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Wednesday, 09 January 2008

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welljust keep an eye on Pentax plus available primes from Pentax (many of which you still have?), Zeiss, Cosina/Voigtlander and others....weatherproofing, IS and batteries included.

I would have thought the Sony A700 would have been a strong contender for your next DSLR considering your experience with the 7D. Zeiss primes must hold some attraction, the 85mm/1.4 and 135mm/1.8 seem to be very fine optics. I use a KM 35mm/2 as my general purpose prime and would not hesitate to snap up a KM 28mm/2. Still waiting for new wide angle primes but perhaps PMA will bring a few nice surprises on that front.

Hey Mike
I have been using the E3 for 3 weeks now and I love it, I also feel that the primes are missing but in the cut and thrust world of pro work i work best with one small zoom on the body. I can't always move to suit a fixed lens, I have ordered the new 14 to 35 F2!!!! and it will probably not leave the camera. A fast small zoom is like a Tri Elmar in my opinion. With the excellent IS and auto ISO (it works) I am ready for almost anything. HQ zooms are here to stay and I really can't see me running around with a bag of primes. I always have the wrong one on when the shot opens up. This new lens will give me 28,35,70 mm all at F2, WoW
Glenn Brown

"I like its features and its practical advantages such as its physical toughness and waterproofing, and I've been very impressed with its image quality."

So Mike,

Are you willing to give up these features and advantages and go for your second choice? I'm with you 100% but when I look at the competition all I see is (much) better high ISO, but is that due to in cam noise reduction?...and loads of lenses I will never need.

I too would like a semi wide prime as I have a 14-54 and the 50mm ZD I just don't hear the horror stories of trying to get a good copy (Nikon) and focus problems (Canon, Pentax) with Olympus. I think the primes will come in due time. Oly seems set on a 25mm but that is a bit lame because it's covered by both the Sigma and Leicasonic.

The E3 is a bomber camera that is geared to the serious and some pro snappers. Were I to do more events I would look at Nikon for the flash system alone. That thought makes my skin crawl really....

Are you willing to give up all those things just to shoot a bag full of primes? If weatherproofing, build quality and IQ are your 3 priorities, what might be your second choice?

It's time for me, too, to go for a new DSLR. I think that I've considered every model by every maker and find them all lacking something or other, especially compared to film SLRs.

I've been through 3 generations of Olympus SLRs (Pen F, OM1, E20), and would like to stick with them--BUT....
The E3 has such a limited range of available lenses, overpriced compared with competitors, and is too large and heavy (3# with the 12-60).

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that based on their recent performance I know Olympus is always going to lag behind advancements from the rest of the industry by at least 2-4 years. They once were the innovators.

At present I'm waiting on two introductions: Canon's 5D update and Pentax K20D.

What to do? What to do?

It's a puzzlement.

Agree on the primes. I gave up on Olympus for this reason having been a long term OM1 / OM2 user.

One of the advantages of 4/3 system was supposed to be smaller sizes of the camera and the lenses. Since the Olympus lenses are (almost) same size as those of Nikon/Canon, would you say that these lenses are too big for the 4/3 sensor and hence give better performance?

I can't believe that some manufacturers are creating cameras without prime lens set! I also wouldn't buy such a thing. Think about Aria and Tessar 45mm/2.8 (of 90g alone). It seems like camera market has taken a step back now.

It seems like many people want fast primes, but few people want the same ones. How can a manufacturer solve that problem?

Personally, I just can't get over the lack of fast and wide zoom lenses in the other systems, so an E-3 with the 35-100 and 7-14 takes 90% of my photographs.

Hey Mike I hear you on primes, but the high end of the line of zooms is almost like having a set of primes in a way.

- Raist

Mike,

Mr. Toshiyuki Terada, Product Planning Manager Olympus Tokyo said in an interview prior to the E-3 release, "...we are going to look at the development of some single focal length [lenses]." Source: http://fourthirdsphoto.com/special/E3interview.php

As an E-410 user, I am looking forward to the availability of some compact primes. At least one person who has been correct with Olympus rumors in the past has stated that Olympus will release multiple primes, including a "remarkably compact" normal lens, this year.

