mike was right about the sharpness of lenses

It’s a funny old world. Today Mike Johnston over at The Online Photographer published two old posts that have pulled me in opposite directions. The first, “Give That Cat the Boot,” annoyed me no end, and I’ve written about that already. Then he redeemed himself in my eyes as it were by re-publishing “On the Sharpness of Lenses.” I’ll let you mosey on over and read this 1999 post. Needless to say I agree with a lot of his points.

Here’s another point about lenses I’ve slowly learned over the years.

I’ve vacillated quite a bit about whether it’s a good idea to use prior generation lenses on digital cameras, specifically Olympus OM lenses on current generation Olympus FourThirds and µFourThirds digital bodies and a Sony E-mount body, a NEX 5N. I’ve used any number of OM lenses on those bodies. Many times I’ve staunchly asserted that the only way to get quality photographs was to use native lenses for a given digital camera system, only to back slide after a time and sneak an old film prime back on one of my digital cameras.

What I have slowly come to appreciate is that the OM film lenses have an almost understated visual beauty I find missing in today’s pure digital lenses. I attribute their “look” to having been designed for film, not digital sensors. In an age when nearly everyone over obsesses with resolution, contrast, and acutance, the OM film lenses dial that back a smidge and deliver images that look like the optics worked with the light, rather than beat it into submission. Images created with the OM lenses on digital bodies seem to have a touch of romanticism.

The post before this used the OM G.Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 with a pair of adapters on an Olympus E-M5 body. I find that using either the back screen or the eyepiece, I can focus just fine with that lens on that body. Unfortunately, they are the only photos from that body using any OM lens, and more’s the pity. What follows is a smattering of some of the photos I’ve taken, usually with the older 12MP bodies such as the E-P2, E-PL1 and E-PL2. There’s even a few with the NEX 5N. I’ll let you dig deeper into those photos if you want.
Plumbago LabDr. Phillips HospitalRosesMandevilla Bokeh Experiment 2OccupupSycamore BokehSeeding purple glassesSeeding Holly. GladiolaBacklit Orchid Tree BloomDowntown Orlando Orange Ave - test shot OM 65-200mmAs I wrote above these photographs were created using a motley collection of digital bodies mated to 30 year old OM film lenses. If you want the details you can click through. Otherwise, just enjoy them for what they are, various OM film lenses on various 12MP and 16MP bodies. Oh, and if you think you can, try to guess which body was responsible for which photo before you look. As a hint, one of those photographs was taken with an Olympus E-1 (5MP sensor) and an OM 300mm telephoto. As Mike says at the end of the article:

Don’t sweat it too much. The search for the perfect lens is a fool’s errand; it’s like searching for the best-tasting coffee. No matter how good it is, it’s just a cuppa. Enjoy it and get on with your morning. (Analogously: get on with your photography.)


2 comments

  1. I agree with you. People seem to obsess to much on the gear and not the image.
    I’ve used my OM lenses on my E-500 and my EP-1. I’ve also adapted a Canon 55mm f1.2 lens. Thanks for the return to black text on a white background.

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    • Thank you. This theme may not last. But I will try to use a light theme in the future, or at least the text will be black on a light colored background.

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