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.
I’ve mentioned before here how much I love my Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8. Why not try one of those? Here’s a sample from last year including some not requiring macro: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35742767@N04/sets/72157628845611013/
I have recently started using m 4/3 with e pl3.
I have considered macro but decided to continue with Pentax K5 because of frequent need for m focus. I use Tamron 90mm and have had good success. Not so good with AF but I usually use MF for flowers.
A good article. Thanks for your take on the lens.
To me m 4/3 has some shortcominga but what it does it does well
Have not been able to mf with 4/3 as well as SLR.
Thanks for the comment. While I agree that manual focus is crucial to macro work, I really appreciate auto focus for certain situations and subjects. If neither auto, nor manual focus is really stellar on a macro lens, then it kind of makes a tough job out of it from either angle which defeats the purpose to me, so I think I’m going to hold out for a full frame macro lens personally.
When I returned the Oly 60, I did a quick trial with the PL45 and it seemed to focus much more quickly in the low light of PPS here in PDX. I really love the PL25, and I think if I were to buy a 45mm for the system, I might just grab the PL45 over the Oly45/1.8 which is backward from where I thought I’d be regarding the system. The price at this point is just a bit much for me seeing as I’m not huge on the system for macro right now and I already use a Contax G 45mm f/2 adapted lens which has done me well… Time will tell though 🙂 Truth be told, I may just wait for the Panasonic (possibly Leica branded?) 42.5mm f/1.2 lens to be announced too.
Ahhh, it’s good to have the problem of too many choices in a camera system isn’t it?
although I love my OMD and the excellent prime lenses that go with it, for macro shots nothing can beat my Nikon with 105 mil 2.8 Micro IMHO…
Yeah, I’m coming to a similar conclusion. I’d really hoped the live view with touch focus would have really played to the system’s benefit regarding macro, but the less than great manual focusing makes it much more of a challenge, at least when shooting non static subjects anyway.
I use a Nikon 105mm f2.8 AI-S with my GH2. It’s a great combo!
When I was looking for a macro lens for my GH2, at first I played around with the Panasonic 14-140mm lens with a Nikon 5T/6T close-up lens set, but found AF so unreliable and focus-by-wire MF so irritating, I bought a used Nikon 60mm f2.8D lens instead of the PL45mm. The 60mm is too short (the focus is a bit fussy, too) for shooting flying bugs, so I picked up a used Nikon 105mm f2.8 AI-S. Fantastic lens. I rarely shoot at 1:1, so the 105mm is perfect.
BTW, Thanks for the review Tyson.
I think that there needs to be more work done with the micro 4/3 system regarding macro lenses that focus by wire. If there were an overlaid distance scale on screen it would go a long way in aiding the manual focus experience in my mind, but much like current EVF’s are no replacement for a prism (except with slow optics perhaps, and of course in my opinion) the focus by wire on an LCD or through an EVF is inferior to a mechanical focus being viewed through the lens. Nothing is going to be a perfect implementation of everything, but again, I feel little things can be done to make these issues much less annoying.
I’m going to revisit my old FD 100mm f/4 macro which should give me more of what I’m looking for as well as force me to manually focus so I don’t get lazy 🙂 I just got caught up in much of the marketing hype of this lens, but it was a good experiment for me and it led me to replacing this 60mm with the Oly 75mm which I’m really happy with, so it all worked out.
Great chatting with you as always,
unfortunately Inna, it just wasn’t meant to be for me…
Dear Tyson, Macro photography really needs a tripod so what is the concern about auto focus. I am using a Tamron SP 90 manual focus lens, about 30 years old, with a Fotodiox adaptor on a Panasonic G2 micro four thirds camera. Stopped down about two or three stops, it gives excellent results. Fully stopped down, it loses a bit of definition With best wishes Bill Heilbronn
While I agree that to truly get the best out of a macro setup, we should be employing a tripod and manual focus; I also feel that with modern sensor performance, IS and (theoretically functional) auto focus, we have a newer set of abilities to shoot a fast and loose style of closeup photography. Not the best for all situations, but for instance, when out and about, hiking or whatever, having a light, handheld setup with the ability to catch closeups can be very valuable. With quality auto focus, it enables a macro lens to potentially function as a quick tool as well. If neither the AF, nor MF functions of a macro lens are very well implemented (which I feel is the case with this lens) then it ceases to be a truly useful tool, or at the very least, a severely hindered tool. I do have an older FD 100mm f/4 macro lens which has served me well, so I guess I was just caught up in the marketing hype and got (too) excited I think. Thanks as always.
Interesting conclusion. I’m pretty happy with my 60mm, but you’re right that it requires an enormous quantity of light to work well. The Neewer led ring light is almost always fixed onto the front of the lens if I’m doing macro. It also gives a very sharp file that some might find a bit unpleasant without processing, I think. My Four Thirds Olympus 35mm macro definitely renders things in a much softer way.
AF on my OM-D is definitely slow compared to other micro four thirds lenses (Olympus 45mm and Panasonic 25mm, for example), but seems snappy enough to me.
Have you tried the close focus adapter for the Olympus 45mm (MCON P01, i think). It cuts the near focusing distance to about 20cm from ~45 or 50cm. It won’t do anywhere close to 1:1, but for $50, its fairly cheap and you still get the excellent rendering and wide aperture that the Oly 45mm gives you.
