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Friday, 25 October 2013


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For a focal length that you only use 5% of the time a legacy lens on adapter would seem the ideal answer, except that - Mike told us he doesn't trust adapters, wide angles not native to the system cause the most trouble on APSC (even more trouble on FF), older 16 or 20mm lenses weren't that good anyway.
Thinking laterally - why not buy the latest Ricoh GRD instead of the Touit, it's only 28mm equiv. wide but I bet it would be used more than 5% of your time.

Anyway, my sympathies Mike, my own lens collection is always in a state of flux but the most important thing is that core prime in the 35-45mm eqiv. range.

Even though you're not a Sigma fan, you may want to consider their 19mm 2.8 DN lens. It's fairly well regarded, you can't beat the price ($199 on Amazon), and it would give you a comfortable 28mm view.

I'll be very interested to hear if you actually pull the plug on something because I'm in the same boat with my NEX-6. However, I tend to prefer zooms and am currently drooling over the Sony 10-18!

Good luck.

Ditto for all...even today, I would still do most of my work with primes if the camera companies made them...

I can go back through all my professional work, and 90% of my stuff was shot with a 80mm or 150mm on Hasselblad, with the last 10% being some sort of wide angle...ditto for 4X5, altho it was 90% with a 210mm, 10% with a 90mm. 8X10 was 90% with a 14 (360) or 16.5 (420) inch, 10% with a 240mm. I think in primes, not zooms, but I was never a journalist either, altho did shot a lot of stuff for magazines...

Everyone says that zooms are sharp as they need to be now, but I don't know, every time I check DXO (and I know they have their detractors), it's still the primes that spec out the best.

Again, my constant cry: where are my 2.8 primes for APS-C. I could do everything with a 24, 35, and 60, with a 16 thrown in eventually. I want lenses 'right sized' for APS-C, not the size of coffee cans and f/1.4. and more than my car is worth. When you shoot for clients, a lot of time you need to get a certain amount of things in focus in the picture, and owning a 1.4 is just a monumental waste when you're shooting at 5.6 all the time. A 1.4 at 5.6 might not even be as good as a 2.8 at 5.6, even today.

Dear Mike,

Don't got time to make a photo, being on vacation (oh, the paradox!), but here's my list for my micro43 rig:

45mm Olympus f/1.8

20mm Panasonic f/1.7

14mm sumthin. 'cause I ain't that enamored of the 12mm. Not sure which one but there seem to be several primo candidates. Whatever, that'd be my perfect 3-lens kit.

"This old prejudice began to fade in the mid to late '90s, and is all but gone now."

Ohhh, no it isn't. The reason for the prejudice is entirely gone, but my two columns last year that proved that there were zooms that equaled and bettered excellent fixed focal length lenses got a lot of blowback from naysayers and flat-out disbelievers.

Their loss, of course [G].

pax / Ctein

Good post. The point that you make about a prime shooter typically wanting 3 lenses and given old/used bodies are so cheap and still produce great results has made me wonder about using a 3 small camera setup and stop switching lenses. Like the sigma dp compacts but custom to my body and lens prefs, Any thoughts?

A lot of words. One fabulous image.

I remember when EPOI (Nikon to you youngsters) brought out the 43-86 zoom and some pro's went crazy with it.
Then Vivitar came out with their zoom.
I could never get used to 'em. None of 'em were very sharp.
Like you, I learned to "see" in lenses.
I check my photo stats and yep, sure enough the majority of my shooting is done at 55mm.
Once in a great while I will use my 24mm and in studio my 105mm.
Zooms are convenient but I really like the sharpness of primes.
That's my two pesos and not really adding much to your already incisive points.

why on earth would the same man who wrote this on the uses of 18mm lenses: "Ultra-wide rectilinears wider than 19mm: Occasional interiors. Also used to stump gearheads trying to find stuff to photograph with the things" be so drawn to 18mm equiv lens like the zeiss touit? :)

[Because I occasionally do interiors. --Mike]

it's a giant lens too.

if you rarely shoot wide, you should probably just get the 16mm. it's nothing special, but it's good enough to do it's job stopped down. here is a reasonably large uncropped image taken with it at f/11 if you're interested:

save the money for a lens or camera you will actually use.

btw, i'll sell you my copy of the 16mm for half the price of a new one. :) i'm perfectly happy to never shoot wider than 28mm. i only have the lens because it came with the NEX-3 i bought from steve huff.

as far as supertraditional lens kits go, i currently shoot with just an rx1 and a rokkor 58/1.2 on a NEX-5N for 35mm + 85mm kit (which covers 99% of my shooting). don't have a picture of that, but here is a picture of my old, extended traditionalist kit stacked up to be the size of a nikon D4:

that's the previously mentioned sony 16/2.8, rokkor 24/2.8, leica m 40/2 c-summicron, jupiter-3 50/1.5, and tamron 90/2.5 macro with the NEX-7 (RIP) i used them on.

I have exactly the same reasoning as you with either a 35/85 combo (like on the A900 where Sony & Zeiss f/1.4 offers shine) or a 28/50/85, and like you I find it difficult to invest in the wide angle (for instance on Hasselblad where prices are high, and weight of an extra lens to carry is dreadful).

