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Wednesday, 17 October 2007


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Great post, and it describes exactly what happened with me... except that I WAS a Canon shooter and jumped over to Pentax. What attracted me to Pentax was the incredible line-up of high-quality, lightweight, compact and well-built prime lenses they offer. And we're not only talking about legacy film lenses. Pentax continues to release new "digital only" primes that are as good or better as their film brethren. Of course the film lenses still work well on the new Pentax bodies, especially the K10D.

With the FA43 f1.8 attached to my K10D, it's a pretty darn compact package for a fully-featured DSLR with all the bells & whistles. When I want to go wider, I slap on the DA 21 f3.2, which is even MORE compact than the FA43. In fact, some people complain that these lenses are TOO small because there isn't much to grab onto for manual focus. I haven't had that problem, but I understand what they mean.

I guess the problem there for you, Mike, is that the DA21 ends up being about 31mm and the 43 ends up being about 65mm. However, Pentax also makes a 28mm f2.8 lens that is quite small and performs pretty well, apparently (I've never used it). If you want an even smaller package, a K100D with this 28mm f2.8 would seem to fit your description perfectly.

From this post you might conclude I'm a Pentax cheerleader. I'm not. In fact I could care less what camera anyone else uses, and I think it's a very personal, subjective decision. But I keep reading your "if only Oly made a 20mm f2.0" refrain and I can't help wondering why you didn't go the Pentax route if high-quality, lightweight primes are important to you.

Me, I'm getting to the point where I'm tired of carrying ANY DSLR around. I'm thinking of picking up a Ricoh GX100, GRD, or the rumored GRD2 and using that as my "carryaround" and travel camera... and keeping the K10D and primes for the more "serious" stuff.

Hi Mike,

I don't envy you and I don't envy me either since I am going through the same decision-making process myself. What with all the new product introductions, my poor head is spinning. There is also the issue of pre-ordering so you can actually get what you pay for sometime within the next year. From your comments, I gather weight is a huge issue for you. Same here. Have you dismissed Nikon and Canon on the weight issue? They seem to have some nice wide primes, but you would know better. Both the D300 and 40D look great on paper. What impresses you about Oly exactly? From the specs it seems to be more of the same. I’ve looked at Pentax too and like that camera as well. Oh crap, there I go again. Maybe I’ll just go back to film and a nice clean, used M3.


Right on, Mike! I use Olympus professionally, and as good as their optics are, I also miss even a 25mm f2 (50mm equivalent) "normal." They have shown what they can do with the best, IMO, portrait lens on the market now, their 50mm F2.0 macro, but that is simply too long a focal length for me to use as a "walk around" camera. I'll be getting the 14-35 f2, which will give us a fast 35 and 50 equivalent, but I'd love a compact 17 or 20 mm f2...

So for now, when not on assignment, it is the Canon G9. Not bad, but also not a DSLR in speed or low light performance.

You have been writing some real gems lately... Decent lenses don't necessarily have to be in the "king kong" class. And small camera to "wear" daily is a dream. That's why I still use daily my OM-1. It doesn't scares people in the streets...the "papparazzi" or "journalist" shock. It's light.Quiet.It doesn't give you gazillions of options so you confuse yourself when you "see" a great shot opportunity. You quickly, simply, know what you can do, and how.But the 35mm is a tad short...the 50mmm a tad long.
The 14-42 could almost hit the target in an E-510 body... Less than 30 ounces...but not with that small, variable (ugh!) aperture. Perhaps a Pentax K100 super plus 31mm...not really the elusive 40mm equiv, but f1.8, and around 35 ounces.The Canon 400D( Rebel XTi) plus 24mm f2.8.could practically do the trick: 38mm equiv., around 35 ounces, too...I'm thinking about this, since I have the body. Now, if just Oly could give us a 20mm,(40 equiv.),f2 lens...hehe

"I think it was David Vestal who said he put his camera on in the morning and took it off at night before bed, just like his shirt."
Actually, it was Dorothea Lange.

Some of this stuff (manufacturing and marketing strategies) fascinate me. Beside the development cost, if you don't expect to sell many units, you don't make many. So even though you lose money on each unit, you're not taking bleeding money. It's not like mis-pricing a high-volume lens where the per-unit loss would rapidly mount up.

In that light, it's a particularly shrewd move.

As an Olympus pro user I love the cameras and have just got the E510 and you are correct about the need for primes (old school) all I want is a fast 35mm for candid work. I love the 35 for the working distance in a portrait, If i had to pick one lens to make a living that would be it(with Olympus IS). Andre Kertez told me once that the 35 takes good snaps, ever since then I have called my photographs "Snaps", sounds better than "Capture"

Mike, I couldn't agree more with what you have to say here. It's funny, just today I was looking at your blog, followed the links to imaging-resource, and was getting excited about looking into the E-3 (I am currently a Canon user) when I started checking out the lens offerings. What? Not even a 50mm (25mm)??? I couldn't believe it, I mean that IS usually my favorite focal length. Hmmph, I resigned to the thought that maybe Oly will offer this lens soon so I can reconsider. Until then, I just can't see myself switching. It's unfortunate because I have heard great and wonderful things about the Oly lenses. Maybe with the next generation.

I keep thinking you're really looking for a Pentax camera and lenses; you're just looking in the wrong place. Of course, you happen to really like Olympus - which is cool, and an important part of it. But yes, I never even considered Olympus due to the lack of primes.


I'm still kicking myself for selling off my OM 1, OM 2s and all the great Zuiko fast prime lenses that I had. I switched to Nikon and that has not been a bad thing, just wish I would have hung on to the Oly stuff for my later years. Good luck on your quest to find that " smallish moderate-wide prime ".


Pentax K10 (10mp DX-sized sensor, weatherized, image-stabilization, auto-focus) + 21mm f3.2 limited + 43mm f1.9 limited = $1610.



you've allready wrote an article about Pentax K100D+ 21mm pancake combination? What's wrong with it now? I would like to see same combo with better sensor/image quality + quieter shutter
All Best, Vlad.

I know, I know, it's too slow... but the Pentax 21mm f/3.2 Limited is a pretty sweet ultra-compact wide lens.

Oh boy, am I so with you on this one, Mike. For years my grab-it-and-go camera was an OM-2 and 35mm or 50mm Zuiko. I tried to emulate this, now I'm all digitalish, with a K10D and the neat little Pentax 21mm, but its just not the same. 21mm (33mm-ish) is just a tad too wide to my eyes nowadays, and manually focussing with it just isn't as effortless and immediate as the 35mm setup. I tried to love the Sigma 30mm - nothing wrong with it - just a mite bulky on the K10D as a go everywhere job, and 45mm equivalent was just that same tad too long the other way. An old Pentax-A 28mm came closest, but maybe my version was a dud or maybe it just wasn't such a great lens, but it really wasn't a great performer - didn't have 'it'.

What I really want, I guess, is something like a small and light 40mm equivalent, a 26 or 27mm, say. I've a feeling it might be a long wait.

Enough of that, things get even worse if we start looking for a mid-wide-angle prime - from anybody. 24mm and 28mm primes were so popular back in the 35mm days of yore for good reason. Small, light, easy to manually focus, the best compromise between the obvious and uncompromising wideness of a 20 or 21mm and the moderate wide of, the 35mm. Nothing equivalent now from anybody anywhere. Where are the prime 16, 17, 18mm lenses? If Olympus made a small 13mm for their 4/3rds business, they'd have me, especially if they squeezed f/2 out of it. That and your 20mm with an E-510 would be such a sweet little go-anywhere package.

Mike, I feel the same way. I bought an E-410 because it is so nice and compact, but I really miss having a nice wide-normal prime. Anything from 15 to 20mm would serve me well. In the meantime, I get by with the 14-42mm zoom and an OM 24/2. The former is not ideal because I'd like to use a prime with a proper distance scale and manual focus (none of this focus by wire business) and the latter is suboptimal because of the need for stop down metering. That said, both lenses are working out well for me. The zoom is very good considering its price, and the E-410 plus 14-42mm zoom is strikingly light to wear about the neck. These days, my Canon 5D only comes out when I need to shoot handheld in low light.

Well, I'm no expert in lens mechanics but I've been told that it would be nearly impossible to make a small, fast prime in the 16mm (1.5x crop) or 12mm (2x crop) range. So I think we'll be waiting a long time for a compact 24mm (effective focal length) prime.

On the Pentax system, we have the DA 14mm f2.8 which isn't exactly small, but it's much more compact (and significantly cheaper) than the Canon and Nikon versions. This ends up being 21mm, which is a nice focal length for landscapes, architecture and even street stuff.

