Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

Started Dec 9, 2013 | Discussions
NewGirlLiz Regular Member • Posts: 475
Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

Hi guys

I am totally struggling with a decision that's driving me insane and I would love some help!

I am a complete newbie to this whole CSC thing. (And when I say newbie, I mean I'm coming from compacts and auto settings, rather than coming from DSLRs.) I have bought a beautiful EM1 which I LOVE! But I am completely torn between the two kit lenses. I bought one, then exchanged it for the other, and am now completely confused and unsure. I have another week to make up my mind before I can't return the one I now have. (And I'm nowhere near the shop so they have to send out the lenses, which means I can't try them out together.)

I want to use this camera to learn and to become better and to take photos that are as good as I can get them. For me, the issue is: should I go for the 12-50 lens - so that I have something extremely portable and flexible and a perfect way to learn. The price point is great and I'm sure the shots will be adequate for me - and it's so light and handy. Or do I go for the 12-40, and have undoubtably a richer experience of taking photographs - particularly in low light conditions (including a northern lights trip in a week's time - but the camera is not just for that trip) but struggle with the fact that it is SO big and bulky and heavy and this might put me off having it with me at all times?

It's really a question of better quality lens vs better experience of having the thing on my shoulder all the time! For someone as new to it as me, will there really be enough of a difference in the quality between these two lenses to make a serious difference?

I know that you guys are mostly pros or very serious photographers, so I know that most of you would choose the 12-40 every day of the week - but my question is, do you believe that for ME, the difference between the two lenses is worth the extra bulk, weight and cost? If it is, I'll happily go with the 12-40, but if the difference in quality really won't be obvious at my level, I'd prefer the 12-50.

Any guidance would be extremely appreciated - thank you!

Olympus E-M1
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mgnff Junior Member • Posts: 47
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?
7

Go with the 12-40mm f/2.8.  Camera bodies come and go, the lenses on the other hand will stay with you for a long time.  Always go for the best quality lenses that you can afford.

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mring1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,150
Buy bodies but invest in glass...
1

When your down to either a standard grade kit lens or it's high grade equivalent, no question in my mind:  get the good glass.  This comes from someone who got the 12-50 with my E-M5.  Don't get me wrong:  the 12-50 is a good lens given all the things it's asked to do:  video (its first priority), macro and stills.  But that means more concessions and compromises.

I'm saving for the 12-40 and hope to have it next year. If you could get it now, I'd do it.  Given the design concept and level of the E-M1, I'd argue that the 12-40 is, or should be, the "kit lens" for that camera.

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Zensu11
Zensu11 Senior Member • Posts: 1,542
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

mgnff wrote:

Go with the 12-40mm f/2.8. Camera bodies come and go, the lenses on the other hand will stay with you for a long time. Always go for the best quality lenses that you can afford.

Generally this is very good advice but from your post (reading between the lines) I have a feeling you prefer the 12-50 zoom which is much lighter and easier to carry. I've owned both and gave up the 12-50 in order to get the 12-40 and I don't regret it. It comes down to what you are comfortable with. My copy of the 12-50 was very good but I wanted a faster (f2.8) zoom with closer focusing across all focal lengths. I come from a Nikon DX background with their best DX lenses (17-55 f2.8, 70-200VR f2.8, 105VR f2.8). Both lenses will give very good results but the 12-40 will allow much more comparable prints to DX. Coming from a different photography background your needs might be different. If you are happy with the quality of prints from the 12-50 zoom I would say you have answered your own question. Good luck in whatever you decide!

PS, the 12-50 zoom has an excellent macro setting!

Paul De Bra
Paul De Bra Forum Pro • Posts: 12,512
Matching the "level" of camera and lens gives optimal results.
4

You went for the top of the line camera, so you would possibly be disappointed with an entry-level kit lens as your main lens.

I bought the E-M5 + 12-50 about 18 months ago and was never happy with the 12-50, after seeing what the camera could do with a good prime lens. I waited and waited and then grabbed the 12-40 as soon as I could find it anywhere. There is a world of difference between these lenses. Using the 12-50 on the E-M1 might make you feel like you bought a Rolls-Royce body and then put a Volkswagen engine in it.

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Digitall
Digitall Regular Member • Posts: 417
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?
1

From my point of view, the choice is simple, if you can buy the 12-40, do not look back, go forward and you will be well served and no reason to regret.

Cane Veteran Member • Posts: 6,900
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?
8

You already bought a Ferrari after only a brief experience with a drivers license. Why stop there and put cloth seats in it. Go for the leather.

Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,532
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

The 12-40 is a much, much better lens. If you want to shave off a bit of weight and cost, replace the E-M1 with an E-M5 instead.

Have you considered primes? Smaller, faster, cheaper (well, some of them) and sharper.

