An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

This is a short – well not that short – description of the spectacular Zuiko 50mm f1.2 on a 36Mp A7R. I’ve had this lens for about a year and it rapidly became my favourite 50mm. It was bought on the pretense that my old 1.4 was falling to pieces after thirty years of use, but if I’m honest I’ve always wanted one and it was up for sale in mint condition at Ffordes. And of course I’m a complete sucker for fast Zuikos, especially 50mm’s.

For those of you with the 1.8 or 1.4, I’ve included a brief comparison. All shot in RAW and developed in DXO Photolab. There aren’t any profiles for old lenses like this so you’re on your own when it comes to corrections. Luckily 50mm’s don’t need much correction.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Bokeh… This lens produces some very nice examples.

So starting with a description – it’s a bit wider and longer than the 1.4, but a lot bigger than the tiny 1.8. Despite being a 1.2 it takes 49mm filters like the other two. From left to right, the 1.8, the 1.4 and the 1.2. Prices are £10-20 for the 1.8 (or free with an OM2), £80-100 for the 1.4, £350 for the 1.2

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

1.8, 1.4 and 1.2 – it’s the other way round in the next diagram!

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The lens designs from the 1980’s Zuiko lens catalogue. The 1.2 is essentially an upscaled 1.4, the 1.8 shows it’s more humble design with fewer elements. If you’re interested in the historic development of lenses have a look here – fascinating :- https://wordpress.lensrentals.com/blog/2011/08/lens-geneology-part-1/

As per the other two, minimum focus is 45cm and the smooth rack from infinity to min focus is achieved in around 120 degrees. Like the 1.4, it has ten aperture blades, the 1.8 has eight.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

On the Rayqual adaptor which has solved some of my wideangle edge definition problems due to its precision (thanks for the tip https://phillipreeve.net/blog/)

It’s nicely balanced on the A7R, being nice and light (11.6 oz, or 330 g), and has a lovely smooth focus ring and snappy aperture ring. Altogether a real pleasure to use in a discrete package. As it’s a relatively recent Zuiko it’s got some very effective multi-coating, but I still like to use a lens hood.

So, physically it’s a lovely lens and a pleasure to use, but how does it perform?  You’re not buying this lens to use at f8 so let’s look at f1.2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Shallow depth of field and heavy post processing to produce an abstract.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example of the ‘Trioplan’ style bubble bokeh at f1.2. I like this effect but you may not. If you don’t you’ll be happy to know it’s gone by f2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example in colour. Note the classic flattening of the bokeh circles towards the edge of the frame.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And another with some light green/purple CA on the harsh table reflections. It’s no too difficult to remove in post, but here doesn’t distract from the shot IMHO.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And some creative overexposure just for good measure.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

At middle distances the shallow depth of field is less obvious but adds some subtle depth to an image.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Colour, contrast and sharpness are exemplary at f5.6 to f8, but this wouldn’t look that different at anywhere between f2 and f16.

It may be a bit tedious, but no lens test is complete without a full aperture range set of samples, so here we go…..

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The test frame at f1.2. Some light vignetting in the corners – it’s gone by f4. As you can probably see, f1.2 for landscapes isn’t recommended unless you like a ‘vintage’ effect or are good at post-processing.

f1.2 centre

12c

f1.2 edge

12e

As you can see there’s some overexposure which would need fixing in RAW, a little CA and a veiling flare across the frame. It’s possible to tidy most of this up in post, but importantly edge and central definition are already quite good.

f2 centre

2c

f2 edge

2e

All tidied up at f2. Centre and edge definition are already very good.

f2.8 centre

28c

f2.8 edge

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f5.6 centre

56c

f5.6 edge

56e

f8 centre

8c

f8 edge

8e

f16 centre

16c

f16 edge

16e

So, to my eyes, very good centre and edge definition from f2, excellent at f5.6 and f8, and hardly deteriorating through diffraction at f16. Even f1.2 is usable with some work in post.

In conclusion then, the very best Zuiko I’ve used. Most of them are just ‘good enough’ on the 36Mp A7R with a fairly narrow ‘sweet spot’ of resolution at mid apertures. This lens though is very good to excellent across most of the aperture range and reminds me of the excellent Sigma 50mm f1.4 on a Canon 5d Mk2 at at half the price and a fifth of the weight and bulk, albeit without autofocus (but that’s easy when you’re used to it). I may have bought it for the f1.2 aperture but what like most is the excellent performance from f2 to f16. I also can fix it’s faults at f1.2!

