Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome


Interchangeable camera has been popular and successful, allowing camera users the ability to change lenses and use specific purpose lenses to accomplish a wider range of photography needs. The availability of many lenses has overshadowed the original humble kit lens that comes with the camera. I myself have been shooting often with prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. Somehow, there has been a general belief that kit lenses are inferior: lacking in many aspects of lens technicalities, do not deliver sharp and desirable results and should be replaced or upgraded to superior lenses such as fast F2.8 zoom lenses or prime lenses.

While it is generally true that prime lenses and higher grade, more expensive constant aperture zoom lenses will provide superior image quality, I think it is too quick to push the original lowly kit lens aside and not fully utilize it. While the kit lens being a bad lens may have been true in the earlier days of modern digital photography (older entry level DSLR), over the years, the kit lenses have improved optically as well as technologically. I acknowledge that the original kit lenses were not designed to outperform higher grade lenses, but as an all round performer and do it all lens, the kit lenses can provide admirable results. 


Of all the available lenses in the arsenal, I decided to go out with the lowliest, underrated kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. Can this lens perform on the street?



It is easy to dismiss a lens due to its tiny size. Will the pancake designed slim kit lens deliver?


5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome

As usual, my blog entries are mostly addressed to newcomers of photography, especially first time system camera owners who seek to improve photography (or lets face it, more straight to the point, people come here to look for information on which lenses to upgrade to). The whole world will tell you how bad the kit lens is, and I am here to tell you otherwise. If you are very new to photography and you want to improve your photo-shooting skills, you should NOT think about upgrading your lens as a priority. Use the kit lens, it is more than good enough to do almost everything you need to do. 

1) You have Four Lenses in One Lens

I know this may not be the best way to describe the kit lens, but in terms of focal length, it covers all the basic focal lengths needed for a wide range of photography needs. Say, you have an Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens, in terms of focal lengths, it is equivalent to having 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses, all in one lens. That is quite an impressive coverage from wide angle end of 28mm all the way to the medium tele photo length of 85mm equivalent focal lengths. When I was shooting on the streets this weekend with a kit lens, it allows me to compose a variety of scenes, from a wide angle environmental portrait, to a close up shot of a cat. Some people may call this laziness, using zoom being convenient and require less effort in, but I disagree. I see it as versatility and flexibility in composition, and you get that with a mere, humble kit lens. 

I am not discounting the advantages of having brighter aperture and sharper optics in prime lenses. . Most camera systems now employs image stabilization system. either on lens, or inside the camera, which can compensate for the smaller maximum aperture when shooting in low light conditions. The small aperture openings of F3.5 to 5.6 may not appeal to bokeh-lovers, it is also important to take note that no matter how great a shallow depth of field image looks, photography is a lot more than just that! There are many ways to create great photographs without using shallow depth of field for subject isolation (which I am guilty too). 

2) Small and Light

All kit lenses that come with system cameras (especially the entry level and mid level DSLR or Mirrorless CSC cameras) are made to be as small and as light as possible. The smaller size of the lens allows the camera to be as compact as possible, being able to be carried around easily. That is extremely important, being a camera system that can be used everywhere, and be carried out often so that more photographs may be taken. I have never been a fan of large cameras or lenses. I understand that certain photography needs are specific and may require larger camera formats, and I am surely not referring to those type of photography. If you need certain photography equipment to accomplish very specific goals, then go for it, getting the right tool to do the right job is important. However, as I am addressing a wider audience of newcomers to photography who would basically attack anything with their cameras, having a smaller and lighter system means more freedom to move around and explore better photography opportunities. Your camera system should not weigh you down or slow you while you go out and enjoy shooting. 

3) Superb Close Up Shooting

One thing that most kit lenses are good at, is the ability to focus very close to the subject. The close focusing distance open up a whole world of creative options in compositions. Being able to shoot up close allows you to reveal fine details and at the same time, achieve a good separation from the background (rendering shallow depth of field to a certain degree). The kit lens may not outperform a dedicated macro lens but we do not need to shoot 1:1 magnification in our everyday subjects, such as flowers or food photographs. Having the advantage of going near can change the way you see things, and many impactful photographs are taken at close up distances. 