I have three primes that cover all of my needs: DA21 f3.2, FA43 f1.9 & FA77 f1.8. I usually walk around with 2 of them (DA21 + FA43 or DA21 + FA77) and since they're all very light and compact it's not even a problem to carry all three. The FA77 is regarded as one of the finest portrait lenses ever produced, and I agree with that assessment. The FA43 is held in similar high regard, and some have said it is up there with the Pentax 31mm f1.8 in terms of "legendary" status.

The DA21 is my least favorite of the 3, but still produces stunning results... and my slight hesitation regarding this lens is more due to the (for me) awkward focal length than it is a problem with its quality.

Since I'm trying to score highly on Mike's "how to be cool" test, I'm limiting myself to these three primes for the foreseeable future :). Really, though, I'm actually finding that the FEWER choices I have, the better my work tends to be. I'm even considering the "one year, one lens" experiment but I can't quite bring myself to do it yet.

Hey Mike,
Every time you talk about wanting small primes I think the same as some of these other guys.
What about pentax? I've lusted after their pancake and limited primes. Who cares what body I put it on. The new K bodies are nice enough to _almost_ make me invest.

That said, I do like my 17-85is for my boring snapshots which are only interesting to me.

As to Oly, bleagh.
I currently run a studio for, er, somebody you all know (I can't bad-mouth them on the internet, eh?)

I shoot my Oly E1 tethered and with a remote cord in my hand.
I hate its stupid 4/3rds composition, I hate its interface, and to get the range of focal lengths I need for the studio, I shoot my 14-54 vari-ap on top of a 1.4x tc.
And even tho' I shoot at f11, the vari-dark viewfinder is a pain in the diopter.

That said.

As crappy a system as (I think) it is, I still regularly make and sell 20x24" and 30x40" portraits out of it's 5megapixel sensor.

Just because Oly does the job, do they really need to exist?

Back in the early 80s I was getting serious about macro and my Pentax Super A wasn't as serious as I wanted. The Olympus OM2SP was an absolute bargain at that time (A$275 for the body, duty free), so I got started on the OM system, but couldn't afford the real Olympus macro things. Then, after trying a friend's Micro Nikkor 200mm f4 IF ED I found a used one and bought it, followed by a Micro Nikkor 50mm f3.5 that I found in a pawn shop for $75! That led to an FE2, but more pawn shop browsing led to an Olympus T32 and T10/Power Control 1 ring flash. Uh oh. All the flash goodies were Olympus, but the lenses were Nikon! Erk.

OK, I bought an Olympus male bayonet to T3 screw adapter, and a Nikon female to T3 screw mount, and screwed them back to back. That gave me the ability to mount the Nikon lenses to the OM2SP and use the Olympus off-the-film (revolutionary in those days) flash system for my macro work.

Sure, I couldn't focus to infinity, but who cared for macro work? The increased lens to film distance also gave me a bit more magnification. The flash system was far better than Nikon's but the silky smooth fingertip focusing of the 200mm Micro Nikkor was a joy to use. Voila! Those were the days. I have some lovely shots to prove it.

But Olympus have lost me (at the moment, anyway). Their decision to lock themselves into the 4/3 sensor size means they can never go bigger, whereas ALL the other manufacturers can go full frame and ALL their 35mm lenses are available for use. I loved the OM system, but sorry, Olympus, you abandoned us OM users and I don't like to be dictated to. The tiny sensor also locks you into noise problems. How are you going to solve that? You haven't matched bigger sensors yet afaik.

I've just bought a Canon 40D, my first DSLR, which works happily with my two lenses from my EOS 30E film SLR. So far, I love the 40D's very low noise image quality, but the size, weight and fiddly button placement are not so great.


Fast wide-angle primes are not so easy to come up with. For the Leica M and LTM mount, there are currently very compact manual focus and aperture lenses from Cosina-Voigtlaender, but they are not f/2.0. The CV12/5.6, CV15/4.5, CV21/3.5 and CV25/2.8 (??) are highly respected, sharp, and fairly contrasty (there is a debate on whether this is a feature or a limitation). And tiny. Zeiss makes a 15/2.8 which is humongous in size and Leica offers 21/2.8, 24/2.8 (very highly regarded), and 28/2.0 lenses which are larger than the CV series but smaller than any DSLR zoom. Leica also offers an interesting approach to the 16-21mm focal length range -- a zoom, of all things. (It is click-stopped to give you 16, or 18, or 21, but it works fine at all points in between. This WATE, or WideAngleTriElmar is only f/4.0 and it looks like a smallish zoom. These all support full frame film as well as the M8, which has a 1.333 x multiplication factor. I don't believe that narrowing the required field of view would make them any smaller or permit greater apertures.

