Best MILC for Complete Photography Novice

Started Jan 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
AndyGM Contributing Member • Posts: 698
Re: Best MILC for Complete Photography Novice

> I primarily shoot landscapes, urban settings, and people.

I will have to do this using "35mm equivalent focal lengths", since we are discussing m43, NEX and compacts that all give different angles of view at the same focal length.


Shots of people look best when you are between 2 metres and 5 metres away from them when you take the shot. This is because of perspective effects, which change depending on how far away you are. This is regardless of the camera sensor or the lens focal length. Basically, if a person is looking straight at you, the closest parts of them you can see will be their nose and chin, and the furthest parts you can see is their ears and shoulders (any part of them further away than this is on the side of them facing away from you, so you can't see it). You want the relative size of their nose and ears to look natural.

Taken closer than 2 metres, their nose and chin will look too big compared to their ears, and will look like they stick out more than they really do. Not flattering! Further away than 5 metres and the nose looks small compared to the ears and flat compared to the other facial features. Not as bad, but it still doesn't look "right".

A 50mm equiv lens will give you a "three quarters length" image, head down to knees, at about 2 to 3 metres away depending on how tall the person is, and a shot where their face and feet are on "rule of thirds" lines at 3 to 4 metres. A 150mm equiv lens will give you a head and shoulder shot at 2 to 3 metres away. So 50 to 150mm equivalent is around the range you are looking for.

On m43, this would be 25mm to 75mm. The kit zooms cover the lower end of this, and 7 other zooms cover the upper end. A lot of the time, shots of people benefit from "subject isolation", blurring out the background, and you can only do this with large apertures. To get large apertures at these focal lengths for as little cost as possible, you need to look at prime lenses (single focal length) Lots of prime lenses in this range on m43 (5 currently, and a 6th is coming later this year). Bargain of the lot would be the Olympus 45mm.

On NEX this would be 33mm to 100mm. Again the kit zooms cover the low end of this, and there are 3 zooms that cover the upper end. As for primes, there are 2, and they are both at the lower end of the focal length range, but they are both pretty good value.

Urban Settings:

Need to go wider for this, 28-50mm equivalent, with the sweet spot for me around 35mm, because how far you can step back to get the whole subject in is determined by the width of the street. But then you did quote all your prices in US dollars so I'm guessing you are in the USA, where this isn't so much of a problem as it is in Europe

On m43, this would be 14 to 25mm. Again, covered by the kit zooms, which are more than fast enough for outdoors in daytime. So you would be looking for additional lenses if you were shooting at night, indoors, or wanted something sharper than the kit zooms. The Panasonic 12-35mm zoom would be my dream lens for this job (covers all focal lengths I'd want, fast enough for night, sharp and not too big and heavy), but its definitely way out of your current budget, start saving up . 6 primes in this range, all but one (the 17mm f/2.8) are way sharper than the kit zooms. 2 are a considered purchase, 2 are cheaper and good value for the money, 1 (that 17mm again) is cheap but not really good value in my opinion, and one is really cheap and a bit of a bargain.

On NEX, this is 19 to 33mm. Again, covered by the kit zooms, which are more than fast enough for outdoors in daytime. 5 primes in this range, 6 if we sneak in the 35mm, all way sharper than the kit zooms. The CZ 24mm, which is at my sweetspot focal length, is a seriously considered purchase, the others are cheap to very cheap and good value for money.


You don't need a fast lens for these, most landscape shots are taken with a small aperture to maximise the Depth of Field (how much of the scene appears to be in focus). Its preferable to have a lens that is sharp right out to the edges.

You could do these with Panoramas, stitching several images. In which case, a "normal" lens (20 to 30mm on m43, 28 to 40mm on NEX) that is sharp in the middle 2/3rds would probably be best. Sweep Panorama on NEX is a gimmick that gives poor results in my opinion, its better to take several shots yourself with focus and exposure locked and stitch them on your PC, there is plenty of software that takes the hassle out of this these days.

Otherwise, there are 2 ultra wide angle zooms on m43 and one on NEX. The widest (just) and the sharpest across the image seems to be the Panasonic 7-14mm. The Sony 10-18mm is a smidge less wide, and isn't as sharp at the edges, but as upsides has a flat front element so you can put filters on it (the front of the Panasonic domes out) and it has image stabilisation so hand held long exposures of half a second are feasible. There is an impressive shot on The Phoblographer blog that is clearly handheld inside a gloomy cathedral, but there is no EXIF data with it and its downscaled so no idea what shutter speed it is or if the original is a high ISO shot with lots of noise. These 2 lenses cost about the same, and they are ​not​ cheap, they are only slightly cheaper than the Panasonic 12-35mm I mentioned earlier.

The Olympus 9-18mm is less wide than the other 2, and has a smaller max aperture at everything other than its widest focal length, but this should not matter too much since landscapes shot in daylight will have the aperture reduced to get maximum DOF. At these smaller apertures, people who do or have owned both it and the Panasonic say it is just as sharp. Its main advantages are that it is very light, and very small - when not in use it collapses to about half size. Its also significantly cheaper than the other 2, but its still a considered purchase.

 AndyGM's gear list:AndyGM's gear list
Olympus PEN E-PL1 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm 1:4-5.6 +4 more
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