Nov 282012
 

 

The Olympus ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review for Micro 4/3 from a guy who never shoots macro!

By Steve Huff

Hello to all! It has been a crazy busy last few weeks for me and lately it seems like I do not even have time to breathe! With all of the hot new products out these days I have had most of them through my hands in the past 3 weeks. Sony RX1, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-5R, all of the new Sony lenses, Leica Monochrom and various lenses and a slew of accessories like straps and doo dads. The problem is that it is impossible to shoot all of these, get decent shots AND spend enough quality time with them to really get to know them in and out. So those of you asking me for the reviews of NEX-6, RX1, etc..be patient! They are coming :) Just have to really use them for what they were made for, taking actual Photographs. Shooting walls and charts…well, that’s no fun! Nope, I use the cameras I review, and many for long-term. This way I know what to tell you guys when I write about them.

One item/lens that came in that really caught my attention big time is the Olympus 60mm Macro 2.8. This lens is small, light and looks looooong when mounted but the performance is STUNNING. So stunning in fact that I just might have to buy it for myself to add to my Micro 4/3 collection of goodies! Then again, I am not really a macro guy and if I did buy it I would probably use it once a year so probably not a good investment for me. But for you? Maybe! If you enjoy getting up close and personal and seeing details within details then it is probably a lens you will want to know more about, so read on my friends! Just keep in mind this is a quick real world lens review from a guy who rarely shoots macro, so do not expect macro techie talk, just my thoughts on using the lens with the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

The OM-D E-M5. The camera I will use to review this lens. 

I have to say that the Olympus OM-D has been one hell of a workhorse for me and my most used camera for 2012 so far (for my personal use). When I ask myself why this is so it comes down to one simple answer. It’s THE LENSES!

Yes my friends it is all about the glass as always and if Olympus has done one thing right in the last few years it is just this. THE BEAUTIFUL LENSES.  They know how to make a great lens and it seems like the pressure is on them with each new release as they fail to release a stinker. The 12mm f/2, the 45 1.8, the 75 1.8 and the new upcoming 17 1.8 which will give all Micro 4/3 users a fast 35mm equivalent. These fixed focal length lenses all provide stellar quality that will allow you, the photographer to have no limits in what you can achieve. Basically, these lenses from Olympus are better than 98% of us, even those “super pros” with huge egos. Take an OM-D and 75 1.8 for a portrait session and the lens will never get in the way. It just delivers gorgeous results. The OM-D is the Olympus Micro 4/3 Masterpiece and I get questions every single day asking if it is worth upgrading to from something like an E-PL1 or 2. For me it was, for you..well, you have to decide that one. I will just state that the OM-D is the best Micro 4/3 camera to date, IMO of course.

 

Click for larger. This is actually the 1st shot I snapped with the Olympus 60mm Macro on my OM-D. WOW. f/2.8 wide open.

With all of that out of the way let me talk a little bit about this 60mm Macro that has been out for a couple of months now. Yes, it is once again a superb optic from Olympus and I have to say, it is the best Macro lens I have ever used without question. Now, take that with a grain of salt because to be honest I have only used a handful of Macro lenses, mainly from Nikon and this was years ago. I also was a fan of the original Olympus 50mm Macro and shot it quite often on my old E-1. That lens was and still is an amazing performer but this 60 Macro takes it up a notch in my opinion and when used on the OM-D it makes for a great shooting experience. Why? Well, for starters the 5-Axis IS on the OM-D E-M5 helps to steady the shot and it works well. So well in fact that during my time with the lens I had no shots with hand shake/motion blur. Usually with Macro lenses you would use a tripod. This would be the correct and best way to shoot a Macro scene. But I shot every image here handheld and I had no issues. I also did not use any external light sources, all natural light.

