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Thursday, 26 January 2017


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If you need image stabilization, Panasonic just announced an updated version of the 12 -35 f/2.8 in which the image stabilization in the lens works with the IS in the body -- to greater effect.

The older version is selling at a good discount right now if you don't need that improvement (supposedly the optical formula is the same).

I really liked that little Panasonic 20mm lens, shot a lot of my favorite personal photos with it. I have not tried the 42.5, but I loved the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens. Makes a great 2-lens set, though given my predilection for wide and the size of the kit, I'd want the Olympus 12mm in the bag too.

All that said, I moved to Fuji three+ years ago and haven't looked back. :)

How about a Canon T6i, 24mm f2.8 STM and 50mm f1.8 STM lenses? That's a cheap outfit which will do what it does very well. Small and light for a DSLR, too. The body has good resolution, and the lenses provide a (near) 35mm equivalent plus a stabilised medium-tele (good for portraits). The STM lenses will be good for video if that's the way the photographer wants to go. Best of all, they've bought into the EOS infrastructure, so they'll have a huge range of compatible lenses and other accessories available.

How about the Panasonic LX100 as a beginners camera.

It seems to me like the modern version of the Yashica rangefinder (with broken light meter)and Weston light meter I stared out on. It was the light meter that taught me most about the basics. I do not think I gained anything from having a fixed lens.

It has a 24 to 75 equivalent zoom that is regulated in a way that you get the idea of the focal length when you zoom in or out.

I also like the way it has an aperture ring with numbers and a dial with speeds like in the "old days".

When my dealer convinced me to try the Nikon 35-70 many years ago, I became convinced that prime lenses were obsolete for most general photography. I cannot see the point in being limited to 2 fixed arbitrary focal lengths. I can understand an experienced photographer liking the look of a particular lens.

Whilst you learn you might as well learn what the effect of various focal lengths are.

Now that high quality cameras and lenses are getting smaller again, the two camera two lens kit makes a great deal od sense.

I've been thinking about this for a while, but I would limit myself to one lens because I need to learn to see light. I tried a Pentax MX and 50mm 1.7 because they were inexpensive and I like manual controls, but film is just too expensive these days. I feel like I need to shoot a lot to learn to see light and that would be a lot of film and development costs. Panasonic seems to have the best choices for not spending lots of money but not making sacrifices either. Would you still recommend a 50mm-equivalent for someone wanting to learn to see? Without experience I'm not sure if I see telephoto or wide. I also like to take the occasional photo of flowers. Not super close up like isolating a single flower but a touch macro, if that makes sense. Thanks.

As an aside, I went looking at photos taken with the Leica Q based on comments to the last post. The 3-dimensionality (word?) of the images amazed me. If you are in the mood to talk lenses, what other lenses are known for a 3-dimensional look? If they fit Pentax K or Canon FD mount, then even better! ;)

For a serious beginner? I would recommend...
1. Get a body you are comfortable with (if you are lucky enough to have a decent camera shop locally, go and handle a few) and the kit zoom.
2. Take lots and lots of photographs until you have discovered your main interest(s) and where the kit lens doesn't fit in with these.
3. Then buy a lens (or two) that does.

Worked for me! ;-)

Personally, I'd take the Panny 12-35/2.8 over the 20 and 45mm primes any day. Why, just as good, if not better optically, and way more versatile. Why pack two lenses when one will do the same job as well or better?

For me, an ideal kit would be the serious beginner would be the Fujifilm X-T20 and the 18-55 f/2.8-4. 85% of the formidable capabilities of the X-T2 for roughly half the price, and a size/form factor as a M 4/3 camera. A "just right" sensor size and resolution, better AF, noise performance and auto white balance, and a better foundation for expansion into the broader system. Also, has excellent service and support capabilities, a factor that should not be forgotten about.

I've just got the panaleica 15mm & it's equally as good as the 20mm pictorially however the focusing is virtually instantaneous
just a suggestion for your consideration!

oh the 15mm when scaled up & considering the aspect ratio is closer to 35mm "full frame"

Hmmm - you should have at least 211. But mine isn't showing up. That happens from time to time; doesn't really matter...