I'd recommend either the Sigma 19mm or Sony 20mm. Though the former is cheaper and, ironically, better-reviewed, I have the latter due to size and because it's closer to the 32mm equiv focal length of the 65mm Mamiya 7 lens I once so loved. I also have the 16mm, which came in a kit with my NEX 5, but I don't recommend it -- really only half-decent at f8 or maybe f5.6. (Plus 24mm equiv is too wide for my tastes, too distorted at the edges.)
For all the online griping, I think the NEX system has it pretty much covered for most photog's needs. Like you I mostly use the 35mm Zeiss (a great lens), with some reliance on the Sony 50mm (also terrific). Curious about the Sigma 60mm but I don't really need anything longer than a 75mm equiv and I'd save my pennies for a whenever someone makes a 40mm equiv pancake. That's my desert island lens, so I hope that day comes soon!

Don't overlook the Sigma 19mm for your wide choice. I like mine.

Ok, I'll play. Here's my classical trio:

An Olympus E-PL5 with a Panasonic Leica 25mm (mounted), a Panasonic Lumix 14mm, and a Micro ZD 45mm lens.

When I started with film, it was a Canon A-1 with 28/2.8, 50/1.4, and 135/2.8 lenses. The 135mm was nice, but too long for indoors, so I always wanted a 85mm at that time.

Oh, and I also love the Panasonic Lumix 20mm/1.7 which my wife has. That one was in fact the reason to get into Micro Four Thirds, because for the regular Four Thirds mount, there was nothing like it.

My usage is about the same as yours, but only because I also carry the ZD 50mm Macro on my E-520. So the 25mm is on my camera about 80% of the time.

This is a very good question.
And now that you mention it, hereby find attached the "must have" of Pentax normals. Some of them discontinued, some others readily avaliable:

For the new user:
DA 15 4.0, DA 35 Macro 2.8, FA 50 1.4, and the lovely FA 77 1.8.

For the connoiseur [usually, bad with spelling that word]:
DA 14 2.8, DA 35 Macro 2.8, DA 70 2.8, dFA 100 Macro

For crazy people out there:
K 15 3.5 First Batch [all spherical elements], DA 21 3.2, FA 43 1.9, FA 77 1.8, FA* 85 1.4, FA 100 2.8 Macro "The Tank"

I don't have a photo for you, but my workhorse kit is simultaneously quite "traditional" (24mm, 50mm, 100mm), and very specialized--the 24mm is a tilt-shift and the other two are macros.

Got to agree re: the comments about usage levels of the wide angle, I should love my 28mm the most (my only gold band Nikkor!) but the 85mm just demands more of my time, I can't seem to put it down!

looks like 800px is much too big. you might want to revise the note on how to post an image.

[Sorry about that--my fault. I have revised the post. --Mike]

"The early zooms for the R cameras, if memory serves, were warmed-over Minoltas"

The Vario-Elmarit-R 28-70 mm. f/3,5-4,5 was designed and made by Sigma - then Minolta - then Kyocera

I have the 30mm 2.8 Sigma for the Sony NEX and the reason it feels like the build quality is iffy is that it rattles when the power is off. When the camera is on, it doesn't rattle. The "rattle" is on account of the focusing being done with a voice coil rather than a helical. It's a great technology.

Sigma has made OEM branded lenses for everyone from Leica to Spiratone.

I find that I can cover almost all my needs with a 25 and an 85. The 25 may seem a bit wide, but the trick is to shoot it at waist-level. You can really fill the frame that way, shooting wide at eye-level leaves the top half your picture barren.

Great article Mike.
I was photographing a native village in Brazil using the 50mm or 35mm on the D800e but found i was missing too many shots with poor framing, once i switched to the 24-70mm zoom the rate of photos i kept increased.

I enjoyed this article, Mike. I was poised to send in a photo, describe my preferences and whatnot, but in the end, this article made me question why the hell I've bought four lenses (so far…) for my Olympus E-M5. All the photos I've wanted to take were taken with the 20mm lens (which is starting to feel a bit too wide-angley and this bringing about a PanaLeica 25mm itch – gas, eh).

The 40-150? Cheap solution so that I could try and get some good photos of the youngest kid playing soccer. Have I succeeded? No.

14mm? Well, I used to love having a 20mm on my Nikon APS-C if only for parties and such and, admittedly, I got some nice photos with that 14mm at a wedding I wouldn't have shot if I hadn't been asked nicely. Still, don't even like that lens really. 14mm doesn't work for me on M43. I'll obviously have to buy a much more expensive 17mm to ignore.

And I just got a 45/1.8. God, why is my best lens always way longer than I regularly use? I've some ideas about how to use it, but I could have acted on those with my 40-150, but never did. Probably because it's a zoom, right? Still, I want to start making portraits. With my normal lens… I'll throw in some head shots as a thank you to my volunteers. See? I'm great at rationalizing. Also, that is a sweet lens…

People philosophize about what lenses to bring for traveling abroad. Twice I've been forced to just pick a lens to mount to the body and bring nothing more but spare batteries and memory cards. Twice I picked a fast normal prime. No regrets. It's what works for me.

