Brian's Photo Blog — Article 319
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Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit 2014 Update
Wednesday 30 April 2014   —   Category: Equipment
     The contents of my lens kit has changed significantly since I wrote this article.
For the latest configuration, see My Micro Four Thirds Camera System in 2016.
Back nearly 18 months — and more than 100 articles — ago, I posted the article Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit Revisited, which was an update to an earlier article. Now that there has been a couple of recent additions to, and one subtraction from, my lens collection, it’s time for a 2014 update.

So what exactly has changed? Well, in summary, I've replaced my Panasonic 25mm lens with the new Olympus 25mm, and I've added an Olympus 45mm. AND ... for the first time ever, I've added a legacy non-Micro-Four-Thirds lens to my kit! For all of the details, see the relevant sections below.

When I was originally building this kit back in July 2012, I wrote an extensive article — see Building the Micro Four Thirds Lens Kit — detailing the long-term and short-term members of this collection, and comparing them to the lenses in my previous Sony APS-C lens kit. If you are interested in those details, which will not be repeated here, then I encourage you to read that original article before you continue with this one.

One thing to keep in mind is that cameras with a Four Thirds sensor, like my Olympus OM-D E-M5, have a focal length multiplier of 2x. What this means is that a 25mm lens on a µ4/3 camera would have a 35mm equivalence of 50mm. This allows µ4/3 cameras to achieve an angle of view using µ4/3-specific lenses which are smaller and lighter compared to 35mm-camera lenses with the same angle of view.

Without further ado, let’s look at each individual lens which is currently part of my Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) lens kit. I've tried to scale all of the product images appropriately, so that they are sized correctly in relation to each other. This will make it easier to see which lens is larger or smaller than another. First, here is an overview of all the lenses discussed on this page, ordered by focal length. You can click on a lens name to quickly jump down to that section:
 Zoom Lenses:
 Prime Lenses:

Z O O M   L E N S E S

I love the unique perspective that an ultra-​wide-​angle lens provides. That’s why I make sure to always have the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-​14​mm f/4.0 zoom lens, (14-​28​mm equivalent) on my outings.

This, the first µ4/3 lens I purchased, is the only one in the kit that has a built-in, nondetachable lens hood — the lens cap fits snuggly over it. Like the Panasonic 35-​100​mm lens described below, it does not extend when zooming to longer focal lengths. Because the front glass is very rounded and protruding, this lens does not accept filters.

Even though the 7-​14​mm retails for $1,200 (but was recently selling for $968 on Amazon), it is absolutely vital to have such a lens in my kit because this type of ultra-wide-angle is a favorite of mine! A similar lens from Olympus — the much cheaper ($700 retail / $600 Amazon) M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-​18​mm f/4.0-​5.6 does not have as wide of an angle (9mm vs. 7mm), and has a smaller maximum aperture (4.0-​5.6 vs. a constant 4.0). In this case I was willing to pay the extra money for a better-​performing lens. This one is a keeper!

It is professional-​level lenses like the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-​35​mm f/2.8 zoom lens, with a 35mm-​equivalent focal length of 24-​70​mm, that are helping the µ4/3 system to be taken seriously.

One of the few in Panasonic’s premium X Series, this lens is the foundation of my kit, being the normal, everyday glass that I keep on my Olympus E-M5 camera. The focal length — from medium-​wide-​angle to medium-​telephoto — is very versatile for general use. If I could have only one lens, or take only one lens with me on an outing, this would be it.

Its fast f/2.8 maximum aperture ensures good low-​light performance. Its metal construction and weather sealing is a great match for the metal-​bodied, weather-​sealed E-M5. At $1,300 retail (about $1,000 on Amazon), it IS an expensive hunk of glass, but you get what you pay for, and there’s no way I’m going to get a nice body like the E-M5, and then skimp by settling for a cheap lens.

Big brother to the above-​mentioned 12-​35​mm, the Pan­a­son­ic Lumix G X Vario 35-​100​mm f/2.8 zoom lens, with a 35mm-​equivalent focal length of 70-​200​mm, is another pro­fes­sion­al-​level lens foun­da­tion­al to my kit.

It has many features in common with its little brother, including black metal construction, weath­er sealing, and a fast, constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. One difference, besides the focal length, is that the lens does not extend longer when zooming to longer focal lengths, while the 12-​35​mm does. In fact, when the 12-​35​mm is fully extended, it’s almost exactly the same length as the 35-​100​mm.

In keeping with it being the big brother, its $1,500 price tag is somewhat more expensive than the 12-​35​mm. But as I said before, I’m not in this to skimp. I plan on using this lens a lot, as its focal length fits in perfectly between the previous lens and the next lens....

