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Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review

John Riley reviews the Olympus G.Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 Auto-S classic lens from the 1960s, originally designed for Olympus PEN (half-frame) cameras, it is now being tested with Micro Four Thirds and will work with digital Olympus PEN cameras.

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Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review: Olympus Pen Ep1 Pen F Lens

It is easy to forget that for the 1960s photographer films and processing, never mind printing, were relatively expensive and also very slow. These were the days of waiting weeks for slide films to be returned from the processor, or sometimes three weeks for a set of prints to be delivered.

Although there were plenty of photographers whose use of film was slight - the rolls that contained Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and then Christmas again within 36 shots, for those who shot any quantity the birth of the half-frame camera was a potential boon. Thus, instead of 36 24x36mm images on a roll, we had 72 18x24mm images in vertical format. The savings for the travel photographer, in particular, are self-evident. There were many half-frame cameras, mostly compacts, but from about 1963-1970 the pinnacle of the format has to be the Pen F range of interchangeable lens reflex cameras from Olympus.

With a range of some 18 lenses, this was a full system. We have here a fairly well-used example of one of the more expensive standard lenses, the G.Zuiko 40mm f/1.4, which has a "35mm equivalent" field of view of 58mm on a half-frame SLR, or, as reviewed here on the 20MP Panasonic Lumix G9 body, an 80mm equivalent. Let's have a close look and see how this miniature lens behaves in today's digital world and if a small format film lens has any advantage on an MFT format camera.


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Olympus G.Zuiko Auto S 40mm f/1.4 Handling and Features

Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review: Olympus G Zuiko 40mm F1,4 Front Element View

The lens is small, weighing in at just 165g, despite being constructed with mainly metal and glass. To use it on the Lumix G9 an adapter is required, and the one provided means that the auto-stop down of the lens is no longer functional. Whatever is set on the aperture ring is where the diaphragm is set. This means that although we have to physically open up the lens if we wish to manually focus at wide-open aperture, and then close it down again, we can see the depth of field and the aperture priority system of the camera works just fine. Exposure is not a problem and the bright f/1.4 aperture means that focusing manually is very easy as well. The G9's focusing aids also help considerably.

Starting at the front of the lens, the push on lens cap has the ornate gothic F of early Pen F cameras, indicating that this particular lens probably dates from 1963-1966. It is conventionally coated, not multi-coated. There is a standard filter thread of 43mm diameter. Looking into the front element, the 5 bladed diaphragm can be clearly seen.

Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review: Olympus G Zuiko 40mm F1,4 Vertical View

The aperture ring is at the front of the lens, in common with Olympus OM lenses for 35mm SLRs, and is click stopped at full stop intervals from f/1.4 to f/16. This would normally be expected to be as smooth as silk with an Olympus lens of this vintage, but this particular lens has seen some hard work over the years, so it can't be used to judge. Likewise the focusing ring, which is somewhat notchy and can slip on this lens, but that is just a sign of very hard use over a very long time. Look for a mint example and again it will be smooth and slick in operation.

We are of course talking manual focus, and the scale shows that focusing is down to 0.35m, or 1.15 feet. This is usefully close.

Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review: Olympus G Zuiko 40mm F1,4 On Lumix G9

The G.Zuiko name tells us immediately that this is a 7 element lens, G being the seventh letter of the alphabet. In fact, optical construction is 7 elements in 6 groups, pretty much what we would expect from an f/1.4 standard lens of this era. As previously mentioned, this lens has a “35mm equivalent” of 58mm on its original format. The usual standard lens for half-frame was 38mm, so this is slightly longer than average. In the 1960s photographers were well aware that different formats had standard lenses of different focal lengths, and in general “35mm equivalents” were not used. It was simply accepted that half-frame would be around 38mm, 35mm format around 50mm and 6x6cm (2 ¼ square) around 80mm. Now, with so many potential sensor formats, the concept of the "35mm equivalent" field of view is well established and in this context, it is 80mm on MFT format, a short telephoto close to the classic portrait lens of 85mm.

Finally, closest to the camera body, we have the depth of field scale, wide enough to be useful, and also showing the IR focus mark. There is a button for stopping down the lens to taking aperture, defunct with this adapter, and the lens release catch. The adapter has no optical elements to affect the quality and gives us the correct lens to flange distance to maintain infinity focus.

In use, this is a totally practical and usable combination, with no real vices. It has the potential to be a really useful optic on MFT format, so let's now look at the performance.

Olympus G. Zuiko 40mm f/1.4 AUTO-S (PEN-F) Review: Olympus G Zuiko Auto S 40mm F1 4 Pen F

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davetac 14 69 2 United Kingdom
25 Aug 2019 11:14AM
I have a good as gold 50mm f1.8 Olympus OM and a very good 25mm f2.8 Miranda (Om fitting) macro lens and have used both with an adaptor on my beloved OM D EM10 ii. You could slice ham with sharp images I get with both. Though the merest hint of chromatic aberration is visible with the Miranda that's easily dealt with in post.
20 Jan 2020 12:57PM
I've a few of the Pen F lenses and find they work very well on my Fuji X-E2. With the APS sensor the crop factor is just right, my 38mm 1.8 being quite "normal". One of the best things about these lenses is the very narrow adapter, allowing a close to original form factor. These manual lenses are uniquely suited to the external manual controls of the Fuji RF style bodies.

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