Micro 4/3 Favorite walkabout prime?

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Location
Casey County, KY
I have the Olympus E-M5i. I am now carrying it with a 35mm adapted lens. I am thinking of moving to a AF prime, in the same general focal length. I shoot almost all outdoors, in all light conditions, and am looking for the cleanest detail and color, that I can get. My budget is very tight.
The wife has the P20, and we like it. Maybe something different to compliment the P20.
If you had only one lens, a single focal length, m4/3. Your choice? No zoom, no money for extras, making the hard choice, to live with for a long time. Either Olympus or Panasonic, is ok.
I know. It's been done before. But, it's time for me to do it, and I'd appreciate some fresh opinions.
Again, no zooms.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
I'll list a couple I own or owned and love and will end with a tip:
  • Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 - my current favourite, a great performer, compact, but probably too wide for you.
  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8 - the 15mm's predecessor in my collection, pretty nice lens, just not quite as good across the frame as I'd wanted.
  • Olympus 25mm f/1.8 - a small, light lens that performs very, very well; I think you'd be very happy with that one.
  • Sigma 30mm f/1.4 - on the big side, but certainly not a lot bulkier than the adapted lens, very strong optically, and very versatile.
  • Sigma 30mm f/2.8 - small, capable, but not the fastest in terms of maximum aperture. I loved that lens when I owned it, but it was superseded by the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 a little while later, and that lens is a better performer as well as faster ...
If you buy used, all except the 15mm f/1.7 should be available around $200. The 15mm will set you back used between $300 and $350, I'd guess. From your description, I think the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 would fit the bill best - I own that lens and find it very rewarding; it's also the only lens I ever bought in two different mounts (Sony E, :mu43:), and I've never regretted that decision, either. Other than that, the little 30mm f/2.8 is a charming lens in use - but it's a bit on the slow side for :mu43: ...

However, if money's tight, the real sleeper is probably the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 - it's the cheapest of all those I mentioned, focuses a lot faster than the 20mm f/1.7 you know and is optically pretty much as capable. It's cheaper new than even the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 used.

M.
 

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Location
Casey County, KY
Thanks moonmind,
I owned the Sigma 30mm f2.8 for a while. neat little lens, that had trouble focusing for flowers. I had noticed the f1.4 mentioned a few times, and was curious. In absolute clarity and detail, which is your choice? The sigma 30mm f1.4, or Panasonic 25mm f1.7?
 

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Location
Casey County, KY
Looking on eBay, there is a vast difference in prices. For a long term purchase, I can't justify taking the cheap way out. So I will have to grunt and take the punch to the wallet. Only, it's going to take a few more days to put together the funds for it. I think the Sigma 30mm f1.4 will make a great walk about choice. Matt, thanks for your thoughts.
Anyone else is welcome to add your thoughts, experiences to this discussion.
 

MiguelATF

Hall of Famer
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
The Sigma 30mm f/1.7 will really complement your existing Panasonic 20mm lens nicely - the two lenses are far enough apart to give you truly different FOV's, but both are superb lenses. The only thing to be aware of is the increased size of the Sigma - the Panasonic 20mm is a tiny extremely-thin 'pancake' lens, while the Sigma is significantly larger.

If you didn't already have the Lumix 20mm, my recommendation would be for the PanaLeica 15mm f/1.7 - for me, it and the 20mm are, hands-down, the two mu43 lenses that have come the closest to being an ideal walkaround prime. The 15 is obviously wider than your 20 - but close enough so that it would probably feel like duplication, in the long run.

Incidentally, the quality of a lens can vary widely from copy to copy, and, apparently, even more so with many micro four thirds lenses - something which the erudite Roger Cicala (of lensrentals.com) commented on some time ago. I'm only mentioning this because I, too, owned the slower, and significantly smaller Sigma 30mm f/2.8 - and I loved the lens, and found it to be one of the sharpest and, simply, best lenses, that I had ever owned, or used. It (the smaller Sigma) was, for me at least, truly an underrated (and extremely afforable, to boot) piece of glass.

But if it were me....I'd go for the 15mm. In fact, I own it - and it stays more-or-less permanently affixed to my Olympus Pen F. There is something about the way the Panasonic-branded PanaLeica lenses seem to render - or possibly something about the way they portray colours - which really appeals to me (and elevates them over similar, and equally great, lenses from Olympus or Sigma). But then again, the Sigma f/1.4 is arguably significantly more versatile when it comes to low-light or available-light shooting - which is definitely in its favor. Sigma seems to continually make great MFT lenses.
 

agentlossing

Top Veteran
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I've owned most of the small walk-around primes, except for the 15mm. Which you could use on your em5, but the aperture ring would be "dead," since it only works on Panasonic models.

I've got a left field recommendation: the Only 17mm f2.8. it's widely considered "bad" in that the corners are horrible, and it's not particularly fast to focus (faster than the 20mm). But I owned three, bought and sold at different points, and just really liked using it. Tons of character, not micro-contrast but sort of macro contrast. If you like a film look, the 17 2.8 somehow pulls it off.

Otherwise, also look at the Panasonic 14mm, super tiny bit optically good and versatile. Lastly, the Oly 25mm is great in every way.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
For the record: I based my recommendation on three pieces of information: lenses owned/used (20mm/38mm) and/or to be supplanted (38mm); camera used (E-M5 - works well with - slightly - bigger lenses) and price. If "small" would have been mentioned especially (not "budget"), my recommendation would have been the 15mm f/1.7 as well. It's my favourite small lens for the system, I clearly prefer it over the 20mm I also like quite a bit.

But I think the 20mm is a fine lens for most uses you can put the 15mm to on the E-M5 (except maybe reportage at close quarters); the 30mm is the better portrait lens and also makes a great documentary lens - very versatile, very strong quality (only two slight niggles: LoCA can be a bit strong - pp helps -, and wide open, corners are a little soft, but by no means horrible). It's really worth owning.

I think the Olympus 25mm is just too similar to the 20mm as well - optically, it is better and focuses a lot quicker, but it is a little bigger, too, and the price is on the high side, especially considering the Panasonic 25mm can be had at less than two thirds of the cost of the Olympus ...

Considering everything, I'll stick with my recommendation for the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.

M.
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Location
Texas
Real Name
Don
I love the P 20mm II. It has come through for me so many times. It is a winner.
But, hang on as I just pulled the trigger on the Pan/Leica 15mm on eBay.... Should be here next week.
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Real Name
bart
I haven't owned any m43 gear yet, but have kept an eye on it ever since it came out.

A bit longer than your current 35mm, but small, cheap, fast and optically superb: Olympus 45mm 1.8. Propably the perfect pairing with the Panasonic 20mm.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
AHEM! OP is looking for :mu43: lens options!
Oops. No problem, as I am a long time Oly user as well. The O17 1.8 and the O25 1.8 are both excellent and the choice depends on your favorite FL, although the MF clutch on the 17 is a real treat to use. I'll also second the O17 2.8. Not the sharpest corners, but fine in the center and incredibly light and short. I used it with great success on the original OM5 and a number of Pens myself so I can say with honesty that I lived with this lens for a long time. I currently own two, silver and black.
 
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serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
Our eyes see at 43mm so 40mm-45mm is the normal length....It is recommended to double your focal length with primes... As Bart said I would go 42.5-45mm for tele and 12-14mm for the wide... 15mm is a good lens on the border line, similarly 30mm too close. On the long end I switched from Oly 45mm to Pana 42.5mm 1.7 due to stabilization and closer focus distance which helps for flowers.... Again it depends what you shoot more...
 

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