I'm having some problems with the use of the singular; as if there could ever, possibly, be one single "ideal" outfit for a serious beginner.

I suppose you could argue for a starter kit that's enough to get the experience to make further choices -- but the requirements for landscapes, insect macro, product photography, and sports just don't fit one kit very well, and we don't know which direction the beginner is going to go. So "adequate" makes sense, but I'm rather in doubt about the concept of "ideal" in this space.

I do think you have a strong bias towards artistic rather than practical photography (and yes, some people manage both at the same time sometimes). I've shot a particular band in two different pubs this month, and will be shooting them in the studio in a week-and-a-half and playing in a classic old curvy metal-and-glass conservatory the week after that. And I won't be using the same lenses for all of those! Not even the same body necessarily, at least for the conservatory bit.


I have many u4/3 lenses. The 12-35/f2.8 and 20/f1.7 amongst them. They are fabulous. Add the Sigma 60/f2.8 to those two and you have a terrific (small & light) travel/road kit.

Watch out for shutter shock in the GX8 ... might be wise to wait for the GX9 !.


I have a friend who has no photography knowledge but wanted to learn. Budget? 500€

We're not rich here, and still under a student budget. I managed don't know how to get an EPL2 kit for 200€ back in 2012. By helping him in the search I would update my knowledge of the market as it sits now.

Well, so that budget sets us to something rather basic... and not a new model. No problem, 2013 machines are still excellent and the relative saturation of the market has them available for lower prices.

We meet for a coffee and have a lengthly discussion: Nikon D3300, Fuji XE2, Panasonic G...

Then at 2AM (Saturday was it) he texts me about the LX100, which I forgot about and was out of the budget. Nope, on sale in Amazon europe for 501€.
Yes! 24-75 fast lens with a m43 sensor into a body built after a Leica. Soon I know and he already bought it.

Had a "test drive" with it yesterday and it is an extraordinarily capable machine. Even does 4K video, friend loves it. The 24-70 covers most of all situations and avoids Lens GAS which actually does a favor to him, now cash-stripped.

I have an acquitance who went into cameras primarily as a videographer, with a 70D + 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8. He's still a beginner in the bokehmania stage of photography and doesn't quite exploit the excessive gear.
We poke fun with him about how the Puny Pana is able to do 4K in a smaller package than any of his individual components.

Now it's risen back to a higher price, 645€. Pretty much an awesome move.


I have the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and the 42.5 f1.7. They are everything you said about them. I typically walk around with the 42.5 with the tiny 20 and a spare battery in a jacket pocket. The 42.5 is amazing and it's close focus is all you need short of a macro lens. I'm have been using a GX7 for a couple of years that I have yet to fall in love with. I have handled the GX8 and loved the feel as well as the viewfinder as you did. I do want to take a look at G85 before I decide on a camera upgrade.

When I travel for non-photographic reasons, I'll take one of my GX8 bodies and the 12-35 and the 35-100, which really do more than I need, but it's a great combo.

However, I see that Panasonic now offers a "Lumix G Leica DG Vario--Elmarit 12-60 f2.8-4 ASPH with optical IS." Could that be the perfect lens? Gets good reviews, costs around $1,000.

I gotta say though, the "one camera, one lens, one year" thing with a zoom lens...isn't that cheating a little?

I've fallen in love with Olympus. There's something about the ergonomics and the film-like look to the images. And, yes I did bite the bullet and buy an OMD EM1 ii which is the "most fun" camera I've had in my hands since my original OMD EM1. I took that leap because before that, the OMD EM1 was the "most fun" camera I've had in my hands since my brand new Canon FTb for which I raked piles of leaves and shovelled heaps snow to buy in grade 11. When Canon ditched the FD mount I became a Nikon guy owning a whole string of Nikon digital bodies and lenses but since my new love affair with Olympus, my Nikon D800E has hardly been out of the bag.

Although I have quite a nice selection of M43 lenses I turn to the Oly 75mm f1.8 more often than any other (the Lumix 20mm f1.7 being number 2). I find it beautifully smooth and sharp at the same time.

