Review: Olympus OM Zuiko 28mm 1:2

The Olympus OM 2/28 is the smallest manual 2/28 mm lens you can buy and in this in-depth review on the Sony a7II I check if it is still relevant in 2017.

Sample Images

You can find these images in full resolution in this Olympus OM 2/28 flickr set.

not actually f/2, most likely f/11

 Specifications

Diameter 60 mm
Length 43 mm
Filter Thread 49 mm
Weight 248 g
Max. Magnification 1:8
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.3 m
Number of aperture blades 8
Elements/ Groups 9/8

At the time of this review the Olympus OM Zuiko 2/28 usually sells for around $170-250 at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it for 130-200€ at ebay.de (affiliate link). 

Versions

For practical purposes I see only one version of the Olympus OM 2/28:
  1. The Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-W 1:2 f=28 mm with “silver nose” is the oldest version.
  2. The Olympus Zuiko MC Auto-W 1:2 f=28 mm with a “black nose” is younger but apart from the cosmetic change it is the same for all practical purposes.
  3. The last youngest version is the Olympus Zuiko Auto-W 1:2 28 mmThe MC was dropped from the name but that is the only change. This is the version I own (don’t be confused by the wrong name in the exifs, would have been quite a hassle to change that after I noticed my mistake).

Data according to Olypedia.de

Compatibility

The Olympus Om 2/28  can of course be used on a wide range of Olympus OM film cameras but I know little about those so I can’t tell you any details.

You can also buy adapters to use it on Canon EOS cameras but in some cases the mirror will hit the back of the lens. Check out this site for more information.

To use a OM lens on a Nikon F-mount camera you need to replace the mount of your OM lens. Check out Leitax for more information. I can recommend their products, they are very well made.

The easiest way to use a C/Y lens on a digital camera is to buy a mirrorless camera. I think the Olympus 2/28 makes little sense on a crop sensor and I can only recommend to buy a full frame camera so the Sony Alpha 7 series cameras are your only choice (unless you have too much money and want a Leica SL). Check out this article for more information about how to use manual lenses on the Sony a7-series.

Build Quality and Handling

Olympus OM lenses usually combine very small size and great handling. The Olympus OM 2/28 is no exception.

Focusing Ring

The focusing ring travels around 80 degrees from 0.3 m to 1 m and a further 20 degrees to infinity. This is a little steep for a wide angle but not much of an issue.

The rubberized focusing ring offers good grip and a pleasant diameter. The resistance is very pleasant on my copy.

Aperture

The aperture ring sits at the front of the lens and it has full stops from f/2 to f/16 which click into place very nicely. I think this is one of the best aperture ring designs I have come across.

Hood

I don’t own a hood for it but it would make sense to get one since the front lens is quite exposed and flare an issue.

Size and Weight

At 248 g and with a length of just 48 mm the Olympus is small but still large enough to be very pleasant to handle and very well balanced on the a7 series.

Filters

The 49 mm filter thread is made from metal

The front of the lens does not rotate so polarizers are easy to use.

Image Quality

Vignetting

At f/2 vignetting is very strong at 3 stops. At f/2.8 it is reduced a little to still significant 2.3 stops. By f/4 vignetting is 1.7 stops and at f/5.6  it still measures 1.5 stops. These are really high figures but they are the price you pay for the small size of the Olympus OM lenses.

Flare Resistance

The flare resistance of the Olympus 2/28 is quite good for a legacy lens but of course not perfect. Veiling flare is reasonably well controlled but it is quite easily to get a little ghosting.

wrong exif, taken probably at f/11

The Olympus 2/28 is not quite on the same level as the Pentax K 3.5/28 or Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28 but it is much better than most legacy 28 mm lenses in this regard.

Distortion

The OM 2/28 shows some moustache distortion which you won’t be able to fully correct in your raw-converter of choice without creating a custom profile.

Chromatic Aberrations

There is a moderate degree of CA which should be corrected.


