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One zoom or two primes..?

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Davis Isanalias says:

Hey Folks.

The new Olympus Pro 12-40mm F2.8 Lens looks great. I was thinking about getting two prime lenses to go with the E-M5 I'm about to get, but now thinking about the zoom instead. I understand the quality and sharpness are as good, and it's more flexible, but it's more more bulky..

Any thoughts?
2:40AM, 4 March 2014 PDT (permalink)

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Sam Bennett says:

The 12-40mm is great, but it's very big. If you want an all-weather setup that combo would be a great place to start, but if you need something that is more "pocketable", I'd start with some primes.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Christa (ch-cnb) says:

It all depends on your needs and habits. What primes were you thinking of getting?

I wanted a good, fast normal zoom for family shots and landscapes, and I'm very happy with the 12-40mm (now I have to get round to selling the 12-50mm). However, there's no denying it's bigger and heavier than any other m4/3 lens in my bag - no comparison to the tiny Panny 20mm or feather-weight mZD 45mm. But for my shooting requirements these days, I just prefer the flexibility of the zoom.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Mark_Daniels says:

I'm not bothering to look this up, but I think for close to the same money as the E-M5 and 12-40 you could get the E-M5 with 12-50, 17mm, and 45mm. To me this makes a very flexible kit. You've got a weather sealed kit, and two lenses faster than the 12-40, and you've got better control of dof if/when you want it. Finally this kit can be paired down if you simply want to take the small 17mm out for the day and leave home the bulk. The 12-40 is always big and heavy, you can't change that. All that being said by all reports the 12-40 is a fantastic performer if its features are what you need.
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Mark_Daniels edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Pavel M says:

The 12-40 is great (I use it a lot). The primes I have are also top notch. I like the zoom for reduced need to switch lenses (hassle and sensor dirt) and it is not really all that big compared to my D800 system. The primes are great for extreme portability, but I hate having to flip lenses and the aftermarket lens hood are a hassle to put on and off. (Try changing lenses at -15 C or 5 F with windchill pulling the numbers lower). I end up using primes mostly when I need a very shallow DOF. The weight has not been such a big issue for me.
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Pavel M edited this topic 81 months ago.

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TomPhotoWorld says:

I do really like my 12-40mm. But, as others suggest it is not the smallest. I always had a plan of getting a smaller prime but coming from from 35mm (film) and tradition of using a 35mm 80% of the time I none the less decided to hold out on the prime and wait to see what focal lengths I tend to gravitate to with the zoom. To my surprise, I am tending more towards the 25mm rather than the 17mm (i.e. the 35mm diagonal view equivalent in m43).

My takeaway from this - get the zoom first, and wait half a year to buy the prime.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Squiddy1963 says:

I'd go for the primes every time.

Zuiko 12mm/f2
Zuiko 45mm/f1.8

These two lenses not only cover a lot of bases, but the image quality is superb, far better than the zooms.

I also have the Lumix 20mm/f1.7, which is fantastic for the price. AF is not that great, and there is the infamous "banding" issue at high ISO values, but I've had no problems working around them.

I've got the Zuiko 60mm/f2.8 macro lens, too, which I hardly use, which is a shame because, again, the image quality is great. It's just that I don't do any real macro work, and I prefer the 45mm for the stuff that I would otherwise use the 60mm for.

All that said, I have found the 12-50mm kit lens to be a very good general "walk around" lens.
81 months ago (permalink)

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TomPhotoWorld says:

Squiddy1963:

No denying a prime will generally be sharper than a zoom at the equivelant focal length. But, if a picture requires (for example) a 17mm lens for the perspective or distance constraints then I would think a 12-40mm lens at 17mm would be sharper than one taken with a 12mm (quite obviously as it would have to be cropped).

Next, how sharp does a lens have to be? As a case in point, take a look at this photo - www.flickr.com/photos/23022407@N00/12869858115/ - a really cheap $150 40-150 Olympus lens at 150mm, where it is supposed to be at it's softest (mind you, stopped down to f8). Download at full resolution to have a look. I have the feeling it would be "sharp enough" to 16X20.