Oh, yes, I do have a GX7 but rarely use it now that I have the Olympus bodies.

Ha great choice. I have a GX1 and the 40 and I often use the kit lens in the 70-75 mm (eq) zoom range as an option. Truth is the zoom is actually pretty fair at 28 mm eq also, at least for my old eyes.

Great thinking, Mike (or at least I have come to almost the same conclusion).
A perfect mininal outfit for me is an M43 camera (I have the Oly EM5 II) with two lenses: the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 and the PanaLeica 45/2.8 macro.

The little zoom is as perfect as you say. But unlike you, I find macro more important than speed in a second lens. So with this lightweight combo I am all set for landcapes, nature, street and portraits.

I should be happy. But my GAS has been rekindled a bit by your report of the special IQ characteristics of the GX-8. It reminded me of the crisp images I once achieved with the Kodak SLR/c.

Mike, I have to agree with you on the GX8. For years, starting in mid 1970s, I owned a Pentax MX with a 28mm f2.8. (1 camera, 1 lens, many years.) I remember several times saying to myself how much I loved using that pairing. That feeling has not happened with any cameras since, and I have owned many. But, the feeling has returned with the GX8 (it was close with the GX7).

For some time, I have also have held dynamic range envy toward cameras with the very highly rated Sony sensors. No more. In the before/after image I link below, I was amazed at what I could get from this photo of, essential a bird silhouette on a black branch in Mexico. I snapped the photo just to see what could be done in Lightroom, including about a 50% crop, shadow slider max to the right, a bit of noise reduction and sharpening, and a little color adjustment. The result is not a great photo (lacking feather detail), but the photo clearly looks like a Cinnamon Hummingbird, much more than my eye could see. That along with most of the rest of my photos from that trip are making me again say, "I love this camera!"

Regarding the Pany 12-35 f2.8. I think you are correct with that pick too. I have the Oly 12-40 f2.8 instead, also a great lens, but compared to the Pany, I feel the Oly is too large and too heavy, so, when traveling by air, I more commonly bring the old Pany kit lens, the 14-45 OIS, another good 'nuf lens for travel pics. I may at some point make a swap to the 12-35...or not.


I remember a "classic" post of yours, where you recommended a 35/85 combo with a D700 to a (fictitious) serious beginner (named George?). When I finally decided to switch from a mid-range zoom (16-85mm DX Nikkor) to primes, this was the first combo I tried. Funnily enough, I just didn't come along with the 85mm, even though I had taken quite a lot of favourite pictures at 85mm-e to 105mm-e with the zoom. Eventually I replaced the 85mm with a 50mm.

I figured out that this might have had to do with my own progression as a photographer. The perspective compression of a short tele makes for tight compositions, somewhat abstract, like a painter's perspective. Around the time I changed my lens setup, I incidentally resolved to work in a more documentary, "photographic" way in the future, to show more context. For this I found the 35mm to be almost natural.

Best, Thomas

Will you knock it off with all this equipment crap? Get back to what I come here for, coloured balls on green felt.

Thank You for this. I've watched the Sony 6000, 6300, and 6500 get more and more out of reach. I read the dpreview, I'm really impressed. A touch screen!

Very interesting that this ideal beginner system is effectively devoid of a wide angle. Could you expand a little for us on how you see that as ideal, Mike? Genuinely interested in your thoughts, cheers

I've got a G6 and both those lenses. Love the pictures from both, but the 20mm focuses incredibly slowly. The OIS on the 42.5mm is very effective.

Unless you're really attached to the rangefinder-style body, I'd go with the new G85, which has the latest whisper-quiet shutter from the GX85 and the best IBIS in a Panasonic until the GH5 hits the market. Brooks Jensen recently upgraded to the G85.

I am a two prime person as well, and also favour M43. But I don't approve of the prices of current gear. So my perfect setup starts with the Olympus E-P5 which has *almost* perfect ergonomics.

I add the Panasonic 14mm, since the classic 28mm FOV is as wide as I like to get. Beyond that the field is distorted relative to how the eye sees.

