Olympus OM mount lenses on a Canon EOS 350D

I’ve had my old OM10 and a selection of lenses (Zuiko 28mm, 50mm and 135mm; Sirius 500m; Vivitar 2x teleconvertor) gathering dust for far too long now: I’ve been kicking myself that I didn’t try to sell everything back in 2000 when we got our first digital camera and I could still have got something for the whole setup, but I’m now rather glad that I didn’t.

I really enjoy using my Canon 50mm/f1.8 Mk II lens on the 350D, and have been idly casting around for ways of getting cheap good quality primes in other focal lengths. After discovering that Canon FD mount lenses and require an optical element to allow infinity focus on EF bodies, I stumbled over a mention of alternatives which didn’t need an optical stage: Nikon and Olympus OM series were two that jumped out at me. The adaptor talked about retails at around 175 USD, which means that I’d be liable for shipping and UK VAT on top, which seemed a little pricey when I wasn’t sure of the optical quality of such old lenses in comparison with modern ones. Turning to the obvious (eBay) I found a Hong Kong trader who wanted under 20 UKP to get the metalwork to me, and that was too much of a bargain to pass up.

There are drawbacks with this system: the lens is (obviously) manual focus only and doesn’t report itself to the Canon body, so the EXIF data in the image doesn’t help identify what was used to take the picture; the camera doesn’t perform auto-stopdown on shooting, so the f-stop needs to be set manually before taking the picture; the camera metering system has less help from the lens, and so can be a little odd in performance; the 1.6x multiplier of the 350D’s APS-C sensor means that whilst the (optically superior) centre of the lens is used, the resolution in terms of lpi is 40% lower than on 35mm film.

So how does it fare IRL ? Very well, thank you – a couple of sample images with little processing seem to be fine. The lack of AF lag is very liberating, but after a whole 20 minutes of testing, I would say that shooting in RAW is essential to try and get the exposure right, as well as dialling in a 2/3 of a stop under-exposure. I don’t find the 350D’s screen too limiting in terms of focusing accuracy (although I hope to try on a 20D soon), and it’s a surprising amount of fun putting the 28mm on the camera, setting f5.6 and tweaking the focus using the lens guide so that I can use the SLR as a very fast rangefider-style camera, with everything from 1.6m to infinity pulled into focus by the depth of field.

The 500m Sirius was tricky, and I haven’t had a good result from that yet: the sample in the gallery was shot handheld at ISO 1600 with a moving target so it isn’t brilliantly sharp. The contrast was also all over the place, which might be a result of it being a catadioptric lens, but I do intend to try this on a tripod and at a much lower ISO before I pass full judgement. I also don’t have any 50mm examples up yet, but intend to try a Zuiko 50mm and Canon 50mm shootout, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

Oh, and if you’re still sitting on the fence, I’d recommend trying the Lightroom Beta 2 as it has a great rotate and crop tool, which made very quick work of those three sample images (NB: it is beta software, and so all tests should be done on copies of your images, just in case…)

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