Impressions: Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO


Dallas

Over December and January I had the opportunity to use a demo sample of the new addition to the M.Zuiko PRO family of lenses, namely the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.

 

This is less of a review and more of a collection of my impressions and opinions of this lens, where I am basing my observations purely on some recreational photography I managed to do over the holiday period. Ideally I would have liked to do some proper work with the lens, unfortunately much of the country is in deep slumber over this period of time, so work didn’t really happen for me while I had the lens with me. Anyway, I did get out with it a few times so this is what I found out about it.

 

Design & Handling

 

We all know that this lens is the newest addition to the micro four thirds stable of ultra-wide zoom lenses, (the same angles of view as a Nikon 14-24mm lens on an FX body) but unlike the previous 7-14mm options from both Panasonic and Olympus (the latter in 4/3rds mount), this one has a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. It’s also quite large as a result of this increase in the aperture and while it’s much smaller than the older 4/3rds 7-14mm f/4, it is still bigger and heavier than the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It totally dwarfs the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is currently my go-to wide angle lens for the m43 system.

 

The build quality of the 7-14 is fantastic and follows the same conventions as the rest of the PRO range. Sleek, fully metal everywhere and truly indicative of manufacturing excellence. The only design issue I have with it is that it also uses the MF/AF clutch system, which has caught out many an Olympus photographer when its accidentally switched to MF. Fortunately the new firmware on most OM-D models lets you turn that off. Panasonic body users will not be so lucky, so they will need to proceed with caution.

 

I suppose another design issue to talk about is that you won’t be able to use screw-in filters with this lens, but this is something that we see on all ultra-wide zoom lenses these days - none of them have this. I do recall seeing somewhere recently that either LEE or Cokin have developed a filter holder that you can put on the Nikon 14-24/2.8, so maybe they might look into doing something for this lens. To be honest though, I am not so sure that you will get good results with such a system and resin filters, especially at the extreme wide end of the zoom. There’s bound to be some serious optical diffraction unless they make the filters really thin.

 

In The Field

 

Like all the modern Olympus glass this one is sharp like a razor blade even at the maximum aperture. I shot with it stopped down a bit and also at the widest 2.8 aperture and honestly, there’s not a lot of difference to talk about. If you’re coming from consumer grade glass for your system you’ll see the difference immediately. That’s what you’re paying for with a lens like this.

 

That said, sharpness isn’t everything. We need to look at some of the other characteristics of the lens optics and decide whether or not this is the right lens for us. Obviously each photographer who is thinking about this guy might have different needs for it, so what I am going to do is share how I used it during the time I had it and point out what I think are the good and bad points. I had hoped to use it indoors for some architectural work, but as mentioned that part of my business wasn’t active at all during the time I had it.

 

Let’s take a look at some photos:

 

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One of the first things I did with this lens is climb up onto the roof of my garage and see how wide it looks at 7mm because we have a fairly impressive view from our house. This is what the lens saw at 7mm.

 

Something I noticed on many of the earlier 7-14mm reviews posted when the lens first came out was that the wide angles looked weird to me, almost like they weren’t quite wide and had been squashed somehow. After puzzling this out in my mind I came to the conclusion that it is the 4:3 aspect ratio that was messing with my head. Because I use my OM-D’s permanently in 3:2 mode the images I got didn’t seem to have that sense of “compressed expansion” I saw on other reviews. They looked proper wide.

 

So apart from the width of the viewing angle the next thing you will notice about the shot above is that there are three very strong flare dots dead in the middle of the frame. You will also notice that the sun is pretty high in the sky and not in the frame. In the next shot shown below, taken from the same position, but turned roughly 90˚to the left and tilting the camera to portrait orientation, you will see seven flare ghosts running into the frame at an angle. Also take note of the shadow lengths on my driveway. It was almost high noon.

 

This is a bit of a problem for this lens. It flares very easily, even when the sun isn’t in the frame but where strong light hits the front element directly. I picked this up in many of the shots I took, indoors and outdoors. I am by no means an optical engineer, but there is something else I am seeing happening with this lens in that situation that makes me think that maybe Olympus have tried to correct more for the side effects of the flare than worry too much about the typical element ghosting we see in flare situations. Normally with lens flare the first thing that happens is you lose contrast. No so with this lens. The images retain a terrific amount of punch and colour doesn’t seem to be degraded at all.

