My posts tend to swing back and forth between newer gear and then back to older digital and film gear. Having just written yet another A7c post it is time to swing back to older gear. It is given away in the title above but this is a lens that both makes no sense and is quite sensible. I recently wrote a post about this lens as a part of a larger series but I wanted to take a moment to single this lens out once again. It is a lens that:
- Sits at the preferred prime full frame equivalent focal length for many, myself included, at 25mm (50mm equivalent).
- Very light but still well built with a metal mount and includes a lens hood.
- Excellent image quality. Sharp, great colors, nice bokeh.
- Brighter than most other AF MFT primes at f/1.7.
- Fast, swift, and silent AF.
So what is the big deal you might ask? That all sounds very sensible. Why does this lens make no sense?
This lens is regularly on sale brand new for $147.99.
I would use the regular price, but over the years I have yet to see it come off sale and go for full price. When I recently went on a “vintage digital” bender it is the single bit of kit that I bought new. For comparisons sake:
- Go to KEH right now and a LN- copy costs more used at $159.54 as of the writing of this post.
- Search all of the current 25mm f/1.8 or greater MFT lenses new on sale and the only lenses that cost less are manual focus lenses with slower apertures.
- Mirrorless APS-C, bright aperture AF 35mm lenses (50m-ish equivalent) start at hundreds more.
- Pulls a Spinal Tap on the almost twice as expensive Olympus equivalent focal length by going .1 more.
But before I go on there are other great lens values.
The full frame Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is a less expensive lens. There are inexpensive APS-C 35mm f/1.8 DSLR lenses. The mirrorless Sony and Canon 50mm f/1.8 lenses cost a little more. And larger sensors do have advantages.
- APS-C and full frame with similar aperture means even better low light performance and bokeh than with MFT.
- Well… Full frame.
But the lens price is only one part of the equation. You need a camera out back to use it. As I have shown in prior posts you can pick up a used MFT camera new or used that will do just fine for most purposes for next to nothing (As little as $132 to be specific in my case.).
Full frame mirrorless cameras are too new and popular to be cost effective.
You can do a little better price wise with used DSLRs since they have been out longer. But to come even close to the same prices you have to go back a few years and there are things to consider with those cameras. For comparison I will use an older DSLR I picked up a couple of years ago.
- Size and weight. One perk of MFT is that the right combination can really be very light and compact. I once bought an inexpensive older Canon full frame DSLR that I used with an older 50mm f/1.8 STM. One of the reasons I let go of it was the substantial size and weight. The other was…
- More recent MFT sensor tech can claw back some IQ dignity when compared to even older full frame cameras. The RAW images that old Canon DSLR I had created were great when you nailed exposure, but they could not stand up to a whole lot of manipulation afterwards. Two examples below. The first was taken with the full frame Canon 1Ds Mark II at ISO 3200 and the second taken with the MFT PEN-F at ISO 5000. Surely the tables would turn for a new full frame sensor, but if you click on both and zoom in you will see that MFT more than holds its own against the older sensor.
- Ergonomics. Manu and I spent a few moments staring at the back of that 1Ds trying to sort out some basic commands when I was giving it the once over at the camera shop. With the joy expressed when we deciphered the most basic command you would think we had just split an atom.
- IBIS is ubiquitous with Olympus MFT mirrorless cameras, quite common with Panasonic, and non-existent on DSLRs except for Pentax cameras with the only full frame DSLR I know of being the considerably more expensive, larger, and heavier Pentax K-1 (A loveable brick of a thing I eventually sold because of the two last points and old school AF tech.).
- Features like articulating screens, touch screen, touch AF, and 10fps common to even first gen OMD MFT cameras will likely be off the table when venturing into older digital full frame land.
Back to the Lumix lens. The Lumix 25mm f/1.7 has performed exceptionally well with any camera I have tried whether Panasonic or Olympus. Every time I use this lens I ask myself the same question.
Why don’t I use this lens more?
I have no good answer. I mean, I know why. But it is not a good answer. Simply put I get distracted by newer, fancier, shinier, and old-timey baubles with which to fritter my time away with.
But if asked what is the best lens bargain to be had this is always the first lens that comes to mind. Add in a used but still quite functional MFT body like this or this and you still come in for as little as $300 all in. Or about the same price as the next least expensive native mount AF MFT 25mm lens alone.
This would be a fantastic lens (and camera) for someone just starting out. Lens and body combined for less than the cost of some memory cards or camera bags.
Would I pay more for more expensive options like Panasonic’s own Leica branded f/1.4 (almost 5x as much) or Olympus’ f/1.2 (almost 8x as much)? No. Are they better lenses optically. I would say yes. But add the size and weight to the additional cost and I would choose the Lumix f/1.7.
And like any other 50mm equivalent it is great for every day shots, portraiture, environment, etc. I have recently added more photos with this lens to this gallery. In the meantime here are a few samples, some of which I have shared before.