Review : Olympus Zuiko 35mm/f2.8 SHIFT Lens

Here is the 20s version : If you happen to own a Canon DSLR, just buy this lens. You won't regret.

This is a series of articles about alternatives lenses I've used and I recommend. The first one has to be the one which was very dear to me for over a decade since I purchased it.

Ever since I bought my first serious full frame digital SLR camera, a Canon EOS 5D, back in 2005 I've been using alternative or non-original-manufacturer lenses. One such lens I got to know about was Olympus Zuiko 35mm SHIFT. I was able to buy a multi-coated sample off eBay and this was my go-to lens for many many years.


Why this lens -

A unique lens which offers shift option in two planes, so called omni directional shifting: 10.4mm to each side, 12mm up and 13mm down.  In total of about 83° maximum shift - allowing you to make three overlapping shots to make a panorama and/or avoid converging vertical lines. The lens is amazingly sharp at its best aperture, around f8/f11. Mine was almost always set to f11. I've made some fine images using the shift+rise feature which would have been impossible otherwise. Even though the lens does not offer a tilt function, like Canon FD 35mm TS lens, the rise+shift is a brilliant option. I've used it for many woodland images. I often used shift-up (rise) function to avoid key-stone effect and then shift in horizontal plane to get three overlapping frames to make a panorama.

This image has been published a few times in German magazines. It was an hour before dusk and I thought this would make a fine panorama in 6x12 format. I personally prefer it to 6x18. Three overlapping frames at f11 and then stitching in Photoshop. Click to view large.


Operation

You will need an adapter to use this lens on Canon or Sony digital cameras. You can buy a cheap one off eBay however I recommend adapters by Novoflex or Leitax. The Leitax is a fantastic option if you want to stick to a certain camera brand for a while. The diaphragm has to be preset manually and used with stop-down metering. I did not have an issue with this as I was coming from 4x5 large format camera at that time.  I was used to taking up to 15-20 minutes to set up the camera and still deciding not to make any images. As you can see in the following image one can use omni-shift by moving the lens in the groves.

Click to view large. Note the lens shifted in two planes.

For the following image I made in Bavarian National Park, I was standing on the soft ground in the lake. Any other position was impossible without hip-waders and even then getting the perspective I wanted would have been impossible. I liked how the reflection of größer Arber was mimicking the dip in the tree line. The scene did remind me of a certain Harry Potter sequence. Thanks to the rise function I got enough room above the "island tree" and shift function was used to make three overlapping images.

Bavarian National Park - Harry Potter Island. Canon EOS 5D + Olympus Zuiko 35mm SHIFT. I've printed this around 4ft at the long end and the details are amazing.


What is Good -

  • All Olympus Zuiko lenses are tiny. I mean you would not believe tiny. This is not an exception for a shift lens. Amazing how this was possible in the 70ies.
  • Very sharp optic at f8-f11
  • Of course, the omni-shift

Issues

  • This works brilliantly on EOS cameras I've tested. Classic 5D, 500D and then 6D. However I've switched to Sony A7 series and due to relatively less flange focal distance (I think) there are unavoidable reflections which reduce the contrast in the images considerably. I tested it on A7ii and the issue is not seen. However you may want to test it before taking it for a serious photography assignment.
  • The diaphragm has to be preset manually. Very easy to forget.
  • CA can be an issue however I could easily correct it in Lightroom.
  • Lens flare can be a problem - as mentioned in some forums. However I rarely used this lens in conditions which would test this. I made the following image as part of the OTWTW project. I did not notice any flare here. So can not really comment.

This remains one of my favorite image to date. I used the rise function only to avoid the keystone effect. I also had to use a polariser to remove glare from the wet leaves and a 2 stop graduated neutral density filter to balance the exposure.


Few more images as a gallery. Please click to view large.