100% crop from the extreme corner | f/11 | Sony a7II

Axial CA and Bokeh fringing are not a big issue with the Olympus 2/28.

Bokeh

The Olympus OM 2/28’s bokeh changes a lot through the apertures. Wide open bokeh is very busy with strong outlining. The only good thing I can say is that there is little bokeh fringing. I guess some people will like the effect like some people like the Trioplan 2.8/100 but for most applications it isn’t too useful.

Stop the lens down to f/4 though and bokeh will be much smoother and the aperture shape not much of an issue so it is my go-to-aperture for closeups. f/2.8 is still somewhat nervous but to a lesser degree.

  

Sunstars

A strength of the Olympus 2/28 is that it has 8 aperture blades while most competitors have just 6 blades. These make for decent 8-pointed sunstars.

 

Sharpness

The full aperture series can be found at flickr.

f/2: The center is a little soft with lower contrast, midframe performance is only a little weaker and the extreme corner’s softness is partially cloaked by the very strong vignetting.

f/2.8: The center is now very sharp and midframe performance increases a little. Corners are still very dark and soft.

f/4: Excellent center and a significant midframe improvement to very good figures. Extreme corners are still soft but if you look at the full image you see that it is really only the extreme corner which is still soft.

f/5.6: Midframe and corners improve a little.

f/8: Corners are somewhat sharp now.

f/11: Corners are sharp, the rest a little softer.

Analysis: f/2 is sharp enough for many applications but you should avoid it if you want very good performance. From f/2.8 you don’t have to worry about performance in the center but only from f/4 you get really good sharpness across most of the frame. For landscapes I would recommend f/11 unless you have no detail in the corners, then f/5.6 will give you very good results.

Adapter issues

With the Olympus OM 2/28 it is essential to have an adapter of exact thickness or you will get serious issues with field curvature. That is because the Olympus uses floating elements which are very sensitive to and incorrect flange focal distance. When I got the Olympus I initially thought that it had the most severe field curvature I had ever seen but the true cause of this was my too short K&F adapter. Only after I tuned the adapter for the correct thickness of 28.00 mm I got good results. I don’t have a OM Novoflex adapter but those are usually 0.1 mm too short and I would guess that this will be enough to have a negative effect on image quality.

Because of these issues I would either recommend an expensive Rayqual adapter (affiliate link) or a cheap K&F adapter (affiliate link) which you would have to tune yourself with help of a digital calipher (affiliate link).

Alternatives

These are alternative lenses for the Sony a7/a9 series.

Sony FE 2/28: The Sony isn’t built nearly as nice, manual focus is much less enjoyable and it is and a little more expensive. Apart from these points of criticism the smaller auto focus Sony is a stronger lens optically with better sharpness, better flare resistance and significantly smoother bokeh. If you are after optical performance go for the Sony. If handling is very important to you or you enjoy the harsher bokeh of the Olympus go for it.

Voigtlander 2/28 – If you want a small manual 2/28 for your a7 the Voigtlander would be my suggestion. It is much sharper with smoother bokeh and better flare resistance. It is quite a bit more expensive though and only focuses down to 0.5 m without a helicoid adapter. It also has some issues with the thicker filter stack of the a7 series but that doesn’t weight too heavily.

Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28 T* (C/Y mount) – The Zeiss is about as expensive as the Olympus and a stop slower but actually a little larger. The Olympus performs better at short distances and bokeh stopped down a little is also smoother so I would prefer it for close focus work. For landscapes the Zeiss is sharper with better flare resistance.

Pentax K 3.5/28My favorite manual lens for landscapes is actually a little larger but it is sharper with better flare resistance and less vignetting. If you can find one it is usually more affordable than the Olympus.

Olympus OM 3.5/28  The tiny lens is even smaller and much more affordable. It is also quite a bit sharper but there is a big catch and that are the primitive coatings which make flare a serious issue.