Doing a fast wide angle for the 4/3 system with its 2X factor is even harder. But when i was using my E-1 primarily, the most used lens was the 11-22 zoom, which doesn't feel very obtrusive and is certainly as sharp as any in its class. Its range is a good match to how I see things. I don't think the E-1 plus 11-22 is any more conspicuous on the street than the Pentax K10 with its pancakes, since the body is what you notice in both cases. We'll have to see, but the E-3 doesn't look much larger. Also, the Zuiko 50/2 is both lovely in its results, and rather discreet looking.


Forgot to mention one thing, Mike. If Pentax ever comes out with a full-frame DSLR, the FA43 f1.8 is your dream lens! If only...

Ditto your feelings about primes. But it may be just a design problem, 38mm flange to sensor=retrofocus design+fast(f2)=big,heavy and expensive. Now, if they cut the speed to f2.8 perhaps that would allow considerable savings in the size/weight department and in body IS could compensate somewhat for the speed loss. I also join so many others commenting here in that I still use and enjoy my OM-1's and Zuiko primes, but hobby only. I don't have to rely on my cameras to put beans on the table.

If ya aint making a living at it, the water's still fine with analogue. Any lens, body or combination thereof at cut rate prices...

I'm using a 24/2.8 on my D80 most of the time. That has about the same field of view as a 35 mm lens on a 35 mm camera. It's adequately compact, although a bit heavy (230 g) but as long as it's under 250 g it's fine with me. Of course it would've been nice to be e 24 f/2, but that also means bigger heavier glass with the lens going out of the compact range. Ok, maybe if we cover a smaller DX frame, the lens would have reasonable size and weight; but in the Real World(tm) I doubt Nikon would justify the R&D and production costs for such a design.

When thinking of a 20/2 for the 4/3 system in terms of compactness we have to take into account the registration distance of the 4/3 system; it's somewhere between 38.67 and 38.8 mm. That would mean our 20/2 has to be a retrofocus design. Whoops! In order to correct such a lens, a design similar to the Olympus OM 21/2 would be needed. That's 43 mm in length 60 mm in diameter and weighs 250 g. You have a picture of the 21/2 here with the Canon EF 50/1.8 for comparison - just keep in mind that the 21/2 is at leas two times heavier:


Does that fit your "compact" lens description? Ok, maybe taking into account that the intended 20/2 lens doesn't have to cover a full 35 mm frame it can be made even smaller. But don't even think about a 20/2 pancake lens!

I know what you mean - I've been searching for the digital equivalent of my beloved Nikon EM and 50mm prime. So far I've come up with this - http://tinyurl.com/23ntpv - which I think counts as "almost but not quite".

Of course, others persist in wanting cameras and lenses with "more heft", "better balance", "larger grip" or "a metal chassis" - and unfortunately they appear to be in the majority.


Partly as the result of a throwaway comment you made a few months ago which stuck for some reason, something like 'Olympus seem to make better pictures than the specs suggest', I picked up an E410 on offer. What a fantastic, discrete little camera that just gets on and does the job. No danger it will ever be a big seller then!

By the way, no primes of course, but the kit lenses are tack sharp if a bit on the slow side. And of course 4/3rds make a nice change from 3:2 now and again, especially for anyone brought up on 6x45, 6x7 or 5x4, it can be a more friendly format to compose in.

Well there is a bag full of fast 21's from Zeiss, CV and Leica that fit the Leica M8 as well as 24/2.8, 25/2.8, 18/2.8, 15 and 12mm wide angle primes with the assurance that more will be on the way. No worries that development resources will all get focused on zooms. You just need to hit the lottery.

In the SLR world as has been pointed out Pentax is the only maker who has shown any interest in this market, but their future seems a bit unsure. Olympus as nice as the E3 and it's zooms are seems barely committed to even staying in the camera business.