Regards,
Amin Sabet, http://aminfoto.com

I find the current zooms are very high quality and could eliminate the need for primes for many people. Having said that, I do agree with Mike that some nice, fast Zuiko primes would be great to have.

There is a Leica 25mm 1.4 and some fast glass from Sigma that work with the E3. I have not used them, however.

- Joe

Hi Mike, I guess you are referring to the lack of wide primes. Between Sigma, Leica/Panasonic and Olympus there are some great primes in the normal-to-long focal lengths, but we definitely need some wide fast primes!
If I was looking at a DSLR system right now I would go with Pentax and the 14 2.8 and some of the FA Limiteds.

Wouldn't those Minolta lenses fit the E3 via an adapter?

Hi Mike,

Let me echo both your and Glenn's sentiments. First off, as a professional who uses Olympus I was delighted to finally get the E-3, and it hasn't disappointed yet. Its low light performance is superb, overall color rendition spot on, handling excellent, and speed and quietness exemplary. The 12-60mm is also top notch, and has served well for 90% of my needs so far. But I'm also of the generation weened on 50mm 1.4s, and would love to have a decent one to use as a walkabout lens. The Leica/Panasonic looks very good, but is huge.

Come on, Oly - howabout a 25mm 1.4? 17.5mm 1.4?

Of course, the 50mm f2.0 (100mm equiv) is dang near perfect already...

Will von Dauster

Have you considered trying to convince Sigma to put more of their primes in 4/3 mount? I see they have a direct link to their 4/3 lenses (four of which are primes) on their main page, so selling them on the idea might not be too hard. I must admit that for me the pleasure of using primes is very much tied in with looking into the big square viewfinder of my medium format camera. The small wearable prime bug never bit me.

For the benefit of those who don't understand the need for prime lenses, perhaps you would care to provide a brief summary of your reasons or a link to a previously posted explanation. Also, for what it's worth, there are two prime lens available for Olympus digital SLRs (and all other 4/3 mount cameras). The first is the 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic Leica D Summilux AF. The second is the 30mm f/1.4 Sigma. Hardly an abundance, but available nevertheless.

"would you say that these lenses are too big for the 4/3 sensor and hence give better performance?"

Don't get me wrong, the lenses Olympus does make are top class--it's no longer possible to directly compare lenses from different companies (except on an optical bench) but I don't think any company does better. I might even have a zoom and I might even use it a lot. But there are just some things I know I will want, and a medium-speed prime in the 35-40mm equivalent range is always going to be one of them.

Mike J.

As an E-410 user, I'm looking forward to some more Olympus primes. Product Planning Manager of Olympus Tokyo Toshiyuki Terada said in an interview last year, "we are going to look at the development of some single focal length [lenses]." Source: http://fourthirdsphoto.com/special/E3interview.php

"Mike, Mr. Toshiyuki Terada, Product Planning Manager Olympus Tokyo said in an interview prior to the E-3 release, '...we are going to look at the development of some single focal length [lenses].'"

Amin,
That's a weak comment to make into a promise. First of all he said they are "going to look" at it. Secondly, "prime lenses" in this context doesn't necessarily mean the sort of compact wide-to-normal street-shooting and snapshooting lenses that I need. It could mean more telephotos for sports and nature shooters, teles of different speeds, more macros, anything. They could release half a dozen prime lenses without ever even considering what I need.

Mike J.

Sigma makes some quite nice primes for four-thirds, such as the 30mm f1.4

"Wouldn't those Minolta lenses fit the E3 via an adapter?"

Riley,
I never even consider adapters. The reason is that I have *shot* with lenses on adapters. It's only when you never have that it ever seems like a good idea.

Mike J.

