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Quick Look at the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro

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Tyler, as Tyler does, handed me three copies of the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens this morning. It wasn’t a great day for testing; Wednesdays are always the busiest repair and turnaround day. But I did manage to squeeze in  a couple of hours with them.

 

 

The size surprised me at first. Not that it’s big, but just that it’s rather long and thin. It has multiple moving groups, though, so I assume the length is needed to let those elements move around properly. (Three separate groups move for focusing at different ranges.) It also has a handy scale on top showing the Macro magnification from 1:4 to 1:1.

 

On the side of the lens is a focus range limiter switch. Very handy to have, although I’m not sure what I think about the spring:loaded 1:1 limit setting. I think I’d prefer just another click stop, but overall I like it.

 A Few Images

I didn’t have the Olympus adapter and flash so I was limited in what I could do around the office in ambient light. But I do love some 1:1 macro shooting so I tried to make do.

It’s a nice sharp lens at f/2.8. Below is the center 25% of a non-macro sot of a dollar bill, followed by a piece of 100% crop from a 1:1 Macro shot the same.

 

 

 

I’ve always preferred 100mm or 150mm macros on SLRs for the longer working distance and I find the same holds true on m4/3. I enjoy the longer working distance the 60mm lens provides (it’s 1:1 at 7.5 inches focusing distance) shooting my usual macro targets: circuit boards.

Here’s a non-macro shot of the board.

 

 

Crop from 1:1 Macro of the right side of the chip with the white barcode sticker.

And, of course, the requisite picture of a dime. I told you I didn’t have any macro subjects handy.

Imatest Results

Of course I tested it. That’s what I do. But I consider the testing setup we used to still be experimental. Until recently, the limitations of our equipment meant that we could only test Macro lenses at regular shooting distances. A 100mm macro was tested at 12 to 18 feet. How a Macro lens performs at that distance (or at infinity) doesn’t necessarily correlate with how it performs at Macro distances.

We’ve worked with Imatest to develop a more appropriate Macro testing setup and have found it effective at 1:5 and 1:3 shooting distances for SLRs. Unfortunately, the test target is shaped for 3:2 sensors, which means it doesn’t line up perfectly with a 4:3 sensor. That means different parts of the image are read (the upper and lower readings are closer to the center, the side readings further away). I mention this because the results we get with m4/3 lenses should be comparable among themselves, but will NOT be comparable to other cameras and lenses. And you can’t compare these results to standard distance results we’ve gotten with other m4/3 lenses. Different setup on different charts.

Anyway, we did make the logical comparison between the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro and the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro. We tested 3 copies of each (all we had) and I’ve put the average (mean) of the results in the table below. There’s a numeric difference, but it’s not meaningful. For all intents and purposes the resolution of the two lenses is identical.

LensCtr MTF50Avg MTF50
Olympus 60mm f/2.8720600
Panasonic 45mm f/2.8700590

Summary

Truth is, comparing the two lenses is rather silly. If you shoot Olympus, you’ll probably want the 60mm Olympus lens because it’s cheaper for about the same quality. (It’s still cheaper even after you shell out $70 for the ‘sold-separately’ lens hood since Olympus has decided nickel-and-diming customers is good business.) If you shoot Panasonic you’ll probably want the OIS of the Panasonic / Leica lens.

Of course, there will be other usability differences that I don’t look at, but which may be important to you. Reviews are starting to trickle out, though, so that information should be available soon.

 

Roger Cicala

Lensrentals.com

September 2012

23 Responses to “Quick Look at the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro”

A said:

Thankyou Roger! As the numbers aren’t comparable how do you feel they compare with the fullframe macros, particularly the Canon 100mm (non IS)?

I’m mainly asking as that’s my point of reference – as it’s the macro lens I have, and I know how well my copy performs (it’s seriously sharp).

Camera shake is very visible on your 100% crop of the chip though.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Adrian,

I certainly thought, particularly given the shooting conditions (ambient indoor light hand-held for 1:1 macro is certainly not ideal) that they did very well. I’d certainly find them comparable to the Canon or the Sigma 150 f/2.8.

Roger

A said:

Thankyou Roger, that’s good to know!