Monarch Butterfly – f/2.8

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OUT OF THE BOX

When I viewed images online of this lens my 1st thoughts were ‘Man, that looks LONG”! When the box arrived and I took the lens out my thoughts were “This is LONG but oh so small and light”! So no worries, in photo it may look really long but it is actually a nice size due to it being quite tiny. If you set it next to something like a Canon 100 Macro it would look miniscule. The build quality feels nice as well. The lens also has a nice dial on the barrel that allows you to choose your focal range and limitations. It works well. You can even flip it to 1:1 and get super close in. The dial feels nice and solid as does the lens. At the price of $499 the lens is well worth it if you are a macro kind of person. The specs of the Olympus 60 2.8 Macro:

Side by side with the 14-42 kit zoom (left) and the 75 1.8 Beauty (right)

For Olympus Micro Four Thirds Cameras – Highly recommended for use on the OM-D E-M5

60mm (35mm equiv: 120mm) Focal Length – This becomes a 120mm equivalent

Wide, Fast f/2.8 Max Aperture – and this lens is SHARP even wide open.

Narrow f/22 Min Aperture

Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:1 – Up close and personal 

ED Glass Reduces Chromatic Aberrations – but doesn’t eliminate them

Accepts 46mm Filters

Movie & Still Compatible – silent AF for movie mode :)

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Shooting with the lens. Af Speed, MF use, Accuracy, Ease of Use and Quality.

AF Speed

The Olympus 60 Macro is not an everyday lens so I did not take it out with me on most occasions. I think I took it out on 3-4 occasions and each time I pulled it out of the bag I was happy with the results it gave me. Many have asked me about the AF speed and for a macro lens it is pretty damn fast. It is not a speed demon but it is not a lens designed for sports or action photography. This is a dedicated Macro lens and for this purpose it focuses fast and SILENT. It has a smooth silky feel to it when you shoot with it due to the fit, finish and silent operation. So the bottom line is that this lens has very good Auto Focus and during my time it never failed me and always locked and when it locked it was really locked. So AF? PASS!

OOC JPEG color – f/4 – click for larger

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What about manually focusing the lens? Well, the manual focus ring is super smooth and silky. Manually Focusing is a must with Macro most of the time if you want to choose exactly where your plane of focus will be. For example, in the image below I wanted the bead of water in focus. Manually focusing the lens is nice. It may take a few turns to get where you want to be but it is frustration free, and that is good. :)

Click for larger and full size crop! f/2.8

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Quality when not shooting as a Macro Lens?

This is a lens that can be used for any situation and while it is most suited for Macro performance it is not a one trick pony. Nope! This lens is more of a “Jack of all Trades” kind of performer. I would rather use something like the 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 for general shooting but if you are out and about with this lens on your camera you can expect good performance. The image below was from RAW and I sharpened it for print (to test print for detail, something new I will be doing for reviews) and as you can see it is insanely sharp and the 16X20 print looked great as well holding that detail and color just fine. The Olympus 60 Macro can be used in any situation where you want a little bit of reach. BTW, at f/2.8 it is sharp and it gets even sharper by f/4. No softness with this lens to worry about at all.

Click image for full 100% crop – f/5.6

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The world according to Olympus

Olympus has come a long way over the past few years and there have been a couple of times where I was a bit worried about them and the future of the company. When the E-P3 was getting past it’s prime and the sensor was finally showing its age I wondered if they had what it takes to come out in a bug way with something that would be ground breaking. When they released the OM-D E-M5 they did just that. In many ways the E-M5 is the closest you can get to a full size DSLR in the Micro 4/3 format. It only lacks in focus tracking and some high ISO situations. For overall quality of files, color and usability it gives you most of what a DSLR does but in a package that is 1/3 the size and weight. Olympus reached their goal years after the original PEN E-P1 with this OM-D. Today we have so many choices when it comes to cameras, it is really quite insane when you think about it. So much to choose from. So many great choices, as well as a couple POC’s (Pieces of Crap) but for the most part ANY camera today can bring back memorable images for you.

