Testing adapted and native lenses on the EM5 mark II

September 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I recently had the pleasure of receiving two adapters for my m4/3 camera. One for playing around with my Nikon mount lenses and one for 2 screw mount (M42) lenses I had from my grandfather. I was interested to see if they would perform well with my mirrorless camera. An adapter can sometimes make the lens behave differently when used with a camera it was not intended to. Granted none of these adapters had glass between the lens and sensor but the distance can still be an issue if not properly manufactured.

I wanted to perform a simple test for myself to check how good the sharpness of the lenses would be at maximum aperture and stopped down. So I made a lineup of lenses I wanted to check out, set up a subject (my lounge curtain) and proceeded to take pictures on manual focus with peaking assist of one of the folds of the curtain. The idea was that I could then compare the cloth detail. I also included some native olympus lenses to see if any of the adapted lenses could compete. This was a simple, non-scientific test that served to satisfy my curiosity. I had some pleasant surprises with some of these lenses so I am willing to share here my findings.

First of the contenders

1. Olympus 12-40mm f2.8

2. Olympus 75mm f1.8

3. Nikkor 50mm f1.8D

4. Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro

5. Fujinon EBC 50mm f1.4

6. Helios-44 58mm f2

I will come out straight and say that the Helios-44 is a soviet copy of the Zeiss Biotar from 1939. This should give you a hint already. Seconly, The Olympus 12-40 as a zoom is hard to justify but the rumours are that it can box with the best of them and since I did want to make the competition fair I tested the lens at 40mm where it is suppose to be its weakest. In addition, I included a macro lens from Tamron which I know from experience to be sharp on my Nikon and hope to be able to use with the adaptor well since macro is mostly manual anyways.

So let's compare all six of these lenses at maximum aperture. Remember I am not testing any other parameter than the cloth detail at the point of focus (center). The following pictures are all RAW files from the EM5 mark II without any correction just cropped at 100%.

Lenses at maximum aperture as indicated 100% crop

Olympus 12-40 @ f2.8 Olympus 75 @ f1.8
Olympus40_f28_2Olympus40_f28_2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Olympus75_f18Olympus75_f18OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Nikkor 50 @ f1.8 Tamron 90 @ f2.8
Nikon50_f18Nikon50_f18OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tamron90_f28Tamron90_f28OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fujinon 50 @ f1.4 Helios 58 @ f2
Fujica50_f14_2Fujica50_f14_2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Zenit58_f2Zenit58_f2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From the pictures above I can tell that the sharpest of all of these lenses is the olympus 75 followed by the olympus 12-40. This is not much of a surprise since these are specifically designed for this system and they are much more modern lenses employing a lot more know-how than their predecessors. After these two, I would give the tamron 90mm macro third place and the Helios 58mm fourth place. Tamron wins only by a small margin here. The Nikkor is a close one too but it has a little more purple fringing than I like. The only odd one out is the Fujinon 50 that is incredibly soft to the point that is a has a watercolour effect (based on the X-trans experience me thinks Fuji likes this effect). Overall I am nitpicking here and I am very impressed at what I can see overall when I am not zooming at a 100%. This is good news.

After this test I proceeded to stop down the lenses and see if I can get more detail out of the softer lenses. At this point I must say I had no high hopes for the Fujinon lens since it is incredibly soft and gives a glow to the subject regardless of were you look (edges/center). 

Lenses at f4 aperture 100% crop

Olympus 12-40 @ f4 Olympus 75 @ f4
Olympus40_f4Olympus40_f4OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Olympus75_f4_2Olympus75_f4_2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Nikkor 50 @ f4 Tamron 90 @ f2.8
Nikon50_f4_2Nikon50_f4_2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tamron90_f4_2Tamron90_f4_2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fujinon 50 @ f4 Helios 58 @ f4
Fujica50_f4Fujica50_f4OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Zenit58_f4_3Zenit58_f4_3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Again here we see the same pecking hierarchy. Incredibly sharp native lenses and this time the Tamron and Helios are too close to tell. The Nikkor is left behind here as there is not much of an improvement. The Fujica has improved a lot but it is still so soft that I don't think you could get sharp images at any aperture.

Conclusions

I have gone through the images a few times now and some general observations are evident. Lets go though each lens:

1. Olympus 12-40mm f2.8

This lens is just incredible. It gives me better sharpness than any f2.8 lens I have used in the past. I am very impressed and and I think for a zoom Olympus did not compromise. It is sharp wide open and it get a bit better when stopped down. The only thing is this lens has no aperture ring but on the other hand it does have a focus scale for manual focusing.

2. Olympus 75mm f1.8

This is a powerhouse of a lens providing you so much detail. Saying that, it has no aperture ring and no manual focus scale. It has a long focus throw.. It is however very quick to focus on autofocus and I am a big fan of the look and feel of the resulting pictures

3. Nikkor 50mm f1.8D

I was hopping this one would do better but I saw a lot of colour fringing. It has an aperture ring and it can do manual focus but the focus throw is too small to effectively focus fast and it is also too loose making accidental bumps throw your focus off. This is one I don't think I'll be using much with my EM5.

4. Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro

I like this lens for macro. It provides me with great amount of detail and it is long enough so I don't have to be too close to the subject. I have used it a lot lately and it is fun and easy to use. It has a good manual focus ring and it is fast to manual focus when you have peaking on. Good all around lens and it doesn't make me crave native macro lenses.

5. Fujinon EBC 50mm f1.4

From my description above you would have thought that I would never use this lens but I actually used it with my ST901 film camera a lot and I like this lens for b&w. Some of my favourite pictures are with this lens and when you print film you don't pixel peep. I think I will keep it to play around but it won't be my go-to lens. I should also mention that this lens is all metal with an aperture ring and a good feeling focus ring.

6. Helios-44 58mm f2

This lens I did not expect to like so much. I have been using it so much that it is my third lens of choice when taking a walk-around bag with me, the others being the 12-40 and 75. It is a pleasure to use with a great focus ring, a rather complicated but easy to master 2 tier aperture ring and a good metal construction. I really like this lens and I don't mind its imperfections (lens flare prone). You can also achieve a great looking swirly bokeh that is just amazing. Here are a few examples.

The experiment was a little boring to watch but I have used these lenses in the real world and I have found a use for all of them. I am sure there are a lot more lenses out there that would give me interesting results but I work with what I have. I have also tried some other lenses I have on this system but they are not practical for everyday use. They are useful in some situations but not as walkabout lenses. Can't wait to try other primes though. I hear the internet is filled with old manual lenses.

 

 

 


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