Quincy’s Fujifilm X-Mount OEM and third-party brand lenses lists are kept up to date and are drawn upon by Patrick at Fuji Rumors for articles, and I go there when I need to research current and coming X-Mount lenses for my articles.
I have been struck by how the number of third-party X-Mount lenses keeps increasing, with most of them being manual focus lenses often designed and manufactured by Chinese companies, but so far my biggest ongoing disappointment with the Fujifilm X-Mount system remains unassuaged by Fujifilm itself as well as by third-parties making native or adapted X-Mount lenses.
Other than Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R semi-pancake prime lens, nobody but nobody is making a prime lens that is equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm sensor format.
This searing blindspot is not just a Fujifilm X-Mount APS-C problem; it applies to the Micro Four Thirds sensor format as well wherein Olympus does not make a 14mm lens at all and Panasonic’s Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II pancake lens appears to have gone missing in action from many retailers.
The 35mm sensor format’s 28mm focal length and its APS-C and M43 equivalents of 18mm and 14mm respectively has been a staple of the documentary, photojournalism and street photography genres for years now including those when I relied on them on Canon, Leica and Nikon rangefinders and SLRs, but it seems that contemporary lens makers just do not give a damn.
Yes, one may wish to slap a 14mm, 18mm or 28mm inclusive zoom lens on to one’s camera as I do with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 and the excellent Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro or the usually underestimated Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS collapsible zoom lens, but using those focal lengths on a zoom and as a prime lens are two very different things.
Especially if the said prime lens allows easy setting of hyperfocal distance via manual focus or manual clutch focus mechanisms like those in some Fujinon prime lenses and Olympus’ excellent M.Zuiko Pro primes and zooms.
There are some close but no cigar choices for non-Fujifilm cameras, such as Panasonic’s Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens, but for now I will stick with my two M43 zoom lenses rather than fork out for yet another no-cigar substitute.
What I am really after is a decent 18mm prime lens for my Fujifilm X-Pro2 for use as my number one documentary lens.
Given the premium price Fujifilm charges for its elderly Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, no way am I going to throw good cash down that particular black hole.
Getting back to close but no cigar, independent cinema lens company Veydra lists a 19mm Mini Prime cinema lens amongst its options, and it is available with a Duclos-designed Fujifilm X-Mount that can be DIY-attached onto an M43 version of the lens.
Sigma released a 19mm f/2.8 Art lens in the M43 and Sony E mounts some years ago, but the company has never shown signs of coming out with a Fujifilm X-Mount version.
The Sigma lens is affordable but the Veydra costs over twice the price of Fujifilm’s 18mm.
Veydra’s is an excellent geared cinema lens but its greater size and wide front diameter compared to the Fujifilm and the Sigma makes it a poor choice on my X-Pro2 given I rely on the camera’s excellent optical viewfinder for documentary photography and oftentimes video too.
This ongoing dilemma would not be one if Fujifilm simply went along with their customers’ longstanding request for an updated 18mm lens but I often find myself wondering if the company even cares for its documentary, street photography and photojournalist customers.
Two X-Pro2 cameras equipped with an 18mm lens on one and a 50mm lens on the other is, in my experience, the closest one can get to a perfect two-camera, two-lens documentary photography and photojournalism set-up.
Why provide half of the equation, Fujifilm, when you could so easily give us both even if each lens might be Fujicron-style f/2.0 compacts instead of the maximum versatility of f/1.4 manual clutch focussing alternatives?
The problem of Fujifilm’s ageing, substandard Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R lens
Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens.
Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 Aspheric prime lens for Leica M-System cameras, for me the archetypal discrete 28mm documentary and photojournalism lens.
Duclos Lenses came up with a Fujifilm X-Mount option for Veydra’s Mini Primes that can cover the APS-C format. Image courtesy of Veydra LLC.
Veydra Mini Prime 19mm cinema lens available in Sony E-Mount, Micro Four Thirds mount and Fujifilm X-Mount.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Mega OIS collapsible standard zoom lens.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens, one of the most versatile top-quality professional zoom lenses made.
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II Aspheric pancake prime lens, which appears to be missing in action from most if not all retailers now.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens. Narrower than a 28mm-equivalent 14mm lens in Micro Four Thirds format, but at least it is generally available whereas Panasonic’s 14mm pancake lens seems to have vanished.
Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN for Sony E-Mount APS-C and Micro Four Thirds. Sigma, please release this in a Fujifilm X-Mount version.
Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/4.0 ZM Leica-M-Mount lens. A solution for the well-heeled in combo with an M-Mount to X-Mount adapter?
Fujifilm M Mount Adapter. Will this work with the Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/4.0 ZM lens?
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Fujifilm 18mm f/2.0 XF R Lens – B&H – The least impressive Fujinon X-Mount lens in Fujifilm’s collection and one that badly needs to be replaced with a new Fujicron-style lens or better yet a wide aperture manual clutch focussing alternative for professional photography and video work.
Leica CL Mirrorless Digital Camera with 18mm Lens (Black) – B&H – This APS-C rangefinder-style camera with interchangeable 28mm equivalent lens is another possible solution to the ongoing problem of Fujifilm’s substandard Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R lens.
