Review: Olympus 35mm f/2,8 Zuiko Shift

Olympus 35mm f/2,8 Zuiko Shift

If you are into architectural or landscape photography you will love this tiny lens.

It’s really sharp at every aperture, just a tiny bit foggy at full speed (typical of designs without aspherical elements).

The contrast is nowere in the range of the Contax lenses, but this in my book it is a blessing because it means no easily lost highlights.

The colors are simply gorgeous, warm and, for lack of a better word, “vibrant”.

The raison d’être for a shift lens like this one, not too wide indeed, nowadays is mostly rooted in the fact that it will let you shoot two or four frames to stitch together to gain resolution with extreme ease.

For this kind of work this lens is as good as it gets, because unlike other brands Olympus made the shift procedure silky smooth: you don’t have to move switches, just push or pull the lens in the right direction and it will slide in position (and stay there).

It is so well implemented that you can do this even handheld! And given how small it is, smaller than some other “normal” 35mm (i.e. without shifting function), you really have no excuse not to carry it with you as a general purpose lens.

Besides, shifting the lens will let you change perspective (for example you will be able to shoot from below without having to crouch down), cut unwanted elements from a scene and, obviously, even correct perspective in an architectural shot.

This little lens has only two potential flaws: first of all it is not so resistant to flare, especially at full speed; and in some copies the slide movement with the time tends to loosen a bit, but this is easily fixable. It’s just a question of tightening up a couple of screws that are accessible after sliding the lens.

In conclusion: my advice is to get one, they tend to be around 300 / 350 € on the auction sites, in good shape. The next big thing is the Contax 35mm shift, that is better but it costs three or four times more!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: Yashica 28-85mm f/3,5-4,5 ML

Yashica 28-85 ML

One of the best “bang for the bucks” out there.

Its strongest point is the colour rendition, tipically Zeiss despite the Yashica lineage.

The first weakest point is the relatively vast amount of flare when shot in backlight (otherwise it would have scored a full 4 stars).

Its second weakness is that the macro focus range starts at an odd distance – 1.7 meters! -, and because the focus is splitted between the normal manual focus ring and the macro one, that makes difficult to take pictures at typical reportage distances.

A solution is to focus near or at the minimum distance with the primary focus ring and then to use the macro one to follow the subjects. However this is more of a nuisance than a deal breaker.

Overall a great performer, pretty sharp at both ends, that you may buy used for the price of a Contax metal hood alone: 60 euro more or less.

At this price definitely a “must have”.

Rating: ★★★½☆ on Canon 5D Mark II

UPDATE: quite surprisingly this lens performs quite a lot better on the – supposedly more demanding – A7r sensor than it did on the Canon 5D Mark II. Go figure…

Rating: ★★★★½ on Sony A7r

Review: Contax Distagon 25mm f/2,8

Contax Distagon 25mm f/2,8

Not one of the best Zeiss lenses, but a solid performer anyway.

His strongest point is the colour rendition, tipically Zeiss.


100% crops. Left center, right borders (on Canon 5D Mark II):


On the other side, resolution wise, it is not better that a Canon 24mm f/2,8, especially at the borders.

Good if you have other Zeiss optics, just for colour consistency, or if you prefer to focus manually.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Review: Canon 24mm f/1,4 L Usm

Heavy, big and expensive, but a terrific tool for available light photography.

Sharp wide open, and razor-sharp from f/2,8 even in the borders. The biggest problem at full aperture, but only in specific lighting conditions, is the purple fringing that occurs in the specular highlights.

If you can afford one, and obviously if you shoot low light, buy it now.

canon 24mm f/1,4 L
And yes, it is expensive, but not so much: the 28/1,4 Nikon AF costs three times as much, used, and it has been discontinued.

With the same price tag of a used Nikkor alone you may buy a 24/1,4 Canon and a 5D body, both new!

Rating: ★★★★½

Review: Pentax 40mm f/2,8 M Pancake

My sample came well beaten up, with the filter ring bented and the focus ring locked.

I repaired it by myself with a couple of hammer blows.

Now it works like a charm.

Unbelievably small and compact for a SLR lens it is, like every almost other normal lens, a wonderful performer. Even if, for compactness sake, it lose something compared to other normals.

pentax 40 pancake

Your mileage may vary, but I find the 40mm focal lens almost perfect. It is wide enough, and long enough, that you may go everywere with just one lens on the camera, for casual shooting, and cover pretty every photographic opportunity you may find during your rounds. Really a one lens band!

Rating: ★★★★☆ on film

Rating: ★★★½☆ on digital (full frame and Dx)