The variety of lenses leaves me perplexed...

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by mesmerized, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012

    I'm thnking of getting some lenses along with a new E-M5 and I have to admit that I'm a bit confused. Is there any source of information I could refer to in order to fully understand which focal lengths are good for what? I see people buy the 60mm macro lens and... take portraits with it. I always thought that Olly 45mm is best for that. There's Olly 17mm, Panny 14mm... Panny 20mm, Leica 25mm... I simply don't know which lens I should get. Is there "one lens" good for most purposes? (one ring to rule them all kind of thing...)


    PS. For instance, when it comes to A7, the 35mm lens seems to be perfect for everything...
  2. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    For a general, all around prime lens the 17mm 1.8 or either one of the 25mm lenses are good. It just depends on personal preference -- do you like a wider lens?

    For portraits any fast lens in the telephoto range will work -- you can even do portraits with the Sigma 30mm. The difference will be how far away you need be from your subject. With a 60mm or a 75mm lens you will need to be a lot farther than with the 45mm. With the 45mm you can use a smaller studio, or take shots in a smaller space. Some people like the 60mm macro because it gives them more versatility -- if you aren't shooting a lot of portraits, having a macro lens that does the occasional portrait well is a better purchase. The 60mm also won't give the same shallow depth of field that the 45mm will.

    If you like to shoot landscapes, then you're going to want a really wide angle lens. The 12mm from Olympus is a good one, since the 17mm just isn't wide enough, and even the 14mm is lacking. At the moment we don't have an ultra wide angle prime, so people will use either the 7-14mm or 9-18mm zoom if they want wider.

    There are also some options for people who value a small size most of all -- the pancake lenses. These were actually some of the first lenses made, the 17mm 2.8 and 20mm 1.7. The 17mm 2.8 is a bit dated now, but the 20mm is a great option though with a slower focus speed than the newer designs. The 14mm is a good lens as well, though now that we have a couple good pancake zoom options it might be unnecessary.

    Then there are budget lens options, mainly from Sigma. They have 19mm, 30mm, and 60mm lenses all of good quality for around $200 each.

    Then there are the superzooms, the 14-150 and 14-140 from Olympus and Panasonic. Basically the are compromises between quality and convenience. You won't need to change lenses very often, but you're basically getting kit lens quality for more than the price of the 2 lenses it would take to cover the focal length.

    Last there are the pro zooms. The 12-35, 12-40, and 35-100 (with more on the way). They are fast lenses with a constant aperture, high quality, and weather sealed. For some people they are just about the only lens they need.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    Well, these are conventions and it doesn't mean you have to follow them blindly but yes 45 and up is good for portraits, 17-20 is good all around, 25 is a bit narrower that some people prefer and can also make for nice portraits with more background . 28 and wider is good for architecture and landscapes to get it all in. Traditionally 17-20 is considered the good all a rounder and j am inclined to agree. I still see a lot of people walkng around with nothing but 20mm. Fuji X100 with similar view is wildly popular as well.
  4. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    There's no actual answer to this quesiton except 'it depends'.

    Having said that, if the 35mm on the A7 is 'ideal', the obvious choice would be the 17/1.8.

    Or just get a 12-40/2.8 (or 12-35/2.8) which does a lot of things very well. The whole point to a camera with interchangable lenses is the variety you can get; browse various threads here for each lens you're considering to see what people can do with them.
  5. lightmonkey

    lightmonkey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 22, 2013
    one way to think about focal length is that it provides width (fit things in a scene) and reach (bring far things closer).

    the better way to think about it is that it provides perspective exaggeration at the wide end and compression at the long end: (1) stretches nearby objects and give the impression of a larger scene... to give a context; (2) and enlarges background to the point of obliteration for subject isolation

    (1) wide angle - gets you very close to the subject... makes it look a bit funny...and interesting...and you can see the scene

    (2) narrow angle - brings you close to the subject... in a safe manner!!!... but no real background and no context

    the angle of view or perspective 50mm FL provides (on 35mm/FF sensor) is similar to that of human eye. its no more distorted or compressed than what we see, so many people are comfortable with it. if you want to photograph and document things "as you see it", thats what to use.

    the olympus 75mm/1.8 is technically one of the best lens for the system. but it is equivalent to 150mm (on 35mm/FF sensor. our camera has 2x multiplier). it's at the edge of what i personally consider very practical to use. a 60mm (120mm equivalent) is closer to a practical upper limit for me.

    at the lower limit, i find 17mm (~35mm equivalent) doesnt emphasize the foreground enough. it looks too "normal" to provide that extra creative punch.

    the olympus 12-40mm (24mm-80mm equivalent) for me is appropriate 95% of the time. solid build, extra function button, nice mf/af toggle, and not aperture-limited like most zooms. pair it up with an ultra wide or telephoto or specialty (macro) depending on your style
    • Like Like x 1
  6. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    It really depends on your shooting genre and your camera's resolution. The reason why you can get away with just 1 focal length on the A7 or A7r is because of its larger higher megapixel count sensor. When you have 24 or 36MP on r, you can afford to freely crop and hence you have a zoom lens despite the fact you only have 1 focal length.

