THE 35MM F2 OLYMPUS ZUIKO
This is not a technical review, not for the pixel peepers amongst us, there’s plenty of resources online for that like here. This is a post about why I use the Olympus Zuiko 35mm F2 as my only B camera lens for wedding videography and why I think it may just be the perfect B camera lens, maybe even a perfect A camera lens.
When choosing what kit to use I start with a defined need, like all of us, our kit should work for us and should produce exactly what we need it to do, this little fella does exactly that for me. My needs were simple, a manual lens which had little quirks to speak of but to give me a sharp enough image with no horrific flair, standing up to 4k footage with ease and a trusted build quality that I can rely on long term, this after all is my B camera lens and one that for the most part is unattended so has to take a knock now and then. My B camera is only used during a wedding ceremony and speeches, very rarely do I use it any more than that, maybe for a wider shot of fireworks on the occasional wedding. It needs to let a lot of light in for those low light situations, even using the A7sII I still prefer to keep the ISO as low as possible when needed.
I’ve tried many different lenses for my B camera over the years. From 24mm, 50mm and even 135mm lenses from an array of lens manufacturers, Canon, Samyang, Nikon to name a few but the one lens that I now use, fixed to my Sony A7sII B camera is the Zuiko Olympus 35mm F2. The 35mm F2 from Olympus doesn’t have the greatest reputation online, which is strange as it produces great image quality to my eyes, it supposed to have bad chromatic aberration wide open in sunlight ( most lenses do really ) and there is much sharper more modern lenses to put your money into but here’s the thing, for me image quality isn’t just about how sharp an image is, I actually don’t want the sharpest image possible, I want character but no unsightly quirks, I want good focus but not an ultra sharp digital look, I actually like a little softness especially in 4k where you can get all that detail without the image looking like A TV soap opera. Ask any Bride if they would like the pores on their skin to be visible in all that 4k glory….. the answer will 100% be a no.
So let’s break down my needs for a B camera lens for wedding videography. This was my check list;
small and compact
smooth focus ring with resistance
easily adapted to Sony
no glaring quirks
widely available in case I need to replace
comparable with my 85mm A camera lens in terms of look when cutting between camera’s
Pretty simple list of requirement really, nothing out of the ordinary here and a list most wedding videographers looking for a B camera lens will have. So let’s break down that list and detail my thoughts on the 35mm F2 from Olympus.
Firstly the size. Its small, very small. it measures 42 x 60mm (1.65 x 2.36in) and weighing only 240g. It stays on my Sony A7sII permanently and takes up very little space in the camera bag. It works well on a small travel tripod and equally well on a gimbal, the new Ronin SC gimbal will have no issues at all with this set-up.
Below is a short video showing how well it did on a very choppy Lake Como when balanced on the Crane 2 gimbal ( a rare occasion it gets used over the 85mm for primary footage ). This was my very first time using a gimbal, it was quick to balance and was easily held for the hours we had on the lake. The gimbal found it hard to steady some of the shots due to the boat bouncing so much but the 35mm focal length allowed me to punch in with stabilisation if needed. I tried the 85mm and it was a waste of time, completely unusable footage, the boat was just too choppy.
The Olympus Zuiko 35mm F2 with simple K & F Concept adapter on the Sony A7SII . As you can see the lens isn’t much longer than the adapter.
This is a lens I want to leave on the B cam, unattended at the back of the ceremony or getting the reactions from the Bride and Groom during speeches, that’s its main task and one it has to perform well. Manual focus for me is a must for this set-up, I want to know how much I have in focus and that it won’t ever change regardless who walks in front of it, this is where auto focus is a no no for me. The focus ring has a really nice resistance to it making micro adjustment easy with the focus ring grip feels nice. Much like many vintage lenses with all metal construction, this thing is solid.
Currently Zuiko Olympus 35mm F2 lenses can be purchased from eBay for between £150 to £300. I got mine for £150 and a second backup just in case for £180 and they’re faultless. Do your research, ask for many photos of the lens and ensure its a clean example with no fungus. Depending on where you shop its not available just anywhere, this is a vintage lens so amazon is ruled out as is most camera stores but there is always a handful on eBay. For me, having a couple of them means I have a ready to go replacement if needed.
This short test video shows how it works cut between the 35mm B cam and my 85mm A cam footage and how the final grade looks between both lenses. Grain has been added to this edit.
So, my final thoughts on the little Zuiko that I feel packs a lot of punch in such a small and compact lens. It ticks all the boxes for me, yes there is technically better lenses from the likes of Sony GM, Zeiss, Cannon etc..but the image I get from this lens is exactly what I want, it has a look that just to say takes that digitally perfect edge off, which is the reason I use an ND filter on the A cam. Explore the world of vintage lenses, they are very cost effective, built very well compared to modern lenses and produces an image thats beautiful. If your new to wedding videography and want to set up your film making business without breaking the bank or even if your a seasoned professional who likes to use manual focus lenses during a wedding day then this 35mm F2 from Olympus Zuiko could just well be the perfect little B camera lens for you to pick up and try out.