A couple of weeks back I mentioned that I had purchased a Zeiss 32mm prime for the Fuji X-T2. I’ve now had an opportunity to use the lens out in the field and I’m pleased, but not delighted. Here’s my reasoning:
The lens is sharp, actually it’s very sharp. It also resolves lots of fine detail, even wide open. But because of this you tend to pick out even the slightest wobble when shooting.
I struggled a little in low light situations and found it much better outside. For the image you see with this post, I had to shoot several frames to ensure I had a sharp one. It may be me, not being used to shooting without OIS and using a standard lens. What I do know is that I had a lot more confidence and success when using the Fuji 18-55 kit lens. Most of those images came out sharp whilst taking less care.
I love the colours and tones produced by this lens. The contrast and saturation levels are pretty much spot on. I haven’t done very much editing with this image at all. I just set the camera profile and sharpening.
I found the autofocus OK but perhaps a little on the slow side compared to my expectations.
There was a slight audible noise from the aperture when shooting. Perhaps I only noticed this because I had the camera set to shoot with the Electronic Shutter and the sound turned. That makes the camera silent in operation, so it follows you would hear any noise, especially in a library.
In summary, this is a good lens which I’m keeping. It just didn’t blow me away, unlike the Fuji 56mm my friend was shooting with. That may be my next prime lens purchase.
Having sold all my prime lenses a couple of years back, I bought another. And I have a feeling I may buy more. Want to understand what changed my mind? So would I.
When I look at my camera equipment you can divide it into three categories:
Point and shoot pocket cameras. I haven’t used these much recently and, in all honesty, I have become a little disillusioned with the lens performance of the ones I own.
Mirrorless cameras ranging from Micro 43 to Full Frame. These are the cameras I use most of the time. They are the work horses of what I do, and I only have zoom lenses for these.
Film cameras that I use occasionally. This is now a short list of the Bronica SQAi and Hasselblad XPan. I seldom use them but when I do I love the experience. I only have prime lenses for these cameras.
Now this is where it gets a little weird and I can’t rationalise why.
For some reason I love the experience of shooting with the prime lenses. It’s as though zoom lenses make me lazy whilst the primes make me work for my shots. When I shoot with zooms there’s a tendency to exchange movement for zooming. I know zooming my lens in and out isn’t the same as walking around the scene, but for some reason that’s what seems to happen.
When I use a prime lens, I feel I move more. I certainly need to move in and out of the scene, but I also find myself moving around to find new compositions. I also shoot less, and the quality improves, or at least I think it does.
The downside is that zooms suit Landscape work better than primes. Or at least that’s the feeling I have inside. What made me reconsider them is a strange desire for optimum lens performance. I’m sure it’s a psychological problem you can trace back to a Sigma 10-20 that was soft down one side. It ruined many a good shot and I didn’t recognise it for some time. But that’s another story.
In the end, the lens I bought isn’t a wide angle prime; I’m saving that for another day. I bought a standard focal length lens for the Fuji X-T2. Originally, I was thinking about the Fuji 35mm f2 but then saw the 35mm f1.4 and thought “that looks like it’s in another class” (although I bet there isn’t much difference). I had just finished convincing myself that I needed the f1.4 when I looked at the Zeiss 32mm f1.8. Remarkably it was on special offer and only a few pounds more than the Fuji.
So, I now have a Zeiss 32mm f1.8 for the Fuji and am itching to use it. If it’s good and I enjoy it, I’m going to be saving for the Zeiss 12mm.
As for the image attached to this blog post… It has a tenuous connection to the new lens. It was the corner performance of my Fuji 10-24 (a great lens used for this image) that started me wondering if primes would be better.
Over recent years the range of prime lenses for the Micro 43 system has expanded greatly. For anyone who’s unsure, a prime lens is one with a fixed focal length for example 25mm. Again, what follows is a review of the lenses I have or have used (I have owned all of them at some time).