Now, regarding your need for a wide angle for your NEX, I'd like to second an earlier suggestion of making it the Sigma 19mm. Everything I've heard about it for M43 is positive and it's cheap. Never tried it myself, but I did briefly consider getting one instead of my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7.

So, longest post so far today?

I like primes but have grown tired of changing lenses. Still, for my NEX-6 I have the 19 and 30 Sigma lenses, and the Sony/Zeiss 24. I'll say this about the Sigmas, great optics but cheap and strange build. When powered down, either when on or off the camera, a couple of elements become loose. Really. Flipping the lenses causes a thunk sound as the elements flop around. Don't know any other lenses that do that. I shouldn't disparage the Sigmas too much considering both were purchased for 2 C notes total. I say that because after trying two copies of the new Sony/Zeiss 16-70 f4 zoom which is considerably more expensive than the Sigmas, I'm left wondering if the economy is causing Sony to cut back on quality control. So primes it is then.

Ctein's choice for M-4/3s is exactly the set of lenses I use for that format. I've also got the 7-14 Lumix bought primarily for a special project. While it's a fantastic lens it's a zoom, and I really don't need the whole short end of it in my usual shooting. So those 14/20/45 choices are what's in my little always-with-me camera bag.

For walking-about with my M, I'd often lean on the 28 2.8 elmarit as it matched the max framelines - made quick shots easier. I dearly want a 35 of any stripe and a .85 viewfinder for the same reason. I love the 50 and 90 as well, and found the 90 elmarit a surprising, wonderful lens. For my d600, the Sigma 35 1.4 is my current default lens, with the wonderful-but-boring 24-85 vr my 'going to the park in the sun with both kids' choice. Decided to stop being lazy last time and took the 85, and got 100% more 'keepers'. Having a few focal lengths that you really know gets you better shots, especially when you are shooting for your self and not to a deadline or story.

My first useful lens kit consisted of 24, 35, 50 & 85 Nikkors. I never used a zoom until sometime in the 1980s when I found the small, lightweight Nikon Series E 36-72mm was acceptable for the majority of assignments. I sort of stuck with zooms until I started using Leica rangefinders again. I then switched to 21, 35, 50 & 90. But with a swing to digital, I found simplicity with zooms once again. Today, I seldom use anything other than zooms. For shooting with Canon APS-C bodies, it's the 17-40L f/4. On Olympus 4/3 bodies it's the 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 and occasionally the 11-22 f/2.8-3.5. I think cameras manufacturers have hit the sweet spot for most people in offering kit lenses in the 28-90mm range. I just wish those offering were of better optical quality than the majority being packaged with cameras today.

I guess I took to heart Robert Capa's quote, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough." I get much more use out of short lenses used up close to the subject than using longer lenses farther back. My tendency is to always get as close as possible but to also be as inclusive as possible. I also find wide to normal lenses make the subject more three dimensional than longer lenses which tend to flatten things out unless you use wide apertures for isolating the subject.

My APS-C kit ... ideal kit, anyway, is 28/85. I suppose I might like something a bit shorter than 85, but ideally 70mm or longer, so 85 works. I'm using a 35 right now; it's a much better buy than Nikon's 28/1.8, but I prefer a 28. On full frame, I'm not sure if it would be 50 & 105 or 35 & 105. I prefer a slightly wide normal (40mm is great for me, too. Aside from using 28 on APS-C, I had a 40mm on a fixed lens rangefinder). And looking at shots taken with the RX100, I take an awful lot at 28mm, but if I look around 35mm +/- a few, I have a lot of "keepers".

I started shooting film at the end of the 60th with my father's Leica M4 with the only lens he had, a beautiful chrome 50mm summicron. Then, when I was about to finish university he gave me his Leica, and when I got enough money bought first a 35 f2 summicron and then a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit. That became my beloved trio. However, always my favorite has been the original 1964 summicron. Here, a couple of images from it using Ilford B&W film.
Today I use an EM5 and the trio has basically the same equivalent focal lengths, The Voigtlander 17.5, the Panasonic Leica 25mm and the Olympus 45mm. Today my favorite is the manual focus Voigt 17.5.

For the Sigma DP users, it's pretty easy: 28mm, 45mm, and 75mm f2.8 (35mm equiv.)

I won't bother with a photo, as you already have one. Mine are just like ctein's (m4/3 14mm, 20mm, and 45mm), and I also tend to use the 45mm the most.

But then for other things I added the rokinon 8mm, and Olympus 60mm macro, and panny 45-175 when I need some length.

For you short tele, while the 60 mm Sigma may seem logical because its closest to the 85 mm in effective focal length, you shouldn't dismiss the 50mm f1.8 Sony lens. Its faster, has image stabilization in the lens, is very sharp and has nice Bokeh. I have one for my Nex 6 and I like it a lot.

I tend to use zooms (slowly using more primes on micro-fourthirds instead of regular fourthirds zooms now). But I just wanted to say, I think that portrait of Hilary Liftin is a great example of "really good tones." I love that I can still make out the dark detail of the interior.