Is it worth £350? I’d say so if you’re a perfectionist. £350 for an old lens isn’t on the face of it that cheap, but I could put this up against some of the best modern, more pricey 50’s and I think it would put up a respectable fight. It’s not that surprising – this was a very expensive lens thirty years ago and it shows. The 1.4 is excellent value for < £100, and the 1.8 is a steal for < £20, but for the really critical (obsessive?) photographer, this 1.2 is in a different league.

I was wondering about doing a shot by shot comparison between the Zuiko 50’s (1.2, 1.4, 1.8, 3.5 macro) is there’s any interest out there. If so let me know – it will take quite a bit of effort.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

Rob

The Sony A7R and a Zuiko 21mm f3.5

It’s been ages since I posted anything here (sorry!), mainly because I haven’t bought any more lenses! This nice 21mm f3.5 was swapped for my Zuiko 18mm earlier in the year as it was a bit too wide for my tastes, and really I always wanted the 21mm. It hasn’t been used that much so far so I thought I’d give it a proper test and share the results. Wandering round with just this lens was an interesting experience for someone who’s current favourite focal length is 50mm – sometimes it seemed just too wide an angle of view.           Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Physically it’s tiny and light – about the same size as my 50mm f1.8, 1 1/4 inches long (3cm ish) and it weighs 7 1/2 ounces (212 g) so very portable. The angle of view is 92 degrees and a very close focussing distance of 8 inches (or 20cm) to infinity focus is achieved in around 1/4 of a turn. And of course being a Zuiko it’s very well made too. It matches the A7R very well as do most of the smaller Zuikos. The A7R’s love of a default 1/60th of a second in ‘A’ mode with MF lenses is also nothing to worry about at 21 mm.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Five apertures to choose from – 3.5 to 16 and a focussing ring – can’t get much simpler than that.

The filter thread is the normal 49mm screw in, but even thin filters cause vignetting so I’ve stopped using them on this lens, so no polarizer or NDs unless you’re prepared to do some cropping in PP.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

At f3.5 and insanely close, this is the best bokeh I could manage. Using a 21mm lens as a macro lens is – er- eccentric to say the least.

Focussing using focus magnify works well, though at smaller apertures it’s more difficult as there’s a lot in focus, and the changes when the focus ring is turned are fairly subtle. The ‘focus peaking’ feature is pretty useless with lenses as wide as this for the same reason. As with the 18mm, the depth of field scale is pretty optimistic and the zone of really sharp focus is narrower than you might expect – in other words, always use ‘focus magnify’!

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Starburst at f16 (with a tiny amount of flare)- not bad at all if you like this sort of thing. Shadows pulled up in PP (the A7R is brilliant for this).

I couldn’t provoke much flare on a sunny day – this lens seems excellent in this respect. I did find an odd circular internal reflection in one shot when the sun was pretty much in the centre of the image which I quite like :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Native vignetting is moderate at f3.5, gone by f5.6 :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5 – nowhere near as bad as the 18mm but then few things are. I can live with this and even use it occasionally.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6 – hardly noticable and it doesn’t reappear at other apertures.

Distortion when pointed upwards is obvious – what you’d expect really from an ultra-wide :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

This was taken with a slim UV filter but its still vignetting!

Close distance distortion is also remarkably low – this was taken very close to the fence and is uncorrected :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

OK – it’s all looking good so far, what about the resolution? All of these are straight RAW conversions so note that the minimal CA and distortion could be cleaned up quite easily. Here’s the test scene (same as earlier in the post), edge crop from the centre left.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5, the edge crop darkened by the natural vignetting of the lens.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f8

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f11

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

So – optimal between f5.6 and f8, tailing off slightly at f11 and f16 (not shown). Quite predictable really. However this is a remarkably consistent performance across the aperture range with minimal CA wide open. It’s nice and sharp in the centre at all apertures, but the edges are never really achieve the same resolution.

In conclusion then, apart from the edge performance which I’d call ‘good’ (or ‘good enough’ for my purposes) a very good lens. Small, light, low distortion, low CA, sharp in the centre and can do sun stars as a party trick. I might use this lens ten or twenty times a year and for me the positives easily outweigh the negatives so I’m keeping this one! If you use this focal length all the time and need better edge performance something more expensive might be in order.

