Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K


Dallas

The Micro Four Thirds world brings another camera body to us in the shape of the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K. 

 

If you’re a budding videographer, or film maker, this affordable 4K camera gives you just about everything you’d ever want to create high quality video. Some of the features include: 

 

 

 

  • 13 stops of dynamic range, including shooting up to 25,600 ISO in 12 bit RAW 
  • 5 inch touch screen 
  • SD or CFast 2.0 card writers
  • 120 frames per second recording in HD
  • 60 fps recording in 4K
  • built-in microphones (located next to the lens mount)
  • USB-C Expansion port that lets you record directly to an external SSD hard drive
  • Bluetooth remote control
  • mini XLR microphone input
  • carbon fibre body construction

 

intro-camera-xl.jpg

 

hud-xl.jpg

 

media-xl.jpg

 

Of course it has to go up against the likes of the Panasonic GH-5 and Olympus EM-1 Mk II bodies, both of which offer some very handy video features as well as being excellent stills cameras, however, the kicker is that for serious videographers this camera brings a lot more video stuff to the table and it’s only going to cost $1349. Compare that to the close to $2k being asked by most retailers for the other big brothers in MFT and you’ll start to wonder if they are the right choice for your video work (assuming you are already invested in MFT lenses). 

 

Reading through the material available on the Black Magic website, the first thing I was looking for was information on stabilisation. Sadly it doesn’t look like there is any, nor is there any information on whether the BMPC4K is able to use the lens stabilizers built into certain Panasonic and Olympus lenses. It does say that the mount is “active MFT” but that could mean it only allows for lens data to be passed through during recording. There is a mention of auto focus being available on compatible lenses, but again, no clear indication as to which ones (not that AF is used much by video shooters, but it would be nice to know). So, I guess if you want to use the camera hand held, the way they have advertised it, you're going to need hands of stone, or you're going to be looking to buy a suitable gimbal. 

 

hero-md.jpg

 

The monitor is large and bright, but it’s fixed to the back of the camera, so for vloggers and other kinds of narcissists it’s probably a non-starter. 

 

There is a shutter button for stills and according to the specs it’s going to be a 4096x2160 sized sensor in there, so a resulting 8.8MP, which is (ahem) not quite the gold standard for stills these days. Bummer. 

 

It does seem to be geared primarily towards professional video people, so my take away from the announcement is that if you’re already invested in an MFT system, you are probably going to be sticking with your Panasonic or Olympus bodies, which will do 4K video with lots of features, but also offer you 20MP stills. And stabilisation. And lots more. 

 

Oh yes, you do get access to Da Vinci Resolve Studio editing software worth $300, which looks impressive (I have downloaded the free beta and will give it a look over soon), but if you consider that you are still going to have to buy a gimbal to create your smooth cinematic footage, the deal doesn't look all that aggressive anymore. 

 

If you were getting serious about video would you buy this or would you rather buy the top end Panasonic/Olympus bodies?




Comments


I guess the key difference will be that you have no recording time limit unless you run out of storage or power.  You may get a range of extra video formats.

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Yes, there are some unique advantages, but my thinking is that those sorts of advantages are only going to be useful to serious videographers who would probably be further up the food chain gear wise than this. I look at this and ask myself if I would put down the money for it and honestly, I think there are much better options for an amateur videographer to consider. 

 

It definitely appears to be more for film makers who stay behind the camera than those who tend to put themselves in front of it. If it had the flip out screen and IBIS then I think it would be a runaway winner, but without them it probably won't be an option for the likes of YouTubers (of which there is no short supply). 

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Found this hands on video about the camera. Not a "pocket camera" by any means! 

 

 

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Alan7140

Posted (edited)

The Soviet-era lenses with, or adaptable to this camera mount are available by the bucket-load as well for next to nothing....

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xrussian+lenses+black+magic.TRS0&_nkw=russian+lenses+black+magic&_sacat=0

 

and from Carl Zeiss Jena:

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xjena+lens+for+blackmagic.TRS0&_nkw=jena+lens+for+blackmagic&_sacat=0

 

A Zeiss f/2.0 10mm for under $200? Seriously? :D 

 

As any user will probably be using manual focus and aperture anyway, these lenses open up a whole world of effects through flare, aberrations and vintage bokeh. In fact I'm toying with the idea of entering video in this way, along with a pocket-full of Commie glass. Through stripping several larger Soviet lenses for cleaning, I've found that the simplest thing to do with almost all of them is to remove the detente ball or roller of the aperture rings, so truly continuous and silent aperture control is easily made possible.

 

Unfortunately the rest of the world has now caught up with the bargain prices of Soviet lenses for 135 and medium format, but it looks like the M4/3 world has yet to take advantage of the 16mm cine lenses, which are still dirt cheap for what I can confirm through buying both M42 and medium format lenses for my cameras are absolutely as good as anything the West produced during that era, along with the huge choice in image rendition which is well documented and described online in enthusiasts' posts.

Edited by Alan7140
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It might be worthwhile for others if I was to create a database of these kinds of soviet era optics. Or maybe we have a board specifically for them? 

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Alan7140

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Dallas said:

It might be worthwhile for others if I was to create a database of these kinds of soviet era optics. Or maybe we have a board specifically for them? 

 

Might be a bit ambitious - there seems to be a never ending variety of the things, probably because the Soviets used 16mm far longer and more intensively than the West. From what I gather all the lens ,manufacturers (KMZ, LOMO, Vologda, Arsat/Arsenal etc - each time I do a search a new name seems to pop up. I haven't yet found a definitive list, possibly because of the huge number of models in all sorts of formats, but there is a starter on this page:

Soviet Lenses

 

Then there are all the East German ones to add to the pile, although the 16mm movie lenses seemed to be a Soviet speciality. I know less about the Soviet Bloc lenses than I'd like to, because as far as the eleven working ones and two dead ones I have (fungus in one, operator dismantling error in another) they are really fantastic pieces of equipment to use for all their quirky operating methods and variety of CA, flare, bokeh and other imperfect things they can exhibit, but which can be used to good effect. The Russian ones seem to be easier to disassemble and clean and lubricate than the East German ones, which means you can pick up bargain copies with dirt inside the elements and turn them into usable objects within a short period of time with a lens spanner, alcohol and a blower brush. There seem to be a good deal of YouTube tutorials on doing this as well.

 

If this catches on for thes C-mount & Blackmagic lenses, though, prices will head skywards as they have for the 135 and 120 format lenses - there are several Ukrainian companies now adapting Arriflex mounts to these larger lenses and the prices being asked are very high - at least double or more than the same lenses in M42 or P6 mount.