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honeyiscool
honeyiscool Senior Member • Posts: 1,376
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?
4

If you're having trouble with the size of the 12-40mm, you might as well keep the 12-50mm, then with the price difference, you should be able to get the 17mm f/1.8 ($399 right now), and the 45mm f/1.8 ($349 right now). Then, you can use the 12-50mm at 12mm f/3.5 (where it is at its best) and outdoors, then you have two relatively tiny lenses that can actually do low light photography, because sorry, but f/2.8 for M43 is not enough for properly capturing moving subjects in low light, so even though the 12-40mm is a great lens, I think it doesn't replace the primes either.

If you were buying new, the 12mm f/2.0 would also be a good option, since with the current discounts, it's $599 w/ a new body, which is relatively a good deal. Once again, a lovely small lens.

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Franz Weber
Franz Weber Regular Member • Posts: 476
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

I thinke honeyiscool gave you the best advice since you have issues with the weight of the 12-40 combo.

I was in the same boat like you. I bought the 12-40  EM 1 kit but i felt it is a little bit front heavy. Well that is just my opinion.  Maybe the panasonic 12-35 will be a little bit less so.

But the real difference makes the 12-50 mm lens. If you shot mostly in the daylight go for the 12-50. For low light or dusk/dawn choose  the 17 1.8 .

One of the benefits of the Em1 over the Em5 is that the former corrects chromatic aberation of theese two lenses. So they give the best possible results on the EM1.

Franz

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Paulmorgan Veteran Member • Posts: 7,348
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

NewGirlLiz wrote:

Hi guys

I am totally struggling with a decision that's driving me insane and I would love some help!

I am a complete newbie to this whole CSC thing. (And when I say newbie, I mean I'm coming from compacts and auto settings, rather than coming from DSLRs.) I have bought a beautiful EM1 which I LOVE! But I am completely torn between the two kit lenses. I bought one, then exchanged it for the other, and am now completely confused and unsure. I have another week to make up my mind before I can't return the one I now have. (And I'm nowhere near the shop so they have to send out the lenses, which means I can't try them out together.)

I want to use this camera to learn and to become better and to take photos that are as good as I can get them. For me, the issue is: should I go for the 12-50 lens - so that I have something extremely portable and flexible and a perfect way to learn. The price point is great and I'm sure the shots will be adequate for me - and it's so light and handy. Or do I go for the 12-40, and have undoubtably a richer experience of taking photographs - particularly in low light conditions (including a northern lights trip in a week's time - but the camera is not just for that trip) but struggle with the fact that it is SO big and bulky and heavy and this might put me off having it with me at all times?

It's really a question of better quality lens vs better experience of having the thing on my shoulder all the time! For someone as new to it as me, will there really be enough of a difference in the quality between these two lenses to make a serious difference?

I know that you guys are mostly pros or very serious photographers, so I know that most of you would choose the 12-40 every day of the week - but my question is, do you believe that for ME, the difference between the two lenses is worth the extra bulk, weight and cost? If it is, I'll happily go with the 12-40, but if the difference in quality really won't be obvious at my level, I'd prefer the 12-50.

Any guidance would be extremely appreciated - thank you!

The 12-40mm is the better lens, the 12-50mm has more functions and more reach, its a better lens for finding your feet and its not too expensive.

If money is no object, get the dearer 12-40mm.

Englishman in France Senior Member • Posts: 1,125
Re: Matching the "level" of camera and lens gives optimal results.
2

I fully agree. I got the 12-50mm kit lens with my E-M5 and I think an E-M1 merits a higher quality lens.

guido1953 Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?
4

Hello New Girl:

IMO, I would not not have gone from a P&S to to the EM1.

I am not knocking the image quality of an EM1, however, IMO, it defeats the best feature of the m43  format. This format is so small and easy to carry around. The EMI with a 12-40 is a lot to carry for a day of shooting.

I would have started with the Olympus E-PL5 and kit lens. Very cheap. They are selling on Fred Miranda for $425.00. This camera is so light and easy to cary around. The image quality is exceptional. I own one, no more excuses not to take the camera.

If, after learning the camera and improvements in your photographic abilities you could then purchase the 12-40 lens. You might decide Olympus is not for you and can get a Panasonic body.

Learn photography and then invest in some good glass after you decide which camera makers lenses, bodies, and flashes meets your requirements for the type(s) of photography you like to do.

Best Regards,

John

BHPhotog Contributing Member • Posts: 812
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

I just rented the 12-40 and put it through it's paces, comparing shot for shot against the 12-50 on my E-M5. The 12-40 is faster and marginally sharper. But while it might deliver more paired with the E-M1, in my case it offers only a modest improvement. But then it should... it costs close to twice as much as the 12-50 but it doesn't offer twice the value.