RT, I think that many people will be very happy with this lens and I realize that I was looking to this lens’ strength almost secondarily in that I expected it to perform better as a non-macro lens if that makes sense. As a macro lens, it does do well(again with enough light) and when we can set the conditions up to help it along, I feel it can be a great optical tool. I just don’t shoot enough true macro work to get enough use out of this lens I think. For the time being, I’ve been happy going back to the 42mm, 1:2 macro setting on the 12-50 kit lens. I’ll have my 75mm review up soon too, that one is something special.
Thanks for the conversation,
I agree with you about the autofocus being an issue for portraits. Like you, I’ve found it to be frustrating in low light. However, the autofocus does work quite well at macro distances, which is actually quite unusual for a macro lens. Most people resort to manual focus when shooting macro, but I’ve successfully shot insects using autofocus with the M. Zuiko 60/2.8.
The focus-by-wire thing doesn’t bother me at all.
I haven’t experienced the same issues with resolution loss at high ISOs. One thing that does happen is that resolution drops markedly at f8-f22 due to diffraction. I suspect that you were losing resolution to diffraction rather than noise reduction. This would make sense, as narrow apertures and high ISO settings go hand in hand.
In my tests, the lens was noticeably at its sharpest at f/5.6 and I was noticing that when shot at or above ISO 1600, the images suffered more regardless of aperture, and aside from testing I don’t think I shot this lens stopped down past f/5.6 so diffraction wasn’t my issue. My assessment on resolution was based against other lenses on the OMD at like ISO settings.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I regularly use this lens with less than half the light you describe (really, 600W 5ft away?) and have no issues under those conditions. Yes when the lighting drops to a couple 60W bulbs in a living room or large bedroom the lens slows and hunts….. just like most macros do I have used for past pentax and nikon systems. Macro lenses have a long focus throw, plain and simple, so if they don’t lock right away you will get some hunting. CDAF will hunt more than PDAF that, again, is just the nature of the system. Other m4/3 primes like the 12,25,45,75 focus better in low light for the simple fact they are larger aperture lenses that allow more light/contrast to the sensor for focusing.
Sounds like you had unrealistic expectations.
As far as expectations, I mentioned as much. My experience with other macro lenses for other systems led me to expect this lens to perform comparably, and to me it somewhat exposed a flaw perhaps for the micro 4/3 system. While faster lenses will certainly allow more light in, aiding focus, I’ve shot with many f/2.8 and even f/4 lenses for my full frame setup that have absolutely no problem under the same lighting situations.
As for the portrait focus issues under what I admitted was “plenty” of light, was down to the lens seemingly needing to rack back and forth before achieving focus. Even if this took half a second, it can create a sluggish situation for portraiture of a constantly wiggly subject. While I don’t expect a macro lens to also be a killer people lens, I only hoped this one might perform as well as others I’ve used, and wanted to point this out as something folks should certainly take into consideration as every “review” of this lens seems to wax lyrical about how wonderful this lens is in every way conceivable, that’s all. Like I said above, I apologize if folks are upset that there is now one review that isn’t enamored with this lens, but I wish someone had written one for comparisons sake for me to read before I’d purchased this so that my heightened expectations may have been more realistically tempered.
I appreciate the discourse and just want to give a constructive criticism of a good, but in my opinion not great lens is all.
Thanks man, I enjoy the continuing conversation.
Hey everyone is obviously entitled to their opinions, in this case it just seems your opinion is jaded by your (wrong) expectations.
If you want a portrait lens then there is the 45 or the 75 (which you now have). However if someone were to buy those lenses and then give them a lower rating do to their poor macro capabilites would that make sense.
Macro lenses have long/fine focus throws and will focus slower than a non macro to some degree regardless of system. In lower light situations CDAF will have a harder time focusing than a PDAF system. Combine the two and those should be your expectations when buying the lens.
I have 4 young children and found (under normal/average lighting) that the 60mm was close enough in focus speed compared to my 45mm, that I sold the 45mm.
Now as a little negative spin on the 60mm, I wish the could have kept the f2.0 of the previous 50mm and/or made it a 90mm + as the working distance gets a little cramped at 1:1.
I guess where I feel my expectations weren’t met, or were incorrectly pumped up, was through most of the reviews I’d read which touted this lens as a good, fast focusing portrait lens as well as being a good macro lens, which didn’t strike me as out of the ordinary as I’ve used multiple macro lenses that doubled as great portrait optics as well (EF 100/2.8, EF100L, Tamron SP 90/2.8, Sigma 150/2.8). I feel my expectations are only “wrong” as long as we accept that based on comparison from other optics being used on PDAF systems, the micro 4/3 system is inferior when it comes to its macro lenses, or at the very least, this macro lens; and I don’t feel the comparison of judging a non macro lens on its macro capabilities is entirely correct in this situation unless we’re talking about a macro lens that cannot focus to infinity, or gets lauded for it’s ability to be utilized as a non macro lens (as you’ve pointed out). That’s the beauty of many modern macro lenses is that they can often double as a short/mid tele lens as well.
