Following on from my last post, the Black Friday sales discounts might be enticing you to splurge out on a new Micro Four Thirds lens – but which one should you buy?
Don’t worry, unlike most other websites these days, clicking on the links below will not take you to an online retailer so I can make a few extra cents, but to my photo wiki where there is a lot more information and links to reviews, etc.
The best lens to buy depends upon a lot of things such as:
- your budget
- which camera system you are using?
- Panasonic lenses work best on Panasonic cameras and Olympus lenses work best on Olympus cameras – although they are interchangeable however, you may lose some functionality, in particular, optical image stabilisation and AF speed, and perhaps some special functions such as continuous AF capability, ProCapture mode, Focus Stacking, etc.
- what do you already own?
- what do you like to shoot?
- what would you like to shoot if you had the gear?
A wide aperture prime lens to really maximise your low light and DOF options:
- Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 is one of my favorite lenses for shallow depth of field work, portraits, creative photos, etc and is incredibly sharp, but the heaviest of those in this category. I expect Olympus may bring out a Pro weathersealed version with wider aperture in the next 1-2 yrs.
- Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 is a lovely little portrait lens, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens.
- Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.8 is another lovely little lens, which is great for environmental portraits and street photography, but as with the 45mm f/1.8, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens instead.
- Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 is a nice little lens for street photographers who want a little more field of view than a 25mm, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 lens instead.
- Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 is a lovely little wide angle lens, great to add into a hiking bag, or as an option if you are not wanting to take a 12-40mm zoom lens along . This is the most expensive of the non-weathersealed lenses outlined here, and probably not one that I would recommend purchasing unless you really need that field of view in such a compact size – if you are happy to have a bigger, heavier lens, then consider either a 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens instead which will be much more versatile, and weathersealed, or consider an even more specialist, and more expensive a lens which is even better for low light and astro work, while being weathersealed, the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens.
Upgrade to a better zoom lens:
Professional photographers generally have the “holy trinity” of f/2.8 zooms – ultra wide angle, standard and telephoto – you can get this for Micro Four Thirds too and it is much smaller, light, less expensive, and with smaller filters to carry, but you do lose the shallow DOF options that a full frame holy trinity will get you – if shallow DOF is important, then consider a prime lens as above.
The most used lens – the standard zoom:
- the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens is a very handy lens and a significant upgrade to a budget kit lens which often comes with the camera as it adds better low light AF and shooting capabilities thanks to the f/2.8 aperture, and excellent optical quality and weathersealing.
- Panasonic users may prefer the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens
- BUT WAIT, there is another option which may mean you only have to take one lens on your travels, and this could be a big factor, particularly if you travel to areas with dust or inclement weather where changing a lens is problematic – enter the new and very popular Olympus mZD 12-100mm f/4 lens – yes there is a compromise as it is bigger and is not as good at low light as a f/2.8 lens, but it has better image stabilisation when used on compatible Olympus cameras which allow Dual IS.
The next most popular zoom – the telephoto zoom:
- what can I say, I just love my Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens with its extendable lens hood which makes it fantastic in the rain, and once you get past 120mm or so, you can get lovely shallow DOF portraits with it – and it is beautifully sharp! This is the lens I generally leave on my camera as I hike on day hikes (its a bit too big for overnight hikes carrying tents, etc – although I have done this but I am getting too old to carry 18kg of camping and photo gear with food and water) hoping to catch sight of some wildlife, while often still being wide enough to get a great landscape shot. You can buy this in a kit with a 1.4x teleconverter, but I generally shoot without the teleconverter on.
- if you are really into wildlife, and particularly birds, you may want something with more reach, such as the Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 – yes it is not a f/2.8 holy trinity lens but it covers a fantastic zoom range for wildlife. If you cannot afford this, then consider the Panasonic 100-300mm mark II although it is not good in low light and does have more purple fringing.
- if the above lenses are too big and heavy for you, you also have the choice of the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, although if I was using this lens, I would personally prefer the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 for more DOF control at the expense of zoom control.
The third of the holy trinity – the ultra-wide zoom:
Some people may rarely use such a lens, others use it very frequently – it all depends upon your style and needs.
- for low light or creative photography, the Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 is a great weathersealed lens, BUT any lens covering such a wide field of view as 14mm in full frame terms as this lens does, means it cannot be used with standard filters – you have to buy large third party filter adapters if you wish to use filters
- if you are into landscape work and mainly shooting at f/5.6-f/8, or street photography, then a more useful alternative may be the Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 lens.
Now a few specialist lenses:
A pancake lens for social events:
- I love my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for this, when combined with an E-M5II or E-M10, it will fit in a large coat pocket discretely and its wide aperture allows available light work, or bounce flash work as well as allowing some night urban photography
A weathersealed macro lens:
- the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is a lovely, light, high quality, dedicated macro lens well suited to nature macro work outdoors but more expensive than the next two budget options
- there is also the Olympus 30mm f/3.5 macro lens which can give greater magnification and is cheaper but you need to get much closer to the subject so not as good for skittish insects which will fly away – best suited for studio macros, or where you wish to create a more environmental macro with the wider field of view showing more background.
- on a budget, the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens is weathersealed and offers 0.36x macro which is adequate for many people and thus is a reasonable option for overnight hikers who need a light, versatile lens that can do most things (just not low light work), and is not as sharp as the Pro lenses.
A fisheye lens:
- Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 weathersealed fisheye lens is a unique wide aperture fisheye – great fun to use, and can be used with care for landscape shots, and is fantastic for Milky Way shots, but it is not a lens for everyone!
The super telephoto lens:
- there are a lot of lenses around which give 300mm focal length (600mm reach in full frame terms), but none offer the low light capabilities and optical excellence of the superb Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens with its 6.5EV image stabilisation.
- If you own a Panasonic camera and have lots of money, the newly announced Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 lens with teleconverter looks to be a big competitor to the Olympus 300mm in image quality, and has the advantage of being shorter but with less reach – perfect for sports events where a 200mm lens is the general maximum length allowed in the stadium!
Manual focus lenses:
There are a multitude of these around, often much cheaper than AF equivalents, and most can be used on these cameras either directly or via an adapter – you can see Zhongyi Mitakon’s online store for their lenses as an example – yes, sorry for linking to an online store, but this one was the most efficient link for you, alternatively most MF lenses in MFT mount are listed on my wiki page here.
I hope this has given you a good overview!
Have fun and explore – there is a list of lenses for Micro Four Thirds on my wiki here.