 

Edited by Alan7140

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      Nikon adapter (left) and Canon FD adapter (right)
       
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      L-R: Vivitar 200/3.5, Canon 28/2.8, Canon 50/1.8 and on the E-M1 the Canon 19/3.5 (note the thin focus ring)
       
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      Above and below images taken with the Vivitar 200/3.5 stopped down to about f/8 - you can see colour fringing on the royal ibis in the background below
       

       

      Above: the Canon 28mm f/2.8 turned out to be a good lens on the E-M1
       

      Above: Canon 50/1.8 FD is pretty sharp and makes for a good portrait lens on micro four thirds
       
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      My Wide Angle Lens
       
      Of all the wide angle lenses I have tried for the m43 system the one that I have kept and still continue to use is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6. This tiny collapsible lens is the same size as the early 14-42mm kit lenses found on many m43 combo deals but it’s got a better build. There is also one of those funky rectangular lens hoods available for it (LH-55B). I bought one but I seldom use it because most of the time I am using this lens indoors for property photography. When I am using it outdoors for landscape photography I would probably have a drop in filter kit on the lens (LEE Seven5 or Cokin) which means the lens hood doesn’t fit into the system. Another thing is that the hood can’t be reversed on the lens because of its shape, so while it may look cool it isn’t very practical. That said it’s small enough to slip into a camera bag pocket without causing a storage issue. I keep it handy, just in case.
       
      The other wide angle lenses I’ve used include the new Olympus 7-14/2.8 PRO, the older Olympus 7-14/4.0 (4/3 mount) and very briefly the Panasonic 7-14/4.0. All of them are too big for m43 and in my opinion they don’t bring that significant an improvement in image quality to be worth carrying around. The 9-18mm is tiny in comparison and offers a decently wide enough angle of view to work for me. I’d rather carry less weight than have an extra few degrees of viewing angle offered by the 7-14mm options. I also find the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm focal length to be unnatural on m43. It’s very hard to compose a scene with it.
       
      My favourite little wide angle lens is still the amazing Samyang 7.5/3.5 fisheye. I always have this lens in my camera bag. It’s about the same size as the 9-18mm, purely manual focus, but very, very sharp and contrasty, not to mention well built. Used on a mirrorless camera in A mode I haven’t had any issues with exposure at all - the cameras always seems to be able to get it right. I set the aperture ring to about 5.6 or 8.0, set the focus to infinity and everything from about 20cm to the end of the world is in focus. It opens up a lot of creative options for me. On a recent wedding I put it on an E-M1, put that on a tripod, folded it up to use like a monopod and circled the wedding dance floor while filming. I didn’t have to focus it and the footage turned out great.
       
      I did try the new Olympus 8/1.8 PRO lens, and while it is an amazing piece of glass it is very expensive compared to the $300 Samyang (I think it comes in at about $1k). It’s also much bigger and heavier than the Samyang.
       
      My General Purpose Lens
       
      There is only one lens that fits for me and its the Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO. I can’t extoll the benefits of this lens enough. It’s ridiculously fast to auto focus, is sharp as scalpels when used wide open, has great bokeh and is also weatherproof. What more could I want?
       
      I use this guy for a lot of stuff I do, including events, PJ, portraits, interior and product work too (it focuses really close and has better bokeh than the Panasonic/Leica 45/2.8 Macro I used to own). I love this lens! It actually stopped me from getting the Olympus 12/2.0 because at 12mm it’s just as good as that Olympus premium prime lens. I don’t need more aperture for wide angle work, so while the 12/2.0 is very good indeed, it is also very expensive and doesn’t do anything else besides 12mm. My money was better spent on this lens.
       
      Telephoto Lenses
       
      The best lens in my bag that is classed as a tele is the Olympus 75/1.8 ED. Nothing is better than this lens for low light work where I have some distance between me and my subject. I use it a lot for podium speakers at events and where I want to isolate a subject from the background. I don’t use it a lot at 1.8 because the depth of field is too shallow, but at 2.0 it shines. While I haven’t used it a lot for portrait work, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work. I would just need to get further away from the subject for framing given the narrow angle of view. The perspective is closer to the classic 85mm portrait lens used on 35mm systems, but it has the angle of view of a 150mm lens on that system.
       
      My other telephoto lens is one that has been sitting in my cupboard unused for over 18 months, but which I hauled out recently and put back into service.
      I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It’s the Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD (4/3 mount). It’s got the same angle of view as a Canon 100-400 lens, but it has the benefit of a larger aperture than the Canon and it is much smaller too. Without the lens hood and tripod mount it is just as nimble as the new 40-150/2.8 PRO. Upside is you can pick it up really cheap on the used market; downside is that it can only be used on the E-M1 with the PDAF sensors driving it. The SWD version works very nicely on an E-M1. I’ve been very happy with the results from this lens and will be using it much more from now on. The big plus is that it offers a wonderful range in a small package. It has excellent bokeh, much better than the sharp but nervous 40-150/2.8 PRO.
       
      Flash
       
      The Olympus FL-600R has all the remote, bounce, tilt capability of a top of the line Nikon or Canon flash unit but comes in a much smaller package. I have 2 of them that I take with me on event shoots. I use a bounce card with them in manual mode and I have had good results. I don’t use the Olympus TTL modes because they can produce quite erratic exposures when the flash is bounced. One really good feature of this unit is that it has a built-in LED light for video. It’s pretty powerful too. Working with the FL-600R can be a bit tricky if you aren’t familiar with the setup, but I suppose that’s true for any system speed light, isn’t it?
       
      And that is all I use on any shoots these days. 5 lenses, two E-M1 bodies. I get coverage all the way from fisheye up to what 35mm system users call a 400mm lens. The best part for me is that all of this gear, including the 2 flash units fits into my ThinkTank Retrospective 7 messenger bag and isn’t all that heavy.

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    • By Dallas
      Regular readers will know that I have been a mirrorless convert since late 2013, which is when I got my Olympus E-M1. That camera has now been on 6 safaris with me in the past couple of years, including a foot slog through the iMfolozi game reserve last year. Apart from an issue with the rear command dial not making proper contact (apparently caused by dust) it has been 100% reliable. In a few weeks time it will come with me back to Sabi Sabi for yet another safari. 
       
      The Mk II version is expected sometime this year but to be honest, it will take something truly extra-ordinary to come out for me to consider upgrading. I’m not that keen on more mega-pixels and I have found the auto focus system to be quite suitable for my needs. Improvements in the menu interface would be welcome though. I suppose the EVF technology is also improved quite a bit these days, although while what’s in the E-M1 now is perfectly fine for me, I do recall that the jump from the original E-M5 to the E-M1 in terms of EVF was significant. 
       