“Equivalence. It’s the bugbear of anyone who reviews Micro Four Thirds lenses. You are being conned says the incoming mail. Your f/1.4 lens is really an f/2.8. And your so called shallow depth of field is commensurate with f/2.8, too, not f/1.4. It’s an argument I’ve heard so many times and while factually true, is pointless and irrelevant. The only rational response is -so what?…
Put simply, a native Micro Four Thirds lens is just that. A native Micro Four Thirds lens. It isn’t a Full Frame lens. It won’t fit a DSLR and if it did it wouldn’t cover the whole frame. I’ve tried more and more to describe lenses according to their angle of view since that is universal. If you know what angle of view you want, you can choose a lens to get it. Thus, I know that I like as a standard prime a lens with a moderate wide angle, around 54° horizontal. A quick calculation at Points In Focus Photography tells me that for a Micro Four Thirds sensor it would be 17mm, for FF 35mm and for Medium Format 55mm. Easy.”
Former Fleet Street newspaper photographer David Thorpe is in my humble opinion one of the best and most useful writers and reviewers on Micro Four Thirdscameras and lenses though it is a pity that camera and lens makers don’t give him the credit and access to review gear that he deserves.
Mr Thorpe comes from a 35mm and 120 roll-film single lens reflex (SLR) background during the analog era whereas I have always relied on rangefinder and view cameras and prefer digital cameras that give me some semblance of those unique ways of seeing and photographing.
The other big difference between Mr Thorpe and I is that I rely on all my cameras, to varying degrees, when making photographs as well as videos and video is better served by fully manual lenses or at least manual clutch focus lenses such as those made by Fujifilm in APS-C X-Mount format and Olympus in M43.
As a result there are M43 lenses, especially small, light and relatively affordable prime and zoom lenses, that I quite like for stills photography but that are ruled out for serious video production, and more specialized M43 lenses such as those made by Veydra in their Mini Prime range, and those made by Olympus under their M.Zuiko Pro brand.
“… I can understand and agree with every reason put forward for those big, expensive optically superb f/1.2. And yet, in my heart, ever since I bought into Micro Four Thirds I’ve retained my original reasoning. Put an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 on a Panasonic GX9 body and go out street shooting in Soho. Now go out with a 17mm f/1.2 on the front. What can I say? Little and good, big and bad….”
Not quite, insofar as hybrid street shooting goes.
Although I have been tempted by the idea of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 given its focal length is my own perfect all-in-one go-to, in reality this lens is apparently a little too compromised for documentary video production, according to a number of pro video reviewers.
I have yet to lay my hands on one for serious try out and review, but the first thing to consider is the practicality of attaching fixed or variable neutral density filters to its 46mm filter diameter via a step-up ring.
I have standardized on 77mm and 82mm diameter variable and fixed NDs in order to keep down costs, but need to maintain a selection of step-up rings to fit those NDs on a range of lenses.
Experience has taught me to stick to brass step-up rings to avoid binding, preferring brands that knurl the outside of their rings for best grip in challenging conditions but then that narrows brand choice down to Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, PolarPro and Sensei Pro.
Of those only Heliopan makes rings for smaller filter diameters like 46mm but they don’t step-up to 82mm; for that you will need to attach a 77mm to 82mm step-up ring for which I would automatically choose the one made by Breakthrough Photography.
The same goes for other small M43 lenses some of which may be more suitable for video production such as Panasonic’s Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Aspheric Power OIS with its 37mm filter diameter, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Aspheric Mega OIS with its 46mm filter diameter, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 with its 46mm filter diameter and manual clutch focus, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 with 46mm filter diameter but no manual clutch focus and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8, again with no manual clutch focus but with a 46mm filter diameter.
Some made by Olympus, some by Panasonic. some with manual clutch focus, some without, none with wide filter diameters and all needing one or two step-up rings to get them to the magic 77mm or 82mm filter diameter, the latter of which I have chosen as my new default given better ND filter choice in that size now.
Digital Trends – Olympus M. Zuiko F1.2 Pro lenses prove there’s life left in Micro Four Thirds – “Naturally, these lenses are fantastic for portraiture. The sense of depth they give at f/1.2 is like nothing else we’ve ever seen on the format. In fact, the remark that kept coming to mind was, “This looks like film.” It is probably the first time we’ve ever felt that way about Micro Four Thirds…. Olympus’ goal with the F1.2 Pro series was to craft a specific quality of blur, which the company calls “feathered bokeh.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro review – “… until now, there hasn’t been a fast, wide-angle prime that really targeted high-end and professional users. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro changes that, combining the largest aperture of any wide-angle lens available for the format with exceptional build quality.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro review – “… [the] Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro, however, is a technically excellent lens that may also just be special enough to inspire you emotionally. It highlights the impressive move that the Micro Four Thirds system has made into the world of professional photography.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 Pro review – “… the 45mm is perhaps the most exciting entry in the series — everything about it is finely tuned for portrait photography… In fact, it is our favorite portrait-length lens for the MFT system.”
“Sigma just patented two new Micro Four Thirds lenses: 14mm f/1.2 and 35mm f/1.2. Now you will wonder…what has this to do with Panasonic? Because Sigma is known to sell those lens designs to Panasonic. The Leica 12mm f/1.4 for example is designed by Sigma…
That’s why there is a high chance the 14mm and 35mm f/1.2 prime lenses will be released by Panasonic (maybe using Leica brand)….”
Or maybe there is an even higher chance that Sigma is planning on selling these two new f/1.2 prime lens designs to Olympus for its top-tier M.Zuiko Pro lens collection to go with its current 17mm, 25mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes?