I keep coming back to the 50 and mostly use it or what's equivalent on the format I'm carrying. When using mirrorless, I usually either have a 50-equivalent or a moderate wide and short tele. When using full frame Nikon, it's usually the Zeiss 25/2, Zeiss 50/2 and a ~85 mm lens that I feel carrying that day (or telezoom).

Good luck with wides for the Nex, the options seem to be either bland or expensive.

my first SLR camera ever was an FE2, which came with a sigma 28-105mm lens. when i started off in digital, i bought a tokina 12-24 and tamron 90 macro. on a subsequent shoot, the sigma literally fell apart in my hands so i picked up a 50 to cover the gap between 50 and 90mm. I've picked up 3 other telephotos since then (80-200, 105mm DC and a 135/3.5 jupiter which was practically free)

My take on the three lens kit is a little different. I greatly prefer the 35mm FOV, so I own two different 35mm lenses and a 50mm for my film Leicas.

One is a 35mm f/2 Summicron that is very small and makes lovely pictures. The other is a larger 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH when size doesn't matter and light is dim.

The 50mm f/2 Summicron rounds out the kit with a little longer focal length when needed.

All have tab focusing which I prefer.

A compact kit of 4 FL for a NEX is a pair of 50mm and 24mm SLR lenses with one Speedbooster and one empty adapter. Gives you 26mm; 36mm; 53mm and 75mm.

I use a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 "longnose" and a Sigma Super Wide II 24mm f2.8. Together they make a really nice "quartet" on the NEX-7

"And what I'll probably do...well, one thing about getting older is that your learn your own patterns. Probably what I'll do is do what I always do, and just plan to get a wide angle for my NEX-6, without actually ever following through with actual cash."

When I was young[er], I would spend quite a bit on photo gear. Now that I'm older, I wouldn't even spend the same amount (not converted to today's dollars) on gear that's considered superior to what were available years ago. But I do "plan on" acquiring some new gear "soon".

I guess I'm a 'prime' kind of person. Zooms don't do it for me. Walking fore and aft to get the best framing is part of the fun. Of course there are good zooms, but I'd rather use primes. They add to the photographic experience.
I'm also rather conservative about focal lengths: 28mm, 50mm and 135mm (or 85mm, but 135mm is more versatile) are all an amateur needs. I never felt short-changed with these focal lengths, and neither do I feel the need for any more lenses.

I've just made the switch from zooms to 100% primes for my wedding photography. Although I almost always prefer primes in my personal shooting, I was worried that the fast changing needs of the wedding day would rule out primes. Nope. I'm loving it more than I ever imagined I would.

My setup is primarily three lenses on three bodies with a fish-eye for the occasional dance shot. 28mm f/1.8 on a FF D700 for wide, 50mm f/1.4 on a D800E for normal, and 85mm f/1.8 on a 1.5x crop D7100 for long. The real beauty is these cameras have a built in crop which allows me to "zoom" in the camera a bit if I need to, and still maintain more than adequate resolution. Thus, in three lenses I have SEVEN effective focal lengths, all faster than f/2. (28mm, 42mm, 50mm, 60mm, 75mm, 125mm, 170mm)

Wish I'd have switched to this setup for weddings years ago.

My most used set is 28, 50 and 90. Even though, I have the 35/2s for M and R, I seldom use them.

For my Leica M, I have the 90/2 and 90/2 APO not the Elmarit. I use 90/2.8 R version which supposedly has the same optical formula as the M version. I have Leitaxed one of my 90/2.8R for Nikon. I love it.

The 28/2.8 ASPH is great on the M9 but lately I feel the need for a 21/3.4 SEM

My fav 50 for the M3 is the DR version. Rigid is tempting but I am not going there.

I have the Nikon Zooms but I hardly use them. I mostly shoot 50s and 90s so I have few of them. I love prime lenses - my R telephotos are all primes.

I learning to shoot 35/1.8 Nikon on my Nikon SP these days.

Working backwards, eliminating each lens I own in turn I'd likely end up with a 50mm or it's equivalent. Adding back one at a time I'd probably favor wide angle. Longer than normal lenses are sometimes useful, but I don't do portraiture and I don't care for the spatial compression you get with really long lenses. 90mm is about as far as I'd go. On the wide end I'm finding myself a bit more flexible. I used to consider 28mm 'extreme', but I now own a 21mm and, well, it's fun to use. Still, I have a 35mm on order and expect to be happy with it when it arrives.

While not the topic of this thread, the one thing that most annoys me with handheld digital is the relative lack of flexibility with respect to aspect ratio. Long ago and far, far away I worked with a 4x5 view camera; I really miss that aspect ratio. To the best of my knowledge the Nikon D800/e is the only camera currently available that offers that crop factor. But I don't want to drag around that kind of weight, size, and shutter volume. Alas.

I can't seem to find a way in to this discussion because my own set-ups were always a bit haphazard, but I need to compliment you on that gorgeous photograph.

