Lens Reviews

Olympus Zuiko 100mm f2.8 Lens

The second Zuiko lens I purchased for my OM collection, as I had a requirement to replace an aging zoom lens with something much more portable. This was at least 20 years ago when analogue cameras were at their zenith and there was little sign of the digital revolution.

Olympus Zuiko 100mm f2.8

This 100mm lens is very tiny, being just 48mm long and taking 49mm filters; it is barely larger than a standard lens of the day. It's diminutive size and gorgeous multicoated elements lend it a jewel like quality. The weight (235g) feels correct for a small lens – it gives it a solid feel and balances beautifully on an OM body. It must not be forgotten that it is a telephoto lens though and camera shake is exaggerated due to this. Therefore it is important to use shutter speeds of at least 1/125the or higher to maintain sharpness.  A bonus not apparent to be at the time of purchase was that it is small enough to fit in a semi hard camera case, so I do not have to go through the ritual of changing lenses over when storing the camera away.

 So what does this tiny Zuiko perform like?, Well it does not disappoint that’s for sure; very sharp results are easily achievable and the reasonably fast f2.8 maximum aperture ensures that backgrounds can be blurred sufficiently to make the subject stand out well. I guess the 100mm f2 equivalent does a better job of this and, by all accounts, has the edge over the 2.8 regarding sharpness. But this comes at a price; it is nearly double the weight, size and cost. I have found it is best used from f2.8 down to f8, where diffraction begins to erode performance. This does not make apertures beyond this unusable though as the results from f8 to f16 are still acceptable.

Along with being a good portrait lens, the 100mm focal length lends itself well to landscape photography, and its small size makes it an excellent travel lens. For years when travelling abroad this lens was a faithful companion. However, it is now the 135mm F2.8 lens that is my short telephoto of choice as it provides a little more reach that can be very useful. I have considered replacing the 100mm with an 85mm f2 on many occasions as the additional speed would be useful and eight, instead of six aperture blades should produce better 'bokeh'. However even though it is seldom used now, I am loathe to part with it, and the cost differential between both objectives is large enough to question my reasons for exchanging it.

A more hidden side to this lens’ talents is one of close up photography; it’s minimum focus is an sedentary 1 metre – good enough when photographing normal subjects but not particularly useful when wishing to get close in on small things. When coupled with the 65-116mm telescopic extension tube, very good close up capabilities are possible – not as good as a dedicated macro optic of course, particularly if the subject is flat. But it is certainly good enough for three dimensional close-ups of flowers, insects etc.  Use of a 7mm extension tube is also beneficial, moving the rear element just a few millimetres further away from the film plane often gets me out of a scrape when I need to focus a little closer.

All in all this is a very useful lens which more than meets the original design philosophy of the once mighty OM System.