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Re: [OM] Brothers Bale

Subject: Re: [OM] Brothers Bale
From: "Ken Norton" <ken@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2008 09:40:43 -0600
> Save your money, Chris.  Nothing against the 35-80 but it's impossible to
> judge the sharpness of a lens based on a less than 0.5 MB web image.  You
> can, however, judge the photographer's choice of subject, lighting and
> composition.

"I agree with Chuck" bumper sticker is firmly attached to my jeep.  I am
going to be performing sharpness testing of various Zuikos this week using
an E-3 which will be used to quantify the sharpness quotient of the quality
of a lens.

Sharpness, however, is a different animal than contrast, color, bokeh,
distortion, handling, etc. As is so often the case these days, people tend
to buy lenses based on sharpness while ignoring the other factors.

Frankly, in my experience, the Digital Zuiko 14-54 Zoom is as sharp, if not
sharper than any other lens I've used in the same focal lengths.  It really
is an outstanding lens in that regard.  Handling is rock-on. The distortion
is also exceptionally low.  But the contrast and color are as different from
the Classic Zuikos as the Classic Zuikos are from other brands.

The 35-80 is an entirely different animal.  I am puzzled by the lens in that
it really doesn't want to be catergorized. The sharpness is not only
amazing, but as this particular sample illustrates, diffraction limitations
are less an issue than I've seen with other lenses--as this was taken at
F11!!!!!  The "Inside, Looking Out" photograph was also taken with the 35-80
of an obviously flat subject.  Other than applying some corrective
sharpening after the resize, this photograph is unsharpened in the RAW
conversion process. I deal with my E-1 files all the time and know that I
have to apply corrective sharpening to every photograph to cover up the
foibles of the AA filter as well as the optical interaction of the
ray-tracing and the sensor's filter-stack. (The E-1 has an extremely thick
filter-stack).  The 35-80 files don't need the same sharpening and in fact
can actually be used without.  I don't know if this is because the lens is
"too sharp for the sensor" or if it has to do with the lens' massive exit
optic.  I'm seeing the same characteristics with this lens on the E-1 as I
do with the 200/4, 300/4.5 and Tokina 100-300/4--all of which have huge exit

Based on initial experimentation, I don't think the 35-80 is flat-fielded
when closely focused--which is probably why the lens doesn't focus all that
close.  It is not a lens I'd use for macro, I don't think.  The Tokina AT-X
35-70/2.8 was a much better lens in that regard and remains the "sleeper
3rd-pary lens" for the OM system.

Distortion is obvious to my eye with the 35-80. The Zuiko primes are
exceptionally straight and I'm used to how they look. The 35-80 is
excellent, yet probably not the first lens I'd grab if I'm doing
archetechural photography. (Fortunately, I still have Joel's loaner 35/shift
which beats everything else out there). Is the distortion bad?  Hardly.  But
it is there.

The bokeh of the 35-80 is obviously a Zuiko.  I can't quite describe it yet
in terms other than "yeah, I like it."

Color and contrast?  This is where I am completely puzzled.  It looks like
the 100/2 in contrast, yet is somewhat like my Silvernosed Zuikos in color.
I'll not render an opinion yet.

I will suggest this about the 35-80. If you want just one lens to mount to
an OM body, this is the one.  If you have a collection of lenses in the same
focal-length range and don't mind swapping lenses, I wouldn't worry about
it.  The lens is exceptional, yes, but in a head-to-head match with a fixed
prime, is probably a dead-heat sharpness-wise. What you are getting is
flexiblity, convenience and a big cool-looking rubber lens-shade.  :)

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