Here’s a thought for you… Sorry to do this… Have you tried testing different lenses at different temperatures? I know Canon used to claim that The Great Whites were that colour to reflect heat when they were used outdoors in the sun. Are any lenses more thermostable than others? Obviously most materials expand or contract when exposed to heat – how much do metal lens mounts expand? Could a plastic one actually be better as it (probably) isn’t so prone to thermal contraction/expansion?

Anyway; just throwing that out there – apologies if I’m the one to finally drive you over the edge ;)

Also, thanks again for the info – your articles here are probably the most interesting on the internet at the moment – at least to me; sample size of one!

Walter Freeman said:

Dumb question:

Is MTF50 a good yardstick to use for sharpness? Why do we use MTF50 rather than MTF80 (say) or “the value of the MTF at X lp/ph?”

I ask because I remember my father’s disappointment with a particular Canon lens (70-200 non IS) which suffered from just plain low contrast at 200/2.8. Fine detail was there (and the MTF50 reflected this), but even coarse detail was gauzy-looking; in other words, the MTF50 was good but the MTF80 was bad.

Samuel Hurtado said:

Just out of curiosity: could you test a nice non-macro manual lens with some cheap macro tubes? Just to see how bad is this $10 solution to macro photography.

Laurence said:

Roger, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and find it very interesting, however I keep forgetting to look back for new entries, and then am suddenly reminded of it when I see a link on reddit. Have you considered having an RSS or Atom feed for the blog? That would allow me to follow it with all the other ones I read, and would be very much appreciated!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Laurence,

We are looking at doing some changes to organize things, it’s gotten too big and unwieldy, and we should have an RSS feed.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Walter,

This can of worms could go on forever. I don’t think MTF 80 is an option on any of the software (it might be with DxO but I don’t have that). I think MTF50 is a good reflection of fine detail which you can’t add back in post processing. Acutance from coarse detail (wouldn’t that be more MTF 10 or 20? if I’m following correctly)can to some degree be corrected in post.

Roger

CarVac said:

@Samuel Hurtado: Various lenses have differing performance with extension tubes. Some designs suffer at very close focus (Contax Zeiss Planar 50/1.4), but others are better (Contax Zeiss Sonnar 135/2.8). The latter one still goes soft in the corners at f/2.8, but it sharpens up decently if you stop down.

Philip said:

Hi, If I want to copy some 35mm slides is this macro a good choice? Would this be more convenient than say a dedicated slide scanner? Thanks

Samuel H said:

Thanks @CarVac. I was already guessing it wouldn’t be the same with all lenses, but would like to have a better idea of what kind of performance I’m forfeiting by being such a cheap b—— :)

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Phillip,

It will work, especially if you have a copy stand and good lighting. It’s not going to be quite as good as a scanner, but often good enough.

ak said:

One thing I’m hearing in reviews is that the olympus lens has less loca than the panasonic (and most other macros ‘cept perhaps the sigma); did you observe similar behavior ? Btw curious how you managed to obtain the 3 copies I haven’t been able to find them in usa.

Promit Roy said:

Hey Roger, you botched the link to Imatest. It tries to link back internally.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

ak,

I didn’t really have a chance to look at that. As to copies, Tyler has some connections outside the US that get us a few copies of most things much sooner than US releases.

ak said:

Ok thanks; one last question – was there much variation in samples with either the panasonic or olympus lens ?

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

ak – I only had a few copies of each. There wasn’t but with 3-4 copies that doesn’t mean anything, really.

Walter Freeman said:

Olympus sure knows how to make macro lenses. I have the modest little 35mm f/3.5, and it is blisteringly sharp wide open with a 2x teleconverter at any focus distance — not much more you can ask, there.

Binggy said:

I plan to get the 60mm macro lens in the next 2 weeks. The 12-50mm kit lens in macro mode is a fantastic performer in its own right. I wonder how much better the 60mm macro is compared to that?

Esa Tuunanen said:

Binggy, it’s 1:1 lens so at closest distance it gives you image from sensor sized area.

Prem Lang Pinga Prong said:

Excellent lens and much, much better then that horrible new 17mm f/1.8. I was looking for a good macro lens for my micro 4/3 setup and this is it. I can also use it for portraits, very nice.

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