USER REPORT: The Olympus 35mm f3.5 Macro and Samyang 85 f1.4 on the Panasonic G6
By Francis Thompson
Hi Steve, I’d like to share my experiences of shooting with my Panasonic G6 and a couple of interesting lenses.
First, a (very) brief introduction; I’m a design student from England with an interest in photography, and I’m currently in Ireland on a work placement (designing UAVs to carry the likes of RED cameras!) Along with my G6 and 20mm f1.7 II, my camera bag usually includes two rather less conventional, non-native lenses – first, the Olympus 35mm f3.5 macro, and secondly the Samyang 85mm f1.4. The Olympus 35mm f3.5 macro is a Four Thirds lens; as the previous owner of an E-420, this is the one lens I hung onto. With the Panasonic 4/3-MFT adaptor, it’s very well-balanced on the G6, and autofocus actually works better than it did on the E-420. That’s not saying a whole lot though; AF is incredibly slow, hunting in all light and missing AF pretty regularly. However, there’s a whole raft of better choices in native MFT at similar focal lengths. Where this lens shines is up close and personal. With a maximum magnification of 1:1 (2:1 35mm equivalent) this lens lets you get very close. At 35mm, it’s possibly not the best for some more shy subjects such as butterflies, but for more static subjects it’s a great choice. MF is very usable, especially using focus aids or peaking in MFT bodies.
Whilst it lacks some macro specific features like focus limiting, it’s worth considering that at the time of writing, a new 35mm macro plus 4/3 to MFT adaptor would still set you back considerably less than either the Panasonic or Olympus MFT native macro lenses.
The Samyang 85mm f1.4 is a brute of a lens. Big, heavy, tough to focus…yet somehow, I find myself inexplicably drawn to it time after time. Shooting handheld with the G6 can be a pain, as supporting the weight of it often leads to accidental button presses. Whilst the lens balances somewhat poorly on the G6, I imagine many of the smaller bodies would be even more difficult to use with it; GH3/4 and EM1 users might have more luck. Other associated issues with it are very shallow DOF wide open, making focussing difficult, and the fact it doesn’t have a hard infinity stop (mine focusses a fraction past infinity). The relatively long focal length also limits low light handheld performance (the unbalanced nature of the body/lens combo leads to realistic usable shutter speed limit of 1/250s.)
The problems don’t stop there; the lens is soft wide open, the included lens hood and cap aren’t great, and the 72mm filters it takes tend to be a fair bit pricier than the usual 52 or 58mm found on many MFT lenses. But somehow, despite all the problems, despite the tens of just-missed-focus images in my folders, the big 85 is the lens I leave on my camera most of the time. It’s a lens that makes you work for good shots, but I for one enjoy the challenge and the results it presents when you get it just right.
All images shot in RAW, minimal processing in ACR.