Kit lens photography

M.Zuiko 14-42mm IIR @21mm f/7.1

After my previous post where I advised people to show that they are skilled photographers by using a cheap camera with a kit lens (because any bozo can take good pictures with a ten-thousand-dollar camera), I took out my kit lens and took this photo.

Physically, I love how small and light the Olympus 14-42mm IIR is compared to the much larger and heavier 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens. It doesn’t bother me at all that the lens is made from plastic and not metal.

But then when I peeped at the pixels, and while the sharpness was pretty good, I was disappointed to see a lot more fringing than I see with any of my other more expensive Olympus lenses. But still better than using an iPhone.

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History lesson: the tower with the clock is the Met Life Tower, which was the tallest building in the world from 1909 to 1913 when the Woolworth Building surpassed it.

Is Leica a lightweight camera for landscape photography while hiking?

I read on another blog (I read it here) that a Leica M is a good camera for taking landscape photos while hiking because it’s allegedly light weight.

Let’s see how Leica stacks up against an Olympus Pen-F with the 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens.

Leica M (Typ 262): 21.2 oz
Leica Summarit-M 35mm f/2.4 ASPH (most lightweight Leica lens): 6.9 oz

Total: 28.1 oz

Olympus Pen-F: 15.1 oz
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens: 13.5 oz

Total: 28.6 oz

So it’s about the same weight (less than half an ounce difference), but the advantage of the Olympus setup is that you can zoom from 12mm to 40mm (equivalent to 24mm to 80mm). With the Leica, you are stuck at one focal length. Plus with Olympus you get image stabilization for sharp landscape photos when the light becomes more dim. Image stabilization more than makes up for the Leica having a full-frame sensor.

I previously tested the Olympus 12-40mm lens and determined that it was as sharp as prime lenses, although sharpness is a bourgeois concept so maybe you shouldn’t care about that anyway. However, if you are going to be a sharpness Nazi, then you should probably get another brand of full-frame camera that has a high-resolution sensor of more than 40 megapixels. The Leica M (Typ 262) has only 24 MP, so if you are imagining making these huge 40 x 60″ prints, the Leica doesn’t have the resolution that you really need for that.

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If people were actually reading my blog and leaving comments I can imagine at least two types of angry comments.

1. You FOOL! The Leica is FULL FRAME! Any camera with less than FULL FRAME makes garbage photos! You MORON!

2. You FOOL! No lens is sharper than LEICA. NO LENS! You MORON!

Sorry, I don’t buy into either of these arguments. The real test would be to make some really big prints, one from photos taken with the Olympus setup, and one with the Leica setup, and do an experiment to find out if knowledgeable viewers can consistently identify that the Leica print is somehow superior without knowing in advance which cameras and lenses were used.

Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, review conclusion

12-40mm @ 12mm, demonstrating the value of wide angle when shooting in cities

I find this lens to be as good as advertised! Highly recommended.

Pros:

  • Sharp corners, even at widest focal length where most lesser zooms have soft corners.
  • Sharp fully zoomed in, where most lesser zooms become softer.
  • Sharp when used wide open, at all focal lengths.
  • No purple fringing.
  • No field curvature (that I’ve noticed; I only tested for field curvature at the wide end).
  • Less expensive than buying a bunch of prime lenses. (This week, the 12-40mm is selling for the same price as just the 12mm f/2.0 by itself.)

Cons:

  • Lateral chromatic aberration.
  • Lens blocks built-in pop-up flash on some Micro Four Thirds cameras.
  • Lens hood is cheaply made.
  • Big and heavy for a Micro Four Thirds lens (although quite a bit smaller and lighter than the comparable Canon 24-70mm f/4.0 full-frame lens).

What this lens is best at:

  • Event photography (I would expect that this is the number one lens for wedding photographers who shoot Olympus)
  • Landscape and cityscape
  • Travel photography (if you don’t mind the weight)
  • General purpose photography (the most versatile lens to have if you have no idea what you want to take pictures of)

What this lens is NOT best at:

  • Portraiture (generally you should use a prime lens for better bokeh, however the 12-40mm is excellent for a type of wide-angle portraiture where you don’t want a blurred background)
  • Street photography (too big to be inconspicuous)
  • Photos that have no purpose except to show off extreme bokeh (and there are lots of these types of photos on Flickr)
  • Any use that require focal lengths wider than 12mm or longer than 40mm

I have written a whole series of blog posts about this lens before writing this conclusion. Read the details:

G.A.S. attack (Olympus 12-40mm lens)
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens, first impression
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 second impression: this lens is ginormous!
12-40mm F/2.8 vs. 17mm f/1.8 extreme corner(with test photos)
12-40mm f/2.8 vs. Ricoh GR (with test photos)
Olympus lens test: 12-40mm vs. 9-18mm extreme corner (with test photos)
Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 vs. three primes (with test photos)