The Essential Budget Lens Collection

Paul C

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
Messages
205
I have just read a webpage called "The Essential Budget Lenses “ and was incredulous within minutes - This headline was a complete misnomer as it went on to advise buying the $1267 Panasonic 35-100mm…..but it got me thinking - surely even I can do better than that!

Now - if your earnings depend on it as a professional, then go ahead and spend $1267 on a Pro-Lens. But then again, if your earnings depend on it consider giving up M4/3 cameras and realise that due to the pixel density of crop-factor cameras there is really no alternative to a full frame Nikon like the D850 if you want the size of images required by picture agencies such as Almay. They usually specify a minimum of 40-48MB of data (ask the wonderful professional photographer Steve McCurry why he carries the weight of a D850 - or google him now for a peek at his incredible images). But for those of us who value creative tools that are small and light enough to make one camera bag carry all our kit that is good for 99% of imaging only an MFT camera will do. So let’s put this right at <£110 / <120 Euro / USD $125 per lens.

Since we have the collected wisdom of the M43 Forum at the ready – I look forward to hearing other ideas of how to fulfil the brief in the subsequent comments. This usually results in me opening my wallet to try out some of the advice….so remember the target: <£110 / <120 Euro / USD $125 per lens - or the cost of a good meal for 2. Best wishes to you all……

The ESSENTIAL BUDGET LENSES
Full_camera_bag_(7410223172).jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Image credit to https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Full_camera_bag_(7410223172).jpg
====

[1] The Basics, a fast-focusing AF lens zoom good for 90% of all your images comes first, and it is the Lumix 14-42mm Mk II you need. It is as sharp as any professional lens - it comes as the "kit lens" for most MFT Lumix cameras and is a masterpiece that is rated in the top 10 of all MFT lenses for resolution and IQ. The Olympus kit zoom doesn’t come close for sheer lines per mm resolution – and you get in-lens OIS too with the Panasonic. A bargain! Shoot in JPEG mode and all the distortion correction is applied in-camera – a double bargain !!

====

[2] Portrait time – here you need a moderate compression lens to flatter the face with a shallow depth of field to isolate the background. Central sharpness is a must, yes, but peripheral sharpness is not needed. Now virtually any 50mm F1.7 - 2.0 made in the 1970's - 1980s with a M4/3 adapter will do. (I prefer the SMC Pentax 50mm F1.7 but the choice is as individual as each photographer - go on E-Bay and buy 2 or 3 to try them out. Get the Helios 44m with “swirly Bokeh” if you must!) This gives a me 100mm F1.7 portrait lens equivalent with fabulous bokeh. Opened up to the widest aperture setting and even the clumsiest shape of aperture blade creates a shining circle to out of focus highlights. Don't forget to spend £2 / $3 on a telephoto-length lens hood to drop the flare that occurs when we use wider diameter lenses on a crop-factor body. E-Bay and AliExpress have wonderful metal ones at less than my target prices. Add a 8x ND filter to keep you shooting wide open at F1.4 – 2.0 on sunny days and you are good to go for a fraction of the otherwise wonderful 45mm Olympus MFT lens.
====

[3] You will really want a rectilinear ultrawide lens
of about 18-19mm full frame equivalent. The 9-18mm Olympus MFT lens is the “Go-To” for the wealthy – but remember we are on a budget. At my price target there are no alternatives to the full frame 7-artisans 7.5mm f2.8 fisheye on a fixed MFT mount. Currently sold at <£110 on eGlobal or eBay and still inside my target on Amazon today. Add the fabulous free DXO-Pro 11 and set the "defishing" slider to 66% and you have a wonderful ultrawide lens with distortion fully corrected good for 8x10 prints. I cannot praise this combination enough. Autofocus isn’t needed with this angle of view. If you have the time, download the free software called “Hugin” which corrects lens distortion AND fixes panaroma overlap images (but takes many more computer keystrokes than the DXO programme to deliver the picture). Pay $9.99 on the App Store for a “DXO perspective” download for PC or MAC and you can even correct converging verticals with only 3 clicks of your mouse – so much for tilt-shift lenses which we can now leave out of the shopping list.
====

