OM Zuiko 250mm f/2.0 (First Impressions)
I have been using this 4kg lens for almost two months now, enough to share a couple of impressions with other potentially interested users of this lens. This has unfortunately not been a photographically prolific period for me due to life's pressures, but hopefully that can now change.
(sourced from the Olympus ESIF)
Any Zuikoholic knows that this lens is the crowning optical achievement of the Olympus OM system, introduced in 1983/1984 as part of an aggressive new set of bodies / lenses to try and re-capture some of Olympus' glory from the 1970s, when the OM system took the photo world by storm.
This lens is remarkable for a number of reasons:
- The ridiculous focal length / aperture combination, exceeded only by Nikkor's 300mm f/2.0
- Though the lens is very hefty, in use it's really not as large as it seems, about the same size as a typical 300mm f/2.8. It's absolutely tiny compared to Nikkor's only-slightly-longer 300mm f/2.0, which is a truly gigantic lens.
- This lens is optical perfection, period. I can actually vividly see, by looking through the viewfinder, how much crisper this lens is than the Zuiko 90mm f/2.0 Macro. And the 90mm is a real dog, right?
- I can't get any real number anywhere, but by all accounts only a couple of hundred copies were produced, all hand-assembled by one master craftsman whose name we shall apparently never know (I would love more info on this, if anybody has).
Swooning over specifications aside, I am a *user* (not a collector, otherwise I'd not be sticking this lens onto a plain old OM-1 body, but rather an OM-3Ti or some such) - what I found to be pertinent with this lens, compared to other OM tele lenses (e.g. I have been using the 300 f/4.5) are
- The best focusing action ever. The internal focusing makes a massive difference, it's smooth, quick, and precise.
- Wow, this lens exudes build quality. It has to be felt to be understood. The locking built-in metal lens hood is great. Though not official, some parts (like the drop-in rear filters) are definitely weather-sealed with rubber gaskets.
- It's unbelievably difficult to hand-hold a 4kg lens when you're not used to it. After my first day, I felt like I swam a marathon or something (arms and upper body pain). When you're used to it, though, it's easy. Heavy weight plus f/2.0 has ensured that not a single of my hand-held shots have had appreciable camera shake. Accurate focusing is another story though!
Some images (nothing that I would call great yet, I am still getting to know the beast): As ever, all of these are shot on B&W film (This is APUG, right?), and printed in the darkroom (unfortunately only to 5x7in, I didn't have bigger paper at the time). All of these were taken at f/2.0, hand-held:
(OM-1, FP4+, f/2.0, hand-held)
At f/5.6 (optimum aperture for this lens, although I can for the life of me not see any dfference from f/2.0):
A colour shot (f/2.0, taken on expired Fuji 800 print film, ugh) just for fun, taken after sunset:
My current evaluation: At f/2.0, in the corner, this lens has better resolution and contrast than any lens I have ever personally used, at any aperture, anywhere in the frame. It's un-be-lievably good.
This comes at a massive weight cost, though it's not physically huge considering its specification. But the question remains:
Of course, when one finds a deal on a lens like this (as I have) one does not ask questions. One does the right thing. One worries about so-called necessities like food and transport later. Or how?
No really - I imagine - like so many of you fellow film users - one is increasingly drawn to rangefinder-land. We all want to use those great Leica M or Mamiya 7 (my personal preference, I have been bitten by the 6x7cm bug, it's just great in the darkroom) lenses.
Until, in perhaps a year or two, I migrate to something like a Mamiya 7, I wish to focus on using the SLR system for what it's really, really good at. And this is telephoto and macro photography.
My boring test images perhaps do not convey this, but a 250mm f/2.0 lens is capable of unique images which simply cannot be created with any other system (other than a 35mm SLR). I wish to find out if I can exploit this to my own artistic benefit. I've never really used a fast supertele before, it's an interesting change for me. This, together with Macro (and my, does the OM system have some nice Macro toys), shall be my main goals for this year.
With this post, I simply wanted to share a bit of my experience with this lens with the group. When I was looking around, I could not find any such posts, so I simply bit the bullet.
Wow :o - it is so cool to see this lens again and find it being actually used - great find.
Way back when I did sports work one of the other photographers specfically bought into the OM system (alongside his standard FD system) purely to use this lens and the equally epic 350mm F2.8 combined with the high flash sync possible with the OM system - up to 1/1000th/sec I think (hazy memory!). He used it primarily for indoor athletics and similar work. We were all shooting 800asa available light and he was on Velvia, who got published?!!!
All of us were shooting with 200/F2 , 300/F2.8 or 400/F2.8 Nikon/Canon and everyone loved this Oly lens, perhaps only surpassed by the Nikon 300/F2 as you mention, but lots of guys had them. :rolleyes: It is a real classy piece, even now I am slightly envious you have one. However, actually glad that you are using it and not just in a glass cabinet.
