If you spend as much time on the internet as I do (don't ever buy an iPad if you want a life) then you'll probably have come across Mike Johnston's article about 50mm lenses. He described the Zuiko macro as "utterly forgotten yet absolutely magnificent" and said there was no better 50mm. As a photo-nut, it's difficult having a lens like that in my possession without seeing what it's like. It can't hurt, right? How many rash decisions based on that philosophy have led to unintended consequences?
I did something I haven't done for a long time and that is to shoot a 36-exposure roll of film in quick order. Normally I'm a bit more considered when it comes to shooting with a 35mm camera. I usually take a few pics here, a few pics there and finish the film over two or three days. This time round, though, and probably because I had in mind that I was "testing" the Zuiko, I was a little trigger happy - but in a good way. I don't think any of the pics I took with the OM2n are classics but none of them are pointless either. That's not always the case with 35mm, particularly when you just want to get the film finished so it can be developed as soon as you get home. It can be fun testing a lens by taking pics of test charts and the like but I'm not sure how much it really tells us. Real world testing makes much more sense to me. I took shots at infinity, close-up, in between, in contrasty side-lighting and full shade, with the sun behind me and into the light, at full aperture and stopped down to F8. That should be enough to find out what the Zuiko is like.
As a walkabout lens, the Zuiko is hard to fault. It's larger and heavier than the 50mm f1.8 optic but two things stand out: the way the image snaps in and out of focus in the viewfinder and the facility to go from an infinity shot one minute to a close-up just a few inches away the next. My walkabout lenses have always tended to be the 35mm focal length - I've done very little in that vein with a fifty - and I'd led myself to believe that this was my preferred angle of view. I'd still choose a 40mm if I could but I now consider the 50mm and the 35mm to be on a par. Although it is undeniably meatier than the f1.8, the macro isn't so heavy that it becomes a burden. I spent about an hour walking around with the camera in my hand and the strap wrapped round my wrist and, although I was aware of it, it never felt heavy.
The Hexar is lighter but, dear me, I don't like looking through rangefinders at all! When I was using the OM2n, I could see perfectly what I was going to get, all bar a millimetre or so at the edges (it shows 97% of the field of view). Using the Hexar and the OM2n side-by-side just highlighted the rangefinder's deficiencies in that regard. A shot that was easy to frame with the SLR had me guessing with the Hexar. I think this has helped me make up my mind: I'm going to sell off all my rangefinders. That means the Hexar, a Yashica 35CC with 35mm f1.8 lens and a couple of old Minolta Hi-Matics. Strangely enough, the Hexar and the Zuiko macro are probably worth about the same which means, since I've promised myself not to spend any more money on camera gear, I could keep the Zuiko if I sell the Hexar.
This really isn't what I wanted as I'm trying to simplify things and reduce my photography gear to a level where the cameras I keep will get regular use instead of only seeing the light of day once or twice a year. So my walkabout has helped me make up my mind to ditch the rangefinders but presented me with another dilemma - should I keep the macro or sell it and buy a 40mm Zuiko pancake instead? First world problems, eh?
What remains to be seen, of course, is the results from the Zuiko. I had planned to develop the film and include some scans with this post but the curse of the Robbins' darkroom struck again. I assembled all the needed developing bits and pieces and then the mini-disaster happened. I was about to mix up a packet of D76, which needs water at around 55 degree Celsius, and had half-filled a measuring jug with boiling water from the kettle. I was distracted for a moment and plunged the thermometer into the jug before cooling it down a little with some cold water. The end cracked off and the thermometer did a good impression of a squid under attack as, in its death throes, it squirted blue liquid into the jug. Bugger. I didn't have another thermometer so that was my development plans out the window. I'd had that thermometer for around 20 years so I can't complain. I've ordered another one from AG Photographic along with some 5x4 film and Rodinal but probably wont get the package until Thursday. Hopefully, I'll have something from the Zuiko to post on Friday.
Before closing, I have to say something about the OM2n as well as a walkabout camera. I've had OMs ever since I got my first pay cheque as an 18-year-old and they never disappoint. The system's creator, Yoshihisa Maitani, was a genius, easily on a par with the likes of Leica legend Walter Mandler in my opinion. This OM, although covered in grime when I won it in the auction, has cleaned up well and seems to be firing on all cylinders. It's hard to think of a better camera for this type of work. Light but solid, large, bright viewfinder, aperture priority auto which is great in most situations and fine Zuiko lenses. Really, what more does anyone need?