[4] Nature and landscapes come next – so then we need a big telephoto 100-300mm equivalent lens to compress the field of view and isolate the key visual element of each image in an otherwise crowded and busy world: the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens zoom is on sale at just under £110 on eGlobal's website today (and I got mine new at <£100 recently during a sale as a white-box from a dealer splitting a Panasonic 2-lens kit)- sure, this is the "amateur" version, not the Pro F2.8 one from Olympus currently at £999 on Amazon UK - but with its fantastic resolution in the 100-220mm equivalent range (check out the lines per mm on the charts) it is a stunning and affordable alternative. Pushed to its 300mm equivalent full extension it isn’t bad either. Remember that at this range, a bit of “noise” from 800ASA sensitivity is better than blurring from shake.

In reality, pay up for a really good stiff and heavy tripod such as a Manfottro or one of its new “generic” Chinese copies if you are seriously into such imaging. Don't use any fancy geared columns or fancy tripod heads - these only add movement. Remember that you can only have 2 out of 3 of “rigid”, “lightweight” and “inexpensive” until you can afford a £200 / $250 Carbon-fibre tripod – so if it needs a tripod to get the picture, always sacrifice weight to gain rigidity when you are on a budget.
====

[5] now a macro lens: we cannot afford the wonderful Olympus 30mm f3.5 micro 4/3 one - so here's the alternatives at the target price…………
++
[5A] Add a 4+ dioptre 52mm diameter accessory close -up lens to the 14-42mm kit lens and voila - all you ever need for a few pounds/dollars AND you keep the AF and the automatic exposure flash control. That combination fills the frame with a postage stamp. The accessory lens is 8mm deep and fits in the little pocket next to the spare battery in your camera bag. I have never even used the +1, +2 or +10 dioptre lenses that came in my set of 4 – so save the pennies for later.
++

[5B] Do the same with a 4+ dioptre lens to the 50mm legacy lens you have bought already and you have a perfect 100mm equivalent close up lens. Dial in F8 for depth of field, pop up the onboard flash to fill in and the lack of AF precision and OIS is overcome. The MFT viewfinder will compensate for the F8 and still stay bright. Learn which output settings are needed for your fill-in flash to be consistent and this is a perfect insect and flower lens.
++

[5C] If you really must have 1:1 ratio - buy the 1980s Manual Focus Vivitar 55mm F2.8 macro from eBay with the appropriate adapter lens mount. Mine was <£50 and is amazing.
++

[5D] Finally - a bit left field – but there were generic manual focus 28mm f2.8 lenses in the 1980s made by a company called CIMKO (There were sold under a range of brand names such as Clubman, Panagor, Photax Paragon, Ensinor etc) or a similar type made by Cosina (sold as Petri’s, Mirandas, etc…). They we sold with “macro” labels but in reality, only reached 1:4 magnification. For nearly all we might need to picture a 1:4 ratio is plenty good enough. My version was a “Clubman” brand and cost me £5.00 on eBay, add another £5 / 6 Euro / $7 USD for a the full-frame to MFT adapter and you are ready to go. Better still - buy it in the same mount as your 50mm and save the pennies.
====

[6] Now finally - some fun to get you thinking visually to fill the last space in that camera bag at <150g weight? Surely our creativity needs a help - so buy a Chinese generic C-Mount 35mm F1.4 to 1.6 lens and a c-mount to MFT adaptor. There are several designs at this price point. One brand to look for is FUJIAN. This will come in at <£20 / $25 on E-Bay. These are tiny in size and light on the pocket - the bokeh swirls and they vignette better than the famous/infamous Helios 50mm or any “Lomo" lens - but we want one of them because all these lenses have a "character" that can't easily be added in photoshop. I find they stir creativity. Add 1 or 2 c-mount spacers to increase the lens to sensor distance and you gain a creative macro lens for only a £ or two more.

