Things Probably Best Not Done – But….

The Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens has proved a bit of a star on a Canon 5d MK2 and a 60D. I use old Oly lenses on an EPL5 via a Micro Four Thirds to EF adaptor fronted by an EF to OM adaptor (you can see where this is going) which means it’s possible to mount the Siggy on the EPL5, so it had to be done, purely for experiment’s sake.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Good start.

The first thing to realise is that there is only one aperture available – f1.4 – there is no electronic communication between lens and camera using this adaptor, and no external aperture ring. At f1.4 this lens is sharp, so maybe there’s some potential.

The second limitation is no autofocus, but the EPL5 has a VF4 viewfinder attached which is great for manual focus using ‘focus magnify’.

The third is that this combination is somewhat out of balance, the EPL5 looking like an end cap. Still I can carry the lens with the camera hitching a ride.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

One aperture, no AF and ridiculously unbalanced – it’s got to be done!

However it is a 100mm f1.4 equivalent and the EPL5 has ‘in camera’ image stabilisation so worth a try…

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

A handsome model down at the allotments. Good isolation and bokeh – this could be useful.

‘Macro’ is around 40cm, but with a 100mm equivalent on the EPL5’s small sensor you can get in quite close :-

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Good colour using the ‘i-enhance’ colour profile. If you need greater depth of field – tough – there’ only f1.4

Using ‘focus magnify’ is interesting – it’s very precise but the magnified display in the VF4 jumps around when hand held making things tricky. Maybe a tripod is called for.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

This isn’t too bad at all – if you can nail the focus.

Good for closer stuff, but how are things at further focus distances? It’s the mill again…..

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

The complete frame focussed using the VF4 as best I could. At this size it looks sharp enough.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

The centre of the image.

This is odd – there’s more chromatic aberration but that’s probably down to DXO Optics 9 not doing auto correction (these images are straight conversions). Parts look sharp but others don’t – strange! As this camera and lens combo wasn’t meant to be used together it’s not too surprising. The lens adaptor may also be partly to blame as it’s not a very good one…

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Couldn’t agree more!

Is this combo useful? I certainly wouldn’t suggest buying an expensive lens like this for use on an EPL5 with no aperture control or AF – a Zuiko 50mm 1.4 with external aperture control would be better and much cheaper even if the performance at f1.4 would be inferior to this lens. If you’ve already got one though it might be useful where you need a 100mm equivalent lens at f1.4 (portraits in low light, stage photography etc).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful – or at least some fun!

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An OM Zuiko 50mm f3.5 Macro on a Canon 5d MK2

Hanging around the 50mm focal length in these tests (I seem to have a few 50mm lenses), it’s time for a 50mm macro. I tested this lovely old lens on a Canon 60D (here) some time ago and found it to be pretty good on a ‘crop frame’ sensor. The predictable question is – what’s it like on full frame? All shots in aperture priority, ‘evaluative’ metering mode, shot in RAW and converted in DXO Optics 9.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

At minimal focus distance – this lens gets you quite close!

This is an old OM series lens from the film days – an adaptor will be needed to fit it to a modern DSLR.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Here it is at infinity focus, compact, light and generally rather satisfying to use.

The lens is an ‘old school’ quality all metal affair with a smooth focussing rack going from infinity to 23 cm in almost a full turn. Obviously there’s no autofocus or image stabilisation – these features weren’t invented when this was made. Note how much of that turn is past 1 metre in the shot above – fast, fluid focussing makes this lens a pleasure to use.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

At closest focus distance and fully extended.

To give you a rough idea the closest focus distance is around three inches/seven cm in front of the lens – it can go closer but you’ll have to read on to find out how! At this closest distance, reproduction is around 1/2 life-size (i.e. the subject is 1/2 as big on the sensor as it is in real life).

Onto a few samples then – and before we start, shooting these was some of the best photographic fun I’ve had in a while. Looking for shots at this scale is very absorbing and time-consuming. If you’re going shooting with any companions make sure they’re patient and understanding!

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Taken at f3.5 using the ‘gently move the camera back and forth until the subject is in focus’ technique. Sharp enough I’d say.

Focussing on the 5D’s default screen is quite easy – depth of field is very shallow at these distances at f3.5, and it’s pretty obvious when things are in focus. The major problem is camera shake – keep the shutter above 1/250th with a higher ISO if necessary.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

A classic subject for a macro lens – taken on an overcast day at f3.5. The bokeh is nicely behaved and unobtrusive.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Shooting hand-held at arm’s length on the LCD is a bit tricky (these were seven feet off the ground on the tree)  but it sometimes comes off.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

The colours are natural, the only oddity being that an ‘auto levels’ in Photoshop produces a green or blue tinge. This isn’t unusual when shooting with older lenses.

