Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 85mm f2

This is the fifth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but very fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This one’s dedicated to the Zuiko  85mm f2 – a direct Olympus equivalent of the Helios 85mm f2 reviewed earlier. The APS-C crop factor make this a 136mm equivalent, and at f2 it’s pretty fast.

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As you’d expect the depth of field is very thin at f2 and close focussing distances – something which can be used for creative effect. ‘Auto Levels’ applied to improve the contrast.

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The bokeh isn’t as smooth as the Helios – more ‘structured’ if that makes sense.

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Even at distances of a few metres the background becomes blurred at f2. There’s a hint of purple chromatic aberration on the original – a few pixels.

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Unlike the gorgeously eccentric Helios with it’s saturated colours, the Zuiko produces colder, more subtle results with no colour cast.

It’s well built, light and all metal and in size just a few mm longer than the 50mm f1.4. The filter size is the Oly standard of 49mm, minimum focus is around 85cm and the aperture range is f2 to f16.

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Test shots then – here’s the frame.

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f2 – A good start but some softness in the centre.

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f4 – well as sharp as it gets!

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f8 – slightly improved at the edge – excellent.

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f16 results were identical.

In conclusion then,  a very impressive result – capable of lovely bokeh blur wide open, and at smaller apertures sharp and contrasty. At around £100 its a bargain, 3 stops faster than a kit lens and just as sharp at similar apertures. The only disadvantage it has by comparison with the Helios is it’s cold, almost clinical rendering of colour, which is something which can be easily fixed in post-processing or with custom white balance.

As a ‘Zuiko-holic’ I’m very pleased with this, though the bonkers Helios is still a very nice lens, in the same way that a Lensbaby is – sheer eccentricity!

Thanks for reading and hope this is useful!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

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Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Helios Jupiter 9 85mm f2

This is the fourth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the Helios Jupiter 9 85mm f2, an old USSR made portrait lens in M42 mount, with oodles of character. The APS-C crop factor makes this a 136 mm equivalent, and by ignoring the worst performing frame edges of a lens designed for 35mm it might do quite well.

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A magically disappearing background with a gorgeous silky soft bokeh.

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Wide open at f2 – a scarecrow standing in for a portrait model in this one. The mild orange colour cast is a ‘feature’ of this lens – or maybe its age.

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Depth of field is razor-thin at the minimum focus distance – the easiest hand-held focus technique is using the LCD – compose, roughly focus then use focus magnify and move the camera gently backwards and forwards to get it spot on. Take the shot in ‘focus magnify’ mode – if you switch back the focus point will move again!

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Colour rendition can be very highly saturated! Easily fixed in post processing but a bit of a shock till you get used to it…

On to the lens itself. They just don’t make them like this any more – a solid metal barrel (its not a light metal either) and lots of glass make this one feel like it would stop a bullet. If quality of construction were the sole benchmark of quality this would outshine a Canon ‘L’ series lens!

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The mount adaptor is a cheap 42mm to Canon EF – £10 from Ebay. The screw thread stops at the wrong point so the lens info isn’t quite on the top of the lens when mounted. The focus ring is very stiff in the cold and can start unscrewing the lens when turned clockwise as well. All part of the experience!

The aperture is made up of 15 blades (just counted them!) maintaining a perfectly circular aperture across the range from f2 to f16 – very nice. It’s a ‘stop down’ mechanism which is odd if you’re not used to it – setting the aperture ring just sets a ‘stop point’ for another ring which varies the aperture from wide open (for focussing) to the aperture chosen. As we’re not using an external exposure meter but the 60D’s internal exposure system you can just set the aperture stop point to f16 and vary the aperture across the range, judging the depth of field on the LCD. Minimum focus is just less than 80cm.

So – not expecting too much (this is really a soft portrait lens) how well does it do for sharpness etc?

Standard test subject – I’ll have to change this soon – as we go up the focal lengths I’m running out of room on the road and will end up in the river).

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Full frame of test image.

At f2 – pretty soft and strong ‘open aperture sheen’.

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f4 – centre is better , edge marginally so.

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f11 – not bad but still soft at the edge.

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It doesn’t change at f16 either!

Not really a surprise though – this is a classic portrait lens – just sharp enough in the centre and soft at the edges to give a flattering effect.

