In August of this year I became the lucky owner of an Olympus 75mm lens. I wrote a review of it here and have since used extensively. It is a stunning lens in every way and I love it dearly.
So, given the choice, which should you buy?
This may seem like a stupid question, similar to “should I buy an armchair or a wristwatch?” (I get asked this a lot). After all, surely the 75mm is designed to produce shots like this:
Whereas the 60mm macro is designed to produce shots like this:
Well, yes, but with a flick of a switch on the side of the 60mm lens, it stops being a macro and can take general shots, albeit with a maximum aperture of F2.8 compared to the 75mm’s F1.8. So, how do the two compare for general shooting? Let’s find out.
I walked a bit closer to the subject with the 60mm to try and get the same area of coverage, then cropped both shots a little. The colouration is slightly different, but that could be more down to the ever-changing light on the day rather than the lenses. Let’s have a look at a crop (click to view 100% size).
Here’s another. Again, the sun was darting in and out of clouds, and I moved my shooting position to obtain a similar field of view.
Crops (click to view at 100%):
A couple more crops, this time at F7.1 (click to view at 100%):
Finally, a simple field of view comparison between the difference between 60mm and 75mm. Both these shots were taken from the same point:
And here is the same shot with the 75mm at F1.8 to show the difference in bokeh:
Image Quality Conclusion
Allowing for varying light and a variable photographer, what can we conclude from the above? My conclusion is that the 75mm is slightly better, but you have to pixel peek to see the difference and there is really little to choose in overall image quality between the two lenses.
Handling and other considerations:
The 60mm is smaller and lighter than the 75mm and is dust and splash proof, although the 75mm’s metal construction feels more substantial. The 75mm focuses slightly slower than other M43 lenses, the 60mm, like most other lenses, focuses almost instantaneously on the GX1. The 60mm is 2/3 of the price of the 75mm.
How close do you need to go?
If you don’t want anything smaller than pretty flowers, the 75mm can do the job:
But if you want a photo of a fly’s eye, then you will need the 60mm macro.
Which to buy?
If you are not interested in macro, and are prepared to pay 50% more, go for the 75mm. The extra light gathering of F1.8 can be really useful, as well as offering creamier bokeh and a chance for thinner depth of field if such is you need. And the IQ is beyond reproach.
If you are after a macro, the 60mm will give you great macro shots, and also double as a general lens providing almost as much as the 75mm. And it’s lighter, cheaper, faster and more weather resistant.
Given the above, the 60mm seems like the obvious choice. Wrong. Buy the 75mm.
Then convince yourself and anyone else in your purchasing approval process, that you really need a macro. Buy the 60mm.
Result: Two great lenses in your collection. After all, the world is about to end and there are no pockets in a shroud.
There are now thirty two lenses available for the micro four thirds system, with more on the way in time for Photokina next month. Plus there are hundreds of other lenses that you can use in conjunction with an adapter. That’s a lot of lenses, enough for anyone to create a collection that matches their needs, wallet and camera bag volume. Contrary to she who must be obeyed’s assertions, I don’t own the full set, and deciding which lenses to choose for my collection has been an interesting process (for me). More >
My only hiccup when using the new 75mm lens, was that it sometimes slowed down a little when focusing.
Thought I should check this out further, and see how the lens performed on an Olympus body; so I borrowed Nik’s EM-5 for a few hours. This also provided the opportunity for a camera porn shot; don’t they look lovely together?:
Once I had finished ogling, I set about pointing the lens at things with both cameras, with the following conclusions:
1. I thought that maybe the lens would work differently if attached to the same make of body, but the Olympus EM-5 does not focus the lens faster than the Panasonic GX1. In fact, the GX1 seemed to be fractionally speedier; but as I have no idea how Nik has set up his focusing rules on the EM-5; we’ll call it a draw.
2. In good light, both cameras acquire focus at a speed which can be described as “instantaneous”, even though it cannot be. When used with modern M43 lenses, these most recent bodies from Olympus and Panasonic claim to be the fastest focusing cameras on the planet and I wouldn’t disagree.
