When Too Many Lenses Are Not enough

It’s a good thing I like using a focal length of around 17 mm. I hadn’t thought about it much but today, I was looking at the new Panasonic 12-32 tiny zoom that comes with the GM1 (a camera that seems more Midget Four Thirds than Micro Four Thirds to me) and I realised that if I had one of these I would cover 17mm five times over. It’s contained already in my 12-35, 14-140, 14-42 compact and 17mm Olympus. Ditto 14mm with my 7-14 zoom.

I cover 60mm ‘only’ three times with 35-100, 14-140 and Olympus 60mm. I cover 45mm three times. And 100mm …well never mind. All these numbers. All these lenses. I have more lenses now than I did when earning my living from them. Nine of them.

Sometimes I think of cutting down. Why do I need more than two? The 12-35 and 35-100 Panasonics ought to be enough. After all, my basic location working outfit as a pro was 2 Nikon bodies, 24 f2, 35 f2, 85 f1.8 and 180 f2.8 Nikkors. Four lenses of one focal length each!

Not only that but my present lenses comprise five zooms covering multiple focal lengths from 7-300mm, 14 to 600mm in old money. My work is more exacting now than it was then, already? No, I have nine lenses because I can. I have nine but I want ten with the 12-32. And what about an Olympus 75mm f1.8? One of the great M43 lenses! I’m not rich but I am greedy. I want one. That’ll be eleven lenses then.

Do I need them? Of course I do. When I go out on my bike around the Languedoc vineyards in France, if I’m more in cycle mode than photo mode, I need the 14-140mm. All in one, see. Sling it in my back pack and ride on. But, if I’m on my bike around the Languedoc vineyards in photo mode more than cycle mode…well it’s my 12-35 and 35-100 zooms. If I’m just cycling the 6 kms to the village and a pic might crop but i won’t be looking, it’s my 14-42 zoom. If I’m out in London on the prowl, in Cartier-Bresson street mode, it’s my 17 and 45mm primes. If I’m shooting stills for my YouTube reviews, pix of the lenses or cameras I’m reviewing looking glamorous with ring lighting and sexy shots of the focus ring and electrical contacts, well it has to be the 60mm. A distant swan on the Thames? The 100-300 zoom. A beer in Covent Garden with my mate Stuart? Well, I don’t really want to bother with a camera at all but as an ex press man, I feel naked without…I’ll take tichy, the 12-32. Except, I haven’t bought that yet. Must nip up to SRS tomorrow.

You see? I was thinking too many and it’s not enough. I want to shoot some street candids with a portraity flavour tomorrow. That’s a job for the 75mm f1.8, wide open, creamy bokeh. Thats what I need. Except, I haven’t got one. I’ll just have to use my 35-100 zoom at f2.8. The selective focus at 2.8 or 1.8 though, it’s not the same, is it? I’ll put it off, keep it in mind until I’ve got the lens for it. The 75mm f1.8, that is.

It’s awful. I have a horrible feeling that if I were to be sensible, I’d make a financially and artistically sound decision. I’d either eBay everything except the 14-140 or keep the 12-35 and 35-100 and eBay everything else. Actually, the 14-140 for practical purposes is just as sharp as the f2.8s and it is one lens to carry rather than two. But I do like the 12-35. Great feeling lens. And the 35-100, it doesn’t trombone and I do prefer that. OK, I’ll keep those three and eBay the rest.

Tell you what, though, that 17mm Olympus, great lens, sometimes I think I could sell everything and just use that, minimalist style. But the 45, great bokeh and light and little so no trouble to carry around. No point in getting rid of those. I suppose the 100-300 could go but then how am I going to get those shots of the eagles in the hills at Monthaut that I’ve promises myself I will some day? The 60mm Olympus could go, I suppose. I could do my macros with close-up lens attachments. But then, if I’m going to buy and keep a box of attachments, I might as well keep the lens.

