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Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro Review

June 2008 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on From $499.00

The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro was one of the very first Four Thirds system lenses, announced along with the launch of the E-1 back in June 2003. With an unusually fast maximum aperture for a macro lens, it's described as a dual purpose optic also suitable for portraits; indeed it's the closest to a classic portrait prime Olympus currently produces. The optical design is suitably complex for a macro lens, with 11 elements in 10 groups including 1 ED glass element, and includes a floating focus system for optimum correction across the entire distance range. This enables a minimum focus distance of 0.2m, giving a 1:2 (0.5x) maximum magnification, which translates to an image area similar to that obtained using a 1:1 macro lens on the 35mm full-frame format. The lens incorporates Olympus's 'focus-by-wire' system, whereby the manual focus ring is used to drive the lens's AF motor electronically (as opposed to being mechanically coupled to the focus unit).

The 50mm F2.0 Macro is also designed for full integration with Olympus's macro flash system, with both the RF11 ring flash and TF22 twin flash units attaching via the FS-FR1 adaptor ring to a bayonet mount at the front of the lens (which is also used for the hood). Additionally, it can be used with the EX-25 extension tube to achieve 1:1 magnification, and with the EC-14 teleconverter to give a 70mm F 2.8 lens (although in this case Olympus does not recommend using apertures larger then F4).

All of this flexibility comes in a relatively compact and lightweight package (particularly in comparison to equivalent lenses designed for larger formats), and the 50mm F2.0 macro is also one of the the cheapest options for Four Thirds users who require a fast short telephoto lens for portrait shooting and shallow depth of field effects. So does the performance match the potential, and is this a lens which should be in every E-system user's bag?

Use of the Panasonic L10 as Four Thirds test body

We have chosen to use the Panasonic L10 as our standard test body for Four Thirds lenses purely because it gives the highest numbers in our resolution tests (which we believe is most likely due to it having a relatively weak anti-aliasing filter); this is intended simply to provide the fairest comparison to other manufacturers' systems. The samples gallery contains images shot with the Panasonic L10, Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-420 bodies.

Headline features

  • 50mm fixed focal length; fast F2.0 maximum aperture
  • Macro focusing: 1:2 maximum magnification (1:1 35mm equivalent) 
  • 'Focus by wire' manual focus system
  • Four Thirds mount for Olympus and Panasonic dSLRS

Angle of view

The picture below illustrates the lens's angle of view (see here for comparative shots using the Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F3.6-5.6):

50mm (100mm equivalent)

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro specifications

Street price • US: $410
• UK: £350
Date introduced June 2003
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 50mm
35mm equivalent focal length 100mm
Diagonal angle of view 24°
Maximum aperture F2.0
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 11 elements/ 10 groups
• 1 ED element
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Minimum focus 0.2m
Maximum magnification 0.5x
AF motor type • DC Micro motor
• 'Focus-by-wide' manual focus
Focus method Extending barrel with floating rear group
Image stabilization No
Filter thread • 52mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories* • Front and rear caps
• LH-43 lens hood
• LSC-0814 lens case
Optional accessories • Tele Converter EC-14 (Recommended max. aperture 1:4.0)
• Extension Tube EX-25 ( 0.98x maximum magnification)
• Adaptor Ring FS-FR1 (for macro flash units
Weight 300g (10.6 oz)
Dimensions 71mm diameter x 61.5mm length
(2.8 x 2.4 in)
Lens Mount Four Thirds

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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