I hope to go back to the streets of Hanover, PA to get some pictures when it warms up. I took lots of pictures on the streets a couple of years ago but I hope to do something different this time. I just haven’t decided what.
I also haven’t decided on which camera(s) will work best since it is dependent on what and how I photograph … or maybe I will go the opposite route and get a camera I like and shoot what I can with it. One thing I would like to do is get some more night pictures and that will take a camera that does fairly well at higher ISO settings so I can keep my shutter fast enough to hand-hold the camera. I also plan to get some more store window and door shots. Other than that, I haven’t decided. Some people are encouraging me to photograph the nicer restored buildings, etc.; i.e. the pretty shots.
I took the above two pictures the other day while I took a quick walk to try a few things … mainly how long a focal length I might need. I used my Olympus E-PL5 and the 14 – 42 mm kit lens for these pictures. My only decision camera-lens wise so far is that it needs to be small and light-weight and discreet.
At the moment I am also thinking about spreading out to the outer residential and industrial areas and getting street scenes. The final decision will most likely be to photograph whatever I see in the manner I desire under the circumstances; but, I haven’t decided with what camera and lens.
When I travel or go anywhere I like to have the right camera and lenses with me. For me, this means that I have the most discreet and lowest weight system that adequately covers the focal lengths and image quality that I will need. If you look for recommendations on most travel web sites, they most likely will recommend that you take a zoom lens which has a wide range of focal lengths, usually between 28 and 200mm in 35mm equivalency. The assumption is that you will then be ready for whatever focal length you might need. This is the easy recommendation to make but it is probably not the lightest or most discreet camera-lens combination. In this article I will try to go over some of the more detailed considerations and show how I am approaching making a more refined decision.
To me, making a decision about which lenses to take is similar to hunting with a gun. You wouldn’t take a deer rifle to go hunting for squirrels or rabbits, so why would you take a large, heavy zoom lens if it is unlikely that you will really need it. The harder questions to answer are “what focal lengths do you most often use, and what will you need on your next vacation?”
The only way to decide what focal lengths have worked best for you is to review what you have used in similar situations. Since most of you got a kit zoom lens with your camera when you first bought it, look back through your picture data and see which focal lengths you used the most while taking pictures in a similar situation. In my situation I have found that I most often use the focal lengths at the extreme ends of the zoom range. Usually one end or the other depending on the location and type of shooting that I did. The next decision is to decide whether a prime lens might be better than having the zoom lens mounted on the camera all the time.
To decide whether you like using just one focal length is relatively easy. Look and see what primes lenses are available for your camera. Some manufacturers have a wider selection than others but you can usually find one close to the focal length of interest. To test whether you like that focal length, just tape your zoom lens barrel at the focal length that you are considering and try it for a few days while taking pictures in a setting similar to where you will be traveling. If you like that focal length you can then take the next step and decide whether it is worth acquiring a prime lens in that focal length.
Prime lenses have some advantages, as well as disadvantages, over zoom lenses. In general, primes are of higher quality, are lighter, and make your camera-lens combination a lot more discreet, but they can be expensive for newer lenses. You might wish to check out some of the on-line reviewers to see if they have reviewed your lens of interest. Some that I use are dpreviews.com, m43 Reviews, DxO Mark, LensTip.com, as well as others.
In general you will find that there are two types of reviewers. Those who measure the technical qualities of the lenses … like the reviewers mentioned above, and then the user reviews which I also find very valuable. There aren’t as many of them and they typically limit themselves to a narrow range of cameras that they use and prefer. For cameras of interest to me, there are two that I look at: Steve Huff Photos, and Soundimageplus. In all reviews you need to be careful in utilizing the information. In the technical reviews they often discuss variations between lenses that might not be important in your type of shooting. In the user reviews you get to see the pictures they took and how well the lens worked for them. In those cases you don’t know how far away they were when they took the picture nor do you get to see the examples that didn’t work so well. In the final decision you will need to put the lens on your camera and check it out.
At this point I still wasn’t ready to make a decision, and I doubt you are. I’ll continue the discussion and get closer to a decision in Part 2 which will follow.
These are the lenses that I’m considering: Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5 and 20 mm f/ 1.7 (on the E-PL2 camera), and the Olympus 14 – 42 mm f/3.5-5.6 II and 14 – 150 mm f/4-5.6. They are all great lenses. I also have the Olympus 17 mm lens which was on my E-P1 camera when I took this picture . At the moment I’m not considering the 17 mm lens since it is mid-way between the 14 and 20 mm lenses.