Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Lenses, New Approach

Side Note: This blog has just surpassed 8 Million Page Views. That is a LOT for a humble blog of mine. Thank you all beautiful readers for making this happen. I am not sure what made you guys come back again and again, but what I can tell you is that shutter therapy for me continues, and I hope you get your shutter therapy too!

I have always been a fan of longer focal length when I am shooting on the street, No doubt, I also acknowledge the importance of having wide angle coverage and some subjects and composition work much better with wider angle perspective. Though I have used mostly the Olympus 45mm F1.8 for my street shooting, I have always kept the 17mm F1.8 and the versatile 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens around handy, just in case there was a sudden need to have a wide perspective. That is the fun part of hunting on the street, you never know what to expect, you never know what comes your way, and it is best to be fully prepared. I am all in when someone advised learning photographers to just stick with one lens (prime lens would be strict but helpful in your growth in photography) but I also believe in insurance. Since Micro Four Thirds system is so small and light, it is easy to carry around several more lenses. 

Today, I decided to change my shooting style when I was attacking the streets. I decided not to use the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. Instead, I made room to fully utilize the newly purchased, 25mm F1.8 lens. The 25mm is my primary lens which I used 80% of the time, and it is mounted on my OM-D E-M5 full time. Now, this is something new that I am experimenting now, I have now with me, a PEN E-PL5, with a Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens attached to it full time. I am running with TWO cameras and lenses, and they are both pretty much wider than what I normally work with. I have effectively 28mm and 50mm perspective (equivalent focal length in 35mm format of course) to play with, and boy did I find this combination really useful, and it worked very well for me. As expected the Olympus 25mm F1.8 lens continues to amaze me with the superb results, while that Panasonic 14mm lens was no slouch either. The best part of all, I can still fit everything into my small bag and still the bag was very light. 

I am getting increasingly high amount of emails asking me about photography tips and how I get the shots I usually get. Therefore, I shall share bits and pieces of what I can with descriptions beneath the photos. Bear in mind if you want to find out about the Shutter speed, aperture or ISO used (even the metering modes and white balance settings) I have ALWAYS left the full exif data of my photos intact, and you can view them. I hide nothing!

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5, PEN E-PL5 bodies and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8, Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lenses. 

Overhead Bridge
Morning light (or evening light)  is possibly the best for creating dramatic effects in photographs, especially if you want to produce long-ish and far-reaching shadows. The moral of the story? Don't be lazy, wake up EARLY and go out to shoot. In Malaysia, it usually rains in the evening, thus chances of getting this kind of effect later in the day is much slimmer. 



Portrait of a Stranger
Now this question never seems to stop coming: how do I approach stranger. I never had any secret techniques, I just went up to them and shoot. Yes, people in Malaysia are friendly. I very, very rarely get rejected. Even if I did, who cares, just find the next guy to shoot. When I approached this man, I did ask him if I can take a photo of him. He smiled and agreed. As simple as that. No tricks. Just be yourself, and be respectful to people out there. On the technical side, I stopped down my aperture to F2.5 so that I could get both eyes in focus. Always, always pay attention to the eyes, and shoot from the direction where the eyes sparkle! (catchlight). 



Have A Drink
Most photographer masters will tell you one thing, and one thing only: lighting. It is all about lighting. No matter how good you think your photograph is, without good enough lighting, the shot usually won't make it. Recognizing dramatic light and how to shoot them is an important skill to work with available light. On the street, it is perfect to train your eyes to find the light and practise how it affects your subjects. 

Have a Drink 2
Seriously, that Olympus 25mm F1.8 is sharp, really sharp. And the shallow depth of field was definitely good enough for me. I know there are folks who have shallow depth of field fetish, the shallower the more satisfied their lust will be. Not for me. The best part about Olympus lenses? Even at wide open aperture, F1.8 for this case, the shot was super sharp. Most lenses from other manufacturers (at similar price range of course) would require you to stop down to F2.8 or even F4 to accomplish similar sharpness. Take a look at the 100% crop below. 

100% crop from previous image

Portrait of a Stranger 2
This man refused to have his photos taken when I asked him for the first time. I smiled and walked away, and I attacked other people nearby. I think he started to see me shooting others, and realized that I was no threat and I meant no harm. When I walked back the same way and saw him again, this time, he was smiling, and I smiled back to him. He then nodded, and that was the sign that he was ok with me shooting him. So the shot happened, and this proved to be a good shot, because he willingly wanted to  have his portrait taken. 