Yes, the focusing mechanism on a macro lens is going to have to move the optics much further between infinity and close focus, but here is where I felt the micro 4/3 system could prove to beat the larger, more glass laden full frame macro optics by not having to move as far physically, nor the physical weight of the optics meaning the AF, in theory, could operate with less physical strain, but I feel here is where the CDAF (and certainly a focus by wire for manual focus) starts to show its downside, although, at close focusing distances, I was more or less happy with the AF as long as I had a lot of light and found it to be a nice thing to have as the MF (by wire) is obviously not as well implemented vs a physical focusing mechanism, for this application anyway.
When you mention the 45 regarding auto focus speed, I can only assume you’re speaking of the PanaLeica 45/2.8 macro and not the Oly 45/1.8 right? I cannot see the Oly 60 having faster AF than the Oly45, but I don’t own the Oly45 either so, perhaps that one has slow AF too, I’ve only heard quite the contrary.
I’m always a fan of faster optics, so I’d love to see an f/2 macro lens for this or any system (I believe the only modern f/2 macros are the Oly 50mm which only gets to 1:2, or the Tamron 60mm which is only compatible with APS-C dSLRs). I think that I’m going to have to see a physical focus gearing implemented if I look to buy another macro specific lens for the micro 4/3 system personally, but I’m also a big fan of more tools, regardless if their right for me or not. Choices are good.
Thanks again Phillip.
Nope 45mm 1.8. Under the type of lighting conditions you described I found the 60mm close enough (never said faster) to 45mm that it was inconsequential. Under lower light then the 45mm was definitely faster.
I think the 60mm is a great portrait lens for your typical “stand still for a moment” portrait (or studio setting). Taking pictures/portraits of children is a entirely different affair, and I can’t recall any reviews commenting on that aspect.
I owned the tamron 90mm in both pentax(k7) and later nikon (d7000). Again under the lighting you describe I can’t say the 90 was any faster or hunted any less. Almost every review I have read regarding macro lenses usually has the caveat of slower focus with a tendacy to hunt.
If you already have the 45 and/or 75 then I would recommend getting a legacy macro for just macro work.
No kidding! Hmm, I am seeing the Oly 75mm struggle in lower light too though (not nearly as bad as the 60, but it hunts for a good second before finding focus, even with the AF assist beam much of the time), so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I guess where it frustrates me a bit is that I don’t see this AF hunting in the same low light situations with the PL25 or 14/2.5, both of which seem to be much, much better at quick, accurate focus when the EV gets lower. Because of this, I know that it isn’t entirely the OMD, or the CDAF solely, but by this simple, personal deduction, more to do with the Oly lenses themselves. Perhaps it is in lens design on the engineering side of things, who knows.
Yes, in a well lit situation with subjects that can (or more accurately will) take verbal instruction, it could be a fine portrait lens, and I said exactly that in the article.
I do have the 75, and don’t think I’ll grab the Oly45 at this point (waiting to see what comes of the 42.5/1.2), but I do have a legacy macro lens that will get dug back out for macro work.
60mm – long focus range & “only” 2.8
75mm – bigger elements and it seems Olympus wanted to put a bit more emphasis on accuracy over pure speed.
25mm: 1.4 = 2 stops more light for focusing
14mm: tiny, light elements
Both 14 & 25: shorter focal lengths mean shorter focus throws/ranges, also adjustment can be more coarse due to greater dof.
Good points all.
I’d like to see the micro 4/3 system capable of performing (AF wise) as we have come to expect from larger, heavier EFOV lenses, especially in the case of say the 75 when prices are taken into consideration. This is entirely a secondary conversation that I have already begun to address in the review on the 75/1.8, but in short, comparing it optically to say a full frame 75 or 85mm f/1.8, as well as comparing it to an EFOV counterpart (in my case the 135L) I’m curious as to how performance (in this case AF) seems to compare, and so far, the 75 hasn’t won yet when looking at pure AF speed which I feel is down largely to PDAF vs CDAF, but when it is twice the price of an 85/1.8 (which has larger, heavier elements) and the same price (or the same price I paid new) for the 135/2 which is larger, heavier, lethally accurate and far faster in lower light, I feel Oly could be doing better, at least by this particular comparison as a case study. I think we see this a bit in the premiums being charged all while being sold as size reduction when there are existing tools that are very similar in physical construction, material, quality, et al.
It is what it is, losing weight is always going to be expensive, and hopefully there will always be more in the way of improvements and less in compromises as we see the future of the system unfold.
Personally in terms of price/value I find some of the m4/3 lenses missing the mark. (Every check the price on the 75-300 4.8-6.7)
The 75mm is a sensational lens but when you start comparing it to something like the nearly as good Nikon 85mm 1.8g then it really starts to look overpriced.
Give me the 75mm and 12mm but built like the 60mm (plastic but weatherproof) and drop a couple hundred from the price and I would be VERY happy (oh and include the damn lens hoods).
I really don’t buy into this metal body stuff. Well made plastic will likely last longer than the focus motors will anyway.. For me its function over form.
I completely agree. I do enjoy a good, solid, well built metal lens but it is far less important to me than overall quality and price.