====

With that spare cash left over – where shall we travel to in this wonderful world too take our next photos?

Now – any other ideas from the collective wisdom of the M43 Forum for us financially challenged photographers?

Best wishes to you all – Paul C in the UK
 
Last edited:

twigboy

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Sep 10, 2016
Messages
938
Location
Virginia
Great thread. I look forward to others' alternatives.

For instance, saving the money because the Olympus camera we bought came with kit lenses 14-42 and 40-150, then carry on as you suggested. These are lightweight and functional, and even if you buy them now (because you came across a deal?) can fit into your budget limit for the pair as well as the small bag. Going even lower is the useful but probably not as functional 9mm BCL. If you check the images threads you will see some nice shots from these lenses.
 

WT21

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Feb 19, 2010
Messages
7,287
Location
Boston
Well, I was all in on building my own list, until I realized you are more budget-conscious than me! When someone refers to the O9-18 as "for the wealthy" I'm afraid I must be a 1%er!
 

Michael Meissner

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Sep 19, 2018
Messages
739
Location
Ayer, Massachusetts, USA
Great thread. I look forward to others' alternatives.

For instance, saving the money because the Olympus camera we bought came with kit lenses 14-42 and 40-150, then carry on as you suggested. These are lightweight and functional, and even if you buy them now (because you came across a deal?) can fit into your budget limit for the pair as well as the small bag. Going even lower is the useful but probably not as functional 9mm BCL. If you check the images threads you will see some nice shots from these lenses.
If you have the Olympus dual lens pair (14-42mm II-R and 40-150mm), you might want to think about looking for a Mcon-p01. This lens attaches to both the 14-42mm II-R and 40-150mm lenses as a macro lens. The current Mcon-p02 attaches to the 14-42mm (both II-R and EZ) but it doesn't attach to the 40-150mm.

In addition if you have the 14-42mm mark II lens (not the mark I or the EZ versions), you can get the Wcon-p01 that gives you a wider angle (roughly 11mm instead of 14mm). I have the Wcon-p01 and I used it a few times before upgrading to the 9-18mm lens. There is also the Fcon-p01 that gives a fisheye view, but I have no experience with it.
 

Paul C

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
Messages
205
Well, I was all in on building my own list, until I realized you are more budget-conscious than me! When someone refers to the O9-18 as "for the wealthy" I'm afraid I must be a 1%er!

Lucky you indeed - at Amazon UK today - the lowest price I see for the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 9-18 mm 1:4.0-5.6 Lens - is £469.00, about $500 USD. Even the lens cap is priced at £7.99.

Lucky all of us to be able to afford a hobby like photography - I never want to sound ungreatful. So to add to the value - the zero cost ultrawide is to put the kit lens vertical and shoot 3 to 5 overlapping images at 14mm on the kit lens. Then just feed the images into the amazing free-to-download "Panorama Stitcher Mini" software from the Mac AppStore. This almost never fails to give the ultrawide experience and alone justifies the "vitrtual horizon-line" that can be dialed up in the viewfinder of many MFT camera bodies.

Stitching fails when there is significant movement between shots - and when there is a strong foreground element to the image. But when it works it is wonderful.

P1290378_P1290380.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Here are 3 overlapped images from a 14-42mm kit lens sticthed together using that free software from last week's amazing autumn weather in the English Lake District to show the effect.

best wishes - Paul C
 

Paul C

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
Messages
205
I like Michael Meissner's thinking about accessory lenses.

I did try using a generic Chinese 0.7x wide angle accessory lens on the front of my 14-42. At £8 / $10 it was affordable fun but although the barrel distortion could be fixed in DXO the image quality was so poor at the corners that I gave it up quickly for all except for "action videos"....where the rapid speed of movement of the camera meant that the drama of the film overcame the poor image quality.

On-line there are plenty of "Vloggers" who swear by this as the budget answer to a reasonable field of view on a selfie-stick. However I will admit to being of the age to duck such self-publicity !
 