Tomatoes
There is this secret location (not so secret to my friends since they all followed me) that the light is just magical! Whatever the light touches there, the subjects appear so beautiful. 

Now what is the reason of me shooting with TWO camera bodies? That is quite a strange thing to do. Allow me to explain. 

Next week, I will be traveling to Perth, Western Australia. (anyone from Perth reading this? Hmmm). I have a friend's wedding to go to, and I will be shooting his wedding. This will also be my first attempt to do a full wedding shoot with Micro Four Thirds system (my previous review with E-PL5 did not really count, since it was a review). For that particular job, I do intend to shoot with two camera bodies, and I would run similar setup: a wide angle lens on one body and a longer lens (either 25mm or 45mm) on the other body. I will attach flash units on both bodies if necessary. I know I am already very familiar with all my gear, after all I have reviewed most of them, and of many people I do know I think I can comfortably say that I have used Micro Four Thirds system more extensively than most people (evidence on this regularly updated blog). Nevertheless, coming from engineering background, it is crucial for me to do test runs and trials before finalizing any new implementations. What better way to test out the new approach than street photography? Of course it is different from actual photography assignment, but being on the street is supposed to be unpredictable, hence how you handle your gear and how fast you can react to respond to that photography moment can determine how workable your system setup is. So far, this combo of 14mm on E-PL5 and 25mm on OM-D worked well, and I have no issues (at least nothing worth noting). 

I am sure some would ask, why not get that Olympus 12mm F2 lens? Oh you have no idea how much I want that lens. It would have been perfect to have 12mm F2, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 combination. While we are at it, throwing in the 75mm F1.8 would just make the whole line-up so much sweeter. Yes, I do think the 12mm F2 is a much, much better lens, and that 2mm difference can mean a whole world of difference when it comes to wide angle coverage. However, there is no way for me to afford that 12mm lens just yet. Give me time. Maybe after taking in somre photography jobs I can fund for that lens. Maybe. 

Oh did I say I will be travelling to Australia? Perth, to be exact. I will be there for about 5 days, and this time, I really, really hope to get some photos. We shall see what happens. Can't wait already. The last time I visited Perth (last year) I had very little chance to go around and shoot for myself. 

Pouring In
This dude was a sport, he knew I was shooting him and instead of making one clean throw of the peanuts into the pal, he suddenly poured them down very slowly, and me already setting the camera to slower shutter speed (I used shutter priority when motion is the main consideration), the motion was captured. Notice the light leak from the roof, that added a lot of depth to the photo as it highlighted the face of the man. Yes the shot was noisy (grainy) because I bumped up the exposure in post-processing, but I could have easily cleaned off the noise if I want to. I decided not to, because I thought the grain added character to this shot. You may have a different opinion of course, but lets leave it as it is here.

Prayers
I was at a Hindu temple and the boy was with his sisters (standing behind him, intentionally left out in composition) and he was praying to. I have shot these statues many times before, but never had a human subject in my composition. This is something that I like to emphasize, though you may have done a shot many times before, it does not mean you are done with it, there may be other ways to shoot and further improve on. You never know if you stopped trying. The biggest mistake I saw my friends make was doing something once or twice, being contented and moved on without giving further thoughts on how to do better the next time. I did not just shoot on the street once or twice to be able to produce my shots you see on my blog. I have been on the streets once or twice a week, every week, for the past 3-4 years, without fail. Sometimes, the same subject may appeal to you differently because you have changed and you can see different things. 

Hiding at a Corner
Playing with lines and perspectives, and going to ground level can open up a different way of seeing things. We are often stuck at our eye level (I am also guilty of this), and sometimes, we just have to move the camera lower to our waist level, or higher up above our heads, and the image can be improved so much more. Watching where the lines are and how they interact with your subjects can often be rewarding too. These are basics to photography that people often neglect. When all things fail, I always fall back to the basics. 

Temple Devotees
Now I am not sure how to explain the love of shooting strangers, but I do get a certain kick out of it. Whenever I approached a stranger, I was nervous (I am like everyone else you know) and that pumping heart was the thrill that kept me going. When I managed to get the shot that I wanted (when everything comes together, composition, lighting, facial expression, timing, etc) the feeling of satisfaction was beyond anything I can describe in words. 

