A Jupiter 85mm f2 on an Olympus EPL5

The popularity of the review of this lovely lens back in February on a Canon 60D’s APSC sensor made me wonder how well it fares on a smaller Micro Four Thirds camera, as some readers are obviously interested (all three of you!). The 2x ‘crop factor’ makes this a 190mm equivalent, so getting into mid telephoto territory. All shot on an unseasonably warm and bright winter’s day, here are the results.

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The ‘brute’ on the EPL5.. The adaptors are a Micro Four Thirds to Canon EF then to M42 thread mount (the lens mount of the Helios). You may notice that the lens isn’t quite lined up – due to the cheapness of the EF to M42 adaptor!

The Olympus EPL5 is a very nicely built 16Mp mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, and it usually has an ultralight Lensbaby Sweet 35 ‘welded’ to it’s front. Surprisingly the weight of the all metal bodied Helios feels quite reassuring on the small camera body, and doesn’t seem overbalanced, but it’s close. The use of the EPL5’s (optionally attached) grip helps handling a lot.

In terms of appearance, it looks exactly like it was made on heavy machinery in a russian industrial complex (it was – probably in Krasnogorsk – ‘Made in the USSR’ is stamped on the underside), with basic aperture and focus markings and an intermittently milled focus ring. Though a bit of a brute I really like it, and the results justify it’s use. There’s obviously no autofocus, and centre weighted metering should be used, along with RAW as exposures can be a little random.

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That fantastic bokeh reappears on the little Oly! This is quite encouraging. As with the Canon 60D the depth of field close up at f2 is razor thin.

On the Canon 60D (below) the lens produced some odd ‘swirly’ bokeh, and a orange colour cast. On the Micro Four Thirds sensor the results are more conventional without any colour shift, but still very good.

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On the 60D and an APSC sensor

Generally the results weren’t as spectacularly good on the EPL5 as on the 60D. Then towards the end of the test my brain engaged and the reason is obvious:-

On a 60D (1.6 ‘crop factor’) this is a 135mm equivalent, on the EPL5 (2x ‘crop factor’) it’s closer to 200mm. This means to frame the same shot I’m standing further away with the Oly, and as depth of field increases the further away a lens is focussed (or conversely narrows the closer a lens is focussed) the extreme depth of field effects on the 60D just weren’t being allowed to happen on the EPL5 for the same shot.

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Though they don’t have the same ‘erased away’ appearance as the 60D shots, this is still pretty good – much better than a kit lens.

This isn’t a macro lens as such, but with a minimal focus distance of 80cm and a 200mm equiv focal length you can get quite close :-

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Close up (a few feet), and the colours are great.

All in all then, a pretty good lens for the EPL5, even though getting the special ‘look’ of those images on the 60D is more difficult. It’s certainly better than a kit lens on the EPL5 for achieving some decent bokeh – more or less everything is in focus at most apertures with the 14-42 kit lens.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

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.

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.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Vivitar Series One 70-210 f3.5

This is the sixth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. I’ve been digging out some of my favourite 35mm OM mount lenses for reuse, and this one emerged from storage and begged to be resurrected. The Vivitar Series One line was a successful attempt by Vivitar to make their independent lenses as good as those of the premium camera makers, and this one was a bit of a legend with a unique trick up it’s tail!

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f4 at max tele setting – lovely shallow depth of field and very soft tones

Several manufacturers were sub-contracted to make them including Kiron (serial numbers starting 22) and Olympus (serial numbers starting 6) but the later models weren’t that good, so if you’re thinking of getting one after reading this check here for the definitive history. In short, steer clear of anything with apertures f4.5 – f5.6.

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Maximum macro at a few cm – this is like carrying around a compact like a G9 – except it’s anything but compact!

What’s so special? It’s a fast (at least at the tele end) zoom with a fixed f3.5 across the zoom range, cracking performance and the most amazing macro mode which I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s also very well made – as good as Zuikos and the Helios 85mm tested earlier – all metal and very heavy, the weight acting as a primitive sort of image stabilisation through sheer inertia. The APS-C equivalent range is approximately 112mm to 336mm so pretty much the entire range from mid to the near end of extreme telephoto. The lens adaptor is a Fotodiox, but many are available.

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Macro at medium distance – nice out of focus highlights and very good colour.

The filter size is 67mm, the minimum focus (non-macro) is 2 metres, and infinity to a few cm in macro mode (see later – it makes sense!).

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Macro at 300mm equivalent – included for comparison with the other lenses in the test series, and a cold, neutral colour cast.

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At longer focal lengths, compressed telephoto perspective is evident. Focussing in the viewfinder is easier at the tele end (this was taken around 150mm) but the LCD is needed for fine focussing. A tripod is pretty useful too!

To engage macro mode, the zoom ring is pulled back to 210mm, and a button pressed to allow another ring at the base of the lens to be rotated. The lens is now ‘locked’ at 210mm and zooming in and out allows focus from infinity to a few cm. The zoom ring (in/out) acts as a coarse focussing mechanism, with the focussing motion (rotate) working for fine focus. To disengage macro mode pull the zoom ring to 210mm and reverse the procedure. It’s easier than it sounds and quite brilliant!

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You know you’ve got something heavy attached – be careful who you point this at! It’s surprisingly well-balanced on the 60D, but it was too much for an Olympus 620. On 35mm OM’s it’s a bit too heavy, probably because I’m used to Zuiko primes which are so small and light. The zoom ring slides under gravity when the lens is pointed downwards – not good for tripod work.

So a quick test at 70, 135 and 210 mm.

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f3.5 – A smidge of CA and slightly soft but perfectly acceptable.

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f8 – Sharp as anything else on the 60D. f5.6 is the same

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f16 – unchanged.

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135mm

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f3.5 – a bit vague here – but not bad.

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f8 – same at f5.6 and excellent

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f16 – perfect!

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210mm

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f3.5 – a bit soft but not bad

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f8 – no complaints here.

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f16 – slightly improved if anything.

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Across the zoom range and at all apertures except 3.5 this is superb, and at f3.5 it’s not too bad either. Add to that the amazing macro mode and it’s irresistible, and despite the weight it’s going straight back into the camera bag.

What’s best though is the price – I got this one from Ebay for £10 (yes ten), sold by someone who apparently liked nothing better than a spot of oily engine maintenance followed by some photography. It was truly filthy but cleaned up beautifully in 1/2 hour or so. Several agency shots have sold from this lens so it’s paid for itself tens of times over.

If I’m honest, the reason for purchase was that I always wanted one when they were way out of my price range in the 1980’s (£400 as I remember), and I didn’t expect much – but what a pleasant surprise. Highly recommended at ten times the price (all of £100!). Remember to shoot in RAW though, as with all MF lenses, the exposures can be a bit wayward.

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.