I thought I’d follow up on the blog about cameras with one on lenses. Of course to some extent this is closely related to the cameras, but there are some additional points to note.
- The vast majority of the photos during the year were taken with superzoom lenses – i.e. those with a range (in Full-Frame terms) of between 28mm and 300mm. There are a number of reasons for that, and zooming instead of walking is not one of them!
- If it’s possible to walk I will probably do that, but for a lot of my photography the angle of view seems to be quite critical, and that means that I my need to use a lot of different focal lengths in quite a short time.
- Changing lenses not only takes time, but it also risks debris getting on the sensor (like yesterday!), and is particularly risky if it is raining.
- There also seems a tendency to design the more limited ranging zooms with no overlay, i.e. 24-70 and 70-200, which means that in some situations the lens needs to be changed very frequently.
Of course the superzooms, and some of the more limited zooms, are not as good optically as decent prime lenses, and they are usually relatively slow as well – a particular problem in terms of limiting depth of field when using small format cameras.
The prime lenses I have used most during the year have been the 35mm Olympus Macro (old 4/3 format), the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1/4 (micro 4/3), and the Olympus 60mm Macro (micro 4/3). The macros have been used a lot for object photography at the BCLM in the ‘studio’, where lens changes aren’t needed often, and the Leica has been used particularly when I want to control depth of field, though it too has been used in the studio for shots where that focal length is especially useful.
The arrival towards the end of 2013 of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 means that my favourite lens of all time, the Olympus 12-60mm zoom, should get a lot more use again. For the last few years it has not got much exercise, as autofocus was unusable on the micro 4/3 cameras, and for general use I do find AF convenient (especially when the cataracts were developing). The E-M1 however can autofocus that lens reasonably well – it can also autofocus the 35mm, but as that is a macro I’d normally use that in manual mode anyway.
The 12-60mm range (equivalent to 24-120mm full frame) is ideal in many respect for much of my work. The super zooms which have a shortest length of 28 are often just a bit too long for me, the 300mm maximum of these lenses is rather more than I need except in situations where I’d rather use a faster, better-optical quality, lens of around 80-300mm. That 12-60 (f/2.8 – f/4), with a micro 4/3 lens of 45- something between 150 and 200mm is a very good solution for me, and the 12-60 was excellent optically on the old 4/3 cameras, and the overlap between the focal lengths of the lenses is very useful.