Ilford Pan F+ in ID11

Having done a few posts about Adox and Rollei film, it’s about time I did one about an old friend – Ilford’s Pan F black and white film. This was my standard film when I first started B/W photography – so it has a history longer than I’d care to admit! It’s current version is a 50 ASA fine-grained film, with a reputation which suggests it’s difficult to use.

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This was taken on an Olympus OM2N with the lovely 24mm f2.8 lens reviewed earlier for use on digital. It’s rather nice on 35mm too!

It’s got a tendency to be too contrasty – so reducing recommended development times and tank agitation is a good idea if you’re going to scan the negs. My recipe is ID11 stock for 6 minutes at 20 C, inverting the tank a few times at the start, then every 1 minute. This produces very useable images with some good dynamic range, but still retains some of the film’s ‘dark’ look.

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There’s a good dynamic range here from the detail in the clouds through to the shadows.

I’d describe it as a half way house between a film like Agfaphoto’s APX100 where contrast is very well controlled, and Rollei Blackbird which produces contrasty, dark images.

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Again a nice result – just enough contrast without losing the shadow and highlight detail.

The grain is very fine – just what you’d expect from a 50 ASA film.

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From the trees in the top left. Although the 24mm lens at max aperture is stating to lose resolution, the grain is almost unnoticeable.

Physically the film is easy to handle, and goes on the film spiral very easily. It also doesn’t attracting dust when drying – unlike some films.

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Excellent again

Overall then, a very fine-grained film with a distinctive look which may be worth a try if you think the look of Rollei Blackbird is a too dark. At 50 ASA – or even 25 ASA – it will allow the use of those fast primes almost wide open on bright days and as long as it’s developed properly won’t disappoint.

It was good to shoot this film again after few years – I’ll be getting some more on my next film order.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

Infrared Easter

(Three images). Not that Easter is traditionally infrared…. Hopefully we’ll be getting more green foliage soon – though it’s late coming this year in the UK – which means its infrared season again at last. Here’s a few from the Fuji F810 converted to IR.

This one is gently layered and vignetted for the classic IR look. The faded trees in the distance contrast nicely with the dark sharp railings in the foreground.

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Next is a lane nearby and a narrow lane curving away – the tree on the left is huge. This turned out better than anticipated as it wasn’t that bright.

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Last an open gate and some leaves – the colour channel and desaturation controls creating the final effect leaving just a bit of colour.

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All shots taken for the book cover market, hope you like them!

Abandoned/Found Things

(3 Images). Wandering around the countryside, you often come across bits and pieces which have been lost, then found by some passer-by and draped over a branch or fence – or just left there. There’s something very touching about them as they just sit there till they rot away, and as a photographic subject a bit of a favourite.

So – first one – a small Wellington boot which must have sat on the heath for years but somehow always looks untarnished (this bit of heath used to be a tip). The contrast between the natural autumn colours and the bright red was lovely.00151253

Next – the clouds cooperated here, and a small mitten wrapped around a metal fence.

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Finally a toy placed over a branch – before the leaves had grown.

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All shots taken for the book market, hope you like them. Have a good break over Easter!

Shooting Militaria Part Three

Post three about an epic weekend shoot of a car boot full of military objects. The opportunity to shoot so many graphic subjects took two days and was a real test as they all had to be back within 48 hours.

First, a communist era Red Star cap badge between two converging shadows.

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Next a Royal Air Force cap badge – strange how the stitching in the wings looks more ‘feather like’ in close up.

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Finally a real challenge – how do you take a photo of a (deactivated!) WW2 hand grenade? This was my best effort but I wasn’t really happy with the result. A layer might have helped.

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All shots taken for the book market, hope you like them.

Shooting Doors Part Seven

Apologies for the delay – a few for the Legion.

First one shot on the site of a derelict lab – the main focus was the broken glass but there is a door in there somewhere in my defence….

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Next another mysterious open infra red door with light foliage surrounding it – can’t resist them!

