I recently read a great blog post by Rob Knight where he talked about Micro 4/3 camera lenses and which ones work best for him. After reading that I started thinking. I participate in the Olympus OM-D Fan Page and Micro Four Thirds community pages on Google+, and it seems like the many Micro 4/3 owners prefer to use prime lenses rather than zooms, which is the opposite of traditional DSLR users, who, I think, prefer zoom lenses. At least this is what it seems like to me after talking to photographers from both camps. I rarely hear a traditional DSLR user talking about primes. Why is that? I think it has to do with price, weight and size.
There are some good Micro 4/3 zooms like the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens. It’s sharp, water resistant and has a handy macro mode, but it can have limited depth of field and be a little slow in low light. In situations where a faster lens is needed, a prime can’t be beat. Also very popular is the Olympus 75-300, which is actually being redesigned, with a new model coming soon. While these are great zooms, it still seems that many users are shifting back to primes.
When I had my full size DSLR equipment, I used all zoom lenses, but now that I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5, I, too, am focusing on primes. The first one I bought was the Olympus 45 f/1.8, which I great reviews and is relatively inexpensive, plus it only weighs 4 ounces, compared to a traditional DSLR 50mm f/1.8 lens that can weigh over 6 1/2 ounces and be quite a bit bigger. A traditional DSLR 50mm f/1.4, which is the lens that many people go with, weighs around 10 ounces, 6 ounces more than the Olympus. And that’s just one lens. If someone carries 3 or 4 lenses, that can be quite a bit of extra weight when using a traditional DSLR. If weight is a concern, a Micro 4/3 camera is something to look at.
Another prime lens that gets amazing reviews is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. Scott Bourne and others have said it might be the sharpest lens ever tested. It weighs less than 11 ounces, and with the crop factor, its the equivalent to a 150mm full frame lens. To compare, the Canon full frame 135mm f/2.0 weighs 26 ounces. The Canon lens gets great reviews, but it’s 2 1/2 times heavier and is a whole lot bigger.
The list goes on and on of the amazing prime lenses that Olympus and Panasonic keep coming out with. They’re small, sharp and easy to handle, plus their relatively low priced, which I think is why users are so open to using them. Because they have wide apertures, they all focus really fast. It’s easy to carry 3 or 4 small Micro 4/3 primes in a bag, but carrying that many full frame lenses would take up a lot of space and be really heavy.
I don’t see traditional DSLR equipment going away anytime soon, but I think smaller camera systems like the Micro 4/3 type are going to become increasingly popular. Everyone has different needs, and if you’re in the market for a new system, please take a moment to give one of the new cameras from Olympus or Panasonic a try. They are really amazing and take some great photos. What about you? Do you prefer primes or zooms? Do you plan on getting or trying out one of the newer, smaller cameras?