      So, camera sorted, what lenses have been the best performers for me on safari? 
       
      Over the past couple of years I have used a variety of different telephoto lenses on safari. When I was first getting into the m43 system I had the Panasonic 45-175mm X series lens (90-350mm F35 angle equiv) which did well in good light. It’s probably the one m43 lens I most regret selling, especially since the lens I gave it up for, the Olympus 75-300mm really failed to impress me. The Panasonic is very small, has a motorised zoom and while it’s got decent sharpness in its focal range, it’s best feature for me is the fact that it doesn’t change length when zooming. For a lens that is less than 10cm long, it makes a very worthy travel option. However, on safari you might find yourself wanting more range on the long side.
       

      Image taken with Panasonic 45-175mm and Olympus E-M5
       
      The Olympus 75-300mm that I mentioned certainly does give you the extra zoom range (150-600mm F35 eq) and could be considered good enough in terms of sharpness, but that slow aperture of f/6.7 at the long end just proved to be too slow, especially when light levels drop. Also, one has to understand that with such a narrow angle of view (4.1˚) you really do need good stability to get sharp photos. Even with the IBIS I often battled to hold this lens steady enough when used at 300mm. I don’t have a single photo shot with this lens that I am totally happy with. At the time I got it though it was the only game in town for m43, unless you were fortunate enough to have some legacy 4/3 telephoto glass in your back pocket, like Olympus’ 90-250/2.8 and their 300/2.8. 
       

      Image with Olympus 75-300mm on Olympus E-M1
       
      In 2014 I did manage to obtain an Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens which I used on both the Wild Waterways and Ultimate Big 5 safaris that year. I was very happy with the reach and the image quality from that lens. The equivalent Nikon/Canon option is the 80-400/100-400mm lenses, but those are slower by 1.5 stops when compared to the humble Olympus (which I should add is still obtainable new for around $1200). In my old Canon days I had the original 100-400mm lens and hated it immensely. I believe the new one is much, much better, as is the new Nikon 80-400mm. Those lenses are much more expensive than the Olympus. 
       
      The Olympus 50-200mm didn’t come with me on safari in 2015. Instead I opted to use the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO with the 1.4x TC. This was a mistake. The 40-150 is very good for subjects that are close to you (like within 30m or so), but as soon as those subjects get a bit further away I found that the lens performance dropped off. The images just seemed to lose their pop for me and subjects weren’t well defined at all. Also, the bokeh of this lens is a bit nervous in my opinion whereas the 50-200mm has beautiful bokeh and is also quite good on distant subjects. This will be my main lens for safari again this year. 
       
      Here are some images with that old Olympus. 
       

       

       

       

       
      Not hard to see why I like it so much. 
       
      New lenses I would like to try on safari include the new Olympus 300/4.0 PRO and the Panasonic 100-400mm. The Olympus continues to get rave reviews from users, but I fear that it will be simply too long to use at a place like Sabi Sabi where we get very close to our subjects. If I was interested in birds then that would be a different story. The Panasonic remains an unknown entity for safaris so hopefully soon I might be able to get one for evaluation. It certainly does have a good range for that use.
       
      Bag wise I am considering taking only my little ThinkTank Retrospective 7 this year. I have the much bigger Retro 50 which can take my laptop, but once I am there I don't want to carry such a big bag around on the vehicle so I will probably take the Retro 7 with the 2 E-M1 bodies, the 50-200/2.8-3.5 on one body with a grip and my other body with the 12-40/2.8 PRO for general purpose snapshots. If I get a demo lens from either Panasonic or Olympus to try out then I will have to take the bigger bag. 
       
      One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to being on safari again! 
       

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    • By Dallas
      In recent times Sigma has been carving out a name for itself as being not only a producer of a wide range of lenses for various cameras, but also an innovator in outstanding optics and lens styling. Nobody makes the same kinds of lenses that Sigma does for the 35mm camera systems. You have the insanely wide 12-24mm wide angle zoom and the outstanding 120-300mm f/2.8 Sports lens at opposite ends of the spectrum, not to mention a healthy (and growing) bunch of fast aperture prime lenses in between, including the 35mm f/1.4, which is probably one of the best lenses ever made in that focal length.
      Over on the periphery of their range of DSLR lenses they have also developed a small series of lenses for mirrorless cameras, including micro four thirds and Sony E-mount. These lenses have actually been around for a few years, in 19mm, 30mm and 60mm focal lengths, however, Sigma recently brought the look of them in line with its range of Art lenses and I have to say, they look very cool in black or silver.
      I have received a review set of the silver ones for m43 mount and I will be covering all three of them in this article. As always, click on the images to see large versions.

      The 19mm mounted on a PEN E-PM2

      The 30mm mounted on the Olympus E-M1 (images taken using the 60mm in studio)
      On The Outside
      Let’s first assess the look of these guys. Unlike most other lenses that have grippy focus rings, the new DN range is smooth metal all the way around the lens barrel. The silver ones are quite shiny and they definitely catch the attention of photographer magpies with their stainless steel focus rings.
      Even without rubberised or milled grippy surfaces, the focus ring moves very smoothly if you want to manually focus the lens. Despite being focus by wire they offer excellent tactile response when focused manually. The smooth surface can become a little grubby looking after use, but they clean up easily.
      Included with each lens is a black plastic, bayonet lens hood (part no. LH520-03) and it’s the same hood for all three lenses. They are reversible, but honestly, they are so short as to hardly constitute a space problem in any camera bag.
      All three lenses also share the same ø46mm lens cap, which Sigma have also updated to have the central and outer spring points. It makes putting them on and taking them off really simple, even with the hood in place. Also new are the rear lens caps which are chunkier and much better looking than the ones you get from Panasonic or Olympus.
      Size wise, they are all quite diminutive. The longest is the 60mm and the shortest is the 30mm. Like typical micro four thirds lenses they weigh close to nothing. Holding all three of these in one hand you still think you’re being short-changed weight-wise somewhere, but in photography gear terms that’s a good thing.
      Compared to the older EX versions the new ones have definitely taken a giant leap forward in terms of their looks. The older versions were kind of bland.

