7.09.2016

Testing the Olympus 70mm f2.0 (Pen-FT) lens with the very good Sony a6300. Surprising results...


I have owned the Olympus 70mm f2.0 lens (originally made for the Pen F half frame cameras in the late 1960's and early 1970's...) for a very long time and I always thought it was the least sharp of the vintage Olympus lenses that I owned. Recently, I decided to try it with the Sony a6300 by using an inexpensive, Fotodiox, adapter. My previous experience using the lens on a Sony Nex camera was with the Nex 7 and it was always a bit suspect because the Nex 7 was known not to play nicely with other makers wide angle lenses and even less nice with older, legacy lenses. 

I am happy to report that the a6300 is the model of accommodation. I started shooting a bit this afternoon using just the focus peaking to try and hit sharp focus. I immediately chimped at 100% and was disappointed to find the images looking soft or out of focus. My next tests were done using the focus magnification feature. With magnification enabled I could see that the fault lay not with my lens but with my technique and with the camera's overly optimistic focus peaking indicators. 

The frames on which I used the magnification to do my manual focusing I was happy to see that most of the apertures right up to f16 were able to yield sharp images. Since the coatings are from another era the images do benefit from a bit of added contrast and the judicious use of the dehaze slider in the latest rev of PhotoShop. 

I know that I promised not to shoot architectural bits and pieces as examples for my blog articles but it's the middle of the Summer and all of the Austin super-models have gone to a super model convention in Aspen...

I have tweaked these files. I did it not to fool you into thinking that this 40+ year old lens looks better than it is but because images from modern lenses are routinely tweaked and enhanced by in-camera processing which sharpens, fixes vignetting (which is not required with the 70mm), fixes geometry (which was not required with the 70mm), and fixes chromatic aberrations ---- also not required with the 70mm.  What I did do was bump the overall saturation and contrast a bit because there is an apparent difference of philosophy in lens coating from then to now. In the modern times we are intended to be able to use the files right out of the camera without modification but in the days of yore, when the lens was popular, the images would either be processed and printed in black and white or color; or they would be processed as color slides. In each of these processes it was best to start with a "flatter" negative and add contrast as you went along since you could never go in the other direction. At least not with good, predictable results...

I am extremely happy with the performance of this lens. At f5.6 and f8.0, with appropriate processing, it certainly stands up well to current lenses. In fact, I think starting with a lower contrast original file may actually help photographers to achieve a longer dynamic range and allow for more flexibility in processing. I give this classic "two thumbs up" and an honored place in my camera bag.

















Shot wide open at f2.0

I still don't understand this signage. I would pay an appreciable amount to cut 30% off my best swim times but when I inquired at this clothing store the woman at the counter mumbled something about a price reduction on swimwear. Crazy; right?


4 comments:

Mike Rosiak said...

Kirk, those are not architectural photographs. They are "urban portraits."

George Beinhorn said...

False advertising - taken literally, you're expected to swim up to the door for 30 percent off on everything. Sue 'em.

HR said...

La Niña is starting and El Niño is ending so it looks like we are in for some somewhat cooler, wetter years. Hang on just a bit longer! :-)

Clemens Lee said...

Love this lens on the A7 full frame camera as well, where it actually represents a very rare but nice focal length. Shameless plug/example: http://clemenslee.blogspot.ch/2015/11/zurich-claridenstrasse.html

Would love to try the 60/1.5 as well, but both 70 and 60 are actually not so easy to find, so I feel lucky with the 70 together with the more common lovely 40/1.4 (which has obvious vignetting on infinity, but is actually fine close by on full frame with lovely thought a bit freaky bokeh). Btw, at least the 40 is a bit radioactive, which maybe explains a bit how surprisingly sharp that little gem is.