For about 20 years from 1980 to 2000 my business took me around the world circling planet Earth at 30,000 feet six or more times a year. Since I was away from home almost all the time, I needed to pack light.

I documented my journeys in Kodachrome initially with a Nikon FE with 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and the E-series 75-150mm zoom. It was a great combination but after a couple of years it became too heavy for the long trips.

I replaced the Nikon FE with a Minolta CLE kit with the 28, 40 and 90mm Rokkor lenses. What a wonderful combination which met all my needs.

I stopped traveling 2000 and I added the 12mm and 15mm Heliars (and a Bessa body). I still had a light and effective kit.

I have slowly made a transition to digital, although I still hold a fondness for the CLE system (particularly the lenses).

I bought a Nikon V1 with 10-30mm which I like (and it reminds me of the CLE) and a Sony NEX with the wide zoom (which I like) together with the kit zoom to which I feel is OK.

I think that will make use of the CLE Rokkors again at their original focal lengths with the new Sony A7 and A7r products so maybe I can be back to where I was in 2000 but using digital media instead.

Nokia PureView 808 (28mm eq.) & Panasonic 20mm/1.7

Psst: I know this is off-topic, but tell Arne that with the proper mount adapter, his Olympus OM-mount Schneider 28mm/f2.8 PC lens will also work well on his Fuji X-Pro1:

I converted mine from its native Leica R mount to a Nikon F mount so I can use it with the Metabones Speed Booster when I need a slightly wider lens. Overall, I am quite happy with the performance of this combo for my nighttime B&W work and am presently taking more than 85% of my photos with it.

I'll just put in a word for my guys: a 16mmD FF fish eye, a 20mmD, 28mmD, and on the long side... a 40mm Voigtlander. The 16 can provide some uniquely wonderful views when you're not around urban areas (ie- straight lines), the 20mm is my everyday bread and butter, the 28mm is for when the 20mm is too wide (BTW the metal, manual 28mm Nikkor is just one gorgeous looking lens- unlike the fugly D which I got for cheap), and the 40 pancake is one super sharp mother perfect for vertical portraits.

When I used Nikon film cameras, my favorite lens set was the 24-35-50, and then a 75-150 zoom. I always meant to get an 85 but never got around to it.

With digital I mostly used zooms because the Nikon primes never worked well (for me) with the DX cameras and even when I got a full frame I was already acclimated to the zooms. My favorites were the 12-24 for DX (16-35 equiv) and various 24-85 lenses.

With m4/3, I use the Olympus 12 and 45. And then sometimes add the 17 and 75.

The 45mm might be one of my favorite lenses ever.

Great for panoramas:


I like the 12 as a "normal wide" even though in theory it's a lot wider. Although it's a "24 equivalent" it does not feel quite as wide to me in the 4:3 aspect ratio. So I tend to use it more than the 17 and then crop a bit if I need to.

Here's my picture:

My supertraditional set for my mirrorless compacts:

Rear row, L-R Fuji14mm/2.8R, 35mm/1.4, and 18-55mm/2.8-4

Front for my Oly E-M5: Oly Zuiko 17mm/1.8, 45mm/2, and Panasonic 12-35/2.8.

Here's two "classic lenses" I own of a wished for 3 to 4-lens kit for my GXR-M.

Zeiss Distagon T* 4/18 ZM (28 mm-e on the GXR)

Voigtlander Apo Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 VM (135 mm-e)

I'm good at either end (although the quivalent FOV of the Apo-Lanthar is a bit long for me.) Which leaves me with a gaping hole in the middle. (The Apo Lanthar languished for months at Keh. When Mike linked to a post about the top ten all-time sharpest lenses which included the Voigtlander, I pulled the trigger rather than wait for one in better condition. It turns out that Keh's "Ex" rating well exceeded my expectations.

Here's the one that got away, which would have done nicely as my standard lens.

Pentax-L 43mm f/1.9 Limited Special in Leica M mount.

I didn't even know it existed. The Pentax-L was available for all of four days at 9days.hk in LNIB condition. One lucky photog got it before I could pull the trigger. At HKD6,500 (USD844), it was a "bargain." Now, I have to shell out more than that for a complement of a 35mm (Voigtlander) and a 50mm (Konica) to fill the gap. Both are available right now and both lenses have Mike's imprimatur. Alternatively, I could settle for a mint Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm f/2 as a sub for the elusive Pentax-L.

I also have a Voigtlander Heliar Classic 75mm f/1.8 (my fastest lens) bought new along with the Distagon and the GXR. The build quality of the Heliar is superb having survived (without a scratch or misalignment) a foot-and-a-half drop on concrete! I'm keeping both Voigtlanders, the Heliar for its speed; the Apo Lanthar for its "sharpness."

Although not part of the kit, I'm a proud owner of a 50-yr old Tele-Takumar also bought from Keh in "LN-" condition. Adapted to the GXR, this Pentax M42 screwmount (which I used to shoot the Apo Lanthar above) is a "classic" to me.

Pentax Tele-Takumar 200mm f/5.6 Preset in M42 screwmount

Had the 35, 50, and 90 Summicrons for my M3 (the 50 was an old collapsible, the others were bought new by me in the early 1970s), and it was a lovely set.