Second hand they range in price between £200 and £300 which is pretty cheap. As with all older lenses exposures have to be carefully monitored (they tend towards one to two stops of under exposure so watch the histogram), some PP will be required on all images, mainly contrast enhancement but the clarity slider in CS is remarkably useful too.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

 

A Few Abstract Landscapes

The chalk downland between Dorset and Wiltshire is a superb location for photography. The gently rolling ploughed fields produce some hypnotic patterns which are the subject of this weeks post (well most of it). All shot on an Oly EpL5 using the basic 40-150 f4-5.6 kit lens which is excellent given it’s price and light weight and pretty sharp one stop down from it’s modest maximum aperture.

EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

To get that ‘flattened perspective’ the long end of the telephoto zoom range is needed – not normally considered a landscape focal length, but as some readers may have noticed, on this blog it’s all about breaking those classical photographic rules to achieve a ‘different’ result (or maybe just being contrary)…

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

To further enhance the abstract effect, monochrome has been used, and to maximise contrast the Oly’s ‘Dramatic Tone’ and some heavy post processing has been ‘inflicted’ on these images.

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset zuiko

The jpeg’s straight out of the camera are already heavily stretched across a broad tonal range, so they’re quite ‘brittle’ during post processing. The worst side effect is a tendency to see heavy banding in the sky so careful exposure is required (it’s just visible in the shot above).  This is usually only seen in clear blue skies, but with a 300mm equivalent lens to play with (150mm on micro four thirds), just cheat and don’t include too much sky…

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

These lines of trees have yielded some good images in autumn – looks like they’re also quite photogenic in winter too.

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

Next one of those odd ones which I quite like but I’m not sure why. The two trees frame the distant view,  and the dramatic tone effect has given a lightening effect around the trunks. The bokeh produced by the little 40-150mm Zuiko is quite good too!

Finally – one not in the slightest way connected with abstract landscapes but I thought I’d throw it in anyway just for fun :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This looks like a grad filter effect but it’s a result of that dramatic tone doing odd – but very good – things….

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

 

p.s. if you like this effect, have a look at this WordPress photo blog (he’s rather taken with ‘Dramatic Tone’ too!) – Postcard Cafe.

Even More Dramatic Tone on an Oly EPL5

This ‘Dramatic Tone’ phase in a dark cloudy winter is hopefully over soon! Overcast is an uninspiring light source at the best of times so any useful technique helps. A recent trip to Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay in Dorset (UK) provided a chance to use it again.

Tyneham – a village taken over by the army and never returned to the previous owners (the Bond family). The Bond’s family motto ‘The World is not Enough’ was used as a Bond film title.

This isn’t just a gimmick – it’s genuinely (commercially) useful at those times of the year when light is limited and flat and you need to inject some drama into an otherwise bland scene. ‘In Camera’ effects are often criticised for being a bit crass – the ‘Dramatic Tone’ is genuinely useful in black and white if used carefully, so I beg  to differ.

someoneelses

A published book cover (Arcangel Images/Rob Lambert) using this technique!

Corfe Castle shot from the south. The original was pretty dreary but this is good.

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Corfe Castle – a remarkable range of tones for a winter landscape, shot with the 40-150mm kit lens.

Finally, a shot of an old farm building near the coast, inhabited by some wind battered trees.

Using the 14-42mm kit lens. The remains of a farmstead on the way to Worbarrow Bay.

Thanks for looking – hope you like these!

Bits of Autumn So Far

Here are a few stills from Autumn so far – not that many but there you go.

Though it looks pleasant this was taken last Saturday before the storm which swept in on Sunday/Monday morning and it was pretty windy. The cliffs are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks. Canon 60D, 70-300mm, processed from RAW in DXO Optics 9 (which is superb by the way!).

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Postbox Dorset Ballard Down Old Harry Rocks

Here’s the RNLI Lifeboat making headway against some heavy seas – a small enlargement from the centre of the frame, taken from the cliffs at Durleston.