 

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A few days later I took the 7-14mm down to the beach for a short stroll to see what I could find. If you look at the two shots above you will get to see the difference in the angle of view between 7mm and 14mm. Also notice that the perspective you get changes dramatically from one end to the other and this can make for some interesting creative effects given the right foreground / background subject relationships. I would love to have used this lens in a live concert where I could get right behind the singer and show the crowd in the background.

 

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In these two shots I have tried to illustrate the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm end, as well as show how the flare issue is more apparent in the first shot, but not in the second.

 

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Towards the end of December one of my cousins’ son was Christened at a local church and in-between shooting the actual event I managed to grab a few shots to illustrate how useful an extreme wide angle can be to show the inside of an expansive space. You can really get some interesting looks with this view. however, take note that the window light has once again caused the lens to flare, even indoors.

 

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The actual Christening (this is an Anglican Church) took place in a small vestibule near the entrance and using the wide part of the lens again I got some shots showing pretty much the entire room while I stood in the doorway. As far as distortion goes I didn’t find anything too objectionable in the bricks, but the head of the lady in the bottom right has been stretched ET style. That’s something you can’t get away from with rectilinear wide angle lenses like this. You’ll get it on every ultra-wide angle lens. Avoid putting people near the edges and the problem goes away. :)

 

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This next shot I took on 2 January at a gorge not too far from where I live (about 30-40kms by road). You can’t really appreciate the width of the shot but my intention was to try and show as much of the surroundings as possible without plunging headlong down the 70m or so to the bottom!

 

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This is one of the last images I took with the lens and it was just after an actual job I did a couple of weeks ago involving the Natal Sharks rugby team who were doing a signing session at a shopping mall. This shot gives you a good indication of how things get stretched with this lens design. You can fit a lot into the frame but don’t expect it to look “normal”.

 

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Here is the world famous Moses Mabhida football stadium. It’s probably one of the finest sports stadia in the world and has been host to many international matches, including the FIFA 2010 World Cup Semi Final. This isn’t my finest shot ever, but again you can see where a lens like this can come in useful. Also note that again we have flare spots appearing in the frame.

 

24183352573_10bd78c53c_o.jpg

 

The last shot I have to show you here is taken shooting directly into the morning sun and here you see a different sort of flare problem in the top right of the frame. A talented Photoshop user will easily get rid of these annoying ghosts, but I thought I would show you what happens when you shoot into the sun with the 7-14mm, seeing as I already showed you what happens when you don’t shoot into the sun. I don’t think it’s that bad.

 

Overal Impression

 

So that’s a look at the performance of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO in the field. It’s certainly capable of producing fine results, but you will need to be constantly aware of the flare, even when shooting indoors with a bright light source in your frame. This might be an issue that precludes it from being used as an architectural lens, particularly for interiors where dealing with bright lights from windows is a constant. I think that a less extreme lens like the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 would be a better option. I do sometimes use the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 for that type of work and I have not had any issues with flare. It would be nice to get wider than 9mm for interiors, but it’s not essential.

 

In another thread on Fotozones we were discussing this very thing and I personally would have no problems with Olympus developing a slower, wider fixed focal length lens that I could use for this kind of work. Something like an 8mm f/4.0 rectilinear lens would be a lot smaller than this enormous 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and might actually work better for architectural photography since most of it is done on a tripod anyway. Also, consider that when shooting architecture you’re seldom going to need f/2.8.

 

So for me the 7-14mm is not likely to find its way into my working kit any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one, but everything I buy these days has to have a practical and measurably positive impact on my business as a photographer and unfortunately a lens this expensive falls squarely into the “nice-to-have” category. I don’t need it as much as I want it.

Edited by DDFZ


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      After enduring a few days of the Cape Town winter weather at its worst (apparently it even snowed on Table Mountain while we were there) we headed North towards Namaqualand, which is famed for its wide open plains of wild spring flowers. It was here that I discovered another massive benefit to using the Olympus E-M5. I didn’t have to crawl on my belly to get level with the flowers when composing a shot. I simply angled up my LCD, sussed out what was going on with the composition and then tapped the screen to take the shot.
       

       
      We spent a few days in Namaqualand going from farm to farm photographing the wild flowers before we made our first border crossing of the trip into Namibia and the enormously vacant landscapes it offers. This was what I had been longing for. This was where I was hoping to make some magical images!
       