Phone Cameras, Point & Shoots, Mirrorless, DSLR’s..what to choose? The answer is simple. Go with your heart, your gut and go by what you shoot. If you are a casual backyard shooter than no need to go expensive, there are $300 cameras that will deliver the goods. A camera like the Olympus E-M5 with a lens like the 60mm Macro is a powerful combo, even if you are a pro. If you desire small, compact and very high quality then something like this will make you happy.

Olympus seems to like small and HQ. Yet again they delivered both with this lens. 

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My conclusion. The Olympus 60 f/2.8 Macro Lens.

Even for a guy who has not a “Macro Guy” I feel this lens could add something to my Micro 4/3 kit. It continues the streak from Olympus with high quality super glass that seems to be created from magic lens elves. If you like to shoot Macro or get in close I can not imagine ANYONE being disappointed in this lens. It is built well, feels solid, has nice auto focus performance, is 100% silent, is sharp and even the manual focus is smooth, silky and easy to use. There is some minimal CA in certain extreme situations (high contrast with full light behind subject such as tree branch can create some purple funk) but overall this lens is well corrected without any issues or problems. It is another home run hit for Olympus and one that is hard to make any kind of long review on because it is just so good and will most likely even become a micro 4/3 legend. That is about all I can say!

If you want this lens you can find it HERE at B&H Photo. They usually have it in stock (stock status is at the link) and the price is $499. Not bad for a lens of this quality, not bad at all.

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  38 Responses to “The Olympus ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review for Micro 4/3 from a guy who never shoots macro!”

  1. Excellent review, Steve! The combo of the OM-D and this Oly 60mm Macro can indeed produce very sharp images. As good as the in-camera IS is, I can;t help but wonder if one would get even sharper images using a good tripod (with IS off)! That is how I shoot products, and I’m a Sharpness fanatic, as you can see from the images on my site. I just still have a slight bit of hesitation in moving from the Pentax K-5 (APS-C) to the 4/3 sensor of the OM-D….I am wondering how well the OM-D files would retain sharpness/detail in very large prints (24×36). Thanks!

  2. Hi Steve Solomon ! Ming Thein is one of the best watch photographers around. His review of the Olympus ZD 60mm F2.8 macro on the OMD EM5 will surely put your mind at rest. Ming is a very level headed and sober chap and I respect his opinion.He ranks it as the new reference lens for Micro four thirds. Read about it here…
    http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/09/21/olympus-60-2-8-macro/

    Needless to say I visit Steve Huff’s and Ming’s blogs at least once daily !

  3. I agree with EVERYTHING that Steve had to say about the camera market and especially MFT cameras.
    I own and love my OM…and even tho I have the Pany Leica 45mm f/2.8 IS Macro for MFT (all I will ever need), it would appear that this lens is a great buy and an incredible performer.
    MFT is an incredible format, especially with the OMD and now the EPL-5 with the same sensor in a smaller, less expensive (and getting cheaper every day) package. There is a lot to like out there in the market place and it is nice to see that this corner of that marketplace is recognized here!!!!
    MFT is so great because of all of the lenses for every budget and need. This new macro from Olympus just made it even better. It’s amazing how many choices there are for a format that is soooooo young.
    Great post, Steve!

  4. Great review Steve, thanks – and I find it even better that you decided to actually print photos to see what the gear is up to.

    Just one question more concerning the OM-D. The photos you post are very detailed, but always seem to have certain “grain” – even low ISO stuff. Is that a feature of the camera or your processing? It actually looks good for most of the time.

    • The excessive grain comes from the somewhat aggressive sharpening in post processing. Also, the photosites are small compared to those on a full frame sensor. I think that’s why there’s more grain. But I think the grain will not always show up in a print. Prints from the EM-5 generally look fine. The Em-5 is a camera that is better then most of it’s owners need. Let’s not pixelpeep too much my friends.

    • The grain from the EM-5 looks good, doesn’t it? Especially when you process the image yourself instead of letting the camera do it for you in jpeg.