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Lifeboat RNLI

Next a quieter day – but some nice colours through a Zuiko 50mm f1.4 on the 60D. I say the 60D, but there are now two in the camera bag. As the 70D has come out the 60D is really cheap – at least by comparison to it’s price three years ago. I really like this camera’s balance and features, so rather than upgrade, I just got another one. With results this good it seemed like a good idea.

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Canon 60D 50mm f1.4 Autumn Bench

Finally a bit of an odd one and I’m not sure if I really like it or not – a Dorset cottage path with some fallen apples. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 again – this is rather an addictive lens…

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Canon 60D 50mm f1.4 Cottage Autumn

So, a vague Autumn theme. The next post should have something a bit more coherent!

In the meanwhile thanks for looking, hope you like them.

Latest Roll of Adox CMS20

Too much messing around with digital lately – time to return to film. This set is from the last roll for Adox CMS20 – shot at 12 ASA it’s perfect for brighter days where you want to achieve a shallow depth of field.

All shots on an Olympus OM2N – mainly as it has a 12 ASA ISO setting which makes things easy… Developed in the recommended Adotech II developer for a bit less than the recommended time (8 mins rather than 8.5 mins), Ilford stop bath for 30 seconds then the rather unnerving 45 seconds in Ilford fixer.

This first one is slightly blue toned, shot on the Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f4 – just enough to give a nice blur to the bridge in the background.

Next – the remaining river bank supports left standing after the winter floods. Maybe a bit more contrast ?

Finally a real surprise – the lighting in this unspotted scan is really odd – as if there was a light source shining on the gate. I suppose it was light reflecting from the gravel path but I’m not complaining!

As usual, the grain is almost invisible even at maximum magnification – easily out classing a Plustek 7500 film scanner. Excellent stuff!

All shots for the book cover market – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

Some more Adox CHS20 Developed in Adotech

After sorting out some problems with a very unwell PC, this one comes from the new one – which is working well – at least so far.

These were all taken on the latest roll of Adox CHS20, developed in the recommended Adotech developer at 12 ASA in an OM2N with various Zuiko lenses. The extremely slow speed of this film allows the use of fast primes wide open even in quite bright conditions – and it would be a shame to waste such an opportunity!00325928

The range of tones captured in the flaking paint is wonderful – they’re green ‘in colour’.

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A gate and the opportunity using the 85mm f2 to blur the background away.00325914

Same gate – different angle .00325913

Finally some rather odd bokeh from the Zuiko 50mm f1.4. It keeps surprising even after 20+ years.00325910

The next roll will be developed in Rodinal – if anything results I’ll let you know!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

A Few More Adox Silvermax Samples

(Five images). This time in better lighting conditions! The previous shots were all taken on overcast days, so a bright  weekend and a few hours by the coast was the obvious excuse to burn off another roll. These are all straight off the scanner using the Agfa APX100 film profile, which after some messing around seems the best one. All the shots are from one roll, shot at box speed using an Olympus OM2N and developed in Ilford ID11 stock.

First one and a dynamic range challenge which the film has coped with very nicely. Zuiko 28mm lens.

smax_07

This larger portrait oriented shot shows how little grain there is and how well this film/developer combination works. Zuiko 85mm lens.

smax_08s

This is the best of the lot – shot on a Vivitar 17mm lens, the range of tones for a bright day is impressive.

smax_10

Next – a  ‘torture test’ – deep shadow and bright sky, but excellent result again.

smax_11

This was a bit out of the DR range of any film or non-HDR digital image – the sky a few stops past rendering any detail, but the rest is fine.

smax_05

The bright light shots from this film confirm the claims Adox make – the extra silver content seems to be making a real difference. I’m really impressed – and now need some more rolls….

The seaside shots at Kimmeridge Bay, and the church is in Kingston nearby in case anyone’s interested (Dorset UK).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

Ilford Pan F+ in ID11

Having done a few posts about Adox and Rollei film, it’s about time I did one about an old friend – Ilford’s Pan F black and white film. This was my standard film when I first started B/W photography – so it has a history longer than I’d care to admit! It’s current version is a 50 ASA fine-grained film, with a reputation which suggests it’s difficult to use.

panf_id11_12s

This was taken on an Olympus OM2N with the lovely 24mm f2.8 lens reviewed earlier for use on digital. It’s rather nice on 35mm too!