      Namibia is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s hard to describe the solitude of these massive, ancient and inhospitable landscapes. It’s as if the earth has a dried up patch on its skin, on which nothing appears to flourish. The moment you cross over the border from South Africa the geology changes dramatically. Our first stop was the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world (behind Grand Canyon, USA). Photographically it’s difficult to capture the awe of this place. You need to explore it from many different locations and the best times for photography would be in the evenings, so you’d want to give yourself a couple of days to scout a good location and then take your shots. This makes it a bit of a challenge because during the day there’s not much else to photograph in the area, so you end up spending a lot of time doing nothing in camp, which is not exactly thrilling. We got there towards evening on the first day, so we did get some nice sunset images of the canyon. We revisited it the following morning at dawn, but I didn’t find it as interesting as the previous evening (photographically that is). The evening is definitely the better time for canyon photography as the rocks take on wonderful hues in the soft, dusty sunsets. Once again I found myself using the Olympus while the Nikon D700 slept in the big rolling camera bag.
       

       

       
      Onward into the desert proper we went after the canyon, our next stop being Sossussvlei which is where you find the enormous red sand dunes of the Namib desert, the oldest in the world. This rapidly becomes landscape photography heaven as you have the dunes coming into contact with the Naukluft mountains. We had three days in this amazing landscape. It was winter but it was still unbearably hot during the day, with temperatures easily climbing over the 40C (104F) mark. My objective here was to put my recently acquired LEE Filters Seven5 system to the test in the field. For those of you unfamiliar with this system it’s basically the same as the regular LEE filters drop in filter system except that it’s been made smaller for use on mirrorless cameras like the Olympus OM-D series. To put it as succinctly as possible, I just adore the images I got out of the E-M5 using those ND Grad LEE Filters. They are a must have item for anyone interested in landscape photography.
       

       
      After our time in the dunes came what has to be the most mentally demanding drive I have ever undertaken. Going from Sossussvlei to Swakopmund along the badly corrugated dirt roads was something that drove home just how desolate this place is. Roadworks departments might take years to get these roads re-graded. The actual distance isn’t that far, about 350km (217mi) but because you have to drive so slowly it takes between 5 and 6 hours to get there. If you’re not careful your vehicle might end up shearing a wheel right off its axle. This happens with disturbing regularity on this road.
       
      Swakopmund is a sleepy little seaside town seemingly stuck in the early 20th century. Most of the buildings and architecture date from the time when South West Africa (as Namibia used to be known) was a German colony. German is still widely spoken here, in fact together with Afrikaans it’s the most commonly encountered language. Mornings are usually damp and misty as the cool air coming in off the Atlantic mixes with the hot and dry air of the desert often creating thick fog. We were there for three nights and each morning was the same; overcast and moist, gradually clearing towards lunch time. Apparently it’s like this most of the time. Thankfully it was considerably cooler than Sossussvlei (about 16C daytime high)! Photographically it is very interesting and well worth the visit. We spent some time in the town itself, getting the vehicles checked out after the horrendous drive there, plus we also went a little South to Walvis Bay to photograph the large flamingo colonies found there.
       

      Typical building found in swakopmund. Note the grey sky.
       
      The dunes surrounding Swakopmund are fascinating and were the highlight of our stay in Swakopmund. It’s hard to believe that anything can survive in them yet on a couple of guided tours we were introduced to some of the creatures who do just that. From snakes to spiders and chameleons, they all somehow get by.
       
      It was in these harsh desert conditions that I came to realise my days of lugging around a DSLR were almost over. Lying in my hotel room in Swakopmund one night I read online (with unbridled enthusiasm I’ll add) Olympus’ announcement of the E-M1. It addressed all the shortcomings of the E-M5, particularly where auto focus tracking is concerned. But it wasn’t so much that announcement that drove home this realisation, it was watching my guests and safari business partner lying on their bellies in the desert taking photos of a chameleon with their faces mashed against the view finder that truly drove home the sheer inadequacy of the DSLR design for me. In the midst of all the technological advances we have made over the past few years, major companies are still asking camera users to contort their bodies in order to frame a shot using old mechanical interfaces (mirrors and prisms).
       

       
      Moments before I took this shot I had been sitting next to these guests, also shooting the chameleon, but instead of taking the somewhat impractical measures of lying down in the sand, I had merely hunkered down, tilted my LCD upwards and once again used the touch screen of the E-M5 to make a series of super sharp, perfectly exposed images of the reptile zapping a grub at 9 frames a second. I could check the images immediately without the interference of the desert glare using the EVF. That was it. It was all I needed to convince me that the move to mirrorless was the way forward.
       

