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Olympus OM zooms

Robert Jaques , May 24, 2008; 09:37 p.m.

I am interested in your opinions on the old OM Zuiko zooms (not the new digital ones).

I keep coming across negative opinions on the Zuiko zooms such as "stick with the primes stay away from the zooms". I cannot understand comments like this as I have never found any of the zooms to be poor performers.

I own an Olympus 35-70mm F4 and a 85-250mm F5. These are old designs from the 70s but I have found them to be excellent. The 85-250 is equally sharp as any of my prime Zuikos in my opinion. I have compared the 85-250 to the 200 F4 when set to their widest apertures and stopped down a bit. I have always been pleased with the performance of my 200 F4, but the zoom seems to be a tad sharper with more contrast. At the 85mm end it is suberb.

My 35-70 is no slouch either. I have not done direct comparison with primes but slides I have shot with this lens have always been crisp with high contrast. I had a 12x18'' print made from this lens when set to the 35mm end and it is tack sharp. The one flaw I can find with this lens is noticable barrel distortion at the 35mm end (Proberly no worse that some modern digital zooms manufactured today). I used to own a 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 which I now regret selling, as this was an excellent lens too, proberly better that the 35- 70 F4 being a more modern design. I have also used a 75-150mm and seen slides and prints from my brothers 28-48mm and 65-200mm F4. They seem to be fine lenses as well.

What do you think of the OM Zuiko zooms? Are they underated?

Responses


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Don Giles , May 24, 2008; 09:47 p.m.

The 35-70 F3.6 was an amazing lens.

Don

Skip Williams , May 24, 2008; 11:02 p.m.

The best one was the 35-80/2.8, of course. I loved that lens.

The many incarnations of the 35-70 will generate some discussions. The f/3.6, with it's superior, ball-bearing based construction, was really a very good lens and the best performing of the genre. But my favorite, and the only one still with me, is the svelte f/3.5-4.5, barely bigger than a 50/1.4. The f/4 Zuiko-S versions were OK, but nothing special, as was the f/3.5-4.8. A couple of them were made by Cosina, I think.

The other standout would be the 50-250, which still commands pretty high prices.

The others? the 85-250 was sharp, but pretty slow. The 65-105 was a good lens, but now many suffer from irreversible fogging of the rear element group. The 75-150 was my first one, and is OK, but again, a product of the early 70's with its compromises. The 28-48 was a very interesting lens, not very common and a very good walk-around lens. It's a shame that the prototyped 24-48 was never produced. Did I miss any?

Skip

Robert Jaques , May 25, 2008; 07:01 a.m.

My brother raves about his 28-48mm. He also has the 28 F2 but prefers to carry the 28-48mm mostly for the versatility of the zoom. Very small compact lens. Has some distortion at the wide end. I have tried the 35-105 F3.5-4.5 but found it a strange lens to focus. Focus was difficult to determine properly, it didn't snap in and out like a prime. Maybe the bright 2/13 screen does not suit this lens. Shame Olympus never produced that 28-85mm they prototyped. I remember seeing a picture of it in an old modern photography mag many years ago.

J DC , May 25, 2008; 07:03 a.m.

In the 70s and early to mid 80s I was a committed fixed lens guy. Then one day with a money back guarantee I purchased the Zuiko 28-48 - dirt cheap as it had been recently discontinued. I came to love that lens. As Skip noted it was great walk about lens. I backpacked it all over western Europe on many business and personal trips. If I had to pick one lens above all my other 6 Zuiko (fixed) lenses, it would be my #1 (the 100mmf2.8 would be #2). What it may have suffered in (a purist's view of) optical quality, it more than made up from a pragmatic perspective.

Jim

Dan B. , May 25, 2008; 02:31 p.m.

The f/4 is from the early '70s? I have a 35-70mm Zuiko zoom but it also has the later "made in Japan" legend and the serial number on the under side of the lens barrel, rather than on the front. Anyway, it's a great lens, so packing it with the 28mm f/2.8 and the 75-150 zoom gives me a lot of coverage with just three lenses. (Although I wish now that I had sprung way back when for the 24mm wide angle!)

Ted Rees , May 26, 2008; 11:51 a.m.

I once owned the Zuiko 35-70 f4 and always thought it was a very good lens. Then I purchased the 35-70 f3.6 version which I can only describe as superb ! As many lens "experts" have commented, at between f8-11, this zoom is equal to many of the top prime lenses. A beautifully constructed lens. Make sure that you get the correct lens hood for this f3.6 zoom,(not the f4 version!).

The 70-150 zoom I once owned was rather disappointing, being sharp at the centre but rather weak at the edges.

Patrick Dempsey , May 26, 2008; 03:46 p.m.

I agree with skip... the 35-70 f/3.5-4.5 is really a nice lens. It's one of my favorites.... very sharp, very versatile with close-focus ability, very small, very lightweight and can usually be found for pretty cheap. The compact size of it makes up for it's relative slowness, and the two-touch zoom makes for a fast user lens. If I'm in situations where I can bring only one lens, this is the one that usually ends up on the front of my camera. I bought it specifically for hiking, but I even end up bringing it to photo-shoots where big heavy fast lenses usually show up.

Tim Huggins , May 27, 2008; 09:26 a.m.

You have to put a comment like "stick with the primes stay away from the zooms" into perspective. Zuiko lenses are among the best made, and the zooms are no exception. Some of them are remarkable - i.e the 35-80mm/f2.8 and the 35-75mm/f3.6. I used the 35-75mm.f3.5-4.5 for years and the image quality is first rate. It offers a combination of performance and small size that has always made it popular.

That being said, a prime will always be better than a zoom in terms of image quality, speed, and usually size. How much better is the question. Over the years, I've found that the real difference lies in how you do your photography. When you carry a prime, you look for images from the perspective ot the lens. Carrying a 24mm or 28mm causes you to "see" images that have that strong foreground and depth. Zooms came into still photography to pander to the snapshot crowd that just wanted to "take a picture of something pretty". These are 99% of the people who buy cameras, so manufactures gear their products toward them.

Simon Evans , May 29, 2008; 06:19 p.m.

The 35-70mm f4 was the cheap consumer model alongside the 'pro' f3.6. Now that is a highly regarded zoom lens.

I think OM zooms overall were a mixed bag, and sometimes reputations were sullied by poor examples (good QC costs money). The tiny 35-70 f3.5-4.5 is great value, and very cheap these days. I find that, although quite a bit bigger and heavier, the 35-105mm is sharper, doesn't have the same barrel distortion at 35mm and noticeably longer reach.

Robert, if you're happy with your lenses don't let anyone put you off. Use the lenses you like and don't give it another thought. You'll have more fun than staring at MTF charts, comparison tests (especially ones posted on the 'net) and reading pages of drivel by people who may or may not (photographically, at least) know their arse from their elbow.


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