Going prime-al in San Francisco

I recently bought a prime lens - and I'm having a blast with it!

primal (adjective) - basic, elemental, essential, fundamental

I've never been one to use a prime lens in the past.  I always figured that it was just something else I would have to lug around, and that I wouldn't use it very much.  Plus, I always figured that I could get to the same focal length on a zoom lens, so why bother?

But with my Olympus mirrorless camera, I have been experimenting more and more.  I've been experimenting with lenses, f/stop settings, and even my processing style.  Basic stuff, but I was a serious creature of habit with my old Nikon gear.  I shot everything at f/13 on a tripod, as a 7 exposure HDR.  Then I used the same software and the same settings to process my shots.

But I am changing, and change is good.

I wanted something that would be small and light, and that I could use as an all-around lens for those times when I may not have time to shoot on a trip, but wanted to bring the camera "just in case".  I wanted it to fit easily into my bag without adding to my weight very much, and something that would go pretty "wide open" (low f/stop number) so I could shoot in low light without bringing my tripod.  If I plan to travel light, I want to go handheld.

And I wanted something that would allow me to get back to the basics of photography - a focus (no pun intended) on composition and shot selection without the encumbrances of modern photography.  The ability to use it in various situations, for various types of shots.  Something that was flexible, and good across a wide possible spectrum of shots.  However, I wanted it to be "simple" and straightforward.

So I decided that a prime lens would tick all those boxes for me better than anything else, with the added benefit of really having to focus on composition, since it's a fixed focal length.  That was one of my 15 Tips for Better Photos in 2015 that I wrote about recently.

When I decided to try a prime lens, I knew I wanted something that would stretch me as a photographer but also offer me something I can't get from my normal go-to lens, the Olympus PRO 12-40mm f/2.8.  And while I LOVE that lens, it is fun to switch things up and experiment.

Initially I thought I would get the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, which gets great reviews online and since it goes down to f/1.8 that seemed to be a good fit.  But when I went into Precision Camera here in Austin to buy it, the guy working there started talking to me about the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7.  It was on sale for the same price as the Olympus, and I liked that it was 15mm instead of 17mm, and f/1.7 instead of f/1.8.

And let's face it - I was attracted by that word "Leica" on it.

While I believe that gear isn't everything, it's obvious that Leica has an incredible reputation for quality.  This lens is designed by Leica but manufactured by Panasonic.  So it's a bit of a hybrid in that sense (ie, not a "pure" Leica).  It's small and light, it's a f/1.7, and since it's a fixed focal length at 15mm (about 30mm on a full-frame, so very close to a traditional 35mm camera), it definitely causes me to "work the shot" instead of just zooming in and out.  Hey, that's exercise!  See, photography is fun AND good for you. :-)

So on a recent trip to San Francisco, I had the perfect opportunity to put this lens to the test.  I walked around during sunset and blue hour and shot like crazy.  The lens performed perfectly, and just for the heck of it I left it at f/1.7 the entire time, just to see how the shots came out.  And, I left the tripod at home.  This was a handheld adventure.

I think the shots came out great.

So here's a HUGE collection of shots from 2 days in San Francisco, right before Christmas.  All shot with my Olympus mirrorless camera, all with the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 lens, and all shot at f/1.7 in various light situations (inside and outside) - and all handheld.  The outdoor shots are from the area around Fisherman's Wharf, and the interior and closeup shots are from The Ferry Building.

I hope you enjoy the shots as much as I enjoyed walking around and taking them.  I believe I now have a lens that will work great for me on those quick trips when I am not sure if I will have time to get out and shoot.  Now, I can pack up this camera and lens combo, and travel light and shoot fast (if I have time).

Look for more photos as I get more opportunities to get out and shoot with this little magic piece of glass.  And if I get around to it, perhaps I will write up a review of the lens too!  (maybe)

(click any photo to embiggen)