Conclusion

good

  • Build quality and handling
  • Size and weight
  • Bokeh (at f/4)
  • 8 aperture blades
average

  • Sharpness
  • Price
  • Flare resistane
not good

  • Bokeh 
  • Vignetting

The Olympus OM 2/28’s small size combined with very good build quality makes it stand out from other classic 2/28 lenses. Handling is certainly a big plus for it.

The Olympus’ optical performance is probably best described as good enough for many applications but it doesn’t really excel at anything. Sharpness is okayish wide open but you need to stop down to f/2.8 for very good performance in the center of the image. For landscapes f/8 or f/11 is recommended. The small size is paid for in terms of very strong vignetting. I liked the bokeh quite a bit. At f/4 at least, where the 8 aperture blades come in handy. Wide open bokeh is just funky and I quickly grew tired of this “effect”. One aspect I was positively surprised by is the flare resistance which isn’t perfect but much better than that  of many other legacy 28 mm lenses.

My recommendation for the Olympus OM 2/28 is a very limited one. I found it performed quite well for closeups at f/4. It also works well enough for landscapes where its performance certainly isn’t class leading but quite decent. So if you own one from back in the day you can certainly take nice pictures with it but I don’t think it makes much sense to buy one today.

All in all the Olympus OM 2/28 turned in a decent but unexciting performance. F/2 is of limited use because of very funky bokeh and very strong vignetting but since it is as small as most other f/2.8 lenses that doesn’t weight too heavily. What I really enjoyed about it is the great build quality and handling. The current used marked price seems to be pretty high for the given performance.

At the time of this review the Olympus OM Zuiko 2/28 usually sells for around $170-250 at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it for 130-200€ at ebay.de (affiliate link).

If this review was helpful to you, please consider using one of my affiliate links. I will earn a small commission on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything. Thanks 🙂

Olympus OM Zuiko 1:2 f=28 mm Sample Images

All images are processed in Lightroom from Raw. Many more full resolution samples in Olympus OM 2/28 flickr set.

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

26 thoughts on “Review: Olympus OM Zuiko 28mm 1:2”

  1. Good review and nice shots. Bokeh at f/2 looks a bit like the MC Rokkor 28/2’s bokeh. The FE 28/2 truly is a gem for when one can live with af.

  2. Notwithstanding your (valid) criticism of the optical deficiencies that marred the performance of the 28mm Olympus you reviewed here, the photos you took were, as always, superb.

    Manual-focus aficionados will no doubt be tempted to buy (but will they get the same results–only if they can buy your photographer’s eye, as well, I think).

    1. PS: Agree with David’s remark about the Sony FE28/2. I’ve had it for just one month, but thus far I’m most pleased with the results.

      The AF is quite fast and accurate on the A7rii body.

  3. Good review as always Phillip.
    This was one of my favourite 28mm MF lenses, but I found there was greater than normal copy variation, causing poor, veiled performance wide open. A good copy is very good.
    You mention The Pentax K 3.5/28 as better for flare performance, but haven’t put it in “Alternatives”? I think it is perhaps the overall best 28mm if you can live with F/3.5 widest. It is also fairly rare, but not impossible to find, or too expensive…yet!

    1. Regarding the Pentax K, whenever I look, if I find one, it’s almost always over $200 (there’s only 1 on ebay right now and it’s $240 + $10 shipping). I only paid $300 for my Sony 28mm so that seems a bit pricey for an old slow lens. If I could find the Pentax or the Contax Distagon for around $150, I probably would have gone with them but for the prices they go for, it didn’t make sense to get them over the Sony.

      If I’m really hankering to use manual focus at 28mm, I have the FD 28mm and Minolta 28mm, neither of which are as good as the Contax or Pentax but perform just fine at F8 and only cost me around $35 each.

  4. The closest lens is the Pentax M or A 28/2.0. Same focal, same aperture, very similar weight and size.
    Does somebody knows how they compare?