      On The Inside
      I’m not going to delve too deeply into the technical specs of these lenses because that information is easily available on the manufacturers websites as well as on most retailers pages. What I will tell you is that they are all fitted with Sigma’s new linear auto focus motor which removes the mechanical interface between the lens barrel and the elements completely.
      The benefits of this motor are evident in the excellent AF speeds and also the silence, which makes them very useful for video shooting when using AF. However, it does come with one somewhat quirky side effect. When you remove the lenses from your camera, or if you have the camera switched off, you will notice that they all make a clunking sound when moved around. This is because the elements are literally floating in their rails inside. They’re not connected to anything mechanical, like gears. Once the camera is powered on the clunking goes away because the electrical interface between the motor and the elements kicks into gear (so to speak). It’s a little weird, but it works.
      Other important aspects of the design to take note of are that they all share a 7-blade rounded aperture diaphragm which helps to improve the bokeh, a feature of each of these lenses that is quite a drawcard.
      The 60mm features SLD (special low dispersion) glass elements to assist with correction of chromatic aberrations. The other two have multi-layer coatings. All of them feature aspheric elements to deal with coma. It’s good to know that the risk of falling into a coma while using these lenses has been reduced.
      In The Field
      As always, when I review a lens I look at results from practical applications, not lab tests. I do try to put the lens in demanding situations wherever possible and I almost always shoot them the way I would shoot them if I was using them on a proper assignment. I don’t particularly pay attention to minor things like distortion or CA (both of which are easily corrected in post production and which have hardly been a major problem in any new lens I have used over the past 5 years) or any of the things the things that make people in white lab coats gaze pensively into charts with lines plotted on them. I take pictures. Either a lens helps me make a better picture, in which case I take it with me wherever I go, or it throws an impediment my way, in which case it gets consigned to an instant listing on the local classified ads. The answers I seek are in the photos, not in charts. Do my images get better with the lens I am using or is the lens dragging my result down?
      That said, I am happy to report below my findings with these three lenses, all used during the course of a few weeks in various assignments and personal projects.
      Let’s start with the 19mm.
      19mm f/2.8 DN Art
      I must confess that I have had the older version of this lens in my possession for over a year and have used it intermittently on various cameras. It first came to me as a loan from an Olympus Ambassador colleague who thought I might like it. I did. Immediately. He never got it back!
      The thing that drew me in with this lens was that it is sharp at f/2.8 and the bokeh was very attractive to me. There is almost a Leica-like softness to the out of focus areas when using this lens wide open. I haven’t seen this sort of gentle de-registering of sharpness in many lenses of this focal length. It's great for use as a PJ lens.
      Being the sort of photographer who loves the 35mm angle of view (which incidentally is 54˚on a true 35mm lens and 59˚on this lens at infinity), I was almost instantly hooked. The problem I have with this lens is that I am more of a zoom guy and being the owner of one of the best zoom lenses ever made (Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, which I have taking to calling Mr. Slick), the Sigma only ever gets onto a camera when I feel that taking the zoom lens with me isn’t practical - which is virtually never. However, the little Sigma has got something going for it that Mr. Slick doesn’t. It has a $200 price tag.
      I don’t believe you can buy a better lens for m43 for that kind of money. The closest Olympus prime is the 17mm f/1.8 which costs more than double. Granted, it does have a 1.8 aperture as opposed to a 2.8 on the Sigma, but hey… we’re talking $250 extra for that 1.3 stops of light.
      Panasonic have their 20mm f/1.7 which seems to run at around $300 on major sites and while many people love that lens, it is really very slow on the AF front, so keep that in mind if you are drawing a comparison and need fast AF. The Sigma is a better option, in my opinion.
      For people on a budget looking to get a nice prime lens for their micro four thirds mirrorless camera, this Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art is a steal. You won’t be disappointed.
      Here are some shots I have taken with it.




      Durban's beachfront (taken with the older version of the 19mm which has the same optics, different barrel).

      Pros
      excellent image quality
      fantastic bokeh
      sharp wide open
      inexpensive
      lightweight
      premium build quality
      fast focus
      suppresses flare very well
      comes with a hood

      Cons
      There are no cons for me with this lens.
      30mm f/2.8 DN Art
      The “normal” angle of view that one gets with a 50mm lens on the 135 system is around 46˚. According to Sigma’s tech specs in micro four thirds terms this 30mm lens is close enough to that view, coming in at 39.6˚. Looking through the viewfinder of a 50mm lens on 135 and a 30mm lens on m43, that 6˚difference is not much, so for all intents and purposes the Sigma will pass as a “normal” lens in that regard, with just a slightly more cramped view.
      For some strange reason I don’t like that angle of view. Never have, so of the three Sigma DN lenses this one has seen the least amount of use from me. That said, there are many people who do like the “normal” angle of view and if you’re hankering for it the Sigma provides it at a ridiculously affordable $200.
      The alternative 25mm f/1.8 from Olympus will cost you about double the money, albeit with that same faster 1.8 aperture than the Sigma. However, it’s nearest competitor is the soon to be available Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 which has a pre-order price tag of $250 at most online stores in the US. This means that the Sigma is going to be facing some stiff competition because Panasonic makes some very good lenses and this one is not only faster in aperture, its lighter too. I’d say that the big difference is going to come down to build quality and perhaps some optical qualities. My guess is that Panasonic’s new 25mm lens will probably not have the same premium metal finish that the Sigma does, but I might be wrong. If I ever get my hands on one I will be sure to let you know.
      Here are some photos taken with the 30mm:



      Pros

      great build quality
      nice and sharp
      small and light
      good bokeh
      inexpensive
      fast focus
      comes with a hood

      Cons
      personally doesn’t fit my style of photography (not wide enough to be "normal" for me)

      60mm f/2.8 DN Art
      I had heard about this lens from a couple of guys I know who use it regularly. Their comments were very complimentary, almost bordering on fanatical, especially when it came to sharpness. Another confession; this lens was the one I most wanted to review. After using it for a short while I have to say that my friends’ comments were entirely justified. This is a fantastic lens! And it only costs $200!
      The 60mm (20.4˚) angle of view on m43 translates to a 120mm (20˚) angle of view on 135, so it is ideally suited for tight portraiture, or any other subject matter than falls into that frame of view. A quick search on Flickr will reveal many ways in which users are able to reflect their vision using this lens. Nikon users coming to micro four thirds would probably compare it with the 135mm f/2.0 DC Nikkor in terms of its framing ability.
      I found the sharpness of this 60mm to be quite amazing, even at f/2.8. I’d go so far as to say that we’re approaching the sort of sharpness that you find on the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. I have no scientific way of proving this (remember what I said about the lab coat guys?), other than to take two images of the same subject at the same f/2.8 aperture and compare them. So I did this and here’s what I found:

      This is taken with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 shot at f/2.8

      And here's the same shot taken with the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 at f/2.8
      I photographed the Peak Design Clutch on my product photography table (without flash so I could shoot with the f/2.8 aperture) using a tripod and an Olympus E-M1. I cropped the 60mm shot so that it looks more or less the same as the 75mm shot.
      Everyone who knows my history with micro four thirds will know how highly I rate the Oly 75mm, so for me to consider a $200 lens from Sigma to be a peer must tell you something. Yes, the Oly opens up to f/1.8 which in low light gives it a significant advantage over the Sigma, so it’s the first lens I would reach for if I was going to photograph a concert or a conference speaker, but if I didn’t already have that Oly, you can rest assured that for a similar angle of view (20˚vs 16˚) I would definitely want this lens. It's also $900 vs $200. Don't get me wrong, I love the Oly, but $700 goes a long way out here.
      Here are some photos from the 60mm Sigma.

