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Olympus Zuiko Digital Ed 50mm f/2 Macro Interchangeable Lens Review

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Olympus Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro
Price: £577.99
Rating: 4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro review - A macro optic which provides the same angle of view as a 100mm lens on a 35mm camera, which is amongst the most popular focal lengths for macro work.

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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro
Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at this macro optic from Olympus which has a bright f/2 maximum aperture and provides the same angle of view as a 100mm lens on a 35mm camera.

This 50mm f/2 Macro lens from Olympus costs around £580 and provides a bright maximum aperture of f/2, plus magnification up to half life size at its closest focus. The bright maximum aperture and 100m equivalent angle of view should lend this lend towards portraiture, as well as macro subjects.

Although the maximum magnification is only half life size, framing will be similar to using a lens that provides life size magnification on a 35mm camera, due to the smaller sensor size in Four Thirds format cameras. Those wishing to achieve true life size magnification with this lens can do so by using the optional EX-25 extension tube.

In this review we will investigate how well this lens performs on an Olympus E-3 camera body.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Handling and features
Weighing only 300g, this lens is compact and lightweight enough to be carried around until those times when you need it, without it weighing you down. Weather sealing protects the lens from dust and moisture and the material used in the construction of the lens are of high quality.

The lens accept 52mm filters and the thread does not rotate during focusing, making it perfect for use with polarising or graduated filters. At its closest focus the lens extends by around an inch.

Manual focus is performed via a 'fly-by-wire' system, which means focus is adjusted electronically by turning the focus ring, rather than there being a direct mechanical link between the control and the focusing mechanism. This system can take a bit of getting used to, especially as there the ring doesn't stop turning at either infinity or the closest focus distance, but it is perfectly adequate for making adjustments, especially after a little practice.

For a macro lens, auto focus is reasonably quick on the Olympus E-3 used for testing. A focus limiter switch would be a nice addition, in order to speed up focusing in those times when the camera struggles to find something to lock onto. This would save the lens from tracking back and forth through the whole focusing range.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Performance
Even when shooting wide open at f/2, this lens is capable of producing excellent quality images. At f/2 the centre sharpness is already excellent, and the quality towards the edges is good.

Stopping the lens down improves the quality towards the edges further and peak quality across the frame is achieved between f/4 and f/5.6, where the sharpness across the frame is excellent. Beyond this, diffraction begins to soften images slightly, but the resolution is still very good down to f/11.

Resolution at 50mm How to read our graphs
The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus E-3 using Imatest.
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Resolution at 50mm

Chromatic aberrations are kept well within acceptable levels at all apertures. The strongest fringing Imatest could detect was 0.2 pixel widths towards the edge of the frame. This level will be pretty much invisible, even in very large prints or harsh crops.

Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm How to read our charts
Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus E-3 using Imatest.
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is also very well controlled. At f/2, the corners are only 0.652 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved from f/2.8 onwards.

Only 0.0659% barrelling was detected by Imatest, which is a very low level of distortion. Although this will cause few issues for most photographic situations, if straight lines are of critical importance this distortion is easy to correct, due to it being uniform across the frame.

Even when shooting straight into a strong light source, such as the sun, this lens appears to be quite resistant to flare and ghosting. A deep circular hood is provided, which does a great job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause flare.


 
ISO100, 1/125, f/10, 50mm   ISO100, 1/125, f/5.6, 50mm
 
  (Left) ISO100, 1/50, f/4, 50mm

(Above) ISO100, 1/160, f/5.6, 50mm






 

Even when shooting straight into the light, this lens appears to be quite resistant to flare and ghosting. A deep circular hood is provided, which does a great job of shielding the front element from extraneous light that may cause flare.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Verdict
This lens is one with few shortcomings. Optically it is sharp from maximum aperture, with negligible levels of CA, distortion and falloff. In short, it is about as good as lenses can get from a technical standpoint.

The dust and splashproof build is also reassuringly solid. With all this considered, the asking price of around £580 seems very reasonable indeed.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Pros
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Excellent resolution performance
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Negligible CA
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Low distortion
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Low falloff at maximum aperture
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Good build quality

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Cons
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro Fly by wire focusing system takes a little getting used too
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro No focus range limiter

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro: Lens specification
Price £580.00
Contact www.olympus.co.uk
Filter size 52mm
Format Four Thirds
Construction 11 elements in 10 groups
Angle-of-view 24 degrees
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 100mm
Internal focusing No
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 24cm
Maximum aperture f/2
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 300g
Size 71 x 61.5mm
In the box Lens Hood, Lens Caps, Lens Case

The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro costs around £580 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro


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Comments

joshwa
joshwa ePHOTOzine Staff 3583 forum postsjoshwa vcard United Kingdom
2 Jun 2011 - 10:31 AM

We retested the Olympus lenses with an Olympus E-3 with Imatest, and updated the articles accordingly, with fresh sample photos.

- Original Poster Comments
- Your Posts

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