So whats the deal with the Olympus 50mm f1.4 lenses with serial number 1.1 million and higher?
Are they really any better than others or is it just a folk tale?
Understand that I am reciting this entirely from memory...
Once upon a time, along time ago, camera magazines wrote reviews of the cameras and lenses that camera manufacturers produced. In the 1970's, Popular Photography (or was it Modern Photography) reviewed the G. Zuiko 50mm f1:1.4 from Olympus along with a bunch of standard lenses from several camera companies. The G. Zuiko 50mm f1:1.4 earned a less than wonderful score. The single coated Olympus lens was found to be prone to flare and if I remember had chromic aberation problems. Later 50mm f1.4 lenses were multi-coated and the last revision was found by some photographers to be the "best". You will still have some people say that the 50mm f1.4 Zuiko lens is low quality. I do know that Olympus discontinued the 50mm f1.4 before they discontinued the 50mm f1.2 and 50mm f1.8. Some photographers really liked the single coated version for it's wonderful "bokeh". I think that it is better for people to make their own judgements.
I own a silver nose 50mm f1.4 with serial number 470854 and two of the last revision with serial numbers 1123989 and 1153506. I tend to see very little difference but I almost always use a lens hood to cut down on flare. I use these three lenses over 90% of the time even though I own 21 Zuikos in focal lengths from 21mm through 500mm. I am sure that others have their own opinions and experiences. Last year in particular I shot over 30 rolls of Kodachrome with an OM-3Ti and one of my 50mm f1.4 lenses. I was generally pleased with the results.
Leica people love to talks about the "Leica Glow". I feel my silver nosed Zuiko 50/1.4 looks just like what I see from the Leica, at about 1/10th the cost.
My first Olympus came with the 50/1.4 and it remains my favorite lens. I have a half dozen 50/1.8's of different versions and even though some might have slightly better contrast, none give me that "look".
I agree that all my Zuikos are better with a lens hood in daylight.
What I find intriguing about the 1.4 is the way it consistently seems to fetch high prices on Ebay, I've seen them at almost £100. And if you don't mind the question from someone who didn't realise til recently that Olympus made more than one 50mm lens (I've ony just got back into film photography) what is the difference between the 2?
Which 2 Pete?
There were 3 or 4 versions of the 1.4
3 or 4 versions of the 1.8
There was a 50 3.5 a 50 2.0 (macro lenses, those)
And the 50mm 1.2 (I think there was only 1 version but later it became a 55mm/1.2)
So, you see, there a many combinations to choose from !!
**disclaimer... I know someone is going to come along with a better accounting of all those versions and that's OK **
Sorry should have been more precise. What I would like to know is the difference between 50mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.8. I assume that they had different purposes?
The 1.4 was much more expensive while the 1.8 was the usual kit lens included with the lower priced OM's (10/20/30/40). Most OM2's came with the 1.4 when they first came out. I'm sure there are 4 times as many 1.8's than 1.4's
It has 7 elements versus 6 in the 1.8 (early Zuikos were designated as "F-Zuiko" or "G-Zuiko" where the letter represented the number of lens elements). The 1.8 is built a little lighter internally as well.
The 1.8 has 6 aperture blades whereas the 1.4 has 8. The iris on the 1.4 produces a more pleasing bokeh, especially with high contrast highlights such as sun shining through tree leaves. The 1.8 has very nice out-of-focus blur, almost as good as the 1.4, but with busy backgrounds the bokeh is sometimes slightly nervous.
The 50/1.8 is considered sharper than the 1.4 but I don't see that. I do think the 1.8 has better contrast - maybe due to internal reflections and the smaller elements.
The "silver-nose" versions were single coated and the "black-nose", later production, had multi coatings. I typically use a lens hood which cuts out a lot of flare and increases contrast on either lens. With a hood you don't need the multi coatings. At night you can put away the hood.
Shot into the sun I think the 1.8 has a nicer flare pattern where the 1.4 makes better silhouettes.
I like the glow of the silver-nosed 1.4 and it's my most used Zuiko.
Thanks for that Bill , it's most helpful. My OM1n back in 1982 came with a 1.8, I now have 3. I might try and get hold a 1.4 to experiment with.
Regarding the f1.2 lenses.. if i remember correctly, the 55mm was the earlier version and the 50mm was the later.
Regarding the f1.4 pricing.. the f1.4 lenses are considered pro lenses and the slower lenses are considered amateur. In actual use you may not notice a difference. And many of the slower lenses are actually as sharp as the f1.4. This varies between manufacturers of course. But often there are many more slower lenses than faster.