3. In low light, “almost instantaneous” would be the appropriate phrase, unless you are moving from focusing on something close to something distant, or vice versa, in which case there is a slight pause as the lens moves to the new position for focusing. Is it slow enough to be an irritant? No, but it is noticeable and is not present if you use, for example, the 25mm Summilux.
I initially assumed the issue was to do with having to move a substantial piece of glass in the lens; but then this would be evident whatever the light level; so it must be something else.
Not something that I am going to worry about. Unlike many cameras I have used, the GX1 has an astonishing ability to lock focus in almost complete darkness; and if I have to wait a fraction of a second with the 75mm sometimes, it is not a problem. Also, unlike many cameras (are you listening Canon and Nikon?), Olympus and Panasonic do provide firmware updates for individual lenses to improve performance; so maybe the 75mm will get a boost at some point.
DPreview have just published a little video comparing focus/shoot times between a Canon and a Panasonic G5. The Canon focus system is the same as that implemented in the wanky new EOS-M. The G5 system is probably a little slower than the GX1 or EM-5; but it totally destroys the Canon.
As the tag line on this site proclaims, Pattaya is an extra-ordinary place. And it is extra-ordinary not because of the surrounding temples or flower gardens or other attractions; it’s extra-ordinary because of the people on the streets.
Anywhere in Thailand has life on the streets; Bangkok is teeming with it. But only Pattaya has the unique mix of normal Thai life, intermingled with abnormal Thai life in the form of street hookers, assorted mafia and Thais of many persuasions drawn here to make a living from the tourist trade. Then there are the foreigners; guys looking for fun, couples and families looking for a beach holiday, and residents trying to live a life in this most strange of cities.
With my wife working, the opportunity to travel has all but disappeared over the last year. I still want to take photographs; but there is only so much you can do with a temple or some flowers; and here is is this weird, wonderful city just waiting to be photographed; what was I waiting for?
Never one to refrain from blaming my equipment, turns out that what I was waiting for was the Olympus 75mm F1.8.
In general, the good-natured Thais don’t mind being photographed. It’s a tourist town and if you point a camera at a beach vendor they will either ignore you or give you a smile. But if you point a camera at a hooker or a pimp, or one of the less desirable characters that frequent the streets; then you could be heading for trouble and a reduction in the number of teeth. Less dangerous, but frustrating, point a camera at a Thai for a candid shot and, if they notice you, you will be rewarded by a huge grin and a V for Victory sign; not exactly what you were hoping to capture. Take the shot above. To me there is a little story you can construct about what the girls are thinking and who is missing from the third chair; all that would have dissolved if the subjects had seen and reacted to the camera.
I do not believe my talents extend as far as describing myself as “a photographer”; especially one who appears so specialised so to be titled “a street photographer”; but those worthy of the name employ a variety of techniques. Some request permission for each photo and will then set up the subject and the location to get the look they want. At the other extreme are those who go out of their way to remain anonymous on the street, capturing life as it happens without interference. Then in the middle there are those who look for neither anonymity or involvement; taking shots when they can and interacting when their subjects spot them. I definitely prefer the anonymous route, partially because I think images without the photographer’s influence are more interesting; but mainly because I have no interest in having my head kicked in.
And that is where the gear comes is important. In theory you can, and probably should, shoot a selection of focal lengths to get different looks in your street photography. Do you want to capture just the face, or a small scene, or a whole street? Each require a different focal length of lens, or a lot of walking to put you in the right place to get the image you are after. A popular focal length is 50mm (25mm on M43); and that will get you shots like this from a metre of so away:
But how many shots like this can you count on before you need a little trip to the hospital? And some replacement gear.
Next size up for me is 90mm (45mm on M43). More anonymity; but not enough to be comfortable. See the guy in the middle at the back? He’s on to me.
Another option would be to strap on the comparatively large 100-300mm lens and shoot from much further away. Downside of this is that you may be a little further away, but a fat lens on the front of the camera pointed directly at the subject is something of a giveaway; and something that almost got she who must be obeyed a kicking from a ladyboy when she tried it.
I tell you what I want, what I really want, I tell you what I want, I want the recently announced Olympus 75mm F1.8. Ideal focal length for what I want to do, and small enough to be inconspicuous.