    Each lens' focal length represents how you are going to convey the subject's dimensional proportional properties onto the screen. Wide angle lenses meant that any subject that's close to your camera is larger (expanded) than the ones that are further away from the subject. Vice versa with telephoto lens (compressed) meant distant subject are brought closer and also compressed depending upon the subject matter again (if the person is chubby or too skinny).

    There's really no set best lens really. It all depends on you and the subject matter. How comfortable are you close to your subject? Are you shy or are you a people person?
    In real life, we have what we call "PERSONAL SPACE" and this space is determined between you and your subject matter. This personal space dictates how close or far you can approach the person without intruding in their space. Some people can go further into someone's personal space and not alarm them. Which is why great photographers have a child-like personality which makes him or her easy to approach the subject matter. If you can get close to your subject matter, then a 12mm or 14mm lens for street portraits coupled with a 25mm (50mm) or 45mm (90mm) for portraiture would be a fantastic setup. My favourite lens happens to be the 28mm f/2.8 and I work within 28-50mm (35mm FOV), so both my Coolpix A (28mm prime lens compact) and my Leica 25mm get used most often (probably around 90% where about 60 or 70% is with a 28mm lens). If you can't approach people close enough, then there's no point in using a wide angle lens at all, because all you see if too much stuff in the photo that lead the viewer into too many things rather than isolate the subject and the reason why you took the shot. In that case, you might consider a 20mm to a 25mm prime lens as a start and play with it. And for portraiture, you may consider a 60mm or 75mm to maintain the same personal space.

    Hope this helps.
  7. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Short answer - different people use different lenses differently. YMMV. Longer answer - if you're already used to a particular focal length on the A7 or full-frame, get the nearest equivalent lens. If not, experiment and find where you seem to be coming up short. In the latter case, I'd suggest starting with the 2 kit zooms as they're inexpensive and cover a lot of ground.

    Without knowing what 'most purposes' include and what you're budget is, it's sort of hard to say anything more. People who want a lot of range without changing lenses tend to go for super zooms. The Panasonic 14-140/3.5-5.6 is the best of those for m4/3. If you don't care about telephoto, the 12-50/3.5-6.3 is a nice all-arounder in good light. But there are really an infinite number of permutations - it just depends on how you like to do things. If there was one lens that did everything well for everybody, we wouldn't have a lens forum...
  8. I think you might be best served by starting out with a zoom lens (or just buying an A7 :smile:). Amongst prime lenses, I find that the 25mm has the greatest utility but others might nominate the 20mm, 17mm, or even the 14mm if they favour a wider field-of-view.
  9. FastCorner

    FastCorner Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2011
    The difference is perspective and the way it distorts faces. Longer focal lengths will compress the depth of faces, so it can be good or bad, depending on the subject's facial structure, if you frame the portrait the same way between the 45mm and the 60mm/75mm lenses. I like to use the 45mm for half and full lengths people shots, and the 75mm (I don't have the 60mm) for headshots.
  10. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    To be a bit pedantic (but accurate), focal length does not affect perspective (e.g., the depth of faces).

    Perspective is a function of shooting distance. Period. Shoot a wide angle lens and a telephoto from the same distance, and crop the wide angle shot to match the framing of the telephoto, and the perspective will be identical. The reason we generally think wide angles exaggerate faces (or give more depth to any shot), and telephotos compress faces and other objects, is because we tend to get closer to our subjects when shooting with a wide angle, and further from them when shooting with a telephoto. It's the distance from the subject that causes the perspective differences.

    To the OP, I would suggest visiting a public library, or bookstore, and getting a general intro to photography book before buying any extra lenses. You'll learn a lot, and be better prepared to decide what lenses will best suit YOU (and not the folks replying to your post. Just remember that many books are written from the 35mm (Full Frame) point of view, so divide the focal lengths they discuss in half (e.g., if the book refers to a 50mm as a "normal" lens, the equivalent focal length for micro 4/3 is 25mm).

    As far as specifics, the suggestion to get a zoom is probably a good one. It will give you lots of flexibility, and the chance to experiment with different focal lengths and see what works best for the things you like to shoot. But what works for you may be completely different than what anyone else suggests. If your goal is to shoot your kids playing soccer, then a wide angle lens will be useless. OTOH, if you're a real estate agent and want to shoot interiors, a wide-angle is just what you'll need. Some people say start with a "normal" lens (e.g., 25mm) because it's the most versatile, but to me it makes the least interesting images. YMMV.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011
    I agree with others' suggestion to get a zoom, and start your lens collecting from there. I would also add at least one fast prime lens so that you can get used to a particular field of view, and also experiment with controlling the depth of field. My personal favorite range is the 17 and 20 because they allow for environmental portraits; great for street, travel and family snaps. You'll figure out from there what you're missing or need next. If you hang out in these forums long enough, you will have no problems realizing soon enough that you lack all sorts of cameras, lenses and related equipment.
  12. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Hmmm I always view the large (and growing) library of lenses available as a plus, not a minus!