       
      We spent another 2 weeks in Namibia, moving from Swakopmund to Caprivi. Along the way I found yet another shooting situation where the E-M5 refused to accept the label of “inferior instrument” from its older DSLR cousins. In Damaraland there is a village of Himba people who live their lives according to their tribal traditions. We got to go inside one of the Himba women’s huts where she demonstrated to us how they bathe themselves using smoke. There we all were, 10 of us photographers crammed into this little hut where the only light coming in was via the short front entrance. Nobody else seemed to be taking photographs in the gloom. I was right next to the Himba lady and with the incredible Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens I was able to make some awesome images of her ritual at high ISO.
       

       
      Photography is a wonderful craft and a great pastime. It’s evolved dramatically over the years and it’s continuing to evolve as new technologies are incorporated into camera designs. Since December my mirrorless m43 system has become the only system I use, both professionally and for my personal needs. All the Nikon stuff is gone. I have added an E-M1 body, Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO, Olympus 45/1.8, Olympus 7-14/4 (4/3rds mount with MMF2), Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 (4/3rds) and a couple of Olympus FL-600R flash units. I’m ready for just about anything the world can show me, but the most important change hasn’t been so much about the new gear itself, it’s been about how the new gear has allowed me to rekindle my love for photography. It makes me want to take it everywhere because its so easy to take a bunch of lenses and accessories wherever I go in a small camera bag without any fuss at all. It’s all I have wanted for years.
       
      The next big challenge I will put my m43 gear through are the two group photo safaris we’re doing later this year. We’re heading back to Botswana again on the first safari, this time to the Chobe region where big game and birdlife are the primary subjects. I’ll be using the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 for that one as well as hopefully the new 40-150/2.8 PRO if it is out by then. We’ll stay on a houseboat for 5 days and then also spend some time on land in Chobe before heading to Victoria Falls for some action and more water based adventure photography. That trip is in September and there is still one suite left for a couple sharing if there is interest amongst readers (full information here).
       
      Then the following month we head to Sabi Sabi for our annual Ultimate Big 5 Safari, which is to be honest, the best introduction to Africa and it’s wildlife you could ever hope for. You get closer to the Big 5 than you’ll get anywhere else and the photo opportunities are ridiculous. It will certainly be a great test of the long lenses that are available for the E-M1.
      Maybe we’ll see some of you there too?

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    • By Dallas
      I discovered a feature of the software I didn't know existed before and have implemented it in the page footer of all posts where tags are in use. So, for example, having tagged this post with Nikon and Olympus, readers should see shortcut links to several posts with the same tags in the footer. 
       
      Enjoy! 
    • By Dallas
      A couple of people have asked me to make a video about some of the more advanced features of the Olympus Flash system. 
       
      In this video I take a very quick look at a few of the features I find most useful. If you have any questions about the video, the flash or Olympus in general, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help you. 
       
       

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      A couple of people have asked me to make a video about some of the more advanced features of the Olympus Flash system. 
       
      In this video I take a very quick look at a few of the features I find most useful. If you have any questions about the video, the flash or Olympus in general, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help you. 
       
       
    • By Dallas
      I see no image degradation with this combo at all. 
       

       

       

       
      In my honest opinion, this lens and 1.4x TC outshines the newer 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with its own TC by a long way. 
    • By Dallas
      One of the coolest things about mirrorless cameras is that with an adapter you can mount and use just about any lens from other camera systems on a mirrorless body.
       
      Every m43 camera I have tried doing this on, going back to the original digital PEN models, also does a very good job of calculating exposure in A mode without even knowing what aperture you have set on the lens. This makes using non-native lenses on an m43 camera even easier. Of course you can also use the live histogram and highlight/shadow clipping warnings in other modes to get your exposure right if you prefer shooting that way.
       
      Before I made my move to m43 from Nikon I purchased a really cheap F mount adapter for G lenses from eBay so that I could mount my Nikon lenses on the Olympus E-M5. It cost me about $10 including shipping to me in South Africa which is extraordinarily cheap.
       