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Finally a de-focussed shot of light emerging from around a church door (always the best ones) – and the bit of green chromatic aberration caused by the light through the keyhole make this one.

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All shots for the book cover market – as always – hope you like them!

Texture Layers

It’s about time something was posted about using texture layers – I’ve already posted loads of shots with this type of post processing, sometimes so subtle that it’s hardly visible.

Starting with a few where it’s very visible:-

There are two main layer images added to this Lensbaby shot – one to enhance the stonework (which was a shot of rust), and one to give the brighter tones some texture. The images are blended together and then the layers ‘flattened’ to give the final effect. The interaction of the out of focus areas and the layers is very attractive.00182163

To achieve this effect you’ll need to ‘layer’ one or more shot on top of the other in Photoshop.

The easiest way I’ve found is to open the main picture and the texture images then drag a texture image over the main image from the ‘Projects’ floating toolbar. Resize the texture image to be the same size as the main image beforehand – this helps a lot!

The ‘Layers’ floating toolbar will then give various blending options such as ‘Overlay’ and ‘Soft Light’ – just have a play about with the options and the opacity of the layers and you’ll get the hang of it.

This next one is another Lensbaby shot with some strong layering to give a scratched/blotchy appearance. The Lensbaby plus layers combination is very nice!

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And finally a more subtle one – a soft green texture with a vignette around the edge. The texture has the effect of altering the tone curve and the colours which, if you get it right, can make the image look a lot better without looking over processed.

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I’ve gone a bit ‘Gothic’ here – probably because these types of shot suit more extreme layering. One you get used to this as a normal part of post processing it’s easy to build up a library of textures from free downloads or texture shots you take yourself.

There’s a detailed free tutorial here if anyone wants to see the process in more detail.

Give it a try – it can really add a special look to your images – especially for book cover stock. It’s also good for hiding dust and scratches on film images, and for adding some colour to black and white shots.

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking!

Tree Tuesday Part Fifteen

A bit of an unusual Tree Tuesday this week – and rather sad. This is a Black Poplar in the grounds of the National Trust’s White Mill in East Dorset – a place I know very well as I’m a volunteer there during the summer. It’s age is anywhere between 300 and 500 years and the species itself is very rare.

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It died several years ago, and we didn’t know that the stump was hollow. The years of spiders webs and rotting wood accumulated in there is spectacular.

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I suppose the very high rainfall we’ve had this year contributed to the collapse, and as the tree is now unsafe it will have to be cut down – this is in a garden open to the public. It’s provided a home for snakes, birds and huge fungi for many years and will be greatly missed by all who know the site.

On the positive side, many cuttings were taken 15 years ago and are planted around East Dorset, so it’s not all bad.

Thanks for looking – Happy Tree Tuesday.

ps. There’s an article about Black Poplars here if you’re interested.

Security…

Dorset hasn’t got any cities as far as I know – just some towns here and there and lot of villages. There’s a bit of ‘urban’ here and there but it’s difficult to find. So from this rural backwater here’s a ‘security’ special (don’t get too excited!).

First up an abstract of some barbed wire. Simple really – but that’s always the rule.

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Second, and third the same location but different post processing using layers. The first one is a bit more extreme.

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Finally a bit of a fascination – security cameras. Shown against a very traditional brick and stone background enhances the effect.

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All shots taken for the book market, hope you like them.

Weekend Infrareds

Time for a few infrared images, and why not – it’s Friday – have a good weekend!  All shots on a converted Fuji F810 + R72 filter (3 images).

All of these were from a typical IR location but the pollarded trees added an extra something.

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Same location and the appeal of converging lines always sets something off when I see it.

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This one’s a favourite – with digital IR the exposure is always a bit hit and miss – this one was just what I was after!

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All shots taken for the book cover market – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

Some Summer Abstracts

It’s nearly the end of the week, and since spring in the UK is very late the year (snow warnings in March!) I’m posting something brighter in the hope it will urge the rain to finally stop and the sun to come out.

First one – one of those odd compositions which sells quite well. What I was thinking at the time I’ve no idea!

