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Thread: Which prime?

  1. #1
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    Which prime?

    Hey, all.

    I'd like some advice on getting one or two primes with my current setup. Here's what I have right now:

    1. GH1 w/ the 14-140mm
    2. G1 w/ 14-45mm (wife's camera)
    3. Tokina AT-X 90mm/2.5 (FD mount)
    4. Canon FD 135mm/2.5

    I'm fine with the zoom range offered by the 14-140, and I can always use the 135 and the 90 for low light situations (when I'm not doing macro work with the 90). I'd like to get some small, fast primes in the lower focal range, preferably some that add some character to their photos while still being nice and sharp. Here's some of the ones I'm considering:

    a. Pana 20mm/1.7 - wide angle, auto-focus, reasonably priced, seems to get good reviews
    b. Canon FD 24mm/1.4 asph; 24mm/2.0
    c. Canon FD 35mm/2.0
    d. Nokton 35mm/1.2
    e. Nokton 40mm/1.4
    f. Pana 45mm/2.8 - auto-focus
    g. Canon FD 50mm/1.2; 50mm/1.4; 50mm/1.2L
    h. Canon FD 55mm/1.2 asph
    i. Canon FL 58mm/1.2
    j. Canon FD 85mm/1.2; 85mm/1.8 - not sure if I need this in addition to my 90mm/2.5

    I'd like to limit it to 2 primes to round out my kit. In addition to my macro stuff, I like capturing a range of subjects in all sorts of lighting conditions, from cityscapes and landscapes, to portraits and crowds, to interesting nature scenes, so I'm fairly certain I'd make good use of any of the focal distances I mentioned. I'm not limited by getting another adapter if I need to aside from the FD one I currently have, so that's not an issue. The Pana lenses are listed if for no other reason than because they offer auto-focus, although only about 35-40% of my shots currently are with AF, the rest with MF.

    I'd appreciate your feedback on any of these lenses against what I'd like to do, or please add some of your favorites you think might be a better match. I've seen the types of photos some of these lenses can take with the G1/GH1, on this forum and on the web, and I like all these lenses, so I'm not partial to any of them in particular (aside from liking the old-school look of the Nktons...).

    Thank you much in advance! =)

  2. #2
    Senior Member JBurnett's Avatar
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    Re: Which prime?

    Money aside, the Panasonic 20mm and 45mm will give you excellent IQ, plus AF for the 35-40% of the time that you DO use it. They provide a good prime range, and they are small and light. With the 45 Macro, you can leave the 90 at home when you want to travel very light.

    The only thing missing is wider aperture in the 35-50mm range. Bear in mind that some of the wide-aperture alternatives have shown themselves to be a bit "dreamy" wide open, and only reach their potential one or two stops down (this is certainly the case with my FD 50/1.4, although it's very good at f2). The 50mm f1.2 alternatives you list are all bigger, heavier, and more expensive (though not as dear as the 45). The m-mount Noktons don't focus as close as you might like; some report that wonderful bokeh is not the 40mm's strong suit.

    There may be compromises to be made no matter what you choose.
    Best regards,
    John.
    http://jburnett.ca

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    Re: Which prime?

    Thank you!

    I'm pretty much decided to get the 20/1.7 regardless, so the only other question left it the mid-range. Maybe the price on that Pana 45 will come down a bit over the coming months, and your suggestion of a light macro is something I hadn't considered, so thank you!

    I was thinking the mid-range lenses I'd want to use more for street shooting where I want something that is a good compromise between capturing an entire scene, and perhaps sneaking in some close-ups of intimate moments people find themselves in. The fast speed would allow me to take photos in a wide range of lighting conditions without having to resort to the flash, which for street shooting wouldn't be good. So I guess I'm OK with those mid-range lenses not focusing up close, because I wouldn't be using them for that anyway. Almost sounds like 35-45 should be my target for that, excluding the 50's and higher.

    EDIT: I'll also check out the street shooting thread below and pay closer attention to the lenses people have used to see if I can learn something from there.
    Last edited by photoSmart42; 17th December 2009 at 11:46.

  4. #4
    Senior Member pellicle's Avatar
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    Re: Which prime?

    Hi

    since you have FD and are thinking of it I'd suggest value for money is in the FD50mm 1.4 as its way crisper than the 1.8 is (even when at 1.4) and you can get them for not much.

    I'd place it above these choices:
    g. Canon FD 50mm/1.2; 50mm/1.2L
    h. Canon FD 55mm/1.2 asph
    i. Canon FL 58mm/1.2

    also, I've got a 21mm f3.5 and barely use it ... the Panasonic 14-45 lens is just easier to use and is so hard to beat with the IOS. I think that the IOS is worth 2 stops benefit and that's about f1.8 from f3.5

  5. #5
    Senior Member JBurnett's Avatar
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    Re: Which prime?

    Quote Originally Posted by photoSmart42 View Post
    I was thinking the mid-range lenses I'd want to use more for street shooting where I want something that is a good compromise between capturing an entire scene, and perhaps sneaking in some close-ups of intimate moments people find themselves in. The fast speed would allow me to take photos in a wide range of lighting conditions without having to resort to the flash, which for street shooting wouldn't be good.
    Just a thought about fast street-shooting. Those who don't rely on AF often stop down a bit to allow a greater DOF to compensate for small focus errors. Zone focusers also stop down -- sometimes a lot! Fortunately, the G1 and GH1 have pretty good EVF's for manual focus.
    Best regards,
    John.
    http://jburnett.ca

  6. #6
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    Re: Which prime?

    Quote Originally Posted by JBurnett View Post
    Just a thought about fast street-shooting. Those who don't rely on AF often stop down a bit to allow a greater DOF to compensate for small focus errors. Zone focusers also stop down -- sometimes a lot! Fortunately, the G1 and GH1 have pretty good EVF's for manual focus.
    I hear 'ya. I see on a lot of the street photos apertures anywhere from f4 to f8, which goes to your point. It is my impression (perhaps wrong) that lenses are sharpest/best away from their limit aperture sizes. Along those lines, I thought if I start with a fast lens I could get a wider range of nice aperture settings as opposed to starting with a slower lens and losing some of that 'usability'.

    I'm certainly OK with not dwelling on the fastest lenses out there as long as I can find something to play with, especially now that I'm learning. I'm also OK using the 14-140 and the 14-45 for all they're worth, testing them at various focal distances to see what that means for my photos. I think I'm going to have special photo shoots where I leave the zoom lens fixed at a certain focal length and take photos that way. I think once I build up a catalog of good shots, and I figure out where I spend most of my time, then I can get some specialized lenses to take full advantage of that particular focal distance.

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