It’s got a tendency to be too contrasty – so reducing recommended development times and tank agitation is a good idea if you’re going to scan the negs. My recipe is ID11 stock for 6 minutes at 20 C, inverting the tank a few times at the start, then every 1 minute. This produces very useable images with some good dynamic range, but still retains some of the film’s ‘dark’ look.

panf_id11_13s

There’s a good dynamic range here from the detail in the clouds through to the shadows.

I’d describe it as a half way house between a film like Agfaphoto’s APX100 where contrast is very well controlled, and Rollei Blackbird which produces contrasty, dark images.

panf_id11_11s

Again a nice result – just enough contrast without losing the shadow and highlight detail.

The grain is very fine – just what you’d expect from a 50 ASA film.

panf_id11_small

From the trees in the top left. Although the 24mm lens at max aperture is stating to lose resolution, the grain is almost unnoticeable.

Physically the film is easy to handle, and goes on the film spiral very easily. It also doesn’t attracting dust when drying – unlike some films.

panf_id11_10s

Excellent again

Overall then, a very fine-grained film with a distinctive look which may be worth a try if you think the look of Rollei Blackbird is a too dark. At 50 ASA – or even 25 ASA – it will allow the use of those fast primes almost wide open on bright days and as long as it’s developed properly won’t disappoint.

It was good to shoot this film again after few years – I’ll be getting some more on my next film order.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 300mm f4.5

This is the thirteenth of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap(ish) but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The series ends with the monster Zuiko 300mm f4.5, on loan from Pete and Jayne who might be happy that so much bulk has been temporarily removed from their house. I’ve lugged this thing around for a week or two, trying to get six decent shots to test its qualities but it’s a tough challenge, mounted on a tripod or hand-held.

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Horton Tower from the North – it’s on the horizon a mile away from where this was taken. Quite good contrast and sharpness.

With an effective cropped focal length of 480mm it’s well into specialist lens territory, and the tiny angle of view and huge magnification make it’s use difficult at best.  Supporting the bulk of the lens with the left arm when shooting hand-held made the muscles ache after a few minutes – photography and weight lifting at the same time – a novel experience!

_MG_8939s

The bokeh is a bit ‘busy’ but not too bad at all.

Just aligning the lens with a small distant subject is in itself a bit of a knack. The best way is to line up the top of the lens looking down the outside of the barrel, them move the eye to the viewfinder. I imagine it’s the way old cannons (not Canons) were aimed.

_MG_8937s

Telephoto perspective compression is extreme – as is the shallowness of depth of field at all distances.

Apertures run from f4.5 to f32, the minimum focus distance is 3.5 metres and the filter size is a standard 72mm screw in type.

_MG_8799s

After a plenty of practice, the trick is to find something fine and contrasty to focus on, in this case the telephone wires. If you need to make sure do some focus bracketing!

The attached tripod mount addresses a definite requirement for camera stability, and suggests that the Olympus designers thought the weight might put unacceptable strain on all metal OM bodies. Even on a day with light winds, using ‘focus magnify’ on the 60D’s LCD, the image jittered around –  and it’s a fairly heavy tripod.

IMG_0128s

The attached tripod mount at the base of the lens. The knob is to loosen it so it can be rotated for portrait/landscape – or any other – orientation.

The lens itself is probably the best made lens I’ve seen – solid, precise all metal with a wide focus ring – generally gorgeous. It’s far removed from the tiny ‘jewel like’ Zuikos everyone’s familiar with.

IMG_0127s

Even the bulky 60D is made to look insignificant – this lens is a giant. With the built-in lens hood extended it only gets worse. The Fotodiox adaptor used wasn’t relied upon to support the lens unaided, but I’m sure it would have coped.

Just a few test shots this time. It’s difficult to find a suitable subject at this focal length – you need to be a long way from it. This tower seemed like the best bet.

f4.5s

This is Horton Tower from the South and a but further away. The frame to the right is darker due to a very out of focus tree – nothing to do with a lens fault.

But lurking in most shots with backlit subjects is a bit of a horror – really bad chromatic aberration. It’s most obvious at f4.5 but it never really leaves images taken at any aperture. It also appears around the out of focus areas as red/green edges to the highlights.

Sometimes it’s purple.

f4.5 centre

This is the top left of the tower. Not good.