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Next, out of focus tulips and a great blast of colour.

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Finally a street light shadow on a bridge – just simple shapes and colour really.00083063

All shots taken for the book cover market – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

Manual Focus Lenses on A DSLR – The Search for that ‘Magic’ MF Lens

When this series started I was really excited about doing some proper tests on lenses which I’d used on an Olympus 620 and a Canon 60D for several years. Always in search of that ‘magic’ lens which would give images a special touch, this post is a summary of my experience working with these lenses.

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This is a shot from the Vivitar Series One 70-210 – quite close to that ‘magic’ lens

There are a few complete duffers which I didn’t bother to test – but they didn’t cost much so it didn’t matter – and here’s one.

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The unbelievably small Industar 50mm f3.5. It’s so small it’s unusable really, and the results – from this copy – are not that good, so the planned test was cancelled.

To make their use worthwhile, MF lenses must offer either a significant aperture speed advantage over a kit lens, or show some special optical quality which modern AF zooms can’t create at a bargain price which makes them attractive.

Of the lenses tested, running from 17mm through to 300mm, it’s the ones in the 24mm-85mm range which stand out.

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Is that a lenscap? Oh no, it’s an Olympus EPL3! Another one where the test was abandoned – a ‘loaner’ from Pete and Jayne, a 400mm Tokina f5.6. Is MF with an 800mm equivalent possible? Maybe, but it’s just not worth the trouble. Testing the 300mm was bad enough – I’m not doing extreme telephotos again!

Less than 24mm and the max apertures are about the same as a kit zoom, and the performance more or less the same.

At 24mm to 85mm the aperture advantages are significant, as are the corresponding improvements in bokeh.

After 85mm, things start to even out again, the difficulties in focussing MF lenses at smaller telephoto apertures – just when you need critical focussing – start a downward turn which at some point becomes a breaking point. For me it is 135mm at f2.8. After that telephoto lenses become progressively more difficult to use as the max apertures get smaller – autofocus and image stabilisation start to become indispensable.

The ‘stars’ from the tests then –

The Zuiko 24mm f2.8 is a brilliant 35mm equivalent on a 60D. Sharp, contrasty and light.

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Unreservedly recommended – the Zuiko 24mm f2.8. I must get one!

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 is very good even wide open and a good portrait lens.

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The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 – lovely colours, shallow depth of field and a perfect portrait lens.

For sheer eccentricity the Jupiter/Helios 85mm f2 is the best of them all, producing some unique results – the closest I’ve come to that ‘magic’ lens.

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The Helios 85mm f2 – the soft bokeh and image softness are a unique combination. The closest to my mythical ‘magic’ lens so far.

The Zuiko 85mm f2 is the ‘sensible’ alternative to the Helios. Both produce results at f2 which are very different to a kit lens at 85mm at f5.6.

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The Zuiko 85mm f2 – not as crazy as the Helios but more predictable. Some might prefer it’s cooler more restrained images.

For macro, the Zuiko 50mm f3.5 is also a good general purpose lens, but I’d rather have the zoom range and macro capability of the Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 Macro. However, I’d need to know it was needed before all that weight went into the camera bag.

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The Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 Macro – a legend of a lens and excellent on digital. The macro mode is superb. I just wish it weighed a bit less!

If I’m being brutally honest, the list stops there. When you come to pack the camera bag for a shoot, the Canon EF 70-300 is always going to be preferred to any of the MF lenses past 135mm, and probably 85mm. There just isn’t the compelling case to regularly use these lenses at their max aperture/weight/size/performance – it’s as simple as that.

Any of the four lenses above are a very good complement to a wide/standard and a telephoto AF zoom. With the exception of the Vivitar they could routinely be carried in the camera bag without weighing you down too much. None of them should cost more than around £140.

So – this test series finally finished ! It’s been good fun and worth the effort – even if it’s only to pare down my collection of old lenses to the best ones. The only downside is that now I’m on the hunt for a Zuiko 24mm f2.8….