With construction in mind, quality composites can easily outlast metal if formulated and built properly, won’t dent, or fatigue like metal and is in most cases much more cost effective and easier to machine, but I think perception is still that metal = quality, and while not untrue, it doesn’t mean that plastics aren’t.
Pingback: *Olympus 75mm f/1.8, all it’s cracked up to be? | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography
Tyson…read your review about the 75mm f/1.8 Lens… (I own that incredible lens!), great photos and your review was thoughtful, insightful and well balanced.
This lens (which I do not own), the Oly Macro. that has gotten such PRAISE around the web… It is interesting to see some contrast to what I have read on other blogs…and as usual..you qualify everything that you have to say with GREAT photography, facts and when it is your personal preference or opinion you state it as such. I noticed that one of the most positive reviews about the lens on the web was by someone who continually stated “he did not do macro photography”…LOL…so there you go.
Your take on this lens comes from a place that I do..I do not do a lot of macro work… When I get serious about it I get out my Tripod, my Canon and my Canon L Macro…when I am less serious about it I use one of my MFT cameras (GX1 or OMD) and “possibly” a tripod and pop on my Pany/Leica 45mm Macro. That lens has a focusing-limiter switch (which is very necessary to keep AF speed and accuracy for a lens of this type IMHO). It also has OIS (as does my Canon L Macro)…but that can ONLY be used for macro-photography LITE. LOL!.
I use my MFT when hiking etc, of for shooting products for eBay… I also used it for portraits before I got some other (faster) glass and I think it does just fine for that and focuses really well in low light, in my experience…not super fast, but lets say, quit a bit faster than the Pany 20mm. The biggest downside of the Pany lens is its cost.
Here are 4 samples if you are interested:
Your review was great…I was kind of wondering if I was missing out on something after reading some of the accolades on the WWW about the Oly macro…but after reading your take … I am just fine with my MFT macro capabilities…I have all I need for “my” needs. THANKS!
As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Yeah, as for this macro, I didn’t feel it really offered much even as a macro lens (struggling AF, challenging MF) that I tried to paint a picture, a constructive criticism so to speak, for folks like me who had heard nothing but unadulterated praise. It makes me wonder about some of the reviewers, and paid “journalism” as it were. If Olympus sent the lens to me, asked me to review it, and I criticized it, would they send me the next lens to review? I know that it CAN be a great lens, and for many people’s purposes, it can and will be, I just wasn’t one of those folks and had my expectations inflated based on the “reviews” of this lens. I still wouldn’t mind the PL 45. I feel that the couple times I’ve quickly thrown it on my camera in store and played around with it, it already offers a better overall performer than the Oly60. I’m sure it still struggles from some of the same failings of the system in general (FBW, CDAF, etc) but if the manual focus dampening and performance on the PL25 is any indicator of how the PL lenses are made, I’d say it isn’t all bad. All things said, I think I’ll stick with faster non macro primes for the m4/3 system until we see a hybrid AF and hopefully a mechanical focus implemented before I wander down the macro road again.
The shot of the lil’ guy eating honeydew (?) is a prime example of where I was seeing the 60mm struggle. Sure, the light level is very low, but the contrast is ample. I’m sure the PL45 hunts a bit in those situations too, but I think for me, I’ll just stick with the 14mm or 25mm in those situations. I am very curious to see what lies ahead with the 42.5/1.2 though… If they can get Leica to help optically design it and keep that thing under a grand, it might be a huge deal for the system. I’m also waiting to see some long tele primes for the birders and sporties, which I guess may not make a ton of sense until they figure out the hybrid AF situation, but still, with the high res crop factor it could certainly play to the strengths of the system, as long as the rest of the functionality was up to snuff.
Thanks for the alternative viewpoint, very interesting to read. As I read it, I kept thinking….the format is stalled until it gains hybrid CD/PD AF. Then I read your similar comment above.
I have come really close to buying this lens, but have also decided to not buy any more m43 lenses until the hybrid solution comes out. I may be tempted by an Olly RF styled camera though….
I came to the format from a bridge camera via the E-PL1. Added the 20/1.7, dumped the kit zoom, added the 14/2.5 and then the 45/1.8. This outfit really does 90% of the shots my imagination comes up with….the other 10%? Not life threatening if I miss those shots for now.
From an engineering POV, the hybrid problem is obviously proving tricky for both Panny and Olly. Once solved, it will prove tricky from a marketing viewpoint, because some very expensive lenses will become a little less optimal.
I surmise this is why we don’t have fast teles yet, because they will quickly become redundant. Like the 75/1.8?
Thanks for the blog, and the well considered opinions and viewpoints.
And I appreciate that you’ve seen what I was trying to get at with this. Not a slam piece, as I know that a lot of folks love this lens, it’s just more to get folks like myself to understand a few of the poorly documented potential shortcomings. I’ve since acquired an EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS macro lens for my full frame setup and it is just so different. It doesn’t suffer from any of the issues I had with the Oly (focusing is great, hindered only by my camera which focuses accurately down to -0.5EV, the manual focusing is mechanical, it’s also weather sealed, has killer IS, has amazing contrast and saturation and is sharper than I’d hoped for), and granted it cost twice as much or at least would have on paper, (I did some trading) it to me, is definitely a useful tool that I will not hesitate to use in any situation that I need a 100mm f/2.8 lens, macro or otherwise. I couldn’t comfortably say that about the Oly.
