Pen F 38/1.8 Samples: Coma, Ghosting—Normal or Bad Sample?

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by mayou, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. mayou

    mayou New to TalkEmount

    Jan 6, 2014
    Real Name:
    Hi, I'm new here, first post. Based on the positive reviews and impressive samples I saw here and elsewhere, I ordered an Olympus Pen 38mm f/1.8 lens for my NEX-5N.

    Right away I was pleased with it stopped down to f=2.8 and beyond. Test pics:

    Oly Pen 38/1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=4.0 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    But the reason I bought it was to shoot wide open, and with this sample I've been a bit disappointed at the lack of sharpness, ghosting, and coma (if those are the right terms to use), with a general low contrast haziness in OOF areas that worsens as you move off center to mid-frame. The lack of sharpness is to the extent that achieving critical focus if my subject is off-center (e.g. rule of thirds composition) can be difficult, even with EVF and focus assist (coming from someone who mostly shoots legacy glass).

    My Question: Is this normal, or did I receive a bad one? The auction listing did state "I have cleaned some inner element," which I (naively?) assumed was a good thing. Unfortunately I got it over Eb*y from Japan, so a return might not be worth the shipping cost.

    Oly Pen 38/1.8 at f=1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Pen 38 @ 1.8 crop by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Focused on the small statue:
    Pen 38 @ 1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Pen 38 @1.8 crop by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Stopping down to 2.8 improves considerably (as is the case for a lot of fast glass):
    Pen 38 @ 2.8 crop by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Crops with ghost halo:
    _DSC5441-3 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    _DSC5441-2 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Even worse, at night (note: it looks like motion blur, but it's really just blooming):
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 Coma wide open by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    San Francisco last night at f=2.8:
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=2.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    and f=1.8:
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    The coma seems to have a radial pattern:
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=1.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Again, improving at 2.8:
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @f=2.8 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Worse at mid-frame off-center, f=1.8
    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @f=1.8 coma by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Oly Pen 38/1.8 @ f=1.8 coma by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    I was curious to see how much of this was due to field curvature (not knowing much about optics and aberrations), so I did a comparison with Nikkor AI-s 35/2, Fujian 35/1.7, and Helios 44-2.

    (The Nikkor produces a pretty violet color which I'm assuming is heavy CA. Goes away at f=2.8. But I digress.)

    Coma Comparison by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    Anyway, would appreciate any feedback on my samples with this lens. Is the problem more my needing to learn how to get the best out of this lens, or did I receive a lesser sample?
    The off-center aberrations seem more pronounced than with my Helios 44-2 for example, not just in the corners but well-into mid-frame, which could be limiting compositionally, and I don't see this kind of haziness in the samples that other folks have posted. By a third of a stop over f/2 it gets better, but then I've lost the smoothness and light advantage of shooting wide open, which was a big motivator for the purchase. My main purpose is for people pictures, and indoors. What do you think?

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  2. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Real Name:
    Hm, I just sold my PEN-F, so I can't make a comparison. But I sure don't remember ever seeing anything like that on my copy, wide open.
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  3. Azon

    Azon TalkEmount Regular

    Jul 31, 2013
    Check it with flashlight, probably it's a damaged coating or fungus. For people and indoor photography 35/1.8 would work better. 38/1.8 it's more artistic that multipurpose lens I love mine but use it not often.
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  4. HabsFan

    HabsFan TalkEmount Veteran

    Apr 10, 2013
    Ontario, CAN
    I got a 38mm Pen from Japan as well. Mine had major coating issues on the rear element that was not mentioned in the eBay auction. Hold it on an angle to window light and it should be easy to see if that is the case. I bought it to test against my 40mm Pen so I ended up selling it again.

    My 38mm looked similar wide open to your lens. I think most old lenses will have that haze wide open. It looks fine in your flower shot. Other ones are pretty high contrast scenes which is probably not the best use for this lens. The out of focus areas are hazy, pretty normal I think for this lens. I found the 40mm Pen to be sharper wide open with more contrast if you want to try that.
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  5. mayou

    mayou New to TalkEmount

    Jan 6, 2014
    Real Name:
    Thank you for all of the responses and suggestions, helping me learn how to inspect legacy glass.

    I inspected it with a light, and also by holding it at an angle to window light, but couldn't see anything obvious in terms of fungus or coating damage.

    So maybe it's a matter of my learning to love the Pen 38 for what it is, as it is. With that in mind, I took some shots at the Rose Garden today, to put that glowiness to use. I like the quality of these, so I think I'll keep exploring what I can do with this lens. Thanks again for your support!

    _DSC5864 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    _DSC5885 by scott.t.t, on Flickr

    _DSC5874 by scott.t.t, on Flickr
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  6. Azon

    Azon TalkEmount Regular

    Jul 31, 2013
    You are on a right way. Very nice pictures!!!
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  7. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Real Name:
    My second 38 1.8 on a7r



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  8. camerabug001

    camerabug001 New to TalkEmount

    Mar 3, 2012
    Real Name:
    Wow, great detail! I'm envious.

    Maybe I have a bad one: on-center mine is not bad, but wide open on my NEX-5N is not nearly as sharp as yours on A7r. When I compose off-center, I lose that clarity.

    Lately I've been preferring to shoot with a Lens Turbo and Nikkor 50/1.4 AIS. Much heavier and larger, but I'm getting much better results than with my copy of the 38/1.8

    Thanks for posting to this old thread, Deadbear77.
  9. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Real Name:
    Oh thanks. It wasn't wide open, I believe it was at 2.8 maybe 4. But wide it's very sharp in the center.

    Sent from my iPhone using TalkNEX mobile app
  10. Deadbear77

    Deadbear77 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Sep 14, 2012
    Northeast Ohio
    Real Name:

    This lens has great 3d pop. Especially in the center. Even at f4

    Here is a crop

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