4) Fast, Sharp and Technically Competent

There are so many myths surrounding the kit lens, and some part of the myths were propagated with the intention of the manufacturers pushing the crowd to buy their higher grade, more expensive lenses. Camera manufacturers are business entities after all and they do need to make money (I know because I am in the industry). Insecurities of using kit lens is being popularized, with many professional photographers and leaders pushing the idea of using superior lenses to replace the kit lens. I do not deny the need of different lenses to achieve different purposes and needs in shooting, each lens serves different purpose and a macro lens cannot do what a wide angle lens can do. Nevertheless, to paint inferiority over kit lens is unfair, as I genuinely think kit lenses these days are capable lenses. Any kit lens these days can focus fast, produce excellently sharp images with good technical control of the image quality. Whatever the optics in the lens lack will be well compensated by software correction in camera. While the sharpness of the images taken with kit lens may not surpass a dedicated prime lens, the sharpness obtained from the kit lens is more than sufficient for most photography needs. 

5) It Saves You Money 

Instead of buying and upgrading to more expensive lenses, why not give the kit lens a try? I am not saying it is wrong to get better lenses, but the kit lens is a good place to start and learn photography. What is the point in spending money getting ridiculously expensive photography set up, if your main priority is to learn photography? Learning photography takes plenty of time, successful photographers will tell you that there is no short cut. I have spent my fair share of many years using compact point and shoot digital camera (4 years), and staying with kit lens with my first few DSLR for several years before using more prime lenses. I am glad I did not throw away the kit lens and looking back at my images now, I did not wish I had better lenses because the limitations and restrictions posed by the kit lens made me push myself harder and try several creative solutions to work my way around them. Even today, I would not hesitate to grab the kit lens and shoot. The photographs of this blog entry is a testament to that. 


For the past weekend, I have used only one lens: the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 for my shutter therapy session.

Shop Front

Concrete Pipes

Unloading

Buses

Five Foot Way

Passing By

Windows

Drinking Water

Riders

Malaysian Flag

Legs Up

Legs

Five Foot Way 2

Lanterns

Portrait of a Cat

Flower

My Name Is....
Oh yes if you do not know, I am a huge Arrow fan, and I follow Stephen Amell on Facebook. Such a great guy he is. 
This was a good example of close up shooting with the kit lens. The magnification achieved is quite impressive. 

Bird food

Crop from previous image. Who says kit lens is not sharp?

Selfie. 

Amir giving the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO a go

Hot Chocolate


Do you keep your original kit lens that comes with your camera (DSLR or Mirror less)? If not, why do you think the kit lens was so bad? Please share your thoughts!

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64 comments :

  1. I am guilty as charged. My first camera kit used film, I think I bought a Canon or a Minolta. I immediately bought a better and pricier lens and never even used the kit lens. My photos still came out horrible lol. It was kinda like running before learning to walk. I was going to say that's a funny looking cup of coffee until I noticed the caption Hot Chocolate.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Warren,
      I thought I should kept quiet but then I knew some people will ask what weird coffee that was! Hence the honest caption.

      Delete
  2. Excellent as always. As with most lens, a good photographer can get amazing results. Love the post.

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  3. Robin, you really have demonstrated very good use of this lens.

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  4. Robin, really nice pix, as always!

    Thinking of upgrading my 8yr (Canon) A630 (1/1.8" sensor) for a Stylus 1 or E-M10.
    Would the 14-42 EZ pancake kit-lens give better results than the Stylus 1? (I'd save up for the 40-150mm and maybe the Sigma 60mm)

    Thank you for ant advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go for Micro Four Thirds if you can, it has better image quality overall!

      Delete
  5. sorry: 'any advice', not 'ant'

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  6. I got the 12-50mm kit lens with my E-M5. I agree that it is an underrated option. After I got my E-M1 I decided to for the "pro" line up and got the 12-40 f2.8. So I sold off the 12-50.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course it does not make any sense to keep both 12-50mm and the better 12-40mm f2,8!

      Delete
    2. Not true. I have 2 bodies EM1 for me and OMD10 for wife who likes zoom macro and waterproof.
      How would 14 42 compare with Sony compact III OR IV camera IQ.

      Delete
    3. Ive never used the Sony so no comment

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    4. Got the 40mm - 150mm f4.0 R recently. Can you review it
      Can it be.manually focused.

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  7. Hi Robin, I agree with you and I often consider, and sometimes I do, selling/leaving at home the 12-40 in favor of 14-42 EZ that I use on the E-M10. The 12-40 is a magic lens, but the size... (I'd love a smaller 12-40 f4). The main thing stopping me is shutter shock around 1/100 that I often get even with anti-shock set to 0 or 1/8 sec. Do you ever have this problem with this lens? If so, how do you handle it?
    BTW the Riders pictures is beautiful.

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    Replies
    1. Honestly, in ALL my uses with all OM-D cameras, I have never encountered any shutter shock issues (though I do not deny the existence, as shown by other Olympus users). Now I set the anti-shock to "0" and never encounter any shutter shock issues.

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    2. I have EM1 and OMD 10 and have never encountered shutter shock. Isn't it only present when shooting continuous focus multiple frames per second?

      Delete
  8. Hi Robin,
    I am following you since last week and congrats for the blog, impressive work to keep the blog super up to date ;)
    Let me ask you for your opinion, I was convinced to buy just the body EM10m2, and the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. But I am wondering about to start with the kit lens,,,,both options are OK economically point of view.

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    1. I cannot advice you which to get because I do not know your background in photography and I do not know what you intend to do with your camera. If you are starting photography, I strongly suggest getting the kit lens first.

      Delete
    2. Hello Robin, I am moving from DSLR (Canon 50D) looking for something lighter to travel with. I expect this camera covers my needs (actually I was deciding between it and EM5m2). I love my Canon 50mm 1.8 and I was looking to work with fix lens on the 28mm or so. Travelling with the 25mm and 45mm would cover this range. The aperture of these lenses attract me much.
      you can see some of my pics in the out dated flickr account on : https://www.flickr.com/photos/shyshots/ Not sure how you would describe my backgroiund then,,,
      Thanks,,

      Delete
  9. Hi Robin,
    As I have enjoyed your photography over the past few years, my impression is that one of the hallmarks of your photos is a razor-sharp subject with a strongly out-of-focus background. While the images you captured with this kit lens were nicely done as usual, they seemed to be lacking that very out-of-focus background, except for the two or three close-up shots. With a maximum aperture of f/3.5, it seems like this lens just can't produce a nicely-blurred background when the subject is farther away. What do you think?

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    1. You can still create shallow depth of field but it will not be as good as prime lenses at F1.8 of course. You cannot have everything, and in this blog entry have demonstrated that shallow depth of field is not the answer to everything.

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    2. Totally agree with you, Robin.

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  10. Hey Robin, let's not forget that the 12-50 (mentioned a couple of times here already) is just incredible! Macro (close focus) function, splash resistant, uses affordable 52mm filters, has power zoom capability, and an extra function button! And, because most feel the need to upgrade we can buy them in almost unused condition for very little. Wow! If it were an inch shorter and a couple of stops faster. Of course I still want the 12-40 LOL ...

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    1. Yeap, I use the 12-50mm lens fairly often myself.

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  11. Yeah, it's funny. I've bought the E-M1 with its 12–40 Pro "kit zoom". And despite this lens being splendid in every respect, I'm seriously contemplating buying the cheap 14-42 instead just for the size and weight.

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    1. It would be interesting to see the tiny 14-42mm EZ on the E-M1!

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    2. My walk around lens for the E-M1 is often the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. This combo looks ... hum ... interesting.

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  12. Hi Robin,
    Great article as usual! I got a kit 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 with my EM10 body and have sinced then acquired the 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, the 25mm F1.8 and the 45mm F1.8 - really like this combination. I don't really use the kit lens because I find it hard to shoot in low light and the overall image quality isn't that great, although the lens is very compact!

    Now for travel purposes would you recommend to keep the trinity 7-14mm PRO / 25mm / 45mm (great but more tedious to change lenses) or rather a simpler duo 7-14mm PRO / 12-40mm PRO (sacrifying the speed and bokeh a little bit)? Thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Zoom vs prime lens debate is never ending, and I cannot tell you which is better. From your own experience, do you like shooting with 25mm and 45mm F1.8? If changing lens is an issue, may I suggest getting a second body, it may not be the latest camera, it can be E-M5 or even a PEN camera like E-PL5, which costs really cheap. Mount 7-14mm on one camera and maybe a 45mm on the other and have the 25mm F1.8 stored in the bag just in case. Instead of having difficulty of changing lens, now you can just change camera. I think this is a good solution for you.

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    2. If you don't shoot wide open at f1.8 get the zoom. IQ is the same believe me. You cannot see a difference from prime to any pro zoom Oly.makes!!!!

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    3. From a 6min forward... Zoom vs prime.

      https://youtu.be/9cnEnRADDLo

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  13. Hello Robin,

    I enjoy reading your blog and seeing all of your wonderful images!

    Question: I bought a olympus e-mp2 last year and later sold it this year when I bought a EM10. I got the EM10 with the 25mm but I had to sell the e-mp2 with the kit lens. Therefore I only have the 25mm. You always mention how you like to use the kit lens. Should I purchase a new 14-42mm EZ lens or get another prime lens like the 45mm? Both are around the same price.

