Using an Adapted Vintage Lens

Pretty much all mirrorless cameras lend themselves to using adapted vintage lenses. There are a wealth of options out there that can be picked up for very little on eBay, my particular weapon of choice is an Olympus 50mm f1.4 OM-System G.Zuiko Auto-S.  I happen to have this because I also have an Olympus OM4 film camera and this lens used to live on that body. Mine is the earlier “silver nose” version, I believe it’s from the 1970s. I have heard the later versions with a serial number greater than 1,000,000 have better multicoating, but I am very satisfied with mine as it is. The lens is very solid, has an aperture ring and the focus ring is well damped. It may be heavy but it is pretty compact and a masterclass in engineering. I picked up an adapter from Amazon for not very much at all, it’s metal and works just great.

How to use a vintage lens

Firstly make sure the camera is set to “Shoot without lens”, you can safely leave this setting on, the camera will continue to function normally when you put a native Fuji lens back on. I also like to set the focal length to 50mm, I don’t think it does much other than write that to the EXIF data but that’s more information than the lens itself is going to give you.

Welcome to the world of manual focus, there are a few different techniques on offer with the X system cameras, focus peaking and digital split image in particular. Whilst the split image is wonderfully reminiscent of the way my OM4 focuses, this is the 21st century and focus peaking is really where it is at. Personally, I find it useful to change the highlight colour to red, this is particularly effective if you shoot in monochrome. I tend to shoot JPEG+RAW anyway so I can always reprocess the RAW if I want a colour image, but the red peaking really stands out against the monochrome image when you are looking to nail the focus. I also find the EVF works better for this than the screen on the back of the camera, it fills your vision and you really can see so much more. If you need to, you can also hit the Focus Assist button on the back of the camera and get a zoomed in view to really help you nail the focus. If you hold down the Focus Assist button you can switch from peaking to split image to standard. The FA button on the vertical grip does the same thing.

Performance

The bit you’re actually interested in, what do the pictures look like when using this vintage glass? Well the crop factor makes this lens equivalent to around 75mm on full frame, not too far away from a classic portrait lens focal length. Using a full frame lens with an APS-C sized sensor also means we are only sing the sharpest central portion of the lens and not the edges. Stop it down 2 stops to f2.8 and it is blisteringly sharp.   Here’s a shot of my son enjoying a duvet day a couple of weeks ago, have a look at the 100% crop and you can really appreciate just how sharp this 40 year old glass is.

Portrait of a boy taken with a vintage lens
Fujifilm X-T1 and Olympus OM 50mm F/1.4 lens at F/2
close up crop of an eye
100% crop

 

However, for me the real magic happens when you use this vintage lens wide open.  Here’s a shot of my daughter shot wide open at f1.4, it’s still sharp enough that you can count her eyelashes if you want to, but there is a softness and a glow to the image that puts me in mind of chocolate box lids from the 1970s.  We’ve also got a blend of the Olympus and Fuji colours going on and the slightly unusual bokeh has turned the TV in the background into something that almost resembles a stained glass window.

Young girl taken with vintage lens
Fujifilm X-T1 and Olympus OM 50mm F/1.4 lens at F/1.4

The whole kit; the lens and an adapter can be picked up pretty cheaply on eBay.  The results are certainly well worth the effort.