So I’ll just get rid of the 7-14mm zoom then. I don’t use it that much. Of course, it’ll be a bit worrying to go out and find that some of the interiors I like I can’t do any more. It’d be a bit silly to limit myself like that. So I’ll keep that. That just leaves the Panasonic 14-42 compact zoom. That can go. Don’t use it much and I’ll use it even less if I get the 12-32 midget zoom. Of course, it’s the only lens I have that can be zoomed via wifi, very nifty that. And useful sometimes. So that just leaves the….well, all of them. Except the 75mm f1.8 which I haven’t got yet. And a 150mm f2.8 when Panasonic make it.

I must have been taking crazy pills when I started writing this. I haven’t got too many lenses at all. Look at the picture – I had to put the mirror in the pic to show the 12-35 zoom lens that took the picture, just to be honest with you. Count them, that’s only 9 lenses.

That’s not too many, it’s not even just right. It’s definitely not enough.lenses

20 thoughts on “When Too Many Lenses Are Not enough

  1. Bob Fairbairn

    Hmm, too many lenses. 7-14,12-35,35-100,100-300, 12,20,45,60 ;Canon FD: 200 Macro, 400Mm Tele….. so I can go from 14 to 800 mm and I cross over only a few times! But carry all this BAHHWAHHH…
    oh that 14-140 would be nice so I do not have to carry two lenses …. The 75mm Oh my what a lens, the .

    But wait what about Cameras. Well the GM1 would be nice with that little new lens. The Epl5 better walk around flexibility and flash shoe. Oh wait the GX7 has the EVF and a little bigger that the EPL5, oh the GX7 for walk around has it all. EM1, 5, 10 why not just another camera to have with you. A GH3 with Grip to pretend you have a BIG camera to satisfy customers who think you have to have a BIG camera…

    David you need a bigger bag to carry stuff around. But not on your bike!

    All of this is so much fun and so hard to keep ourselves under control. I try to slowly migrate to better cameras in progression. I currently use the EM-5’s and will see where I go next.


  2. Paul Laker

    Hi David,
    Talking about to many lenses have you heard of this make Jackar Snapshooter 34mm f/1.8 Handling.
    Kind regards,

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      No, I hadn’t heard of it but I see ePhotozine did a test on it (. Interesting bit of glass and decent but quite specialized in its uses. The more M43 lenses the merrier, though.

  3. Paul Laker

    Hi David,
    Many thanks for your response, gives me some think to think about.
    Kind regards,

  4. Paul Laker

    Hi David,
    First time i have ever replied to a review. Just want to say great review and also love watching your videos. Just one question i am new two MFT cameras and have the G3. I have the standard kit lens and also my wife bought me a 200 mm zoom lens. In your opinion what lens should i by next. I have been trying street photography and have really enjoyed it.
    Kind regards,

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Your kit lens covers the range you’d normally want for street photography. If you wanted a faster lens for it, I like the Olympus 17mm, though it doesn’t have stabilization. A good addition would be the Olympus 45mm, lovely sharp lens for portraits and landscapes and a favourite of mine.
      As an all round general purpose lens, the Panasonic 14-140mm zoom is excellent.
      Personally, I’d get the 45mm, such a handy focal length and with a good wide aperture for shallow depth of field that can give a nice lift to your pictures. Again, no stabilization but the lens if fst enough to use a higher shutter speed.

  5. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

    Thanks for the offer. My daughter went to Iceland last year and had a lovely time – apart from the price of beer!
    I’ve long had an interest in the Vikings, read a few of the sagas (the Vinland Saga was one of the most interesting to me). They were such a resourceful people, going from Vinland in the west, all across the Mediterranean, to Russia, founded Dublin and a young guard even left Runic graffiti in Istanbul.

    They were certainly fearsome people but could get a living from both plunder and writing poetry for the kings of Europe. And I have to say that the Viking ships in Oslo are some of the most beautiful objects made by man – function and form in complete harmony. And , of course, so many of the weather and maritime words in Emglish come directly from them.

    Sometimes I talk too much!

