I am a beginner who has bought Olympus EP-3 and it is my first camera with interchangeable lenses. My two lenses are: M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 R.

So far I was mainly experimenting with the 14-42mm one and tried the 40-150mm one only once in the garden. I was zooming on individual plants and got nicely blurred background. I haven't tried the lens on the distance scenes or portraits though. The manufacturer description says that it is a medium telephoto lens which is perfect for close-up portraits or long distant scenes and it is flexible for indoor or outdoor use.

I was wondering if I could use the telephoto one as my primary lens while sightseeing? Soon I'm going to Japan on my own. I will visit main cities and an island so I will be mainly taking pictures of architecture and landscapes without smiling people in front. I would like to minimise the need to change the lenses (especially outdoors) so I want to learn how to predict which lens will be more useful in various settings. Are there any general tips in that matter?

  • 1
    Just use them. You will learn by doing, taking photos in different situations, using each of them to their limits, etc. Lets say that you have chainsaw and rose pruners, if you are doing yard work you might need both, but you will quickly learn which is better at a certain task just by using them, although they might be able to perform some overlapping tasks.
    – dpollitt
    May 19 '13 at 22:40

Those lenses have very little overlap, so you will generally known which one you need. They are not interchangeable for any given subject. There are subjects you can take with both but the result will not be the same except between 40 and 42mm, so the one you use is the one that gives the results you are looking for.

The 14-42mm is a wide-angle to medium lens. It is good to shoot things that are relatively large such as buildings, interiors, etc. You can rarely use a longer lens for such subject because you would need to back away which is often not possible. Imagine take a shot of a large temple, unless is is in reserve or park, you can rarely move far enough to see it all with a long lens.

The 40-150mm is a telephoto lens and shows a smaller angle-of-view. It is used to pick out details, such as a person's face for a portrait, as opposed to a full-body image which is easier with the wider lens. Again, many times you cannot compensate by moving yourself closer to the subject. Doing so for a person also results in an unflattering perspective which is why portraits are rarely shot with a wide-angle lens.

The only thing to minimize lens changes is to buy a Zuiko 14-150mm which covers the whole range of both your lenses but you will lose some image quality by doing so. I've covered this choice explicitly in my M.Zuiko lens round-up article.


The best way to visualize what pictures taken with each lens look like is to convert your lens' focal length to the equivalent focal length on a full frame body in terms of the same angle of view. Then look at images that were taken with a camera/lens combination with the same angle of view. In the case of the 4/3" sensor on your Olympus EP-3, the conversion factor would be 2.0X. This means your 14-42 lens will yield a field of view (FoV) of approximately 28-84mm on a 35mm camera. This is squarely in what is known as normal zoom territory. Typical lenses for that purpose on a full frame camera are currently available in focal lengths of 24-70mm, 24-85, 28-75mm, and even 24-105mm. Your 40-150mm lens will yield an equivalent FoV of 80-300mm which is right in line with the traditional telephoto zoom range. Many older telephoto zooms were 80-300mm. Most newer ones are available in 70-300mm focal length. Many DSLRs have APS-C sized sensors. For this type of camera the normal zoom range is about 17-50mm and the telephoto zoom range is about 50-200. Normal zoom lenses are offered in 18-55mm, 17-50mm, 17-55mm, and 17-85mm. There are a wide range of telephoto zooms available for APS-C cameras that range from 50-150mm, 55-200mm, 55-250mm, to even 55-300mm. The traditional full frame focal lengths are also often used on APS-C cameras.

Now that you know that your lenses are in the normal zoom and telephoto zoom ranges, you can look at the information from other photos to see what type of lens they were made with. Go to somewhere like http://www.flickr.com/ and enter a full frame camera model (such as Nikon D600, Canon 5D, Canon 1D, etc.) and 24-70 (normal) or 70-300 (telephoto) into the search box. The search will show you images taken with the combination you have entered. For APS-C bodies like the Nikon D3100, D5100, D5200, D7000 or Canon 7D, 60D, Rebel 4Ti, and so one, use 17-50 or 18-55 for the normal zoom and 55-250 for the telephoto zoom. These images will show you what pictures shot using those angles of view will look like. The first few pages will have many images of the camera lens combo, but succeeding pages will show more images taken with the combination. Notice that page 6 of the results for Canon 5D 24-70 gives different results than page 6 of the results for Canon 5D mark II 24-70.