  5. just bought it together with epl 5. incredible lens.

  6. well , look what a macro lens for m4/3 this Oly 60mm f2.8 is , and i liked the pics so so much, i wish there was such lenses for Sony’s NEX system , BTW this lens is perfect and one can get so close as its obvious in the shots … , i wonder what if we use Extension tubes?!!! (i definitely love macro shots) , oh i think im gonna need a m4/3 to NEX system adapter ;) , thanks Mr.huff :D :)

    • I think you would get some significant vinetting by using a MFT lens on an APS-C sensor. Does such an adapter exist?

      • :) Agree on Vignetting , but thats an effect for it self ;) though Hopefully not too much!!!
        The Adapter.. guess that exists ! try google it or just search amazon , i just found some though they come cheap 25$ at most (amazon , Fotodiox !!!) but surely if there was a Novoflex Adapter it would be 200$+ , …Well i think im gonna hold it right here and use the sony 30mm macro but hell i just found a !! Yasuhara Nanoha Macro with freaking 5:1 magnification and on Lens 3 LEDs!!! (for 500$) , is there any one tested that lens ???? here is the link:
        http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/852858-REG/YASUHARA_YA24_NAN5E_Nanoha_Macro_Lens_5_1.html
        And after ALL THANKS BEN ;) :D

  7. Great review Steve, Thanks for you comments I have thecamera and I took 7000 photos in Grece, stambul and Rusia this summer now I know the camera very well, I have a Leica M9 too and use the lenses in the Olympus they work very well.
    I am going to buy the lens how can I do it through Adorama I am already a custumer

  8. From one of my blog followers.. Thought it would be better placed here.
    —–
    From: Mel rolleri

    Great review steve. They’re all great! I have the omd-em5. Bought it a few months ago with the 12-50 kit lens. Then got the oly 45 mm, panny 20mm, panny 7-14, oly 75, and oly 12. I LOVE this camera and the lenses. Cannot praise it enough. An absolute convert from canon and the larger DSLR’s. I was looking at this lens next, but I’m not much of a macro shooter either. Would kind of be just experimenting at this point. May be kinda cool for holiday shooting though. Xmas lights, etc. I completely trust your opinion though. Couldn’t agree more with your reviews of the other oly primes. Simply gorgeous! Thanks for taking so much time with these. I will certainly use your amazon link to purchase things!

  9. Dude, Steve, great macro images and article. You are totally ruining me though, well my bank account that is. I have the Oly5 and dang, its an amazing beast. I’m selling my x100 to get a second Oly5 body. A while back I read your review and it put me over the edge to buy it and a few other goodies. The Oly5 is truly an amazing camera and much, much sharper than my Canon EOS 1D Mark III and L glass. Now look what you’ve done, I’ll have to go tell Santa to bring me the 60mm Macro and the 75mm 1.8. Gonna be a sliver Xmas at my studio. Keep up the awesome blogging.

  10. Very tempted by this, both for macro and as a 120mm. Was going to get the new 17mm, but Lenstip just ripped it apart (distortion, vignetting, astigmatism.) Will be interesting to get your thoughts on that one when it arrives. Keep up the good work!

  11. I’m not a macro shooter neither. This Macro lens surely is a stunner. But If Ii buy another lens for my om-d, it will certainly be the 75 1.8.
    Of course They both are pretty long for a walk around lens. In fact, they’re both not suitable as walk around lenses. But once you decide you want to take some telephoto shots, the 75 might be the better choice. It is equally sharp, faster and has better AF. The wider aperture will also serve to achieve what I am looking for a long time now. To take full body portraits with blurred or at least distinctly softened backgrounds.

    If you’re into macro though, of course this thing is the best you could get. It is lighter, smaller and much cheaper than the canon ef 100 2.8 is macro l-lens but seems every bit as sharp. The smaller sensor moreover helps to widen the dof, which comes in handy when taking macro shots, I guess.