And then the brilliant Olympus 45mm, for a 90mm FOV. To me this is just right for portraits, candids, isolating architectural detail, and so much more.

Lightweight, tiny, and I never worry about image quality. Only my own ability.

And after buying the hardware?

"5 Photography Courses That Will Take You From Amateur to Expert".

At http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoor-gear/g2934/5-photography-courses/

For instance: "Buy now: $19.99, lowered from $2,595"

Two lenses? The 20 is simply not wide enough for me. I would be looking at the Panny 15. Back in the OM1 days, it was the f2 28mm and f2 85mm. In m43 with the little Olympus E-PL3, the f2.5 14mm (Panasonic) and the f1.8 45mm (Oly). But havng spent some time with a Kodak P880 and Panasonic LX3, both offering 24mm equiv, the 14 was feeling a bit narrow. Today it is Panasonic GX7 with either 12-32 (walk around) or 12-35 zooms and either the Oly 45 or Panny 45-150 in the pocket.

But now I lust after a one lens solution, the almost launched Leica f2.8-4 12-60mm for the GX7 and possibly a GX9(? if/when) or G80/85 (which I reckon is the best middle level camera, bar none, on the market).

Cheers, Geoff

So OCOLOY (one camera, one lens, one year) is not OCOFLOY (one camera, one focal length, one year).

[Classically, though, it should be. --Mike]

I have and love both of those Panny lenses. I use them on an EM-5. Need to get the Oly 60mm Macro next.

Well, that's too bad: I was hoping that you'd get on much better with the Fuji zoom, because that's what I wanted to pair with a new X-T2. I've trusted you since your days on the Pentax list. Please, Mike, can't you just like what I want to buy?

The little 12-32mm that comes as the kit lens with the GX80/85 is a pretty sweet unit, too, particularly considering the price. It's a perfect hiking lens, having enough range to cover most landscape situations and it will focus down to about 8 inches. It's about the same size and weight as the 20mm, too.

Too complicated.

I would vote for an M43 camera with external dials, and a fast zoom welded in place. The LX100, with its f1.7 24-75mm Leica lens, fills that bill. OCOL-forever.

For comparison, I also have a GF1, GH2, and GX7, and a handful of both M43 and adapted lenses, when I want to burden myself with carrying a bunch of stuff around. Seldom do.

Like you, “I’ve been a two-prime guy, a moderate wide and a moderate tele” for many years. I started my transition to µ4/3rds five years ago with the Lumix GX1, the Lumix 20mm f1.7 and (after reading raves on TOP), the Olympus 45mm f1.8. A couple of years later, I upgraded to the GX7 with the 12-35mm and then last year got the GX8. The primes are so pretty. I’d love to use them. But they stay at home. The GX8 with 12-35mm is my OCOL. I’ve tried systematically to create "shutter slap" with each lens and absolutely failed to find it in my photos. But I expect I’ll get the GX9 when it arrives.

Depends what you mean by a beginner. Someone whom is interested in photography, but never handled a camera.
Someone who likes there phone photos but wants more control.
Someone whom thinks it could be a great career and is starting out.
To each I would recommend something different.
For me the current 2 lenses camera I use all the time is the Panasonic GM5 with 12-32mm and the slower 35-100mm f4/5.6. This does fit in the pants pockets. But I did just switch out the 12-32 for the 14-42 pz lens. Equally small, but little more tele range and still fits in a pocket. Also I want to play with remote control of it, to snap shots of family while I am across the room. The 14-42mm pz allows full control with the phone app.

Learning how to handle the camera, relax and softly press the shutter release in order to minimize trepidation is an important skill to be learned by beginners. IS is so very useful for them, together with a reminder: switch it off frequently to see how your shooting technique is improving!

