I live in Thailand and I enjoy taking photographs of people. The good news is that Thai people, in general, like to be photographed. The bad news is that, as soon as they see a camera pointed at them, they strike a pose; which is not what I want to capture.
The other bad news is that I live in the city of Pattaya, rightly famous the world over for its sex industry. There are prostitutes everywhere and I would love to photograph them; but unlike other Thais they don’t like to be photographed; and neither do their pimps who tend to be of a violent nature and have guns. We all know who the winner would be in a gun/camera face-off.
The final nail in the coffin of my aspirations to people photography is the fact I am not the most forthcoming of chaps, so would much rather take photos without having to get involved with social interaction; especially with prostitutes, what would my wife say?
My walk-around lens is the Summilux 25mm, and very nice it is too. Find yourself obliging subjects, such as this Cosplay participant, and it will do a good job:
But it’s too close for discrete portraits. How about the Olympus 45mm? Well, it gets you a bit further away, but not far enough.
Which brings us to this:
It’s the Olympus 75mm F1.8. Superficially it may look like a similar construction to the 45mm. But the 45mm is plastic, and this thing is metal. It has a pleasant heft to it which says “you may have just paid a shitload of money for this, but can’t you just feel all the glass in here”. Yes, it is expensive; but you do get a lot for your money. What you don’t get is a hood, which is annoying, and costly if you decide you have to have the Olympus version.
Enough bitching, how does this lens perform? It’s spectacular. Sharpness, colour, contrast; the look of the files this beast produces are just wonderful. It’s one of those lenses where you zoom in on the images to 100% just so you can go “wow”. If my wife is around I insist she looks at them and says something encouraging. If my wife is not around, then I show them to my cats who usually decline to comment, but I can tell they are impressed.
The world seems generally agreed that this lens is one of the best available. Where the world does not agree is that this focal length is particularly useful; and on this point I would have to disagree with the world. I use it all the time.
My carry-around lenses are the Panasonic 7-14mm, the Summilux 25mm, the Olympus 45mm and the 75mm. I usually start out with the 25mm stuck on the camera; but I am just waiting for an excuse to change it for the 75mm; and not just because I want some photos to show to the cats when I get home.
The 75mm sits cupped discretely in my left hand, camera in my right; and so armed I can go and shoot almost anything without the fear of a pimp gun reprisal (I may be overstating the risk here).
I would like to stress at this point that I don’t spend my days skulking around areas of ill-repute, what would my wife say? To emphasise that, here’s a shot of the morning “tak bak” in Luang Prabang which took first place in the recent “Laos: Its People (Environmental Portraits Only)” Challenge on DPReview:
And here are some general street shots, with oblivious subjects:
Bokeh? Yes, very pleasing, to my eyes anyway:
The lens is sharp at F1.8 and sharpens up more as you stop down. Personally, I like to shoot wide open whenever possible, to encourage bokehliciousness (maybe not a word).
So what are the negatives? Cost is an obvious one, but having used the lens I think it is a bargain. I have paid more than twice the price for Canon L lenses which can’t match the 75mm for IQ (or convenience, or light gathering). The only thing I would say is that the focus speed on this lens can be lacking occasionally. Take a series of photos at a similar distance from the subject and the 75mm is as fast as anything else out there; but move to a subject which is significantly further away, or closer, than the current subject, and the lens hunts a little as it moves to the new location. This is less of a problem with the E-M5 than it was with the GX1.
Apart from that, I rate the 75mm as a must-have for any M43 shooter. I rarely leave home without it, and my Lightroom catalogue already has more 75mm shots than the 25mm or 45mm. I love it, just ask my cats.