    • I would definitely buy the 60mm over the 75mm. It’s smaller, lighter and cheaper, but every bit as sharp. Size and weight are important to me and although the 75mm has excellent build quality, it’s just too big and heavy. I can bet almost the same results with the 60mm and it doubles as an extraordinary fine macro lens too.

  12. Steve: How about one of your classic “Crazy Comparisons” between the macro capabilities of this lens and the RX1 Zeiss35? …just for shits & giggles :)

  13. Tired of m4/3 poor results over ISO 1600. Enter Fuji X-E1 with clean ISO 6400. Bottom line it opens flash free photography.

  14. Hey Steve,
    How about a comparison with the Panasonic 2.8 45mm Macro Elmarit as well. Your prior review was with JPEGs from a 12 MP EPL1 rather than the EM-5.
    Kartik

  15. Your marvellous shots ought to convert you to macro, Steve !
    Anything comparable for NEX in your view?

  16. Finally an Olympus micro four thirds lens that really feels like 4/3rds SHG glass. Though the 150 F1.8 also I think does that (or at least comes very close to doing it).

    - Raist

  17. First of all, nice review, Steve! And, I do agree, the M4/3 system has some fantastic lenses. That said, despite some very nice features, the M4/3 cameras, including the arguably (my opinion) over-hyped OM-D, are not for me.

    I could not imagine taking delicate-focus, macro shots with an OM-D, as I have found the AF to be terrible for delicate focus shots in general. A few months ago, I borrowed my friend’s OM-D for about an hour and tried to take delicate focus, shallow depth of field shots of the tips of lavender and other flowers in excellent light with a 40 or 50mm equivalent lens, and I was shocked at how terrible it was. From my experience, for any subject smaller than the focusing square, the OM-D has a tendency to select the background instead, which is unacceptable. Although I found a way around this – set focus on another subject of similar distance and then refocused on the smaller subject – it was very annoying and not fast at all!

    Shockingly, though the OM-D may be faster, when I tried a Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-E1, which are known for having slow AF, they were far more accurate: I did not have any troubles focusing on subjects smaller than the AF square with the Fuji’s with the 35mm f/1.4. Though I am neither an Olympus or Fuji user yet, if I were to get a mirrorless camera at the moment, I would not even consider the OM-D, primarily because of its inaccurate AF for delicate focus shots, but also because of its lack of sufficient dof control and its inferior image quality compared to the Fuji X series and NEX series cameras. Without the AA filter, the sharpness of the Fuji’s is very impressive too.

    I guess, for those who want to shoot delicate-focus macro shots with an OM-D, they should perhaps just shoot manually, which would allow them to avoid using its highly inaccurate AF system for those types of shots. And, I am sure, for any subject larger than the AF square, the OM-D’s AF should be sufficient.

    I was hesitant to share my opinion, but felt the need, due to the internet hype about the OM-D, which I believe is misinforming a lot of people. Although the OM-D has a lot of nice features (image stabilization, weather sealing, etc), the auto focus is highly inaccurate for any subject smaller than the focusing square, which means it is not as fast as people claim. If you just shoot subjects larger than the focusing square, I am sure the AF is sufficient. However, if you also like to take delicate focus shots (including, but not limited to, macro shots) and do not want to rely on manual focus, I would not recommend the OM-D, as the AF for those types of shots is inaccurate and frustrating, contrary to what the reviews will lead you to believe!

    • Thanks for reading..but, I think you may have either been using a dud or did not have it set up correctly. If anything, the OM-D for me has never given me focus issues. The NEX series on the other had has been awful for just what you describe, as well as the Fuji X-Pro 1 I have tried (twice now). The OM-D has been an amazing workhorse for me and never did this lens misfocus for me (unlike the Fuji 60 macro which is much slower and misses focus quite often). My review is not misleading in the least because I never have seen the issues you describe here. AF works just fine with this lens..in fact, it is quite excellent. Much more accurate for me then the NEX-6/7 or Fuji X-Pro. IQ stands toe to toe as well. Maybe not DOF but IQ is just fine for even large prints. WHen printed it is the image itself that matters..the subject matter. Any camera out today can do just fine in that dept.