Two problems with the Olympus 75mm lens. Firstly, it is not widely available. Secondly, my little piggy bank of camera funds is currently depleted so no new gear for me. But when I walked into a camera store in Bangkok on Sunday (just by chance, I wasn’t searching for the lens, honestly officer) and discovered one of the first batch of 40 in the country was sitting on a shelf pleading to be taken home; what could I do…? I did what any feckless, irresponsible gearhead would do, I took out my credit card.
The lens itself itself is a beautiful amalgamation of metal and glass. It looks well made, it feels well made and it probably is well made; as it should be for something that is more than twice the price of the dinky, but plastic, Olympus 45mm. It feels lighter than you expect and, even on the diminutive GX1, it does not make the whole feel unbalanced. This is maybe because my preferred grip is to cup the lens in my left hand while my right hand is on the camera controls. This lens falls perfectly into my hand, such that it is practically invisible; nobody can spot that you have an effective focal length of 150mm pointing at them.
To test this hypothesis, I took the lens out onto the streets yesterday. It was a liberating experience. In the space of two hours (less an ice cream break), I took 150 photos, mainly just seeing if I could point the camera at people and get a shot without being spotted; and my subterfuge rate was close to 100%. This is exactly the weapon I have been waiting for.
Of course, most of my shots were not interesting, but I had many more keepers than normal, and a few I am quite pleased with. Every 75mm shot in this post was taken in that short space of time yesterday, many more useable shots than I would usually get, and I have not posted all of them.
Image quality? Fantastic. Sharpness, contrast, colour, bokeh all sublime. I don’t think I am getting the best out of it yet in terms of using the correct F stop (depth of field issues), shutter speed (some blurring because shutter speed too low), or post processing. If you want to see what the lens is capable of, visit Robin Wong who is a great street photographer and really put the lens to good use.
Meantime, here are some of my first efforts:
Out onto the street and I chance upon the charming old lady I met previously. She is pleased to see me, even more pleased when I make a donation, and I take her photo at F1.8. Reviewing the shot later confirms that, if you are close to your subject and using F1.8, your depth of field is going to be very small. Her blouse is in and out of focus which is disconcerting, and I would have liked her cheeks in focus as well as her eyes. Will have to go back; give her some more baht, and take her photo again. But apart from that; impressive IQ at F1.8 (no additional sharpening).
Learning my lesson, the next was at F4.5, to ensure both people were in focus. The second of the two photos is a 100% crop (click to see full size). Pretty much straight out of the camera; clean and crisp.
Focusing M43 lenses on the GX1 is lightning fast; so it was a little surprising to discover that the 75mm wasn’t, or at least not always. If the focus was initially way out from the position required, it seemed to take a few fractions of a second to gird its loins before launching itself into focus mode. Once it was focused in the general area, subsequent shots were back in the “almost instant” range. Will have to let neighbour Nik check and see whether it is much quicker on an Olympus body. Not a big issue though, and the resulting focus in the image was always perfect. Have not tried manual focusing yet; but the focus ring is smooth with no slop; should be a pleasure to focus with.
Update: See some more thoughts on focusing speed here.
After only one day of shooting, I am delighted with this lens. For a 75mm F1.8, it is compact, the construction is excellent and the IQ exemplary. Just wish it was available in black as well as silver for extra stealth, and include a hood for the price please Olympus.
There has always been one lens that you have to own for your Micro Four Thirds camera, the Panasonic 20mm F1.7. Why? Because it is small, light, takes great images and can be had for a reasonable price. And now there is a second must-have, the Olympus 45mm F1.8. Why? Because it is small, light, takes great images and can be had for a reasonable price.
I don’t have it yet because
I couldn’t find any stock in Pattaya or Thailand my finances do not permit another lens purchase at the moment; but Nik has acquired one and lent it to me for a couple of hours this morning.
First impressions; this thing really is small and it really is light.
Here it is next to the Panasonic 14-45, set at 45mm:
Although it is light, it feels well built, and the focusing ring is silky smooth. Time to take some photos. This lens has been touted as being good for portraiture, being an ideal focal length and with F1.8 to help throw the background out of focus (if you don’t understand that, read this). Sadly, I have nobody to take portrait photos of at the moment and I reckoned that the cats didn’t count; so I headed out to Nong Nuch for yet another flower shoot.
