I’ve been debating a dedicated macro lens for either my full frame setup or my micro 4/3 setup for a little while now. I wanted to try out the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 dedicated macro lens as I felt the micro 4/3 system really played to its benefits with a macro setup. It really had to work to supplant the idea of acquiring the PanaLeica 45mm f/2.8 OIS Macro lens in the micro 4/3 realm, or some more illustrious full frame macro lenses for my larger system as well. Now, I may be the odd man out as every review seems to really like this lens, but I was not impressed. Read on to hear about why…
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thank you for coming by. I’ve seen references back to this article linked all over the place, and thank you for that :). In some instances this article is obviously not being read in its entirety, or being improperly cited. This is merely my opinion, and one I obviously wanted to share based on my personal experience with this lens. I feel it can help lend a constructive criticism which seems to be absent in every other review I’ve read, and hopefully will help people like myself who were looking to buy this lens be better prepared with their expectations. For those who’ve said I don’t know how to shoot macro, or I’m complaining about auto focus when macro should obviously be manually focused, please actually read the article. I mention that this macro lens has disappointed me largely because of the focus by wire manual implementation which I feel makes it much harder to use as a macro lens. That it struggles in less than good light makes it a less than great tool for work other than macro, so, in short, it didn’t do what I needed it to, falling short in my opinion as both a macro lens and a mid tele/portrait lens, and felt that a review pointing this out could be potentially helpful because everything I’d read prior to purchasing this lens (I’m not trying to stay in Oly’s good graces so that they send me more stuff) didn’t outline it’s shortcomings properly. To each their own, and I do really appreciate the continued conversation. All the best, Tyson.
Macro, and close up photography is fun. Doing it well is a task that requires patience and persistence at the best of times under good conditions. All the early reviews on this lens seemed to praise this lens to no end, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a good lens, it just requires specific conditions to truly excel from my experience. These conditions are not conditions that I tend to find myself shooting in often. You’ll hear how quick the AF is on this lens. What you, or at least I, haven’t heard from the quick reviews out there is that the AF is quick only if you have a lot of light and high contrast. Eliminate either of those two factors (primarily the light) and from my experience, this lens’ AF speed is very poor. The lens does have the focus limiting switch which is very handy by restricting the range it will try to find focus within, but even when adhering to this religiously, I found this lens hunting in anything but bright, outdoor light causing a lot of missed shots and the subsequent frustration they can cause.
I fired off about 60 odd frames of the little guy above under a total of 10 x 60w equivalent CFL bulbs, yes seriously, within 5 feet of my son which I’d consider to be a very good amount of light through two 5x Impact constant CFL 18″ reflectors, one behind and to the left from camera and the other cam right at a 45 (see specular highlight). He is squirmy to say the least, and I felt he was a good subject to try and shoot with a lens touted as a “good portrait lens”. Of the 60 or 70 frames I fired off in about a 3 minute span (alternating my AF from S-AF to C-AF to C-AF+Tracking), I had about 7 or 8 that were in tack sharp focus, and honestly, my best happened to be those I shot with S-AF. With each frame, the lens hunted and racked back and forth which seemed odd as it was already more or less focused from the previous frame. When the AF hit and stuck, it was nice and sharp. I love the image above even if it isn’t the best portrait, but luckily I wasn’t shooting film.
If shooting in good, contrasty light is your status quo, I’d say it could be a great tool. It can eventually lock focus in less than good light as well, it just may take a couple seconds. Trying to get a portrait, or capture any non static subject indoor under normal indoor lighting was way more challenging for me than I’ve ever had with any lens for this system I’ve used so far.
Now, keep in mind that when shooting at the minimum focusing distance, you’ll need to account for two stops of lost light. If you are shooting a head shot and proper exposure comes in at f/2.8, 1/200 sec, you’ll need to adjust two stops to gain the same relative exposure if you walk up to your subject and focus on their eyelashes (ie: f/2.8, 1/50 sec, or increase your ISO by two stops). Getting to a true, 1:1 macro magnification is impressive and to see what 1:1 means for those not quite fully versed in macro terminology, it basically means that your subject occupies as much physical space in the frame as it would if physically placed on your sensor:
The focus by wire is not optimal for actual macro work either. Without tactile feedback, you need to keep one eye on the focus scale and another on the LCD or EVF. If you have AF enabled (I tend to use S-AF + MF), and you accidentally let your finger off the shutter, you can potentially kiss your finely tuned and focused frame goodbye as you watch the lens rack in and out to try and reestablish focus.
While f/2.8 is a standard max aperture for most all macro lenses, it is relatively slow for indoor work, macro or otherwise. You may need to add light, and/or crank your ISO for workable shutter speeds, especially stopped down. This isn’t a criticism specifically for this lens per se, but when taking into consideration that for most macro work, you’re not going to be shooting wide open, and you’re going to need some extra light, so anticipate this with either a macro lighting rig, or a noise reduction software solution —> :). At higher ISOs, I felt this lens started to deteriorate more quickly to the eye as far as resolution went compared to some of the other micro 4/3 lenses I use. While perhaps somewhat contradictory to logic, maybe the lens amplifies noise/grain due to its ability to resolve detail as well as it can. This may also be a product of the OMD EM5 as I feel it is produces fairly “digital” looking image files at larger magnifications compared to some of the other sensors for the system in my experience, but this lens seems to not play as nicely as say the PL 25/1.4 or Oly 75/1.8 for instance and seems to have a more crude rendering of noise as noise become apparent in fine detail. When, to me, the idea behind a macro lens is to get close, and potentially crop into a magnified image, this wasn’t weighing in favor of me keeping this lens.
I had a longer, more in depth review of this lens outlined and mostly written up with more images, unboxing video and the like, but I found myself so uninspired that I decided to scrap it and can’t bring myself to spend any more time on this lens than I have already. I had to keep going back to the original writeup, modifying my thoughts and experiences, that it became a jumbled mess so I scrapped it and rewrote this. A few weeks and about a thousand frames was as much time as I gave this lens, and while I certainly could have spent more time playing to its strengths, it’s downside for my style of shooting was too great for me.
I apologize if you’re heartbroken that you’ve found someone who isn’t over the moon about this lens, but I felt it was necessary to be honest, and I certainly wasn’t happy that I wasn’t happy with it. While my opinion is just that, and it by no means defines this lens as a dud, I just wanted to offer an alternative view on the glowing reviews that this lens has garnered, and ended up somewhat misleading me to thinking this lens would do more than it does. This lens is a macro lens, and while I’ve shot with a few other macro lenses that do a good job at moonlighting as a quick, accurate portrait lens, or more generalized “all purpose” short/mid tele lens, this lens, from my experience was not that, or at least not consistently that.
I’m back to the macro drawing board, and I think I will look to invest in a full frame dSLR macro lens as I feel the CDAF and focus by wire were just too difficult and played against what I’d hope to get out of my macro shooting coupled with its AF hunting in low-ish light, even at its fairly modest price point, I couldn’t justify holding onto it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy this lens, I’m just saying, don’t expect this to be an all around lens. It is a macro lens primarily, and in less than good light, it can struggle to the point of being less than useful, or at least that was definitely my experience. I’ve returned this lens and replaced it with the Oly 75mm f/1.8 lens in my quiver, so the review on that bad boy will be up soon (okay, here’s the Oly 75mm review!)
You can have a look at the 60mm macro on B&H here: Olympus Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens
Thanks for the read and happy shooting.