One of the biggest advantages of mirrorless camera systems is the ease of which you can adapt and use manual focus lenses on the modern bodies. Their electronic viewfinders (EVF) and focusing aids such as focus peaking make manual focusing a breeze. Over the past few years, these technologies have breathed new life into old lenses, making for a fun and often more affordable photography experience.
You may recall a blog post and video I did about my experiences with M42 lenses on the Fujifilm X mirrorless system (see that article for more basic information about using manual focus lenses with mirrorless bodies). Today we are going to look at a few more vintage manual focus lenses as well as a special adapter that adds even more options into the photographic toolkit.
OMG! (OM GOODNESS)
The three lenses we will be looking at today are all from the Olympus OM-System. Introduced in the 1970’s, the Olympus Maitani (named after designer Yoshihisa Maitani) System was the company’s first foray into full-frame film SLR cameras. The OM system set itself apart by having more compact bodies and lenses, as well as other innovative design features.
These particular lenses have been in my family for many years. My dad bought them, alongside an Olympus OM-1 body for his university research projects. It is also responsible for many photos in our family albums. Later on, I used this gear for my black and white film photography courses in university. They spent many years in storage until I recently had them inspected and cleaned, and I am now happily using them with my Fujifilm X bodies.
The are numerous adapters that can adapt OM lenses to Fujfilm X. However, this time around, I chose to go with a tilt adapter instead of a regular one. This adds tilt functionality to the lens, meaning the plane of focus can be controlled. As you tilt the lens, the plane of focus becomes more selective, enabling effects such as the popular miniature look or selective focus for portraits. Take note that aperture setting also affects this, with wider apertures producing more out of focus areas just like regular lenses. The adapter can also be rotated, allowing you to set the selective focus plane vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
OM to Fuji X adapter options range from generic to branded ones, tilt and no tilt. Here are a few that I considered:
- Tilt functionality – it works as advertised, making some nice miniature and selective focus effects.
- Price – it’s fairly inexpensive considering the effects that you get.
- Build quality – the adapter feels flimsy and the fit of the parts don’t inspire confidence. The numbers and on the lens and adapter don’t line up either, which doesn’t affect functionality but is a bit annoying.
- Operation – it’s very hard to mount the OM lens to this adapter because it freely turns and there’s really nowhere to get a good grip to lock the lens in. You also have to take extra care that the lens actually locks into the adapter. Tilting the lens doesn’t feel buttery smooth, but it works well enough.
Overall, I can’t say I fully recommend the generic tilt adapter because of build quality and usage issues. However, the price point is pretty low for what it is and it gets the job done. If you don’t need the tilt function, I suggest going for a K&F Concept, which I’ve had good experiences with. Or if you want to go tilt (and shift) Kipon which seems to have much better build quality.
Olympus OM-System Zuiko MC AUTO-W 28mm f/2.8 – this wide-angle lens was introduced in the 1980’s and is the most modern of the three lenses. MC signifies multi coating. AUTO stands for automatic diaphragm. This means that the aperture stays open until you press the shutter, making it easier to focus and compose in low light situations. Manual diaphragm lenses, on the other hand, instantly make the viewfinder darker as you close down the aperture. Most lenses today are auto diaphragm. The W stands for wide-angle.
Pros: fairly fast aperture, sharp and contrasty wide open, multi coating gives good flare control, compact size, useful 40mm focal length on APS-C, excellent build quality
Cons: good condition lenses can be pricy
Typical price: $70 USD and up
Olympus OM-System G.Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.4 – this is fast standard prime which was one of the original lenses introduced with the system. The S stands for “standard” while the ‘G’ in G.Zuiko stands for the number of elements. G is the 7th letter in the alphabet and this lens has 7 lens elements. Some other lenses, such as the 4-element D.Zuiko also have this naming format.
Pros: fast aperture, extremely sharp at f/2.8, compact size, build quality, nice portrait focal length on APS-C crop
Cons: lack of sharpness and contrast wide open, but may also be the desired effect
Typical price: $50 USD and up
Olympus OM-SYSTEM Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm f/3.5 + Olympus OM Auto 25 Extension Tube – This is a very versatile lens which can be used for everyday photography, but can also focus very closely with 1:2 magnification. Add the Auto 25 (25mm) extension tube and you get 1:1 magnification for true macro functionality. This lens can be had for $50-$100 USD depending on the condition and variant (multi-coated and non MC). The extension tube goes for around $20 USD.
Pros: very good macro functionality, especially with the extension tube, very sharp at medium apertures, compact size, build quality
Cons: lack of sharpness and contrast wide open
Typical price: $50 USD and up, extension tube is $20 USD and up
Note that while it is quite possible to use the tilt function with the macro lens, I did not find it that useful or necessary. It is difficult enough getting things in focus at macro distances.
Overall, I’m very glad I brought these lenses back into service (shoutout to Columbia Photo in Cubao, Manila for the awesome CLA job). Not only are they fun to play with, but they actually add useful tools to my kit, especially the macro lens. All three lenses have a wonderful compact design, smooth operation, and excellent build quality. Their performance can stand up to modern lenses, especially the multi-coated versions. Compared to the M42 lenses I tested before which usually have that obvious “vintage” style rendering, the Olympus lenses are actually closer to modern lenses in their image quality. For someone on a tighter budget, Olympus OM lenses are definitely worth a look. The tilt adapter adds a very fun and interesting dimension to the mix, but you may want to make sure and get one with good build quality.
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Update! Made a video about this as well: