Cell Towers and Lens Dilemma: Oly 12mm vs Panny 12-35mm

I think cell towers are a great representation of technology. They look so futuristic too. It’s like a tree, but it’s all antennas (antennae? what’s the plural form..?). I previously took a shot of a cell tower sticking out over a hill/ocean and thought it was a great shot of how technology is everywhere, even in nature.

Well, I was out doing long exposures of the freeway and as I was walking up the overpass, I got this view of a cell tower near the freeway.


Hmm is this straight?? I’m getting confused looking at this again. Anyways, had the camera in portrait mode, framed to get the building in the background and a nice silhouette of the tower on the left thirds of the frame. The yellow lights caused the white balance to go off a bit. I corrected it a little, but decided that leaving it somewhat yellow wasn’t that bad. Completely adjusting WB to the lights on the bottom created a really cold, blue looking photo.


Then I also realized I was right next to the freeway so I wanted to see if I could get the freeway light streaks in with the cell tower and buildings on each side of the freeway. Zoomed out on my Panasonic 14-45, kept the tower on the left thirds and moved around until everything got in the shot.

This photo has been pretty popular on instagram/facebook for me, although honestly it’s not my favorite. Again. the yellow on the bottom left ruins it a bit for me. Overall a bit hectic too… it captures everything but maybe a little too much. If I was better at photoshop, I’d kill the bottom left a bit. Also, high exposure times meant slight blurring of tree branches. It was strangely windy that night.

Speaking windy, I need a new tripod. I had a cheap $50 Dolica tripod and it was serving me fine and I didn’t understand why people were dishing out $200~500 for tripods. Then I met a windy day and found my foe. I think the tension/friction in the legs is getting loose too. Now I need to find a nice, sturdy, light tripod that doesn’t kill my wallet. Any suggestions?

Also… I will be pulling the trigger on a Olympus 12mm f/2.0 or Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 very soon. Doing a bit more research on sharpness before I pull the trigger on a lens more expensive than my Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4. Advice/suggestions welcome!


16 thoughts on “Cell Towers and Lens Dilemma: Oly 12mm vs Panny 12-35mm

  1. Aah, three points in one post, let’s see if I can help you 🙂

    The first one is pretty easy: Of course, the second one is more popular. From my point of view, it is a lot more interesting than the first one, too. The antenna-post is not dominating the shot and drawing the eye to it. Since it is black, the viewer might not fully get your intention of the first picture. The second one is far more dramatic, there is far more contrast in the composition. On one hand, the difference between the static light of the building on the left and the static dark post and the light trails on the right side which shows movement. In addition the contrast between the last natural light of the day and the different artificial light sources. With this, also the yellow-ish light of the sodium bulbs are not bad. Far from it, actually. And if that doesn’t convince you: a lot of literature will tell you, landscape pictures need to have three kinds of levels or areas if you wish. Something in the front (the tree on the right side), something of interest in the center (light trails, the antenna post and the building) and an interesting background (the sky with the last sunlight). So, even technically, it is a fine shot 🙂 And more over, there is less junk in it than on the first on its lower right side.

    Now, to the tripod: When I started and wanted to have a tripod, I had the same thoughts. Why the hell would someone spend so much on a tripod? Well, I was lucky to get convinced to buy a tripod which is in the range of about 200 US$. Legs which are easy to extend but sturdy enough and a head, which I can move in all three directions. Some people reommend a bulb head, which you can set up using only one lever. I tried one and gave up since I couldn’t level the camera out and it didn’t fix the camera enough. So, what you want to look into is maybe a tripod which weighs a little bit more, but can hold your gear as you like it. If you want to look into, I can recommend the Manfrotto 7301YB. As I wrote, it should be around 200US$ if at all, but does the job very nicely.

    Now, onto your lenses. The big question is: What do you expect from it. Naturally, fixed-focal-length-lenses are more sharper. At least that is what I have experienced so far. When you try them, change the aperture a bit, so that you can shoot in the lense’s best settings (I would recommend 2.6 or 3.5 respectively). I guess though, it really comes down to, if you need a lense, which can do both – wide-angle (12mm to 20mm) and portrait (anything around 35mm), or if you really need the better aperture for Depth of field shots or when you have less light available.