Had a Sony 7. Bought a Panasonic LX100 and after a year found I wasn't using the Sony so decided to go 2/3rds with a smal body simmilar to the LX 100. Bought a GX 85. Did not like the haptics. Body didn't feel as robust as the LX100 and the on/off switch was badly placed for me. Tried the GX8 and ditched the GX85, The GX 8 to me is more from the same stable as the LX100 (which I regret selling). After the Sony 7 and its lenses I just love the smaller bodies and lenses of the 2/3rd system
I would urge you to try out the GX85 before committing your $$
Mind you I have great trouble etting my head around Panasoniv nomenclature

"I sometimes wonder if the Panasonic GX85 with those two lenses might not be the ideal setup for a serious beginner. Not too expensive but not too cheap, everything you need to comprehensively explore generalist photography. If I were the teacher I'd recommend sticking with that one camera and two lenses for at least three years, resisting all temptations to add any more gear for at least that long."

In your eyes maybe, but not, I suspect, in the eyes of that "serious beginner".

I, too, used to make similar suggestions to anyone starting out in photography until one person made it clear that's not how she saw it. I haven't done it since.

Anyone coming into photography will have been inspired by something to do so. The last thing we old lags should be doing is supressing that inspiration by telling them they need to do an apprenticeship using a basic setup for three years before even thinking about doing anything else. No, we should be encouraging them to follow whatever path they choose. They'll find out along the way, just as we did (or I did anyway) what works for them and what doesn't.

[Well said. However, I get people asking me the question all the time; so I have an answer for them, that's all. If they don't want to take my advice, no one is forcing them to. I don't mind. --Mike]

Mike you wrote "In fact, I sometimes wonder if the Panasonic GX85 with those two lenses might not be the ideal setup for a serious beginner. "

Mike, I guess you meant "*might be* the ideal..."

I can say the GX85 is fantastic.

I would suggest the 12-35 zoom for a beginner (or the Oly 12-40). I think 20mm is just too long. A common issue for most beginners is not getting close enough (for that read not engaging with the subject). A moderate wide angle encourages the photographer to move that bit closer.

After pining over the GX7 and then the GX85 (GX80 here) for years, I finally caved and sprung for the GX80 when the last Black Friday offers became too good to refuse. Love it, has absolutely liberated my photography due to its low light capabilities (I was using a GF1 before this) - while I still have insufficient time for shooting, which was why I held off buying a new camera for so long, at least I make more effort to set aside some time now. If I had one minor criticism, it's a little too small to access some of the controls easily, but then again I'm still getting used to it. I mostly pair it with the Panasonic G 25mm/1.7, but the collapsible kit zoom (which has OIS, like the body) is also handy when wanting to minimise the carry-around size.

Not sure it would suit you though, Mike; I think you'd be forever regretting that the viewfinder didn't tilt like the GX8, since that does seem like a key feature for you.

(Incidentally, my ideal choice of "one lens forever" would be the Nikon E series 50mm on the grounds of focal length, size and results - but I no longer shoot film and I won't carry a bulky full frame DSLR, so that's out. Absent that, any other 50mm-equivalent will do and I'll forego the second lens.)

One camera, one lens.
For that, the Sony RX1 would be perfect.
However, I have to say that the standard zooms bundled with the current start dslr´s or ilc´s are good enough, not to have to cough up with the cost of a prime.

Plus, software is playing such a strong part [jpeg engine of the camera, or the converter] that they truly have become "the second lens": good photos require a good command of good software.

Reading through the comments on this post and the previous one leads me to recommend the lenses first and suggest that the beginner find the best bargain to put them on. The lenses would be one or more of the Sigma Art lenses, the 19mm,30mm and 60mm. All three are wonderful and they are pretty easy on the wallet. They are compatible with M 4/3 and Sony e-mount.