      The 60mm gives you a really vibrant palette of colours with excellent contrast.


      I shot both of the above images directly into the rising sun and flare was nowhere to be seen.

      Colour and separation are excellent with the 60mm.

      Out of focus areas are very nicely rendered while the subject is sharp at max aperture.

      Pros

      inexpensive
      sharp as a tack, even at f/2.8
      lightweight
      excellent build quality
      lovely bokeh
      handles flare well
      comes with a hood
      fast focus

      Cons

      closest focus distance is 50cm which for me is a little long for such a short focal length
      could be considered too sharp for portraits of wrinkled faces (ie, don’t photograph ladies over the age of 35 with this!)

      Overall Conclusions
      These Sigma DN lenses are definitely must have items for micro four thirds users (I can’t speak for the Sony E-mount guys). You’re getting immense bang for the buck with them. All three of them will still cost you less than many of the better f/2.8 zoom lenses available from both Panasonic and Olympus, so if you’re on a tight budget and would like to dip your toes into the mirrorless world, this is as good a starting point as any. I would absolutely, definitely get the 60mm first, then the 19mm second. The 30mm is very good, but as I said, it’s not a focal length I work with much, so it probably wouldn’t see much use in my system. That may change as I get more involved in video, but for now it’s the least useful one for me.
      I often put the 19mm on my Olympus PEN E-PM2 and go cycling with it along our promenade. It’s a great focal length for me.
      Optically I can’t find much wrong with any of them. Nothing jumps out at me and shouts “Ah! I am a crap lens!” or “I have cooties on the inside!”. Sure, there are much better lenses available for m43, but you’d have a spend much more than this to get them. For most people these are a great value proposition and I would have no qualms putting down the money for all of them and being entirely satisfied.
      If I did that (and I most certainly might) I would opt for the black ones as the silver tends to stick out a bit on my black cameras. I’ve been told these silver versions look like little camping mugs… oh dear!
      Bottom line: just get them all. You will be happy.

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    • By Dallas
      The first in this series of articles dealt with the better zoom lenses that are available for the micro four thirds system. That article was warmly received by many of our FZ members as well as guests who commented on it on other websites. This edition of the series deals with the prime lenses available for m43 and what your best options are if you’re looking to build up a system of m43 kit.
      As I said in the zoom lens article, this is based to some degree on my personal experiences with many of the lenses, but for some of the options I am only going on what I have researched by scouring over many online reviews (trust me, I thoroughly research everything I’m interested in).
      I’ll split the options up into three main segments, namely wide angle (7mm - 20mm), general purpose (25mm - 30mm) and telephoto (above 30mm). These are of course micro four thirds focal lengths. If you want to know the equivalent 135 system angle of view you simply double the m43 focal length number and you’ll find the lens focal length that most closely matches the angle of view in 135. Example; a 25mm m43 lens has an equivalent angle of view to a 50mm on the larger 135 system. It is NOT an equivalent focal length, just an equivalent angle of view. 25mm is 25mm on any camera system.
      Wide Angles To Consider Getting
      7.5mm f/3.5 Samyang Fisheye ($300)
      8mm f/3.5 Panasonic Fisheye ($640)
      12mm f/2.0 Olympus ($800)
      14mm f/2.5 Panasonic ($300)
      15mm f/1.7 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600)
      17mm f/1.8 Olympus ($500)
      17.5mm f/0.95 Voigtlander Nokton ($1150)
      19mm f/2.8 Sigma DN “Art” ($200)
      20mm f/1.7 Panasonic ($430)
      Looking at the list above you can see that there’s more than just a clutch of options available if wide angles are your thing. You’ve got all the way from the 180˚ fisheye options to the moderately wide 20mm fast option from Panasonic. Which one(s) do you chose?

      Regular readers will already know that I have the Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye and I absolutely love this little lens. It’s super sharp everywhere, well built and it also has a manual aperture ring, which is not something you see much of these days. The downside to this lens is that it’s manual focus and there is no information about aperture passed to the camera, which means that you have to meter manually or trust the camera’s guesswork based on what it sees through the lens. I only shoot with it in A mode and somehow both my OM-D cameras get the exposure spot on. Most of the time. Because of the fact that its a fisheye lens and you’re shooting on a smaller format, the manual focus aspect hardly ever comes into play. I usually set the aperture for f/5.6 and focus at infinity. Nearly everything is in focus with that setting.
      The other native m43 fisheye option is the Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye. I don’t know much about this lens other than if I want one I will have to import it myself and that it costs more than double the price of the Samyang ($300 versus $640) and also that it has autofocus. The question I guess I have to ask is whether or not getting auto focus is worth more than double the price? The answer for me is a resounding no. Not when you hardly need to focus the Samyang. I don’t think the Panasonic would be all that much better in terms of sharpness either, so my choice is obvious: save the money and get the Samyang. They also sell this exact same lens under the Rokinon brand.
      Moving to the more moderate wide angles you will find the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 which is the same as your 24mm lenses on the big sensor DLSR cameras. This particular lens gets excellent reviews everywhere. It’s considered one of the lenses to get for m43, so I’m definitely keen on getting my grubby paws on one at some point. I just have to find the $800 asking price!The next step up the line is the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 which is also considered a great lens by many. The strong point of this guy is that its so tiny, probably not much bigger than the size of a Nikkor rear lens cap. I’m not a big fan of the 28mm equivalent angle of view, so it’s not high on my GAS list.

      Creep up just a millimetre and we find the recently introduced Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux. As with everything Leica puts their name on, you can be assured of top quality optical design. This lens has a very fast maximum aperture so you’ll be able to get wonderfully short depth of field with it, and as with most m43 lenses it’s usable wide open, which is more than can be said for a lot of bigger format lenses of similar aperture. It’s on my GAS list, purely because of this fast aperture, which is something I would find very useful for low light work where a wide aperture is needed.As we get closer to the “normal” angle of view we find the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, which is a lens I wish I had, but then when it’s compared with other lenses that offer a similar specification my desire to charge ahead and buy it finds itself under the gearbox clutch: motor spinning but no drive to the wheels. Why is this?

      Well, it comes down to two things, I guess. Firstly there’s the price aspect of that lens. It’s not cheap at $500. Especially when you take a look at the alternative Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 that can be had for $430 (often discounted to much less in online deals). In researching these two lenses you will often read reports from users that the Panny is considered noticeably sharper when wide open and has better bokeh. Secondly there’s the issue of auto focus speed. The Olympus is hands down much faster to focus than the Panny. The only reason I would want either of these lenses is for use in very low light, so that I could shoot them wide open and be assured of a sharp result, yet I can’t have my cake and eat it, because the Panny, while considered the better lens wide open, doesn’t have the auto focus performance that you’d need when you’re shooting in low light. So you’ve got the sharpness need covered in the inferior focusing Panny, and you’ve got the AF speed covered in the more expensive and slightly less sharp Oly. Is the superior sharpness worth more to me than the superior auto focus speed? I can’t have both, so I haven’t made a decision on which lens to get yet. In all likelihood if I was to find a good deal on either of them I would probably spring the dough. But it would have to be a really good deal. Like half price good. Stuck inbetween the two lenses above is the seldom mentioned Sigma 19mm f/2.8 Art. Sigma recently updated this lens to being a part of its “Art” line. If you’ve seen any of the new Sigma’s you’ll know they ain’t messing about when it comes to quality. I have on loan the older plastic finished version of this lens, which is optically the same and I’ll be honest with you, this is a great lens which if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s maximum aperture is only 2.8 would make me forget all about the other two mentioned in the previous paragraphs. It’s very sharp wide open and it also has wonderful bokeh, so for street photography in decent light it’s a superb option and I can highly recommend getting one. Best attribute? It’s only $200, even less if you catch the rebates currently on offer from some stockists in the US. Highly recommended for m43.

      The one lens I am unlikely to ever get because of its price and the fact that it is manual focus is the über fast $1150 Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95. Reviewers of this lens sing its praises very highly, but for me the size, weight and price, coupled with the fact that it’s manual focus make it an unlikely bedfellow for my OM-D cameras. That, and the fact that getting one locally would be darn near impossible unless I import it myself. Put another way, the lens may be exotic, but it doesn’t have enough charm to seduce me.So as you can see, there are a few options open for wide angle prime lenses for m43. It basically comes down to how wide you want to shoot and how wide you want to open your wallet.
      Standard Lenses
      25mm f/0.95 Voitländer Nokton ($1000)
      25mm f/1.4 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600)
      25mm f/1.8 Olympus ($400)
      30mm f/2.8 Sigma Art ($200)
      If you’re a standard lens shooter on the 135 system then you’re probably going to be familiar with the venerable 50mm fast lens that has been around since Pa fell off the bus. For micro four thirds there are 4 lenses with a similar angle of view to choose from.
      I’m not a standard lens shooter, but I guess if I was to chose between the four listed above I would need to make a case for whether the increased maximum aperture on the Pan/Leica is worth a 50% price premium over the Olympus, or a 200% premium over the Sigma 30mm option. For me personally the Voigtländer Nokton falls into the same “unobtainium” category as the 17.5mm Nokton. It may be a great fast lens, but without autofocus and its big price tag it doesn’t ring my bell.
      It’s hard to make a special case for any of them because they are all good lenses, so it definitely comes down to how much light you think you’re going to need from your standard view lens. If you want bokeh you get the Pan/Leica or Voigtländer. If you want to save money but not skimp on image quality you get the Sigma. If you want Goldilocks you get the Olympus. I have the sigma 30mm on loan too and it’s OK, but as mentioned it doesn’t offer an angle of view that I find easy to work with, so I am struggling a little to get my creative eye into it. It is sharp enough at f/2.8 though and definitely worth the very low asking price.
      Telephoto Lenses
      42.5mm f/0.95 Voigtländer Nokton ($1,000)
      42.5mm f/1.2 Panasonic/Leica Nocticron ($1,500)
      45mm f/1.8 Olympus ($280)
      45mm f/2.8 Panasonic/Leica Macro-Elmarit ($900)
      60mm f/2.8 Olympus ED Macro ($450)
      75mm f/1.8 Olympus ED ($900)
      150mm f/2.0 Olympus (four thirds) ($2,500)
      300mm f/2.8 Olympus (four thirds) ($6,500)
      Telephotos are what gets most people interested in photography and for m43 there is an abundance of prime lenses to choose from.
      The first lens on the list above is the über fast Voitlander 42.5mm f/0.95. As with the other two Voigtlander lenses its a manual focus job, so if you’re planning on using this lens, you’ll need to practise your technique using the visual aids on your EVF to get focus nailed, especially if shot wide open. I personally wouldn’t go for something this expensive that didn’t have auto focus, but then I have become a slave to the trappings of technology. Hopefully not everyone has become as lazy as me!

      Recently Panasonic and Leica once again collaborated on a lens design that saw the birth of the highly acclaimed 42.5mm Nocticron, a lens with a price tag that makes the “unobtainium” Voigtländer Nokton seem like a bargain in comparison. So far what I’m reading online is that it’s one of those lenses us low pay grade bumpkins are going to salivate over until we mortgage the house, sell the dogs, or engage in illicit dealings to get our hands on it. In other words an extremely desirable item. If you can afford it and you want the very best image quality m43 can offer you to make portraits with, this is something you’ll want to investigate. I do hope that other manufacturers look at this spec and offer a cheaper alternative. The sublime Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 is the same angle of view and aperture, but it only costs 2/3rds of the price. That lens has a lot of photographers rushing to the Fuji system, so m43 needs to get a handle on the pricing of its equivalent offerings if it is to remain a viable option.
      For the rest of us mere mortals there is another option, the very capable Olympus 45mm f/1.8. I have this lens and got it based on the high praise it got from many users all over the web. The auto focus is Usain Bolt like, it offers excellent sharpness wide open and it’s a diminutive lens, weighing only 116g. When its on my OM-D it looks almost like a cotton reel attached to the camera its so tiny. The image quality is awesome too and the best part is that its one of the great bargains of the m43 system. It’ll only lighten your wallet by $280. It’s a great lens for portraits, but also other stuff done at that angle of view.The other option for m43 at this focal length is the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit. I have this lens too and it’s wonderful. Sharp, optically stabilised for those using Panasonic bodies without in-body stabilisation, and it also has one of those groovy rectangular lens hoods (which incidentally also perfectly fits the Sigma 19mm). The only thing about this lens that I don’t like is that it focuses slowly. The other thing that tends to throw potential buyers off is the fact that it is not cheap at $900. Is it a good macro lens? For me it’s great, but macro isn’t my area of interest, so I can’t really give you an informed opinion on that aspect. Some reviewers love it for macro, while others have panned it. Can’t please everyone I guess.
      The m43 macro lens that has made photographers stand up and yodel its praises is the newish Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Every review I have read about it says the same thing: it’s sublime. Some reviewers have even gone so far as to say that it’s the best macro lens they have ever used. I can imagine that with the 20˚ angle of view it offers it will be ideal for insect close-ups. It’s also half the price of the Pan/Leica 45mm. Definitely on my GAS list even though I’m not really a macro shooter.

      If there is a lens for m43 that you absolutely have to have, it is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED. This all metal, stubby little fella produces some of the sharpest images I have ever seen and throws the argument that you can’t get shallow depth of field with a small sensor right in the trashcan. I have reviewed this lens before and could extoll its virtues all day if given the opportunity, but suffice to say that if you’re intent on spending $900 on a lens, this is a very good way to do it. You’ll get the equivalent angle of view of a 150mm lens on a 135 system camera, with a huge aperture, but you’ll only be carrying a fraction of the weight. For low light jobs such as stage work and indoor sports, this lens totally rocks. It has a great working distance for tight portraits too.The next two lenses I’m going to discuss are legacy four thirds mounts from Olympus. Both of them have earned their reputations as being some of the very best optics you can buy. The Olympus 150mm f/2.0 is a heavy little fellow at 1.465kg but it offers the popular angle of view of 8.2˚ which is the same as that of a 300mm lens on your “full frame” systems. The difference is that you’re getting a full stop’s worth of extra light with this lens. What can you do with it? Take a look at this Flickr search for images shot with it. Impressive! If I was going to spend $2500 on a telephoto lens I think I would definitely consider this one, especially if you partner it with a 2x teleconverter. You would have the equivalent of a 600mm f/4. Possibly not good for birds in flight - I have not ever used an Olympus four thirds teleconverter - but for stationary subjects that you can’t approach easily, this could definitely be a short solution to a long problem.

      The other four thirds option is the Olympus 300mm f/2.8. This is every bit as big as a 300mm 2.8 from all the other big name makers. The compelling difference with this $6500 beast is that the 4.1˚ angle of view is the same as that of a 600mm lens for bigger 135 system, except that you’re gathering double the light with your f/2.8 maximum aperture as opposed to the f/4.0 maximum aperture lenses made for the larger systems. Combine that with the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) on the Olympus E-M1 and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable telephoto lens for that angle of view. Personally I’m only likely to get a lens like this when somebody offers me one at a ridiculously low price.

      So these are most of the highly recommended prime lenses for micro four thirds. There are a few I didn't include, but only because I know nothing about them. As you can see, apart from the absence of tilt-shift lenses, m43 offers a nice variety of top class options from a number of manufacturers and that list is getting longer all the time. If you have any experience with shooting the lenses I have mentioned but do not have first hand experience with, please do add your opinions of them to this articles in the comments section.
      In the next Rough Guide Series instalment I will have a look at some of the various bodies currently on offer to m43 users.

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    • By Dallas
      I get asked by other photographers quite often for a quick overview of the big differences between the Micro Four Thirds (m43) system and the DSLR systems such as Canon and Nikon, or basically what they should be looking to purchase if they decided to make the switch from larger format cameras to smaller formats and keep the same functionality they already have.
      There’s a lot of information available out there on the internet, but it takes a lot of time to read through it all and it’s made all the more difficult if you don’t know anything at all about the m43 system or what to investigate. So I have put together this rough guide series to shed some light on what products stand out in each respective area of interest. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good indication of what to investigate further if you’re serious about moving to, or adding this format to your photography gear.
      The first in this series deals with the “Holy Trinity” type zoom lens options, namely wide angles, general purpose and telephotos. These are my own opinions based on research I have done myself and supported wherever possible by personal experiences of the items.
      Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens Options
      Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0
      Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6
      Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 (four thirds)
      Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet)
      I only had a very brief exposure to the Panasonic 7-14mm lens when I was first getting back into the m43 system about 2.5 years ago. I had just bought a Panasonic GF-1 for a good price from a store that was clearing all their Panasonic m43 inventory and their asking price for the lens was around $500 at that time. I put it on my GF-1 and took a few shots around the store, but it felt very unbalanced on such a small camera and I thought, geez, for $500 I could buy a nice DSLR lens that I didn’t already have, so I passed. Little did I realise that the actual price of the lens was closer to $1200, so in hindsight I should have zapped it up.
      I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is a much, much smaller lens. It’s collapsible too, so if you’re limited for weight you really can’t ask for more. I find that it’s a nice sharp lens and performs really well in landscapes. Obviously it’s not nearly as wide as the 7-14mm options, but it does well in its range (similar view to 18-35mm FX lenses). I used this lens extensively on our safari to Namibia in 2013 and was really pleased with all the results I got shooting those harsh desert landscapes. The lens has held up quite well in the cosmetics department too, having accompanied me on many photo excursions for work and play since I got it.



      Earlier this year I had the opportunity to buy the older Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 lens that was originally designed for use on the Olympus DSLR’s. If you mate it with an MMF adapter you can use it on the OM-D’s with varying degrees of autofocus compatibility. It’s terrible on the E-M5 (hunts like crazy) but it works decidedly better on the E-M1, which has the necessary phase detection AF sensors on the imager itself. Image quality wise it’s very, very good, but it’s also very, very expensive at $1800. It has full weather sealing so if you’re using it on the E-M1 with the MMF-3 adapter you will have a weatherproof solution. The downside is that it’s very large and therefore it doesn’t balance well on an E-M1 without the HLD-7 grip, which defeats the purpose of having a smaller kit (this lens is of similar proportions to the Sigma 12-24mm FX lens).

      Big and heavy, the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 is an expensive option but well worth the money


      The final option is the announced, but only available in 2015 all new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This will be one of the siblings making up the Holy Trinity of Olympus pro zoom lenses and if the already existing 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is any indication of the quality we can expect, I think it is most likely going to be the one to get, mainly because of its native mount to the m43 system.
      If you can’t wait for that one to arrive then you would probably do well to get the Olympus 9-18mm lens as its by far the cheapest option. You could always sell it once the PRO lens arrives. I will keep mine as a lightweight option.
      Best General Purpose Zoom Lens OptionsPanasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6
      Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
      Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
      Olympus 12-35mm f/2.0 (four thirds)
      There are three pro spec lenses here to chose from on my list above, but there are also a myriad of consumer grade kit lenses available from both Panasonic and Olympus, including many variations of the 14-42mm. I haven’t used many of them but there is one consumer grade standout lens and that is the one in my list here, the now discontinued Panasonic 14-45mm. This one is really very good and prior to my getting the 12-40mm it was my go to lens for the E-M5. I still use it sometimes, especially if I am doing work in a dodgy location where the possibility of being liberated of my gear is relatively high. At least the loss of this lens as opposed to the PRO version would be easier to bear.
      The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is something else. This is a beautiful piece of glass from Olympus. Well finished, wonderful optics and extremely fast focusing on the OM-D bodies I have. I rate it as being better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8 I used to own and that’s saying something because as anyone who has used the Nikkor knows, it’s a serious optic too. However, to get the best out of the Nikkor you have to stop it down to at least f/4. The Olympus lens is sharp right from f/2.8.
      I don’t know too much about the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 but it was on the market long before the Oly arrived. Reports I have read from many users are all positive about this one, so if you can get one to try you should definitely do that. An advantage to this lens is of course that it has built in image stabilisation, so if you have chosen a Panasonic body instead of an Olympus one for your m43 system this will be stabilised whereas the Oly lenses won’t, since Olympus bodies have image stabilisers on the sensor, thus making any lens you mount on the camera stabilised.

      Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 - one of the fastest zoom lenses with a constant aperture.


      The final stand out lens is again a four thirds lens that you can use on the E-M1 with an MMF adapter. I have not used one, but stop and take another look at the figures on this lens. The constant maximum aperture is f/2.0. That’s right, it’s a whole stop faster than any of the other pro lenses! At $2300 it’s certainly not a cheap option, but if you want a fast zoom lens they don’t get much faster than this. Downside is of course the physical size, so unless you have a true need for the speed of the lens you’re better off with the native mount options.
      Best Telephoto Zoom Lens Options
      Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
      Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 (four thirds)
      Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet)
      Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (four thirds)
      Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 (four thirds)
      One of the biggest advantages of a small sensor like m43 is that telephoto lenses are typically much smaller than their DSLR counterparts, yet offer just as tight an angle of view. It surprises me that more birders haven’t adopted m43 as a system because there is such a wonderful array of both exotic and practical telephoto lenses available. Not only that, with adapters you can put any lens on the camera and capture the best central part of the optics of that lens with an m43 size sensor. Obviously you will need to be quick on the manual focus, but with slower moving subjects and focus peaking functionality (not to mention the IBIS on Olympus cameras) you have a field of view that is typically half of what you’re seeing on an FX camera.

      The ultimate safari lens! The 90-250mm f/2.8 offers an angle of view equal to a 180-500mm lens on FX format.


      If your primary interest in the m43 system is to get a good telephoto lens for longer reach, like wildlife or sports, you’re probably going to want to look at the four thirds range where there are a number of options that will truly knock your socks off (and lighten your wallet). The one stand-out lens that I would love to use is the 90-250mm f/2.8. In FX terms it gives you a 180-500mm angle of view, with the constant f/2.8 aperture. I cannot think of a more useful range for wildlife safaris than that. At $6k it’s not going to be within everyone’s reach, but when compared to the Nikon and Canon 200-400mm f/4 options and their respective costs it starts to look a lot more interesting.

      The Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 is a very capable, compact telephoto option for m43


      I have the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 which offers the FX equivalent of a 100-400mm lens. It’s a lot cheaper than the 90-250mm and it’s also a much faster optic than the Canon 100-400mm and the Nikon 80-400mm. Having owned the Canon 100-400mm IS when I first got into digital photography I can say in all honestly that this Olympus lens beats the pants of that Canon, by a long way. It’s sharper, has great contrast and colour too. I haven’t ever used the Nikon 80-400mm lenses so I can’t draw a comparison with it. Obviously the main advantage on the Oly is the faster aperture at the long end, which is a whole stop and a third brighter than the Canon/Nikon options, but there is also another advantage in that it is much cheaper at only $1200 compared to the $2800 asking price for the new Nikkor. It is also fully weather sealed and the hood has a hatch that slides open so you can use your polariser or variable ND filters easily. It’s the lens I am going to be using on safari this year.
      Panasonic haven’t really developed much in the longer telephoto area, however they were the first to introduce a pro spec shorter range telephoto in the form of the 35-100mm f/2.8. This is your general purpose telephoto lens similar to the 70-200mm f/2.8 FX lens that is mostly used by wedding photographers. User reports on this lens are all mostly very positive and at $1200 it’s an attractive option.
      There’s another 35-100mm lens that will blow your hair back and that is the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 for the four thirds mount. Yes, that’s right, it’s an f/2.0 optic, constant throughout the zoom range. I have handled this lens briefly as a colleague of mine owns one, plus I have seen some of his images shot with it. On the E-M1 this lens is jaw-droppingly good. I can’t even begin to describe how sharp and punchy it is. It will set you back around $2500 but if you can get one and you don’t mind the size of it, you will not be disappointed with what it can do. Highly recommended!

      Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 is a lens to die for!


      The last lens to mention in this first instalment of the Rough Guide series is the announced, but as yet not available Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. This will be the one I buy, mainly because it will be affordable and also it’s a native m43 mount, so no adapter is needed. It will autofocus with the CDAF system on the E-M1 so I will be able to shoot at 10 frames per second with it. Not really required, but nice to have. The expected street price is said to be around $1300.
      These are the top end lens options open to those who are thinking about adopting the m43 system. As mentioned at the start of the article there are other cheaper options too, so if you’re put off by the prices of some of these lenses, do have a look at the other options too.
      As a final note I should add that there are at least three Olympus adapters available to mate the older 4/3rds lenses to the m43 mount. These are the MMF1, MMF2 and MMF3. They all do the same thing and there is no difference in auto focus performance between them, but only the MMF3 has the weather sealing, so if that's an important feature for you to have then you ought to opt for it. It's slightly more expensive than the others at $160. Panasonic also make an adapter that does the same thing, the DMW-MA1 and it's much cheaper at a shade over $100. Not sure if that one is weather sealed. There is no glass in these adapters so image quality is exactly the same on m43 as it is on 4/3.
      In the next edition of this series I will have a look at the prime lenses for the system.
      If you're thinking about buying any of these items please consider starting your shopping at our affiliate retailers by using any of the links to their shops found at the bottom of the page. This will be most appreciated.

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