Links to all the MF lens tests on a DSLR can be found here on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Hope you find this useful, and it saves you some time and money…

A Few More Bits and Pieces

Another non-themed post made up of shots that don’t fit into any particular category – and what a mish mash we’ve got here!

First – autumn and some wet paving slabs. Given a colour characteristic in DXO filmpack (Superia I think) but other than that…(3 images)

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Changing tack completely, a wrecked TV in one of the abandoned house locations. Why someone smashed it then stuffed some aluminium food packaging in there like a microwave is anyone’s guess.00180315

Finally a fairy ornament from a hobby shop resting on some leaves – part of a macro shoot which didn’t really work out as I’d planned but produced something which wasn’t too bad. 00225283

I told you this was a mish mash!

All shots taken for the book cover market – in a remarkably random way – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 300mm f4.5

This is the thirteenth of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap(ish) but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The series ends with the monster Zuiko 300mm f4.5, on loan from Pete and Jayne who might be happy that so much bulk has been temporarily removed from their house. I’ve lugged this thing around for a week or two, trying to get six decent shots to test its qualities but it’s a tough challenge, mounted on a tripod or hand-held.

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Horton Tower from the North – it’s on the horizon a mile away from where this was taken. Quite good contrast and sharpness.

With an effective cropped focal length of 480mm it’s well into specialist lens territory, and the tiny angle of view and huge magnification make it’s use difficult at best.  Supporting the bulk of the lens with the left arm when shooting hand-held made the muscles ache after a few minutes – photography and weight lifting at the same time – a novel experience!

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The bokeh is a bit ‘busy’ but not too bad at all.

Just aligning the lens with a small distant subject is in itself a bit of a knack. The best way is to line up the top of the lens looking down the outside of the barrel, them move the eye to the viewfinder. I imagine it’s the way old cannons (not Canons) were aimed.

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Telephoto perspective compression is extreme – as is the shallowness of depth of field at all distances.

Apertures run from f4.5 to f32, the minimum focus distance is 3.5 metres and the filter size is a standard 72mm screw in type.

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After a plenty of practice, the trick is to find something fine and contrasty to focus on, in this case the telephone wires. If you need to make sure do some focus bracketing!

The attached tripod mount addresses a definite requirement for camera stability, and suggests that the Olympus designers thought the weight might put unacceptable strain on all metal OM bodies. Even on a day with light winds, using ‘focus magnify’ on the 60D’s LCD, the image jittered around –  and it’s a fairly heavy tripod.

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The attached tripod mount at the base of the lens. The knob is to loosen it so it can be rotated for portrait/landscape – or any other – orientation.

The lens itself is probably the best made lens I’ve seen – solid, precise all metal with a wide focus ring – generally gorgeous. It’s far removed from the tiny ‘jewel like’ Zuikos everyone’s familiar with.

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Even the bulky 60D is made to look insignificant – this lens is a giant. With the built-in lens hood extended it only gets worse. The Fotodiox adaptor used wasn’t relied upon to support the lens unaided, but I’m sure it would have coped.

Just a few test shots this time. It’s difficult to find a suitable subject at this focal length – you need to be a long way from it. This tower seemed like the best bet.

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This is Horton Tower from the South and a but further away. The frame to the right is darker due to a very out of focus tree – nothing to do with a lens fault.

But lurking in most shots with backlit subjects is a bit of a horror – really bad chromatic aberration. It’s most obvious at f4.5 but it never really leaves images taken at any aperture. It also appears around the out of focus areas as red/green edges to the highlights.

Sometimes it’s purple.

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This is the top left of the tower. Not good.

And sometimes it’s red. I had the Zuiko 180mm f2.8 years ago and it suffered from the same problem. Maybe it’s inevitable at these focal lengths and fast apertures.

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This is an enlargement from the centre of the frame.

So,  is this lens worth the £300 they go for second-hand?

Unfortunately – no.

Unless you’re the sort of photographer who doesn’t mind its drawbacks of chromatic aberration, very difficult manual focussing and epic weight and bulk. At f4.5 it’s only just faster than the f5.6 at 300mm of an AF zoom, which is a fraction of the weight and performs just as well – better in fact for CA.