Got the 35/2 and 105/2.5 with my initial Nikon, an FM, in 1981 (4/16/1981, to be precise). Still have that 35/2, sold the 105 some years back, I'd never bonded with it, despite it being a famously wonderful lens. I somehow missed the existence of the Nikon 85mm, which I would have liked better (I now have the 85/1.8 AF, which I do like well). Added the 24/2 AIS around 1983, still have that too.

Had 24/2, 35/2, and 85/2 Olympus primes from 1987-1994 (was it 80 or 85? 2 or 1.8?), and they were very satisfactory.

Owned several Vivitar Series 1 28-90/2.8-4 lenses (Nikon and Olympus) and liked them quite well, and the Tokina ATX Pro 28-70/2.6-2.8 for Nikon AF which was good on film, and which I upgraded to the Nikon 24-70/2.8 for DX digital.

Have the Panasonic 14/2.5, 20/1.7, and Olympus 45/1.8 for Micro Four Thirds.

So I guess I have to definitely agree to finding this range very attractive for me.

I find it surprisingly important to go to 24mm (35mm-equivalent) for a "full system". I find 70mm definitely not long enough for really common things, and 105mm too long (and f/2.5 too slow); 80-90 seems good.

If my cameras were all stolen and I was using my replacement-value insurance, I...would spend a lot of time thinking about what to do. My current systems (between them) do well things that I do a lot of and enjoy doing and get great feedback from others for doing, but which don't fit my self-perceived "core areas". Should I allocate money to doing those things well? (As well as the things I DO consider my core areas.)

I kind of get this, but I do like a mid range zoom. For many years my kit consisted of three lenses, but not all primes (Canon FD 20-35L, 28-85 & 135 f/2). These days the digital version substitutes the wide zoom for an even wider prime in the 17mm range. So I carry Canon's TS-E 17mm, 24-105 and 135/2. Sometimes an old Tamron Adaptall 17mm makes it into the bag, instead of the shift lens, due to it's compact size. I'm not sure I'd sacrifice the flexibility of the zoom in spite of the barrel distortion which makes the wide end more like 28mm after correction - would prefer a well (optically) corrected 28-85/90, but I fear that will never happen.

For the odd wide shot have you tried the NEX's panoramic mode or "The Brenizer Method" (i.e. stitching yourself)?

You prime shooters know I and my cohorts are out here.

How well I remember the standard three focal lengths. Being older than Mike, they were at first 35, 50-58 and 135 for SLRs. When my dad moved from Topcon Super D to Nikon Ftn, he went 35, 50/1.4, 55 Micro Nikkor, 200*.

And how well I remember how frustrating I found them. I never have been one who 'sees' the world and potential images of it in fixed angles of view. I tend to see something I like and want my equipment to be capable of adapting to my AOV, not to force my vision to its limitations.

Dad bought the above mentioned Nikkor 43-86. It gave a hint of possibilities, but at least the early one he had was pretty poor optically and the range was nothing.

After I swapped my own Ftn for OM-1, when the Zuiko 35-70/3.6 came along, I fount it to be far better than the Nikkor. As they became better and better, I became, and continue to be, a zoom lover. I did build up a set of primes for OM, 18, 21, 24, 28, 35, 50, 50 macro, 85, 90, 135, 135 macro, 200 and 300.

Perhaps you can see the dilemma of the AOV omnivore. \;~)>

My current kit for µ4/3 seems the opposite of the old standard set, 9-18, 12-50, 60 Macro, 75-300, Panny 20/1.7 (and of course a few others.) Perhaps it has the same spirit of three, WA, normal and tele.

The 9-18 is used no more than WAs by Mike, but is crucial for tight corners. If the Panny 7-14 weren't such a monster, I 'd probably be using it.

The 12-50 and 75-300 reside on separate bodies, and get roughly the same amount of use. The 60 Macro is relatively new to me, but will be getting regular use - spectacularly sharp, with hand held 2x.

With a range in FF terms of 18-600 mm and super macro in my working kit, I'm almost satisfied.


* I recently compared the huge, ancient, 200/4 Nikkor I inherited from my dad to my relatively svelte Zuiko 200/4 and 200/5. The Nikkor whupped 'em, center and edge.

My old om3 kit was built around the 24/2.8, 55/1.2, and 90/2. (that 90 is one of the best lenses i've used, btw, in practical terms.)

My canon dslr kit was darn similar: 24/1.4, 501.2, 100/2.8 macro. But i added the versatile 16-35/2.8, which was awesome for covering chaotic events.

