Choosing Between A Few New Lens Options & Confounded

Started Sep 28, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Rohith Thumati
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Choosing Between A Few New Lens Options & Confounded
Sep 28, 2012

Hey all, it would be great to get some perspective on whether my logic is right on how I'm thinking about my next lens purchase. I'm not really asking for advice, more like I'm asking for my work to be checked

It's a bit of a long winded post; apologies in advance.

I'm having a lot of trouble deciding which lens to add to my Micro Four Thirds arsenal. I've 'narrowed' it down to the following options: Panasonic 25mm f1.4, Panasonic 35-100, Olympus 40-150, or Olympus 75mm f1.8. I really can get two of the 25mm, 40-150, and 75mm since I have the budget, and more importantly spousal permission, to spend for the 35-100, though I'm not particularly attached to getting more than one lens right now.

Here;s what I have currently:
Olympus 14-42 kit zoom
Olympus 14-150 super zoom
Olympus 35mm macro (Four-Thirds lens)
Olympus 9-18 wide zoom
Panasonic 20mm
Olympus 45mm

The latter three form the 'core' of my kit, I'd say. I can take those three lenses and my OM-D in a small bag and be pretty happy, but I do miss out on telephoto reach.

I have reasons of variable validity to consider each the aforementioned lenses. While the 25mm covers more or less the same function as my 20mm, I'm really not a fan of the pancake's angle of view - I want something a bit narrower for a normal prime. The 25mm would just replace the 20mm in my 'core' kit, most likely - it wouldn't be additive.

The Olympus 40-150, though, would be additive, since it would cover all of the telephoto ranges I currently can't reach with that core kit, and it's super cheap. It can be had for $200 with a rebate right now. This lens would pretty much replace my 14-150, which I've gotten a bit tired of. Quite frankly, had I known how mediocre it was, I would've bought the 40-150 in the first place a couple years ago instead of the 14-150. It's just too low contrast, vignettes like mad, has no better image quality than the kit zoom in the wider ranges and is pretty poor past about 50-60mm. The 40-150, while not being any brighter, doesn't seem to suffer at the tele end from what I can tell. I do a lot of telephoto landscapes, and this would be an upgrade over my 14-150 for that, certainly.

But the 35-100 would be an even better upgrade. It is a killer option, based on the photos I've seen. However, it does cost a lot; I'm not certain it's really worth the expense. But the images are beautiful.

But then again, if I want beautiful images, the Olympus 75mm is tough to beat on this format. It seems like every image I've seen looks amazing.

So, I've been at a loss to figure out which lens to buy. I did do some analysis of my lens usage with my OM-D to see if there are any patterns I can discern. I found some interesting stuff (I only included 'keepers', or images that I've kept after a shoot; I'm fairly ruthless when it comes to culling)

Lens Usage
9-18 22%
14-42 2%
14-150 19%
20 19%
45 35%
35 macro 3%

Two numbers jumped out at me: I didn't realize that I used the 9-18 that much. I also use it at the wide end a lot more than I realized: almost half of the images were done at the 9-11 range. I also didn't realize I used the 45mm that much. I knew I liked it - images just look cracking, I really like that angle of view, and I do a good amount of portraiture - but wow, I rely on that one a lot, don't I? Given that I use the 45mm so much, it's no wonder that the pancake suffered in use.

But lets dig a little deeper into the numbers - specifically, what focal length ranges are most used on that 14-150? 43% of the images I took with the super zoom were in the 35-100 range. Interesting; that bodes pretty well for the pricey Panasonic. Of course, 35% were in the 100-150 range. Uh oh. That's a lot of images I'd be out of, or have to crop even more heavily than I already might have. That's not really a great sign. All told, the 40-150 would cover 70% of the photos I've taken with my super zoom. Oh, and how many have been taken in around the 75mm focal length? Less than 10%.T

So, my choice seems to be go with the MUCH cheaper lens that gives me the full usable telephoto range (and which allows me to buy another lens), while giving up quite a lot of image quality, or go for superb telephoto option that is really expensive and doesn't give me the full telephoto range that I seem to use. Fortunately, it seems like there's no real wrong answer, but it's still tough.

I do a lot of natural light portraiture (I plan on building a home studio eventually, but that's a bit away) and landscape/cityscape/seascape work. Both zoom lenses would be very useful for landscape work, with the trade-off being superior image quality for a need to crop a bit more on some images than I otherwise would have had to. The 75mm isn't exactly the greatest for landscape work, since 'zooming with my feet' will at best alter the perspective, or at worst cause me to fall off of a cliff.

The 75mm is killer for portraiture, while the 35-100 seems to do a really good job of it as well. The 45-100 won't be that great, of course. And the 25mm would be an awesome all round lens that based on past usage, would probably be used for about 20% of my photos. I know how I'd use it because it's just going to replace a good but somewhat discomfiting lens I already have. Decisions, decisions.

After going through all this, I feel like my options really are between the 25mm+40-150 and the 35-100. The 75mm would be gorgeous, but I just won't use it enough to justify the investment, I think. So it's kind of like I have the option between one awesome but restricted tele lens on the one hand, and one great normal lens plus a competent tele zoom and lots of cash left over.

So does this all make sense? Or am I going about it all the wrong way?

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