Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – Zuiko 50mm f3.5 Macro

This is the seventh 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 f3.5 Macro, a light versatile lens which can focus from infinity to, well very close indeed.  The APS-C crop factor make this a medium telephoto 80mm equivalent, which is quite handy as you’re not too crowded in on your subject.

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As a macro lens, hand held or on a tripod it’s very good, even at max aperture of f3.5

The aperture range runs from f3.5 to f22, the smallest aperture being most useful in macro work where depth of field is a at a premium. The minimum focus is 23cm which works out very close to the front of the lens, and the filter size is the ever reliable Olympus standard of 49mm – Oly have saved me a fortune in filters over the years!

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I’ve used this as my only macro lens for years on film and digital. It’s a great all-rounder. This is a razor blade in its paper wrapper.

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This shot was hand held at max aperture – the control of the bokeh is nice and clean with no odd characteristics.

On the Canon 60D it’s just about right and perfectly in proportion. The very fast focus rack at further distances makes this a very responsive lens to focus in bright light as it races from infinity to 50cm in a quarter of a turn! The focus mechanism is the smoothest on any lens I’ve used – fast and fluid with just the right amount of resistance. The lens mount adaptor is by Fotodiox and is very precise and well made, but others are available.

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So having swiftly established credentials a macro lens, what’s it like as a general purpose 50mm lens used at all distances? Macro lenses are optimised for close-ups but they’re often very useable at longer focus distances too.

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As is common with macro lenses, the front lens element is recessed deep down into the lens barrel. I guess the depth of the barrel is there to provide the length of helicoid screw thread necessary to extend the lens.

So, the now familiar test scene.

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f3.5 – the centre is excellent already but the edge is a bit vague.

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f8 – excellent across the frame. f5.6 is the same.

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f16 – softening a little and the edge is going. f22 was even worse – diffraction setting and quite badly.

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As you can see a decent performance at wider apertures, in its mid aperture range it’s as good as it gets and only falls apart at f16 and smaller focussed at infinity (for macro work the smaller apertures are fine on a tripod).

Wandering around with a macro lens gives you a huge range of options for landscapes, portraits, mild macro and full on macro, and opens up a new world of possibilities. You find yourself looking more closely at all sorts of objects trying to get a shot which would be impossible with a kit or normal standard lens.

If hand holding macro shots keep the shutter speed high – camera shake is much more obvious taking close-ups so the faster the better as this lens has no image stabilisation  – 1/500th of a second of faster. I’d suggest using the LCD with focus magnify for both hand held or on a tripod based macro to get the focus point just right.

Now out of production, they’re available second-hand for around £75, the f2 version being a rare and a very expensive collectors piece. A possible alternative is the larger and heavier Vivitar Series One 70-210 f3.5 which has an amazing macro mode (at 210mm) and a very nice telephoto zoom range for general photography.

In conclusion, a very well-behaved, light and sharp macro lens which can be used successfully as a ‘normal’ lens at most mid range apertures. It’s around as fast as a kit lens at 50mm, but sharper at f5.6/f8 and offers macro too.

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.

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