With the highest focal length and largest weight of all the lenses on this page, this one is a heavy-​hitter: the Pan­a­son­ic Lu­mix G Vario 100-​300 mm f/4.0-​5.6 zoom lens (200-​600 mm equiv­a­lence). It is amaz­ing to have this much mag­ni­fi­ca­tion in such a relatively light and small package — it is definitely not a burden to take hiking!

This $600 lens is one of the original members of my kit, and has been useful in various cir­cum­stanc­es over the past couple of years. Too bad that it’s not weather-​sealed like the previous two lenses. I could possibly have gone with the equally-​unsealed, similarly-​priced Olympus M.Zuiko 75-​300​mm f4.8-6.7 II, but its dismally-​slow maximum aperture of f/4.8-​6.7 really put me off.

Last summer I added a German tripod collar as an accessory. Even though this lens is not too long at 5 inches when zoomed back to 100​mm, it extends a further 2.5 inches when fully zoomed to 300​mm. At these longer focal lengths, you can improve image sharpness by mounting the camera/lens assembly on a tripod. Using a collar on this lens makes the assembly much more balance and stable on the tripod.

P R I M E   L E N S E S

Now that we have considered the four zoom lenses in my kit, it’s time to turn our attention to the six primes. First up, with the shortest focal length, is the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 (24mm equivalent) Although I have not mentioned this lens in any articles, it is not a recent addition — I got it in early August 2012, about a month after I put together my original kit.

One look at the silvery, solid, metal construction is enough to tell you that this is a premium optical instrument. And the premium $900 retail price (about $745 on Amazon) is enough to make you hesitate, and reconsider whether you really want to spend that much money on a small, fixed-focal-length lens. Because Olympus generally does not include a hood with their lenses, it’s an additional $75 for the matching metal hood, although I was able to pick one up on eBay for “only” $30.

With or without the nice-looking hood, this is a beautiful lens. And it has a unique way of being put into manual-focus mode — simply slide the focus ring towards the camera body about an eighth of an inch to reveal a traditional focusing scale in both feet and meters (as seen in the photo just above). Slide the ring back up, and you are once again in auto-focus mode — very clever, and easy to use.

I have to admit that I have not really used this lens during the nearly two years I have owned it. But I do hope that will change in the not-too-distant future. I’m dreaming about going on some experimental outings — perhaps to Portland, or the OSU campus in Corvallis — and take ONLY prime lenses with me. On one hand, it would be quite limiting to take pictures without any zoom lenses. But on the other hand, it would be an interesting challenge, and I believe it would sharpen my photographic skills. For now, let’s move on to see what other prime lenses such an outing would include....

Around the beginning of February this year, Olympus announced their new 25mm f/1.8 lens. From my previous articles mentioned above, you will know that I bought the $600 Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 when I was first putting together my µ4/3 lens kit in July 2012.

As with the 12mm prime lens, I hate to admit it, but to my chagrin I have never really used this 25mm lens either! Part of the reason is that I haven’t trained myself to use ANY prime lens very much — zoom lenses seem so much more practical and versatile. But another, less logical reason is that the Panasonic 25mm seemed too big for a standard µ4/3 prime lens, as well as too plain and even too ugly! Well, whatever my lame excuses, the fact remains that I had not really touched it!

Nevertheless, I still have plans to get into shooting more with prime lenses, as I mentioned above. So when I saw the new Olympus 25mm, I felt, accurately or not, that I would be more likely to use it than I would the Panasonic version. In addition, the Olympus 25mm is priced sufficiently below the Panasonic that I could sell the Panasonic used on Amazon, and even after Amazon’s cut and the cost of postage, I would probably still make enough money to completely cover the cost of a new Olympus 25mm, and maybe even have a bit left over.

So that’s what I did. I listed my Panasonic 25mm for sale on Amazon on February 15, and I pre-ordered the silver version of the Olympus 25mm, not yet available at that time, on the same day. The Panasonic lens sold three days later. Getting my hands on the Olympus replacement ended up taking much, much longer!

For one reason or another, the silver Olympus 25mm was delayed and delayed. But finally it was delivered into my hot little hands just yesterday! And I even have 29¢ left over from the money I made selling the Panasonic lens! I’ll try not to spend it all in one place! At least this is one of the rare Olympus lenses that comes WITH a lens hood, so that saves shelling out $47 for it separately!

It’s somewhat disappointing that the lens barrel is made of plastic instead of metal like the Olympus 12mm and 75mm lenses are. It’s also too bad that it doesn’t have the cool sliding manual-focus ring with focusing scale. But I guess that’s why it’s half the price of those other lenses. Anyway, even without those two high-end features, it still ought to take nice photos.

