The 70mm (~100mm full-frame equiv.) Olympus 𝒇2 F.Zuiko Auto-T lens is one of the priciest and most sought-after vintage lenses made for the only half-frame film SLR: Olympus PEN. Depending on the condition and the seller, this glass can set you back anywhere between $1,500 to $4,000. Of course, PEN isn’t the only camera that can use this lens, as it’s been extensively tested on and adapted for digital bodies.
PEN lenses can be affordable, provided you aren’t looking for something special, like a pancake lens, a telescope, or this ultra-sharp 70mm specimen. The relative rarity, acuity, and adaptability for digital (even full-frame!) sensors are likely the drivers for the chunky price tag on these 𝒇2 F.Zuiko Auto-T lenses.
In this review, I will discuss briefly how the 70mm F.Zuiko can be adapted. However, instead of fixating on its theoretical sharpness (you can refer to tsnotthecamera blog for that), I will focus on its ergonomics and image rendering characteristics that set this glass far and apart from other portrait lenses.
Every sample image you see here is shot on my Olympus PEN FV half-frame SLR camera, for which this lens was designed. There are limitations to how much resolution I could get from an expired Fujichrome Provia 400F emulsion; plus, my lens had some fungus and haze on its elements. Nevertheless, these are some of the sharpest and the best-looking photographs I took with this camera.
✪ Note: This is a rewritten version of an earlier article published on January 22, 2022. It has since changed substantially enough to get republished on August 7, 2023.
Lens size, weight, and ergonomics.
The lens is made entirely of metal and glass and weighs 230g or 8.1oz. Having been designed in the 1960s, it controls focus manually with a 180° throw ring with a minimal focus distance of 0.8m or 2’7½”. The aperture control is also manual with full-stop clicks between 𝒇2-𝒇22. At the front, there’s a 43mm filter thread.
My copy came with a unique aperture ring that could be lifted and then rotated 180° to work with exposure index numbers Olympus developed for its PEN FV light meters. Chances are you won’t ever need to use those, but that’s what the markings between 0.5 and 7 are for (i.e., they are not aperture values). Note that not all versions of this lens have the reversible aperture ring.
When in good condition/serviced, the lens should not have any stiffness in focus or aperture rings. This one isn’t difficult to take apart and lubricate (of course, do this at your own risk). As such, it is quick to focus, light, and easy to use — given that you are familiar with using all-manual glass.
Don’t expect the depth of focus preview button to work on anything other than the native Olympus PEN SLR. This is just an FYI, as it won’t be a problem on a digital body should you choose to adapt it, as the modern sensors’ insane low-light sensitivities have no trouble focusing it at 𝒇22.
Lens build quality.
This F.Zuiko Auto-T is a well-built all-metal and glass lens that feels great — though it may not reach the Leica-build tolerances. All the controls are easy to grip; the aperture ring makes satisfying clicks with each f-stop change, and the focus ring has a great balance of precision and speed with its 180° throw.
It’s a good-looking lens. Perhaps not as beautiful as a film camera lens could be, but I have no complaints about its appearance.
You may also enjoy a cheap-looking but functional lens case and the exquisite metal lens cap that comes with a few samples. The cap may come loose as the friction of the felt material that keeps it put may have deteriorated over the years. The rear lens cap is neat also; it is made of plastic that you can only find on very old equipment.
F.Zuiko Auto-T on digital mirrorless APS-C and full-frame cameras.
I’ve been shooting film predominantly for the past ten years, this lens not being an exception. I used it on my trusty half-frame SLR it was made for.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how well the 70mm Olympus F.Zuiko Auto-T lens works with digital bodies. Most remarkably, full-frame sensors.
According to Christopher J. Osborne’s blog, the 𝒇2.0 F.Zuiko Auto-T lens built for half-frame cameras has a large enough image circle to cover a full frame. It does so exceptionally well, leaving virtually no vignetting at smaller apertures and rendering minimal blurring in the corners. When shot wide-open, it shows minimal distortion, better than the other three half-frame Olympus lenses that can also work with full-frame cameras.
Of course, you can still use the 𝒇2.0 F.Zuiko Auto-T on crop sensors. Whichever configuration you may have, the results will not disappoint you. I’ve scoured the internet for hundreds of samples and feedback from digital shooters — all of whom are very happy.
That is not to say that this lens is perfect in every way; in fact, perfection is perhaps the last thing you want out of a vintage lens.
As mentioned above, my copy was not in its best condition. There’s visible fungus and haze on the middle elements of my lens, which have no doubt messed with the overall contrast and resolution.
However, having scanned my slide film on the very good PrimeFilm XAs, I was still pleasantly surprised at how well 𝒇2.0 F.Zuiko Auto-T performed. I could not find any spots with uncorrected aberration, there was absolutely no vignetting at any aperture, and the contrast appeared strong throughout.
Whatever the loss of sharpness in the corners I saw in my scans was due to the film curling (verifiable by seeing the softening on just one side of the frame). Some loss of contrast, however, can be seen when the lens is shot wide-open.
The bokeh is very nice. It looks smooth and soft; it can be very pronounced at the right distances and apertures. The balls it produces can look enormous on a half-frame or a crop-sensor camera, given this lens’ long focal length and wide maximum aperture. Even stopped-down apertures produce pleasing background separation.
Despite its sharpness, the lens does not produce “clinical” images — at least in my opinion. Its only significant downside is flaring, which you’d surely notice if you point your F.Zuiko Auto-T at the sun. Even then, the flares it produces are shaped as classic rings one may pay extra to emulate with modern software gadgetry.
Where to buy your F.Zuiko Auto-T 70mm lens.
The lens is rare, but it does pop up on eBay occasionally.
It’s not cheap. If you are willing to pay for a mint copy, check the product pictures for fungus, haze, and significant scratches on the glass elements — and the seller’s reputation rating.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your 70mm F.Zuiko Auto-T lens purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!