Just a few quick snaps, with one of our favourite lenses

Today I mounted the Micro Zuiko 45mm/1.8 lens onto my camera. It’s my go-to lens for portraits, and it’s Mitchie’s go-to lens for about everything. And since I was thinking about that “everything” part, and the angle of view which you get with a lens which compares to 90mm on an older film camera, I pretty much knew what I would get. Here are a few shots I took:

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Flowers

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Clothespins

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Clothespins

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Cup

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Flower

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Speaker terminal

All of these were taken with an aperture of f/4, and all except the last one hand-held, so yes, from a composition or separation point of view, you could get almost the same results with a kit lens. Maybe just a tad less nice and acute than with this one (your typical kit lens would be at f/5.6 when zoomed fully out to 42mm, but to get sharp photos you’d probably have to step it down to f/8).

Still, as one who loves to take portraits, this would be the first lens I’d buy after a kit lens, even before getting a fixed focal “normal” lens, which would have around 25mm length for the (Micro) Four Thirds sensor.

You see, we both love this lens, and consider it essential. But as a “normal” kind of person, how should you decide which perspective and focal length you should get when buying your first prime after a zoom lens? Simple: leave your kit lens at 42mm for a week, and photograph everything with this focal length. Then, after a week or so, leave it at 25mm for another week (or even at 20 or 17mm). You’ll learn pretty fast what kind of perspective you prefer. And then go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for reading.

A 135mm equivalent angle of view

Today I was in the mood for something a bit longer than usual. When I started with analog film photography, I had lenses with 28, 50, and 135mm, and I wanted to see and to get a feeling for the latter again.

On Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, you have sensors with roughly a quarter of the area of film, which means they have a so-called “crop factor” of two. So as a substitute for my 135mm film-aera lens, I had to use something around 67.5mm to get an almost similar angle of view (beside the differences in formats; (Micro) Four Thirds has a 4:3 format, while 24x36mm film was of course 3:2).

The only lens I have in that focal range is my Zuiko Digital 40-150mm zoom lens, so I decided to use that one today, first on the Olympus E-520 DSLR, and later with a cheap Viltrox autofocus adapter on my E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. So here are some photos I took with that lens today:

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Toys on Arno’s monitor. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Through the roof of Arno’s car. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Soup. E-520 with the lens at 67mm.

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Corpse. E-PL5 with the lens at 70mm.

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Zuleikha. E-PL5 with the lens at 67mm.

Differences? Well yes. First, the lens was made for the phase detection autofocus of the DSLR. Which means it’s lots faster on it, but not as precise as on the Pen which uses a contrast-based autofocus technique. Second, it’s sharper on the “Pen”, not only because that one has more megapixels (16 instead of 10), but also because it has a much thinner or almost non-existent anti-aliasing filter in front of its sensor. And another part of the reason for the higher sharpness is the contrast-based autofocus – I said already that it’s more precise than fast.

As part of my DSLR double zoom kit, this lens was and still is an absolute bargain, and as such an easy recommendation. If you have – or plan to get – a Micro Four Thirds camera, there’s also an M.Zuiko version of it today, and some dealers offer these as a rip-off from double zoom kits from around 150€ or so, which is still a very nice proposition.

If – like me – you have a Micro Four Thirds camera and like faster lenses or even fixed focal length lenses, you have several other options in that focal range:

– the Panasonic 35-100mm/2.8 zoom is one of them. Costly, but very very good. And Olympus is planning to release something similar, even with a tripod collar if I remember correctly
– the cheapest fixed focal “prime” lens option with autofocus would be the Sigma 60mm/2.8 “Art” lens, of which I keep reading only the best comments. Very nice portrait lens or general short tele for not too much money (around 200€ or so)
– then there is the probably most versatile one: the Olympus 60mm/2.8 Macro. Maybe three times the price of that Sigma, but if you want or need a macro lens, it’s worth every penny of it. Comparable with my Zuiko 50mm/2 macro, which says a lot.
– and last not least one of the kings or poster childs of Micro Four Thirds: the awesome Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm/1.8 – probably the best lens of the whole system so far. Costs about as much as the Panasonic (or Olympus) zoom, but if you really want to “melt” away the background of portraits with Micro Four Thirds, you don’t really have any better option. For even shallower depth of field, you would need one of the old, heavy, and super expensive Zuiko Pro Grade lenses with aperture 2, which are still available bust cost north of 2000€. Or you’d need a real 135mm/2 on a “full frame” camera. The cheapest of these would be a Canon 135mm/2 which is offered starting slightly under 1000€ (like the 75/1.8 from Olympus). See this or this photo from Elena – or more from her impressive collection – to get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

A universal digital back?

I’ve read an almost similar quote in the past already, and in fact it was partly the reason for me to get into the mirrorless µ43rds system. But it’s even more true for the Sony A7 family with their “full frame” sensors which almost have the exact same size like 135 film used to have. To quote Giles about it:

“So , if you are familiar with mirrorless cameras, they aspired to become a universal digital back, because their short distance to flange allowed them to accommodate any FF35 lens, with no need to correct the crop factor which other systems have (as high as 2x, in the case of m4/3) with a focal reducer.”

(from his article in “Sony A7, or the Lego FF System“)

Right. The price, body-only of the basic A7 (24MP) model here in Germany is 1230€ (at Amazon and others, partly with free shipping). And I would have a really good Olympus OM 50mm/1.4 which would be very nice to have on such a camera.

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Those 50mm lenses on the “Pens” (I used the OM Zuiko 50mm/1.8 at f/5.6 here, hand-held at 1/8 of a second at ISO 800, which wouldn’t have been possible on these Sony cameras, since they don’t have image stabilization built in. So using these I would have had to use an even higher ISO setting, or a tripod. Cropped to 3:2 format during post to get a feeling for that other format again.)

My brother Willi has a Canon FD 50mm/1.8, a Canon FD 24mm/2.8, and a Sigma Zoom with Canon FD mount which would also be very nice when used with such a non-crop digital sensor. Both the resolution and also the dynamic range couldn’t be met with smaller systems like APS-C or µ43rds, which makes that thought a very tempting one indeed. That new Sony system doesn’t have all the native lens options that Canon or Nikon have for their DSLRs, but as a mirrorless system with a built-in electronic viewfinder at an even lower price than these older DSLRs, the Sony would be superior at least when used with these “legacy” lenses anyway.

Thinking about it since a while already…