The versatile Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens

Written by Gary on March 21st, 2011

One of my favorite lenses of all time is the incredibly sharp Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens.

This lens gives a field of view and depth of field as for a 100mm f/4 lens in the 35mm full frame world.

Let’s see what you can do with this lens on a now old technology Olympus E510 dSLR which of course adds image stabilisation.

A typical use for a macro lens is to shoot close up subjects and it will do so to give a 1:2 macro.

Here for example is a tiny juvenile potentially lethal Red Back Spider crawling on the edge of a bench, not an easy target in office lighting, and thus not the sharpest image of a continuously moving subject!

My preferred technique with such close up shots is to set the lens to manual focus and set the focus to the magnification you need, in this case, to the closest focus, then move the camera in and out from the subject until it is in focus. For still life macros, this is best achieved on a tripod with macro focusing rails. For an impromptu shot of a moving subject such as this one, hand held had to suffice.

juvenile Red Back spider

The next most useful use for this lens is as a portrait lens such as this candid portrait of nuns at the Spanish Steps in Rome where it isolates the subject very nicely indeed and giving a nice out of focus bokeh effect to the rest of the scene whilst still giving enough details in the background to provide adequate contextual information:


Into the morning light, it gives a delightful candid image of these two children playing in a park in Florence:


It can handle contrasty street photography images such as this one:


or used to document still life subjects such as this kangaroo skull after the bush fires in Victoria’s Grampians region:


The f/2.0 aperture with image stabilisation of the E510 allows low light shots hand held such as this one of the crescent moon and Venus taken from an aeroplane at 30,000 feet through the window after sunset:


and it is great for indoor shots such as museums, art galleries, etc as in this image taken in a quite dark room in Monte Cassino:

Monte Cassino

and this candid night time snap of two Italian strangers passing in the night in Sorrento (note – if shooting into street lights at night, I would strongly advise you remove all filters as most filters add flare such as in this image):


For this image of Venice at dusk I used a miniature tripod to allow smaller aperture for depth of field and a longer exposure to give some motion:


More photos with this combination can be seen here.

If you need to get more magnification but be further away, you can mate it with the superb Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter and use the Olympus Ring Flash to give shots such as this one of a bee “hanging on tight to his dreams”:


or this butterfly:


My daughter is just getting interested in photography and has decided the type of images she wants to capture on her overseas trip is mainly portraits with blurred backgrounds.

Unfortunately for me, out of all my cameras and lenses, she has selected to take my Olympus E510 with my lovely ZD 50mm macro lens as her only lens (maybe I will convince her to take a kit lens). The f/2.0 aperture has also allowed her to develop a much better understanding of the relationship of aperture and image characteristics than a f/5.6 kit lens would ever allow and so she will learn much from this lens.

I fear I may never see it again!

I am looking forward to Olympus producing a Micro Four Thirds version of this lens as the current Four Thirds version does not AF on my Panasonic GH-1 which is a real pity. Apparently the Panasonic GH-2 allows AF with this lens, so that maybe something for potential buyers to consider.


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