And sometimes it’s red. I had the Zuiko 180mm f2.8 years ago and it suffered from the same problem. Maybe it’s inevitable at these focal lengths and fast apertures.

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This is an enlargement from the centre of the frame.

So,  is this lens worth the £300 they go for second-hand?

Unfortunately – no.

Unless you’re the sort of photographer who doesn’t mind its drawbacks of chromatic aberration, very difficult manual focussing and epic weight and bulk. At f4.5 it’s only just faster than the f5.6 at 300mm of an AF zoom, which is a fraction of the weight and performs just as well – better in fact for CA.

It’s a beautifully made thing though, and I can see why collectors buy them. For practical photographic purposes though it’s pretty bad. In this case at least, a very high quality lens with an extreme focal length which was good enough for film just doesn’t cut it for digital. It really makes me admire the skill of 35mm photographers using MF lenses like this to capture fast-moving sports images.

Still, it’s been great fun – if slightly frustrating – to have a play around with. If I’m honest though I’m glad this test is over!

Thanks for looking and hope you find this useful.

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.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 200mm f4

This is the twelfth (and almost the last!) of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The subject of this mini review is the Zuiko 200mm f4, a 320mm equivalent on an APS-C DSLR and just a bit faster than a 75-300mm AF Canon zoom lens at the same focal length. This ones another on loan from Pete and Jayne – Pete apparently has a weakness for telephoto lenses.

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The lens is easy to focus in bright light, and produces some excellent results using centre weighted metering mode.

The filter size is 55mm and the aperture range is f4 to f32 (not sure why f32 is needed but it’s nice to have). The focus rack goes from infinity to the minimum focus distance of 2.5 m in quite a bit more than 180 degrees.

_MG_8744s

Colours are on the cold side, but very acceptable. The contrast across the aperture range is good too, better than the 135 f2.8. The depth of field is obviously very narrow at 200mm at f4, and the bokeh is pretty good.

The built-in lens hood protects the front element from flare effectively, and makes me wonder why they aren’t built into all lenses.

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In bright light there’s not much chromatic aberration (purple on the left top of the sign), and telephoto compression is starting to get very pronounced.

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More very soft bokeh and sharpness of in focus areas – this is excellent.

Physically the lens is made to an exceptionally high standard – light weight and all metal with a real quality feel to it. It ‘fits’ the 60D really well, the generous focus ring is smooth – all pretty much perfect.

IMG_0118

The lens mount adaptor is the very well made made Fotodiox EF to OM.

A great MF lens then, and highly recommended? Like the 135mm f2.8, a qualified yes. F4 is only 2/3 of a stop faster than a normal tele zoom lens so there’s no real aperture speed advantage. Focussing in dull light is at best ‘hit and miss’ on the standard 60D focussing screen even for stationary subjects – let alone moving ones. As sports and nature photography are this lenses’ home territory this is unfortunate.

The negatives aren’t about the lens itself, which is truly excellent, rather about using medium telephoto MF lenses on DSLR. I’m a bit sceptical about the need for AF up to around 85mm where the speed of equivalent MF lenses make focussing easy. As the max apertures drop to f2.8 at 135mm, and f4 at 200mm, the focussing screens get darker, and the focussing becomes progressively more critical – two unavoidable principles of optical design. As a consequence, AF comes into its own at longer focal lengths, as well as IS.

For me the ‘break point’ is 135mm. I took loads of shots for this test, but those taken on overcast days weren’t that good – though that might be just me!

In conclusion then, if you’re determined to use one or have one lying around give it a try but be aware that focussing on anything other than a sunny day may be a problem. If you’re not that determined, I’d suggest instead a modern AF lens – the Canon EF 70-300mm is a good all-rounder, even if the build quality doesn’t come close to these superbly built old Zuikos. A final alternative, even if it is a very heavy one, is the Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 macro, which is a bit easier to focus, and has a very nice macro mode too.

These lenses are relatively rare on the second-hand market varying between £90 and £150 (there’s a cheaper f5 version too).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

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.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 135mm f2.8

This is the eleventh of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This mini test is the Zuiko 135mm f2.8, a 216mm equivalent on a crop frame sensor and one and a half stops faster than a 70-300mm zoom lens at this focal length.

