Introduction

Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 is one of three (four technically speaking if we consider 55mm f/1.2 here) lenses that Olympus used to manufacture for the now defunct OM mount. Olympus discontinued OM cameras in 2002 and discontinued OM-type SLR lenses shortly thereafter, all in the favor the brand new four thirds digital SLR platform. The lens is readily available on used markets these days, with good copies going for about US$60. The lens sample tested here was a single coated variant, serial number 413278.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 7 elements in 6 groups. Build quality of Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 is quite good - the barrel is metal as is the aperture ring, and the focus ring is fully rubberized for easy grip. This is also the most compact and the lightest 50mm lens I tested to date. It measures 60x36mm (2.4x1.4in) and weighs only 230g (8.1oz). The inner cam of the lens extends during focusing towards closup, making the lens slightly longer.

The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 45cm (1.47ft), while the minimum aperture is f/16. The filter size is 49mm. This is a fully manual lens, which means that both focusing and aperture has to be set using dedicated manual rings.

Image

On an APS-C camera, the lens has field of view similar to that of a 80mm lens on a full-frame body. To use the lens on a Canon EOS body I used a generic, non AF-chipped Fotodiox Olympus OM to EOS adapter. you will end up operating the camera in manual or aperture priority modes with all but center weighted metering disabled.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 7 elements in 6 groups
Angular Field 45 degrees
Minimum Focus 45cm/1.47ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/1.4-f/16, manual
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood N/A
Weight 230g/8.1oz
Dimensions 60x36mm/2.4x1.4"
Lens Case N/A

 

Field Tests

The lens produced quite solid performance in the field, with very good to excellent overall results. At f/1.4 the lens showed noticable softness around borders, but quality improved once you stop down to f/2 or better yet f/2.8.

 

Vignetting @ f/1.4 - full frame vs 1.6x crop
Vignetting @ f/1.4 - full frame vs 1.6x crop

The lens showed mild wignetting on a full-frame camera at f/1.4. Vignetting is reduced significantly at f/2 and by f/2.8 is almost non-existent. The lens showed practically no vignetting on an APS-C camera streight from f/1.4. Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 did not exhibit noticable barrel distortion, but did fall occasionally prone to flare, mostly at wide apertures. Color representation was pretty accurate, with minimal level of color fringing.

 

ISO 100, 1/3200. f/1.4, 50mm (100% crop)
ISO 100, 1/3200. f/1.4, 50mm (100% crop)

Lab Tests

Please note that MTF50 results for APS-C and Full-Frame cameras are not cross-comparable despite the same normalized [0:1] range used to report results for both types of cameras.

 

Four Thirds: Coming soon...

 

Canon APS-C: The lens showed top notch performance from f/2.8 through the rest of the tested aperture range, both in the center and around borders. But the lens struggled a bit at wider apertures: at f/1.4, center performance was mediocre and border quality was plain dismal. Performance improves at f/2, with quality in the center reaching pretty decent level, but border performance still struggling. At its peak (f/4 through f/8) the lens is capable of producing outstanding 19in and very decent 24in prints. Conclusion? Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 easily matches performance of some of the more expensive modern lenses. Not bad for a 30yr piece of glass.

 

MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 50mm
MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 50mm

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 50mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 50mm

 

Chromatic aberration was quite modest with this lens, averaging ~0.4px in the center and ~0.7px around borders with wide aperture settings. Stopping down brings CA to completely insignificant levels.

 

 

Image borders @ 50mm (100% crop): f/1.4 vs f/8
Image borders @ 50mm (100% crop): f/1.4 vs f/8

Canon FF: Consistency is the name of the game, and Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 is all about consistency both on full-frame and APS-C cameras. The lens performance in the center is average at f/1.4, steadily improving with stopped down aperture. By f/2.8 performance reaches quite impressive levels and remains consistently high through the rest of the tested aperture range. Unfortunately, like with the APS-C camera, image quality around borders at wide aperture levels leaves room for improvement (a lot of room for improvement). At f/1.4 anf f/2, border quality is uninspiring at best, but improves by f/2.8 and reaches maximum around f/5.6-f/8. Conclusion? Consistency is good and while performance around borders at wide apertures is dismal, overall performance can be considered pretty solid.

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 50mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 50mm

 

CA remains well under control on a full-frame Canon 5D, averaging ~0.5px in the center and about 0.8px around borders at the widest aperture level. As always, stopping down helps bring CA down to minimal levels.

 

 

Image borders @ 50mm (100% crop): f/1.4 vs f/8
Image borders @ 50mm (100% crop): f/1.4 vs f/8

 

Alternatives

In addition to the 50mm f/1.4 lens reviewed here, Olympus used to manufacture three other standard lenses in the now defunct OM mount - Zuiko 55mm f/1.2, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 and Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 Macro. The list of usual suspects in this category obviously include Carl Zeiss lenses (Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 and Planar T* 50mm f/1.7 in C/Y or Ai-S mounts) as well as Leica lenses (Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4 and Summicron-R 50mm f/2). The good news is that there are dozens of 50mm standard lenses available in a variety of different mounts, the bad news is that you will need significant amount of time and resources to try them all.

 

Recommendation

Impressive indeed...  While performance at f/1.4 is not necessarily the most impressive, overall image quality, build quality and price are. In this regard, Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 can be considered to be one of the best (quality lens) bargains among 50mm primes. Of course this assumed that you are willing to use a fully manual lens.