    Hope, all this is a bit of help for you.


    • Wow, great analysis of my photo – thank you! it’s a funny feeling to be offered more info on my photograph, when I took it. But I think it’s a great lesson for me, thank you! I will look into that Manfrotto 7301YB! For the lens, I’m mainly just interested in that 12mm focal length. I won’t need thin DOF at wide angle and my OMD’s IBIS is pretty good for most shots at such a wide angle. I’m more interested in each lenses’ performance in terms of sharpness…. I’m leaning towards the Panasonic right now though since IQ seems similar but that lens is a bit more flexible.

  2. I really like photo #2. I can see why it was so popular on Instagram and FB. I don’t find the lower left distracting at all. My eye is drawn and lead into the scene by the car streaks on the highway and to the high contrast silhouette of the cell tower.

    As for a tripod, it really depends what you want to do and what your future upgrade path will be. Are you going to stick with m4/3? Then you probably don’t need a Gitzo 3-series. Are you possibly someday going to shoot a 600mm on a FF camera? Then maybe you will want to spring for a Gitzo 5-series. Does it have to be light or are you just going to shoot streetside. I recommend reading this article by Thom Hogan. http://www.bythom.com/support.htm. He makes some really good points, and I, as well as many others have fallen into pitfalls he describes.

    Myself, I think the carbon models are worth every penny and spending your money on quality brands such as Gitzo and Really Right Stuff is worth the initial out lay. Manfrotto are really great bang for your buck tripods also. A good tripod will last many years past your computer with a lens attached called your digital camera. Oh and don’t forget to budget for a good ballhead also (30-40% of your total budget is a good number to expect to spend on a quality head). The right one can be pleasure to use, the wrong one downright frustrating.

    • I’ll probably go towards carbon too because they’re lighter. Great article, but it feels like that guy’s budget is much greater than mine. $500+…… I don’t know! I plan to stay with a m43 camera so the lower options should be sufficient for me. I’ll look into Manfrotto, especially if they’re good bang for buck! Any particular models you’d recommend? Thank you!

      • It depends how much hunching down you want to do or how often you are going to lug the tripod around on hikes. I have the full sized 055cxPro3. With the legs fully extended and the center column down and my Arcatech GV2 ballhead, it reaches my eye level (I am 5’11”). It folds down to 25″ so in not suitable IMO for longer treks. It goes for ~$350, but that does not leave much money for a head given your budget. The 190-series by Manfrotto folds shorter but also does not fold out as tall. You are probably not going to reach eye level unless you are < 5'5" unless you raise the center column (not recommended for stability). Don't know what these go for, but you should be able to swing the legs and a decent head with your budget considering they are cheaper than the 055 series. Hope this helps.

        • It looks like I may be leaning towards a manfrotto 190cxpro… not sure what the difference between 055 and 190 are yet though…

  3. I know people who only spend $20 on a tripod, but I am not one of them. There is no way I’m putting $2000 worth of camera equipment on a toothpick!! I recently picked up a Manfrotto with QR plates and 3-way pan/tilt head for under $150 at my (non-CA) Costco. It is heavier than I’d like for hiking (which I don’t do a lot of on a daily basis, vacations only usually) but it’s perfect for all the other times I need a tripod. It also comes with a carrying case, but I found a backpack that it fits on perfectly as well. When I was researching, one by Slik (forget the model – sorry) was in the running with the same Manfrotto head.
    Best of luck in finding one that works for you!
    Happy Shooting!

    • The Dolica I had isn’t the greatest but it was pretty good for a budget tripod in my opinion. Didn’t know Costco had tripods, I should look into that! But weight is a biig factor for me…. I heard some good things about Slik too.

  4. I like the first photo quite a bit. The second photo seems awfully busy as a full scene of the cell tower, skyline, and freeway. I probably would have made the second one into two photos – one with the tower alone against the sky and the second one would be the streaked lights on the freeway. Like all things, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

    I hope you find your tripod. I haven’t priced any recently since I’m still using the tripod I bought for my 35mm SLR years ago.

  5. Pingback: Street Long Exposures Again | skpfoto

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