Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why I Love 11-22mm?

I have mentioned quite briefly about my acquired lens, Olympus Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 not too long ago. I have made comments based on my first impressions on the lens and the few test drive sessions I have done with it, including my HDR experiments recently. After using this particular lens for a while now, I have grown to love it more and more each time I use it. This entry shall be a sort of informal report of what I think and feel about this lens, and why I love it.

The Sacrifice of Macro and Pancake Lenses

In case many of you did not know this yet, I have sold off my very beloved pancake lens and macro lens, just to fund this 11-22mm. A lot of people went nuts when I told them, and they said I was crazy to let go of my macro, since I was getting quite obsessed about it for almost a year. No, I did not have a change of heart, and I still love macro. However, I do feel that delving in macro for so long, I felt constrained by it, and now I do really feel like moving on to something else, exploring different possibilities of photography. I have picked up street photography, and more recently, the HDR experiments. My old lenses worked just fine, but to explore more possibilities, a switch of lens would help in many ways. Considering the fact that I am one underpaid overworked engineer, lacking the cash to fund this new lens, the only solution was to let go of my precious two lenses. As painful as the sacrifice was, I did not regret this decision at all. This could probably be one of the good things that happened in my photography journey in a long, long time.

Ever since I got this 11-22mm, the original standard kit lens, 14-42mm has been stored away and never been mounted on my Ollie. The 11-22m has somewhat become the standard everyday lens I use. A lot of people may find this lens a little restrictive, because at 11mm, it is not exactly an ultra wide angle, and at 22mm, it is too short for any tele-shooting. Nonetheless, I have come to known a few professional photographers who heavily rely on this particular lens, especially shooting events and wedding. Looking at their shots, I dare say the capability of this lens should never be underlooked.

Why do I love 11-22mm?

1) The extra bit of wideness, but not too wide.

I have mentioned this a couple of times, and I am going to say it again. I appreciate the extra bit of wider coverage this lens offers. In many shooting conditions, I have been hammered with the limitation of 14mm of the standard kit lens, and I have always wanted the coverage to be slightly wider to fit in that extra bit of frame. I fully understand that this lens can never replace a true ultra wide angle lens, but this lens itself is of its own category. An ultra wide angle might be wider, but it is so wide that you have to get extremely close to your subjects to create the dramatic effect. Standing a distance away won’t produce anything other than an ordinary shot, even with an ultra wide angle. This 11-22mm being not too wide, allows me to have that certain working distance, though I do still have to get close but at least I am working at a comfortable distance from my subjects.

2) Brightness of the F2.8 lens. Good for low light shooting conditions

At the widest angle, 11mm, the lens widest aperture is F2.8, and this is considered to be a rather bright lens. Certainly, this will enable much faster shutter speed, which is useful to combat hand-shake or blurring especially in low light shooting conditions. Some may argue that shake is not an issue when it comes to wide angle lenses, but having that marginally larger aperture (lower F-number) can really make a world of difference. I have brought this lens out to test at a Pasar Malam, shooting without flash. Even while sticking to only ISO400, I can manage to get decently exposed photographs, and this was crucial for me because Olympus is notorious when it comes to high-ISO shooting. Since I have no money to get that D700 or 5Dmk2 to shoot at ISO20000000000000, staying with this Ollie, the only way to overcome the high ISO noise issue is to get a faster lens, and shoot at lower ISO settings. As you can observe from the Pasar Malam photos, this lens did its job under poorly lit situations very well.

3) Close up capabilities.

One of my more obvious shooting style, that many of you must have noticed by now, is to get as close as I can to my subjects. Having been crazy about macro did teach me a thing or two in getting close up shots, even with ordinary or other non-macro lenses. Even professionals will tell you that if your photos are not good enough, most likely you are not close enough. This 11-22mm lens allows me to get as close as 28 cm (measured from the sensor, not the front of lens) to the subject. This ultimately enables me to get very close to my subjects. One main advantage of doing so would be the ability to reveal tiny details, or texture of the subjects. For example, look at the cat photographs in this entry. I was probably only 10cm away from the cat’s eyes (yeah good thing the cat did not scratch my lens) and check out the texture of the fur on the face !! It was actually exceeding even my own expectations of the lens.