Is it worth getting one? At around £100 they’re quite cheap, and the f2 aperture is seriously fast for this focal length. The bokeh is one the best I’ve seen, and for flattering portraits or special effect close-ups – where you want the subject isolated by a blurred away background – it’s brilliant. For more general photography it’s not quite so good – stick to the kit lens unless you really need the extra  three stops of speed.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking! To see how well it on a Micro Four Thirds Olympus EPL5 look here.

For some more reviews of M42 mount Helios lenses, Veijo Vilva has tested most of them here – it was these reviews which helped me with my manual focus lens choices so thanks Veijo!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Update – to see how this lens performs on a 5d MK2 see here.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This is the third of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the Zuiko 50mm f1.4 – a very fast lens which can be used creatively for it’s narrow depth of field and superb bokeh. At around 3 stops faster than a standard zoom at 50mm it’s also pretty good in low light. On 35mm it gets a bit wild and woolly towards the edge of the frame at f1.4 – almost ‘Lensbabyish’. This is a crop frame sensor so it might avoid the worst of the poor edge definition at max aperture.

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The depth of field at 1.4 is minimal – and it’s rendering of out of focus areas is very smooth. Post processing consisted of a quick ‘auto levels’ as the contrast at max aperture isn’t that good.

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The happiest looking scarecrow I’ve seen for a while! Subtle colour rendition is one of the plus points of this lens.

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Close focus at 1.4 and maybe not its strong point – still it has a certain softness which is appropriate to the subject.

It’s effective focal length on a crop frame is around 80mm (the perfect focal length for portraits), the aperture range is f1.4 to f16 and its minimum focus distance is just less than 45cm.  Filter size is a standard 49mm. Focussing is easy through the viewfinder at f1.4, but the LCD is recommended for very fine focussing.

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On the DSLR it’s all metal construction and heavy glass make for a nice balance.

So – some ‘scientific’ test shots on the18MP Canon 60D at ISO 400 and Olympus OM mount lenses using a Fotodiox adaptor. Images were taken in centre weighted metering mode, saved in RAW and converted to JPG with default settings in Canon’s DPP software.

For the test it’s back to the Mill, and another overcast day. Crops from the centre of the frame and very top right.

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This is pretty much as it appeared – ‘cloudy’ white balance applied and that’s all it needed.

f1.4 – I hadn’t expected too much but this is fine – the usual ‘sheen’ at max aperture but not bad. I suspect any chromatic aberration is being masked by this soft blur across the frame.f1.4cmp

f2.8 – sharp as sharp can be in the centre, a hint of red CA at the edge.

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f5.6 – sharp everywhere and no CA.f5.6comp

f11 – just like f5.6 – amazing! f16 is identical.f11cmp

Well I knew this lens was good but this is surprisingly good! As a general purpose mid telephoto equivalent it’s 3 stops faster than a kit zoom at 50mm and as sharp as it’s possible to get after f5.6.

Unlike the 28mm f2 lens reviewed here, this is more reasonably priced – around £70 to £100 – so it’s very easy to recommend, even if it’s only for the narrow depth of field. A modern AF equivalent is £300 plus so a saving for once! An Olympus OM lens to EF mount adaptor costs between  £20 and £150 (which you can use for all lenses of the same mount obviously).

For a similar review of how well an old 17mm f3.5 performed clich here.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 28mm f2

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 28mm f2

This is the second of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the Zuiko 28mm f2, my favourite lens on 35mm SLRs (hence the name of this blog), which sometimes graces the Canon 60D when it’s very lucky as a fast standard lens.

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What it’s capable of in bright conditions at f8 – sharp, superb colour and saturation. This was take on an Olympus 620.

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Same boat from the front – so sharp it hurts!

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On a very dull day – depth of field at f2 at close focus distance. Not much room for error but easy to focus!

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Close up at f2 – the mill (see below) is in the background. The rendition of out of focus areas is very pleasing – the bright edge on the out of focus verticals (just behind the snowdrops) disappears at smaller apertures. The Sweet 35 Lensbaby does the same thing.

It’s effective focal length on a crop frame is around 45mm, the aperture range is f2 to f16 and its minimum focus distance is just less than 30cm. To improve close distance photography it uses ‘floating lens elements’ which move to compensate for near distance abberations- unusual in a lens of this age. Filter size is a standard 49mm.

