The Olympus Zuiko 35mm f/2.8 lens is very much an after thought lens as is the focal length in general for primes. Or at least I should be honest and say it was for me, I can’t speak for everyone. To me 35mm wasn’t really wide enough to be ‘perspective changing’ nor really work well indoors for full length portraits, at least no the indoors in which I live. It also wasn’t long enough to really pull things in and it is certainly much slower and not as depth of field limiting as a 50/1.4 or even 50/1.8.
So until recently I’ve completely neglected the 35mm focal length. I decided to ‘take the plunge’ and get a Zuiko 35mm f/2.8. Not a very big plunge as it didn’t even break $70 for the lens. I decided that as small as the lens is and as inexpensive as it was it wouldn’t hurt to try it out. So far I have yet to use it much, thanks to only having it in my possession a short while and not having much inspiration for photography due to toddler sleeping problems and some home renovation work. My limited experience though is that it is a very compact lens just a hair longer then a Zuiko 50/1.8 mij and two hairs longer then a Zuiko 24/2.8. This means that it takes up very little room in my camera bag which is a plus. It seems like it is sharp, but I haven’t gotten any film developed from it yet, so that is merely speculation. One thing I can say is that, it might not be as wide as a 24 or 28mm lens or as long as a 50 (nor as fast), but I think it might actually make a pretty good focal length for me.
Until recently I’ve been using 24, 28 and 50mm primes with a 70-210 zoom on the long end (a 35-70/3.5 Tamron zoom in there as well, but that got almost no use and just extra ballast for my camera bag). The difference between the 28 and the 50mm focal lengths was sometimes a bit too much. However, stepping from 24 to 35 to 50 seems to work better for me and I think that is what my final setup is going to be, at least for now (I have finally given up on keeping the Tamron 35-70/3.5 in my camera bag as it just doesn’t get any use). When I really want to load myself down I’ll probably take 24, 28, 35 and 50mm primes.
The 35mm f/2.8 lens comes in three flavors, a G. Zuiko single coated lens, an MC zuiko multicoated lens and a Zuiko multicoated lens. With this lens I have no idea if there were any changes in the optics between the different versions. The MIR website appears to have a typo as the newer version of the lens is certainly not the size listed (which is listed as the dimensions of the newer 35/2). The lens is 33mm in length, 59mm in diameter and 170g light. It has 7 elements in 6 groups with a minimum focusing distance of .3m for a reproduction size of 14x21cm (1:5.8). The lens takes 49mm screw in filters, has a diagonal field of view of 63 degrees and an f-stop range of f/2.8 to f/16.
I’ve had a chance to do some quick testing of the lens and I’ve shot a few real world photos with the Zuiko 35mm f/2.8. Its going to stay in my stable. It is not razor sharp, but it is pretty good with center sharpness and by f/5.6 is is very good in edge sharpness, on the soft side wide open and at f/4, but still acceptable. Below are the results of my ‘standard’ test using a bookshelf in my basement, all shots are tripod mounted using MLU and cable release, no image sharpening, ICE or other modifications have been made to the images. Scanned at 3200dpi on an Epson 4470.
You can see the areas I took 100% crops from in this image.
Click on the images to get the full size. For center resolution I’d give it a B at f/2.8, B+ f/4, A- f/5.6 through f/11, not much to choose from at f/5.6 on for center sharpness/resolution.
Edge sharpness/resolution is a different story. It is much softer out near the edge at f/2.8, but it gets pretty sharp by f/5.6. F/2.8 and f/4 are maybe a C, f/5.6 a B, f/8 and 11 are a B+. Keep in mind that the right crop is of a somewhat lower contrast object then the center.
So the story is that the Zuiko 35mm f/2.8, at least the later multicoated version is pretty good in the center and fine in the edge. Its not a super sharp lens, but good. Something I will use with no qualms and enjoy a lot, especially with its tiny size and shape.