  5. A very very underrated alternativ is the 28mm f2 Canon fd, there is from what i know not a single review of that lens anywhere i can find but its an amazing lens and i’ve been using it for a long time on my sony A7, stunning bokeh that reminds more of what you get from a 35mm rather than 28mm. Also very very sharp stopped down to f4 or lower. Also it can be had for only 100-130$ if you look around a bit

  6. The lens would work well on micro four thirds with a 2x crop factor, so it will be a 56mm FF equivelent. I have a konica 28mm and find the fov great, so i dont understand why you dont think its suitable for crop cameras.

    1. My take on this is that many older FF lenses offer good resolution on FF; but the effective magnification on smaller formats results in rather worse performance than lenses designed for the smaller format natively. You would be better off with any of the 25mm primes for M43 (on APSC 28 is an attractive focal length, and there is less increase in magnification, so the performance won’t be as poor. But on APSC the Sony 2/28 has an even greater lead over the Zuiko than it has on FF. For all that, at the right price, why not?

      1. Thanks for typing my answer 😉

        You certainly can use it on smaller formats and results might even be good enough for you. Even though this review is rather critical of the Olympus I took many nice pictures with it and I was generally happy with the results. But modern lenses would have performed quite a bit better.

      2. I agree, David. You can get the Panasonic 25mm 1.7 lens for under $200 so I cannot see why you’d spend more money on a legacy lens that will perform significantly worse. Most of my legacy lenses don’t perform nearly as well on my E-M5 as my A7. Especially wide open, they are even more glowy and lack any contrast.

      3. Agreed on your main point, David; and I would stress that the usual online chatter about how, with FF lenses, “[it is an advantage that] you are only using the middle [best] part of the glass” [sic] has more to do with presumption and the endless parroting of online rumour than with any meaningful examination of empirical evidence.

        I would strongly suggest that dissenting folks spend quite some time serially viewing Christopher Frost’s very likeable lens reviews on YouTube, where Chris pretty consistently tests lenses on both FF and APS-C format cameras, irrespective of their manufacturer’s format type designation.

        Canon EF-S lenses are, of course, ‘locked out’ of testing on Canon FF; but now that Chris has acquired a Sony A7R II, I am hopeful that he can be persuaded to revisit a few of the likelier contenders for having some practical usefulness FF to, say, a 1.22x crop of that (some “APS-C” Samyang/Rokinons, e.g., by the evidence I can gather from online images): There might be some intriguing, very lightweight, compact surprises there along the lines of evidence already seen for other modern “crop sensor” lenses employed FF on A7-series bodies. Keep firmly in mind the kind of vintage lens limitations we are seeing here before scoffing at the suggestion. FYI.

        BTW, this note: Canon EF-S lenses require some straightforeward modification in order to fit the pretty good Sigma MC-11 adaptor. To my knowledge, this is not an issue on the inexpensive Commlite adapter and similar.

  7. Nice review! I like the OM lenses, but still hestitate to buy into another mount. Nice you’ve included a picture made in Münster.

  8. Beautiful photos and an interesting review !
    I have a Minolta MD 28/3.5 . It is a really nice lens.
    Very light and cheap. Sometimes sharper than my MD 28/2.8.
    Keep up your good work !
    Regards

  9. Excellent photos, as always Phillip! I am always amazed at the quality you get. Always sharp and with good composition; makes me second guess saving for AF lenses!

  10. From my experience, the Zuiko 28mmm f2 is pretty prone to checkerboard type sensor reflections on the A7II. I haven’t done any comparisons to other lenses in controlled conditions, so it might be an accidental result. Since you shoot a lot of backlit scenes I wonder whether you haven’t seen this type of reflections?

  11. I found out that the Pentax 28/2.0 M and 28/2.0 A – identical optically – are very, very similar to the Olympus tested here, nearly identical optical formula! They do have a similar weight too.

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