It’s a beautifully made thing though, and I can see why collectors buy them. For practical photographic purposes though it’s pretty bad. In this case at least, a very high quality lens with an extreme focal length which was good enough for film just doesn’t cut it for digital. It really makes me admire the skill of 35mm photographers using MF lenses like this to capture fast-moving sports images.

Still, it’s been great fun – if slightly frustrating – to have a play around with. If I’m honest though I’m glad this test is over!

Thanks for looking and 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.

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!

Tree Tuesday Part Fourteen

Part fourteen already? Well here we go…

First up – a telephoto shot of a clump of trees on an autumn day in Wiltshire. That dark sky and foreground made a nice shot (four images).

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This ones on film with a fast telephoto lens (can’t remember what), and lots of post processing gave an IR effect.

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Next the fog just past this tree made a nice ‘horizon’ in some morning mist.

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Finally a village street and road on a stormy morning.

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As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography. Happy Tree Tueaday!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 200mm f4

This is the twelfth (and almost the last!) of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The subject of this mini review is the Zuiko 200mm f4, a 320mm equivalent on an APS-C DSLR and just a bit faster than a 75-300mm AF Canon zoom lens at the same focal length. This ones another on loan from Pete and Jayne – Pete apparently has a weakness for telephoto lenses.

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The lens is easy to focus in bright light, and produces some excellent results using centre weighted metering mode.

The filter size is 55mm and the aperture range is f4 to f32 (not sure why f32 is needed but it’s nice to have). The focus rack goes from infinity to the minimum focus distance of 2.5 m in quite a bit more than 180 degrees.

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Colours are on the cold side, but very acceptable. The contrast across the aperture range is good too, better than the 135 f2.8. The depth of field is obviously very narrow at 200mm at f4, and the bokeh is pretty good.

The built-in lens hood protects the front element from flare effectively, and makes me wonder why they aren’t built into all lenses.

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In bright light there’s not much chromatic aberration (purple on the left top of the sign), and telephoto compression is starting to get very pronounced.

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More very soft bokeh and sharpness of in focus areas – this is excellent.

Physically the lens is made to an exceptionally high standard – light weight and all metal with a real quality feel to it. It ‘fits’ the 60D really well, the generous focus ring is smooth – all pretty much perfect.

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The lens mount adaptor is the very well made made Fotodiox EF to OM.

A great MF lens then, and highly recommended? Like the 135mm f2.8, a qualified yes. F4 is only 2/3 of a stop faster than a normal tele zoom lens so there’s no real aperture speed advantage. Focussing in dull light is at best ‘hit and miss’ on the standard 60D focussing screen even for stationary subjects – let alone moving ones. As sports and nature photography are this lenses’ home territory this is unfortunate.

The negatives aren’t about the lens itself, which is truly excellent, rather about using medium telephoto MF lenses on DSLR. I’m a bit sceptical about the need for AF up to around 85mm where the speed of equivalent MF lenses make focussing easy. As the max apertures drop to f2.8 at 135mm, and f4 at 200mm, the focussing screens get darker, and the focussing becomes progressively more critical – two unavoidable principles of optical design. As a consequence, AF comes into its own at longer focal lengths, as well as IS.

For me the ‘break point’ is 135mm. I took loads of shots for this test, but those taken on overcast days weren’t that good – though that might be just me!

In conclusion then, if you’re determined to use one or have one lying around give it a try but be aware that focussing on anything other than a sunny day may be a problem. If you’re not that determined, I’d suggest instead a modern AF lens – the Canon EF 70-300mm is a good all-rounder, even if the build quality doesn’t come close to these superbly built old Zuikos. A final alternative, even if it is a very heavy one, is the Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 macro, which is a bit easier to focus, and has a very nice macro mode too.

These lenses are relatively rare on the second-hand market varying between £90 and £150 (there’s a cheaper f5 version too).

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.

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!