Your setup, to me, is just about perfect. I do wish the Panny 14mm pancake was just a touch wider and slower (for cost sake). I’d have LOVED to see this as a 12mm f/2.8 or f/3.2 at the same relative size and price point. Otherwise, a wide, a standard and a short to mid tele will cover 90+% of what I like to shoot too. As to the hybrid AF setup, I wish I were more fluent in the science and optical thresholds surrounding its implementation, but if Sony, Samsung, Nikon and Canon are currently pulling it off in both natively PD and CD systems with varying sized sensors, I have to believe it’s possible for Panoly. Until that happens, I do feel the micro 4/3 system will struggle in certain applications, namely those that require quick, accurate focus tracking. By no means is it a deal breaker as many of us have come up through a world without AF in any capacity, but when it is available, it becomes the norm and raises the level that a tool may need to reach if it is going to be billed as a “professional” tool in all ways. Personally, I don’t NEED lightning fast, continuous AF for 99% of what I shoot, but much like video capture in a stills device, what I never thought I’d need or want, I have come to appreciate and depend on and it has given me the ability to make money through means I’d not previously.
Thanks again and I look forward to crossing paths in the future.
Learn how to use the focus limiter and it works great. People complain about focus, but most are just not using the lens properly.
Well, seeing as I’ve done my fair share of lens and camera testing, I feel pretty confident about my ability to assess the workings of this lens. If you read my article, you’ll see that my findings were that the focus limiter was handy, but did nothing to speed up the AF, just the range of the AF (as would be assumed with a limiter) like any focusing limiter on any lens, of which, I shoot many with this feature and none are as poor at AF’ing as this lens. This lens, for whatever reason, struggled substantially to AF in most every situation, and IMO sucked for MF due to the pure focus by wire implementation and auto reset defaults in distance between shots as opposed to mechanically staying in one spot, making it a difficult tool for much of my work and need which is why it was returned.
If it’s working for you, that’s great, but the general consensus I’ve heard over the years (not just here) is that this lens, while very sharp, is poor in anything but really good light (AF wise), and misses the mark due to the focus by wire, for many’s actual macro use. YMMV, certainly, but from my, and many I’ve talked with experience, it just wasn’t to be.
Hi Tyson.. loved your article about this lens. I bought my copy mainly due to the rave reviews it was getting everywhere and as someone who’s never really dabbled with macro before I thought it might encourage me to explore new worlds and ways of taking photos. However, I would never have bought it if I’d realised how frustrating it can be to take pictures of my little boys. The first time this happened was one early evening at dusk in the street outside my house. The boys were having lots of fun dashing around and being silly. I grabbed my omd with 60mm attached and was shocked that it didn’t just struggle to focus.. it actually couldn’t do anything even with auto iso set on the camera. There have been occasions when I have managed to take tack sharp photos of them but for this it has needed to be outside in the middle of the day with good light. Like you I’ve been mystified as to why it resets and hunts to find focus. I’ve now put the lens up for sale and I’m considering getting a cheap 12-50 as a weatherproof alternative and the fisheye with the money raised! Maybe macro isn’t really for me either.. when I look at the 60mm group pool on Flickr I get bored with the images immediately, whereas the opposite is true when I have a look at most other flickr pools. Keep up the good work with the blog, always an interesting read! Best wishes Jerry (jerryms on flickr)
Thanks Jerry, and if you find people telling you that your expectations were too inflated because this is a “macro” lens, or that all macro lenses are slow and can have a hard time focusing, call BS. I recently traded for a Canon 100/2.8 L macro and it is silly how much better that lens is in any shooting situation, locking focus (quickly) in low light, mechanical MF, etc. I’d thought that perhaps my expectations for a macro lens were somewhat unfounded, but it turns out that the Oly is just sub par in so many ways. When it hits, or if your style works around its shortcomings, its a fine lens, but is most definitely a huge compromise vs other macro lenses for other systems.
Thanks for the read man!
if you’re still “back to the macro drawing board” for micro four thirds, would you consider extension tubes?
example (found by searching for kenko on dpreview):
i’m an OM-D user, exploring how the (circa 1980s) lenses and extension tubes i used on my old OM-1 work on the OM-D with the OM adapter. lack of autofocus notwithstanding, the results are interesting. still, i may yet spring for the micro four thirds extension tubes by kenko. the nice thing about extension tubes is that they effectively turn *any* lens into a macro lens of a sort … with each lens acquiring a different focusing length/depth of field combination. if you have multiple rings and lenses, there are a lot of possibilities. with the right tube + telephoto, for example, you can fill the frame with a distant tree blossom, for example. you could never do that with any macro lens.
You’re right, extension tubes can be very handy, but limit the lens being used to a restricted focusing range. To get true 1:1 magnification, you’d need to match the extension distance to the focal length (i.e.: a 50mm lens, would require 50mm of extension) but on a micro 4/3 camera via an adapter, it would actually grant you a 2:1 magnification, so technically, I believe you’d only require 25mm of extension tubes in this scenario to achieve 1:1 (true macro) magnification. The downside to using extension tubes is that it removes the lens ability to focus to infinity, and in most cases, severely hinders a lens to focus further than a foot or two away. Imaging distant blossoms, et al, in most situations when using extension tubes, will not allow the lens to focus on them, of course, depending on how “distant” they may be. Most all dedicated macro lenses can function as a normal lens, focusing to infinity, etc, and then gain the ability to magnify subjects by way of “extending” the optics in lens.