      • Hi Steve,

        The lens was not a dud and it was set up correctly. As I mentioned, the AF issues that I encountered were for subjects smaller than the AF square. For those shots, it had a tendency to select the background instead of the smaller subject. A few days after, I asked another one of my friends, whom is a OM-D user and loves that camera (and, is a good photographer, who has been shooting for most of his life), if he has encountered the same issues, and he agreed that it wasn’t great for those types of shots, but can get around the issue as I did – set focus on a larger subject at a similar distance and refocus on the subject.

        And, I do agree with you about the Fuji 60mm: it is terrible for focusing. And, I haven’t used a Fuji X series camera enough to determine if the AF is sufficient to satisfy my needs with other lenses.

        By the way, I wasn’t saying that you are misleading anyone in this review. I have never tried this lens, and the sample images that you have posted above appear to be subjects larger than the focusing square. I just wanted to mention what I have experienced when using it, as I found it wasn’t for me. I don’t have those issues with my DSLR, but would like to find a smaller camera to replace it, especially for traveling.

        Have a great evening! Sorry if I offended you…

        • when 1st time using E5 I have same problem when focus tendency to background, specially when take a portrait. But when I switch off face detection I never had problem again till now.
          Can’t wait my 60mm arrive tomorrow..;-)

  18. There can be a problem with the focus for delicate objects with the default focus point, but use the touch screen to reduce the size of that focus point. For macro with the 60mm I usually have mine set to 14X

  19. Hi Steve,

    I know you reviewed the Pana-Leica 45mm/f2.8 macro wayyyy back in the wilderness days of 2010. Now that you’ve reviewed the 60mm/2.8, could you comment on how these two lenses compare with each other?

    Thanks,

    Andrew

  20. Hi, Steve! Thank you for keeping up this blog – one of the best parts is the space you give to people sharing their opinions, regardless if they agree with you or not.
    I have the OM-D with the 12-60mm, 12mm, 45mm and a 24mm CCTV lens. I do not shoot macro a lot and, when I do, I use close-up filters or the macro function of the 12-60mm. How would you compare the kit lens with the 60 macro for the casual macro shooter?
    Thank you!

  21. Hi Steve, nice review and exceptionally excellent blog indeed! It seems to me the Olympus 60mm is the optically superior lens when compared to the old Panny 45mm; but I’m stuck with my faithful GF1 and I’ve got no plan whatsoever to upgrade to an Olympus OM-D so practically I have to live without any IS if I go for the Olympus 60mm. Do I really benefit from any IS when shooting macro? For portraits I know IS of any form will help a lot during low lights but for macro? In my region, I can actually get both the Olympus 45mm F1.8 (which is the superior portrait lens, if I understand correctly) & the 60mm F2.8 for the price of a single Panny 45mm F2.8; but the biggest question remains: how much do I benefit from the IS when shooting macro? It would be a huge bet either way as return policy doesn’t exist at all over this side of the globe – either stick with it or sell it.

  22. Hi Steve, very nice review! I have been looking at this lens for a while, and when one now can get it for only §400 from B&H – I took the plunge, and bought it (its nearly half the price compared to Norwegian prices – so even with shipping and the Norwegian vat (25 %) its sheap).

    By the way, I bought it via your link above here :-) Keep up the very nice website with a lot of all your passion, heartiness and sincerity!

    Best regards,
    Anders H.

  23. Very nice and usefull reviews. My camera are still E PL 1, and I like to shoots macro. Is it worthy to buy this lense ? Thanks

  24. Omg….. Those eye pic though….they make me feel funny they so sharp *_* ……goddammit now i want one……

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