Sigma Corporation, like Cosina and several other mostly Japanese companies, is an OEM manufacturer of lenses for other brands and apparently has already sold lens designs to Olympus, such as the 150mm-equivalent M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8, considered to be one of the optically finest Micro Four Thirds lenses available.
Sigma apparently was known for some years as a budget lens maker but its Art range of premium lenses proved that it belongs in the ranks of professional-quality lens makers now.
Sigma’s recently released Ciné prime and zoom lens collection cements the company’s reputation firmly in place as does, on the adapted lens front, the company’s much-lauded Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art, often first choice in combo with Metabones Speed Boosters for M43 video camera users working in available darkness.
Two documentary movie and photography favourites, 28mm and 75mm
My two preferred documentary prime lens focal lengths are 28mm and 75mm in 35mm sensor equivalence and they are my first choice when buying into a new camera system.
That choice is often thwarted, though, by their equivalents’ unavailability as native lenses in some mirrorless camera systems or, in the case of Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, an ageing lens’ quirky mechanical qualities making it next to useless for a high speed approach necessitated by the nature of my subjects and their circumstances.
28mm equivalent prime lenses by Fujifilm, Leica and Panasonic
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II Aspheric pancake prime lens, which appears to be missing in action from most if not all retailers now.
Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens.
Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 Aspheric prime lens for Leica M-Mount.
Panasonic’s pancake prime, the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II, had vanished from most retailers after I tried a review loaner out and although I made some great photographs with it, its performance was suboptimal for everything I wanted to do with it, not least due to its lack of a focussing ring.
I and many other Fujifilm camera users are still waiting for the company to issue its long-rumoured 18mm update perhaps in the form of a Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron”, especially suitable for documentary photography with the X-Pro2 rangefinder camera, the X-E3 rangefinder-style camera and Fujifilm’s smaller DSLR-style cameras.
75mm equivalent prime lenses by Fujifilm, Leica and Veydra
Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 WR R “Fujicron” prime lens, equivalent to 75mm in the 35mm sensor format.
Leica Apo-Summicron-M 75mm f/2.0 Aspheric prime lens.
Veydra 35mm T2.2 Mini Prime, equivalent to 70mm when used on a Micro Four Thirds camera.
Veydra 50mm T2.2 Mini Prime, equivalent to 75mm when used on a Fujifilm or Sony APS-C camera.
Prime lenses in the 35mm sensor equivalent 75mm focal length are as hard to find in the Micro Four Thirds world as their 28mm equivalent siblings, and that relative rarity is not assisted by Sigma’s patent for a 35mm and not 37.5mm focal length lens.
Even so there are times I miss the 90mm focal length equivalent so have Olympus’ M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro high on my M43 lens wishlist, also due to the manual clutch focus featured in all M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lenses making them invaluable for professional moviemaking and photography work.
Given a choice between a manual focus or manual clutch focus lens and a fly-by-wire autofocus or autofocus/manual lens, I will choose the manual or manual clutch focus lens same as I will choose a pair of fast primes over a zoom lens that includes both focal lengths.
There is no denying, though, that some projects demanding stealth, speed and small camera bag transportation can benefit from carrying just one top-quality zoom lens like the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro.
Designed by Sigma for Olympus or Panasonic?
It is too early to tell whether the 43 Rumors folks are correct about Sigma’s 14mm and 35mm f/1.2 lens design patents being intended for Panasonic.
I am hoping upon hope that the eventual destination will be Olympus and its M.Zuiko Pro lens collection.
Panasonic seems disinclined to replace its lenses’ linear and non-linear fly-by-wire mechanisms with the far more capable manual clutch focus mechanism used in Olympus’ M.Zuiko primes and zooms, and Fujifilm’s 14mm, 16mm and 23mm wider aperture trio for that matter.
Panasonic insiders have told me they constantly receive requests from professional users for manual clutch focus lenses but the company seems set on its current path if its apparently Sigma-designed 12mm, 15mm, 25mm and 42.5mm wide aperture Leica-branded lenses are any indication.
I wish to see Olympus adding to its M.Zuiko Pro collection with 14mm and 37.5mm focal length lenses as well as 10.5mm and 12mm focal length prime lenses.
Sigma’s 70mm-equivalent 35mm f/1.2 lens is not quite my preferred focal length but at least it fills the gap between the current 25mm and 45mm M.Zuiko Pro lenses.
Now let’s see Olympus fill the other gaps in its M.Zuiko Pro collection.
“Recreate what your eyes see. Kamlan 28mm F/1.4 Prime Lens delivers superior optical quality along with super low chromatic aberration…
… Normal lenses are valued because they provide a natural angle of view that is similar to what the human eye sees. The images they produce are very relatable and engaging because they feel like scenes people have seen. The focal length is extremely versatile for a wide range of applications – from landscapes to portraits to street photography. In recent years, many people have thought of the 50mm focal length (on full frame) as“normal”, but in times past a normal lens was actually closer to 40mm. The Kamlan 28mm f/1.4 offers a great “normal” focal length and a large maximum aperture at a bargain price…. “
A new Chinese maker of affordable premium-quality manual-focus lenses has entered the scene with Shenzhen-based Machang Optical Co.’s KamLan brand launching a Kickstarter campaign for its Kamlan 28mm F/1.4 Standard Prime for mirrorless cameras in the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensor formats in Canon’s EOS-M mount, Fujifilm’s X-mount, M43-mount and Sony’s E-mount.