I have extension tubes as well (not for the micro 4/3 mount) and while they’re fun, I find a dedicated macro lens much better for macro shooting. Since writing up this personal assessment of the Oly 60mm, I’ve acquired an EF 100/2.8 L Macro lens that is amazing and certainly doesn’t suffer the same issues as the Oly, so I’m really happy with my macro setup at this point. By adding extension tubes to a macro lens, it can then enable even further magnification, so even with a macro lens, extension tubes can be handy!
Thanks for the comment.
Well, that helps a lot, thanks. 🙂
I was considering the lens (and the Panasonic/Leica 45mm) since my Four-Thirds ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens doesn’t have the native focus treatment. Auto focus works, but just.
I’ve already seen reviews dismissing the 45mm and people were happier with the 60mm, but probably because there were no other micro Four-Thirds options. That’s not enough for me. I’ll struggle with my current option.
I feel that macro is a difficult task without PDAF and a when using AF and a quality implementation of a mechanical focusing mechanism, especially for manual focus, neither of which are currently available in the m4/3 system. Not that this lens isn’t capable under the right circumstances, but I found it to be more frustrating than useful. I’ve since acquired the EF 100mm f2.8 L macro which has been a universe away for me compared to the Oly 60mm. I just don’t think the system is quite ready to count a macro setup to its strengths, but hopefully, with a hybrid AF on the horizon and the realization that macro should have a mechanical MF operation, that may change in the near future.
All the best,
Hmm, maybe it’s a firmware issue or maybe things are “just better” in the southern hemisphere 🙂
I have the 45, 75, and 60 lenses among others and a six lens outfit with flash, batteries, filters and a few accessories in a small unobtrusive bag, comes with me to many places I would never consider taking a “full size” outfit. I also don’t recall having to change my methods much.
For me, these 3 lenses work very well indeed for their intended uses. I have NO idea what AF hunting issues you experience as it is very unusual for me to see this. In my mix, I shoot stage and performance, The 45 and 75 on the OMD can focus where I can barely see. Customers appreciate the sharp, correctly focussed results.
The macro has a focus limiting switch which in my case at least reduces hunting to negligible. Focus by wire works just fine for me and I like to stay above f11 too. AF is fine, but it rarely knows WHAT I want to focus on – neither have any other of the many cameras I have owned in 30 years.
The 45 is a terrific all round head and shoulders lens and I use it both with experienced models (who marvel at the compact configuration) and also with inexperienced models who are far less intimidated than when I point a larger setup at them. Image quality is embarrassingly on par with my larger cameras. It is difficult to see meaningful differences in fact – perhaps unless you shoot billboards.
In any case the paying customers never know what setup I sued unless they were present.
The 75 also makes a great head-shot lens and that is one of the main uses I put it to. The working distance is comfortable. Again no AF issues to speak of. I often use eye detect for fast people shooting and the thing absolutely nails 9/10 shots.
Cheers from OZ, Mick
Thanks for your comment, and like I say, this may be a good lens for someone shooting in situations which play to it’s strengths.
Firstly, stage performances, while the surrounding area is dark, is exactly the type of situation that can provide the type of contrast necessary for CDAF systems. Bright stage lights against a very dark surrounding environment is the definition of “high contrast” and hence plays to the contrast detection. The other thing to take into consideration is that you’re more than likely shooting from more than 10′ or so away, so the lens is able to maintain this high point of contrast near it’s infinity setting which will also help it from needing to try and find close focus, raking and “hunting”. Like I’d said in the article, in high contrast situations, the 60mm lens does fine. When shooting at closer distances (macro, close in portrait ❤ or 4 feet), if there isn't this same "high contrast" this lens can, and certainly did struggle on my cameras. Now that the lens has been out, I've seen much more in the way of similar experience through message boards, online communities, etc, so it's not just me. Comparing my experience to other macro lenses, it is a huge difference. I know it is a more expensive lens, but having shot the EF 100L macro lens for the last couple months has shown me that there are major differences in not only the lens performance, but the system and primarily the way that the AF systems work. This is not to say that the Oly 60mm isn't a good lens, it is just hindered in certain situations comparatively, that don't affect other systems (utilizing PDAF) and macro lenses as consistently.
The limiting switch is also handy, which I also mention, but even that didn't stop this lens from hunting within those perimeters, again, when shooting in low contrast and/or low light. The fact that with the CDAF allowing us to pinpoint a small fraction of the sensor to focus on should allow us to tell the camera EXACTLY what we want to focus on, as it does with decent regularity in most all other lenses I've used for the system. My dual axis AF points on my PDAF enabled cameras also know exactly what I want to focus on as long as I use, place and understand how these AF points "look" for focus, so while the camera doesn't "know" what we want to focus on, if we tell them what to, they do an admirable job, and some better than others in certain situations. They're remarkably accurate as are the CDAF systems in the right situations.
