I was contemplating buying a fast Voightlander or Nocticron lens for my GH5s but I changed my mind... Here's why:

I was making some headshots for a nice actor named Celeste and at the end of the session I asked if she would sit for a few minutes and be the subject for a series of lens tests. She agreed.

Lately, I've been thinking that, with some projects coming up which require a number of images with narrow depth of field, I should buy a couple of fast lenses that I could use wide open, or close to wide open, and still get good, sharp results. I've played with a friend's 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron and I also had my eye on the Voightlander 42.5mm f.95 lens. Both get great reviews and seem to be what I'd need.

But, I have the drawer here at the studio that has some ancient Olympus lenses. They were originally made for that company's half frame film cameras; circa 1960s-1970s. I've always enjoyed using them but thought they may not hold up well given the higher resolution of the newest m4:3 cameras...

I decided to actually test the lenses I already owned rather than just reflexively dish out $800 or $1400 dollars that might be better spent elsewhere.

I made the tests as life like as I could. Real model. Real light. On a tripod. Absolutely wide open. The fast apertures.

The image above is from the weakest of the three lenses I tested. It's the Pen FT 70mm f2.0, shot at 2.0. It may be the delirium speaking but I think it's pretty good wide open. I haven't post processed the images from the 60mm f1.5 or the 40mm f1.4 yet but I spot checked sharpness, just to be sure, and found them just a tad better than the 70mm. All need a bit more contrast right out of the camera but all are sufficiently sharp and I actually like the color a lot.

I think I'll save the cash and use this 37 year old glass. I don't think I've gotten my money out of it yet...

Sorry, nothing commercial to link to....

Bigger file:


Frank Grygier said...

Love the look of the lens. Olympus lenses are right up there with the best.

EdPledger said...

You were doing what I was doing... I was contemplating getting the Oly portrait package (45+75 f1.8s)...but, what about what was in the drawer? So, today, I dug around and tried several legacy primes in the 80-100mm “portrait” area. For the shorter 45mm comparison, like you, I tried the Pen 40 f1.4. Conclusion? I think I will chill. The performance of the manual focus primes I have are “satisfactory” as Nero Wolfe would say. And manual focus is pretty easy these days on M43s.

(still, still that 75 does have a siren call)

On the other hand, your comments on the performance of the Oly Pro 40-150 f2.8 have me very intrigued.
Very intrigued indeed. I have read that you sorta like it. Right? Always something alluring beckoning.

Steve Khris said...

Kirk, Would you tell us the lighting arrangement please. I see, I think, your big square chimera, front on, with light blasting though it, or is that the studio window?


Anonymous said...


This is a lovely picture. Your `lens test subject' skin looks just right with more then enough detail.

So, you going to sell your A7 and A7r ?


Gato said...

Sweet. Really looks great.

Back in the day I owned a Pen F. I was looking through some very old photos the other day and realized what a great job it did. Sadly, in those days I could not afford more than one lens.

Michael Matthews said...

Speaking of lenses — your earlier postings on micro 4/3 made reference to adapters for lenses meant for Nikon and Canon glass. After using my daughter’s D5100 the other day I was intrigued by the color rendering of one image for which I had direct comparisons with Olympus amd Panasonic lenses on the EM 5.2. I'd like to try the big and clunky Nikon 18-200 zoom on the Olympus camera to see whether it’s the lens or the sensor/software making such a radical difference. Which adapter would you recommend for doing that at minimal expense....but leaving me with a usable adapter of the result is pleasing?

mikepeters said...

Good that you hung on to those lenses. A nice 60mm f1.5 goes for almost $800 bucks these days, if you can even find one. That said, my favorite headshot lens is the Olympus 75 f1.8. I like it a lot better for perspective than the 42.5 focal length. When I shot Canon I favored the 135 f2 over the 85 II f1.2, so at least I'm consistent.

David Speranza said...

Hi, Kirk. Longtime reader/lurker here, and devout Panasonic M4/3 user (I was shooting photo/video gigs on my original GH1's until a year ago, and now own two G7's that do stellar work for me).

It seemed worth mentioning my own solution for acquiring inexpensive, extra-fast glass--a solution very familiar to the M4/3 crowd: focal reducers. The top of the line is of course the Metabones Speed Booster, but if you want to spend less money for only a tiny hit in quality, there's the well-regarded Mitakon Turbo II adapters, which I use and have been extremely happy with. They turn my Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 zoom, for instance, into a 13-25.5 f/1.2 (or 26-51 f/2.6 FF equivalent). My Rokinon 85mm f/1.4, meanwhile, becomes a 62mm f/1. And I have another adapter for my stable of Canon FD/FL lenses.

The added bonus of these focal reducers, which not only provide a wider field of view and an extra stop of brightness, is how they sharpen the image--very handy when shooting old lenses wide open. The tradeoff is lack of EXIF data and AF (with the cheaper adapters, anyway), but MF is par for the course for old-timers like ourselves. ;-)

Anyway, something to think about if you're looking to breathe new, shallow depth-of-field life into old glass.

Keep up the great work! Your ability to keep this blog active and vital--all while maintaining a thriving photo/video career--continues to inspire and amaze.

Noons said...

That is an amazing and mesmerizing photo!
Sooooo tempted to find myself some of these Pen lenses...
Please give us details on the lighting, I can see a big square window-like light in the ladie's eyes, but those skin tones are not from sunlight!