What’s Your Next Lens?

From “The Best of Mark Toal”

Whenever I attend a camera event or meet somebody that has a Micro Four-thirds camera one of the first questions they ask is “what lens should I buy next?” Frequently they have already purchased a Panasonic Lumix or Olympus body along with a kit lens and can’t wait to buy a few accessories.

I usually suggest people shoot with the kit lens for a while, especially if they don’t know what they like to shoot and see what focal length they end up using the most. If they shoot at the wide end of the lens then a fixed focal length wide angle prime lens might be perfect for them. It they constantly want to zoom closer, then a zoom telephoto is best.

Frequently they have a lens in mind like the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. The 20mm seems to be the best selling Micro Four-thirds lens but it’s not for everybody. It was the first lens I bought for my Lumix G1 and I loved its sharpness and speed, but I ended up selling it after a few months and buying the equally affordable Lumix 14mm f2/5.

Keep in mind that you have to multiply the focal length by two to get the full frame equivalent (field-of-view) on Micro Four-thirds bodies. I had fallen for the excitement around the 20mm lens and forget that I’m really a wide angle lens shooter. The 40mm equivalent was just too long for me. The 14mm (28mm in full frame) has been my favorite lens ever since then.

100-400 duck 2

If you like to shoot wildlife, birds or sports then you’ll want a longer zoom lens like the Lumix Leica 100-400mm f/4–5.6 or the Olympus 300mm f/4. A longer zoom can be limiting if you want to shoot something closer. I usually recommend that a photographer start with a lens in the 45-200mm focal length range. This focal length range works great for portraits since it throws the background out of focus and compresses objects so they don’t look distorted. It’s also a great lens for sports and landscape shooting. It’s also not such a long telephoto that you can’t shoot closer action if you need to.

Before you buy a lens think about what you like to shoot, not what lens you want to buy.