    -James

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    1. Hi James,
      There is not simple answer to your questions. Using your 25mm on E-M10, do you find it limiting and wish you have other focal range? What did you wish you had? More reach, or wider coverage?

      Delete
    2. Robin,

      Thank you so much for the feedback! I like the 25mm, it is small on the camera and easy to use. It is very sharp and bright. However, I do wish I had the ability to shoot different ranges. I just got a puppy and I am no longer able move my feet to frame the picture as easily. If I move, the dog moves, so being able to zoom in or zoom out from my position would help greatly!! The other day, my Fiancé and I were walking the dog. She walked ahead and I stayed behind to take a picture (about 50 yards away) and I could not get the framing I needed with the 25mm. If I could zoom in, I could capture just her, the dog, and the trees around her (or just crop?).

      On the flip side, I like hiking in the mountains around Anchorage, Alaska. Sometimes I need to get a wider picture to frame two mountains, but the 25mm is too tight and I can’t just move my feet a mile backwards to get the framing . So having something that I could pull out on would be nice.
      In short, I think I find myself wanting more reach. In my day to day use, more reach would help me out because most of the time I can walk backwards to get my shot, just on those times when it is impossible to walk backwards is frustrating.
      I could just buy the 45mm and stop complaining and carry two lenses right? But at what point does carrying two lenses remove the sexy compact and easy to work with ability of the Olympus system!? When I go on a walk I’ll have to tell the world to stop really fast so I can change primes!?! I like just picking up the EM10 and walking out of the house. No fuss, but with two lenses!?! Carry a bag!?! Put it in a pocket!?! How dare I!

      Basically, I kinda need the kit lens huh? Especially because you always talk/show us about how great the kit lens is!
      -James

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  14. I don't see any mention of "low profile" about the 14-42mmEZ.
    In a lot of public places a person with a big lens, and even more so with a big camera (not M43), stands out and can "intimidate" the subject in street photography.
    I notice that people take me much less seriously with a little lens than a prominent one letting me capture more genuine moments than staged ones. I like to fly under the radar.
    Think of the other very extreme of compactness: mobile phone> Nobody takes a guy with an mobile seriously :-)
    I can get decent results with my 14-42mmEZ that I am very happy with.
    For travelling light (backcountry backpacking) nothing beats that lens.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I think the low profile falls under the whole micro four thirds system, both having small cameras and lenses.
      And you are right, for traveling the 14-42mm EZ is a great solution.

      Delete
  15. Dear Robin,

    here I'm writing just to express my thankfulness for your articles and reviews: always very balanced and respectful but at the same time so assertive :o)
    I'm owning an APS-C Canon and I'm at the moment in the process to upgrade either towards full frame or u4/3 and I find your comments about this format very informative and very practical, please continua like this!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Giovanni. I think the best way to approach photography is to shoot more and more images, and based on the experience from the shooting, I will have plenty of things to say! There really is nothing more than that.

      Delete
  16. Hi Robin, I've been following your blog for some time now and I'm amazed at the quality of your images. I just got back from a two-week trip to Italy with my E-M1, 12-40 Pro, 40-150 kit lens and the 45 1.8. The 45 1.8 never came out of the bag. But I was surprised how much time the 40-150 was on the camera. At least half of my 1700 images were with the 40-150 kit lens. I continue to be amazed at how sharp and fast this lens is. Considering the low price of this lens, it is a no-brainer.

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    1. The 40-150mm R lens is simply amazing. Small, light and budget friendly! It does deliver very sharp images, and people always underestimate what this lens can do! Glad you are making tonnes of images with it.

      Delete
  17. I have just repented and 'kembali ke pangkal jalan' after leaving 'big cameras' entirely for the iPhone some years ago. Sad story. Considering myself as a reborn newbie, I just got my hands on an OMD10 Mark II which comes with this lens demonstrated here. Thank you for this post. I'm keeping the kit lens since I am a strong believer that "better lenses" don't make you a better photographer. Proven here by your photos. Cheers. Ewan.

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    1. I think E-M10 Mark II is a great way to reboot your photography journey! Go for it and I am sure many awesome photographs will follow.

      Delete
  18. Hi Robin,
    I don't know, maybe your copy is better than three copies of mine, I can't get satisfying quality pics out of the kit lens, actually I think it is the Achilles heel of Olympus offering. Wish they do something like 2.8-3.5 as done for the old 43 format. I was very disappointed by the first Oly purchase (w kit lens of course), until I put on the 45mm 1.8 and later PL25mm 1.4, only then things looked up. Cheers!

