2458 - Trust Yourself

According to widespread opinion on the Internet, the lens that I’ve used to make this image is a piece of overpriced mediocrity. And really, I can confirm that the Panaleica 25/1.4 is sharper. Not by a big margin, but it is. I should know, I own and use both.

And although the Panaleica is marginally sharper, the pleasure of using the Olympus 17/1.8 is greater. I don’t exactly know why, 17 mm is just a more interesting focal length for me, and apart from sharpness, everything else in this lens is exquisite. OK, sharpness of this lens is exquisite as well, only perhaps not just as exquisite as that of the 25/1.4 🙂

Anyway. The point is, that of the initial three reviews of this lens, only Robin Wong’s was unconditionally positive. Pekka Potka actually seemed to like it, although not overly so, and Lenstip’s review really slaughtered the lens’ reputation to a point where Steve Huff and Ming Thein couldn’t save it.

My camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 on the other hand is one of the biggest successes in recent camera history. It does not look as good as the Fujis, Kirk Tuck never warmed up to it, but few people don’t like it. Or so I thought.

Today I read a blog post by Olivier Duong, where he explains why he sold his Olympus OMD and got a NEX 7. Read it, it’s an interesting and contrasting opinion.

Basically he likes focus peeking (which I don’t miss at all), feels some MFT lenses are cheap (which the 45/1.8 definitely is, thank goodness), he does not like the Olympus controls (which some people do and some don’t) and he never felt he could trust the camera operationally.

The latter part seems strange to me. I do trust the OM-D, at least as much as I trusted the Nikon D300 (a camera generally regarded as trustworthy), and within reasonable expectations the OM-D never let me down.

But again, it’s his opinion, he is certainly entitled to it. No problem with that. The interesting thing is, that a review or report such as that, had it been written early on, could have hurt the camera. Probably. And nothing would have been more wrong.

The image you see here is no masterpiece, just a church near Vienna, photographed with a mediocre lens on a camera that a certain photographer wouldn’t trust, processed in Lightroom 5, but the image still demonstrates why I like the OM-D and its lenses so much:

Although used wide open, image quality is just fine. The image was taken handheld at ISO 200 (the camera’s base ISO, leaving me headroom for whatever processing I feel appropriate), f1.7 and 1/6 s. Due to the smaller sensor, DOF is about as it would have been at f3.5 on 35 mm, thus almost enough for the situation. I’d have needed a tripod to get more DOF, and I would have needed a tripod with most other cameras anyway, but due to the OM-D’s superb sensor stabilization I could easily get away without one.

For me, image stabilization is a must-have feature of modern cameras, especially in times when using a tripod is so often restricted in churches and even on urban sidewalks.

Yes, at 1/6 s I am near my limit. I can go slower, but then I really have to check after each shot. At 1/6 s and using the 17/1.8 I know I can just trust the camera.

I sing praises, others condemn, so what are you supposed to do?

I’m afraid you just have to look at your own criteria, weigh a camera or lens against them, and you have to trust yourself that, given all that incoherent information on the Internet, you can make an informed decision based on what your own requirements are.

You don’t need image stabilization and like zooms? Well, the OM-D is probably not what you want, regardless of how I like it.

You want mirrorless but are not interested in native lenses and only want to use it with bulky legacy lenses, relying on focus peeking for focusing? By all means, buy a NEX 7.

Whatever you buy, make sure you know what’s published, but also make sure that you evaluate it according to your own needs and uses.

The Song of the Day is “Trust Yourself” from Bob Dylan’s 1985 album “Empire Burlesque”. Hear it on YouTube.

There are 3 comments

Art Photon   (2013-07-11)

Beautiful image, great dynamic range. Here is a lens you're missing 🙂 http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/olympus-bcl-15mm-f8 Keep up the beautiful work. Art -----

💬 Reply 💬

andreas   (2013-07-11)

Just read it 🙂 No, not really. I've had the Panasonic 14/2.5 and sold it, because it was too near 12 and 17 mm. One millimeter in the other direction won't be progress 😄

💬 Reply 💬

Cedric Canard   (2013-07-13)

Interesting thoughts. I read Duong's article and found it interesting mainly because my experience with both the OM-D and the NEX cameras amount to a similar conclusion but I would have put it much more simply. For me, as much as I want to like it, the OM-D simply does not feel right when I hold it and feels completely wrong when I use it. The exact opposite is true for any of the NEX cameras. What I find interesting is that I don't know why I want to like the OM-D in the first place. I'm not one to care much about the gear; I don't even care much about lenses since the technicalities that make a lens great are not the things that I look for in a photograph. As you've concluded, in the end it's up to each of us to understand our own needs; horses for courses as it were.

💬 Reply 💬