I have been neglecting my APS digital camera because I found shooting with the zooms not very satisfying. Had a Mardi Gras ball to go to, and did not want to try handheld 4x5 like I did last year. Put my 50mm 1.4 on the camera, giving my a 1.4 short tele. Transformed the whole experience, as well as the photos. I am with you on this Mike, I loved 35mm for the primes.

A good wide open fast standard prime and a body with image stabilization were my top priorities when choosing a DSLR. The E-3 + Leica/Lumix 25 f1.4 does just that. If either of this pair had not existed, I would not have chosen Olympus.

In practice, with the E-3 + 25 f/1.4, indoors with it's body IS and ISO800: I'm convinced.
I'm getting better results than were possible with my Leica M6 + 50 f/1.4 ASPH and Fuji 800 neg film.

I'm also using the 7-14 and 50mm now. All were bought during November/December ( only after I was happy with the E-3 and 25mm ) both are top notch. The 4/3 increased depth of field is a positive advantage for me.

However, I do really miss a compact normal and would like a small wide prime to use in the rain. If these don't happen then I will have to make do with the 14-35 f/2.


Mike,

You echo my own reluctance in late-2004 and why I went with Pentax then ... I tend to prefer using prime lenses, usually a wide and a portrait tele form the basis of my usual shooting kit.

I've come to admire the quality of the Olympus ZD lenses since then ... they outperform many high quality prime lenses ... and there are sufficient primes available that I'm happy to use a couple of 4/3 bodies (Panny L1 and Oly E-1). The Olympus 11-22 mm and 35 mm Macro, the Leica 25mm f/1.4, serve my needs/desires nicely most of the time.

I wish there was a 4/3 System 20mm f/2 or so lens available ... for that I often use an adapted Nikkor 20/3.5AI which works well enough despite the inconveniences of all manual operation.

I'd like an E-3 body, perhaps sometime soon: it has all the features and performance I'd like to see in one camera and performs very well in the testing I've done with it.

But I'm not selling my Pentax K10D and the Pentax Limited primes. :-)

Godfrey

"That's a weak comment to make into a promise. First of all he said they are 'going to look' at it. Secondly, 'prime lenses' in this context doesn't necessarily mean the sort of compact wide-to-normal street-shooting and snapshooting lenses that I need. It could mean more telephotos for sports and nature shooters, teles of different speeds, more macros, anything. They could release half a dozen prime lenses without ever even considering what I need."

Sure. All true. I'm looking for the same thing you're looking for. I just bought an OM-2n with a Zuiko OM 40/2. If I had a digital version of this, I'd be a very happy man. However, there are rumors of Four Thirds compact wide-normal primes coming from Olympus this year. I have been told that one or more sources for these rumors was involved in revealing the specifics of the E-3 before that camera was announced. One camera buyer/seller who goes by setaside2 in a couple of forums also strongly implied that he has been given assurance of "pancakes" coming from Olympus. I remain hopeful that there is some truth to the rumors and that Terada's words are relevant to your needs and mine.

Here's a better comparison between a prime that naturally fits the E-3, and the same effective focal length on the M-8. The ZD 50/2.0, 100 mm-e, is on the left, and the new Summicron APO-ASPH 75/2.0, also 100 mm-e, is on the right, at http://www.pbase.com/skirkp/image/91464660.jpg . The E-3 combo has AF, which works, even though this lens has a very long throw as it is a macro lens, reaching 2:1. The APO-ASPH requires an IR filter, which gives the eerie red color you can see, and needs to be focused carefully. The size difference between the two rigs is less than in the 25/1.4 to 50/1.4 example. If you put a Noctilux (50/1.0) or a 75/90 Summilux f/1.4 on the M8, the difference would be much smaller. Pixel-peeping at 100% onscreen with the two systems shown, the Leica is a clear winner, but prints or 50% reductions are very close in quality, as well as different in their drawing. Both have a role to play, and each is a joy to shoot with in its respective comfort zone.

scott

Hello Mike
It is amazing how often we think alike.