Good so far, especially given that these are all hand-held. To get a bit closer let’s dig out the old OM extension tubes…

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

These all metal Olympus extension tubes were bought second-hand when I was a student some 30 years ago, and have paid for themselves several times over. Amazingly they come in three velvet lined boxes – a cut above modern kit packaging! I always feel rather spoilt when they’re used, and it’s quite nostalgia trip.

The extension tubes are 7mm, 14mm and 25mm deep and extend the distance between the lens and subject allowing for higher magnification. With the 25mm tube the reproduction ratio is 1:1 – i.e.  the subject image is as large on the sensor as it is in real life. Using the front half of the ‘Kod Pus‘ as a subject – an old folding Kodak rollfilm camera – this is as close as the lens gets without any extension tubes.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Without extension tubes this is as close as you can get. The front lens is about 14cm / 1/2 an inch in diameter.

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

With the 25mm extension ring (1:1).

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

With all three rings stacked (46mm extension and quite a bit greater than 1:1!).

Using extension tubes really tests the resolution of a lens as only a portion of the image circle strikes the sensor – the greater the extension the smaller the segment used. Still, these aren’t too bad at all – even if those markings are rather confusing – Marine?

Canon 5d Mk2, Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro

Back outdoors again – even at f3.5 at close distances the shallow depth of field can look quite ‘expensive’.

All in all then a sensible, well-behaved lens which shows good to excellent results even when hand-held. If you can live without AF and IS, save  some money- they’re quite common on the second-hand market at around £100, but the extension tubes are relatively rare and I’ve no idea how much they go for – glad I held on to mine! There is an f2 version, but that’s rare and pretty expensive.

Warning – if you do get this (or any macro lens) be ready for slow progress on photo days out…

The tech specs for this (and lots of other old Zuikos) are here.

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.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 ‘Art’ on a Canon 60D

Having played around with this lens on a 5d Mk2 (here), I had to try it on an APS-C Canon 60D. Sharing the same EF mount, it will be an 80mm equivalent but testing against the 60D’s greater pixel density (18mp in a smaller sensor) should be interesting.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A good start at f1.4 – smooth bokeh, focus correct with good colour.

I feel it’s rather well suited to the smaller 60D body – a good balance with a bright viewfinder due to that 1.4 aperture.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At close distances – lovely! f1.4

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

For close-ups (the min focus is 40cm) at 1.4 this lens produces dramatic isolation and blurred away backgrounds. f1.4

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At close focus distances the bokeh can be surreal – those two dark peaks in the background are yew trees. f1.4 at around 60cm/two feet at f1.4. These extreme effects – stronger than a Zuiko/Canon EF 50mm 1.4 are probably down to the larger front element of the Sigma (6 cm vs 3.5 cm) which is designed to reduce vignetting.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At longer distances the sharpness shines out. It’s difficult to believe this is at f1.4 (it is – I promise)!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

It does have other apertures….. At f8 sharpness and contrast are exemplary.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sharpness at the edge is better on the 60D – this isn’t really the edge of the full frame image circle so it should be.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

More leaves, spectacular bokeh etc etc (you’re getting the idea).

So – you guessed it, quick test time for something approaching a scientific test – the full scene with which you may be familiar. Centre AF point only.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The first, and major problem is the the autofocus on the 60D mis-focusses quite often – much more so than the 5DMk2. The initial series had to be re-shot with manual focus.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

AF result at 1.4 – not good.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4, manual focus – better. There’s a bit of CA – more than on the 5D, but this can be removed manually (the DXO profile has already had a bash at these but not quite succeeded).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

1.4 edge – excellent

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 – faultless

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 centre

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 edge – this is even resolving more of the mesh across the chimney entrances!

After the results from the 5DMK2 this isn’t exactly unexpected – this is an exceptionally sharp lens on full frame, so APSC results should be too. There’s more chromatic aberration than on the 5DMK2, possibly a result of the DXO optics module not being so well tuned – it should already be removing it as part of its default processing. It’s easily fixed with some manual adjustments.

The biggest problem on the 60D is the greater proportion of mis-focussed shots using autofocus. This can be corrected using the optional USB dock, but I wouldn’t relish the prospect as the problem seems to be quite random. It might also mess up focussing on the 5dMk2 which is fine out of the box and the camera this will be used on most of the time.

Why this is may be down to the less sophisticated AF in the 60D, or just the fact that it’s an older camera – on a 70D it might be fine. I’ll stick to using manual focussing at apertures less than f4 – it’s not that difficult when you’re used to it, and the results are spectacularly good when you get it right. Alternatively use live view where the results should be 100% in focus.

All in all, an excellent lens if you’re prepared to put some work in. Resolution at f1.4 is breathtakingly good at both centre and edge. Some may think it too sharp for a portrait lens, and as an 80mm equivalent its ideally suited to portraiture. However it’s easy to soften a sharp image, but not so easy the other way round!

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

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