In this article, I compare an "old" Olympus OM Zuiko 200 mm lens with a modern Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens set at 200mm.
The telephoto zoom
This article is part of a "trio" of articles exploring how old Zuiko OM lenses behave in a modern digital body, in this case a Canon Rebel T1i body using appropriate adaptors. As we have seen in previous installments (here and here) there are some reasonable good Zuiko choices for the 50 mm and 24 mm focal lengths, but what about for telephoto lenses? Enter the 200mm f/4 lens.
The Zuiko 200mm f/4
Unlike the other two zuiko lenses I reviewed before, the 200 mm is quite a large lens. Construction quality is on par with the other lenses with all metal construction. At F/4, the lens is not super-fast but considering this is a telephoto and the size is reasonable, it is adequate for most uses. This is also one the cheapest of the second-hand Zuiko lenses you can get.
Figure 1 - Zuiko 200 mm f/4 and Canon Adapter
Figure 2 shows, for comparison purposes, the 200mm f/4 side-by-side with the 24mm f/2.8 I previously reviewed. As you can see, there's a huge difference in size which is to be expected given the focal length difference.
Figure 1 - Zuiko 200 mm f/4 and Canon Adapter vs 24mm f/2.8
I also own a Zuiko to Sony NEX lens adapter. Figure 3 shows how it looks with the NEX-5n. You are reaching the point here where the lens starts to dwarf the camera:)...
Figure 3 - Zuiko 200 mm f/4 on a NEX body
To make the comparison fair given that I don't have a 200 mm 'modern' NEX lens, I decided to use the Zuiko-Canon adapter and compare the Zuiko 200 mm f/4 to the Canon EF-S 55-200 mm IS set at 200mm on a Canon body. Figure 4 shows the Zuiko lens mounted on the T1i Digital Rebel. I got to say this setup feels more 'balanced' than the NEX setup in Figure 3.
Figure 4 - Zuiko 200 mm f/4 on a Canon Rebel T1i
The fridge test
As usual, the "fridge test" consists of placing the lens and camera on a tripod, manual focusing on the fridge in areas of detail (papers, magnets, etc) and then shooting at various apertures to see how the lens performs. Most lenses perform better at the center of the frame than at the corners, so both cases were considered.
Figure 5 - The "Fridge Test"
G-Zuiko 200 mm f/4 lens. Center
Figure 6 - The "Fridge Test
G-Zuiko 200mm f/4 lens. Corner
- At 5.6 (the maximum aperture for the Canon at this focal length) the Zuiko is clearly better
- From f/5.6 and up they are about the same but with a slight edge to the Canon.
- The Zuiko is sharper than the Canon at all apertures
- The Zuiko exhibits some vignetting (light fall-off in the corners)
In absolute terms, the optical performance of this Zuiko lens is OK but not very impressive considering we are comparing a prime lens against a zoom lens. For the price though, the optical performance could be viewed as a good 'value'. What this tests don't show is how it behaves in the field. I found this lens very difficult to use in the real world, especially without a tripod. The focusing mechanism is difficult and when you are dealing with such a long lens, focusing accuracy is a key consideration. I would much rather have auto-focus at this type of focal length. It's not such a big deal for a 24mm or 50 mm lens to have to focus manually, but becomes almost impractical with a 200 mm lens. Expect a lot of blurry photos. The other downside of this lens in the real world is the lack of Image Stabilization (IS) that even the Canon 55-250mm offers at an affordable price. So, sadly, I would not recommend buying this lens for most practical telephoto uses such as sports photography and wildlife photography. If you can find uses where it is set on a solid tripod, you might be able to get some good shots from it with some practice. But then again, a cheap modern telephoto lens will be more versatile and perform better in most circumstances.
Comments, questions, suggestions? You can reach me at: contact (at sign) paulorenato (dot) com