I’ve had a little time now with the absolutely minascule Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens and I have to say, I have no problem proclaiming that I have a tiny lens. A truly impressive optical feat considering it’s being used on a 17.3mm x13mm 4/3 sensor. Of course, there is the beautiful Olympus 12mm f/2 lens, but at 2.5x the cost, could one be satisfied with the trade offs and savings? Beyond that you have the much ballyhooed 20mm f/1.7 pancake which is amazing in its own right, but for a bit more coin you can get the Panaleica 25mm f/1.4… And then of course, the Oly 45mm f/1.8 which has been universally praised for both quality and price, but the other Panaleica lens, the 45mm f/2.8 macro should certainly get some attention too. Folks, I think we have a few candidates for the micro 4/3 holy trinity.
Many photographers have heard of the “Holy Trinity” for various systems in regards to lenses, and often when asked, an experienced photographer will rightly say that lenses are a better investment than a new camera body in most cases. I feel that the Micro 4/3 system has not only a Holy Trinity, but two. One for the truly budget conscious and another for those who are willing to spend a bit more coin to get to the top of the IQ hill. Both are great and depending on your needs, you really can’t go wrong. How many systems can you say that about?
The idea of a Holy Trinity in lens terms usually starts with a moderate wide angle lens, then a standard to short portrait focal length and finally a longer portrait / short tele focal length.
Users of the micro 4/3 system are lucky in that they not only have access to truly quality lenses but quality choices, which is unique in the mirrorless world (and any system really). Here are my two versions (with their current estimated prices which may change daily!) of the micro 4/3 Holy Trinity… Click on any of the links to see the lenses at B&H.
First, the “quality is king” choice:
Panaleica 45mm f/2.8 OIS Macro ($719 ) – The tortoise of the bunch. Not the fastest focuser, not the fastest prime lens in the lineup, but has optical image stabilization, is sharp as a tack and also does true 1:1 macro.
(set total $1923.00 )
*Since this article was written, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens has come on the scene as well. You can read my take on it HERE. It’s certainly a jewel in the micro 4/3 system’s crown. Have a look:
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 ($899 ) – The mid tele monster. While arguably a little on the pricy side, its quality cannot really be debated. It’s as good optically as any lens for the system, and from my experience is only limited by the sensors it may focus light onto. As the sensors get more advanced for the system, I think we’ll see this lens get even better.
Next, the budget minded/mine are smaller, choice:
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 ($348 ) – In my opinion, the one true, must have lens for the micro 4/3 system. It is fast, it is sharp, it is small, it is reasonably priced and at a 40mm equivalent fov, great for almost everything.
Olympus 45mm f/1.8 (NOW $349 ) – This would be my next m4/3 lens (and still may be) if it weren’t for my Contax G Zeiss 45mm f/2 lens that I use. By all accounts, this Oly gem is exactly what the system was screaming for in a lens. Fast focusing, fast max aperture, relatively small, sharp and all at an honest price for the package.
(set total $1022 )
Of course, any one of these can be easily replaced by the other and beautifully fill out a shooter’s personal holy trinity. Something that no other mirrorless system can boast at this point. Choice is good. Some may point out the newly rumored/leaked f/2.8 X zooms, which for what they are look great, but I’m a prime fan, period. I do have some zoom lenses for my other systems, but they only get busted out for specific shoots. Zooms are big, bulky (in my case, heavy) and my whole love affair with the mirrorless systems is overall size reduction. No disrespect to zooms, or the people that love them, I’m just not interested at this point with my compact system. Luckily for me, the micro 4/3 system has really rounded out their prime lens offerings and this is exactly why I think, as a system, it is far and away the best system in the mirrorless landscape right now. There are better sensors, better AF performers and better systems at handling noise, but none have the optical choices for anyone who desires fast, discreet, sharp, affordable prime lenses. Of course, if fast, small primes aren’t your bread and butter, than feel free to ignore my claims.
