jnolan's reviews

  • Olympus 14-35mm f/2 ED SWD Zuiko Digital

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Image quality, Speed, Weather sealing, Build quality, Pride
    Size, Weight, Price

    You might have noticed that this lens costs a lot. That's okay, though, because it's absolutely fantastic.

    First off, though, it's worth mentioning that this lens is huge. It's heavy and it's big. I find that it feels good on my E-5, but on my E-420 it feels like I'm attaching my body to the lens. You usually need to get into the tele range for that sort of thing. This lens is big enough that people notice it, so I don't generally travel with it (both for the weight and the attention).

    The constant f-2 is very easy to get used to. Your aperture just becomes something you no longer have to worry about because you've always got every option available. Of course, this explains its size and weight.

    The character of the image is definitely Super High Grade. I've also got the 11-22 lens, which is High Grade. The 11-22 is a noticeable step above the Standard Grade. This Super High Grade is an even more noticeable step above the High Grade. Others have said it before and I tend to agree - if you're familiar with the image quality of the 50mm f-2 macro lens, this lens offers that quality between the focal lengths of 14mm and 35mm.

    I was a bit concerned at first regarding the focal length range. It's gotten to the point now that zooms cover such a broad range, a smaller range seems like a flaw. But I no longer think of this lens's focal length range that way. I look at it as normal lens with wiggle room. If you zoom it to the middle, it's essentially a normal lens, but you can zoom in or out a bit if you want. I think if you can understand it that way, you'll get a good idea of whether or not this lens will suit what you need to shoot.

    This lens is sharp enough that I once got a moire pattern with my E-5.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012 (purchased for $2,000)
  • Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH LEICA D SUMMILUX

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Image quality, Speed
    Size, Weight

    This is the great, fast prime for the 4/3 system. I've never used a real Leica, so I'm not sure exactly how it would compare. The only lenses I've got right now that I would say have better image quality are the Oly 14-35mm f-2 and the Oly 50mm f-2. But this is splitting hairs. They're all fantastic.

    My favorite use for this lens is to take photos of multiple people and photos of children. For adults, I generally prefer the 50mm f-2 because they stay still (it's a slow focusing lens) and appreciate personal space.

    Children love it when you're up in their faces, and they're constantly moving so the f-1.4 can really help if want to shoot with soft natural light, especially inside.

    With multiple people, I find that the 25mm focal length is quite good. I can adjust the aperture to get the bokeh I want. Speaking of bokeh, this lens supplies very, very nice bokeh. It's very smooth.

    The biggest flaw for me comes from a feature some people might actually like - the image stabilization in the lens makes it heavy and large. I use the lens with an Oly E-5, so the image stabilization is useless for me. I would much prefer the lens to weigh less and be smaller.

    But, I don't have a choice. Oh well.. It's a minor quibble.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012 (purchased for $600)
  • Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED Zuiko Digital

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Size, Weight

    This lens came with my camera body. I no longer own it, but at times I miss it.

    It's easy to dismiss this lens as a 'simply a kit lens', but I think that's not fair to this lens.

    It's easy to say what this lens isn't. In truth, it's not a lot of things. But that's only because of the trade-off necessary for what it is.

    What it is, then, is a great standard zoom if you want to travel light. It's quite small and is very light. This lens certainly won't be a burden. It's also, like the 25mm pancake lens, rather inconspicuous.

    It does have some distortion and vignetting, but, again, it's small and light. All things considered, they're well controlled.

    It's image quality is about the middle of the road for the Digital Zuiko line-up, but Oly users know that the middle of the Zuiko road is not really a bad place.

    It's biggest drawback is its speed. At its widest it's only f-3.5. In decent light, this isn't a problem. But it starts to be a problem inside and after the sun sets.

    Again, I would consider this a travel lens. Most people traveling are going to be active during the day. While the sun is rising and setting (please put your camera away at noon, unless you're inside) you'll have enough light that its speed doesn't matter. At night you'll be resting.

    If your technique is good, you should be able to get a passable shot having dinner with your new vacation friends, but don't expect the waitress to take a clear photo with this lens unless you're eating in a well-lit warehouse.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012
  • Olympus 50mm f/2 Zuiko Digital Macro

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Image quality
    Auto focus speed, Auto focus noise

    The image quality of this lens is absurd. It's very good. It's very clean; it's very sharp; it's very contrasty.

    It's a macro lens. By itself it can zoom in pretty close. I don't have any of the teleconverters or extension tubes, but from what I've read it seems that they really expand the utility of this lens's macro function.

    I usually use this for product photography. It's focal length is good for this. It's also a good focal length for adult portraiture. Children are fidgety, and one of the definite weaknesses of this lens is its auto focus speed. It's just not that fast. So unless your child has been tranquilized, it might be tough to get a shot of them.

    It's also very noisy, so forget about candid shots of cats. They become very suspicious.

    Wide open shots display very nice bokeh.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012 (purchased for $500)
  • Olympus 50mm f/1.8 OM F.Zuiko

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Size, Cost, Build
    Performance with 4/3 sensor

    I have a third party adapter that I use to mount OM lenses on my Olympus E-5. I actually have multiple adapters because the third party copies are so cheap (and functionally the same).

    I have both this f-1.8 lens and the 50mm f-1.4 OM Zuiko. I find the f-1.4 superior to the f-1.8. The f-1.4 is definitely a pain to deal with wide open, but stopped down to an estimated f-1.8 it's clearer than this one wide open. At f-2, the f-1.4 lens objectively clearer. I've been using 'clearer' because it's not a focusing issue or the condition of the lens. Both lenses are clean, free of scratches and fungus.

    As other reviewers have noted, there isn't one f-1.8 lens. the OM line existed for long enough that we're forced to lump a number of different lenses together as if they're the same product. I'm not sure, then, if my model is simply inferior to the other versions. I unfortunately don't have the lens with me right now, so I'm not sure of the details regarding its production run.

    So, my review ends up being fairly useless. I guess you can take away the fact that the OM Zuiko 50mm f-1.4 lenses are decent. It's slightly larger than the f-1.8, but not that much larger.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012
  • Olympus 25mm f/2.8 Zuiko Digital

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Size, Weight, Width, Length, Mass, Dimensions, Price

    First thing's first - the image quality is good enough.

    It's certainly not the best you'll see, but as other reviewers have noted, that's not the point. And in any case, stop down to f5.6 and you won't be able to tell anyway.

    This lens is very, very small. When I put it on my E-5 it looks ridiculous, but it's fun.

    I've used this lens primarily for traveling, at which it excels. For traveling, I use it with an E-420, so the whole package is very lightweight and fairly inconspicuous. In my experience, the limitation with this combination is caused by high ISO noise in the E-420 and the f-2.8 maximum aperture. It's very tough to get clear photos at night.

    But most of my photos aren't taken at night, so that's a minor issue. As long as the sun is up (or close to being up), the f-2.8 is enough to snap the shot.

    The largest print I've made with a photo from the E-420 and this lens is 16" x 20". It's a shot of some of the sculpture work on the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The print is fairly large and it looks great. The texture of the sculpture is clear and contrasty. In other words, this lens is more than capable given the right conditions. I'm not going to sneak into the Sagrada Familia at night, so none of the limitations are ever going to really affect my photos when I'm traveling.

    I haven't used it extensively on my E-5, but I'm sure I could push it more with that body. However, it always just makes more sense to put the Panasonic 25mm/f-1.4 on that, which is you're only other real option. It's a much better lens than this one, to be sure, but I wouldn't call it a value at its price compared to this one.

    reviewed May 31st, 2012 (purchased for $150)
  • Olympus 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 Zuiko Digital

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Image quality, Focal length range, Size, Weather sealing
    Chromatic aberration, Distortion, Cost

    I'd first like to address the cons I've listed above. The chromatic aberration and distortion are to be expected given the zoom range. In that regard, I suppose these cons are applicable to all but the most advanced wide zooms. In truth, I have no problem eliminating them in post-processing. The cost is a tad high.. around $800 new. $700 would seem more appropriate. That said, I got mine used so it's not really an issue.

    The pros are much more apparent than the cons. I put this on my E-5, which means I never worry about the weather. It's a good sized lens, but it's not overwhelmingly huge. If you compare it to the 9-18 or the kit 14-42, though, it is certainly larger and heavier.

    The image quality is very good. It's a High Grade lens, a its image quality is a noticeable step above the Standard Grade lenses such as the kit 14-42. The colors pop more and the contrast is more pleasing.

    Of all the lenses I have, this is my favorite lens to travel with. It doesn't weigh enough for me to get tired, it offers great image quality, and its speed and focal length range suit my destinations.

    One thing that sets this lens apart from the 9-18 is its speed. I've recently returned from a trip to Stockholm, Sweden. The old quarter of the city (Gamla Stan) has narrow streets and alleys. This lens isn't a crazy f1.4 or even a f2.0, but the f2.8 at the wide end is great for capturing these sorts of environments at the time of day when the light is good. 11mm is wide enough for my purposes. And it's long end, while not crazy fast at f3.5, is fast enough, and it's essentially a normal lens (technically, 21mm is normal for a 4/3 sensor.. remember a 50mm lens is not normal on 35mm film.. a 42mm lens is).

    In short, you get everything from a decently fast, fairly wide angle to a normal, all with great image quality and sufficient speed.

    To me, the only realistic alternative to this lens is the 12-60, but then you have to deal with the 12-60's complex distortion (and higher price).

    reviewed May 31st, 2012 (purchased for $600)