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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Five Hundred Shots (and Two Weeks) with a Sony RX100

I’ve been hunting around for a pocket camera which can produce commercial quality images for some time now, and I’ve finally found one which fits the bill. This mini-test describes some ‘first impressions’ after a few weeks.

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Good colour and exposure in macro mode – good start!

In order to be useful it needed to replace my old Canon G9 (which has done a brilliant job as a “carry everywhere” workhorse), be truly pocketable and have around 18-25 Mp resolution to prevent excessive image resizing to meet minimal agency requirements. It must also shoot RAW to give the widest flexibility in post processing….

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Unbelievably small!

Here’s another on a CD with the roll of 35mm film – it really is tiny!

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The lens is a 28-100mm equivalent, f1.8 to f4.9. f4.9 is slow for a 100mm lens – however my Canon 15-85mm zoom on the 60D is f5.6 at 85mm so it’s not that bad! In bright light, the 1/2000th of a second shutter isn’t fast enough for f1.8 at 28mm so a neutral density filter is needed if you want to get shallow depth of field effects (it can be held over the lens).

The physical controls are very configurable – I’ve assigned ISO to the rotating ring around the lens mount, and exposure compensation, image quality, DRO optimisation level, AF mode etc to the Fn button. In aperture priority mode the rear control dial varies the aperture, and it all works well. The camera keeps up well with frantic setting changes so no complaints.

20Mp image quality is very good with low noise to to ISO 800 – about the same normal working range I’d use on the 60D. The large sensor is obviously making a significant difference.

Sharpness at 28mm and f1.8 is a bit weak probably due to distortion correction, but cleans up by f2.5. At longer focal lengths its sharp enough across the frame for me.

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Test shot in good light – colours tweaked from the default using an ACR colour profile (see later). 18mm, f5.6, 1/500th at ISO 100.

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Centre of the frame – the lens is sharp enough to pick out some telephone wires behind the tree which is impressive.

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Edge definition is fine too.

The Sony RAW converter is OK – but converting the ARW files to DNG format with Adobe’s RAW converter then using Adobe Camera RAW processing gives better results with more flexibility. Colour seems a little over saturated in RAW – especially a yellow hue to greens. ACR colour profiles by Maurizio Piraccini here allow for more neutrals results – and add a few colour options (thanks!).

Macro at 28mm and f1.8 is excellent, but the minimum focus distance increases dramatically as the focal length increases. The shallow depth of field at these close focus settings produces some good results – but it’s not a fast 50mm or 85mm on APSC or 35mm.

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Macro and some late bluebells .

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The last of the apple blossom. The slightly curved out of focus background highlights are like those produced by a Zuiko 50mm f1.4.

It reminds me most of a 35mm Minox camera which was a lovely small camera with a fixed sharp 35mm f2.8 lens. I really liked that camera – until it broke through overuse.

The special effects modes (JPEG only) aren’t bad, 10 frames per second is a bit over the top for me, but the multi frame dynamic range options and DRO settings look promising – I’ll do a test at a later date. All in all a very flexible package, and combined with an IR R72 and Neutral density filter (58mm diameter) a very portable one too.

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

Rocking Horses and Russian Dolls

(Four Images). The search for saleable stock images on a wet day leads you to have a look around the house for something to shoot – hence a very strange combination of subjects….

Starting with the russian dolls – no idea when these were bought, they were just sitting on a mantelpiece. A plain white background left cover designers an opportunity to place whatever background they wanted. The camera was an Oly 620 with the 50mm f3.5 macro.

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Same subject, different angle – the important thing is the part of the image which is out of focus.

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And next it’s the rocking horse, sitting under the stairs, it’s been there for years but worth a few shots both taken on the 60D. Can’t remember the lens – sorry.

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This was enhanced using the ‘Toy Camera’ effect, giving a vignetted/faded appearance.

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If it’s not that good outside, have a look around the house for something to photograph – it can work really well and it’s better than watching the TV!

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

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 Militaria Part 2

This is a second post about shooting militaria, the result of an epic weekend of shooting as I worked my way through boxes of deactivated bullets, cap badges and weapons.

These are all regimental insignia – designed to be graphic and eye-catching so an excellent subject!

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The gauntlet of the Royal Armoured Corps.

It’s not until you look closely that you notice small touches – I hadn’t noticed the grass when taking this shot.

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King’s Own Hussars – the contrast between the brass regimental name and the silver horse and grass is very good.

Some of the designs are very abstract.

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And others are more self explanatory!

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Machine Gun Corps – a World War One

Thanks for looking , hope you like them. As always these shots are taken for the book cover market.

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.

Victorian Figure

I can’t resist poking around a junk shop looking for interesting bits and pieces, and last autumn I found this – a Victorian/Edwardian children’s doll which would hopefully be useful as a subject for a few stock photographs. All shot on a Canon 60D  + Zuiko 50mm f3.5 macro lens, post processed in Photoshop and DXO Filmpack.

First – shot – a bit of an abstract but the use of DXO has given the finished result a grey/silver sheen.

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Next – similar but with a green cast.

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No messing with colour rendition here – just a simple shadow and shapes.

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Layers here – and the use of low winter sunlight and a window in the background.

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Finally just a shadow – there are some trees a hundred yards away which cast some lovely diffuse shadows in the winter.

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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