Resurrecting Olympus OM Zuiko glass with the OM-D

Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f5.6

My first proper camera was an Olympus OM-1 which I still have and use on a regular basis. Overall I have an OM 28mm f3.5, an OM 50mm f1.8 and an OM 75-150mm f4. These lenses aren't particularly exciting paper but on an OM-1 they are versatile, compact and all round performers.

With an adapter on a Canon EOS 60d or 1ds mark II, they are just terrible. They are flat, soft and have a grey cast on the images and the images are hard to properly exposed.

But on the Olympus OM-D EM-5 they have found a new digital life.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f2.8

Well maybe not the 28mm... It is a useful focal length on m4/3 but there is the Sigma 30mm f2.8 for a similar price that is a lot better.

I used the 75-150mm f4 for a while and got ok results but what this post is about mainly is the 50mm f1.8. I haven't had the chance to own the Olympus Digital 45mm f1.8 yet which is an astounding lens but I wanted to see if the old $10 50mm f1.8 could fill a place in my bag.

The 50mm f1.8 on a m4/3 camera turns into an image stabilised 100mm f1.8, sounds pretty expensive and exotic doesn't it but I picked mine up for $10.

At f1.8, the image has lots of bokeh and image softness. Its only really usable for portraits where it makes people's features more pleasing but this lens doesn't have corner to corner sharpness like the Olympus 45mm f1.8. However, stop the lens down to f2.8 and it is suddenly sharp, crisp and beautiful. I find most of my images with this lens are at f2.8 and to me, they look damn good. Stopping the lens down even further to say f5.6 or f8 will yield sharper images with more depth of field but beyond that and you aren't really gaining any improvements.

Images taken at f1.8 have a soft glow to them. Parts of the image towards the centre are sharpish while the rest of the image turns into a vintage swirly haze:

OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Notice how the sand has started to swirl as well, a characteristic of older lenses which I like quite a lot. Where the sand and bottle was focused on, it is marginally sharp but this is a good attribute for portraiture.

 Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f2.8

 Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f4

When things are photographed further away, we start to see the other characteristics of older lenses. I have noticed that the colours of older lenses are different to modern digital lenses. This is probably a coating thing or maybe the recipe of glass is different but Grant and I have a theory that film is more contrasty so therefore older lenses have to be less contrasty in return, maybe... One could try this theory out by putting on a modern L series lens and comparing it to an old manual focus lens on film to see if this holds up.

  Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f2.8

 Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f1.8

 Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f2.8

You are also able to get up quite close with this lens. It is no macro lens but because it is now a 100mm f1.8, it seems to focus a lot closer than normal.

I have been very surprised by how the colours turn out in good conditions though. The following two images were taken during the golden hour after sunset and there is a nice level of subtle detail and contrast that makes the images not pop but melt into my eyes. Using f2.8, details that are in focus are crisp but not eye cuttingly so and the background melts away. The colours are not too oversaturated either (the crane and water picture was a peculiar night and I did not edit the image to look like this, this is just how it was.)

  Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f2.8

 Olympus OM-D EM-5 + Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.8 @ f8

If you are someone like me and own the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 and the Olympus 75mm f1.8 and don't have anything in the 'portrait' region in between and haven't bought the Olympus 45mm f1.8, I would definitely recommend looking into a manual focus 50mm f1.8 or f1.4. They are affordable and produce stellar results.

The black version of the Olympus 45mm f1.8 was released the other day though and I'm afraid I might have to buy it and return this old lens back to the OM-1

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