The lack of primes, especially at the very wide to wide angle range has been IMHO the biggest remaining drawback of the E system (before the E3 I was also bothered by not having a DSLR with a very good finder). However, its qualities are such that I traded my pentax K10D that I had bought because I like pentax the best for its choice of primes but I dislike so much the 3:2 ratio. (The 4:3 ratio allows me to compose better especially in vertical pictures.) I have the 1.4/25mm Summilux and the Zuiko 2/50mm and I hope Oly will introduce some wide angle primes soon. The E3 is worth it, trust me.

Let me reiterate what others have said...it's all about Pentax! I just picked up an old M 20mm f/4, a perfect 30mm equivalent on digital, and I can still use it on my K1000. And it's worth buying into Pentax if for no other reason than their Limited series. Oh, and the bazillions of fantastic old primes being sold every day at flea markets and garage sales. Just a thought...

Amin,
I'm happy to remain hopeful. I used to shoot with the 40mm f/2 myself. Sally Mann turned me on to it--it was her favorite 35mm lens when she was freelancing. She said its angle of view always seemed "about right" to her.

Olympus made 3,000 of them, 1,000 of which were earmarked for the States. Years after their introduction they were being hawked at clearance prices of $69 in the ads in the back of Modern Photography and Popular Photography magazines. More recently I have seen them go on eBay for as high as $800. If Olympus would make a digital version, I would be happy too. But then, as I say, I am a hopeful fellow.

Mike J.

Scott,
Thanks for that, but isn't the Leicasonic 25mm f/1.4 considerably larger than the Olympus 50/2 macro?

Mike J.

Leica 25mm f/1.4:

Max.Diameter: 77.7mm / 3.06 inch
Overall Length: 75mm / 2.95 inch
Weight: 510g / 1.12lb

Olympus Digital Zuiko 50mm f/2 macro:

Dimension Diameter 71 x 61.5mm
Weight: 300g

(From the respective manufacturer websites)

Mike J.

zygote daddy,
First of all, congratulations. [g]

And yes, Pentax is very tempting too. I think there will be a replacement for the K10D announced before the end of the month, too.

Mike J.

Mike, sure. The 50/2.0 is more what I would expect from Olympus. Olympus didn't design the PanaLeica 25/1.4. They also make a nice looking little 35/3.5 macro in their low end line that looks a lot like the old Nikkor 50 macro. But I haven't used that one.

scott

I've been stewing in this particular Olympus pot for quite some time now, especially since the E-3 came out. It appears to be a great camera, from all I've read, and I've read most of it. But at a weight of 2 lbs the camera is no lighter than the APS-C competition. Which got me thinking about the advantages of 4/3. Now that we have APS-C specific lenses, so that Olympus isn't the only manufacturer with "digital only" lenses, the only possible advantage left to 4/3 is the size and weight of the lens line.

Enter the 14-35 F/2.0 and a 35-100 F/2.0. Really, if you are going to pay that much and tote that much have you really looked at the other options, which have bigger sensors and lower noise for less cost and lower weight?

You see, I thought the Olympus system was the perfect travel and wildlife system, which it is and would be even more if Olympus didn't feel the need to produce faster rather than equivalent speed lenses.

All of which brings me to my particular pot of prime stew, namely the lack of a 300 F/4 and, instead, a $6000, 7 lb, 300 F/2.8. Because for $6000 and close to 7 lbs, I can get a 500 F/4.0 for APS-C and have more reach. This, to me, is a true gap in the Olympus system, especially if you care about nature photography.

As for shorter primes, I have a pile of them from film days, but with the low distortion, light weight, and good handling of the middle quality Olympus zooms, such as the 14-54, I really don't miss them all that much. I can understand why some do but it wouldn't be a make or break point for me.

"there are two prime lens available for Olympus digital SLRs (and all other 4/3 mount cameras)"

There's also Sigma 24/1.8. And a promise by Sigma to convert all of their lenses to 4/3. I'm not going to champion the 8mm fisheye or the 35mm macro since the first is specialised and the other is pretty slow at F3.5.

But yes, Olympus says they are _working_ on primes.