  6. G Gudmundsson

    Hi David. Thank you for taking the time to answer! (I must admit I felt bad after asking these questions, because who can really tell another person what to do? Also, it is a bit impolite to impose on a guy who writes a blog and ask these basic , ‘what lens should I buy?’ questions. It really is …. )

    Anyway …

    I sold the 12-35 to a friend who has a Blackmagic pocket cinema camera, he’s a video pro. He ‘lusted’ after it or rather, needed it more than I do, so it became his. (I really did like it.)

    I love the GM1. I bought a Gariz leather half case, and I must say that it transforms the camera. Very posh, but more importantly, handling it becomes a joy. The PanaLeica 25 f/1.4 even feels very good on it. That really did surprise me. (This lens is my favourite, because I love to take ‘across the table’ spontaneous portraits, indoors, in available light.)

    Regarding your advice, I really appreciate it. Actually I had figured it out, just thinking about your videos. In one of them you said that the 7-14, 12-35, 35-100 more or less covered everything you’d ever need. (Then you said that the 45 is a gem, and in another one you praise the 17.)

    So, I did order the 45 f/1.8… (it’s on its way). I’m happy to hear about the 35-100, so that’s next on my list, and yeah, maybe the 12-35 later (again)… (My video pro friend also wants the 35-100, and as we work a lot together, I’m sure this lens will join the ‘family’, sooner rather than later …

    I have a website (more than one actually, but only in Icelandic… here is one: http://www.stjornuspeki.is … I’m planning to translate some of my work into English (with the help of an editor, of course) … so … later …

    Finally …

    If you ever plan to travel to Iceland, please give me a call (gg@stjornuspeki.is). I’ll be very happy to advice and help with your trip in any way possible….

    best regards
    from Iceland

    Gunnlaugur Gudmundsson

  7. G Gudmundsson

    Great article and interesting comments. I have a question David, hope you can help me out or at least give me some advice, please!

    Just to give some background, I’m 59 years old (writer/astrologer/a celebrity in Iceland 🙂 , strictly an amateur, but passionately interested in photography (used to have all the Canons, 5D, 5D ll, plus basically all the L lenses, name them I’ve had them (a total overkill for me, I know, but then I’m crazy.) A few years ago I migrated to Oly EP3 and EM5 and now GX7/GM1. I love indoors portraits, interested in architecture/houses, and I guess landscape (Iceland has some fine photo opportunities), but basically I’m interested in environmental portraits. I’m impatient and I like to snap quick pictures, candids, never use flash.

    Currently I have the GX7 + GM1, Pana 12-32, Pana 14-42 ll, Oly 17/1.8 and PanaLeica 25/1.4. Living in Iceland I need bright and fast lenses (during the winter months). I’m averse to having too many lenses (I have owned and sold 7-14/4, 12/2, 12-35/2.8, 12-50, 14/2.5, 20/1.7 and Oly 45/1.8 in the m43 system.

    Now I need something on the tele end. 14-140 interests me, but is it too slow? 35-100 f/2.8 also, but is it too big? Should I buy the Oly 75/1.8 or maybe Oly 60/2.8 Macro? Or Oly 45/1.8 again?

    One of the problems is that I am a lens snob. 3.5-5.6? Ugh,,, fixed 1.2 or a fixed 2.8 zoom, yeah! A saner part of me understands that these ultra bright primes and zooms are a total overkill for what I’m doing, my skill levels, etc,! That’s where I need help! Please!

    Is the 14-140 really a ok lens? Can I use that for landscapes and portraits? What would be the best one lens solution (for environment/portraits), to complement the 12-32, 17 and 25?

    I appreciate any and all answers! (I understand that no-one but me can really answer these questions, but I’m interested in expert opinion.)

    Finally, love your blog David, your videos are great. You have a great voice for TV 🙂 and a nice sense of humour, etc…

    best regards
    from Iceland

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      You are a very kind person! Thanks for the nice words. Do you have a web site – sounds like an interesting life you have? You’re like me in that you love trying out lenses.

      I would say that, good as it is, the 14-140 isn’t for you. It’s a catch all to use when you don’t know what lens to take out. I’d say there’s only one lens for you, the 35-100 f2.8. It’s not big at all and it is quite light and, amazingly, it feels really good on the GM1.