That all being said, I still like primes and will get a 25mm and eventually a 75mm ;)
81 months ago (permalink)

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Sam Bennett says:

I own and love the 45mm f/1.8, but saying its image quality is "far better" than the 12-40mm f/2.8 is silly, IMO. If you need more light, shallower DOF and compactness, it's great. But if you need focal length flexibility and all weather confidence, the 12-40 is great too. Horses for courses and all that. I'm very glad I have both at my disposal for the situations where they each excel.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Laurentiu Cristofor says:

The 12-40 is larger than any one prime lens, but it is also smaller than the set of prime lenses that it would replace.

The rest depends on individual preferences and needs. I tend to buy primes, but I still picked this one - it's hard to resist and so far it doesn't disappoint.

"These two lenses not only cover a lot of bases, but the image quality is superb, far better than the zooms."

When I checked dxomark, the zoom performance at 12mm was far better than that of the 12mm prime across all overlapping apertures. The zoom fares a bit worse in corners with respect to CA and the prime offers f/2, but overall, I prefer the zoom's more uniform sharpness across the frame.

At 40mm, the performance of the zoom seems to be overall weaker and the 45mm prime is sharper in the center, albeit with weaker corners. But by f/4 the zoom is pretty much as good as the prime. Not as clear cut a case as against the 12mm, especially since the 45mm is less expensive, but the performance at this focal length won't disappoint either.

I actually was trying to decide between the 12mm prime and this zoom, but given the better performance of the zoom in borders, the additional focal lengths, the weather sealing, the similar price, and Olympus actually including a lens hood and a pouch, it made the choice really easy.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Christa (ch-cnb) says:

Laurentiu Cristofor:

I agree that the "primes have better IQ than zooms" argument doesn't hold for a high-end zoom like the 12-40mm PRO. Similar to the 4/3 pro f2-zooms, you get what you pay for: it'll be bigger and heavier than a cheaper zoom, but the IQ is great. No comparison to the mZD 12-50mm, where primes are indeed the better option if your main requirement is high IQ.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Rick Bolin says:

Christa (ch-cnb):

Zooms are always an engineering compromise. Spend the same money on a high-quality prime as on a high quality zoom and you will see the difference. Of course you will not find not many primes that are as pricey as the best zooms, so comparing them is hard.
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Rick Bolin edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Alpha Whiskey Photography says:

Took 4 primes with my EM5 last weekend to Zagreb, and all fit into a tiny bag. Very easy to carry and change quickly. I think it helps to have idea of how you expect to capture whatever you go along to shoot. That way you can pretty much keep the lens you want on the body and only change when you feel you need to.

My 2 cents.

Everything shot with primes:
alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog/post/ZagrebPartOne
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Alpha Whiskey Photography edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Sam Bennett says:

Spend the same money on a high-quality prime as on a high quality zoom and you will see the difference. Of course you will not find not many primes that are as pricey as the best zooms, so comparing them is hard.

So then what is your point, exactly? And of course once you've done that you have one really great focal length, and if you don't have anything else you have literally unusable focal lengths.

Personally, at this point in my evolution as a photographer I've realized that the differences in "quality" that people like to wring their hands over and argue about endlessly are really overblown when you're talking about good zooms and good primes. The differences really go out the door if you don't know how to compose a photo or don't know how to post process.

For me, the differences between good lenses really come down to practicality and how they effect how and what I shoot. Sometimes I have the luxury of time patience to swap lenses and get the benefits of shallower DoF, marginally better optics and better light gathering capabilities - and I'm glad I have a good selection of primes to use when that's the case. But when time is of the essence (I do a lot of event photography) getting the shot to begin with matters the most - and the 12-40mm is a fantastic tool there. It has the speed to shoot indoors, weather sealing so that I don't have to think twice about the conditions I may encounter and the optical quality is great. It really was a "missing link" in the MFT family, and I wouldn't be without it at this point.
81 months ago (permalink)

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yonseimatt says:

Happy to read the positive reviews of the 12-40, as I ordered this with my new M1 which should be arriving some time this week.
On my old e-pl1, I would carry a small bag with the 15mm bodycap lens on the body (as that's how it fit best into the bag), the older generation 14-42 zoom, and a 30 year old Konica 50mm f1.4. I very rarely used the zoom as in bright sunlight, the bodycap lens was actually sharper (if a fixed f8.0 aperture would do), and for reach I'd use the 50mm Hexanon. When I wanted something closer to "normal" (25mm-ish) I'd have to use the kit zoom but was never really that happy with it. I took a punt on the new 12-40 on the basis that it's a brightish pro level lens which matches the weather sealed body (as far as I know, there aren't any weather sealed primes yet), so it's good to hear people are happy with it. Would be happy to be contradicted/ called a silly noob on any of the above points!
81 months ago (permalink)

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Rick Bolin says:

Sam Bennett: My point was that the "primes have better IQ than zooms" argument still holds and will always hold, given both are similar in price. Which the OP should choose depends on the type of photography he wants to do. If it is specific, like head and shoulder portraits, his money is better spent on a prime. If he needs versatility, by all means go with a pro zoom. Personally, I've never owned a zoom that equaled my primes, except perhaps in their focal length "sweet spot".
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Rick Bolin edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Sam Bennett says:

I get the point you're trying to make. You just admitted that you can't really "test" that theory, so your point seems, errrr... Pointless.

And again, in my experience the differences in "quality" between primes a good zooms is oversold - particularly true in this case since the 12-40mm is such a solid performer.

Let me put it this way: I own both the 45/1.8 and the 12-40/2.8. The only reason I would use the 45/1.8 is if I was shooting in really, really low light or if I wanted a lighter/more discreet setup. Optically the 12-40 is great and the DoF different isn't a big enough difference for me to compromise on having other focal lengths available to me,
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Sam Bennett edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Federico Alberto says:

The Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 works perfectly. It is slightly lighter and is also weathersealed.

But the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 has this I-don't-know-how-to-describe-it feeling to it. It has displaced just about any other lens from my E-M1:

Outliering
81 months ago (permalink)

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Maggie's Camera says:

I have the Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 - which was extremely expensive, and its image quality is absolutely superb. It's alway in my bag.

I also have the Olympus 75mm f1.8 - which was probably even more expensive if you add up GB pounds per metre in focal length - it also has terrific quality, but I use it less (at least partly because of the versatility of the 35-100mm, which is also weatherproof, but also) because it is heavy.

My walk-around lens is the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4, which has a terrific degree of versatiity.

If I need a wider lens - I always also have the Olympus 17mm f2.8 Pancake in my bag, which is so tiny I never notice the weight or bulk.

I have other lenses - but the three I carry with me all the time are the two primes 17mm and 25mm and the fast f2.8 Panasonic zoom.

As I'm arthritic - weight matters as well as IQ - but my point is that there are some fantastic fast zooms out there. I'm yearning for the Panny 12-35mm f2.8 to go with its brother - but for now, I may as well dream on!
Originally posted 81 months ago. (permalink)
Maggie's Camera edited this topic 81 months ago.

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Rick Bolin says:

Federico Alberto:

I agree ... that lens has character, which sometimes is a more important thing than specs.
81 months ago (permalink)

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Kostas_Egypt says:

For day photos 100% better a zoom lens like 12-40 pro than 3 prime. At night you can use also f2.8 except portraits.
You can do a test: try with a prime lens a photo at a big room and use f2.8 which is normal if you don't like to have in focus the face ans out focus the hand. Do the same with a normal lens for example sigma 30mm f2.8. You will see there isn't any difference.
First we have to be interesting about sharpness and then about the fast aperture.
For example I prefer the 12-40 f2.8 than my Panasonic LUMIX 25mm f1.7 at day scenes and night scenes with enough light.
Much more sharp, better contrast, better colors than the Panasonic.

So the best is to have a zoom pro 12-40 so as don't need to change lenses at traveling or at street photos and one prime ( sigma 30mm f1.4 or Olympus 45mm 1.8) for portraits and general using at very low lite places. (Iprefer sigma 30mm f1.4)

After that, if you don't need a professional zoom telephoto buy with 150$ Olympus 40-150mm which is a very good and cheep zoom lens.
I have Sigma 60mm f2.8 for medium distances and low light, and the Olympus 40-150 only for day light.
51 months ago (permalink)

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