Still shooting film because the options for perfect lens/body combination remain better and more affordable. The whole eye/viewfinder/body/lens connection (and feel) to me is more important than the capture medium. But I have to say that the 4/3's aspect ratio--for me--is hugely attractive. Small sensor, but an aspect ratio I love. I wish other manufacturers would occasionally break away from 2:3 for some of their bodies.

Ah, the take it with you everday camera combo for the digital age.......My choice, Leica M8 and the tiny Voigtlander 25 P lens (33mm equivelant).

Yes it's a bit slow (f:4.0), but is fully rangefinder coupled and is the perfect "f:8.0 and be there" lens.

If price is no object, the Leica 24 ASPH is fabulous.

The Canon 90TS actually caused a style change where everyone wanted to do selective focus photography. Nikon had to develop its 85TS to keep photogs from bailing out. Keith Carter may have led the way with his flexbody work but I can not remember the timing on that. The interesting thing is that the demand for the 90TS was from people who wanted to throw things out of focus which is quite the opposite of its traditional function.

I started out on an OM-10, moved on to OM40, then OM2-SPs, with which I earned quite a few pounds. Great bodies, fantastic lenses. But as far as I was concerned Olympus lost their way some time in the late 80s/early 90s with those abysmal all-in-one SLRs they started knocking out.

With digital, I started with brand loyalty using an Oly C765 or some such, then a C-8080WZ - both absolutely wonderful (if in a quirky way) cameras. But when I needed to move up to DSLRs I finally had to admit defeat and move to Canon. They quite simply have shown full commitment to the digital paradigm and produce extremely reliable and competent (if vanilla) kit. I so wish Olympus would get their act together and start work on a system in digital to equal their OM1-4 range of yore, but i fear their hearts aren't in it.

Hey, Mike: What do you think about creating a "work group" to compile all the possible permutations within the following parameters: 40 (ounces,max.,body plus lens,battery,card)- 40(primes between 35 and 45mm equiv.or a zoom that includes the same focal lengths) - f4 or bigger aperture -3(inches, max. length of lens - IS, VR or similar included in the body or lens.
The 40-40-4-3-IS would satisfy many of your readers, including you, I suppose. Certainly it would satisfy my requirents. There are very few permutations within these parameters...What do you think about? Suggestions from our members about these parameters? Let's try find our "ideal" combos?

There are some limited uses for TS lenses for photographers who *must* shoot DSLR format or 35mm, but I think most people who are attracted to them just don't realize that for the cost of one of those come-hither lenses, they could buy a second-hand view camera setup, and they would have a much more flexible tool than a small-format SLR with a TS lens.

Once again your comment are right on. having been a photographer for 24years, I am slowly but surely starting to appreciate digital. I recently got a E1 but consider the lack of single focal lenghts as by far the BIGGEST drawback of the olympus system. And I must add that for a company that tries to market the smaller sensor as allowing smaller and lighter equipment, it does not make much sense. Granted, as you say there are some very good compact cheap zooms but I would love to have a 2/12mm and a 2/19 or 20mm.we should gather a petition to oly to show how many of us would be interested in such lenses
This is why I was using Pentax up until now. Lovely primes but I cannot work with the 3;2 ratio

Hi Mike,

I did a little shopping and I got you a Pentax K10D and a Ziess Distagon T* 2.8/25 ZK. You owe me $1490.00. Just kidding!


I really like the feel of my d200 with a 28mm 2.8 manual focus lens. It's a little heavy to wear as a all day necklace but feels just right while shooting. Being able to use my old lenses is the reason I'm glad I've stuck with Nikon.


"I will say wish I didn't have to buy a new DSLR soon, but my old one is acting like Nietzsche at the sanitarium."

Mike,the Pentax K10D is now $599(!) after rebate,the six limited lenses are also available with hefty rebates, $50 each on the pancakes and $100 each on the full sized ones.There have been worse times to have to replace your kit.

And I gotta know, before your camera began acting like Nietzsche at the sanitarium, did it exhibit delusions of grandeur?

It SOITENLY did. It thought it was being owned by a hotshot photographer. Hah!

Now it's mad as a hatter.

Mike J.

As a Nikon shooter I feel that Nikon needs to read this page of Canon's playbook. Browsing DPReview, as the rumor mill grinds on and people dream about updated AF-S normal and wide Nikon primes at f/2 and faster, which don't exist yet, and all of which Canon sells now... And looking back at my otherwise awesome D40 which can't autofocus with any of the legendary Nikon primes... well, need I say more?

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