Of course, you could always search for images taken with an Olympus EP-3 (or EP-2, EP-1) and 14-42mm or 40-150mm. Unfortunately, there aren't very many images with the 40-150mm lens mounted on Olympus bodies. Searching for the EP-1 and 14-42mm yields many more results than the newer EP-3 and 14-42mm lens.

  • 1
    Those Flickr search seem only vaguely helpful. One has no idea if the image was cropped or when the photographer was located to take the shot. A big reason a certainly lens is used is because of the surroundings which are not in the frame.
    – Itai
    May 19 '13 at 17:39
  • To some people, theoretical information such as your answer, is more helpful. Other people learn better by seeing concrete visual examples. While it is certainly true that some photos might be cropped, that doesn't mean we should necessarily dismiss the entire idea of examples as non-productive. Even cropped images will show what is possible with the combination. After all, @Rabbit might wish to crop images on occasion. As to the location: If I were going to Japan, I would have absolutely no idea ahead of time what the surroundings I might encounter would be like...
    – Michael C
    May 19 '13 at 18:07
  • ... nevertheless I would be able to understand what types of compositions are possible with a lens of a certain angle of view to make a more informed decision regarding what lens might allow me to take the photos I want.
    – Michael C
    May 19 '13 at 18:11
  • Perhaps it's a personal matter but I can tell you that my choice of lens depends much more on factors not seen in images.
    – Itai
    May 19 '13 at 20:16
  • 1
    @Itai - So can you go to Japan and take pictures of every square foot of the country so he will know what the surroundings for his shots will be? Of course there are many factors that determine what lens we use and when we use it, including how close or how far we are able to place ourselves in relation to the subject. For a novice such as the original poster, examples are a good way to learn what types of photos are possible with what types of lenses.
    – Michael C
    May 19 '13 at 22:15

I'm going to argue that there are few scenarios where one lens is more correct than another. For scenarios where a telephoto view might be used, a wider angle shot might also be interesting. Or, this could be the difference between head-and-shoulder portraits and environmental portraits.

That is, of course, stretching. There are likely few scenarios where a shooting at 150 mm can be in some way interchanged with an equally good shot at 14 mm. Here's the important point, though: when you see a shot you want to take, figure out what focal length to use. Don't just assume that "x" lens is only for "y" purpose; choose what fits the shot as you see it.


You will very quickly get accustomed to which one you will need to use when. There isn't much overlap between the lenses (effectively there is none as 2mm of focal length overlap is effectively insignificant.)

The appropriate lens is going to be determined almost entirely by your desired shot. It gets a little trickier if you are able to move your shooting position, but for shots where space is constrained and you want a wide shot, the shorter lens will be the obvious choice. For shots from a distance, the telephoto is the obvious choice. For shots in the middle of the range, if you want heavier background blur and a narrow depth of field, choose the telephoto and shoot from further away. If you want a shot with more in focus, use the wider lens from closer up.

Convenience may also be a big factor, if I'm generally trying to get a combination of wide and close shots, I'll likely use my shorter lens, simply to avoid having to move all over. Similarly, if I'm shooting a combination of face portraits and distant objects, I'd be more likely to leave on the longer lens since it works for the shot I'm doing.

The other thing that will come with practice is the ability to quickly change lenses. Once you are used to it, it isn't all that atypical to simply change lenses because you don't like the way a shot looks in one lens and know it will look better in the other.

All in all, practice and experience are key. Playing around with them is how you get that practice and starting without much overlap is a nice way to start out since it does make the choices much easier.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.