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Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Aushiker, May 8, 2016.
Wirecutter's thoughts can be found here. An opening snippet follows.
I'll plays the devil's advocate here...I consider myself a "seasoned photographer" (shooting for over 30+ years, professional photographer and passionate amateur, college photography teacher, award winner, etc.) I like a "normal" lens in my bag. Largely because that's the only lens you got with a new camera purchase back in the day and that's what I learned with. Primes were the norm, zooms costly and poor performing. I get that a lot of famous shooters advocated the "normal" lens (Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson). I guess I agree that it would make a good second lens, but it's not for everyone. For me it is there if I need it and I use it a lot for my personal shooting, but some people will just never get that much play out of it. It would be great if everyone was a well-rounded photographer and shot all kinds of subject matter, but a lot of amateurs and some pros shoot specific subjects over and over again and the "normal" may just sit in the bag gathering lint. When I taught, most new cameras came with a moderate low end zoom instead of a prime. I rarely had a student that had a nifty-fifty the first day of class and no one was ever convinced enough to go out and spend the extra money to get one. In my experience, most newbies are not interested in limiting themselves to a single focal length; they always want to get a tighter view or a wider view which is why the camera industry worked so hard to make zooms better, lighter, and cheaper (IMO). Yes, I would advocate to anyone seriously wanting to study and learn the art of photography to invest in a "normal". I just cringe when I see articles like this because I think it might lead some people to feel the need to purchase a lens they may not use, especially if they don't understand the concepts for using it. If they don't like the pictures they are taking with their current lens it's probably not because it's not the right focal length. A lot of people don't seem to notice how terrible everyone looks when they shove their camera phone in somebody's face and take a close-up portrait with a wide-angle lens. It's like driving a car; knowing how to drive stick is a good idea, but an automatic will get you there. End of rant...by the way, a "normal" lens on a 35mm is not always a 50mm. Everything from about 40mm to 58mm is considered in range and different manufacturers used different focal lengths for their entry level lens. I shoot the Sigma 60mm for mine...
The 4:3 aspect ratio kinda throws things out of whack in my opinion when it comes to matching the "normal" FOV. I'd actually go with the 20mm or 17mm instead.
Most of the time I try to avoid the "normal" look. I like to look for different angles and FOV. I never understood the "rule" that you should start with a normal prime. I get the point with a normal for certain things but scrap the dogma. If you want to challenge yourself with a single prime, or want to get to know a certain field of view, sure, but don't add a necessary restriction if it doesn't make sense to you. I think too many beginners hear the dogma and think they have to follow if they want to improve. Nonsense.
I have a bag of primes, but for newbie togs a good zoom is probably a better option. Modern zooms are excellent optically and offer much more versatility. My advice to a newbie would be to start with a kit zoom and see where their photography gravitates - then go buying lenses, but not before.
I never understood the you have to have a 50mm to learn the art of photography. I started out as a wildlife/sport/action photographer and that is still where my photographic passion is, little use for a 50mm lens. Sure I have other focal lengths for doing other types of photography, but I still don't own a 50mm (prefer 35mm anyways and I do have the Olympus 17mm)
I would suggest that the kit lens (14-xx depending on the camera manufacturer) would be a good first choice to start with. If I had to choose just one lens for my m43 system it would be the Oly 17mm 1.8. It not my sharpest prime but it has my favorite FOV.
The P25f1.7 is certainly a value lens but I am not sure it would be my first choice. Mind you at $250 @ B&H it is hard to go wrong.
I started my 35mm SLR life with a kit that had a 35mm, 50mm, and 55-135mm zoom. The lens I used most often, and really learned with, was the 35mm. It was on my camera 90% of the time. Years later, I ended up using a 28-90 zoom as my walkaround lens, but I still like the 35mm look. Yeah, I have the Oly 17mm too.
It's really old school thinking there. I couldn't wait to move to something wider on my Canon F-1 in the 70's. Gradually you learn that each one has it's place and it's task. A good bag of lenses is like a tool chest to a mechanic..and just as valuable and just as much an investment. But you gotta start somewhere. And as someone mentioned, the 4:3 proportion kinda messes with that old school thinking. Everyone will have a different interpretation of their "normal" because of that. I tend to go wider myself, but I have pretty good peripheral vision.
And if anyone got it for $99 it was a no brainer. I already have the PL25 or I would have jumped on it. I still kinda wish I did, it'd make selling the E-M5 easier with a cheap awesome "kit lens"
The article assumes that the photographer already has the kit 14-42mm, so really the advice is that the 25mm would be a good second lens, not first lens. Still, whether that's the right choice is highly individual. My second lens, after the 14-42, was the Oly 17mm 2.8, and I never really warmed up to that focal length. (Not a landscape photographer, or at least not yet, and too chicken to do much street photography.) Maybe I would have enjoyed the 25mm more -- except that it was full price back then, and I would have missed the opportunity to snag one for $99 -- which I did.
I'm thinking everyone else in the world has tunnel vision but me. If I could only see the FOV provided by a 50 (25) then I'd be worried.
For anyone who actually bothered to read the article, the author explicitly stated that he assumed the intended audience already had a 14-42 kit zoom in one form or another, and any recommendations would be for those looking for something "more" than the kit lens was offering.
So, when factoring that in, it is a good suggestion. The only other lens I may recommend over the 25 f/1.7 would be the 20mm f/1.7 pancake. It so small, yet sharp and offers a nice "hybrid" view between a 35mm and 50mm perspective, and is fairly reasonable from a cost perspective (it seems to almost always be on sale somewhere). I owned one at one point in time and really liked it, but eventually sold it to get the PL15 and PL25, which I enjoy shooting with today.
This would be high on my list too. Not that fastest to focus, but a really nice rendering lens.
I've always preferred the 17mm in mu43 even though I in other formats I've always preferred the 50mm equivalent. Never thought about the 4:3 aspect ratio possibly being the reason why.
Aspect ratio is only one of the things at play.
Classically, "normal" is defined as a focal length equal to the image diagonal. For 35mmFF that is somewhere between 38mm (usable diagonal for machine printing or scanning from mounted slides) and 42.5mm (full area of standard unmounted film and of FF digital sensors). The "standard" on 35mmFF has long been 50mm, which is longer relative to the format than the standard lenses typically found on camera systems in other formats. For m4/3 the diagonal is 21.5mm so the best choice for a true normal at 4:3 is 20mm, and if you crop to 3:2 then a 17mm would be the closest available prime.
The argument that a beginner should start with one "normal" prime is a good one. Do so reduces the complexity of the variables and is better suited to training yourself to "see". By having the one FL, you avoid the bad practice of noticing a scene and, without thinking about foreground/background relationships, merely adjust a zoom to achieve the desired subject framing. Such framing should be the last step in the compositional effort.
Once you begin to be competent with that one FL you can then learn others.
I think most beginners try to put too much into their photos. A normal prime will help them focus their compositions and learn framing a little better than a wider lens.
I think a "normal" zoom like the 12-35 2.8 is far more interesting and useful.
The 50mm thing is just a 1970's throwback to when zooms were rather horrid affairs and the camera you bought came with a 50mm.
It also, in most cases, allows them to start experimenting with indoor natural light photography as well as selective focus as these lenses tend to be fairly larger aperture. I know this was the oft agreed upon thinking when it came to DSLRs when I bought my first Canon - after the kit lens, buy the EF 50mm f1.8 because it's cheap, sharp and opens up the world of low light photography. In m43 terms though, that would be something like the 42mm f1.7 or 45mm f1.8 as opposed to a normal prime. I think either a normal or short telephoto prime is a good choice for a second lens.