The lens was quick and accurate to auto-focus on my two year old Panasonic GF1, it must really fly on the latest bodies. Manual focusing was easy, with a crisp in-focus position being easy to spot. And having only 12 grammes of lens on the camera amplified the light delight that is shooting with Micro Four Thirds.
Image quality? Impressive. Here’s a shot with a 100% crop shown after, the details on the insect’s wings and legs are quite clear.
I played around with the lens for an hour or so and really enjoyed using it; definitely a must-have piece of equipment. Problem is, I already have a 45mm lens, the classic and wonderful Contax 45mm. Takes lovely photos, but it is manual focus only so it does not get used as much as it should.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The most excellent Spacefruit; polo player, bon viveur and possessor of enormous genitals (allegedly), has taken it upon himself to gather around his ample girth the world’s production of Contax 45mm lenses. If one appears on eBay, he buys it. His intention is to produce a shortage such that prices skyrocket; then he can dump the whole lot for a fat profit. He was happy to buy my Contax for nearly the same price as an Olympus 45mm would cost me; and so I hope to be a proud owner soon and further photos will follow. In the meantime, here are some more from this morning, all taken with the Olympus lens.
Thank you Nik for the loan of the lens. Please buy the new Olympus 12mm next so I can borrow that too.
The Son and his beloved expressed an interest to visit a sea turtle conservation centre. No problem, except it was slap bang in the middle of a navy base.
Nothing daunted, we rolled up at the entrance to the base and were halted by a man with a big gun. We were then directed to a guard house where another man with a big gun, even bigger muscles, and a truckload of communication equipment looked at us with weary eyes. The conversation went something like this:
Man with big gun: I will need an ID card for the Thais, and the passport from each of the farangs.
She who must be obeyed: I left my ID at home and the farangs don’t have their passports. But, on a brighter note, you can have the farang driver’s driving licence.
MWBG: Surely you must have your ID card with you?
SWMBO: No, sorry.
MWBG: And you should know that farangs must surrender their passports to enter military facilities.
SWMBO: Yes, I know, sorry.
MWBG: So there is no way I can let you in with just a farang driving licence.
SWMBO: Oh, go on, please.
MWBG: Oh, alright then.
So wonderfully Thai.
As was the turtle conservation facility which consisted of a small building with a rather crap display and an area with tanks containing turtles of various sizes.
Completing our outing was a visit to the Black Monk Temple, so named (I assume) because there a couple of black coloured statues outside. Quite an interesting facade on the temple which I decided would be a good subject for the Pinwide “lens”.
My $17 macro solution is all well and good if you want to take photos really close up in the studio; but bugger all use in the real world. There is the Panasonic Leica 45mm macro; but that will set you back around $800. Alternatively, you can choose from a wide range of legacy lenses and buy an adapter for micro four thirds. Nik had struck lucky on eBay and found a 55mm Yashica macro; and was very happy with his purchase. So I waited for another one to appear and snapped it up for 4,000 baht.
Not had a chance to use it anger before today, but this morning it was off to Nong Nuch with Ian, the man who is rather good at capturing small beasts with his camera.
Ian was keen to show me his new camera bag. Being a canny Scotsman, he is not famous for acquiring anything new, so a replacement camera bag was indeed an event; especially as his previous “bag” had been a piece of bubble wrap. True to form, the new bag turned out to be a fresh sheet of bubble wrap.
He turned up with a disc of bagpipe music to play on the journey. Fortunately, I had prepared for this and had my wife primed to inform Ian that the CD player in the car was broken; so we were spared the pain.
Luckily we found a couple of beasts to photograph. There was a frog:
Suspiciously bubbly at the rear end I thought.
Then we found a damselfly which conveniently sat still for several minutes so we could both have a go at shooting it:
After that, there was a small flying thing (that’s as precise as I can be) with legs laden with pollen, deep in the heart of an orchid:
Finished off with a few obligatory flower shots before heading for home:
Very pleased with the Yashica, and equally pleased that I was not subjected to bagpipe music; you really can’t ask much more than that of a morning.