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Bokeh is very pleasant at max aperture, with no nasty surprises, other than slight chromatic aberration at wider apertures.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s no image stabilisation (or AF obviously) and as the focal lengths increase, the advantages of older tele lenses decreases quickly. The max aperture advantage closes quickly with modern AF lenses, and the performance wide open is often not that good. Unfortunately these are just at the apertures you’d want to use them at rather than your AF zoom lens.

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Good rich colour with a slight levels adjustment – not bad at all. I can’t comment on the chickens…

At f2.8 focussing seems easy, but critical evaluation of the shots in post-processing shows that it’s difficult to get very precise focus with the normal 60D screen.

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Depth of field becomes shallow at wider apertures – this though is a nice result at f4. The colours and bokeh are very good.

Like the Zuiko 100mm lens, image contrast is relatively low, and post-processing work will be needed on most shots. That said, there’s no flare (the built-in lens hood works very well) and other than a predictable tendency to underexpose by up to 1 stop at maximum aperture, there aren’t any major problems. There’s a hint of red/green CA in out of focus highlights but you’d have to look very closely to find it.

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Telephoto perspective compression is becoming very evident at this focal length. Other than a bit of CA this is very good.

Physically the lens is very well-built, relatively small but not as compact as the 100mm or the 85mm tested recently. The filter size is 55mm, there’s a built-in lens hood and the focus rack goes from infinity to 1.5m in rather more than 180 degrees. The aperture range is f2.8 to f22.

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On the 60D the handling is very good – on an Olympus 620 much less so. The 60D’s bulk accepts relatively larger lenses much more easily. The Fotodiox lens mount adaptor is very good – others are available.

So – is it worth the £100 to £150 on the secondhand market? On balance the answer is a qualified ‘yes’. The attraction of these tele lenses is mainly the shallow depth of field and colour ‘analogue look’ they give to images at a more reasonable price than their modern AF versions. In that respect this lens is excellent.

Viewed independently of cost, it’s much more difficult. The speed advantage is levelled by image stabilisation in modern lenses, and the differences in bokeh, speed and sharpness are much less obvious than at focal lengths of 24mm to 100mm.

I’m afraid then it’s up to you. If you already have one, or can buy one cheaply give one a go. It’s a very well behaved lens and a good 200mm equivalent as long as you’re happy doing some PP work and focussing through the viewfinder (the LCD is pretty much useless at these focal lengths unless you’re using a tripod).

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.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Thanks for looking and hope you find this useful!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 100mm f2.8

This is the tenth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. Moving up the focal lengths, this time it’s the Zuiko 100mm f2.8, a small mid range tele which is a bit of an oddity. Firstly on 35mm its in-between the classic 85mm portrait lens – and the Zuiko f2 is excellent – and the more normal starting telephoto focal length of 135mm. On an APS-C DSLR it’s an eccentric 160mm equivalent, so ‘neither fish nor fowl’ as some might say.

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On a good day with basic ‘auto levels’ processing reveals rich saturated colours and nice bokeh, even if it’s never really razor-sharp at any aperture.

The results are usually lacking contrast, and always need some post processing. It’s worst feature though is how easily flare occurs. This is a multi coated lens so it shouldn’t be a problem – but it is – and quite a bad one. A lens hood is pretty much a necessity.

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On not such a good day and shot into the light – quite the worst tendency to flare I’ve ever seen!

What’s so irritating/annoying, or endearing/quirky depending on your point of view, is how unpredictable the results are. Post processed shots taken of the same subject in the same light can vary from superb to terrible!

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It’s inherently low contrast mean that a wide range of tones are captured, and give lots of options in Photoshop for stretching apparent dynamic range. This is handy on a bright day as the shot below shows.

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Physically the lens is small and light, the minimum focus is an unspectacular 1 metre, apertures run from f2.8 to f22 and the filter thread is – you’ve guessed it – 49mm. Focus is quite easy, the focus turns from infinity to 1 metre is around 180 degrees. It’s balance on the 60D is fine – pretty much the same as the 85mm as they’re about the same size.

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So all in all a definite oddity of a lens, with an unusual focal length and an unpredictable character which some will love and others hate. If you can live with the post processing requirements on nearly every shot, it can produce some really good images, but don’t expect super sharp results. And if you’re thinking of using one, make sure you get a lens hood – unless you like using flare for creative effect in which case you’ll like this lens!