WT21

Mu-43 Legend
Joined
Feb 19, 2010
Messages
7,287
Location
Boston
Lucky you indeed - at Amazon UK today - the lowest price I see for the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 9-18 mm 1:4.0-5.6 Lens - is £469.00, about $500 USD. Even the lens cap is priced at £7.99.

Lucky all of us to be able to afford a hobby like photography - I never want to sound ungreatful. So to add to the value - the zero cost ultrawide is to put the kit lens vertical and shoot 3 to 5 overlapping images at 14mm on the kit lens. Then just feed the images into the amazing free-to-download "Panorama Stitcher Mini" software from the Mac AppStore. This almost never fails to give the ultrawide experience and alone justifies the "vitrtual horizon-line" that can be dialed up in the viewfinder of many MFT camera bodies.

Stitching fails when there is significant movement between shots - and when there is a strong foreground element to the image. But when it works it is wonderful.

View attachment 694238

Here are 3 overlapped images from a 14-42mm kit lens sticthed together using that free software from last week's amazing autumn weather in the English Lake District to show the effect.

best wishes - Paul C

I rarely buy new except on super sale. My O918 was $350 used. Still that’s a lot, but it’s no prograde kit ;)
 

alex66

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Jul 23, 2010
Messages
1,556
Looking for sub £110 lenses the rational choice is to get used and use patience.
So here are my you can find these at reasonable time intervals for less than £110
Primes; Panasonic 14mm and Panasonic 25 1.7 then the Sigma 60mm. There is the alternative of any of the other Sigma 2.8 lenses and the Olympus 17 2.8 or the body cap lenses.
Zooms either the 12-32 or 14-45 or 14-42 mk2 Panasonic lenses The only Tele I see going for this money is the Olympus 40-150.
I have no experience of the Olympus 40-150, 14042 mk2 so can't comment on them in use the others I think are very very good for the prices we can get them for.
 

ionian

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
May 20, 2016
Messages
1,357
Location
Kent, UK
Real Name
Simon
I'm very much a budget (or at least a bang for buck) shopper when it comes to photo gear. I don't disagree with anything you've written but I would add that the best value propositions in my opinion are the sigma prime lenses. To buy only primes I think you need a confidence and clear direction to your photography - most suited to people and street, definitely not telephoto stuff at the budget end. But if that's what you want to photograph, the f2.8 primes are exceptional value, and the f1.4 primes are more expensive, bigger, but excellent value.

I think if I was building a m43 kit as cheap as possible I would go with an original em5, a Panasonic 14-42ii, a Panasonic 25mm f1.7 and a sigma 60mm f2.8. I rarely need wider myself and this would cover almost every occasion you could need.

Lastly, great shout about the vivitar 55mm macro - its my budget macro for m43 and is a superb value proposition.
 

Paul C

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
Messages
205
I'm very much a budget (or at least a bang for buck) shopper when it comes to photo gear. I don't disagree with anything you've written but I would add that the best value propositions in my opinion are the sigma prime lenses. To buy only primes I think you need a confidence and clear direction to your photography - most suited to people and street, definitely not telephoto stuff at the budget end. But if that's what you want to photograph, the f2.8 primes are exceptional value, and the f1.4 primes are more expensive, bigger, but excellent value.

I think if I was building a m43 kit as cheap as possible I would go with an original em5, a Panasonic 14-42ii, a Panasonic 25mm f1.7 and a sigma 60mm f2.8. I rarely need wider myself and this would cover almost every occasion you could need.

Lastly, great shout about the vivitar 55mm macro - its my budget macro for m43 and is a superb value proposition.
With the power of the M43 forum I can see that Ionian and I are about to push the Visitor 55mm macro over the £110/$125 USD mark on eBay and out of my price range.

ER Photo review tested the Vivitar 55mm macro lens and showed:

Central resolution at MFT 50 was 2400; MFT 20 at >3000 on a Nex3 Camera body.
Lateral CA was <0.2 at all f-stops bar 2.8 when it never exceeded 0.5 Pixel.

