Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 - Samyang 14mm f/2.8 - GoPro - Real options for wide angle photography compared

Above are three ultra wide angle alternatives. Each very different, but each offering something for creating images. They are:-

  • Nikon D750 + Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Full-Frame Lens 3:2 ratio
  • Panasonic GX8 + Olympus m.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Zoom 4:3 ratio
  • GoPro Hero4 Black 15mm (approx. 35mm equivalent) fisheye fixed aperture lens 4:3 ratio

Below is what each produces when taking a picture from the same place.

Above are images from the D750 / 14mm combination. Shot wide open at f/2.8

Above are images shot with the GX8 / 7-14mm combination at 7mm. Aagain wide open at f/2.8. You can clearly see the greatly increased depth of field.

And then you have the GoPro.

As you can see, radically different. Even when as I've done in the bottom picture, applied Photoshops Lens 'correction' profile for the GoPro. 

So three very different renderings of the same scene with each camera / lens combination held in the same place. The GoPro is easily the widest and demonstrates it's primary purpose as an up close and personal video camera capable of some astounding action footage. But it's also very useful as a wide-angle stills camera, opening up all sorts of creative possibilities for picture taking. And for me this is what gear comparison is all about. Not comparing basically like with like and bickering about very small and often insignificant differences in performance. With these three the GoPro is significantly inferior in terms of technical specs. and image quality, but what else takes images that wide in such a tiny form? Even allowing for the fact that I need a smartphone to see what I'm doing with it, it's still extraordinarily small. 

The other two options are a little less extreme. The D750 plus 14mm has the virtue of offering an ultra wide angle and shallow depth of field, which is a look I've always liked and the m4/3 combination offers an option where much more of the image is in clear focus, which is what I use for the bulk of my work most of the time.  

Note that I've left out any assessment of which is 'better' and which combinations might be sharper or superior image quality, because in most picture taking situations that doesn't matter to me. What's important is how successful the images they create are aesthetically and each of these camera / lens combinations offers me something different to use creatively. And ultimately that's how I assess my gear and what use it is for me. Because how gear functions operationally is often more important than any technical differences. It's pretty obvious that there are situations where the GoPro is the obvious choice and the whole mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L range of cameras and lenses offer something different to DSLR's and smaller sensor cameras including smartphones something else again.

i could write about how having a variety of picture creating devices is useful for my work, since the more variety I have in my images the more markets I can reach, but that's never been my prime consideration. I and many other photographers like the possibilities that different formats offer and most of the professional photographers I know, at least the creative ones, have a 'virtue' that I think sets us apart and that is curiosity. 'What does this format offer me?' 'What can I do with this piece of kit?' Time and time again I see closed minds and cliched thinking on the photographic Internet and a lack of any kind of adventure in terms of the pictures people create and what they use to create them. For me any kind of creative activity should be just that, creative. And I automatically distrust any 'photographer' who asserts that they have decided on a camera lens system that they will use to the exclusion of all others. 

For me much of the pleasure of photography is constantly trying new things both in terms of gear and in terms of aesthetic intent. For me shooting the same pictures with the same gear would be a slow death and something I shudder to contemplate. Because pretentious as it may sound, the creative ever changing and dissatisfied artist is always the one capable of producing the most challenging and visually stimulating work and the smug, self satisfied 'artist' probably produces work that demonstrate that smugness and self satisfaction. And apart from anything else there are now so many possibilities and options for us to consider that it seems crazy just to stick with one way of creating images. Particularly in the light of the mass participation in photography that we are now seeing. Because if we don't choose to explore those options, there are plenty more who will.