However, three years ago when i moved to leica, i ended up with a significantly closer cluster of focal lengths. I intended to start (and end) with a 28 and 50. But at the time it was impossible to find the 50/1.4, and i was heading into a big project, so i reluctantly added the 35/1.4 to my 28, thinking it was a bit nuts but i needed something closer to normal. (tried a cv40/1.4 and absolutely hated it, not because of fl.)
Turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. The 35 fl, which normally i avoided on slrs, was ideal for me on a rangefinder. And it hit a sweet spot both in viewfinder real estate and low light usability. A week after i finally broke down and ordered the 35/1.4 (leica announced the updated version of that lens current now two days after i placed my order), a local dealer got in an untouched used 50/1.4, and i ended up with a ridiculous set of very pricy lenses.
But it has been wonderful. Turns out the lenses are very different in use from each other, and i never have any hesitation which to choose. Nor do i long for more exotic focal lengths. I end up treating the 28 as my wide, the 35 as normal, and the 50 as telephoto. Never been happier witha three lens set.
Though i am thinking about getting the 35/2.5 for the tiny size, lovely mid aperture range bokeh, and almost total resistance to flare. I cant wait for the day when i have to tell someone 'hold on, let me switch out my 35s'... Yeah. That will be a milestone in pesonal lens absurdity.

As a newly minted newspaper shooter, I was issued a Nikkor 24, 35 and 180. Quite a change from my personal Leitz 21, 35 and 90 lenses! Stupidly, I sold all of the Leica gear I owned ( everything rotated opposite from the SLR ). To this day, I can tell the images made with the German glass.

For my D800E I have just two, the 24-120 and the 60 macro.

For the Mamiya 7, my favorite travel camera, I use the "popular" three-lens set consisting of the 43/4.5 wide-angle, the 80/4.0 wide-ish normal, and the 150/4.5 short tele. Of my stronger photographs, about 60% were taken with the 80, about 35% with the 43, and only a very small fraction with the 150. A limitation of the Mamiya 7 is that it does not focus close, so that I tend to use the 150 mostly for landscapes and for the occasional architectural detail, rather than portraits as its ~75mm-e focal length would suggest. I tried the 65/4.0 lens, and found that I tended to make ambiguous compositions with it. I like the Mamiya 7 and 43mm for environmental portraits. I have been more successful in portraiture with either a Rolleiflex (75/3.5 with Rolleinar 1 close-up lens) or an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic with the extraordinary (at least my copy) Super Takumar 55/1.8. I have tried to use Nikon 85/1.8 and 180/2.8 lenses, but I "see" landscapes with them, not portraits.

To Temo: I have the adapter from Olympus OM to Fuji X. One big reason for getting the X-Pro1 when it came out was that I could use my favorite OM mount lenses again.

I must admit I am a bit like Winnie the Pooh - "Both" (when asked if he wanted Condensed milk or honey).

I like my zooms and I like my primes. My current work-horse zooms are the 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II on an Olympus E-30 and the Panasonic 45-150mm f/4-5.6 on my Panasonic G3. These are great walkabout lenses on holidays and exploring new places.

When I aspire to be a better photographer, I tend to switch to primes - the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, Olympus 17mm f/1.8 and Sigma 60mm f/2.8 are the ones I am currently using the most on my G3. I also have the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7,Sigma 30mm f/2,8, and Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 Macro; but those aren't used that much.

I borrowed a NEX-6 earlier this year, and used it with the 16mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.8. The 16mm was a real disappointment - I was able to get sharper photos with the Olympus 15mm f/8 (lens in a cap)! The 50mm f/1.8 was very nice, though.


instead of replacing the oversized picture of the lenses in my original post you replaced the link to my example picture with 16/2.8 for any curious about how good or bad the lens is: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8358/8409160754_2168a24033_o.jpg

now there is one large and one small version of my silly gear pic.

here's one more silly gear pic just for added confusion:

my landscape trio prior to getting the rx1. from left to right it's a contax g 45/2 (modified for proper manual focus), contax g 28/2.8 (also modified for proper manual focus), and a sigma 19/2.8 (sadly, not modified for proper manual focus).

I love primes and most of the time shoot at 35, 40 or 50mm. I sold my 135 because I used it infrequently, but I miss it the few times I really want it. I find it kind of fun to try and see the world in particular focal lengths; I have no idea why. I'm excellent at seeing in 35mm and am getting better at 50mm.

A note about zooms: I'm not an event photographer, but I recently shot a reception for a friend and let me tell you - if I were a professional I'd buy a 24-70 tomorrow and call it a day. Constantly changing lenses is a huge pain in the butt when you're under the gun. In fact shooting this event got me thinking about trying an 18-55 for my Fuji system. Could I be converted?

Well, here's mine one-size-fits-all-super-traditional lens set:

I also use other lenses for other cameras when taking snaps or my family or just walking around, but since I don't consider these activities "photography", they don't count.

Can't photo the sets as I'm on the road, however...

On my DSLR, I've always preferred my 17-55 zoom, because I don't really like the small fixed lenses Canon makes, and the good ones are heavy & expensive.

For my rangefinder (Zeiss Ikon) I went with a fairly classic set: Voigtlander 28/2.8, 40/1.4 & 75/2.5. Like you, hardly ever use the 28 - I just don't see well at that focal length.

For my view camera, it's a 120 & 250 with a never-fulfilled idea to get a 90. My best work with that camera has been with the 250 using 6x9 roll film (about 105mm-e, I think).

Now I'm using an OM-D as my daily camera, I really like the Panasonic 20/1.7. My Voigtlander 28 is now being used as a more normal focal length (56mm-e) and the 40mm is nice as a longer lens. Not enjoying the zooms so much on this camera.