Friends
This shot was taken with the 25mm lens, stopped down to F2.8 to ensure sufficient depth of field to cover both heads. I have also been asked how I get such good lighting for my portrait shots, even of strangers on the street where everything was unplanned and uncertain. Yes, we often get bad and horrible lighting. When such lighting is encountered and there was no remedy, you have to decide if the subject is worth shooting (is there a compelling story to tell which was strong enough on its own regardless of lighting). If it is, go for it, and deal with the crappy light in whatever way you can. If it is just an ordinary subject, then I say just leave it behind! You do not have to shoot everything, choose wisely what you want to shoot, and when you found the opportunity (they often come at most unexpected places and time, hence always be alert), you pour all of yourself into making that shot happen. 

Purple Shirt
Part of shooting on the street is finding subjects that attract your attention. If the subject is catchy in a way and managed to grab your look, it is worth shooting, because that something is the important element that made the photograph special. I thought the purple shirt hanging on the steel door was somewhat out of place, and did not belong there. Hence that was a shot worth considering. 

Purple Food
Just taking this one frame to test the Panasonic 14mm lens. It was definitely good enough and I am happy with it. 

So how does the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 perform on the OM-D E-M5? I have upgraded the firmware to the latest, hence I believe that whatever information of the new 25mm lens (distortion correction, CA profile, etc) would be readily available on the camera just in case I need to shoot JPEG. In this case, I was shooting RAW and processed everything in Olympus Viewer 3, thus not encountering any of such issues. 

The images, as you can evidently see from many photos I have shown here, are very sharp, and the results were similar to what I can achieve with the E-M10 which I have tested the 25mm on extensively. Are there differences? It is hard to tell, and if I want to find out the only way is to do side by side comparison, which I find not necessary. I am perfectly happy with what the 25mm F1.8 lens can do, it delivers superbly sharp images, renders pleasingly beautiful bokeh, and focuses extremely fast like all Olympus lenses do. There really is nothing to complain about, and this was the lens I have been waiting for a long, long time. I am just glad that finally I have it and I can use it regularly from now onward. In fact, in addition to the 45mm F1.8, now I dare suggest that this M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 is a must have lens for Olympus Micro Four Thirds users. If you already own the Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4, there is no reason to get the Olympus because that lens is a great performer as I have already done a comparison review recently. If you do not have any 25mm lens, the Olympus is worth a strong consideration, it is cheaper and what it delivers well. 

Trishaw by the road
This is a good example why a wide angle lens is important. Sometimes, a story is better told when you can have more subjects fitted within one frame. I would have felt that the story is incomplete if I left out the cobblers on the left, or the man sitting on the right. They all come in together nicely in the composition I have had in my head, and only a wide angle can capture this perspective. 

Portrait of a Stranger 3


Old Shops
There is something about old stuff, or buildings, or vehicles that is attractive. The aging process, or the weathering, or the fact that they appear out of place and time seem to be a good reason to photograph. Kuala Lumpur is considered as a modern city with modern and steel structures and skyscrappers. Oh and we also have so many of these older shops that does not seem like they can stand for another 10 years. 

Yellow Boots
Two things that attracted me to this scene, the red wall, and the yellow boots. Not sure why but I do have a thing for red walls. Yellow boots because I worked in construction site before and I have myself a pair. And somehow the red wall and the yellow boots come together very nicely. 

Meow
I am a cat lover. If you have not figured out that much, you need to read a lot more blog entries I have written over the years. 

Music at the Bus Station

I know I am not the only one running around with two cameras and different lenses attached to them. Do share your thoughts, and if you have similar approach, I would be interested to find out what focal lengths you choose and why. Weekend is young and shutter therapy goes on. 

42 comments :

  1. Congrats on the 8 000 000, Robin - well done, to say the least ! (a good sign for micro 4/3, I would say)

    In your opinion, do you think it's necessary to get the 25mm F1.8, if you already own the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens?
    Apart from street photography, portraiture and weddings, I'm thinking of especially using the 25mm in large stitched-together architectural images.

    Here's to the next 8MP.. ; )

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    1. And oh yes, just finished my first full-on OM-D (1 x E-M1, 1 x E-M5) wedding shoot last night - used to be full-on Canon, then half-Canon, half-Olympus...

      Both bodies on me permanently, with varying length Joby straps - works like a charm.

      Hopefully the photos will follow suit.. ; )

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    2. Hi Franz,
      Thanks for the kind words! Indeed 8 Million is a huge number.
      If you do not mind the size and weight, the 12-40mm surely is sufficient. In case of shooting in low light the F1.8 on 25mm would be advantageous though.
      And glad to know that you are using full Olympus gear for wedding shoots!