    If you can't decide on a focal length then get a zoom like everyone suggested. Eventually though you should get a fast prime to complement your zoom (or upgrade to one of the f2.8 pro zooms).
  13. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Photography is a 2 dimensional art, so any aberrations which you call it distortion or perspective wise are as a result of focal length in a 2 dimensional world of 3 dimensional objects in the real world at a working distance you took. A lot of famous street photographers shoot with either a 35mm or 50mm format as the 50mm gives a more normal perspective of a waist up portraiture of the 3 dimensional subject matter in a 2 dimensional recording world. A zoom lens gives a person a lot of flexibility in terms of cropping but does not teach the relationship between subject matter and focal length as primes do. I've seen so often that as soon as a photographer transitions from zooms to just 1 or 2 primes, their photography improved because I think it forces the photographer to think and relate more of what he or she wants to put onto the sensor rather than just framing the subject for the sakes of snapping the photo. It also encourages the photographer to approach the subjects closer, interact with them and know who they are rather than just being in the hunter and prey relationship. In fact, a friend of mine who is now an excellent event and wedding photographer and had won awards started out with a Canon Powershot and a cheapie phone. I encouraged him to start his own wedding business because of what I saw from his shots off his point and shoot, but was reluctant until one day he got laid off from work. Now, he never looked back, but I think he got great angles from his shot because he had so little to work on with his point and shoot and do more with less and when he got a D700 and ultimately the D800, his work skyrocketed. He only has 3 sets of lens -- 2 pro zooms and 1 prime. You don't need tons of lenses. What you need to identify is what genre you're good at and focus on that and you'll know which lenses you'll be gravitated more.
  14. WasOM3user

    WasOM3user Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2012
    Lancashire, UK
    I would start with the 12-50mm "kit" lens.

    The problem is there are no "exact" specifications for each lens type but

    The 12-50 would cover the traditional "wide angle" focal lengths of 12, 14mm (below 12mm is considered as "Ultra Wide").

    It would also cover the traditional "standard" focal lengths of 17, 20 and 25mm, and also

    The "short telephoto" focal lengths of 30, 45 and 50mm.

    This lens also has a "macro" function as well - quite a useful all rounder.

    As you can see there is not a lot of gap between each range and each photographer tends to have their own favourite focal lengths. Because of this you are better to start with this sort of lens until you get used to the view each focal length produces before buying any more lenses.

    If you find you cannot get close enough then you could, add at reasonable cost, the Olympus 40-150 to cover the "telephoto" range.

    These two lenses would cover ~90% of the shots many photographers would need and other lenses just allow you to cover a few specialist areas better or at lower light levels.
  15. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    I'm going through each and every post of yours and I it goes without saying that every single post is really helpful so... thank you very much.

    I do have one lens, a "leftover" from the days of E-PL1. It's the 45mm Olly. So... one thing begs the question now. If I have that 45mm lens... and if I get a pro zoom (say 12-40) then... don't you think that will make the 45mm lens less used? I hope you know what I mean.
  16. Web-Betty

    Web-Betty Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 16, 2013
    I'm lusting after the 12-40 currently, and will hopefully have it one day. However, with regards to the Oly 45/1.8, someone will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. :biggrin:
  17. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    I think it will mean you use the 45mm less perhaps, but it won't mean that the 45mm will be replaced. A f/2.8 pro zoom is very versatile but for low light and portrait use that f/1.8 aperture is unbeatable.
  18. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Thanks again.

    Is my assumption correct or not? If the 12-40mm PRO can cover the focal lengths from 12-40 then I guess there's no need to invest in any prime lens that has focal length between 12mm and 40mm and f-stop higher or equal to 2.8?
  19. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Pretty much, unless you want a pancake for extreme portability. There are a few primes in that range or similar at f/2.8 that might be sharper (Sigma 30mm, PanaLeica 45mm), but the difference is pretty small. Unless you pixel peep you probably wouldn't notice.
  20. getoutandshoot

    getoutandshoot Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 28, 2012
    SF Bay area, CA
    This might be helpful:

    But maybe that's too simplistic and you're beyond that. With the 45mm you have a great start. I'd consider the new 25mm f/1.8 and the more expensive 12-40mm f/2.8, but you might want to wait until you can get a sale/discount. The 25 just came out so it may be a while until it goes on sale, and when it does probably only ~$50 savings.