I'm glad that you've had such a good interaction and results with the 60mm and I by no means am saying that people can't, but when compared to other lenses for the micro 4/3 system, or other systems entirely, it is a flawed lens in my opinion and experience and one that was not good enough for me as now evidenced and justified with my recent acquisition of the 100L macro lens which does absolutely run circles around the Oly in the situations I use a macro lens for (namely, macro and close portraiture).
Not sure if you saw that I did end up buying the 75mm after returning the 60mm, but I am very happy with the quality of that lens, no doubt about it.
Thanks again and all the best,
damn fine headstock image!!
Well Tyson I think your review on this lens is more than fair . I got it for its ability to focus close while shooting some food photography and in good light . I think it does well in that condition but get it in a room with just a couple lamps and in my experience it hunted and hunted and sometimes did not focus ever . I had the Tokina 100 2.8 for my Nikon d300 and it often hunted and hunted as well…but I want to go back to your fisheye analysis and just say this is just another one of those purses for special occasions …always enjoy your reviews
after further use of the 60mm 2.8 I am sending it back…it does some nice things but its hunting in low light is frustrating and I should have paid more attention to your guitar image…the specular highlights this camera produces is just horrible…it is a deal breaker for me . I was making my own images with specular highlights and they are just unbearable to look at…if this were a 150 dollar lens I might put up with that….no …no I wouldn’t even at that price
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A funny think happened when I got the 60mm macro lens last year. I had been using an old micro Nikkor 55mm f3.5, with lovely results, but I really wanted the option of AF, and the 60mm Oly got such good reviews, I thought it would really be better than the Nikon. After a brief set of comparison photos, I realized that I preferred the Nikon. Sharpness was excellent on both, and while the Nikon performed at its best with a custom WB, once that was done, it had really accurate color rendition. The Oly 60mm, on the other hand, seemed to confuse the AWB on my GH2, leaving me with an overall cool color rendition which I really did not care for. I ended up returning it, figuring it maybe was a bad sample.
A couple of months ago I thought I should maybe try again, since it could have been a bad sample, so I got another copy. This time I was using an Oly camera (EPM2), and while the color balance was much more consistent on this body, the lens just did not give me results that were any better than my old Nikkor, and the focus by wire was less pleasing than the regular focus on the legacy lens. I did notice the slow AF this time around, and that was just one more thing that led me to give up on it for a second time.
I have decided, however, to give the Oly 50mm f2.0 a try, since I will be getting an EM1 soon. Hopefully that will work well enough with the PDAF on the EM1 that it will give me what I want in terms of AF AND MF in a macro lens for this system. Time will tell…
Thank you for the comment Janet!
I’d certainly be curious to hear about how the Oly 50/2 and EM1 work together! I’ve just recently been playing around with the Pana GX7 and really love the focus peaking option for manual focusing. I think it would be a wonderful feature for macro or closeup work and really hope that Oly will integrate it into the EM1 (I’m sure they will).
For macro work, I just can’t get behind focus by wire and think that I’d need a mechanical focus throw if I chose to invest in another micro 4/3 (or 4/3) macro lens, although a digital focus scale and peaking could be a very workable solution. Good luck with it and I’d love to hear how it works out for you!
All the best,
I’ve been using it for almost a a year and I couldn’t disagree more (OK, maybe I could) – at macro distances the DOF is so shallow, no AF system will nail it. I have the fn button next to the shutter release set to toggle between AF / MF. So typical procedure – let AF get me close, hit MF – just touch the focus ring (and this is key) which magnifies the EVF – then just move back/forth to nail the focus and shoot. I have gotten quite fast at this and miss very few from focus issues. MUCH easier than the OVF of an DSLR IMHO.
I fully understand that there are folks whose experiences will differ from mine and I’m glad that this lens has served you well.
That said, your explanation still doesn’t contradict my criticisms and after having used the macro lens I’ve purchased since, I can say that while it may work for many, the Oly 60mm macro is not up to the same level of performance mechanically as other macro lenses, and especially the one I’ve been shooting with in the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS macro lens.
Firstly, regarding the auto focus, nothing in my time with the Oly showed me that it could handle the ability to AF in less than contrasty, good light. If you have good amounts of light and contrast, it can certainly hit focus automatically, and the DOF argument is irrelevant. The plane of focus is different than the achieving of focus to begin with.
As for the AF/MF technique you’ve outlined, I think you’ve listed the best possible operational method to get the best results from this lens in a macro shooting scenario. My problem isn’t with the AF/MF combo, but rather the (in my experience) poor AF performance in lower contrast coupled with a non mechanical focus by wire MF implementation which has a limited ability to maintain a preset focus distance due to the electronic focusing. While not unusable, I will say that for me, definitively after using a mechanical manual focusing lens for macro, it plays to actual macro shooting so much better. That may or may not be other’s experience, and I’m not going to say that my opinion here is gospel or anything, but I do feel that there are shortcomings to this lens that became far more pronounced when I chose to use an alternative for my macro shooting.
All said and done, for $500, I still think it can be a great lens situationally, but felt that nowhere did I see anyone pointing out its shortcomings, and for me, shooting in shade, low contrast or lower light, I found this lens to be absolutely horrible for me and felt it was worth something to provide a differing point of view.