      At that point I only had the E-M5 body, so I didn’t have the benefit of the E-M1’s focus peaking feature when it came to focusing some of the F mount lenses I tried on the Olympus. I had to focus using the magnification method, which admittedly wasn’t ideal as it involved a few steps that weren’t always in the forefront of my mind. However, even with this somewhat hit-and-miss approach, I was quite impressed with the way some of the lenses I tried performed on the E-M5. The Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS was seemingly even sharper on the Olympus than it was on the Nikon D700. When using a Sigma 2x teleconverter coupled with that lens on the E-M5 I was able to get an effective angle of view similar to that of a 1200mm f/5.6 lens on a 135 camera. Paparazzi manna no doubt, except that the tripod support I was using for this get-up was not all that good, leaving me with no option but to use the self timer to get a sharp image. With such a small angle of view every tiny vibration felt by the camera is magnified to the point where locating anything in the EVF steady enough to focus on is a real challenge.
       
      I’d pretty much given up on the idea of using adapted lenses on my OM-D’s but the other day I was cleaning out some of the drawers in my office and I came across a clutch of Canon FD lenses that have somehow survived getting the dreaded fungus that plagues lenses in the humid climate here where I live. Included in this small collection are a Canon 19mm f/3.5, Canon 28mm f/2.8, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 35-70mm f/4-5.6 zoom and a Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. I thought they might be worth trying on the E-M1.
       

      Nikon adapter (left) and Canon FD adapter (right)
       
      The short (14cm), all metal body Vivitar 200/3.5 is one lens in particular that I hoped might shine on m43 and prove to be somewhat useful given it’s small size and 400mm equivalent angle of view. With that kind of narrow view and relatively fast aperture I became curious enough to send another $10 to China for an FD adapter which arrived this past Friday. Since then I’ve been having some fun with these old FD lenses.
       
      The other lens I was curious about that I never got to try out in my film days is the Canon FD 19mm f/3.5. The reason I never got to use this guy is because it only mounts on FD bodies with mirror lock-up functions. For a short while I did have a Canon F-1 that had this feature, but for some reason I never ran a film through that hefty body. In the course of my love affair with Leica M bodies I eventually sold the F-1 but kept the 19mm.
      This lens has an extreme design - its rear element is so close to the film plane that even with the m43 adapter a portion of it still protrudes beyond the inner throat of the adapter which makes mounting it on some m43 cameras impossible as there is not enough clearance around the sensor for the rear element to fit. Fortunately the E-M1 seems to have more room in that area than the E-M5 does and after a few nervous moments during mounting it where I thought I might destroy the E-M1’s sensor by mashing it against the back of the lens, it all clicked neatly into position and nothing broke.
       
      The 19mm view would be quite wide on a 135 camera, but it offers more of a normal view (38mm) on the m43 sensor. After all those years of waiting to try it out the image quality is nothing special, in fact it’s quite disappointing, sort of soft all around, very prone to flare and largely of devoid of the contrast we’ve come to expect from modern lenses. Lens design has certainly come a long way since this chap was a desirable item for Canon shooters back in the day. I do think one area that it might prove useful in is for video use. It offers up a lot of depth of field, so if you are shooting a general scene you can set the aperture to around f/8 and everything from 1.5m to infinity is in focus (an advantage of having hyperfocal distance markings on the lens is that you can simply move the infinity symbol to the aperture you’re using and the opposite side of the scale shows where your nearest point of focus will be for that aperture). Just as well because trying to focus it manually involves some finger gymnastics as its focusing ring is wafer thin and there are only two very small ribbed sections to grip it with. Oh well, at least I know now what it’s like. I don’t think I’ll be using it all that often.
       

      L-R: Vivitar 200/3.5, Canon 28/2.8, Canon 50/1.8 and on the E-M1 the Canon 19/3.5 (note the thin focus ring)
       
      The other lens I was keen to try is the Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. Back in the heydays of manual focus lenses Vivitar weren’t exactly known for being stellar optics, but they did have their Series 1 lenses which were quite well regarded. While being exceptionally well built, my 200mm isn’t a Series 1 lens and the optics show that. It starts getting fairly sharp at around f/8, but as with the 19mm there’s this lacklustre contrast performance to deal with. Definitely not the kick-ass, small lens I had hoped might come in handy for shooting wildlife on safari.
       
      Unsurprisingly the two better FD lenses I have are the small and light Canon 28mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.8 optics. Stopped down to f/4 these lenses both offer exceptional sharpness on the E-M1 and they also do pretty well in the contrast department. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 FD can be picked up for as little as $20 on eBay and when used on the m43 sensor it makes for a terrific portrait lens. The 28mm I am very impressed with as far as sharpness goes!
       

