Upgrading lenses in preparation for baby

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by turtleboy133, Dec 13, 2015.

  1. turtleboy133

    turtleboy133 Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 13, 2011
    I currently have a EM-5 (original model) with a 12-50mm and Panasonic 20mm. Neither are great indoor lenses (the 12-50mm is slow aperture-wise so it won't work well indoors and the 20mm is slow to autofocus). Since I'm expecting a baby, I want to make sure that I have a good lens that can quickly capture special moments (e.g., a smile or expression). Obviously the baby won't hold his expression for a second or two while the Panasonic is hunting for a focus lock. I've narrowed down the choices to:

    1) Olympus 17mm and/or Olympus 25mm (probably would only get one at first)
    2) Olympus 12-40mm

    If the Olympus 12-40mm would work well indoors, then that's the lens I would prefer. This is primarily because the 12-40mm would also be a nice upgrade for my 12-50mm and would serve well on my hiking excursions as well (I generally prefer not to change lenses while hiking so I avoid primes, and this will be even more true when carrying a baby as well). However, I'm worried about the autofocus speed and the fact that I give up 1.33 stops of light (1.8 for the primes vs 2.8 for the zooms). Thoughts? For those of you who are parents, would you be happy with the 12-40mm for taking pictures of your baby?

    I apologize if this has been posted before, but searching for "baby" on this forum tends to bring up a lot of false hits (e.g., "this lens is my baby").
  2. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    The 17mm is a nice focal length for indoors and the 25mm can sometimes be a little narrow. This is especially true with adults and groups of adults.

    Given that you are focusing on a baby, you don't need to get as large of a field of view and the 25mm may be the better choice here. Possibly a more flattering perspective. You don't want to get to close and make that baby look fat :).

    Either would make a great choice.

    As far as the zoom goes, I don't have the 12-40 but do have the 12-35mm panasonic. It is a great lens and I would definitely use it for the baby photos. Being able to zoom will get you exactly the cropping you need.

    I say this all the time for those considering the 12-40mm. Definitely checkout the 12-35. It is significantly smaller.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    Primes are only 1-1.5 stops faster than a 2.8 zoom. OTOH, a wide prime like he 17 or 20 would work fine if you can get close. Of course, IBIS isn't a cure-all for moving targets. The combination of fast zoom and good high iso capabilities would be the best possibility for me. Of course, I'm not a flash user and I'll let others address this. Still, the zoom will work with the flash as well. One thing is to adjust your house lighting, setting up "Photography" areas with slightly brighter bulbs.
  4. scott rawson

    scott rawson Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 17, 2015
    west yorks
    I disagree with the 20mm..i never had a problem focussing fast enough indoors with newborn...its when they get to be a toddler when it struggles...the 20mm and a 45mm f1.8 oly are perfect....I had a Nikon d90 at the time and the 20mm with GF1 blew it away for final output
    PS as for flash...don't do it...my lil girl hated flash...don't quote me but their optics as a baby just developing...surely all the bright flash cant be helping their eyes development?(my opinion only)
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
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  5. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    My opinion is either the 17mm or the 12-40mm would be great. While I don't have the 25mm, I do have a 30mm and find it a bit too much focal length when working in a house's smaller areas or up close to my subject, hence my preference for the 17mm. But the 12-40mm would give you a LOT of different focal lengths to work with.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. chicago8c

    chicago8c Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2014
    I have mainly used the Oly 25mm 1.8 for my 11 month old and it was great when he was an immobile baby. But now that he is crawling up a storm, I find myself increasingly going to the 12-40 with flash (I got the Pana version of the FL600R b/c it's the same thing but cheaper for unclear reasons) since the 25 can be too narrow as he scoots around and interacts with people. I prefer fast prime + available light, but the 12-40 is really coming in handy, especially when friends or family are visiting and I want to get group and candid shots.

    I would love to get a Pana 15mm 1.7 or Oly 17mm 1.8 someday, since the 12-40 + flash does get pretty bulky, but the current set-up is doing the job and neither of those lenses is either cheap or a hard necessity right now.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
  7. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    Real Name:
    While I agree the P20 is a bit slow in AF, who fast do you think I new born is going to move? :D I might keep what you have and add something a little wider or tighter based on what you thing you'll need. Reasons to keep what you have:
    • The P20 is still one of the sharper options.
    • The 12-50 has a good range and power zoom that works well for video. The quite non extending zoom would be less distracting than a trumpeting zoom.
  8. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Real Name:
    I have the 12-40, 17 and 25,1.4. Hard to choose one. The 12-40 is obviously the most versatile, but it isn't always the best choice indoors. Fine for portraits, but getting a fast shutter speed to stop motion indoors will be a challenge sometimes. When outdoors, more FL will be useful. Buy it used so you can get most of your money back if you ever want to sell it and get something else. The p25 might be my favorite indoor lens.

    You can't lose with any of these choices really.
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  9. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    PL 25mm 1.4 so good indoor.
    then add 12-40mm later when baby starts running around outdoors
  10. Sniksekk

    Sniksekk Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 7, 2015
    Depends on time perspective.
    In short time, when the toddler is small I would go for 17mm since you need to be more "in the toddler's face" to get contact. So that you can do silly things and make him/her smile.