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    3. Hello Robin,

      Extremely nice images. Very inspiring!
      I wondering what you think is a better choice for me, stupid I know :)

      I have an E-M5 with Olympus 12-50mm and Panasonic 20mm lenses. Quite good lenses but both have disadvantages in my case. The zoom is not enough sharp and the panasonic lens is searching focus to much to be able to get sharp image of my little moving son.
      I appreciate the size of the camera but I need new lens.

      Should I buy the zoom or the new 25mm olympus? I'm afraid that the zoom will feel large enough to don't take the camera with my every time. I'm shooting often inside and I have a good Olympus flash. I need faster focus and god sharpness. I had that with my Nikon D90+Sigma24-70HSM but it felt to large and heavy to just take out and shoot.

      2.8 is maybe not fast enough for inside shooting but I have flash. Will the zoom feel to big for my Em-5 body? Not in balance?
      Olympus 25mm 1.8 feels small enough that can be used in many situation but of course the versatility is not near the 12-40.

      Best regards from Sweden!

      Thank you!

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    1. I am using E-M5 because it is my camera. I bought it.

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    2. I dont have an E-M10. the reviews were done with initial production units, loaned from Olympus Malaysia.

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  3. Nice article. Great pictures. "The portrait of a stranger" is amazing. I envy your ability to take great portraits. I'm too shy to approach people, and people here in São Paulo, Brazil, are very suspicious when it comes to let a stranger take pictures of them. They are more comfortable taking crappy selfies in the mall.
    Congrats!

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    1. Hello Emerson, thanks for the kind words. I understand that at some places people are less friendly and may not have their photos taken. Nonetheless, if you do come to Malaysia, lets go to shoot and you will see it is easy to approach people here.

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  4. Robin, what I think I enjoy most about your photo presentation, is the honesty in the images. So many images on the web have so much post-processing applied as a way to make up for the lack of content in the actual image. Your images are so beautiful, the people so striking, that you just do minimal processing to complete the image. I think this is some of the best work I have seen from you. I especially enjoy the boy in prayer, the man with the yellow boots, and that lovely cat. Thanks for the blog as always, Robin!

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    1. Hi Rob,
      Thanks for the kind words. I think it is important to be honest, after all if the image has poor content no matter how much post-processing applied, the content is still poor.

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  5. Congrats on another milestone. With posts as enjoyable as this one, are you really all that surprised? It's truly refreshing to see a local photographer with such honesty and pure enthusiasm for his art. Unfortunately, too many photography enthusiasts here seem to be rather full of themselves yet spend more time discussing and buying gear instead of sharing proper images.
    Hope you have a successful and enjoyable wedding shoot. Having shot numerous weddings, I can certainly say that it's not for the faint-hearted. You'll undoubtedly do well and I look forward to some sharing of the event, if possible. At least you get to shoot it with the lighter m43 gear. I had to shoot one wedding lugging around 2 different pro DSLRs with their massive lenses, on my own. Probably contributed to my wacky knees and elbows.
    Look forward to more such posts and keep up the good work. If you get the chance, try to make it to Melbourne. Great city for street photography and the quality of light there can sometimes be magical.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement! Much appreciated.
      This time the trip is to Perth only. Surely, Melbourne is in the list to go, but I shall save that for next time. I do have friends residing there, and I have heard of many great things about Melbourne.
      Lets share and discuss photos more than gear itself!

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  6. Great post and pictures! I use my 17 1.8 mostly for general indoors and low light work, 25 1.8 for general outdoor shallow DOF work, 45 1.8 for portraits, and 12-40 2.8 for general large DOF work. I use an E-M1.

    I agree that having two bodies with either 17/45 or 12/25 make for very versatile combinations. I would like to get the 12mm 2.0 someday, but I am really hoping for a black non-special edition version first. I know color is a superficial reason not to buy something, but I want the 12 2.0 in black and I don't want to pay a fortune for a used special edition version. Olympus seems to be hurting themselves by not offering the 12mm 2.0 in black anymore.

    Thank you for sharing your work! It is very inspiring!

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    1. HI RMG,
      Thanks for the kind words, and glad to see that you have all these wonderful lenses. I agree that Olympus should make black edition of the 12mm F2 available. We shall see what happens.

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  7. Thank you for the great advice and your creative eye.

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  8. nice, thanks. one of the most important thing when testing gear and lenses is photographer himself. thats why gear perfoms usually very well in your tests :)

    i am extremly curious how the shot to shot comparison between this lens and 14-42 EZ (e-m10 kit lens at 25mm) would look like..??

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    1. Without making any comparisons, the 25mm is superior in all regards. Nonetheless, that does not mean the 14-42mm is not doing well, prime lenses will always be better technically.