Up until recently I had four prime lenses: 12mm, 25mm, 60mm and 75mm — all of them now from Olympus after getting rid of the Panasonic 25mm. Looking at those focal lengths, you will notice that there is a big gap between 25mm and 60mm. Strangly enough, during the past few months I started to notice rave reviews of the older Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, including these reports: Of course, there is much more about this lens on the Web than just these articles, but suffice it to say that there is way more positive comments about the Olympus 45mm than negative. Therefore, since it is a fairly inexpensive lens compared with many of the lenses on this page, and because it fills the gap in my array of prime lenses, I decided to go for it as I was waiting for the silver Olympus 25mm to become available. Because I have not been on many outings since this 45mm lens arrived, I have not had the opportunity to put it through its paces yet. But as with all of my other prime lenses, I have definite plans to do so this summer. Stay tuned!

As usual for Olympus, they stubbornly and stingily refuse to include a lens hood with almost all of their lenses. And then they charge a ridiculously-high price for an often-cheap-plastic hood — $34 in this case! Instead of letting myself be fleeced like that, I picked up a third-party, screw-on metal hood for only $9. It’s not great, but I think it will be fine, and I saved $25!

Just like its Olympus 25mm little brother, this lens barrel is made of plastic instead of metal like its higher-end siblings, and does not feature the sliding manual-focus ring of the 12mm. But at half the price of those chic metal lenses, I guess I can’t complain. From the rave reviews, I’m expecting to get some really nice shots with this lens.

When I first put my lens kit together, I had purchased a Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 because it was the only µ4/3 macro lens available at the time. Even though this lens had received lots of praise for its image quality, and it had worked OK for me, I had not been totally happy with it. Compared to the macro lenses I have used in the past, it seemed to have a hard time auto-focusing on the object I was trying to photograph. In addition, a longer focal length would allow me to stay further away from the subject, which is important when taking close-ups of living creatures.

A long nine months after Olympus announced their own macro lens, the M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 120mm equivalent) was lovingly delivered by the UPS guy in November 2012. Its weather sealing makes it the only moisture and dust resistant prime lens in my kit. To find out more about this great little lens, and why I like it better than the Panasonic (which I sold on Amazon), see my article: Macro Lens Swap.

Once again, this lens requires a special hood, which Olympus did NOT include with the lens. This hood appears to be unique in that it has a mechanism which allows it to slide down over the body when not needed, allowing the hood to remain on the lens when not being utilized or when stored. But $50 for a plastic hood is definitely highway robbery! At that time it was my only choice, but now Amazon has some alternatives.

Second to last, but definitely not least, we come to the king of my primes, the gorgeous Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8. If there is one lens I own which could make a camera hound drool, this is definitely it!

Want to see for yourself? Well, put on your bib and check out the review and amazing photos that photographer Robin Wong from Malaysia took with this lens and the same OM-D E-M5 camera I've got. Be sure to also check out the second part with shots at night. Incredible! Drool, drool!

Retailing for $900, it’s the same price as the much smaller Olympus 12mm. The size and weight of this 75mm lens makes me feel like I am getting more bang for the buck, and it makes the 12mm seem much too expensive. Once again, the way over-priced $75 silvery metal hood, which ought to be included with a $900 lens, must be purchased separately. But like before, eBay came to the rescue, and I found a third-party hood, which looks and fits exactly like the Olympus version, for “only” $40.

I’m embarassed, but happy, to report that this lens hood most likely saved this lens from destruction, as I recounted in Incompetence at the Coast! The lens seems fine, and now you can find the exact same third-party metal hood on Amazon for a not-too-shabby $25.

This is the one prime lens I have used a fair amount. It works great as a medium-telephoto, but also for close-ups as a macro pinch-hitter. I won an award at my local camera club for a photo shot with this lens — see Radiant Neighborhood Leaves. For a macro-like shot, check out this insect photo (and the following two). I’m expecting to get many more outstanding pictures with this amazing lens. I do believe it is worth the price.

For the last entry, we come to the newest addition to my kit, which is also the oldest lens of the bunch — made about half a century ago! It may be the black sheep of the family, but it’s definitely not an ugly duckling! Because of its age and the fact that it’s not a native Micro Four Thirds lens, it’s the only lens in the group that is manual focus only.

This black beauty is a Tamron 135mm f/2.8, which used to belong to my grandfather. Still in excellent condition, it’s a solid hunk of glass and metal — a fitting companion to the Olympus 75mm just above. Without the µ4/3 adapter, the Tamron is just 10mm taller than the Olympus 75mm, and they both have the same barrel and filter diameters. For all of the details of how I transformed it to become part of my lens kit, see Resurrecting My Grandfather’s Lens For MFT.

Whew! Ten wonderful lenses in my kit! I would say that I’m very well equipped to meet any photographic challenge head-on.

As far as I can tell, my kit is complete. But you never know what kind of goodies Olympus, Panasonic and other lens manufacturers might come up with in the future!
     The contents of my lens kit has changed significantly since I wrote this article.
For the latest configuration, see My Micro Four Thirds Camera System in 2016.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 319
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