They’re quite rare on the second-hand market and usually sell for around £80 to £120.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

Update – 22/5/2013. This particular lens has been found to have a mild internal fungal growth by a specialist second hand dealer. This may account for some of it’s tendency to flare.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 24mm f2.8

This is the ninth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the tiny Zuiko 24mm f2.8, on loan from fellow photographers Pete and Jayne, who’ve also leant me a few quite exotic lenses to play around with. I’ve never used this lens before so this is a complete unknown for me.

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At close to minimal focus distance and quite a stunning start. Sharp, contrasty, nice bokeh with a great colour rendition.

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Closer to infinity and this is superb again. This was shot at f5.6 and it’s pin sharp with no chromatic aberration in the trees to the top right.

On full frame this is nudging into ultra wide territory, but on an APS-C DSLR it’s the equivalent of a 38mm, making it close to the widely (no pun intended) favoured focal length of 35mm. At f2.8 it’s around one stop faster than a kit lens so a useful advantage. The filter size is 49mm (no surprise there), the minimum focus is around 25 cm which is very close, and the aperture range is f2.8 to f16.

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Same again – excellent….

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Another cracking result – sharp, good colour and definition.

Olympus priced their lenses by maximum aperture, maintaining that they all were built to a high minimum standard. There’s a 24mm f2 from the old Zuiko range which is usually very pricey, but the build quality of this 2.8 equivalent lens is top-notch.

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Physically the lens is tiny and very light – so small that the aperture ring is easy to nudge accidentally when focussing. The focus rack is very fast – infinity to 25cm in 1/4 of a turn making focussing easy.

So then – a test and here’s the frame. This was shot on the ‘standard’ colour profile and the colours are just zinging out. There has been no tweaking with the saturation.

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f2.8 – These huge (300 pixel) enlargements from the centre and far left show a slight softness at no CA at the edges so not bad at all – definitely useable. I’m not convinced that the focus point was correct on this one but it looked correct on the LCD.

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f5.6 – As sharp as it’s going to get I’d say.

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f11 – just the same.

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Well – wow! It even makes my favourite Zuiko 28mm f2 look a bit second-rate… As a general purpose 35mm equivalent focal length lens it’s a real gem and a good choice as a ‘walk around’ lens or a supplement to a kit lens – which it should easily outperform at f4 or lower. The close focus distance, though not marketed as a macro mode, is very useful, and the images are saturated (possibly overly so for some), sharp and contrasty with no CA. A bit of a star all round.

At under £100 it’s a great bargain and unreservedly recommended.

Now – I wonder how much Pete and Jayne want for it?

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.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 85mm f2

This is the fifth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but very fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This one’s dedicated to the Zuiko  85mm f2 – a direct Olympus equivalent of the Helios 85mm f2 reviewed earlier. The APS-C crop factor make this a 136mm equivalent, and at f2 it’s pretty fast.

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As you’d expect the depth of field is very thin at f2 and close focussing distances – something which can be used for creative effect. ‘Auto Levels’ applied to improve the contrast.

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The bokeh isn’t as smooth as the Helios – more ‘structured’ if that makes sense.

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Even at distances of a few metres the background becomes blurred at f2. There’s a hint of purple chromatic aberration on the original – a few pixels.

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Unlike the gorgeously eccentric Helios with it’s saturated colours, the Zuiko produces colder, more subtle results with no colour cast.

It’s well built, light and all metal and in size just a few mm longer than the 50mm f1.4. The filter size is the Oly standard of 49mm, minimum focus is around 85cm and the aperture range is f2 to f16.

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Test shots then – here’s the frame.

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f2 – A good start but some softness in the centre.

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f4 – well as sharp as it gets!

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f8 – slightly improved at the edge – excellent.

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f16 results were identical.

In conclusion then,  a very impressive result – capable of lovely bokeh blur wide open, and at smaller apertures sharp and contrasty. At around £100 its a bargain, 3 stops faster than a kit lens and just as sharp at similar apertures. The only disadvantage it has by comparison with the Helios is it’s cold, almost clinical rendering of colour, which is something which can be easily fixed in post-processing or with custom white balance.

As a ‘Zuiko-holic’ I’m very pleased with this, though the bonkers Helios is still a very nice lens, in the same way that a Lensbaby is – sheer eccentricity!

Thanks for reading and hope this is useful!

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.