    Later on, 25mm since you don't need to be that near toddler since it can express feelings/emotions better on it's own without your silly faces. ;)

    12-40 is somewhat a struggle in bad indoor lighting. Would not recommend that if the indoor light is dim. But that's my preference.

    I live in the northern hemisphere, and it's quite dark here now.
    I struggle with 12-40 pro indoors atm.
  11. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    The 12-40 AF is really fast, at least as fast as the primes. The main difference is aperture. I used a 60/2.8 indoor in the morning and the ISO was often around 800/1600 with a 2.8 lens, so any stop can really help here. With artificial light even more.
    For the focal length I used, for a newborn nephew, a 60mm and an adapted 35mm and none felt too long, but it really depends on the kind of shots you want to take, distance, etc. There are a few threads like this and opinions are usually split between the 45 and the 25. Again I think it depends on indoor/outdoor use, kids age, mobility, etc.
  12. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Baby won't hold it for you to get to your camera too - unless you want to carry EM5+lens on your hip 24/7. Watching my friends with kids and DSLR's, I predict that you will end up to use your phone.
    But if you insist on dedicated camera: Sony RX100
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015
  13. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Real Name:
    Catching fleeting expressions on children is pretty tough. You have to keep shooting all the time, not waiting for them to come up with an expression because it's pretty unpredictable. It's really hard to react fast enough to catch those expressions, even with the fastest camera. When my son was born, all I had was a P&S camera. It was simply too slow to catch him when he was moving, which was all the time. I bought a DSLR instead. But, I also had a camcorder to shoot video. You may want to also consider shooting video, so getting a lens that is also compatible with that would be a good idea. I haven't shot the 12-50 much for video in indoor situations. It may work well for that and it's worth a try. Otherwise, either the 17mm f1.8 or 25mm f1.8 would work. The latter would give you better proportions. The focusing on the Pana 20mm may be too noisy for video.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015
  14. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Since you already have the 20mm, have you thought about a 42.5/45mm lens for portraits? I think the 42.5 1.7 would be better with the close minimum focusing distance
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  15. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Babies are small and don't really move for the first 6-9 months, so really a longer lens works best. And AF speed isn't really that important for a baby. Prefocus on his face and wait for them to giggle when your wife tickles him. When they become toddlers and are running around the house, then a normal/moderate wide angle works best, and you'll want the AF speed because they move faster than wild animals! :)

    I think I'd go for a 45mm f1.8/42.5mm f1.7 or 60mm f2.8 (macro or Sigma) as a long portrait lens and keep using your 20mm f1.7 as a wider/normal prime. If you find the AF struggles as the kid starts toddling, then swap it for a 17mm f1.8 or 25mm f1.8 depending on which focal length sounds better in comparison to what you are used to with the 20mm.

    The 42.5mm f1.7 may be the best pick overall due to its fast aperture and close focus ability. Babies are small and so are their features.
  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    PL 25 1.4 and possibly a legacy 50mm 1.4 or the 42.5 1.7 if budget permits. 75mm would also be great, but I'm happy to spend your money :)

    Faster than 2.8 is good. Shallow DOF is really wonderful with babies
  17. summerkl

    summerkl Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 26, 2010
    Real Name:
    Kevin L
    With hindsight (my kids are in their 20s) and technology advances, I would get the 12-40mm 2.8 (if budget was not a concern) and have a bounce flash handy. In order to get the shot at a noise quality that would satisfy my pixel-peeping tendency on an em5, I'd be comfortable down to ISO1600 with no flash. If the shot is important, then I'd use a bounce flash with a diffuser to make sure I get the shot ... knowing the precious moment may not be repeated. If budget is a concern, then I'd get the 14mm f2.5 as I'd find 17mm 1.8 not wide enough.
  18. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Specifically for a newborn, first six to nine months, if I was starting from scratch I'd go with Panny 25/1.4 or Oly 25/1.8 (if budget was a concern). Given that you already have the 20/1.7 I'm not sure you need anything else.

    In all honesty, I'd sell the E-M5 and 12-50 and get a G7 or GX7. I'd want the better video functionality for first sounds/words and then when motion starts. I regret not taking more video. I'd have a lot more short (20 to 30 second) clips if I was starting over today.
  19. gr6825

    gr6825 Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 10, 2012
    A lot of my baby and toddler photography is indoors, and my hands-down most used lens is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on a Nikon DX DSLR. f/1.4 is very useful in low light, so I would think something like the PL25 would be a good option.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I'm going to add one more bit of advice: Don't be afraid to open the drapes or move to a well lit room. Babies are easy to move. Turn on some lights. Maybe even use a reflector or bounce flash. Wait for the best time of day. Make a good photo happen.

    If you are using f1.4 or f1.8 because the light demands it, then it's probably crappy light anyway. Sure you may get less noise, but the light will still be ugly. Use your head and add more light. Make the light good light.
    • Agree Agree x 4