Some OTT suggestions for beginners here, but mine is simply outlandish.
Young starter: do yourself a favour and buy a film camera. It can be a Nikon, a Canon, a Pentax, an Olympus or a Praktica. That's not important. It'll cost you next to nothing and, even though it was made several decades ago, it will outlive any digital camera you can think of.
And buy a prime, either 35mm or 50mm. 'Zoom with your feet' is a rather commonplace thing to say nowadays, but it still stands true. There's nothing to be learned from shooting from a long distance. You need to create empathy with whatever you're photographing. Zooms won't help you. You'll learn a lot more with a prime lens. It will take you closer, and that makes all the difference.
And why a film camera? Because it will teach you each and every photograph has an intrinsic value of its own. Monetary and otherwise. Photographs are too precious to waste. With a film camera you won't be tempted to make foolish photographs of just about everything that falls under your field of view, as you'd do with a digital camera. You'll get a better sense of opportunity and learn to act faster. And, as you're not allowed to fail a shot - the number of exposures is limited -, it will be imperative that you learn the basics of photography. In a digital camera, PASM is an afterthought; with a film camera it is crucial to know how to deal with exposure.
Of course you'll need a trustworthy lab, but with the current film resurgence it can't be too hard to find one. Who knows, you might even be lucky enough to find someone who helps you learn some of the technical intricacies of photography. (Which reminds me that being a self-taught photographer isn't always that great, so you should take photography lessons or attend workshops.)
And, above all, ask yourself what you can bring to photography that others can't. This is much more important than discussing camera X or Y.

I've got, I think, about 9 lenses from a 300/2.8 down to an 8mm fisheye. The two I most often take with me... in 90% of cases... are a Sigma 17-50/2.8 and an old Sigma 70-200/2.8 (bought used when I first moved to Pentax 12 or so years back). I now have a K3 body.

On an APC, that means 25-75 and 105-300 FF-equiv.

I rarely switch frantically from one to the the other, I usually break my wandering into a long-lens and a short lens part.

The gap never worries me, but I rarely use the widest part of the 17-50, I'd probably be happy with a (real) 24-70, but my old one is quite soft wide open, the current Pentax/tamron version is too expensive relative to the non-Pentax version... and it wouldn't matter :-)

The results are open for inspection on my 500px link... but taste is personal, even without colour...

I like your idea. Partially because I do have those lenses, and a Gx-7. But mostly because I think you are right. You alluded to your experience as a teacher, above, and I think that your insight is valuable. When discussing gear, I think too often people try to "rationalize" a set a of gear, to come up with an "optimal" balance of price to weight to usefulness. But to learn to see with a camera - that's not a balancing act, you merely have to get appropriate tools and use them.

I have repeatedly bought gear with the notion of making rational, frugal, sound economic choices. But the set of gear that works for me, that I have ended up with was not the product of a careful plan that succeeded. It was the result of trying things, finding out that they did not work, trying other things, looking at actual results, and keeping what remained. Actual experience. Actual insight. Demystifying through seeing for yourself. If I was giving someone advice, would I encourage them copy what I did, to shop carefully, and plan for certain focal lengths, seeking out sales, and whatnot? No, I'd tell them the results of my experience. No need to throw someone down the well to repeat my mistakes.

My perspective, as someone trained as an artist, and someone who has seriously pursued making art, daily, with cameras, for more than ten years is this:

1. Look at the light.
2. Take pictures every day.
3. Study them.

If you want to look at the light, and see what you've taken, the EVF on the Gx-7 is sufficient.
If you want to take pictures every day, pick a camera and lens combination you can stick in your jacket pocket. A pancake prime on a smaller camera is sufficient.
If you want to understand depth of field, bokeh, and framing, the 20 and 42.5 combo is sufficient.
If you want to understand exposure, and control it quickly and definitively, you need a knob and wheel interface. The Gx-7 is sufficient.

This solution is sufficient. Other solutions may be as well.

When I started taking pictures, I did so with an entry-level DSLR (great), and a zoom. I sprang for a noticeably nicer one than the plastic kit zoom. For the few months that I shot with the zoom, it was merely pleasant.

It wasn't until my first prime that I was really, really hooked.

As a beginner on anything, my first instinct is to look for the small inexpensive option but I found that with cameras I needed something physically bigger. I started with a 12MP XSI Rebel (Max ISO 1600!) and the Canon grip. This combo worked out to be the perfect size and weight (almost all plastic) for my XXL hands. I found the cheap Canon 50mm f/1.8 was sharp at f/2.8 and the APS-C sensor cropped out the nasty corners nicely. I also found that the kit lens was pretty good at both 24mm and 35mm so I only used the zoom at these focal lengths. This simple inexpensive setup worked well for quite some time. I have a favorite print that was captured with the kit zoom at 35mm.

