A Zuiko 50mm f1.8 on a Sony A7R

In the last of this series of mini-tests of OM Zuiko lenses on an A7R, the very humble 50mm f1.8 is under scrutiny this time. This one came ‘free’ with a second-hand OM2N a few years ago and until now hasn’t been used – my usual 50mm lens choice is my 50mm f1.4 which I’ve used for 34 years (a good investment!).

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

Bokeh wide open close up.

These were made in their tens (if not hundreds) of thousands by Olympus, being the ‘standard’ lens on OM series cameras for many years. They were slowly improved over three decades (1972 – 2002) gaining multi coating and improved designs and are often overlooked due to their cheapness, humble appearance and the fact that they were the ‘kit lens’ of their day. Let’s have a look.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

From above, tiny, light and very portable.

As you’d expect it’s of all metal construction, light (160g or 6 oz), around 3cm long, min focus is around 40cm, apertures run from f1.8 to f16 and it takes 49mm filters – all standard stuff and typical of what makes OM Zuikos so attractive to use.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

This is an ‘F Zuiko’ marked lens (meaning six elements) – it doesn’t help date it though (unless you know different!).

Everything on this mid-period still works smoothly, the focus mechanism is smooth and nicely geared though this version of the lens doesn’t appear to be multi coated. There are unfortunately only six aperture blades – eight would be better for out of focus highlights.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

Personally I shoot a lot at 50mm – just familiarity I suppose, and the fact that most of my book cover stuff looks natural and undistorted at this focal length.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

Depth of field at f1.8 is minimal as you’d expect. Here you can see some of those out of focus highlights have a bright outer rim which can look quite distracting in some shots especially if the highlights are many and close together. I think it’s quite attractive – it’s definitely different to the Zuiko 50mm f1.4’s very soft mushy bokeh – but you may not! It may not be a ‘problem’ with later versions of the lens so don’t let it put you off.

Here are a few more shots to illustrate the bokeh.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

Enough about the performance wide open – where some sharpness is sacrificed for subject isolation – how about its performance at f8 (the theoretical optimal aperture for  edge to edge sharpness)?

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

Pin sharp at f8

Pixel peeping this it looks very good! No chromatic aberration, edges very sharp and no distortion.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

At f2.8 sharpness picks up quickly and keeps a shallow depth of field.

So – with a hint of excitement – a proper test across apertures.

The whole frame (on a dull day). Crops from the centre and the top right.

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

f1.8

centre

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

edge

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

f4

centre

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

edge

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

f8

centre

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

edge

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

f16

centre

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

edge

Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R, Arcangel

At f1.8 it’s quite hazy and soft with some chromatic aberration and a slight amount of vignetting, but by f4 the centre is excellent and by f8 it’s excellent across the whole frame. By f16 – as always – things are going downhill again.

Using old prime lenses on a 36Mp full frame sensor is always going to push them to their limits and means putting up with some corner softness or chromatic aberration. This lens at f8 though does – amazingly – get very close to using all of that sensor resolution across the frame with no nasty side effects. Despite being single coated, I haven’t seen any flare problems either, but I have been using a lens hood during a mainly cloudy late summer. The only oddity is those bright edged out of focus highlights at maximum aperture which I like anyway!

I have to say it’s better in the corners than the other OM 50’s tested so far (my much-loved 1.4 and the 3.5 macro), f1.8 is only slightly slower than f1.4, so I’ll go as far to say to any A7R user – just get one! At £30 it’s the best value lens you’ll find. Later versions of the lens are reputed to be even better!

Watermarked shots have been post processed and have been accepted by my rather picky agency Arcangel in case you were wondering.

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.

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

There’s an informative page here on OM lens history here if you’d like a look :- http://esif.world-traveller.org/om-sif/lensgroup/lensterms.htm

 

 

Some More Ilford Delta 3200 (through a red R25A filter)

Being rather taken with this fast monochrome film (having used lower ISO rated films for years) here are a few more to whet the appetite.

i3259

Just about right – though I cheated a bit and added a vignette here for dramatic effect. 17mm.

All taken on a trip in winter round Poole Harbour (Dorset UK) on a drizzly, dull day using an OM2N, a Vivitar 17mm, a Zuiko 50mm f1.8 and R25A red filters to bring some drama to the patches of blue skies. Exposed at 1600 ASA the dev time was 9 1/2 minutes in D76 stock which does a good job with this film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

That looks suspiciously like a fingerprint on the right. Hmm. I’ll pretend it’s a Photoshop layer. 17mm.

The viewfinder is darkened using the filter (and everything is red obviously) but using smaller apertures and the depth of field markings is sufficient. It’s best to use these on the 17mm lens anyway as the viewfinder focus aids aren’t that useful on such a wide-angle lens where most things are in focus.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Hardly ‘gritty urban’ but it has something. The red filter has done a nice job on darkening the blue skies here. 17mm.

The ‘exposure factor’ for an R25A red filter is 3x so this is the equivalent of shooting at 200 ASA which is more than enough even on an overcast day using wide-angle lenses to use f11 or f16 and keep the shutter speed fast enough for hand holding.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.8

The light was just right here for a few seconds as the sun came out from between heavy clouds brightening the wet pavement and putting some highlights in the river ripples. 50mm.

The low contrast conditions meant that the whole roll was fairly flat, so some levels adjustments plus the inevitable dust spotting were needed.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Not that happy with the tone of the grass in this one. I suppose it’s the low diffuse light and the red filter. It’s OK though.

Though it’s difficult to be certain the red filter has brought out some nice detail in those clouds, improved (I think anyway) by the grain of the film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

My favourite from the day with the sun getting quite low and the path and trees looking ominous. The 17mm lens goes a bit soft at wider apertures (below f8) and f3.5 was needed for this but the trees hide it luckily.

In case you’re wondering if you can achieve the ‘look’ of this film in software, the answer is that you can – almost! The following two images are firstly the last of a roll of Adox Silvermax and secondly the first off the roll of Ilford Delta 3200. I know it’s converting from one film to another but Silvermax is a fine-grained well-behaved film and the image characteristics are similar to a monochrome converted digital shot. OK – not 100% convincing, I know for a proper comparison I should use a digital shot but I didn’t have a digital camera on me at the time.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

‘Proper’ Ilford Delta 3200 image

The Ilford image is quite low in contrast, the grain is quite soft and in the clouds the transitions between light and dark are nice and gentle. The DXO version comes very close, but this is with the contrast turned right down to a minimum. There is more detail visible in the buildings and the grain is sharp. I don’t personally think the clouds look as good but that’s purely personal.

Ilford Delta 3200 simulation, DXO film pack, , Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Simulated in DXO Film Pack from a Silvermax image (no filter present on the lens).

So it’s very close indeed and possibly good enough, but I still prefer the original. Whether the difference is worth messing around loading, processing and scanning proper film is up to you! It would be possible to process the Ilford image to look more like the DXO default output but the grain would still be too sharp on the DXO image and that process seems to be the wrong way round (Ilford isn’t simulating DXO!).

I’m so impressed by this film there’s a load on order and if you hadn’t already guessed it’s heartily recommended! Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.