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 and Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II pancake lenses, equivalent to 40mm
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II Aspheric pancake prime lens.
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake prime lens, equivalent to 40.5mm focal length in the 35mm sensor format.
Both lenses appear to be intended for compact camera users relying on autofocus as they lack manual focus rings and their size makes them unsuited for attaching the step-up rings and 77mm or 82mm fixed or variable neutral density filters required for professional video production.
Until the KamLan 28mm f/1.4 APS-C Standard prime, small size seems to have been a common theme with 40mm equivalent lenses starting off with the legendary though short-lived Leica Summicron-C 40mm f/2.0 released for the Leica CL compact 35mm analog camera.
Minolta later released its own version, the Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0, to go with the Minolta CLE camera which carried on and evolved well beyond the Leica CL’s achievements.
Machang Optics’ KamLan APS-C lens range appears to be taking a very different approach, one more suited for precise manual focussing and thus video production, with a range of current and coming wide aperture manual-focus prime lenses including the 15mm f/1.8, 21mm f/1.8, 28mm f/1.4, 32mm f/1.3 and 50mm f/1.1 Mark 2.
If they prove to be well-matched in terms of colour and optical correction the KamLan lenses may well make for a good set of video lenses for Fujifilm camera users.
In their 35mm sensor equivalents, these lenses will be 22.5mm, 31.5mm, 42mm, 48mm and 75mm, a fine set of focal lengths suitable for feature and high-end documentary cinematography.
When Fujifilm made it clear they were about to take video seriously, I wondered if they would be upgrading their current offerings for video capability and adding new focal lengths to fill in the focal length gaps.
If that does not happen, then Machang Optics’ KamLan APS-C lens range may provide a great alternative.
Will the folks at Machang Optical Co. be issuing a boxed set, as it were, of these five lenses in future?
Will Machang Optical Co. be offering a ciné version of all these lenses, with clickless aperture ring, geared for use with follow-focus devices and with 77mm or preferably 82mm step-up rings attached for use with fixed or variable neutral density filters?
Will they come out with a 10.5mm lens so that Micro Four Thirds users can have a six-lens set that includes a 21mm equivalent, an essential super-wide establishing-shot focal length, and so APS-C users can have a 15.75mm equivalent lens?
Veydra 19mm T2.2 Mini Prime Lens – B&H – APS-C cinema prime with 38mm equivalence, currently available in feet or meters scales for Sony E-Mount, apparently also produced in Fujifilm X-Mount according to a hint at the Veydra website.
Veydra Mini Prime 6 Lens Master Lens Kit with 6 Lens Case (MFT Mount, Feet) – B&H – includes 16mm and 32mm focal lengths, either side of the 20mm ideal of 40mm equivalence.
Veydra Mini Prime 6 Lens Master Lens Kit with 6 Lens Case (MFT Mount, Meters) – B&H – see above.
“… The lens is incredibly sharp even when shooting wide open. The sharpness is uniform from edge to edge. The bokeh is beautiful and soft, resulting in pleasing and natural looking images. Technical flaws are well controlled with no noticeable distortion, minimal chromatic aberration and good flare control. AF is speedy and reliable. the lens just works and it exceeded my expectations….
… Of the three F1.2 lenses, I am surprised to conclude that this 17mm F1.2 is my personal favourite.”
I have been recommending the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection of fast maximum aperture prime and zoom lenses for their many attributes of use to cinematographers – their affordability and low weight and small size compared to their 35mm sensor format equivalents, mechanical durability, weather resistance and high optical quality as well as their small set of filter diameters allowing for a smaller set of step-up rings and neutral density filters.
The recent addition by Panasonic of the ability to allocate lens-related, barrel-mounted L-Fn functionality to M.Zuiko Pro lenses via firmware when used on the GH5 has added yet another reason to seriously consider M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video production.
I hope that Panasonic will add that L-Fn functionality to the G9, GH4 and GX8 as well as other Lumix cameras in a new set of firmware updates.
Size, weight, price and capability are relative traits.
Ming Thein reviewer Robin Wong writes:
A genuine concern, however, is the diminishing benefit of Micro Four Thirds systems having smaller, more portable lenses. These new F1.2 PRO lenses are no smaller or lighter than their DSLR counterparts.
Maybe so, and at USD1,199.00 the three M.Zuiko Pro prime lenses are not a great deal cheaper than their f/1.2 Canon equivalents in the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lenses, but the GH5 possesses video production traits simply not available on Canon EOS DSLRs.
I have not tried any of the Olympus M.Zuiko f/1.8 lenses to which Mr Wong compares the M.Zuiko Pro primes, but have used and owned some of Panasonic’s excellent and affordable little f/1.7 or slower Lumix G prime lenses which are well-matched to the smaller Lumix cameras for fast, discrete stills photography.
Professional video production is something else, often demanding the use of step-up rings, variable and fixed ND filters of 77m or 82mm filter diameters, follow focus devices and focus gearing slipped over manual clutch focus rings for accurate and repeatable focus.
Earlier today I was travelling down suburban streets emptied by withering 40-degree-plus laser-beam sunlight, with Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens mounted on the GH5 and a couple of other small Lumix G lenses on standby should I spot a likely fellow citizen to commemorate with 10-bit 4:2:2 4K HLG HDR video footage.