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    2. yes, i understand. but i mean i would like just to see the difference. to see it before starting to save for 400 lenses....

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  9. Hi, Robin.... Congratulation on 8mil viewer milestone.... I've been following your blog for quite some time now. It's very interesting and informative. I always wait for your next post. Keep up the good work....

    Now, I've been waiting for this post for a while. I'm wondering whether or not you're going to make a review on Panasonic 14mm f/2.5. I'm looking for an affordable wide angle option at the moment. Olympus 12mm f/2, 9-18 mm f/3.5-5.6 and Panasonic 7-14 mm f/4 are way out of my budget. So, can you share me some light regarding Panasonic 14mm f/2.5? Thanks a lot....

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for staying with me all this time, I really appreciate that. I don't think I will be reviewing the lens because whatever I say will be used against me, if I say it is good some users will disagree and if I say anything bad about the lens, some will say I am biased. I will just keep using the lens and show the results on this blog. Let everyone see and make their own judgement

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    2. Well.... Judging from your last review, i think it's fair enough..... I just wish i could find something to justify my purchase. Hahahaha.... Thanks anyway.... I'm looking forward your next post, especially with this lens. Cheers...

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    3. Lots and lots of photos with this lens in the Holi festival coverage!

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  10. 8 Million? You were at 7 million recently. I'm jealous because my blog only is at 23,501 now, which seems a lot as it wasn't so long ago that it was at 10,000. :-D Congratulations!

    It's good that you're finding different lenses to be useful. My 12-40mm f/2.8 has given fresh life and color to my GH3.

    Those bunches of eggplants look lovely, though most everything always does. Enjoy every shoot!

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    1. Oh dear there is nothing to be jealous about, it is all you beautiful people that made it happen, I did not do much!
      Thanks for the kind words and I will be shooting more and more of course!

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    2. My jealousy is small. :-D I actually love being no one. When I was well known, I didn't like it. I just hope that something I write will help someone make a better decision, whether they agree with me or not.

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  11. Great photos. You really have a connection with your subjects, something Im struggling with. Visiting Bangkok anytime soon? :)

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    1. Hi Alexander,
      Thanks for the kind words. I wish to visit Bangkok! Maybe one of the coming future trips. I heard it is a street photography heaven too.

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    2. Yes, you'll never ran out of things to shoot in the streets here. Looking forward to see you hitting the streets of Siam. Really great photos in this blog. Cheers!

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    3. Thanks Alexander! One of these future days maybe.

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  12. I used to shoot two bodies with the Four Thirds DSLR or even before that a bridge and a DSLR. It certainly covers not needing to reset the shot settings between tele and wide. I found two DSLR heavy and caused back and shoulder tiredness. With MFT two bodies fitted with lenses is more feasible due to small size. But the past two weekends, I have been lazy and onl used one

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    1. Sometimes simplicity is the best! I have always carried only one body all this time. Until recently of course.

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  13. Hey Robin, wonderful images as usual! When I was shooting street with Oly DSLRs, I would carry two as I'm a prime shooter. Usually something like the Rokinon 85/1.4 on one, and something wider like the Pana 25 or Sigma 30 on the other. I also like going even longer, and have shot with the 150/2 on the street, it's excellent for subject isolation. Take care!

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  14. This month I went out taking pictures of the Vasteloavend (Carnaval). Took an E-PM1( my wife's) and my E-P2 with Sigma 2.8 19mm and the Zuiko 1.8 45mm. Worked out great in crowded places. Will do that more often because changing lenses can be very difficult in a crowd that is singing and dancing. BTW your pictures are nice ( as usual) and your blog is nice to read. As always everybody is welcome to take a look at my pictures ( some of the Vasteloavend too) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/plooifiets/

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    1. Thanks Jos for the kind words and sharing your setup. 19m sigma, would love to try that if I have a chance. Thanks for sharing your work too.

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  15. Nice write-up. If I had to choose between the 17mm 1.8 and the new 25mm 1.8; where low light handling is my most important requirement is taken into account; would you choose the new 25mm?

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    1. this is a very personal thing, some people prefer the 35mm field of view, others 50mm. I personally would go for the 50mm (hence the 25mm F1.8 lens)

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  16. Great stuff Robin! I like that low wide-angle perspective! I've never shot with two bodies before. Just curious on how you liked it compared to using a zoom like the 12-40mm f/2.8?

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    1. As great as the zoom lens is, it shall never be able to produce shallow depth of field like the 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses. I use a lot of shallow depth of field in my images to isolate my subjects.

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