E3 + 11-22 f.2.8-3.5 + 35 f3.5 macro + 50 f2 macro: only 1,75 kg; three great lenses (two of them weather sealed); IS; Olympus QC; etc... I'can't see anything better out there.

Mike,
the rumours say that the new Pentax K20D will have a 1.25X sensor. If the rumours are correct (they USUALLY are, aren`t they?), than the Limited 31mm f/1.8 will become equivalent to a 39 mm. That`s your Sally Mann lens.
Adding the 21mm and the 77mm (and if you wish, the weather sealed zoom), and the fact that all lenses have anti shake on Pentax cameras, I guess that`s it.

We´ll see.

Re:Manish Bansal comment "One of the advantages of 4/3 system was supposed to be smaller sizes of the camera and the lenses."

I'm afraid things have been twisted and then extrapolated from their original meaning.

Olympus said that TELE lenses would be smaller than comparable 35mm designs. Nowhere will you find an original claim that they'll make wides, normals or zooms nor bodies 'smaller'.

People have read the 'we'll make our tele lens smaller' line and have got mixed up and that mix-up has spead across the web.

To everyone who has suggested zooms as an alternative to primes, I'd just like to point out that the desire to shoot with primes isn't necessarily about sharpness. Zooms have improved considerably, and Olympus' zooms appear to be particularly good and are likely as sharp as many primes.

The desire to use primes has three other aspects that have nothing to do with sharpness:

(1) Speed

Speed is less of an issue with Olympus' zooms than it is with other manufacturers, since they have a number of zooms with a maximum aperture of f/2.0. With regard to digital, I shoot Nikon and Pentax, however, where most zooms start at f/2.8, at best. Primes for both systems are faster.

(2) Size and weight

Photographers vary wildly in their need / desire to shoot with a small, lightweight kit. Backpackers and street photographers will probably value this most highly. I like to have my camera with me all the time, and I like to be able to palm it easily. This is no problem with my Pentax and Olympus film SLRs, and I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem with the Olympus E-410. But stick a big, fat, heavy zoom on any SLR and it's a different story. It just isn't fun to carry around casually anymore. If I have nothing else to do and am just going out to take pictures, I don't mind carrying zooms (the weight doesn't bother me). But if I'm walking to work and carrying something with me or running an errand, the size, weight, awkwardness and general inconvenience of the zoom becomes an issue. Zooms also seem to have larger lens diameters and larger lens hoods, which make them much more noticeable and intimidating to strangers during street photography.

(3) Affinity for a particular focal length

99% of my film photography is done using a 50mm lens. I have other lenses that cover the range from 18mm to 500mm, but I happen to like my 50mm lenses. On my digital SLRs, with my current lens lineup I can only get a 50mm-e by using a zoom, which means that I'm constantly checking the zoom to make sure it is set to ~35mm (on a 1.5 crop camera). It is annoying and I don't use the other focal lengths, so I have considered using gaffers tape to just keep the lenses set where I want them. Eventually, I will just pony up the money and buy a 35mm prime (Pentax has a 35mm f/2.0 that I have been eyeing forever, and I keep hoping Nikon will come out with either an improved version of their 35mm f/2.0 or an autofocus version of their old 35mm f/1.4). When I start trying to use zooms as intended (i.e., using them to adjust framing and using more than one focal length), I find that I just waste time zooming all the way in, then all the way out and then toggling between two intermediate zoom positions. By the time I take the picture, the person / lighting / moment I was hoping to capture is gone and I'm just irritated.

As you can see, the desire to shoot with a prime isn't necessarily about image quality, so a high quality zoom really isn't an adequate substitute. Sometimes less really is more...

"Amin,
I'm happy to remain hopeful. I used to shoot with the 40mm f/2 myself. Sally Mann turned me on to it--it was her favorite 35mm lens when she was freelancing. She said its angle of view always seemed "about right" to her."