I’ve gone the way of compact in my micro 4/3 system quiver. As a secondary system, I used it to replace my compact, carry around cameras. I chose the micro 4/3 system largely because of the stellar 20mm f/1.7 pancake, and at the time, it was the only game in mirrorless town. When the 14mm f/2.5 pancake was announced, I’d wished they’d gone a little wider (I was hoping for a 12mm f/2.8 at the same price and relative size) so I’d held off on buying it to see what Olympus was going to do. When the beautiful 12mm f/2 lens was announced, I was a little disappointed. Certainly not for the lack of quality in the new Oly lens, but because I was hoping for another pancake, and one that would have come in under $400. Oh well, it’s better that the system have two different choices, one faster, larger and more cost prohibitive for the more discerning shooter. I’m happy with the 14. Would I like the Oly 12mm? Yep, but I’ll stay happy as is. With the 14mm and 20mm pancakes, you get two very quality lenses at reasonable prices. That, and they’re both absolutely tiny. Here is a shot showing the 20mm overlaid on the 14mm to show how much smaller the 14mm actually is compared to the already small 20mm lens on my GF1. I haven’t measured, but I’d say the GF1 (or even more the GF2/3 and EPL/EPM series) + 14mm pancake is close in size to the LX5 for example.
My last holdout is the 45mm, and I have to say, I would go with the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 at this point due to the cost and 1 + 1/3 stop speed advantage over the Panaleica. Lucky for me, I have a great, compact 45mm f/2 Contax G – Zeiss lens. I don’t have auto focus, but that’s okay. If the pricing drops even further on the Oly, I may grab one, but for now, I have my own holy trinity with my 14mm, 20mm and 45mm lenses. A perfect kit for most any situation, for me.
Now that I’m feeling better about low light performance in the G3 vs the GF1 (see GF1 vs G3 comparison shots here) I think I finally feel comfortable with bringing out my micro 4/3 system in lieu of my larger full frame system for traveling and the like. I would not have been caught without my 5DII and L lenses on any trip in the past, but now, I think I’m actually ready to take my first trip without a full frame camera in over 5 years… It may seem trivial, but trust me, it is a big deal for me. I was curious to see the pure difference in weight seeing as I’d literally carry my camera bag everywhere anytime I was travelling, so I added up the total weight between my two “travel kits” and here’s what I found:
G3 + 14mm f/2.5 + 20mm f/1.7 + Contax 45mm f/2 = 675 g (just shy of 1.5 lbs)
5DII + 35mm f/1.4 + 85mm f/1.4 + 135mm f/2 = 2,841 g (about 6.25 lbs)
I guess that I should also mention that I’d normally have the GF1 +20mm with me on trips too so, with filters, cords, cards, ipad, etc I’d probably be slinging 10-15lbs + around when all things were said and done which may not seem like much, but after a full day and sometimes many miles of walking, I’d feel it in my neck, back, shoulders, …… Seeing that my m4/3 kit weighs less than my 85mm lens alone, I feel that I might have just convinced myself I can get by without a full framer on this next trip.
I enjoy photoblogging and do it purely as a passion project, so I don’t have my blog monetized. Because of this, I don’t have any links to B&H, or Adorama, etc which would give me a commission, so I’d like to direct you to two places I visit regularly that do and would whole heartedly suggest the next time you do make a purchase through B&H, Adorama, Amazon or the like, do so from these guys. FourThirdsRumors (Ale is awesome and has helped me by linking to many of my articles in the past) and SteveHuffPhoto (I read Steve’s blog daily). Both of these hard working gentlemen are well worth helping out, so if you do feel like making someone’s day brighter by buying your lenses on line at no extra cost to you (they get affiliate commissions if you buy by clicking their links) I’d like to suggest these two.
As always, thanks for reading through. Fire off any questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them.
*the product shots of the listed lenses are used for editorial reference and are the property of Olympus and Panasonic. All others are © Tyson Robichaud Photography