At 1:1 macro that is very hard to beat!

A hint to the budget-concious shopper. The 55mm Vivitar was sold under lots of other different brand names - learn about these and your secondhand lens buying may get significantly more cost-effective!
 

kingduct

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Oct 12, 2013
Messages
467
I practically own the cheap m4/3 kit already. Given a bit more flexibility on the price (like, up to $200).
1) Start with the dual kit zooms. With my GX85, it came with the 12-32 and 45-150. Both really good kit lenses. Olympus cameras come with the 14-42 and you can get the 40-150 really cheap (like less than $100). The Olympus lenses are good, though perhaps not quite as highly regarded.
2) Add a normal prime. The Panasonic 20/1.7 is awesome, but useless for video. The Panasonic 25/1.7 isn't quite as special (in my opinion), but can focus quickly for video. I own both. Other options: The Olympus 25/1.8 (a bit more expensive, but can be found under $200 on this forum) and the Sigma 19/2.8 and 30/2.8.
3) Get a portrait prime. The cheapest are the Olympus 45/1.8 and Sigma 60/2.8.
4) If you want something wider than the Panasonic 12-32, get the Samyang 7.5/3.5 fisheye. I recently bought for just over $100.

Summing up the cheapest options here, you can have a complete kit for (easy-to-find used/refurbished prices): 12-32 ($125) + Oly 40-150 ($75) + Panasonic 20/1.7 or 25/1.7 ($150) + Sigma 60/2.8 ($150) = $500. That's less than the price of a single high-end lens and is a really nice autofocus native lens kit.

Again, you can often find some of these for a bit less than that or get them with a camera kit. Note that I don't have a macro -- instead, I bought a used Panasonic 42.5/1.7 (a little beyond the budget prices here) that came with macro extension tubes. You might have to go manual focus for a cheap maco.
 

D7k1

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Nov 18, 2013
Messages
2,836
For me it was the Oly 14-42 v2, Pany 14 & GWC1 for 11mm, Sigma 30 f2.8, and Oly 40-150 with Mcon1. All bought used or refurb for close to $100. Used these lenses with my EP5 also bought refurbed, it was a great system. My current set of primes includes Rok 7.5mm, the Pany14/GWC1/Sigma 30 2.8, and I've recently added a used Oly 60mm here in what I would call KEH Ex to EX+ for $230. Although I have other lenses I could certainly live with this set of primes. Also should mention that I got a 35-100 f4/5.6 here for $150 - a real value considering its optical performance, and this is not a range I normally use but couldn't pass this lens up to match with my 9-18 as a travel kit.

My Daily users are a bit more expensive but then I'm a zoom type of guy:)
 

mauve

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Mar 9, 2010
Messages
1,561
Location
Paris, France
My cheap (or rather, budget conscious) choice [prices on the 2nd hand market, after a bit of foraging] :
Primes :
- Panasonic 14/2.5 (~150 €)
- Panasonic 25/1.7 (~100 €)
- Olympus 45/1.8 (~120 €)
Zooms :
- Olympus 9-18 (ok, not cheap but the cheapest at what it does, circa 350 €)
- Olympus 12-50 (100 €, not the sharpest, but weather resistant, pseudo-macro, wider and longer than most all other kit zooms, etc.)
- Olympus 40-150II (~100 €)
Not cheap but "reasonable" high quality semi-wide prime :
- Olympus 17/1.8 (~300 €)

This allows an interesting range of combinations depending of the targeted size and weight you wish to carry :
2 primes kit (ultra light) : 17 + 45
3 primes kit (the street photographer) : 14 + 25 + 45
3 zooms kit (the tourist) : obvious
2 zooms kit + prime for low light (the city walk) : 9-18, 40-150, 25
...
Cheers,
M.
 

