Olympus 250mm (350mm) 1:5 E.Zuiko-T Lens Review

Super-Telephoto on a Half-Frame Film SLR

7 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .

Olympus E.Zuiko-T 1:5 f=250mm lens for the Olympus PEN F half-frame SLR is the most compact super-telephoto you can have on a film camera. It’s light enough to take on a long hike, but it could be a challenge to shoot — especially when you don’t have a tripod and ample time to focus.

The image quality with this lens will depend greatly on your technique and available light. But it won’t break the bank to try; this 250mm lens can still be found for under $200!

Quick facts: this lens is a 350mm equivalent on a full-frame, has an aperture range of 𝒇55-32 and has the closest focus distance of 3.5m (11’5¾”).

Lens size, weight, and ergonomics.

The 250mm E.Zuiko-T weighs 824g (1.8lb) and protrudes 195mm (7.7”) from the camera body. With the attached hood extended, it’s 260mm (10.2”) long.

The lens comes with a tripod base, which also causes it to lift the camera body when you lay it flat on the table. A screw-knob on the top of the lens near the base can loosen the mount so that you can rotate your camera as the camera is mounted on a tripod (i.e. if you want to switch from portrait to landscape).

Olympus PEN FV with the 250mm E.Zuiko-T and extended hood.

Needless to say, this is a big chunk of gear that you’ll be attaching to your ultra-compact film SLR. Still, you can think of this lens as “compact” as on the half-frame the 250mm focal length will produce an image that’s equivalent to a 350mm lens thanks to the crop factor of ~1.4. Lenses of such focal lengths can be twice as large, twice as heavy, and many times more expensive.

On my copy, the focus ring is fairly tight; it can take some time to switch from the closest to the furthest focal distance. Because of the way the optics are set up on this lens, precise focus tracking is both necessary and difficult. Its long focal length comes with a very shallow depth of field, even at 𝒇8 but the focusing prism in the center is hard to use as it always appears to have lines (whereas it is not a problem with shorter lenses). In short, focusing with E.Zuiko-T is possible but not easy.

If you plan to shoot infrared film, you can take advantage of the IR focusing guide; this lens has a 58mm filter thread.

Another important thing to know about this lens is that it does not automatically close down its aperture blades. This means that to focus, you will need to toggle the middle ring into the O-position (which means open aperture) to let in maximum light. Once you’re ready to take the shot (unless you’re planning to make it at 𝒇5), toggle the ring to ⊛ or a circle with what seems to be a stopped-down aperture.

Basically, there are two modes on this lens: one for focusing, when the aperture blades are always open, and the other is for exposure when the aperture blades are set to whatever f-stop you selected. There’s some convenience built-in here as opposed to manually rotating the aperture ring between 𝒇5 for focusing and whatever you choose your shooting aperture — but not much.

I forgot to switch to the shooting ⊛-mode at least a few times and over-exposed a few frames that way.

The aperture selector ring can also be lifted, rotated, and essentially switched to use numbers 1-5 which aren’t apertures, but rather exposure guide numbers you can use with the Olympus PEN FT light meter.

Olympus E.Zuiko-T 250mm lens. Left: DOF calculator with IR guide (note the round knob that can help you rotate the mount base of the lens when loosened). Right: aperture selector ring and shooting mode; currently selected ⊛-mode, which has the aperture blades set to 𝒇16 (or whatever the aperture you choose). To focus, you’ll need to select the O-mode which will open up the aperture blades.

Lens build quality.

This lens is heavier than the camera it’s made for which may be due to its all-metal and glass construction. Even the lens cap is made of metal. Olympus didn’t seem to spare any expenses on the materials.

You may be surprised to learn how heavy it feels for its relatively small size; you can fight bears off with this thing (don’t).

The lens looks nice and feels nice in hand — if you like heavy things. It is certainly well-made, though perhaps not a jeweller’s piece as some Leica-branded lenses may appear. Overall, I’d say that this E.Zuiko is one of the best-assembled lenses in the half-frame PEN series. The tolerances are tight; everything clicks, rotates, and slides nicely (I especially like the feeling of extending the hood; you may want to do this with the lens cap off to avoid air resistance).

The lens typically comes with a hardshell case, which I found very helpful during hikes. It has a carry strap that isn’t long enough to use as a sling but better than nothing. The case isn’t particularly well-made but it’s functional.

Garden hummingbird with Olympus E.Zuiko-T 250mm and Kodak Portra 800.

Image quality.

Between a maximum aperture of 𝒇5 and the top shutter speed on Olympus PEN of 1/500s, I found myself fighting with focus and camera shake simultaneously while using this lens without a tripod. It’s tough to get an image that’s in focus and free of motion blur with such a long lens. My solution ended up using an ISO 800 colour film, which as you’d imagine creates significant grain on the half-frame format.

Additionally, I’ve been having crazy light leaks on my PEN and so many of the photos that appeared satisfactory ended up looking unusable. I am keeping the lens, so once I get more usable images, I’ll update the review (remind me if I forget!)

Olympus E.Zuiko-T 250mm and Lomo 800.

Nevertheless, some decent frames came out with the most fun ones being those with birds. I never thought I’d enjoy photographing birds, but here we are. Nature photography doesn’t have a creep factor compared to trying to take portraits with a long lens like that and is significantly more worthwhile than trying to take architectural images. That’s my experience so far.

Out of the photos that turned out, it appears that wider apertures show noticeable softening. There might be some chromatic aberration too, but it’s hard to notice amongst all that grain. However, there’s zero vignetting and no issues with sharpness in the corners. Overall, at 𝒇8, this lens is decent.

A note about taking photos of really far-away objects: E.Zuiko-T can peer further than any shorter lens on a half-frame, however, that’s when the haze comes into play. The contrast can diminish significantly for anything beyond 500m. The best way around this is a tripod, infrared film, and an IR filter — which is the only combination that can reliably penetrate haze, though it comes at the cost of having to use slower shutter speeds with black and white film.

Where to buy your E.Zuiko-T 250mm lens.

This lens is available mostly from Japanese retailers online. Thankfully, since it’s not particularly expensive you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of import fees. Despite its flaws, this E.Zuiko-T is one of the most affordable ways to get into super-telephoto photography.

By the way: Please consider making your Olympus E.Zuiko-T 1:5 f=250mm lens for Olympus PEN F half-frame SLRs purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!