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In use – nicely balanced – like the previously reviewed 17mm Vivitar lens, it’s all metal and quite heavy. The focus throw is short and smooth. All in all – lovely!

On to some proper tests – all test shots on an 18MP Canon 60D at ISO 200 and Olympus OM mount lenses using a Fotodiox adaptor. Images were taken in centre weighted metering mode, saved in RAW and converted to JPG with default settings in Canon’s DPP software. The only tweak was to the white balance – the 60D was in auto WB mode and the shots had a very blue cast – corrected in DPP.

So – the test and it’s back to the Mill which has become a test standard :-

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A dull day with not much light, so something of a challenge in the contrast department. Given the conditions, nice contrast, colour and sharpness.

Starting at f2 – wide open and more of the ‘sheen’ seen in the 17mm lens test caused by light bouncing around the mirror box. Not bad but there’s a bit of soft purple chromatic aberration in the centre shot. These are huge enlargements from the frame though and these faults wouldn’t be seen on a 10×8 inch print – or larger probably. Nit picking!

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f4 – The ‘sheen’ has gone – edge slightly softer (strange) and centre as sharp as it’s going to get.f4

f8 – out resolving the sensor I’d say …f8

f16 – some softening in the centre again but the edge is fine.

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Chromatic aberration – other than some soft purple and blue CA at f2, there isn’t much at all, maybe a few pixels at most.

All in all, this is a bit of a special lens, and I’m very lucky to have one having bought it for my OM system 20 years ago. To be honest, buying one second-hand is quite expensive and doesn’t make that much sense, when Canon make an AF 50mm 1.4 for around the same price – I’ve seen mint condition ones go for £300. If you come across one for less or get the chance to ‘inherit’ one from someone – snap it up!

In summary then – at f2 it’s two stops faster than a standard zoom and pretty good. At f5.6 to f8 the resolution is as good as it gets.

There are f2.8 and f3.5 versions which are much cheaper but I’m afraid I haven’t ever used them – but I know where I can borrow one!

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Tree Tuesday Part Eleven

This is becoming a Tuesday ritual! Two more for the Tree Tuesday ‘event’.

First one – taken a Lensbaby and a symmetrical composition of a leafless tree in a roadside car park puddle, layered on Photoshop.

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Second – contrasting a Georgian arched window with a tree in spring about to burst into leaf. Now I look at it again, the variation in the darkness of the window panes is good too…

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Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Replacing Efke 820 IR Film with Rollei IR 400

As my stocks of 35mm Efke IR film in the fridge are dwindling, another IR film is needed! Efke film is now no longer made so the challenge is to find a replacement. Efke IR came in two flavours – normal and ‘aura’ where the anti-halation layer was removed to give a glowing effect around highlights.

Efke IR film was capable of some stunning results, but the processing and slow speed was a bit of a problem. The soft emulsion attracts dust like crazy when drying – something which has ruined several shots for me. So to compare what was available and what is available here we go. All shots – OM1N with R72 filter, all developed in D76/ID11.

What IR monochrome is all about – excellent DR, glowing foliage and a fairytale image.

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Second Efke shot – those delicate greys are lovely (even if my cropping missed a bit down the left).

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The obvious replacement emulsion is Rollei IR 400. I really like Rollei film, especially ‘Blackbird‘, and the addition of a few stops is welcome.

So, what’s it like? Well well good is the short answer. Much easier to process with a much harder emulsion, and the extra speed results in no more grain – not that it would be a problem as the classic IR film – Kodak Hi-Speed IR – was about as grainy as it’s possible to get. It’s also OK to load the Rollei film in subdued light while the Efke film needs darkness.

So first Rollei IR shot – not bad at all. There’s a hint of grain in the sky but it looks to have better grain than Efke.

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Second shot – you may have seen this before – and a very good result.

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All sorts going on in this one – internal lens reflections, complex clouds – the lot.

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All in all an excellent replacement – not that there’s much choice! It hasn’t quite got the fine subtlety that Efke IR film had, but it’s easier to process and isn’t a dust magnet. With a bit more practice it should be fine – and better than my best digital alternative which is a converted Fuji F810. Having said that, I’ll really miss the Efke film!