In one sense the 12-50 / 12-40 issue is like an E-M5 vs E-M1 comparison. The newer camera is better in several functional ways, it gives the skilled user a bit wider range of tools, but the image quality is the same. It's bigger, heavier, more complicated and costs more, but ultimately under most real-world conditions that an amateur would face, it turns out the same photographs.

Brian

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John Mason
John Mason Veteran Member • Posts: 5,773
From my point of view the 12-40 is pretty compact

I was shooting the 14-35 SHG on 4/3 which while f2, covered less range.

That's the 12-40 on the EM1 on the left and the 14-35 with adaptor and hdl7 grip on the right.
I think the 12-40 is perfectly matched to the EM1 size. The quality on this is great and the f2.8 fixed aperture is going to give you much more indoor flexibility than the 12-50 will with it's variable aperture of f3.5 to f6.3.
Also, you'll have much more flexibility of "3d look" isolation compared to the 12-50.
If you have the funds, I'd stick with the 12-40 as the more flexible lens for it's better sharpness and better depth of field control.
Add a small prime when you want the system to be smaller. A lens like the 20 f1.7 makes the EM1 very tiny when you need it and the 20mm is a nice middle range focal length for general purpose use.
Good luck with your decision and I hope you are having fun with your new toy! I know I'm loving mine so far.

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LTZ470
LTZ470 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,926
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

I would look at Northern lights shots and see what shutter speeds are and if low shutter is required then 12-40…BUT if a tripod is required it doesn't matter either lens can be used...

Personally THE best travel walk around, great IQ lens is the 14-150 Olympus f/4-5.6…light, small, easy to use, great IQ at 14mm where you would be taking Northern light shots...

Add the Oly 12mm f/2 to the 14-150 and you have a full travel kit...

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Zephir 750 Senior Member • Posts: 1,892
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

Go with the 12-40mm f/2.8.  Camera bodies come and go, the lenses on the other hand will stay with you for a long time.  Always go for the best quality lenses that you can afford.

Agreed 100%. Regards everybody.

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Olymore
Olymore Senior Member • Posts: 1,736
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

My view is that the lens is the most important factor in the the final photograph (technically speaking of course).
You've bought an expensive camera and until you use high quality lenses on it you won't get the best out of it.

If you progress with your photography you will want a better quality lens down the line.

So, if you can afford it, I would keep the 12-40mm.

It will outlast your camera and will retain much more of its value when your camera is worth very little.

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photo perzon
photo perzon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,653
Zooms are compromises. Get your 1.8 primes.

NewGirlLiz wrote:

Hi guys

I am totally struggling with a decision that's driving me insane and I would love some help!

I am a complete newbie to this whole CSC thing. (And when I say newbie, I mean I'm coming from compacts and auto settings, rather than coming from DSLRs.) I have bought a beautiful EM1 which I LOVE! But I am completely torn between the two kit lenses. I bought one, then exchanged it for the other, and am now completely confused and unsure. I have another week to make up my mind before I can't return the one I now have. (And I'm nowhere near the shop so they have to send out the lenses, which means I can't try them out together.)

I want to use this camera to learn and to become better and to take photos that are as good as I can get them. For me, the issue is: should I go for the 12-50 lens - so that I have something extremely portable and flexible and a perfect way to learn. The price point is great and I'm sure the shots will be adequate for me - and it's so light and handy. Or do I go for the 12-40, and have undoubtably a richer experience of taking photographs - particularly in low light conditions (including a northern lights trip in a week's time - but the camera is not just for that trip) but struggle with the fact that it is SO big and bulky and heavy and this might put me off having it with me at all times?

It's really a question of better quality lens vs better experience of having the thing on my shoulder all the time! For someone as new to it as me, will there really be enough of a difference in the quality between these two lenses to make a serious difference?

I know that you guys are mostly pros or very serious photographers, so I know that most of you would choose the 12-40 every day of the week - but my question is, do you believe that for ME, the difference between the two lenses is worth the extra bulk, weight and cost? If it is, I'll happily go with the 12-40, but if the difference in quality really won't be obvious at my level, I'd prefer the 12-50.

Any guidance would be extremely appreciated - thank you!

Zooms are compromises.  Get your 1.8 primes.

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tgutgu Veteran Member • Posts: 4,092
Re: Olympus EM1 with 12-50mm or 12-40 f2.8 for complete novice?

To to me it is pretty clear: the 12-50mm is optically one of the worst kit zooms you can get, the 12-40mm is the best m4/3 zoom. Also the 12-40mm is not bulky and fits well to the E-M1. It also has a small minimum focus distance (at all focal lengths) so that the macro feature of the 12-50mm is no real adavantage.

So, definitely, get the 12-40mm you won't regret it. Is is even better than the m4/3 wide angle primes.

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Thomas

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