Overall, I find I don't like wide angle. Around town and at closer distances, 40mm suits me very well. All my best landscape work has been done with about a 100mm-e.

As I've heard a car salesman say, "there's a butt for every seat." The seat that fits my butt best is a camera I love to use with wide lens attached to it...the X-100. If I had additional lenses or zoom lenses I would always stress that I'm missing something rather than concentrate on the image. At most of the "morning line-up" locations (like Z.P.) I see a lot of hurried lens changing going on. If I had multiple lenses i would probably be the worst. For those occasional times that I need a longer lens I have a great landscape camera...the DP3M. I don't see what I'm missing.

A wide solution for Nex? Samyang 16 f/2 in E mount. Quite a lens. Manual focus, though...

No photo required, my three lens kit is the 14mm, 20mm and 45mm for MFT. If I'm not travelling, I swap the 20mm for the Panasonic 25mm. Interestingly, once Panasonic releases their 42.5mm I'll probably be all Panasonic for primes on my Olympus body - the benefit of an 'open' standard!

I do find zooms useful for telephoto work where changing your position doesn't impact the composition as much, but for closer work I prefer a lens that makes me move around...

For photojournalism or sports photography work, there is no simply substitute for three zooms: the 16-35/2.8 or 17-40/4, the standard zoom 24-70/2.8, and the simply unreplaceable 70-200/2.8, a lens that you would have to pry from the cold dead fingers of many, many a photojournalist or sports photographer.

But as many pros are migrating to the wonderful compat mirrorless ILC camera systems when they are not working under "combat conditions", you see a set of lenses that is much more in len with your "supertraditional set", but is often a mix of primes and a "standard zoom".

My set for my Fuji X-Pro 1 and Oly OM-D E-M5:
(top row) Fuji 14mm/2.8, 35mm/1.4, and 18-55/2.8-4
(bottom row) Olympus Zuiko 17mm/1.8 and 45mm/2, and Panasonic 12-35/2.8

A apologize being a bit late on this post but my question is slightly off topic anyway, so:
like John Crumm said, I also appreciate Hilary's portrait and find the dark detail stunning. My question therefore is: what scanner and scanner program do you use for your last century B/W negatives ?

And good luck finding that wide-angle equivalent. No suggestion wider than the 19mm Sigma and that's not really wide when you already own the 24mm Zeiss.

[I don't scan negatives, only prints. --Mike]

Another CLE fan here - my favourite kit looks like this:

Voigtlaender 28/3.5, Summicron 40/2.0, and Minolta 90/4.0. Talk about a small kit :-)

These days, unfortunately, the CLE has become flaky, so now I mostly work with an M3, the same 28/3.5 and either an Elmar 50/2.8 or a Summarit 50/1.5, depending on light levels.

Whatever is on the camera on that day determine my vision ... from 14 to 600mm eqv. ... And if I have zoom on my lens I would just use have the two vision - the two extreme and not those intermediate.

For the wide angle which I do not like as well much, may I suggest you to try the 16f2.8 sony but with additional adapter on it, particular the fisheye (and the wide angle one is good as well). They are cheap and I suspect they are designed together. Not the best camera lens to pixel sth but it is fun.

I have to put i another word in favour of the Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS. It's sharp right across the field, it's optically stabilized, and it's at least a stop faster than the Sigma 60mm. (And now available in black :-)

The Sigma 19mm is nice, but probably too close in focal length to your Zeiss.

My "Holy Trinity" for the NEX is the Sony 50, and the Sigma 19 and 30.

A99 is vastly quieter than the A900. I call it my stealth camera. It sounds like the A7 and A7R are louder than the A99.

BrianW: My "Holy Trinity" for NEX is the Sigma 19mm, and the Sony 35mm/50mm F1.8 OSS duo. The Sigma 30mm may be cheaper but the Sony 35mm is usefully faster and the OSS helps a lot in low light.

I would have gotten the 24mm but I'm not really a 35mm-e shooter, it falls through the cracks for me. The 16mm is OK in a pinch though my copy isn't the best optically (YMMV). For a while, I tried shooting the Minolta AF 28mm/2 with the LA-EA1 mount adapter using focus peaking. It was fun and I was able to get some good shots but it wasn't the best for from-the-hip grab shots on the street.

My most recent travel kit for my K-5 is the SMC-DA 21/3.2 Ltd, SMC-DA 40/2.8 Ltd, SMC-A 50/1.7, SMC-K 85/1.8, probably used in roughly that order. Recently adding a split-screen may change the utility of the 85, though. Have longer lenses for when they're needed, but we're talking small, right?

Would like something a bit wider, ~24mm-e, but I'm not suffering too badly for the time being.

Nice combo's showing up here!

No photo of my setup but at the moment I'm quite happy with a 40mm 2.8 and a 85mm 1.8 combo on my fullframe slr.

The 20mm(35mm equiv) 2.0 on the mirrorles is also nice.
I don't miss the short tele on it, if think I'll need it I bring the bigger cam with both lenses.

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