4) High Grade lens

This is my first High Grade Lens from Olympus. Generally Olympus categorizes their lenses into three divisions, the lowest being the Standard Grade, then up one level to High Grade, and the best of the bunch would be Super High Grade. Being a High Grade Lens, this 11-22mm has many positive remarks. It is weather sealed, very robustly constructed. The image quality of the lens is quite outstanding. Shooting at the widest angle 11mm, at F2.8, the image came out pleasingly sharp, revealing plenty of details. Stopping down to F8-F11, the sharpness can be quite scary that at times when I forgot to tone down the sharpness setting on the camera, the overall image came out so sharp it looks very unnatural. Since the lens was at F2.8 widest aperture, with circular aperture diaphragm, the defocusing effect can be quite lovely. The bokeh is creamy and though I am not a bokeh person, I do admit the creaminess comes out very nice. The colour tone reproduced as expected from any other Olympus lenses, but the contrast was evidently better in comparison to my other standard grade lenses. I am pleased to acknowledge what this lens can actually offer.

5) Suits my shooting style

My composition style has always required me fitting a lot of items into the tight framing. Also there are times I would utilize plenty of negative space to isolate my subject. Therefore, this 11-22 lens does its job well in handling those two demands. I can cover a wider frame, to either fill in more things, or to add in more space.

I must admit that I have yet to truly bring out the full potential of this lens. But why rush? It is the joy of slowly discovering what the lens can do, each time I try out a new shooting session that makes the whole experience worthwhile. The excitement of knowing that there are things that this lens can do that I have not done yet, is something that makes me want to pick up the lens and start shooting more and more.

I am also aware that this may not be the suitable lens for many people, because of its odd focal lengths. Nonetheless, if you have similar shooting styles like me, or having a style that this lens can actually help, then you will realize this 11-22mm is such a great lens to use. Otherwise, there are always other options to go to.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Finally, a review of the lens in human language that everyone can understand. Good Job !

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. great review on the lens, and i like your photo of the cat,may i ask your opinion, which lens would you have chosen the 11-22mm or the 12-60mm if fund had not been an issue to you? (i have exactly the same giordano shirt that you were wearing in your second picture, did you buy it from australia?, haha)

  5. hey rustiez,
    thanks mate !!

    Hey cheehui,
    thanks !! Hmm are you the cheehui I know from uni?
    If I was given a choice, I would have still gotten the 11-22mm. It all comes down to your lens planning. I do not intend to keep 10 lenses with me, and I want to make full use of all the lenses I have. I am thinking of 11-22mm, 50mm and 70-300mm. The only missing link is the 50mm.
    By the way, thats not a giordano shirt, it is a Fila shirt, and yes it was from Aussie !!

  6. no, i'm not the cheehui you know. i did my degree in melbourne where as from what i read in your blog, you're studying in perth(if i'm not wrong). i enjoy reading your blog, keep it up!

  7. hey cheehui,
    glad to know you here. Yeah I was from Perth, and that was ages ago. I do miss it terribly.
    Thanks for your compliments. Do you have a blog too?

  8. Hello Robin,

    Is it me or my eyes? I can't seem to tell the diff between ur current lens and the SG lenses you own before other than the wideness. In terms of sharpness and color, they pretty much looked the same to me, which is brilliant and I can never emulate.
    Would you mind sharing what kind of in-camera setting/pp you used?

  9. hey nelson,
    The most common assumption people make is to think that photos will come out different, and improved with a new lens.
    That is not the case.
    The 11-22mm allows me to capture photos from a different perspective. It offers different opportunities that I cannot do with the 14-42mm, that is an important point.
    There is an obvious difference in sharpness, but the most obvious part would be on photos with heavy textures, such as the cat's fur.
    In terms of PP, I did not do much, just boosted contrast, added crazy saturation, or convert to monotone. Lately I tried a few HDRs.
    If you do have further questions, I would gladly answer you via email at
    Hope this helps. Cheers.

  10. Thank you for this post,I found it interesting and informative.In other words I could understand :)

    At the moment I am using 18-200 Tamron lens n I am considering something i can use for micro.

  11. good job mate. 11-22mm is truly awesome lens.

  12. hey raime,
    thanks mate. Yeap the 11-22 is indeed awesome !! Loving it.