Yes, I remember reading your excellent article about this and the CV 40 Nokton. I think it was called "Getting Past It" or something to that effect? More than any other writer, you have a way of making certain lenses sound very appealing to me. I'm going to resist buying the OM 50 macro from KEH, but I can't shake the idea of getting the 50 Planar ZM and a Bessa R3a to go with it/ -Amin

Interesting. I shoot a lot of my images at 24mm on my canon. Works out to about 39mm.

It's a weird moment when you realize that a Nikon D200/D300 with any of three sharp, inexpensive AF primes (35/2, 24/2.8. 28/2.8)is considerably smaller than the E-3 with any comparable length Oly zoom. I am a fan of Oly going back to its OM days, and think their prosumer model cameras are pretty great, but when I saw the size and weight of the E-3 I was completely dismayed. It is almost exactly the size of the D200, no svelte figure there, and with the 12-60 that Oly is flaunting it's a big, honking beast. Sure the AF feels nice, and I'm sure the 12-60 is stellar, but it's all 30% too big.

The Olympus Roadmap at their European site indicates that they plan to release a "Fixed Focal Length" lens and an "Ultra Wide" lens in 2008. It does not indicate the focal length for either lens.

To be fair to Olympus with reference to the E-3 it is difficult to see how they could have made it lighter without reducing its superb quality and/or eliminating or changing features (e.g. eliminating IS, reducing the size of the viewfinder, etc.).

The 12-60mm f/2.8-4 is a unique lens. Neither Canon nor Nikon offer a lens, with stabilization, that covers the 24-120mm equivalent range with a decently wide f/stop range of 2.8-4. I have always preferred lighter cameras, but I would not be willing to accept the kind of changes that I think would have been necessary to meaningfully reduce the weight of this combination.

I admit that the total weight is about the maximum I would accept, but I am able to carry the E-3 and 12-60 in a holster bag on my belt and drive my car without taking it off.

If you could experience the system, you would have to somewhat revise your opinion about the need for primes.

Never handle an E410 with a 7-14mm attached. It's an evil combination that will entrance despite the size.

I am pretty sure them primes are a-coming. The FourThirds system is new, and for its age, rather well developed. The zooms line-up is basically complete (the only thing left to do about it is bring out the SWD versions of some of the "older" lenses), so Olympus can now concentrate on primes.

Meanwhile you can use the said Leica or the Sigma 24mm f/1.8, or, if you do not mind having to focus manually, get a copy of that legendary Olympus OM 24mm f/2 with an OM-to-FourThirds adapter. Yes, it is 1/3 to 1 stop slower than most standard primes for 35mm film SLRs, but then digital is much cleaner than film so you can just up the sensitivity a bit if shooting in low light.

What Olympus should, in my view, ultimately come out with, are a couple of ultrawide to wide primes (the 7-14mm f/4 and the 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 zooms are great in every respect, but are rather big and heavy for my taste) plus the inevitable small 25mm prime with autofocus, plus a longish portrait lens for tight headshots (say a 70mm f/2), one or two midspeed long telephoto lenses and a tilt-shift lens. Then the system will be truly complete.

"Yes, I remember reading your excellent article about this and the CV 40 Nokton. I think it was called "Getting Past It" or something to that effect? More than any other writer, you have a way of making certain lenses sound very appealing to me."

I think it was the same SMP column that turned me onto the Minolta M-Rokkor 40/2, which I've shot with extensively on my Bessas. Such a nice, nice lens, small enough to get lost in your hand, but designed to be very easy to handle just the same.

I remember looking forward to reading those every Sunday. I was disappointed when they went away. I was very happy when this blog showed up not long thereafter.

"The Olympus Roadmap at their European site indicates that they plan to release a "Fixed Focal Length" lens and an "Ultra Wide" lens in 2008. It does not indicate the focal length for either lens."

Actually, if I'm reading that correctly, they are saying it will be a 100mm macro. Huge bummer to me. Here's the link -> http://www.olympus-europa.com/consumer/images/E-System_Lens_Roadmap.pdf

-Amin

Sorry, I don't know how I could have missed that. Also the "Ultra Wde" is a zoom lens. I did not see that when I looked at the chart.

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