It's a heavily talked about topic on forums: what lens should you get for your new Pen ? The answer unfortunately is not a simple one. If you are like me and spend time trolling (no pun intended) through the forums, you probably see a re-ocurring theme of 'Purchase the Panasonic 20mm prime'. So is it that simple ?
To start, I am going to say something that will shock and awe you, something most people won't admit too, but as a long time photographer I plan to enlighten you with: Most lenses have good optics. Computer aided engineering, advances in optical technology, coatings, etc - you name it, "it's in there" - even in the inexpensive kit lenses. What does this mean ? Well quite simply it means that the inexpensive kit lens that comes with your Pen is going to be sharp, contrasty, and colorful. Reviewers and critics will attempt to find flaws, and on paper these flaws are in fact reproducible, but in the field you'll most likely never see them. So putting charts and graphs aside and equalizing the playing field in terms of the quality of the optics, how do we compare these two lenses ? We compare them in terms of their usability, a factor that at the end of day goes a lot farther in making a sound decision than attempting to figure out which one has the higher MTF number !
So why should I choose the Panasonic 20 1.7 over the Olympus 14-42 kit lens ?
It's compact. Much more so that the Olympus kit.While the pen cameras are in most cases more desirable to carry around than an SLR, the protruding kit lens is still a buzz kill for those seeking a truly 'pockatable' option.
- It's fast. The 1.7 aperture + Olympus IBS (In body stabilzation) + Olympus high ISO performance equals a very confident 'no flash required' machine.
So why should I choose the Olympus 14-42 kit lens over the 20 1.7 ?
- It's cheaper. The 20 1.7 is a very expensive lens considering at the end of the day it pretty much is the standard fair 35mm 50 1.8 (ok 40 1.7, but u get the drift) which go for around $100. You pay a premium for the lack of competition in the 4/3rds marketplace.
- It's more flexible. A zoom is always more flexible that a prime. 28-84mm is a very good working range that should satisfy most day-to-day requirements.
So what is best choice ? Get Both. I think the 14-42 is a great lens, and really should be your first choice. It's cheap, offers a nice range and to taking a quote from Steve Job's "It Just Works". The 20 1.7 is more specialized and should be considered as a second addition to the family (especially so if you require a faster aperture and/or looking to minimize the footprint of your Pen as much as possible). I myself patiently await more 4/3rds primes !