Taking Out the Vivitar 135mm 2.8 for Some Photo Fun With the Olympus E-PL2

About a year ago I posted an article discussing my purchase of an OM mount Vivitar 135mm 2.8 lens to use on my four-thirds Olympus E-520 camera. Although I didn’t go into much detail, I described the basic weight and feel of the lens and promised that I would eventually blog about it more later. So far I haven’t, and I apologize for that. But now with the OM to micro four-thirds adapter I recently received, now is as good a time as ever to make good on that promise.

A skate guard at the Bryant Park ice rink. (ISO 800 1/160 sec)

Thanks a wide variety of cheap lens-to-camera body adapters and the In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) that Olympus four-thirds and micro four-thirds cameras use, a surge has grown amongst photographers to use old manual focus lens from a variety of vendors such as Leica, Canon, and Minolta, in addition to Olympus, to bring the lens quality they once knew in film era to the digital. For others, it means trying out and obtaining fast primes at a low cost.

One of the many available Halal food stationed on 42st. (1S0 1/80 sec)
(ISO 500 1/80 sec)
A man watching the skaters in the rink.(ISO 800 1/250 sec)

The Vivitar 135mm 2.8 OM ($45 when I purchased it) wasn’t exactly my first choice for an old telephoto prime – I actually wanted the an Olympus Zuiko 135mm 2.8 ($100+) or the 100 f/2 ($200+ if it could be found). Yet for some one who just want to play with the focal length before moving to more dedicated and updated products, it was worth the price and I wasn’t disappointed.

(ISO 1250 1/50 sec)
(ISO 800 1/25 sec)

As I stated in a previous post, this Vivitar lens produces images that are quite soft when wide open and often require you to stop down to f4 or f5.6 if you want to give your subjects a bit more sharpness and detail. The other difficulty that I encountered, although I am getting used quick manual focusing the more I with play it, is the adjusting the focus to fast action situation. As you see in these series of photos I took of ice skaters at Bryant Park two Saturdays ago, there is the a slight feeling that they’re just out of focus, which is due to the combination or motion blur (in some cases) of trying to eye-ball the focus. In this situation, I generally pre-focus on an area and wait until the subject enters my focus plain of view before pressing the shutter. Sometimes I can get the shot, but with the short depth of field that 2.8 aperture provides, the margin of error can increases exponentially.

I didn't notice it at first, but woman is wearing a marijuana hat. (ISO 800 1/250sec)

What this lens is good at – and I will assume others at this focal length and aperture are included too – is it’s ability to isolate subjects.

Two walking down Broadway and 42st. (ISO 800 1/60sec)

In most of the images you see before you, I didn’t shoot above ISO 800, which for nighttime shooting satisfies my needs compared to my 14-42mm 3.5-5.6 standard zoom. I just did a bit of retouching in terms of increasing the contrast, blacks to counteract glare from the ice, and some grain cleanup.

(ISO 800 1/40 sec)
(ISO 800 1/100 sec)

As for the comfort of the E-PL2 equipped with this lens. I don’t mind. The lens does make the camera seem a tad big, especially because of the added length from the adapter, but no more bigger than the old Nikon F10 that I used to use when I first got into photography. Moreover, the rear lcd screen and magnification functions on the E-PL2 really do help out a lot in composing and focusing compared to the analog viewfinder in my E-520. Just make sure to use two hands with this combo. IBIS helps out a lot, but it can only do so much against jittery hand.

I should have up the iso a bit more to gain more shutter speed and reduce camera shake, but sometimes it's to miss on the E-PL2.ISO 500 1/40 sec)

I look forward to how my images will develop as I continue to use this lens on my E-PL2. With more time and patience, I’ll get more accurate manually focused images. Also, in a few weeks I be putting up some images from my OM Zuiko 50mm 1.8 on the E-PL2. I’m really eyeing the newly released 45mm 1.8 lens but I first want to fully utilize the gear I already own before purchasing more equipment.

A marriage proposal on ice. She said, "YES!" (ISO 1250 1/40 sec)
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