      Above and below images taken with the Vivitar 200/3.5 stopped down to about f/8 - you can see colour fringing on the royal ibis in the background below
       

       

      Above: the Canon 28mm f/2.8 turned out to be a good lens on the E-M1
       

      Above: Canon 50/1.8 FD is pretty sharp and makes for a good portrait lens on micro four thirds
       
      Recently I came across this company, Fotodiox, who have developed an m43 speed booster adapter for Canon FD and Nikon G lenses named the Excell+1. According to the literature these adapters will not only provide you with an additional stop of light, but will also shorten the FD lens focal length so that they are closer to the original by a factor of 0.72x. So when you’re using the adapter on an m43 body together with a 50mm lens instead of getting the view of a 100mm lens, you’re getting a 70mm view because the built-in optics of the adapter reduces the actual focal length of a 50mm lens to 36mm. Would be cool to pick up a Canon 85mm f/1.2 and use it with one of these adapters. You’d get an aperture of f/0.something! However, those lenses still command high prices on the used market (I saw a couple going for close to $1k on eBay), so you’d probably be better off just getting the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 native mount lenses for m43. Even so, I’d still like to try this speedbooster out on the Canon 28mm f/2.8. It would give me a very fast 41mm field of view. An interesting product for sure.
       
      At the end of the day using lenses like this on my OM-D is more about having relaxed fun than serious photography. There’s something inherently cool about putting old lenses to use again. It also slows you down some and forces you to think a bit more than usual when making a shot. I will definitely do more excursions where I only use the FD lenses. I may also just add a few more eBay bargains in the future too.

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      One of the coolest things about mirrorless cameras is that with an adapter you can mount and use just about any lens from other camera systems on a mirrorless body.
       
      Every m43 camera I have tried doing this on, going back to the original digital PEN models, also does a very good job of calculating exposure in A mode without even knowing what aperture you have set on the lens. This makes using non-native lenses on an m43 camera even easier. Of course you can also use the live histogram and highlight/shadow clipping warnings in other modes to get your exposure right if you prefer shooting that way.
       
      Before I made my move to m43 from Nikon I purchased a really cheap F mount adapter for G lenses from eBay so that I could mount my Nikon lenses on the Olympus E-M5. It cost me about $10 including shipping to me in South Africa which is extraordinarily cheap.
       
      At that point I only had the E-M5 body, so I didn’t have the benefit of the E-M1’s focus peaking feature when it came to focusing some of the F mount lenses I tried on the Olympus. I had to focus using the magnification method, which admittedly wasn’t ideal as it involved a few steps that weren’t always in the forefront of my mind. However, even with this somewhat hit-and-miss approach, I was quite impressed with the way some of the lenses I tried performed on the E-M5. The Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS was seemingly even sharper on the Olympus than it was on the Nikon D700. When using a Sigma 2x teleconverter coupled with that lens on the E-M5 I was able to get an effective angle of view similar to that of a 1200mm f/5.6 lens on a 135 camera. Paparazzi manna no doubt, except that the tripod support I was using for this get-up was not all that good, leaving me with no option but to use the self timer to get a sharp image. With such a small angle of view every tiny vibration felt by the camera is magnified to the point where locating anything in the EVF steady enough to focus on is a real challenge.
       
      I’d pretty much given up on the idea of using adapted lenses on my OM-D’s but the other day I was cleaning out some of the drawers in my office and I came across a clutch of Canon FD lenses that have somehow survived getting the dreaded fungus that plagues lenses in the humid climate here where I live. Included in this small collection are a Canon 19mm f/3.5, Canon 28mm f/2.8, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 35-70mm f/4-5.6 zoom and a Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. I thought they might be worth trying on the E-M1.
       

      Nikon adapter (left) and Canon FD adapter (right)
       
      The short (14cm), all metal body Vivitar 200/3.5 is one lens in particular that I hoped might shine on m43 and prove to be somewhat useful given it’s small size and 400mm equivalent angle of view. With that kind of narrow view and relatively fast aperture I became curious enough to send another $10 to China for an FD adapter which arrived this past Friday. Since then I’ve been having some fun with these old FD lenses.
       
