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Recognizing the best OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 lens

Delian Georgiev , Apr 11, 2010; 07:54 a.m.

Hello :) I currently own a Olympus E-520 and I wanted to have a fast lens (mainly for the shallow DoF ) like a f/1.4 or f/1.8 . After checking few offers from Sigma, Samyang and Leica, I found that although very good (especially the Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4) they share a common "disadvantage" - the price. A friend of mine who knows a lot more about photography than me, told me that Olympus have very good OM lenses which can be found for a fairly low price. So I checked the net for some info on the Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 and surprisingly, there seems to be a few "editions" of this lens, each with its own disadvantages, corrected in a newer edition. Can you please tell me what "traits" should I look for when buying this lens so to make sure its the "best" version? Since the difference in DoF between the 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 Zuikos isn't that big, is the 50mm f/1.8 sharper in the 1.4 - 2.8 range? Thanks in advance for your answers :)

Responses

Jean-Yves Mead , Apr 11, 2010; 08:43 a.m.

First off, are you willing to put up with the inconvenience of manual focus, manual aperture control, manual metering, and the need to use an adapter to mount the lens? Because if not then there's no point in your looking at the old manual-focus Olympus OM system lenses.

Delian Georgiev , Apr 11, 2010; 12:37 p.m.

Yes, I'm aware of the downsides :) I'll be using this as a portrait lens, and most of the time it'll be mounted on a tripod, manually focused via Live View. So generally I'll have a lot of time to do all the manual work. I also got an adapter for just 10$ which is way below the 100$ or so for the "original" OM-1. Manual metering... wouldn't it work in Manual mode? If the camera can do any metering at all with that lens, it'll require just twitching the settings a bit, wouldn't it?

Vick Vickery , Apr 11, 2010; 04:21 p.m.

I use the OM 50mm f/1.8 as a portrait lens on my Olympus DSLR and love it. Since I still shoot alot of film in everything from 35mm to 4x5 the manual use of the lens hasn't slowed me down a bit...makes it seem more like a "real" camera! :-) It makes a wonderful portrait lens at the more open aperatures and you can see thru it to focus easily even stopped down a couple of stops.

david carroll , Apr 11, 2010; 07:02 p.m.

From everything I've read, the best 50/1.4 Zuiko is the newer version with a black front ring (as opposed to the "silvernose" variety) and a serial# later than 1,100,000. I used a f/1.8 for years, and was always very happy with it - this modest standard lens has a great rep, although I would generally go with an f/1.4 simply for the slightly brighter viewfinder, even if I didn't need the wider aperture for exposures. I also use a f/1.4 silvernose which is also pretty good, although I've never done any objective comparisons between the two.

Ruben Bittermann , Apr 11, 2010; 09:52 p.m.

Both with the OM Zuiko 1.4 and 1.8 you have the issue of editions. The latests f1.8 are the best among the f1.8 and are easily reckognizable as the lens cosmetics should look like new. I can hardly imagine an old edition looking "like new". But you can search more and you may find the accurate letter noticing the new edition.
The advantage of the new f1.8 over a new edition f1.4 is of course both weight and price. Perhaps image quality too. And have no doubt at widest aperture the f1.8 is a world class winner. And it is a lens rolling around everywhere.
I also own an OLD f1.4 and at widest aperture it is crappy.

Matthew Newton , Apr 12, 2010; 12:09 p.m.

The 50mm f/1.8 MIJ is sharper in the f/1.8-2.8 range than any 50mm f/1.4 Zuiko lens I have used. Beyond f/2.8 they are indistinquishable (equally very, very sharp). Of course the f/1.8 doesn't go to f/1.4.
The 50mm f/1.4 with serial numbers above 1.1 million (I believe just say Zuiko on the front instead of Zuiko MC) are supposed to be sharper than earlier versions. If so than it is probably a dead heat between that version of the f/1.4 and the MIJ f/1.8 lens as my earlier 50mm f/1.4 Zuiko MC (SN ~ 1 million) is close to as sharp as the f/1.8 MIJ I have at f/1.8, 2 and 2.8. Not softer enough to be all that noticable in regular prints unless you get up to above 8x12 size (I can tell a different when pixel peeping, I can't tell a difference in any of the 5x7 or 8x12 prints I have made).

Ken"MAX" Parks , Apr 13, 2010; 01:10 a.m.

There are subjective presentations of the old f/1.4 as compared to the newer model f/1.4's and the f/1.8. However, there are no objective comparisons.
I've shot with the OM2 and the Zuiko 55mm f/1.2 for many years and it has proven to be a remarkable lens. Today, the glass is used on my E-3 and E-30 DSLRs, with a 2x factor. Wide open and with the equivalent of 110mm, this lens makes a wonderful soft-portrait lens.
For low light conditions, such as indoor parties, I can boost the ISO to 3200 and shoot at f/1.2 thru f/2.8 with ease, and no cumbersome and annoying flash unit.
If you're looking for bokeh, any of the fast OM lenses will do the job. Because of pricing, I'd get both the f/1.4 and f/1.8 Both lenses can be purchased from KEH.com as bargain condition for less than $100.

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