Whilst some of the world are celebrating something to do with Jesus and his amazing egg-laden bunnies; there’s a hard-core of crazies who recognise today as Worldwide Pinhole Photography day.
A pinhole photograph is created by using a tiny hole to allow light onto the film or sensor. There is no lens, just the hole. The principle was discovered by the Chinese (who else?) about 500 years before Jesus and his bunnies appeared; and pinhole cameras have been around for more than a hundred years.
Nowadays, if you want to take pinhole photographs, you make your own camera. Pringles cans are popular as the basis, or you can just poke a hole on an old lens cap and stick it on your regular camera. Or, if you have a Micro Four Thirds camera, you can now buy a custom designed pinhole, called a Pinwide, from Wanderlust Cameras.
Why pay $40 when you can make one yourself? Well, the hole on the Pinwide has been etched to an exact size to give the best possible image; and the Pinwide hole is recessed deep into the camera so you obtain a very wide field of view and gather the maximum light. Plus it comes in a very attractive tin box, and you can never have too many attractive tin boxes.
The first thing you notice is how tiny the hole is. On a normal lens, F/16 is probably about as small as you would go:
But that’s the light of ten thousand suns compared to the teeny tiny hole in the Pinwide:
The manufacturers rate it as something between F/96 and F/128, depending on which part of the sensor you read from. Whatever the number, you are going to need a tripod or very steady hands and a high ISO, but on the plus side you are going to produce images where everything is in focus due to the resulting infinite depth of field.
However, don’t get excited about the “in focus” bit. Without a lens, the resulting images will be very soft, almost dreamlike, in quality; which of course is part of the attraction.
Shooting with the Pinwide is very easy. Stick the camera on manual, adjust the shutter speed to match the exposure, and shoot. No focusing required.
The results are technically poor compared to using a proper lens; but that’s not the point. With the soft focus, slightly distorted colours, heavy vignetting and a photo where everything is as sharp as everything else; it is not difficult to produce something that looks different and maybe even looks interesting (if only to you). Personally I like the look a lot and have spent the last couple of afternoons with the Pinwide and a tripod. I think the results are fun, your mileage may vary.
Micro Four Thirds rocks. Thirty year old Russian lenses, cinema and TV lenses, state of the art Voigtlander lenses; there is such a wide range of offerings. And now you can slap on a tiny hole and go create your own weird bits of art. How’s that for a happy Easter?
Nik goes a bit crazy when looking for lenses on eBay. Apart from buying coffee cups by mistake, he has a tendency to turn all hot and sweaty over long lens. Clearly it is a penile envy issue, further evidenced by his suggestion of the title for this post.
Usually, I am able to dissuade him from purchasing replica willies, which will look and act ridiculous on our tiny Panasonic cameras; but I failed to stop his latest acquisition, a 400mm Sigma lens originally designed to sit on a Canon film camera.
Notice the slight droop at the end; Nik assures me that this is his normal experience.
The lens cost him thirty pounds, and the adapter to make it work on a Panasonic double the price; but now he has an 800mm effective length lens, with plans to knock that up to 1600mm with a 2x adapter. And why on earth would he want such a beast? Apparently so he can sit on his balcony and capture the antics of the Russian tourists on the beach, such as the below which he proudly sent me this morning:
The image quality is not that great, but you can’t expect much for thirty pounds, and, given the subject matter, a razor-sharp image might offer more than we would wish to see.
I really have to stay away from eBay…..
The latest indiscretion arrived this afternoon, a Navitar 75mm F1.3. Apparently good for portraits; but most of the appeal (to me) is how cool an enormous chunk of glass looks, hanging off the front of my camera. How could I resist for $125?
“And what’s the camera resting on?” I hear you not asking. That would be a Yashica 55mm macro that arrived yesterday. I’m sick I tell you.
I wanted to test the Navitar’s portrait abilities on she who must be obeyed, but she declined, quoting some urgent Pet Society action that she had to attend to. So I had to make do with one of her dolls.
My photo cabinet is now full so I have to stop buying lenses. Although I suppose I could always buy another photo cabinet…..