      The other lens I was curious about that I never got to try out in my film days is the Canon FD 19mm f/3.5. The reason I never got to use this guy is because it only mounts on FD bodies with mirror lock-up functions. For a short while I did have a Canon F-1 that had this feature, but for some reason I never ran a film through that hefty body. In the course of my love affair with Leica M bodies I eventually sold the F-1 but kept the 19mm.
      This lens has an extreme design - its rear element is so close to the film plane that even with the m43 adapter a portion of it still protrudes beyond the inner throat of the adapter which makes mounting it on some m43 cameras impossible as there is not enough clearance around the sensor for the rear element to fit. Fortunately the E-M1 seems to have more room in that area than the E-M5 does and after a few nervous moments during mounting it where I thought I might destroy the E-M1’s sensor by mashing it against the back of the lens, it all clicked neatly into position and nothing broke.
       
      The 19mm view would be quite wide on a 135 camera, but it offers more of a normal view (38mm) on the m43 sensor. After all those years of waiting to try it out the image quality is nothing special, in fact it’s quite disappointing, sort of soft all around, very prone to flare and largely of devoid of the contrast we’ve come to expect from modern lenses. Lens design has certainly come a long way since this chap was a desirable item for Canon shooters back in the day. I do think one area that it might prove useful in is for video use. It offers up a lot of depth of field, so if you are shooting a general scene you can set the aperture to around f/8 and everything from 1.5m to infinity is in focus (an advantage of having hyperfocal distance markings on the lens is that you can simply move the infinity symbol to the aperture you’re using and the opposite side of the scale shows where your nearest point of focus will be for that aperture). Just as well because trying to focus it manually involves some finger gymnastics as its focusing ring is wafer thin and there are only two very small ribbed sections to grip it with. Oh well, at least I know now what it’s like. I don’t think I’ll be using it all that often.
       

      L-R: Vivitar 200/3.5, Canon 28/2.8, Canon 50/1.8 and on the E-M1 the Canon 19/3.5 (note the thin focus ring)
       
      The other lens I was keen to try is the Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. Back in the heydays of manual focus lenses Vivitar weren’t exactly known for being stellar optics, but they did have their Series 1 lenses which were quite well regarded. While being exceptionally well built, my 200mm isn’t a Series 1 lens and the optics show that. It starts getting fairly sharp at around f/8, but as with the 19mm there’s this lacklustre contrast performance to deal with. Definitely not the kick-ass, small lens I had hoped might come in handy for shooting wildlife on safari.
       
      Unsurprisingly the two better FD lenses I have are the small and light Canon 28mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.8 optics. Stopped down to f/4 these lenses both offer exceptional sharpness on the E-M1 and they also do pretty well in the contrast department. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 FD can be picked up for as little as $20 on eBay and when used on the m43 sensor it makes for a terrific portrait lens. The 28mm I am very impressed with as far as sharpness goes!
       

      Above and below images taken with the Vivitar 200/3.5 stopped down to about f/8 - you can see colour fringing on the royal ibis in the background below
       

       

      Above: the Canon 28mm f/2.8 turned out to be a good lens on the E-M1
       

      Above: Canon 50/1.8 FD is pretty sharp and makes for a good portrait lens on micro four thirds
       
      Recently I came across this company, Fotodiox, who have developed an m43 speed booster adapter for Canon FD and Nikon G lenses named the Excell+1. According to the literature these adapters will not only provide you with an additional stop of light, but will also shorten the FD lens focal length so that they are closer to the original by a factor of 0.72x. So when you’re using the adapter on an m43 body together with a 50mm lens instead of getting the view of a 100mm lens, you’re getting a 70mm view because the built-in optics of the adapter reduces the actual focal length of a 50mm lens to 36mm. Would be cool to pick up a Canon 85mm f/1.2 and use it with one of these adapters. You’d get an aperture of f/0.something! However, those lenses still command high prices on the used market (I saw a couple going for close to $1k on eBay), so you’d probably be better off just getting the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 native mount lenses for m43. Even so, I’d still like to try this speedbooster out on the Canon 28mm f/2.8. It would give me a very fast 41mm field of view. An interesting product for sure.
       
      At the end of the day using lenses like this on my OM-D is more about having relaxed fun than serious photography. There’s something inherently cool about putting old lenses to use again. It also slows you down some and forces you to think a bit more than usual when making a shot. I will definitely do more excursions where I only use the FD lenses. I may also just add a few more eBay bargains in the future too.
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