Lens Picks for the Micro Four Thirds System

Olympus E-P1

After reading the article on how the Micro Four Thirds cameras can become an entire system, one may really try to decide on which lenses will be best for them. With such a large selection available, it can be hard to decide which ones may suit you the best if you’ve just stuck with one camera system to begin with and never had much experience with others. That being said, the following letter came in from a reader.

Hey Chris,

I read your article re the Olympus EP-1 as a complete system with interest.

Obviously your time permitting but given the huge range of glass out there, what glass (Nikon, Leica, Canon, Pentax, Olympus) would you go for to supplment the Olympus EP-1.

Basically looking for:

– a wide angle (20-28mm) for landscape, urbanscape photography

– a 35-50mm lens

– a portrait lens (80-135mm)

– one telephoto (200mm+)

– one overall zoom (though the camera came with a 28-88)

with all of the above to be used for stills and movies.

Any tips greatly appreciated…

Best,

Nick

Well Nick, there are quite a few options at your disposal and you’re most likely not the only one wondering the answer to this question. I’m teaching a girl I know how to shoot better photos and she’s just purchased the Panasonic G1. Like you, she’s also wondering what lenses are best for her. Let’s just approach this step by step then.

Please keep in mind that with each lens purchase you’ll need to also buy the according adapter for the lens to mount onto your EP-1. Also note that Nick is looking to spend up to $500-$600 if the lens merits it. Some of these may be a bit out of the price range, but they’re the best options possible.

Wide Angle

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For the wide angle view, you’re most likely best off getting your hands on the Nikon Super Wide Angle AF 14mm F2.8 ED lens. When you put it on your EP-1 the cropped-sensor will magnify the lens 2x, which means that you’ll actually be putting a 28mm lens on. The reason why you’d want this one is because you’re shooting landscapes and you don’t want a fisheye for something like that. In truth, this is one very expensive lens but it’s been very highly rated. You’re really not going to be able to get the sharpness or wide angle that you need that your budget. The cheapest available are 20mm lenses which will result in becoming 40mm at best.

Since I consider 35mm to be wide angle, I’m also suggesting to you the Zukio Digital 17mm F2.8 lens for the Micro Four Thirds system. It’s a very nice discrete little pancake lens that can deliver stunning results with a fast aperture like that. This will be a nice walk-around lens that will be excellent for street photography. You’ll be able to take on the Cartier-Bresson approach to being discrete, silent and observational. Rangefinders like your EP-1 are good for this and it should suffice well enough for urbanscape photography. Also note that Panasonic has their own Pancake lens coming out as well that you may want to get your hands on.

However, I’d also want to suggest to you one of the lenses everyone in the Four Thirds system wanted: the Panasonic 25mm F1.4 Leica lens. It’s a 50mm lens that will be able to do everything for you. Granted, it’s not cheap. But for everything that that lens is worth, you’re getting Leica glass at a bargain.

Portrait

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For a nice portrait lens, you’ll probably be best off with the Sigma Normal 50mm F1.4 lens for the Four Thirds system. One of the main critiques about the system is that there seems to be a critical lack of a portrait lens. While many argue that the Olympus 50mm F2.0 is a nice lens, many also counter-argue that it is too slow to be used for portraiture. In this case, your Sigma may do the job. It’s a heavy lens, I’ve used it when I shot with an E-510. However, you can’t deny the quality of output that you’ll get from it. It will become a 100mm lens on your EP-1 but in truth it may also look a bit odd because of how heavy it is. If looks don’t matter to you, go for this one.

Telephoto

If you can find it, I highly recommend getting your hands on some Canon FD glass. To be more specific, the Canon FD 100mm F2. It is a total manual focus lens with excellent optics and a wide aperture without being too huge or bulky. Furthermore, if you can get your hands on more Canon FD glass, they’re wonderful for filming. The 100mm will feel like 200mm on your EP-1.

I Can't See The Roses

Once again, I hold Canon FD glass in high regard. The bokeh is absolutely lovely. I’ve handheld a Canon 50mm F1.8 FD in front of my Olympus E-510. The above picture is the result.

Overall Zoom

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For an overall zoom, try getting your hands on the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8. This lens has macro abilities so you’ll be able to get up really close with your zooming. It will become a 36-100mm lens. It can accompany your 28-88mm lens and this may even replace it as your walkaround. Coming from being a former 4/3rds user, versatility with a small body and a wide aperture is always nice to have no matter what type of photography you’re doing.

Readers- what lenses would you recommend?

Also be sure to send your reader questions to ChrisGampat [at] photographybay.com if you’d like some help with something.

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Comments

  1. Brian Tompkins says

    Hi Chris,

    Very informative article………..thanks.

    I have recently bought a GF1 with the 20mm and am very impressed.

    However I note that you recommend the Sigma 18-50mm I have one of these for my D300 and would agree it’s great, probably the sharpest zoom around. But it has no aperture ring, is an adapter which overcomes this problem available?? If it is then I also have a Nikon 12-24mm another great lens which I would dearly love to save from redundancy.

    Any help would be appreciated,

    Brian