Lens review. The Olympus .........../.........

12 mm

Ahhhh. Reviews on the web. Reviews on the lens review sites. Hmmmm. No. As most of you know I'm not much inclined to use wider angle lenses except out of necessity. Like those times that the paying client wants just a bit more in the frame. Or occasions when I want to make the client's 400 square foot "factory" look---interesting. 

Well I recently accepted an assignment to go to Fredericksburg, Texas and photograph a house for a national shelter magazine. Of course I decided to shoot the whole assignment on micro four thirds because, well.....I'm not sure why. It just seems like the fun thing to do. Then I thought back over thirty years of assignments for shelter magazines and remembered that many of the establishing shots we did depended on wider angle lenses. 90mm on my old Linhof 4x5. The 38mm Biogon on my Hasselblad Superwide, etc. and I realized that the widest optic I had for the new Panasonic GH3's (and that darling G6) was the 14-42 kit lens. Well, that just wouldn't cut it. So I started to go through my options. I could buy a Panasonic 7-14mm but that's a lot of cash for something I rarely want to use. I could save a few bucks by getting the Olympus 12mm f2 but, again, lots of cash. I started looking around at the other options. After all, this m4:3rd system is supposed to be powerful when it comes to the sheer amount of lenses available, right?

Well, I did find one option that was much cheaper and would give me the 12mm I was looking for but there were a few issues.....it must be the most maligned zoom lens on webdom today. Every site I went to for reviews talked about the vicious vignetting, the mediocre sharpness and the woefully dark aperture at the long end. I came away thinking the lens would make edge lines curvier than a Slinky at the wide end, with blackened corners from vignetting while the long end would be like there was a number 10 soft focus filter permanently attached. And all through the reviews I was given to believe that the 1/3 smaller f-stop would making viewing images at the long end of the zoom like looking through a beefy neutral density filter. I vacillated for a day and looked around for more bargains. Finally, I found the lens in question, used, for a little over $200 and thought, "I've made more stupid gambles so...why not?"

It thought this was pretty good for a handheld twilight shot at 12mm but I thought the 
image stabilization was a big help....until I realized that neither the lens nor the 
camera (G6) has image stabilization....

Not finding too much problem with flare...

 see the full 12mm frame below. This is a crop...

Start your pixel peeping engines!!!

And the Panasonic G6 even corrected the geometry of the lens...wide open at 12mm.

Confused that I might have gotten too sharp a version.....

 Nearly wide open @ 12mm. Still looking for the vignetting...

50mm wide open at f6.3

 Some topical holiday imagery from a scouting trip today.

Well, the lens in question is an Olympus 12-50mm, f3.5 to f6.3. I bought it assuming the reviews would be right and I'd be left with a lens that was, um, at least weatherproof. But now that I've gotten to know it a little better I'll be happy to shoot with it. Seems sharp at both ends and in the middle. The rival camera companies (Panasonic vs. Olympus) seem to have worked out some sort of truce that allows them to correct each other's lenses for geometry, vignetting and chromatic aberrations. And what I'm left with is a lens that's more than adequate for my intended use at a very agreeable price. Plus I have a 20 stop image stabilization device I'm just aching to try with this lens. It's called a tripod....

The lens is goofy. It has a motorized zoom. But you can turn it off and zoom it with your finders. It has a button on the side that doesn't do anything on Panasonic cameras and it's long and skinny and plastic. If you can get over those things it is actually a nice lens for general photography in good light. My quest is (for now) over. Almost forgot: it also kinda does macro. 

That's my review of the Olympus 12-50mm lens. It's been Tuck Tested and found to be more than acceptable.

Studio Portrait Lighting

I am stuck between two conflicting photography paradigms but that doesn't mean I'm not loving it!

eeyore's birthday party. 2013.

Gosh. Every time I point out what I think is happening in our markets and our art I get notes of concern from sensitive readers who think I've become morose or depressed. I'm sorry if my attempts at discourse are so ragged as to leave so much wiggle room when it comes divining to my emotional health. I'm generally giggling hysterically as I'm typing because my fingertips are incredibly sensitive!!!

eeyore's birthday party. 2013.

I get that life is in constant flux and undergoing chaos theory-style change and there's nothing I could do about it anyway. In short retrospect I think I'm making the continual journey into the unknown without too much fuss. I'm comfortable with the idea that even change is going through a non-linear, non-reccuring  metamorphosis. Really.....comfortable.....I've even got my fur lined Crocs on under my desk...

In both the film days and the digital days I've come to grips with the idea that making good images is pretty easy but making images that are really good (images I like for more than a week) is insanely difficult and I'm happy when I get one out of about 1,000 that works.

eeyore's birthday party. 2013.

I guess other people are more reticent about writing down ideas that come to them without weeks or months of turning the idea over and over again in order to be certain of its validity, its veracity. But nothing is certain and my style is to write about the things I ponder as I'm thinking of them so that what I write is fresh and, to me, topical. After all, why would you want to mull over stale thoughts?

For example, a few days ago I saw a video about Richard Avedon. As a subset of the the things I took away from the video was the way the cameras he chose to use for various projects effected the work he was doing on those projects. And who can deny that there are extreme technical and stylistic differences between his medium format images, done in the studio in the 1950's and 1960's, and the work done for In the American West project, which was done with an 8x10 inch camera on various available light locations?  

I tried to write about those differences in tools and how that relates to our work today. The boundaries of working with readily available digital tools more or less re-enforce working with much smaller formats. It's a fact that the unawareness of available tools imposes a limitation on the scope of our collective vision. It would be nice to have available----for the people whose vision skews that way---inexpensive larger formats in digital so we could replicate the OPTICAL look of the larger formats (not the grain or color or etc., etc.).

I made these statements not in an attempt to trawl for some sort of remorseful empathy or sympathy but only as a statement of fact. It would be nice to work with a traditional Hasselblad with a full 6 by 6 cm digital sensor on the back. At an accessible price. I'm looking for the visual differences that the physics of size makes, not technology!

But not having these particular tools doesn't plunge me into a funk. I'm generally quite happy to play with the full range of what's available. My discourse on the subject was meant to be along the line of "New Coke" versus "Old Coke" with the underlying hope that the camera marketers would read my blog and mark another check in a box on some marketing study form that has a box which reads, "Study subject would like bigger sensors!"  I also wanted to remind readers that the boundaries of our craft are bigger than those that we see offered to us every day by the leading camera vendors.

It's important to remember, when reading, that not everyone has the same shooting style or requirements and many have styles that do a great job leveraging the smaller sensors and the tools (lenses) available for smaller framed cameras. The photos on Robin Wong's great blog always comes to mind.....

One commenter applauded me for acknowledging my own hypocrisy but I don't think it's as much hypocrisy as it is being stuck between two conflicting paradigms that represent the best of past and present. Every person vacillates between known and unknown, tried and untried. I'm sure that if the reader was privy to the continuity of my thoughts he would see my more carefully and continually crafted rationalizations for my pendular swings of allegiance and would recognize them as contiguous parts of a saner continuum. 

After all, most photographers I knew (commercial photographers) in the glorious days of film had three systems that they used interchangeably: 35mm, 120 and 4x5. Each had it's place in the rotation and in logic. No one begrudged them the choice then and no one required an unflagging dedication to one format or the other. 

My happiness or unhappiness is scarcely ever affected by my access to various camera formats. My temporary and evanescent sadness was only for the thought that we should have.......more. But "always more" seems to be the penultimate thought of American culture and I am, after all, an American Photographer.

eeyore's birthday party. 2013.

Yes, I want a large sensor medium format digital camera! Yes, I'm having a blast shooting with a Panasonic G6 this week. Go figure.