G.A.S. attack (Olympus 12-40mm lens)

12-40mm lens

I have succumbed to G.A.S., that is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and purchased an Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens. This violates everything I’ve come to believe about photography. I’ve never taken a single photo worthy of any of the other gear that I own. And furthermore, I like cameras that are small and light. This lens, weighing in at 13.5 ounces, is heavier than any other Micro Four Thirds lens that I own.

So how did I justify buying it? (Besides the $200 off sale?) The one thing that has disappointed me about Micro Four Thirds photography is the lack of sharpness. Besides my 17mm f/1.8, none of the other lenses are sharp from center to the corners. (And the sharpness of the 17mm f/1.8 is controversial on internet forums where many believe it’s a lousy lens.) Everyone on the internet says that the 12-40mm is the sharpest lens, especially at the wide end which is where I’d primarily use it (because photos taken at focal lengths longer than normal, that is 50mm-equivalent, are ugly and to be avoided). Look at this review at Lenstip showing that this lens has insanely high corner sharpness for a zoom lens, even at its widest focal length of 12mm (equivalent to 24mm, but actually equivalent to a less impressive 26mm if you crop the photo to a 2:3 aspect ratio). Even harder to believe is that at 12mm, the corners are sharper wide open than stopped down!

But why does it matter how sharp the photos are if I never take any photos worthy of being sharp? Alas, this is a fundamental problem of photography these days, so many people with thousands of dollars worth of gear, some even going into five figures, taking lousy meaningless and pointless photos of sunsets, flowers, over-photographed tourist attractions, and pictures of their kids that no one else wants to see. (Regarding the last, I have no idea what I’m going to do with the thousands of slides in my parent’s closet when it comes time to deal with that.)

Yet somehow, looking at a picture at 100% in Photoshop that’s not sharp fills me with sadness. And that’s why the Ricoh GR brought me such joy, because every picture taken with the Ricoh GR is pin-sharp, even at the extreme corners. I can’t compose anything outdoors with the dim LCD screen, and half the time I get the exposure wrong with it, but damn, those pictures are sharp! (And it fits in your pocket too.)

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