Introduction

Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 is one of about half a dozen medium telephoto lenses that Olympus used to manufacture for the now defunct OM SLR platform. The 135mm prime was released in two variants - the slower f/3.5 construction and slightly faster f/2.8 option. Both lenses, while discontinued in 2002, are readily available on eBay, with good copies of f/3.5 fetching about US$55 (as of September 2007) and good quality copies of f/2.8 version going for about US$100.

The optical construction of the lens consists of 5 elements in 4 groups. The build quality of the lens is excellent, which is standard for OM type lenses - barrel is metal as are aperture ring and built-in lens hood. Focus ring is fully rubberized and broad enough to provide easy and comfortable grip. The lens has minimum focusing distance of 1.5m (4.1ft), f/22 minimum aperture and accepts 49mm screw-in type filters. The lens is pretty compact and light for a medium telephoto prime, measuring 73 x 60mm (2.9 x 2.4in) and weighing 290g (10.2oz). The inner cam of the lens extends during focusing towards closeup, so the lens is actually a few millimeters longer when focused at close range.

Image

On APS-C cameras with1.6x crop factor, the lens has a field of view similar to that of a 216mm lens on a full-frame body. To use the lens on a Canon EOS body I used a generic, non AF-chipped Fotodiox Olympus OM to EOS adapter. you will end up operating the camera in manual or aperture priority modes with all but center weighted metering disabled.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 5 elements in 4 groups
Angular Field 18 degrees
Minimum Focus 1.5m/4.1ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/3.5-f/22, manual
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood Built-in
Weight 290g/10.2oz
Dimensions 73x60mm/2.9x2.4"
Lens Case N/A

 

Field Tests

Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 showed pretty decent overall performance in the field. The lens was pretty sharp across the frame on an APS-C camera, but suffered a little bit around borders on a FF body (primarily at f/3.5, but even there quality remained decent, not disastrous).

 

Vignetting @ f/3.5 - full frame vs 1.6x crop
Vignetting @ f/3.5 - full frame vs 1.6x crop

As expected from a moderately fast medium telephoto prime lens, Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 showed negligible amounts of vignetting throughout the tested aperture range on both APS-C and FF cameras. The lens showed pretty accurate color representation and did not exhibit any major visible color fringing or flare. The lens also showed no visible barrel distortion, which does not really come as a surprise.

 

ISO 100, 1/2000, f/3.5, 135mm (100% crop)
ISO 100, 1/2000, f/3.5, 135mm (100% crop)
Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 image gallery... (coming soon)

 

Lab Tests

Please note that MTF50 results for APS-C and Full-Frame cameras are not cross-comparable despite the same normalized [0:1] range used to report results for both types of cameras.

 

Canon APS-C: Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 demonstrated pretty good overall results in the lab. Center performance was outstanding straight from f/3.5, with border performance lagging a little bit, but never falling too much behind. Overall the lens produced pretty balanced results across the aperture range and is capable of producing outstanding 16in and decent 24in prints. Conclusion? Solid overall results, with no major weaknesses, but no major strengths either.

 

MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 135mm
MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 135mm

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 135mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 135mm

The lens did not exhibit major chromatic aberration in the center, where CA averaged ~0.5px across the aperture range. Borders exhibited slightly higher, but still very manageable, CA, which averaged ~0.8px across the aperture range.

 

Image borders @ 135mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8
Image borders @ 135mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8

FF: Performance on a full frame body was somewhat of a mixed bag. Center performance remained very solid straight from f/3.5. Unfortunately, border quality suffered and at f/3.5 performance is rather average at best. Quality improves with stopped down aperture, but does not reach decent levels until f/8. The lens achieved most balanced results at f/11 - a little bit too late for a medium telephoto. Conclusion? Border quality in the f/3.5-f/5.6 range is disappointing - this is a moderately fast aperture range and a medium telephoto should not be struggling in this aperture range.

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 135mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 135mm

CA was quite manageable on a full frame Canon 5D body, and averaged ~0.6px in the center and ~0.8px around borders across the tested aperture range.

 

Image borders @ 135mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8
Image borders @ 135mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8

Alternatives

Assuming you want to stick with Olympus OM mount lenses, you might want to try a slightly faster variant of 135mm - OM Zuiko 135mm f/2.8 or even two shorter 100mm variants - OM Zuiko 100mm f/2.8 or OM Zuiko 100mm f/2. Outside of the OM mount, Carl Zeiss Planar T* 100mm f/2 in Contax mount and even Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/2.8 (review) offer superior image quality, but at a higher price premium. A middle of the ground option might be an older and now discontinued Carl Zeiss Jena MC Sonnar 135mm f/3.5 (review) in M42 mount. Finally, you might want to consider Leica's Elmatir R 135mm f/2.8, or if money is not important, APO Makro Elmarit R 100mm f/2.8.

 

Recommendation

There is nothing special about Olympus OM Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 - the lens is inexpensive enough for you to try it out and sell it back if you don't like it. Performance is pretty decent, but certainly is not eye popping. At the same time this is not the fastest medium telephoto available on the market. So if you don't require a super large maximum aperture, don't mind manual focusing and are budget constrained then this lens is probably for you. Otherwise, there are more exciting options available.