      From what you say, 12-35, 35-100, 17 1.8 and 45 1.8 sound perfect for you. Why did you sell the 12-35mm – too big? Always remembering that one mans meat is another one’s poison, of course.

  8. Paul Robertson

    A great honest review. I go through the same debate too. I have 9 lenses too (3 Lumix mft, 4 canon ef and 2 cheap c mount CCTV). My dilemma is whether to sell my canon 550d and ef lenses and buy a compact mft to go with my GH2 (and then more lenses for one format). I’ve had canon cameras for years and I love the 24-105 f4L lens with it. I also use the canon lenses on the gh2 with a m4/3 adaptor. I also want to buy the GH4 when it comes out as I mostly use the GH2 for video and canon for stills. Yep, not enough lenses rather than too many.

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I got rid of my DSLR equipment because I wanted the possibilty of a main and carry around camera all sharing the same lenses and accessories – exactly what you are thinking of. I’ve not regretted it, far from it, since my outfit is far more ‘efficient’ for my needs based all around MFT. I’d thought it would cut down the number of lenses since there’s be no duplication on different system. But life – mine anyway – just ain’t like that!
      I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining – I love all thelenes I have. I think the GH4 won’t be for me, I can’t see how I could use 4k video and from what I read Panasonic don’t see it as an upgrade to the GH3, more a truly video oriented camera with a GH3 stills update coming later in a GH10 or something. Not that i have any more information than anyone else, I just read the rumours.

  9. Pete

    my sympathies! but it does allow for flexibility and the weight is still less than my dslr kit was.

    the gm1 12-32 is rather handy in London…..

    you’re not tempted by the new 42.5 f1.2???

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thank you, Pete 🙂 I have a GM1 now – I couldn’t believe how small it was. And as you say, even with a lot of lenses, an outfit is far smaller and lighter than DSLR.

      I’d be interested to try the new 1.2 but I think for me it would be a step too far backwards in the direction of my old DSLR gear, a big, heavy and very expensive lens. My little Olympus 45mm is a great performer, certainly to the point where I have no need for better and I’ve never needed more speed than it has.

      So the only advantage for me would be the ability to restrict depth of field a little more. I feel the downsides outweigh the ups by too much, in the end.

  10. Roy Norris

    Lenses? There are times David when I need two GH3s, especially if I am out in the fields and I want to shoot that distant bird in the hedgerow with the 100-300 and just at that time I want to shoot that super scene image with the 12-35, but wait a minute just at the same time I could have got that super shot of the deer running away with a 35-100 if I had it attached to a third GH3.
    I’ll stop there as this is getting silly. {:))

      1. Tricia Ryder

        Roy – I know that feeling!! I normally carry the GX7 and G5 to cover most possibilities.

        David – similar though processes although I don’t have as many lenses… but the 14-140 gets used a great deal, especially when holidaying…

        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          I think I said in my review of the 14-140 that for many photographers, it could be the only lens they would need. I would certainly cover 90% of what I do as well as any other lens would. In the end, lenses are lovely things and I especially like the MFT ones. I don’t think I’ve ever found a bad one but I do seem to have a preference for Panasonic’s zooms and Olympus’s primes.

          1. Pete

            my first reaction on unboxing the GM1 12-32 combo was “HOW SMALL IS THAT!” but i do like it when I’m using the 100-300 on a gx7

            for me the default options are 14-140 and 20mm (slips in a trouser pocket)

            the 14mm f2.5 doesn’t get used much now i have the 12-35…… it really ought to be sold but it is so tiny….

            now macros…. do I go for the PL452.8 second hand or the Olympus prices are the same….

            i only own one olympus lens the 45 f1.8…..

          2. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

            I use the Olympus 60mm because I prefer the bit of extra working distance it gives over 45mm. Like you, when I first picked up the GM1, it was about half the size I expected. And the 14mm, keep it.

            What if it was summer and you were wearing a pair of shorts and the only lens that would fit in the pocket was a tiny one and you had sold the 14mm? Tragedy!

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