On a more boring note none of us ever used these type of lenses handheld, anything above 300/2.8 was put on a monopod (exception being a 500/4). It was not regarded as "wimping out" and if anyone used one without a 'pod for anything other than a grab shot - well, we were less than complimantary. They are designed for 'pod use, have the rotating collar and you should find that resting the hand at the top of the pod your thumb "falls" onto the focus ring, use that to focus and it's easy! Pre autofocus all these big lenses were focussed just using the thumb of the left hand - they knew how to make smooth focus systems back then.
Shoot at F2.0 It is what the lens is designed for, it is what you bought it for, it is why it is so big/heavy. Use it. Performance will be only marginally better at F2.8/F4 - forget the rest. Our lenses never when below one/two stops from max apaerture, it is what it is all about. Shoot slower speed film if needed but keep it wide!
Backgrounds are the thing with these lenses. Because at anything other than infinity focus the background gets thrown out of focus so well that it can really isolate a subject. Burn some film to really understand how the lens renders. Watch your backgrounds, shoot wide and you will get shots that should amaze and delight, get it right and people will be asking you "how did you isolate that so well in photoshop?" Enjoy the moment!
Enjoy this lens, you should be at the start of a great journey here - enjoy and have fun.
Very nice work with that lens. In addition to being able to shoot at f/2.0, I think one of the other advantages is a bright viewfinder image that allows for very easy focusing.
It certainly is an impressive piece of glass! I didn't realize that so few of these were made, but you certainly can understand that f/2.0 at that focal length wouldn't be inexpensive.
I've tried handholding some long, heavy lenses, and they can be a real workout.
Wonderful to hear from somebody who got exposed to this lens from 'back in the day'! I agree fully that this lens was designed for use on a tripod. I am currently lacking a decent tripod though (I am saving up for a steady-enough one to also tame the terrible vibration induced by the OM-1's aperture stop-down mechanism for high-magnification macro work with the 20mm and 80mm macro lenses). I do own a monopod though, I just always forget to keep it with me.
Originally Posted by Sim2
Using it hand-held was more in the spirit of testing it, and rather spur-of-the-moment. I suspect I will only see what the lens is really capable of with decent support...
Hey, no worries. We always tried testing the lenses handheld then thought about the longterm health of our backs! 'Pods are brilliant with these, light, manouverable (spellng!) and easy to sling over the shoulder - but always pick up by the lens or monopod - never pick this combination up by the camera/ You will bend/snap the lens mount - seen it done. These type of lenses had built-in "snap-points" to enable repair if seriously dropped, they would snap along component lines rather than dent at random. Hold the lens and cradle the camera.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
After considerable testing, I have found Mirror Lock-Up to be completely useless for high-magnification Macro photography with the OM bodies. When you are working at 10x magnification (20mm lens) the vibration comes from the aperture stop-down level, and perhaps the shutter itself even.
Originally Posted by Pumalite
Remember, the aperture lever has to jam into the lens with all its might, to close down equally well and fast the monster aperture blades of lenses such as this 250/2.0 or the 1000/11. Not a great design, I wish they went the Nikkor route, where a spring in the lens does the work, and the camera body simply has to gently prod it into action. Oh well... Maitani-san is passed away now, we can't criticise his design...
Since the 20/3.5 and old 80/4.0 macro are manual-aperture lenses, I have often though of modifying an OM camera body to remove the aperture stop-down level and associated mechanics completely... I may still try one day, assuming the internal mechanics of the OM-1 allows one to benefit from such a modification.
Of course, i could just get an OM-2s/OM-4(Ti) with aperture pre-fire, but where's the fun in that?
I am thinking that a monster Gitzo with the biggest baddest ball head and no centre column might do the trick.
Total Subject Isolation
My goodness, 250mm f/2.0 takes "subject isolation" to new heights.
(OM-1, Ilford FP4, 250mm at f/2.0, 8x10in darkroom print)
This image is of a young girl sitting a couple of rows in front of me in an amphitheatre. The Zuiko 250mm F2 allowed me to de-focus the further rows of seats into completely abstract forms, even though the camera-to-subject distance was much further than the subject-to-background distance, usually a bad setup for subject isolation.
As a "shallow DOF man" it's extremely useful to, with this lens, not have to care about the subject-to-background distance, opening up a whole new vista of photographic opportunities for my style (assuming it's OK for me to walk around with a 4kg white lenbs, that is!)
This lens consistently surprises me with it's impeccable performance, the rendition of the finest image details (such as on her feet) wide open is implausibly good.
Dawid, when you are done with that lens, I'll gladly take it off your hands and let it sing on the front of an OM-3Ti. It won't be no "collector" lens either.
Ag Schnozz, I find there to be a certain irony in sticking a humble OM-1 on the back of this, king of Zuikos... My OM-1's meter is busted in anyway, so its all guess-exposure (and sometime incident meter) for me. This is good for me, it teaches me to get better at using my RB67 which has no meter in the first place, which is my current walk-around ("drag-around" ?) camera.
Originally Posted by Ken N
Thus, I can reply to your offer only by offering to gladly take that OM-3Ti off your hands, and let it sing on the back of a 250mm F2 :-)