35mm f/1.4 - the 23mm f/1.4 is a definite must buy for me when it's available. If it's as good as the 35mm it'll be a killer combo. Again here the only thing not to like is the AF speed. Most of the time I can get by with it, but indoors with people e.g. parties, I find the AF misses a lot and can be a little frustrating. Manual focus is better than the X100 by a mile, but still not (IMO) quite as good as on m4/3 or the RX1. I love the rangefinder styling, built-in EVF, retro style, and especially the output. Fuji really knows what they're doing with rendering quality and optics, no question about it. The shallow DoF capabilities should be good here as well, judging by my experience with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. The built-in EVF has a little lag compared to my m4/3 EVF experience, but it's usable - and the output of the camera makes up for it :biggrin:

    5D/6D/D600/D800/A99 + 35mm f1.5
    I've used a D600 and D800 but not with a 35mm (only with a 28mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.4). My $0.02 that applies to either is that this is my favorite option. I can nail focus consistently in a variety of conditions and get great IQ with nice subject isolation easier than I can with the Fuji, Sony, or m4/3 gear. I'll also note the 35mm f/1.4 Sigma appears to be an excellent alternative for considerably less than the equivalent Nikon/Canon versions, and I plan to pick one up eventually.

    Of course the downside here is weight and bulk, though it's certainly reduced if you carry just one lens. Moreso if you carry a lighter body like the D600 rather than the D800, or the 6D rather than the 5D. Personally I don't mind the weight (e.g. I just carried the D600 and 28mm + 50mm lenses all day today) but that's a very individual choice. If light weight is more important to you I'd take a very hard look at one of the mirrorless options. The RX1 in particularly is absolutely miniscule - very nearly the size of a GX1 + 20mm pancake. You could carry it all day and probably almost forget it's there.

    Hope some of that helps, let me know here or via PM if you have specific questions or want more feedback on anything!
    • Like Like x 3
  20. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    That's true - but note the OP is mostly using the Voigtlander stepped down a bit, and he wasn't happy with the optical qualities of the lens anyway (e.g. field curvature). So the RX1 and Fuji X-E1 may be better options even if the DoF is similar to the Voigtlander wide open.

    Also, I believe the Fuji wide open would be about the same as the RX1, since it's about 2/3-1 stop less DoF on APS-C compared to FF, isn't it? So a 23mm f/1.4 would be about the same as 35mm f/2 on the RX1.

    EDIT: nevermind, just realized you meant the *other* Fuji, the X100s which would be f/2 on APS-C :smile: