I have to say from the outset that I got very, very spoiled using the Olympus 12-100mm lens for the documentation of social events that happened in good light. One could use that lens wide open at f4.0 all day long and never see a diminution of image quality, plus one has the option of going as wide as an equivalent 24mm and then turn around and "snipe" from a discrete distance with the long end of the lens at the equivalent of a 200mm lens (in full frame speak). Added to the wide range is probably the best image stabilization ever put into a zoom lens. If you could time your shots so that your subjects were relatively still you do amazing shots with shutter speeds that border on ridiculous.
Put that lens on a G9 and there are few things you can''t shoot well. For some reason the combination never clicked (ha-ha) for me in studio portraiture but for everything else it's just so good.
But now I'm working with the 16-55mm on the Fuji cameras and, after adjusting for the shorter range of focal lengths, I'm beginning to understand the appeal of this lens as well. It too is fairly sharp wide open but it goes from "nice" to "class leading" once you stop down to f4.0. I think I'll just spot weld it right there. There's no in-lens stabilization but vibration reduction (human inflicted) is handled well by the in-body image stabilization of the Fuji X-H1 cameras.
The real trick I had to (re-)learn is how to work with that shorter maximum focal length which is an equivalent of 75mm (approximately). You have to accept a shorter working distance between you and your subjects. That means giving up the comfort of shooting from afar in exchange for the more immersive method of being right in the middle of the social mix. I can no longer stand on the edges and look for chance encounters between attendees at galas and corporate showcases.
A better technique for the shorter max focal length is to walk right up to groups of two, three or more people, engage them and ask if you can group them together for a quick shot. Almost everyone is happy to comply. It's extremely rare for sober people to turn down a sincere request like that. But I have a secondary motive in this because I want a mix of unposed shots and candid captures; the problem is that people need to incorporate you into the general landscape of the event and "place" you in terms of your function before they are at ease with your presence and your activities.
By doing group shots all over the place you establish that you aren't trying to sneak unflattering shots but that you are part of the event and your function is a benefit to the cause. Once people see you playing nicely with people that you've made a point to approach and engage, their natural fear of the unknown, or of people outside their herd, diminishes and at that point, once you've blended in to the event, you are given almost a group consent to shoot whatever the heck you want.
I also find that it is beneficial if you are familiar with one or more of the alpha members of the group. I was fortunate at the event I photographed on Tuesday because the chairman of the event, and his wife, are people who are also leaders in another group and I've been photographing their social functions for over a decade. When this couple arrived at the reception it was natural for me to walk over and greet them; shake hands and then casually make a few photographs of them together. Once other members of the group saw the attitude of acceptance from the chair person they relaxed and let their general guard down; at least where being photographed was concerned.
And that's a good thing since a maximum reach of 75mm doesn't provide a lot of space between you and two people posed in a tight shot. The lens was fast to focus and once locked on was stable and well behaved. Once I started taking candid images in earnest I was set. In a lot of situations I wanted to catch the visual dynamics of small groups chatting, and some members meeting for the first time. When I got back to the studio to edit I was impressed by the general tonality of the lens and the way the files looked. Part of that is the interplay between the camera, its sensor, and the lens. It's good to remember that, with photography, it's all part of an interconnected system.
While I almost never gravitate toward wide lenses, except by necessity, having the same wide angle of view as that of the Olympus lens was comfortable; as long as I remembered not to put large people too close to the edge of the frame. As a 50mm aficionado I love the way the lens made images at that equivalent focal length. The photographs seemed nicely sharp and highly detailed to me, even though I was comping and shooting pretty quickly.
A lens with a short maximum focal length sure does teach a photographer to get closer, and to get more connected with his subjects. I feel less aloof/removed if I can't escape behind some random potted ficus and pick an image out of the crowd from the relative emotional comfort that more distance provides. It's one more little push that takes a photographer out of a comfort zone, creates more of a challenge and, by extension, makes the images seem a bit more convincing.
You could do this with any standard zoom, in any system. And I could do the same thing with the cheaper Fuji "kit" lens but it feels nicer to do with with the premium version. Part mental in that we want to think a more expensive or better specified lens will give us and our work a boost. There is a tiny bit of truth in that the performance at wider apertures is a bit better. (There it is; that was the rationalization yakking it up a bit).
Anyway. Hope to see you at the next party. Let me get shot of you and your date well before you hit the bar for a third time. Nothing really worthwhile happens after 10 pm....or after the third round of drinks...