A Zuiko 50mm f3.5 on a Sony A7R

The Zuiko 50mm f3.5 has been the only macro lens I’ve needed over the last ten years or so, and it’s always been a solid, sensible performer on several camera bodies (with adaptors). Having had such good results with some other Zuiko lenses on my Sony A7R it’s next in the list for mini review so here goes :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Vintage image of a Geisha copied from a faded late 19th century book of hand tinted photographs (original A4) now with my agency.

The most striking thing about this lens is that it’s so light – 212g or 7.4oz. It’s slightly longer than a 50mm f1.8 due to the long focus helicoid thread but all in all it could have been made for the A7R. This is obviously a manual focus lens with no autofocus or image stabilisation, attached to the camera with a NEX to OM adaptor. Getting the best out of lenses for the A7R’s sensor requires f5.6 to f11 on most lenses so the rather slow f3.5 maximum aperture isn’t that much or a problem – and best avoided.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

From above at minimum focus – all nice and light and matched perfectly to the A7R.

Focussing at further distances is nice and snappy due to a focus rack of only a few degrees between infinity and 1m/3ft (around 15 degrees I’d guess). The filter size is 49mm, apertures run from f3.5 to f22 and minimum focus is 23 cm where 1:2 macro is achieved (1/2 life-size on the sensor).

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Sadly there are only six aperture blades leading to hexagonal bokeh. Usually you’ll be focussing so close that it probably won’t matter.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Maximium magnification without tubes (1:2 macro).

 

As always the focus aids in the camera body make precision focus easy, reliably producing sharp results. There are a few matching extension tubes made by Olympus which will extend to 1:1 macro (life-size on the sensor) and beyond. These are 25mm (for 1:1), 14mm and 7mm for lesser magnifications. Once you pass 1:1 use becomes progressively more difficult! Even the slightest vibration on a tripod mounted camera becomes painfully obvious and exposures become longer the more macro you go. I’d personally stop at 1:1!

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

With the 25mm extension tubes and 1:1 macro.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

With all 3 extension tubes on – and extremely difficult to use, around 2:1 macro.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

All 3 extension tubes (and the adaptor) – there is such narrow depth of field using these that tightening a tripod screw will take the subject out of focus. This is not a ‘walk around’ combination and rather silly!

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

With all extension tubes on the small stamp at f8 – virtually no depth of field at all – sub 1 mm!

So, very useful for macro to 1:1, but beyond that magnification less so, becoming almost unusable at what is presumably 2:1 (twice life-size on the sensor). Up to 1:1 at f8 to f11 the resolution and colours are superb, beyond 1:1 a cyan cast appears and the resolution – not unsurprisingly – starts to drop dramatically.

But – most people will want to use this portable lens to get fairly close to flowers, insects etc.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

A butterfly (now obviously an ex-butterfly having been trapped in a building) taken with the camera resting on the window sill.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

And a central enlargement.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Get low enough and some nice macro shots are easy!

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Hand held at 1/320th and moderately close this is a good example of what this lens excels at on the A7R – despite the hexagonal bokeh.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Colours are quite vivid once the rather flat RAW files are processed – again fine for this sort of subject.

 

 

So for a general purpose hand held close-ups its pretty good too, as long as you keep the shutter speed high and take great care focussing. The resolution good to excellent with the caveat that there is so little depth of field at these closer distances that much of you images will be out of focus anyway so be extra careful what you focus on!

At infinity things are pretty good too (all hand-held shots) :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

The full frame which I’m sure you’re all familiar with.

 

f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Centre wide open – a bit soft but OK. Best avoided.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Edge wide open – not bad but not great either.

 

f8

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

f8 centre – stunning! Wow!

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

f8 edge – very good.

 

f16

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

f16 centre softening again.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f3.5

Same with the edge performance.

The conclusion for infinity focussing – a fantastic performance at the centre at f8, dropping to ‘very good’ at the edges. Like the Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at optimal apertures this seems to be getting close to doing justice to the 36Mp sensor of the A7R. Other apertures obviously aren’t – but few lenses (especially sub £100 lenses) can.

Overall an impressive little lens on this body. Useable up to 1:1 macro on a tripod, good for hand-held medium close-ups and superb as a general purpose 50mm when used at infinity at f8. The ‘fun factor’ using this lens to pick out fine detail is hard to beat too! At 212g it’s staying in the camera bag.

As with all the OM Zuikos tested on the A7R, the results are better than I’d expected. The ability to get very precise focus using EVF focussing aids, and the A7R’s metering (much more accurate than using them on DSLRs) produce files which, when post-processed, are the best I’ve produced using these lenses. They’re all more prone to flare than modern lenses but I can work around that. I may not need any Zeiss lenses if this trend continues!

Thanks for looking, hope you found this – rather long – review 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.

 

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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.

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.

00046053

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.

_MG_8431s

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.

IMG_0079s

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.

IMG_0078s

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.

f8s

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

3.5comp

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

f8comp

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

f16comp

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.