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Explanation of Zuiko 50mm 1.4s sought

claude batmanghelidj , Mar 13, 2005; 08:55 a.m.

Can anyone tell me about the 50mm 1.4 Zuikos? I just picked up an OM-2n with a 50mm G-Zuiko, serial number 187735. I am assuming this lens is single coated. How does it compare against the other 50mm 1.4 olympus lenses, such as the later mc versions, in the area of sharpness and bokeh? Also, if by any chance anyone knows, how would it compare with the original 2 cam 50mm R Summicron?

I love the lightweightness and design of the Olympus, and I am considering selling my Leicaflex to finance the purchase of more lenses, and maybe an OM-4T. Anyone else compared OM and Leica R gear?

Responses

Tom Robbrecht , Mar 13, 2005; 10:52 a.m.

Dunno if this is of any help, but you might want to check out the link below, along with all other sites on the Olympus OM webring.

Zuiko lens info page : http://www.ametro.net/~farrar/zuiko.html#normal

Bill Pearce , Mar 13, 2005; 01:50 p.m.

The earliest lenses had the letter prefix (x)-Zuiko, and most had the silver front ring, and were mostly single coated. As competetive pressures increased, multi-coatings were added, and the letter was usually dropped, and the letters MC were added, although not as a prefix. With the passage of time, the MC was dropped. The coatings may have changed over time, depending on the lens. There were exceptions!

The SC lenses do have a different look, and there are those who prefer it, especially for B&W.

For many camera makers, the 50/1.4 was the showpiece lens, but not for Olympus. I suppose when you had things like the 21/2, you didn't spend as much time on a 50.

Frequently compared favorably to Leica lenses is the most recent 50/1.8, with "Made in Japan" engraved on the front ring. This lens may be had very inexpensively. Commonly considered to be the peer of the Leica lens (I'm not familiar with all the permutations of Leica lenses) is the 50/2 macro. One of the last new designs for the OM, it is considered by most to equal Leica's efforts, but unlike the 50/1.8, prices are not so reasonable.

As with all things, there are areas of disagreement, but I would suggest you examine the following: 18/3.5, 21/2, 28/2, 85/2, 90/2, 100/2, and the 135/2.8. Some users aren't that impressed by the 28, but mine is superb. Others like the 35/2, but mine is but average. Of the above, the most affordable will be the 85 and the 135.

The OM2 is a fine camera. If the highly sophisticated metering of the 4T is useful to you, that will prove a good investment.

Bill Pearce

Simon Evans , Mar 13, 2005; 03:45 p.m.

The single coated 50mm f1.4 is not a stellar performer. The lens was redesigned when multicoating was introduced, and then again when the serial numbers passed around 1,100,000. The last design is claimed to be the best, but there's not much between it and its immediate predecessor.

Comparing OM and Leica has been done a million times. I think the OM range was probably inspired more by Leica's M-series cameras, but even so it has its own character (and fan club). Don't worry about it, just make pictures with whatever you're happy with.

Frank Oddsocks , Mar 13, 2005; 08:22 p.m.

I agree with Bill and Simon - not a good lens. I had one just like yours (it came with an OM-2N too) and it was worse than the cheap Sigma zoom I had then. Later I got one of the favoured post 1.1 million ones and it was just terrible, very soft wider than f/8. But that second lens eventually died from fungus so might have been a bad example.

I made bokeh tests on the 1.4 and 1.8 and would post them but don't have a scanner. The 1.4 has smooth background blur and harsh foreground, and the 1.8 is unfortunately the other way around. The 1.8 was the latest "made in Japan" version.

Lex Jenkins , Mar 13, 2005; 10:12 p.m.

Gary Reese has done the most extensive evaluation of the Zuiko lenses available anywhere on the web:

http://members.aol.com/olympusom/lenstests/default.htm

In a sidebar on the left and in notes attached to some lens reviews he explains his methodology and rating system. His conclusions are consistent with the MTF results I've seen, but are far easier to comprehend.

None of the 50mm f/1.4 Zuikos was bad when stopped down. The early single coated versions weren't very good wide open or nearly so. The last version multicoated >1,000,000 batch were excellent, very good wide open and as good as any 50mm f/1.4 lens on the market when stopped down.

