From the Walt Disney Concert Hall, my friend Rick and I took a short stroll down to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) (250 S. Grand Avenue). On the way, I spotted a woman shooting with a Leica M8. Everything about her oozed “cool” … a German no doubt. She showed us her Leica and said it was fun. She glanced over at my Olympus E-PM1 and smiled. I wonder if she was impressed?
While our goal at MOCA wasn’t to actually go inside to appreciate the contemporary art, which I highly recommend, by the way, if you are in the area, we were more interested by the happenings outside the museum. Street photography is more my thing and MOCA always attracts a crowd outdoors. The plaza has a cool sculpture of plane parts mashed together and all held by cables called Airplane Parts (2001) by Nancy Rubin.
The Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 is a nice little lens, equivalent in focal length to a 24mm lens in the “old” 35mm film format, most often referred to today as full frame. The lens is pricey, starting at $799, and the price doesn’t even include a hood! With that in mind, I use an aftermarket rectangular hood by JJC, which looks cool and does its job. Part of what makes the lens so expensive is the focus clutch and the metal build of the lens. With the focus clutch, you can pull the focus ring towards the camera body and use it like an old school mechanical lens. I think it feels silky smooth like an old camera lenses. However, unlike old prime lenses, there are no depth of field markings, which are very useful for figuring out hyperfocal distances useful for landscape or street photography. The lens also features Olympus’s movie and stills compatible technology, making autofocus fast and silent.
I’ve noticed a few annoyances with the lens that cleans up readily with post-processing, which, in my opinion, shouldn’t be there in the first place. First, I’m seeing some cyan chromatic aberration along some edges that borders really bright things or backgrounds. Second, it has noticeable barrel distortion. And last, it’s not as sharp as the 45mm lens. With all of these problems, you are probably wondering why do I even own it? For one: it’s sharp enough and is a rare Olympus prime lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.0. I’m actually more comfortable with the angle of view of the 17mm lens, but it’s maximum aperture is only f/2.8; and the quality, in my opinion, is not that much higher than the kit lens.
After checking out the scene at MOCA, we got hungry. So we stopped into California Pizza Kitchen on Hope Street to grab a quick meal and ordered my favorite dish, the Kung Pao Spaghetti with Chicken.
My friend Rick was sitting across from me so I decided to slap on the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens to show off its bokeh. The photo isn’t critically sharp, as he was moving, and I was chewing. But what’s important is the creamy blurred background. This has been a rare thing in the past with micro four-thirds lenses. But now that Olympus and Panasonic are coming out with fast prime lenses, bokeh lovers get more options.
After our late lunch, we stepped outside and into the Wells Fargo Center Plaza (across the street from MOCA) and discovered a guy playing what looked to be an out-of-place piano. It turned out to be a public art campaign by British artist Luke Jerram called Play Me I’m Yours, where pianos decorated by locals are placed throughout a region. In the Los Angeles downtown area, there are 10 pianos in various locations.
John, a local musician, was playing some Scott Joplin and doing a pretty fine job. The piano had been in the rain most of the night before and some of the “ivory” on the keys were peeling off, but John was unfazed and was in a zone!
Overall, I enjoyed using the Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0. Shooting with a wide lens for street photography can be a little challenging as you have to get really close to your subject to get anything really interesting. And by close, I’m talking: within the personal space of the people you are photographing. For landscapes, there are sharper wide lenses for the micro four thirds format; since one would be stopping down the aperture most of the time for landscapes, the fast focal maximum aperture of this lens is mostly irrelevant for that use. I can see using this indoors as an event lens where I suspect it would excel. However, if I had to do it again, I’d save my money and buy the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5. It’s a lot closer to my ideal angle of view and a whole lot cheaper at around $329 on Amazon.com.
Check out more shots of MOCA and the surrounding area:
All photos in this post were processed in Adobe Lightroom 3.6 and Nik ColorEfex.