“It’s wide, it’s fast and it’s tiny! Laowa’s 7.5mm f/2 is a very credible addition to the ever expanding armoury of Micro Four Thirds lenses. Is it a credible buy instead of a native Micro Four Thirds wide-zoom? It’s cheaper, that’s for sure. But does the IQ match up?…”
This morning I had to jump into action to shoot a small series of architectural interior photographs to send off to a potential buyer of our house and soon-to-be subdivided property in one of the most prestigious suburbs in Sydney’s upper north shore.
Our plan has always been to sell our house only if the subdivision takes far too long to complete, subject as such things are to the vagaries of bureaucracies and the availability or lack of it of consultants and tradesmen, as a last resort.
With almost every cent of our savings spoken for and the final cost of the last stage of the subdivision process of unknown cost depending on when a tradesman can be persuaded to arrive to take on the final stage and what he finds when he starts digging, we have had to suspend all new photography and video production hardware and software purchases and it really grates.
I have been wanting some wider focal lengths than 12mm (in Micro Four Thirds) or 16mm (in APS-C) both of which are equivalent to 24mm in the 35mm format, for quite some time, for architectural photography and moviemaking as well as scene-setting shots in photoessays and movies.
The optimum super wide-angle lens solutions for each or just one of those two mirrorless sensor formats that I use are neither clear nor obvious.
Choose a zoom lens and compromise on optical distortion and vignetting?
Compromise again on a variable instead of fixed maximum aperture zoom lens knowing that I find variable maximum apertures irritating when shooting video though acceptable enough when shooting stills?
And what do you do about superwide zoom lenses and some superwide prime lenses with convex front elements that make attaching protective, UV or ND filters really expensive, bulky or next-to-impossible?
One possible stop-gap solution might be an affordable, small flat-fronted manual prime like the Laowa 7.5mm f/2.0 rectilinear superwide lens.
There is nothing so annoying as shooting a figure walking through a cityscape and the lens is turning all the parallel straight lines into curves, morphing from straight to bent and back as you follow your subject.
The Laowa 7.5mm f/2.0, equivalent to 15mm in 35mm sensor terms, is wider than my preferred go-to superwide focal length of 10.5mm in M43, 14mm in APS-C or 21mm in 35mm format, and the Laowa has a very small filter diameter of 46mm, necessitating finding an alternative to my preferred range of top-quality knurled brass step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography.
My second-choice brand in knurled brass step-up rings, Sensei Pro, does not appear to make a 46mm diameter step-up ring either so I am limited to my third-choice, the non-knurled but thankfully non-binding brass Heliopan, made in Germany.
Why aren’t these things straightforward and easy to solve?
I managed to produce an acceptable set of interior photographs with my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom set at 12mm, my least favourite focal length for architectural and interiors photography, but at least it got the job done.
When it comes time to produce a complete set of images of this house and land once the final work is done and the council approvals – fingers crossed – come through, then I will have to do it with a much wider lens to get the feel of really being there in the interior or in the landscape rather than peering at it from a slight distance.
I would rather spend more money on Micro Four Thirds lenses and accessories right now than on APS-C gear as I need to have a well-rounded video and stills kit based on Panasonic’s Lumix Super 16/M43 cameras rather than Fujifilm’s Super 35/APS-C cameras.
Panasonic has really hit the moviemaking mark whereas Fujifilm is still playing catch-up from well behind in the video stakes and seems to have lost interest in producing more moviemaking-ready manual clutch focus primes and zooms.
Fujifilm’s strength is in stills photography with my preferred camera series being the professional digital rangefinder X-Pron (n standing for a number) and the compact digital rangefinder X100n, both of which allow me to create photographs with image design and timing that continue to elude me in EVF-based cameras like Panasonic’s.
If Fujifilm comes out with a top-quality, non-compromised EVF in the X-Pro2’s successor than I may well add one for use with prime lenses longer than 35mm and wider than 18mm, as well as all zoom lenses, making for a classic two-camera, longer plus wider prime lens kit for immersive documentary photography.
Meanwhile Panasonic goes from strength to strength with its EVF-based, DSLR-style video stills hybrids cameras, though I do have a very special fondness for its Lumix GXn rangefinder-style series with its unique tilting EVF that allows me to photograph in the style of my beloved, long-lost Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras.
Olympus has announced the next two prime lenses in its M.Zuiko Pro collection of top quality zoom and prime lenses, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro.
The M.Zuiko Pro collection currently includes 7-14mm, 8mm, 12-40mm, 12-100mm, 25mm, 40-150mm and 300mm focal lengths, or in 35mm sensor equivalent terms, 14-28mm, 16mm, 24-80mm, 24-200mm, 80-300mm and 600mm focal lengths.
Apart from the 8mm full-frame fisheye and 300mm long telephoto lenses in the lineup, the M.Zuiko Pro collection’s fast primes will soon number three that are equivalent to 34mm, 50mm and 90mm in 35mm sensor format terms.
Add the 21mm or 24mm equivalent focal lengths of 10.5mm and 12mm to those three and you have an excellent though lean core set of colour-matched primes capable of repeatable manual focus via their manual clutch focussing mechanism.
Add the 28mm equivalent focal length of 14mm and you have a complete set of wide through to medium long focal lengths able to handle most anything that comes along, whether documentary stills or video.
Focus-by-wire is a right royal pain
As the guys at Calgary’s The Camera Store often point out, focus-by-wire lenses suck when shooting video and manual clutch focus lenses in the M.Zuiko Pro and other Olympus collections are preferable by far.