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

p.s. found this from Martin Zimelka who’s done a similar comparison. His other film tests are pretty good too!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This is the first of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. In order to do a meaningful evaluation we’ll need some proper test shots – so other than a few examples on 35mm film and a rather nice Dorset mill as a subject there aren’t any photographic masterpieces I’m afraid.

All test shots on an 18MP Canon 60D at ISO 100 and Olympus OM mount lenses using a Fotodiox adaptor. Images were taken in centre weighted metering mode, saved in RAW and converted to JPG with default settings in Canon’s DPP software.

So starting the lens series at the wide end – a 1980’s era Vivitar 17mm f3.5 and quite a special focal length on a 35mm Olympus film camera. Ultrawide on 35mm (I think the angle of view is 92 degrees) it’s capable of some typically dramatic distortion :-

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Image from the Vivitar on an OM1N

This lens is identical to a Tokina branded lens of the same era, and the edge performance and chromatic aberration always left something to be desired – at least that was the rumour. These lenses were always mid range and weren’t expected to produce top flight results. However, this is ‘only’ an APS-C sensor so the edge of the frame (usually a weakness in cheaper lenses) isn’t in the picture. Maybe this lens could be useful – unfortunately it’s only around a 28mm equivalent when the 1.6 crop factor is taken into account so it’s not that exciting an effective focal length. The minimum focus is 25cm.

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In use it’s nicely balanced as the lens is all metal and quite heavy. Apertures run from f3.5 to f16, and there’s a depth of field scale on the lens. This indicates everything in focus between infinity and 0.5m at f16 – this is misleading as it doesn’t work as accurately on APSC – to be safe use the setting for one stop less than the aperture set.

The focus mechanism is smooth and even, and focussing is difficult through the viewfinder as the depth of field is huge. For critical results use the LCD and ‘focus magnify’, or stop it down to f8 and use the depth of field scale on the lens and don’t focus at all!

One thing worth pointing out about the lens mount adaptors  – they only allow ‘stop down’ metering. Most cameras use ‘open aperture’ metering – keeping the aperture wide open until exposure, keeping the viewfinder nice and bright to allow for easy focussing and composition. The manual focus adaptors use ‘stop down’ metering where the aperture set is the one in use at all times  – at f16 the viewfinder gets pretty dark. If this is a problem the LCD image will always remain bright even as the aperture closes.

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Being an ultrawide this has a large front element – the filter thread is 67mm which means filters aren’t cheap!

So – the test subject – used for several posts on film as well as digital :-

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This was taken at f8 – very pleasing colours, contrast and sharpness. Some clumps of snowdrops as an added bonus!

The samples are taken from the centre by the dovecotes, and the right where a red car is parked.

First samples at f3.5 and surprisingly good in the centre but the edge is a bit vague. There’s also an overall light ‘sheen’ to the image which is common at max aperture and may be caused by light bouncing around the mirror box onto the sensor – this hasn’t helped the contrast of the image. However these are extremely small samples and this would be perfectly good printed to 10×8 inches.

f3.5compAt f8 (5.6 was almost identical) and a dramatic improvement! Razor sharp in the centre and the edge is pretty good too.f8comp

f16 -even more of an improvement at the edge and a slight degradation in the centre – sharp across the frame and certainly showing no signs of diffraction.

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Finally – edge chromatic aberration – taken from the very top left of the main frame. Perfectly acceptable at f8 and not too noticeable at f3.5. I’m amazed!

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As we’re only using the centre of this lens’s image circle, there isn’t that much barrel distortion either. ‘Bokeh’ is almost impossible to judge as the extreme depth of field means that virtually everything is in focus.

So – is this useable?

Yes – and this is a genuine surprise to me – just one stop down at 5.6 it’s very good, at f8 to f16 the results are excellent.

All good so far but this focal length is already covered by kit zooms at around f3.5 so there’s no speed advantage. However, the resolution, chromatic aberration and contrast at f5.6 to f16 are better than I’d expect from a kit zoom lens.

So if you’re a prime lens shooter, or want something better at the wide end than the standard offering this might be for you.

It’s also pretty useful on an Olympus OM 35mm film camera so can happily live a ‘double life’!

It’s around £100 second hand in the UK, with a lens mount adaptor costing anything between £20 and £150 (which you can use for all lenses of the same mount obviously).

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.