I still have this lens and it is a good performer. It was once a kit lens for one of the Panasonic systems (I forget which) so there is a ready supply of these second hand. I purchased mine second hand but it was sold as having been part of a kit but unused. The lens quality is very good with very little distortion. It doesn’t have a very wide maximum aperture but it’s better than the Panasonic 14-45 kit lens.
In terms of sharpness, it is marginally better than the 14-45 kit lens but you really do need to make a side by side comparison to see this. Where this lens does score highly is in its size and weight. It’s very light and very small. If you like to use a wide angle lens for your street photography, this is great. It’s also very useful for Landscapes as it gives the equivalent of a 28mm lens on full frame. Although many would suggest this isn’t wide enough for landscapes, it’s a very pleasing focal length. For around £100 used, this is a bargain lens.
Olympus 17mm f/2.8
There are two Olympus 17mm lenses and I have owned both. The distinguishing feature when looking at the description is the maximum aperture. The cheaper of the two has a maximum aperture of f/2.8. This version is very cheap at around £100 or less but I have seen people trying to pass these off as the more expensive f/1.8 lens discussed below. The two lenses do look different and certainly perform differently so beware. Be sure you know what you are buying.
Whilst this lens is cheap, small and light, I can’t really recommend it. It doesn’t perform anywhere near as well as the Panasonic 14-45 kit lens. Yes it has a wider maximum aperture but only just. In all honesty, if this is all you can afford and desperately want a 17mm prime lens, save your money and put it towards the next lens listed below – it’s worth the wait.
Olympus 17mm f/1.8
This lens is the complete opposite of the f/2.8 discussed above. I suspect some of the poor reviews you sometimes see listed are from people confusing it with the cheap version. This lens is beautifully made, performs amazingly well and just oozes quality. It has a metal construction and a reassuring weight whilst remaining small and compact. It will produce sharp images from wide open. It gives a beautiful shallow depth of field and is sharp into the corners with virtually no distortion. It really is a pleasure to use.
It also has a nice feature in that the end of the lens barrel will pull back to switch the lens into manual focus mode. When you do this it also reveals a nice depth of field scale; not quite as nice as a traditional manual prime but still very helpful. In short, this is a great lens and whilst a little more costly, the money shows in the quality of the lens and results. Highly recommended.
Some people rave about this lens and I have owned two of them now (but mine were the initial model and not the latest MKII model). I honestly can’t understand why people rate this lens so highly. The versions I have owned were very, very slow with autofocus and also quite noisy. Whilst the centre of the lens was a little sharper than the Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens the edge performance was worse. The lens is nicely compact but I couldn’t get on with it.
I acknowledge there is a strong following for this lens and I could have been unlucky enough to have two poor samples. I would urge caution if you are considering this lens and consider the Olympus 25mm discussed next as an alternative.
This is a relatively new addition to the Olympus range of primes. All I can say is wow. I love this lens. It’s small, light, compact and really sharp. Performance is excellent as is the price. If you are considering the Panasonic 20mm prime mentioned above, do a side by side comparison with this lens. I find myself turning to the Olympus lens quite often now.
This lens looks very similar to the 25mm Olympus mentioned above and is equally sharp. Again, this lens is highly recommended. This is a great lens with a lovely shallow depth of field.
Olympus 60mm Macro
If you want a dedicated macro lens then you don’t have many options. This lens looks unusual and is rather long. It is however an ideal focal length for a macro lens and super sharp. I really like this lens a lot although understand when some people say they can’t get on with it. Focus speed is OK but not terribly fast. I suspect this is why there is a range switch on the side so you can limit the range it tries to focus over. The only thing I don’t like this lens is the 1:1 magnification switch. Once in this mode you really need manual focus and if you accidently press the shutter button you can lose this level of magnification. You do really need to be focussing manually at this setting. Despite this the lens produces wonderful results and also makes a very capable 60mm prime for general use. You don’t need to use it as a macro lens all the time.
I hope this miniseries has helped people and if anyone has any additional comments on lenses not covered I would be delighted to hear them.
And I haven’t forgotten about revealing what my new camera is. More on that in the next week.