Manual clutch focus is also useful in achieving fast, accurate focus in stills photography, especially when using fast maximum aperture lenses in longer focal lengths.
I hope that these three fast M.Zuiko Pro lenses – 17mm, 25mm and 45mm – are just the start of a growing prime lens subset.
They don’t all need to be as fast at f/1.2.
A maximum aperture of f/1.4 is fine for wider lenses so long as they have the same construction quality, colour rendering and optical correction as the rest of the M.Zuiko Pro collection.
I can get by without 14mm for the time being.
The 14mm focal length (28mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) is the default setting on my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens for documentary photography and video – I rotate the lens’ focal length aka zoom ring to the 14mm mark when extracting my GX8 or GH4 out of my camera bag.
Robert Capa’s saying that “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” holds true in the digital age and a reasonably wide default focal length like 14mm forces you to get up close, personal, immersive and emotional in contrast to 25mm’s surrealist distancing or 17mm’s neither-fish-nor-fowl though often handy moderate wide-angle compromise.
Don’t underestimate the joys of a matched lens set…
… and never underestimate the usefulness of the 17mm focal length.
When I discovered the Leica M-System during the analog era, the only lens I could buy locally was a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0 lens, the “compact classic prime”.
The 35mm focal length, 17.5mm in Micro Four Thirds, is the perfect compromise if carrying just the one lens.
Not too wide for portraiture and especially suited to environmental portraiture, not too narrow for getting deep and intense inside a rapidly moving mass of people such as a demonstration, protest or rally, the moderate wide-angle 17mm focal length is a versatile compromise and the one I always recommend to beginning photographers whether in its M43 17mm form, APS-C 23mm equivalent, 35mm sensor 35mm equivalent or 45mm for Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera.
Until the arrival of the M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 lens, the only other M43 17mm lens will have been the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, perfectly suited to small stills-oriented cameras like the rangefinder-style Pen F though less appropriate, according to users, for shooting video due to its noisy internal focussing motors.
Like many others in the various Olympus lens collections, the 17mm f/1.8 has manual clutch focus, a crucial feature that should be built into all lenses, especially those intended for use by moviemakers.
Primes or zooms?
As many wiser heads than I have pointed out over the years, relying on a set of prime lenses as opposed to zooms has a number of benefits despite the convenience of having a number of focal lengths in the one lens.
I would love Olympus to add the 10.5mmm focal length (21mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) to the M.Zuiko Pro collection for scene-setting shots for which 12mm is too constricting, especially when shooting DCI4K and other aspect ratios and resolutions.
No other lens maker has come up with a truly professional-quality M43 manual and autofocus native 10.5mm lens and I am sure Olympus has what it takes to do it.
Olympus does offer the 10.5mm-inclusive 7-14mm f/2.8 zoom lens in its M.Zuiko Pro collection, and from the all-too-brief in-store tryout I had when a mid-sized camera store existed nearby, the lens’ one downside is its large protruding convex front element.
Not such a problem when shooting stills, though I do feel better installing a top-quality protective or UV filter in front when working on location.
Neither the 45mm f/1.2 nor 17mm f/1.2 are available yet and have only been tried out by a handful of users, mostly Olympus Visionaries.
Despite their early praise, some potential buyers chatting on online fora seem to believe that these two lenses plus the 25mm f/1.2 that appeared over a year ago are too large, too heavy and too costly.
So, I did a quick test on the Compact Camera Meter website in order to compare the dimensions of my most-used M.Zuiko Pro lens with the three fast M.Zuiko Pro primes, placing them on the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
They look well-proportioned in relation to the camera to me, and all are about the same size.
As with most items of hardware, you get what you pay for and if the few photographs made with these lenses that have been released so far are any indication, these three lenses look well worthwhile.
I asked cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One fame what native lenses he would use on his GH5 for making feature films.
“Olympus would be my pick if I was using M43 lenses”, he told me.
Mr Leeming currently uses Metabones Speed Booster-adapted Zeiss Contax manual prime lenses on his GH5, attaching his ND filters with the Xume magnetic system.
Product shots and sample photographs kindly supplied by Olympus Australia and Olympus USA and their public relations agencies and staff.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro professional prime lenses with manual clutch focusing, brilliant for shooting video or stills where accurate focus is absolutely critical.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II DSLR-style camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens with manual clutch focus. Photograph courtesy of Olympus.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Olympus has got manual focus right with its retractable manual clutch focus ring that allows accurate, repeatable focus and focus pulling.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Not shown in this photograph: retracting the focus ring activates the lens’ manual cutch focus mechanism, allowing for fast, accurate, repeatable focussing and focus pulling.
The M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 45mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens with manual clutch focusing via retracting focus control ring. Equivalent to 90mm in the 35mm sensor format. If only ALL lenses offered manual clutch focus!
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 17mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being close to the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) to concentrate fully on the subject.
I could not, alas, find an official Olympus 25mm lens sample shot of a human female to crop to 16×9 in order to simulate video so have had to resort to this cute little kitten. Visualize a human female here instead. The 25mm f/1.2 gives a look and feel in between those of the 17mm and 45mm M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 lenses.
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 45mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being much further from the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) even more than the 17mm and 25mm to concentrate even more fully on the subject.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017.
The addition of the 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 lenses to Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro professional Micro Four Thirds lens collection is an exciting development and offers the hope that more such fast prime lenses will be forthcoming.