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    1. I have never seen the kit lens that way. If you want F2.8 lens, there is the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO. It is simply impossible to create F2.8 lens into such a small lens. And yes, the kit lens is designed to be small.
      I am perfectly happy with the lens.

      Delete
    2. This is the 4/3 lens I was talking abt. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/used/590390/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwvo6wBRCG3Zv92ZSLlIYBEiQA5PLVAq2fL8-aqzKfdtAaOBg_wyhQGwQ81lRcm42tTbAtAtoaAlMa8P8HAQ

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    3. Have you used the lens before? Did you know that the old lens is even bigger and heavier than the new M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO? If you are ok with the size and weight of that lens why not the new M.Zuiko 12-40mm? Wider, brighter and has better close up focusing distance.

      Delete
  19. Very good article with terrific photos! 4 years ago I purchased my first mirrorless camera. An Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm 'kit' lens. Even after coming from higher end Canon SLR & lenses I was, and still am, very impressed with the performace of that duo. That lens is nothing short of amazing for it's price & purpose. BTW, I still have them both. Occasionaly using the 14-42 'kit' on my EM5 when I don't feel like handling the 12-40 PRO.

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    1. Ohhh how I remember the E-PL1! Maybe I should take it out for a spin one of these days.

      Delete
  20. Hi Robin
    I have always thought it takes more skill and is more fun to get the most out of the least gear. Olympus kit gear is still pretty good if a little slow, but hey, extreme boketh is overdone these days, it's not the be all and end all of photography. Sometimes more in focus is good!
    Cheers

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    1. Agreed, extreme bokeh is over done! That is a note to myself too.

      Delete
    2. Robin, you do a great job with any lens in your hands, that's skill. Portraits may look good with background blur but never can understand the value of having someones eyes sharp but the nose out of focus!

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  21. Hi Robin,
    Yes, for street photography or allaround lens, Kitzoom Oly 14-42 is great. But, for more sharpness, I would go for the Panasonic 12-32! All Oly MILC, which have TruePic VII processor, the CA (from Pana 12-32) will be corrected. For older Oly MILC the Oly 14-42 is better. If you need manual focus, then only with Oly 14-42 you can use it, Pana 12-32 you cannot manual focus.

    For quick shooting without having time to go near or far from subject, zoom-lens is the best choice. And both "Pancake" Zoom-lens are great indeed, lightweight and bags fix!!!!

    And, let us not forget, why the kit lens were designed!? Otherwise, there would be only prime lenses.

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  22. I agree with you about the use of kit lens, especially the smaller ones. I use the Pana PZ kit lens often, and on my older sony 3C I also use the pancake kit lens. However, I hate using the older Oly m4/3s kit lens (I have two, which came with the cameras) and one for the Nikon V1. The take nice images, but are extendable, meaning you have to push a button to manually extend (and close) the lenses. Since I like to often turn the cameras on and off (to save battery power when doing your patented Shutter Therapy) this 'feature of manually extendable lenses' drives both my wife and I crazy!

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  23. Robin,

    I keep coming back to this post!!! I love to see your images! I was wondering if there is a way to see more details about each picture. Like the focal length or aperture? I am still very new to photography and being able to see your pictures and their focal length would be interesting and helpful.

    -James

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  24. One thing is for sure: the Olympus OMD EM5 II is VERY hard to beat. I keep looking at the photos I took in Paris this summer.

    I keep saying out loud “Oh My God!” So clear, so real. Takes me right back.

    So I’m having a real tough time getting to my goal. The goal was/is to get a Leica M9.

    Having a tough time with that thought at all. And everybody knows why. $$$$ !!

    The Olympus is top notch.

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  25. 你是我看過拍的最好的,請問這些照片你會用軟件再修圖嗎

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  26. Hi Robin, nice sharp images.

    i hope next time you could share tips to take sharp bright image with lens kit 14-42mm

    Regard
    Sani

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  27. Dear Robin, I've just purchased my E-M10 with the 14-42 EZ kit lens; I totally agree with your comments above, here is a shot I recently take with the 14-42 EZ: http://img2.juzaphoto.com/001/shared_files/uploads/1605265.jpg
    As a landscape hobby "photographer" I'm enthusiast with the 14-42 EZ, I think I would replace this lens just for longer focal length of for a faster prime lens.

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. Your post always inspire me

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  30. Hi Robin nice blog, can you tell me what you've used to take the first two photos?

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