When it comes to a 50mm lens, they are often overshadowed by faster fifties, the f/1.4 and f/1.2 and even crazier f/0.95. But sometimes, all you need is something at f/1.8, and the Olympus F.Zuiko, 50mm f/1.8, is a spectacular choice for your OM-System. While the lens has gone through several changes since its inception, this chrome nose version fits in nicely next to my 50mm f/1.4 chrome nose and is a tack sharp option for the more budget-minded Olympus user.
Model: OM-System Auto-S F.Zuiko 1:1,8 f=50mm
Focal Length: 50mm
Focal Range: ∞ – 0.45m
Aperture: f/1.8 – f/16, 6 Blades
Structure: 6 Elements in 4 Groups
Like all other lenses in the OM-System, the F.Zuiko 50/1.8 compact lens with small-scale SLR bodies, the lens itself is primarily metal in construction with a sturdy feel without adding extra weight. The focusing ring is smooth, almost buttery that makes focusing easy and fast with enough resistance to allow for precision without reducing gross movements. The aperture ring feels a bit loose, with the stops not locking strong enough to allow for a quicker sign without missing the mark. And the fact that the lens only stops down to f/16 is a bit of a minor issue with me, not a hard no, but I would like to have that f/22 available for any landscape work.
When it comes to image quality, this lens does not disappoint! One of the best things about the lens is that there’s no distortion even when shooting close. With the lens wide open at f/1.8, there is a great deal of corner fall-off, but that was to be expected; once you have it stopped down past f/2.8, the fall-off disappears. The lens’ real sweet spot is once you get to f/4 through to f/16. You will have that across the board; even at f/1.8, the items in focus will be sharp, and once you hit that f/4 mark, there is a particular snap to your images. While I could not get the effect in these images, if you have the lens wide open and shooting against a busy background, you will get a lovely swirl in your out-of-focus elements, which is something I did not expect. Other than that, the out-of-focus areas are soft and pleasing to the eye.
When it comes to any 50mm lens, the best applications are an excellent daily carry option for your camera. And the F.Zuiko 50/1.8 certainly fills this role nicely. While you have a good 45cm close-focus ability, it allows the lens to be a poor man’s macro lens. Having tried some closeup work, I’m not too fond of the lens for this with only an f/16 minimum aperture. The only time I’ll use it when shooting against a flat focal plane, and being able to shoot wide-open gives you that beautiful out-of-focus swirl if you get the focus at the right spot. This element also helps make for an excellent portrait lens for both individual and small groups. And having that f/1.8 makes it ideal in low-light conditions or with a flash. I would also consider this lens for landscape and architectural work in a pinch.
The Low Down
On the used market, the F.Zuiko 50/1.8 is a fair price, and you can get a good copy for, under 100$, most are running between 50-80$ with some outliers above 100$, but I haven’t seen any above 120$ making it a budget-friendly option for a standard lens on the used market. And you still get I feel better performance and image quality than the Zuiko 50/1.4 and doesn’t cost as much, although it also depends on the 50/1.4 you get. The one thing to watch out for in these early chrome-nose versions is the coating; while not the best out there, I never encountered any significant issues with lens flare or aberrations. It is an excellent choice and makes for a good middle ground in any three-lens prime kit and would even work well on a mirrorless camera when adapted.
Don’t just take my view on the F.Zuiko 50.1.8, check out these other reviews.
Phillip Reeve – Review: Olympus F.Zuiko Auto-S 1.8/50
Imaging Resource – Olympus 50mm f/1.8 OM F.Zuiko