When I began looking at Super 16/Micro Four Thirds as a serious documentary moviemaking and photography platform some years ago, my biggest concern was the apparent lack of an extensive optically and mechanically matched set of well-spaced prime and zoom lenses as we long have been accustomed to in other sensor formats.
The prospect of having to assemble a lens set comprising different brands and different optical and mechanical characteristics and qualities was not an attractive one.
That concern has now been largely allayed.
I will be even less concerned if Olympus adds a reasonably fast 10.5mm to the M.Zuiko Pro collection as the widest offering in its core prime lens subset.
I bought into the Super 16/Micro Four Thirds system when needing to shoot more video than stills, and while waiting for Fujifilm to come up with what finally turned out to be the X-Pro2, which was being spoken of back then as a Super 16/APS-C 4K-capable stills camera with accurate film simulations for video and JPEGs.
With the GH5, Panasonic has soared ahead and Fujifilm has years of catching up to do.
Of Panasonic’s own lens offerings, I am not so sure especially as they rely on focus-by-wire, which is fine for autofocus and back-button focus for stills but lousy for manually focussing video.
After trying out the Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f/2.8 and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses, I chose the latter and as Olympus released more M.Zuiko Pro lenses was increasingly impressed with the direction they were taking.
The three latest M.Zuiko Primes have me really impressed, for stills as well as video.
I relied on kits of two, three or four prime lenses for each camera system I used during the analog era, often carrying no more than three on most assignments, most often one long, one wide and one even wider.
It feels like I could do the same with these three M.Zuiko primes, for cinematography and photography, so long as I have a couple of matching zooms and one prime lens on the wide end socked away.
Olympus, please give us a 10.5mm prime lens to go with your 17mm, 25mm and 45mm primes, along with your 12-40mm and 40-150mm zooms to fill in the gaps.
Articles and Other Links
43Rumors.com – rumours website that has my gratitude for doing a great job keeping those of us relying on Olympus, Panasonic and other brand of Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses.
Cosyspeed – The OLYMPUS 25/1.2 Street-Review – “The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast…. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”
Ming Thein – Review: the 2017 Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO – article and photographs by Robin Wong. “… I find the images from the 45mm PRO lens to be lively, vibrant and realistic. There is an extra dimension to the images… Whatever secret sauce Olympus is using here, I sure hope they add it to their future lenses.”
Olympus – M.Zuiko Pro – has yet to be updated with the new lenses.
redtealongan – Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Lens Hands-On – “How good was the F1.2 PRO series lens in comparison to the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R which I currently own? Well, after having the hands-on with the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO, I think I am convinced that Olympus has successfully created a phenomenal portrait lens.”
I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2 digital rangefinder camera and have no regrets buying it despite its current inability to shoot 4K video, relative lack of other videocentric features and unimpressive electronic viewfinder (EVF).
As a longtime user of rangefinder cameras in all formats from 8mm (movie film) and 35mm (stills) through various 120 roll-film aspect ratios (6×4.5cm to 6x12cm) up to 4″x5″, it has been such a relief to once again have a very capable rangefinder camera in my hands.
I wavered on the somewhat slow XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom and a shortage of funds finally made that decision for me, compounded with the Fujinon X-mount lens series’ current 18mm focal length situation.
A fast medium wide-angle of 18mm in Fujifilm’s APS-C format, equivalent to 14mm in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format and 28mm in the digital 35mm format (I refuse to use the silly term “full frame”) is my number one choice for immersive documentary photography in combination with a moderate telephoto focal length like 50mm in APS-C, 30mm or so in MFT and 75mm in 35mm format.
Fujifilm X-E3 rangefinder-style camera with Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 f/2.8 ultra wide-angle lens.
I have applied that moderate wide/moderate long combination to almost all formats and aspect ratios in the past, occasionally adding something in-between, preferably on the wide side of “standard” or “normal”.
In other words, 27mm in APS-C, 20mm in MFT and 40mm in 35mm rather than the more usual “normal” focal lengths of 35mm in APS-C, 25mm in MFT and 50mm in the 35mm format, all of which feel like short telephoto to me.
My choices can vary, though, in shooting video when a longer “normal” lens offering clutch focus functionality for repeatable, accurate manual focussing may override my creative preference for a slightly wider focal length.
The X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid optical viewfinder (OVF) was the clincher in buying into APS-C, aided and abetted by the existence of those 23mm and 56mm focal lengths.
Lenses are, for me, key influencers in camera choice, with sensor aspect ratios coming second followed by a myriad of other often interrelated usability and functionality factors.
I shoot documentary and portrait photographs and documentary videos, am self-funded, and the gear I need must be affordable, small, portable, self-contained and capable of the best quality possible.
No single camera system can provide all that so I use APS-C/Super 35 and MFT/Super 16 cameras and lenses.
Right now, the Lumix GH5 has the edge over Fujifilm for video by a long list of remarkable top-end professional moviemaking features, which is little wonder given Panasonic has been working on video since the GH1.
We have yet to see any Fujifilm camera approach the GH5 in terms of its video feature set and its self-contained usability, and one can only wonder what may turn up in the X-T2S or what might have been of the now-abandoned Fujifilm APS-C/Super 35 “super camera” project.
Playing the waiting game wears thin especially when gaps persist in both sensor formats’ lens and camera offerings, and each has its pros and cons.