When I finally bought a more expensive lens I opted to go full frame (70-200 f/4 IS) with an eye toward moving to the bigger sensor eventually. This is of course the standard approach for many and is a really good way to go for those of us with "meaty paws". I now shoot full frame but would have no qualms with going back to APS-C due to sensor advancements.

I just bought a GX80 (GX85's alias in UK) as Panasonic were running a slightly crazy £200 cashback on this model for a week at Christmas. Most of the time I'll be using it with the 20mm f1.7 I bought with my GF1. It'll be my carry-around camera to complement my sony a7 (with the bonus of 4k video and 5 axis sensor stabilisation)

Another variant for a beginner could be a base SLR, a 18-135 and a fast 50. Range, speed and a simple equasion for a newbie, the general shooting lens or that special one the guy in the shop said would be good when it's dark or for portraits. Beginners notoriously stay with what is easiest, so clear and logical choices are important i.e. sneak up on them with the benefits of a fast prime).

I used to think I wanted to open a Zen temple of photography study. My students would get a body, a 50mm lens, and two bowls of rice a day. Every once in a while I'd maybe rap them on the knuckles.

I never opened the temple, but I did impress upon many beginners the importance of starting with a single focal length. I think maybe two of them took me up on it. One of them liked it, the other one hated me for it. I've since relaxed a bit, allowing now for two lenses.

This question sent me off on a quest to see if I could find the ideal beginner's kit. To my great surprise, I think I actually found it.

The Pentax K-S2 DSLR takes all the K-mount lenses ever made, has dual control dials so the student can easily adjust aperture and shutter speed, an articulating LCD that turns facing the body to minimize the temptation to chimp, an optical viewfinder so that the student can actually see the world, and it's weather-sealed. Price: a student-reachable $499.

Pentax smcP FA 31mm f/1.8 (~46mm equiv)
Pentax DA 70mm f/2.4 (105mm equiv)

(The 31mm is a little pricey, especially for a student, but it's the ideal focal length for general shooting and I'm sure it's a great lens.)

In fact, this kit looks so good I'm very tempted to get it myself.

I guess I am an OCOLET - one camera & one lens for an ETernity.

But your serious beginner recommendation seems reasonably thought out - except perhaps 20mm is leaning a tad close to "normal" focal lengths. I would think a serious beginner should be "exposed" to what a wider angle perspective can deliver.

Also, I swear I've seen you on occasion "pronounce" APS-C as an ideal sensor size (quality results capable of being stuffed into a smallish camera). So I'm a might surprised I don't see a suggestion there.

I agree that Mike's two prime starter kit would be good for beginners, but unfortunately beginners rarely know what's good for them(!). And trying to explain to someone with little photographic experience why they should have two primes rather than a less expensive zoom of similar optical quality isn't easy.

Still, starting with a zoom isn't the end of the world, and perhaps there's at least one advantage: when they do eventually try working with a prime, I suspect that they're more likely to recognize and appreciate the difference it makes.

That's how it worked for me. When I started out (a bit less than 10 years ago now) I couldn't fathom why anyone would want a set of primes instead of a zoom, and no fancy photographer-type could have convinced me otherwise. So I started out with a very cheap APS-C kit zoom (the Nikon 18-55mm) and shot with that alone for about three years. When I finally tried a prime (the Nikon 24mm F/2.8 AF-D) it was a revelation, and I haven't used a zoom since.

A tip I've given occassionally to people who use nothing but the kit zoom: Look at your EXIF data after a year. For a lot of people, they'll find they gravitate to one or two specific focal lengths on that zoom. You can then get a small and/or fast prime in the length(s) you use, and keep the zoom as a backup.

When I bought the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 I sold the first version of the 20mm f/1.7. I did regret it and later I bought the second version. Also good, but it is harder. I preferred the old one.
But I would recommend the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 instead. Maybe it's a personal thing after using a 65mm f/4 on a Mamiya 7 for many years, but with the 20mm it happens to me all the time that I need to step back to get everything in the frame and then I bounce against a wall or drop into a gorge.

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