I recently bought a >1,000,000 50/1.4 for the OM-1 my niece is borrowing for her high school photo class. It's even sharper and contrastier than I'd expected. Cost me a whole $40 in excellent condition. That's way down from the typical $100 price most shops I visited in Texas asked a few years ago for a 50/1.4 in similar condition before the OM line was discontinued.

I think you'll find the later series 50/1.4 Zuikos compare favorably with the 50/2 Summicron. Bokeh is a Zuiko specialty so you won't be disappointed there either. Even their inexpensive 75-150mm f/4 zoom has very good bokeh, something few telezooms can claim.

I've handled only one Leicaflex and don't remember much about it. The OM bodies and lenses don't have that heavy, solid feel of the M series and lenses, but what does? Olympus set out to build a lightweight, compact SLR system with as few compromises as possible. My OM-1 has never been CLA'd (tho' it does need replacement light seals and mirror rebound foam) and it keeps chugging along.

I've never had a problem with any Zuiko lens, other than the 50/1.8 Zuiko I dropped onto the metal corner of a dining room table foot. Even that lens showed no outward signs of damage - the auto diaphragm actuator was bent ever so slightly, just enough to interfere with movement in the raceway. It wasn't worth fussing with - the 50/1.8 Zuiko is jokingly referred to by some OM owners as the "see through body cap". The last version marked "Made In Japan" was the best but still available in good used condition for less than $25. Some dealers ask more for an Olympus brand plastic body cap than they do for a 50/1.8 Zuiko.

If you want a short telephoto that matches the better Leica lenses, get the 90mm f/2 Zuiko macro. Opinions differ about which are the better wide angle Zuikos but my humble 28mm f/2.8 multicoated Zuiko is excellent. So is the 18mm f/3.5 Zuiko but it's rather expensive. I get by with a Tamron Adaptall 17mm f/3.5 I bought for less than $100 including the petal shaped clamp-on lens shade. It's not as contrasty as the Zuiko but it's sharp and surprisingly resistant to flare.

Try to get either the faster Zuikos - f/2.8 or faster - or consider a brighter focus screen. Some of the original OM focus screens aren't all that bright and can be difficult to use in dim lighting. Some folks like the Beattie screens but some OM meters need to be recalibrated to compensate for the difference in light transmission. For example, the OM-1 metering cells are located in the prism and are vulnerable to stray light passing through the eyepiece as well as differences in focus screens. OMs with the metering cells under the flip-up mirror (like the OM-2N) are not affected by changing focus screens and are very resistant to being affected by stray light from the eyepiece.

I think you'll enjoy the OM system. It's been my favorite travel kit because everything I need will fit into may smallest shoulder bag (about the size of a woman's medium size purse) or the Lowepro Off Trail, their smallest waist bag. It's a very good, compact, inexpensive waist bag. But I can't quite squeeze my Nikon FM2N and 52mm filter thread Nikkors into the Off Trail. I'm planning to buy a much more expensive but roomier Kinesis belt system for my Nikons.

Russ Rosener , Mar 21, 2005; 12:09 p.m.

I'm surprised to hear so many dog the 50 1.4 Zuiko. I have owned three over the years, and finally settled on the single coated silver front one I have. Bokeh is beautiful with ISO 100 B&W film. It has no problems with sharpness when stopped down either.

I will say there seem to be a lot of quality variations in this lens line. I had a 50 1.4 MC that is supposed to be sharper. I shot some side by side comparisons with the current single coat 50 and it blew the MC out of the water on sharpness. So I sold it to someone on EBAY who thought the "MC" meant better lens. To each his own, but don't discount this lens until you've shot with it.

Simon Evans , Mar 22, 2005; 01:47 p.m.

I shot some side by side comparisons with the current single coat 50 and it blew the MC out of the water on sharpness.

Sample variations occur in all lines. Most people I have corresponded with confirm that the MC formulations perform better, and this is backed up by the test data I have seen. However, that's not to say the SC version is a dog, and if you're happy with it that's not a problem.

Jack Lo ... T-O , Mar 25, 2005; 08:08 p.m.

My 1.4 (MC) blows my mind. It seems to be the equal of my 3.5 macro, which is a brilliant lens, and is better than all of the three 1.8s I have, or the two I've given away. One 1.8 is as good, the others seem to lack "pop".

In particular I love it with colour. Kodak UC 400. Although all Zuikos seem to render colour beautifully.

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