The 3:4 (vertical) and 4:3 (horizontal) image aspect ratio is optimal for portraiture and I often find 2:3 (vertical) and 3:2 (horizontal) irritating for that purpose while it is much more suited to documentary photography in horizontal aka landscape orientation.
I love the 1:1 image aspect ratio for monochrome portraiture and urban documentary, combined with the tilting EVF built into only one current camera, the Lumix GX8, allowing me to shoot as I used to with my Rolleiflex twin lens reflexes (TLRs).
I prefer rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras for photography and cameras with fully-articulated monitors for video.
The perfect lens set comprising the right focal lengths combined with manual clutch focus, stabilization and fast non-variable maximum apertures with excellent mechanical and optical construction remains something of a pipe dream.
So, I compromise on APS-C/Super 35 mostly for photography with MFT/Super 16 mostly for video with a mix of Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic cameras and lenses.
Right now I am prepping to photograph a human rights rally tomorrow, the sort of event I have often covered at the same time with gear from all three brands and in both sensor formats.
In a DSLR-fixated culture, event participants are effectively rangefinder-blind, allowing me to photograph centimetres away from them without objection.
At this event, I have some constraints imposed by carrying my gear in a small shoulder bag that I have received for review.
The bag is capable of carrying one mirrorless camera plus three lenses in its default internal divider configuration, or up to four small lenses, or two mirrorless cameras-plus-lenses with a minor divider rearrangement.
I don’t currently have the ideal one-plus-three, one-plus-four or two-plus-two set-up in either mirrorless sensor format, so may limit myself to my X-Pro2 with 23mm lens on-camera and 56mm ready to swap should the portrait opportunities for which that lens is best suited arise.
I would much prefer two cameras with an 18mm lens on one and a 50mm lens on the other but that ideal set-up must wait for our self-financing effort to bear fruit.
I could carry an MFT Lumix camera with fast fixed maximum aperture standard zoom lens attached to cover the event with all my desired focal lengths and more, but I relish the discipline of carrying a limited set of fast prime lenses, and this new bag warrants a realistic test according to its default design parameters of one camera and two to four lenses, size dependent.
The coming release of Fujifilm’s X-E3 has me musing on another possibility this bag presents via rearranging its dividers, X-Pro2 with 23mm on one side and X-E3 with 56mm on the other.
A less tight fit might be the 18mm on one and the 50mm on the other but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
What remains to be seen is whether the X-E3 will be a worthy companion to the X-Pro2, filling the gaps that the other camera cannot fill.
Based on its specifications list, I suspect that might be the case, with one exception, Fujifilm’s crazy ongoing failure to add crucial exposure zebras functionality for stills and video to all its cameras’ firmware.
Video on X-E3 and other Fujifilm cameras
Although Fujifilm’s cameras have some way to go until they approach Panasonic’s video feature set, especially that of the GH5, they already possess certain advantages.
I enjoy shooting video via my X-Pro2’s advanced hybrid OVF with ERF in lower right of frame set to show the whole scene as seen through the lens, in close-up or in mid-view as desired.
Fujifilm’s manual clutch focus primes are a joy to use as are their aperture rings when needing to ride constantly changing available light.
Fujifilm’s film simulations that work so well for JPEGs apparently look terrific in video, as demonstrated by Andrew Reid at EOSHD with a still frame from a Fujifilm X-T20 which permits customization not currently possible on the X-Pro2.
The lack of 4K in the X-Pro2 is the only factor against using it more for video given I generally use multi-camera 4K set-ups for editing in 4K and increasingly, release in 4K, Australian fraudband’s lousy upload capabilities permitting.
All Fujifilm cameras have their persistent video annoyances, however, and Fujifilm does not appear inclined to correct them any time soon.
None has an integral headphone jack for audio monitoring.
Each has a non-industry-standard 2.5mm microphone jack, demanding the use of unreliable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters or microphones with interchangeable audio cables like Røde’s more recent on-camera models like the VideoMic Pro+.
Interchangeable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cables have proven hard to find but I eventually located and ordered several Beachtek SC25 coiled cables.
Fujifilm has proven deaf and blind to the crucial need for customizable exposure zebras for video and stills, instead substituting a blinking highlight overexposure indicator on the X-E3.
Cinematographer/director Paul Leeming explains how to use exposure zebras at his Leeming LUT One webpage.
While the exposure zebras problem can be remedied by a Fujifilm with a firmware update, the best solution right now for effective audio monitoring is by connecting compact audio adapters or field recorders beneath your camera.
Hmmm, looking at all the many themes and variations of acquiring top quality audio as a solo documentary producer/director/cinematographer, perhaps I should do an article on that alone given some cameras provide for audio acquisition and monitoring very well and others much less so.
ALL Fujifilm cameras need grips
One thing that was immediately obvious when I bought my first Fujifilm camera, the X100, is that it desperately needed a hand grip for better grip of the camera in all conditions when shooting on location.
My assessment remains the same for all subsequent Fujifilm cameras that I have tried out or purchased, including the X-T1, X-Pro2, X-T2 and X100F.
Fujifilm does not make a hand grip for the X100F, a truly bizarre omission given the camera’s very slight built-in grip and slippery leather-look plastic covering, which has contributed to placing the X100F lower down on my wishlist than it deserves.
“Fujifilm unveils the latest development of the “X Mount Lens Roadmap”, the interchangeable lens range for the X Series digital cameras. By expanding the high performance lens line-up, Fujifilm covers more focal lengths from ultra-wide to telephoto shooting scenarios…”