I don’t mean to argue that your experience is invalid, but rather that your experience is very different from mine and while neither of us is right or wrong in regard to the other, I do feel there is room for both experience and opinions so that perspective buyers can make a more informed decision.
Thanks for the read and comment.
You can, actually, AF better in low light if you do a trick within the body. I was testing a new nissin 40 flash i bought yesterday, taking pictures of cat, and I noticed that the AF was kinda terrible in poorly lit room (without the lights on).
You know what helped though? It’s the AF assist lamp on the camera body. I don’t know if all bodies have this, but it could be worth turning on (and off when not needed?) when working in the poorly lit conditions. I was nailing focus fast and accurately in the low lit conditions with the help of AF assist lamp.
Hi Tyson. I’m glad I stumbled onto this page. I currently shoot mostly handheld with a D7000, 60mm AFS macro and DR6 angle finder. Recently I’ve been wondering if a mirrorless system with articulating screen and IBIS could be a better system for my style of photography. Thus far it seems the answer is no, not yet.
What I will say in support of the current micro 4/3 system, is the combination of IBIS and the tilting LCD (and tilting EVF in the Panasonic GX7) makes for a really cool, waste level finder (or angle finder) experience with the added benefit of being stabilized. I also have really, really enjoyed the focus peaking feature which aids when manually focusing substantially. The other benefit to a live view (which I assume you can also employ via the LCD on the D7000, is that you can see a real representation of the working depth of field without needing to use a DOF preview button, etc. Handy to see what is or will be in focus in real time.
The downside to the micro 4/3 system for macro work, in my experience, is down to the proprietary macro lenses and their operation. They are serviceable, even optically wonderful, and many do really like them, but for me, being used to macro lenses for a more traditional system where mechanical focus (and phase detection auto focus) is still used, it’s two different worlds. The hybrid AF on the OMD EM1 may go some way to help remedy the AF side of things, my personal experience with the focus by wire manual implementation with the Oly 60mm macro was remarkably frustrating.
One thing I can say though, is I’ve had much better luck and experience by adapting my other macro lenses to the micro 4/3 cameras. Using my EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS lens and an older FD 100mm f/4 SSC macro lens adapted, while gaining the benefit of IBIS and focus peaking in the GX7, it has really helped the usefulness. If you were to go down the mirror less road, and don’t mind manually focusing, I’d say look to try and adapt your F mount macro lens, although I’m not too familiar with the AFS moniker… Does that lens let you adjust the aperture manually, or does it require the camera to do that electronically? If it requires the camera, (like my EF lens) you may need to see if you can get around that. For me, I can adjust the EF lens to a working aperture on a Canon body, hold the DOF preview button and remove the lens which keeps it stopped down. Not the best way to adjust the aperture quickly or from shot to shot, but it is possible, and the results are wonderful given that the lens is spectacular.
Keep in mind too that due to the crop, you’re actually getting a 2:1 macro magnification compared to the 1.5:1 you’d get on your APS-C or 1:1 on a full frame enabling a larger occupation of physical space per pixel relative to the sensor, so that is kinda cool.
Thanks for the read and taking the time to comment. While perhaps not a like for like, both approaches might offer something the other does not, and hopefully, both of the approaches continue to evolve and compete for our attention 🙂
Hi again. Thanks for the speedy reply. Nikon’s AFS is the same as Canon’s Ultrasonic, The Nikon 60mm AFS macro is a great lens for several reasons. It has very high image quality, it’s relatively cheap, fairly small and light, plus it has very fast and accurate AF. It doesn’t even have a focus limiter, and it doesn’t need one either. No aperture ring. You set that in the camera. Same as Canon EF lenses. If I could find a mirrorless macro lens with the properties of my Nikon lens I would definitely consider building a new kit. As I mentioned before, the combination of articulating screen / viewfinder and IBIS seems like it would benefit my style of shooting. I think all this helps prove the old adage that you should choose your camera system based on the lenses that are available for it. I went Nikon because of this one specific lens.
Good day, Tyson. I’ve just read your appraisal of the Oly 60mm macro and am grateful to you for your objectivity.
The weight of my Canon full-frame gear had begun to overwhelm my arthritic hands, so I’ve converted to 4/3 and acquired an E-M10 Mk2.
Because I need the ability to produce “eye-popping” macros, my choice was influenced by the 10’s ability of focus-stack using the 60mm.
Bearing in mind your reservations it seems to me that this lens will cope with my fairly narrow, vertical, needs, but I am wondering if you know of any other (better) macro lenses that are compatible with with the Oly focus-stacking of the E-M10.
I will quite happily spend a little more to get the results I need.
My thanks in advance for any guidance you can give.
Hi Mark! I’ve not used the focus stacking feature, but I would imagine it is best served by using Oly lenses. My qualms with the 60mm macro will, in ways, share the same criticism with any focus by wire macro lens for this system, and as far as I’m aware, a mechanical focus macro doesn’t exist in a m4/3 mount, nor would any adapted macro work seamlessly with the focus stacking feature I assume. If the 60mm appeals to you, I’d give it a try and then return it if it doesn’t work as you need it to, maybe?
Thanks for the read and good luck with it!
All the best,