Olympus Zuiko Lenses
A 40mm focal length standard lens ? Sounds funny to many which in fact, it is. Why would anyone wants to buy a 40mm lens ? Not with those days where usually new camera was bundled along with a standard 50mm lens. But with progressive development of buying habit of public, a new camera is usually bought with a zoom lens with moderately wideangle coverage to medium telephoto instead of a prime lens like what we used to do those days.
Soon, some of the negative aspect of those entry level zoom lenses surfaced, the relatively small aperture which makes focusing and composing difficult and uncomfortable, which also adds to the extra bulkiness for travel. Strangely, buying a cheap, lightweight and compact standard lens which has faster lens speed all of a sudden becomes very logical. Some camera manufacturers such as Contax and Olympus were the first to offer such option in their lens family and in fact, these lenses are combining traditional good value of standard lenses in its faster lens speed and moderately wider picture angle mid between standard and wideangle of 40mm. For a while it was quite popular, because other than it is a standard lens with a wider angle lens, it also comes with an ultra compact and extremely light weight design.
The Contax selected a focal length of 45mm with a compromised lens speed of f2.8 and emphasize on lightweight and compactness.
To be honest, the lens is so short and small in size that it even looks a little odd when it is mount on any of the Contax SLRs. For an example, a Contax ST has a physical size of 151.5mm x 97.5mm x 55mm depth, so the 18mm length of the lens looks more like an extension tube rather be considered as a truly optical lens.
The Contax 45mm f/2.8 lens has a 50° angular field, focuses down to 0.6m, a physical diameter of 60 x 18mm and weighs only 90g ! But despite its size, it has an optical construction of 4 elements in three groups. The Olympus, on the other hand has a more logical specification, because I don't think compactness should be the priority , but lens speed and wider angular field are. Thus, the Olympus offering is 40mm and chosen a brighter f/2.0 as the effective lens speed.
NOTE: Olympus has two lenses that carry with a 38mm focal length; Both the Zuiko Macro 38mm lenses (f/2.8 and older f/3.5) are of different design, these lenses are specially designed to work with Auto Bellow or extension tubes in macrophotography)
Zuiko 40mm F2.0
It is easily one of the smallest and lightest of all OM System lenses, with a very useful, slightly wider than normal 40mm focal length that is especially appreciated by press photographers. Minimum focus is an extremely close 30cm.
The balance with any OM camera bodies which has a traditional hallmark of compact design is superb.
The picture angle of 50° is more useful than the comparing Contax lens. It has a 6 elements in 6 group optical design and weighs heavier at 140g (4.9oz) with a physical length of 25mm as compared to the Contax's 18mm. But as I emphasized earlier, weight and compactness may not be the main factor here, given most SLR has a bigger dimension than this. You can't complain on its weight, because both of these lenses are the most lightweight in any 35mm SLR system.
There is one small drawback in the Olympus lens, the aperture scales only stopped down at f/16 at its smallest end which the Contax 45mm f2.8's f/22 is more practical as this lens can also be a very high quality lens for macro works with bellow or inverted for extreme close-up photography.
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OFF TOPIC SUPPLEMENTS: Neither Contax or Olympus was the first to make sub-50mm standard lens. I remember Nikon did has a experimental 45mm lens specially designed for AUTO flash output in the form of using a guide number control. That was called GN Nikkor 45mm f2.8. That was introduced before the era of flash automation where a linking system couples the focusing mechanism to the lens aperture diaphragm and it will automatically adjust the aperture while you focus using the Aperture = Guide number divided by distance principle.
Naturally, that was not used because it will make lenses more cumbersome if each lens produced is to fitted with such an mechanism built-in and the lens remains as the one and only lens designed with such theory. But a more important reason is - the solution of finding a way to put a light metering cell on the flash to regulate flash reflectance (Popularly known as Auto flash) is more logical and gaining its popularity until of cause Olympus introduced the camera regulated TTL OTF flash which has evolved and remains as the mainstream flash system until today.
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