Amin Sabet

Administrator
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
Messages
11,099
Location
Boston, MA (USA)
I think most people would do very well with a three-lens kit of:

1) Panasonic 14/2.5

2) Olympus 25/1.8, Panasonic 25/1.7, Sigma 19/2.8, Panasonic 20/1.7, Olympus 30/3.5 macro, or Panasonic 30/2.8 macro

3) Olympus 45/1.8, Panasonic 42.5/1.7, or Sigma 60/2.8

All of those are GREAT value lenses which leverage the compactness of our system
 

agentlossing

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Jun 26, 2013
Messages
4,930
Location
Oregon USA
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I'm more a fan of native lenses, as in my experience you get much clearer/crisper images from them. Oh, and AF is often a nice thing to have.

I think the Panny 20mm f1.7 (especially if you have a Panasonic body) can cover many needs in the wideish-normal arena. Combine that with the 12-32mm as a tiny versatile zoom that can be kept in a shirt pocket and you're almost good to go.

That's one budget - tiny! - lens kit but it's a very capable one. I have other lenses and like using them, but if I had to absolutely pare it down right now with my current GX85 kit, that's what I'd do.
 

dirtdevil

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Apr 9, 2017
Messages
958
I just want to add that the kit lens which came with the G85, the Panasonic 12-60mm, is really exceptional compared to the "Leica" version which costs the double.
 

alex66

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Jul 23, 2010
Messages
1,556
I'm more a fan of native lenses, as in my experience you get much clearer/crisper images from them. Oh, and AF is often a nice thing to have.

I think the Panny 20mm f1.7 (especially if you have a Panasonic body) can cover many needs in the wideish-normal arena. Combine that with the 12-32mm as a tiny versatile zoom that can be kept in a shirt pocket and you're almost good to go.

That's one budget - tiny! - lens kit but it's a very capable one. I have other lenses and like using them, but if I had to absolutely pare it down right now with my current GX85 kit, that's what I'd do.
I could live with the 12-32 it is a great tiny lens, I would go with the basic 25mm Panasonic or Olympus as a two lens paired down.
 

Petrochemist

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Mar 21, 2013
Messages
1,363
Location
N Essex, UK
Real Name
Mike
I love the idea of this thread but the 9-18 is still more than I'd class as budget - one of the reason's I've not got one yet :(
On a tight budget there are plenty of interesting adapted lenses to fill out the kit. I recently came across the Pentax auto110 range, sadly restricted to fully open without a rare adapter but make the 35mm c-mount look big and are free from it's distortions. (IIRC the 18mm/2.8 is only 12g & the 24mm/2.8 is 27g)
If you get a focal reducer to double the use of your 50mm, then one of the many 500mm mirror lenses will be handhold able mounted via the reducer.

Personally I'd go for the Raynox DCR 150 instead of the +4 diopter. It's only a little stronger at +4.8 diopter - but more highly corrected than most close up lenses & also quick & easy to fit.
 

algold

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Apr 8, 2016
Messages
520
Location
Israel
Real Name
Alex
buy the best you can afford and think it through from the beginning.
to put a slightly different twist to this discussion - Oly 12-40/2.8 (£759 from WEX) new, including a lens hood and a soft case. Great image quality, great build quality, decently wide, useful semi-macro, weatherproofing. Much cheaper when bought in a kit. Pana 12-35/2.8 II - £799.
On the other hand: Pana 14/2.5 - £299, Oly 25/1.8 - £299, Oly 45/1.8 - £199. Total for 3 good primes - £797.
Prices are for new lenses from the WEX site.
 

D7k1

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Nov 18, 2013
Messages
2,836
I use Canon 500D's on my M43 lenses, expensive but the dual element glass is very, very sharp.

Canon 250D are for lenses under 100mm.

Here is the 75-300II with a Canon 500D and flash:
fdd66027855083.5bad3d13e99cd.jpg
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Last edited:
Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Mu-43 is a fan site and not associated with Olympus, Panasonic, or other manufacturers mentioned on this site.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Forum GIFs powered by GIPHY: https://giphy.com/
Copyright © Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom