Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens


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    Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

      In Summary

      Buy this lens if:
      - You require a fast macro lens that delivers high resolution at the most commonly-used focal lengths.
      - You want a macro lens that provides a good working distance.
      - You'd like a close-up lens that is versatile enough to be used for portraiture and other types of subjects.
      - You'd like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.

      Full review

      When Olympus introduced its M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens at Photokina 2012 it filled a gap in the Micro Four Thirds system lens line-up and will be welcomed by photographers who shoot close-ups. Providing a focal length equivalent to 120mm in 35mm, this lens gives a true 1:1 macro reproduction ratio at a working distance of 29 cm.

      Side view of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens without the optional lens hood. (Source: Olympus.)

      This lens can be used for a wide variety of subjects from macro to portraits and even landscapes. Built with dust- and  splash-resistance and reliant on in-camera stabilisation, it's well matched to the OM-D E-M5 body but equally at home on the PEN E-PL5 that was provided for our review.

      Olympus's MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) autofocusing mechanism drives focusing by moving internal elements and it's quiet enough to use while recording movies. The filter thread doesn't rotate, allowing angle-critical attachments to be used without re-adjustment. A seven-bladed iris diaphragm closes to a circular aperture for attractive bokeh.

      The optical design of this lens is quite complex, with 13 elements arranged in 10 groups. Two HR (High Refractive Index) elements, one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and one  E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index)  are included to minimise common aberrations.  Proprietary ZERO (ZUIKO Extra-low Reflection Optical) coatings have been applied to minimise internal reflections and produce optimal image contrast.

      The lens was supplied with front and end caps plus the optional LH-49 automatic lens hood, which can be slid up and down the lens barrel and further reduces the effects of flare.  It has a bayonet fitting that can be tricky to fit and undo when the camera isn't well supported.
      The illustrations above show the LH-49 lens hood in place for shooting and pulled back onto the lens barrel. (Source: Olympus.)

      Buyers can take advantage of a number of the MAL-1 Macro Arm Light (RRP $99) that clips into the accessory port on PEN and OM-D cameras and provides adjustable LED lighting for close-up and macro photography. Each arm is 17 cm long, providing adequate flexibility to position the lights when the lens hood isn't extended but limited latitude when the hood is in place.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro is relatively long and thin, extending roughly 80 mm in front of the camera without the optional hood, which increases its overall length to 129 mm. Presumably, the barrel length is required to allow different groups of lens elements to move for focusing at different distances. Fortunately, it's also relatively light at 185 grams; the hood adds 31 grams.

      While not up to the standard of the M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 lens we reviewed recently (INSERT LINK), this lens sits comfortably in the 'High Grade' class in Olympus's line-up. Despite being made mainly from black polycarbonate plastic, it feels sturdily built for its size and weight.

      A solid chromed mounting plate attaches the lens firmly to the camera. Eleven gold-plated electronic connections inside the lens mount provide connections to OM-D and PEN cameras. This lens will also work with Panasonic's Lumix G Micro series camera bodies (which aren't stabilised).

      The end cap supplied with the lens is a push-on type and was rather a tight fit. This made it awkward to attach at times. We'd prefer a bayonet-type mounting on end caps as it makes changing lenses faster and easier.

      Being a prime lens, the 60mm f/2.8 Macro has only one control surface: the focusing ring. It's approximately 32 mm wide and situated roughly 17 mm behind the front of the lens barrel. A 20 mm wide grip band with fine ridges is located around the middle of this ring.

      The focusing ring turns through more than 360 degrees in either direction and there are no stops to indicate when you have gone too far. Unlike the M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 lens, the mechanism isn't geared to match the speed at which the ring is rotated so the only feedback to the user when focusing manually is what's shown on the monitor screen.

      The barrel contracts slightly just behind the grip band. Behind it is an indicator window showing shooting distance and magnification, enabling users to set precise macro reproduction ratios.

       Four reproduction ratio settings are provided: 1:1 at 19 cm, 1:1.3 at 20 cm, 1:2 at 23 cm and 1:4 at 34 cm. The maximum focusing distance is infinity. A focus limiter switch is located on the left side of the barrel. It has three settings plus a shortcut that takes the lens to 1:1 magnification, which allows you to shoot subjects roughly 10 cm from the front of the lens.

      The 0.4m to infinity setting covers a general shooting range for non-macro shooting. It's the best option for portraiture and other subjects that fall outside the macro range. The 0.19m to infinity setting allows focusing across the full distance range from macro to infinity.  The 0.19m to 0.4m setting keeps focusing within the close-up range and covers reproduction ratios from 1:1 to 1:4.

      Twisting the dial to the 1:1 setting gives you quick access to true macro focus but, when released, the dial springs back to the 0.19m to 0.4m setting if you're in an autofocusing mode. Consequently, it's more useful when focusing manually because once you've set the focus at the full magnification, it won't change unless you rotate the focusing ring. With manual focusing, going from infinity to 1:1 magnification requires a lot of turning of the focusing ring. The shortcut eliminates this problem and saves you time.

      While the AF system worked well when shooting within the 0.19m to 0.4m, it was also easy to  set a particular magnification using manual focus and then move the camera a little until the desired area of the subject appeared sharp on the monitor screen. The magnification button proved helpful for checking focus accuracy when the camera was on a tripod but wasn't as easy to use when the camera was hand-held.

      Performance
      Provided the focus limiter switch was used appropriately, we found the review lens was able to match the fast autofocusing speed of the PEN E-PL5 body we tested it on. However, expecting fast focusing when the limiter was set to 0.19m to infinity is unrealistic, particularly with low-contrast subjects.

      In such circumstances, hunting was common and the lens frequently failed to find focus, although in the  S-AF+MF mode it was possible to use manual focusing to bring the lens close to focus and let the AF system lock on. The AF-Assist LED enabled faster focusing for close-ups in dim lighting but didn't completely overcome the issues with low-contrast subjects.

      Imatest showed this lens to be capable of matching expectations for the PEN E-PL5's 16-megapixel sensor between f/3.2 and f/7.1 and coming close at wider aperture settings. Diffraction reduced resolution from about f/8 and there was a significant fall-off between f/16 and f/22, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
       

       
       Lateral chromatic aberration remained within the 'negligible' zone for most aperture settings, as shown in the graph below. (The red line marks the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA.)

       

      Vignetting was negligible at the widest aperture settings.  There was no apparent distortion in the test shots we took, although slight edge softening could be seen at aperture settings wider than f/5.6.

      The lens hood helped to prevent flare in the most frequently-occurring backlit situations. Shots taken with relatively strong backlighting showed no loss of contrast or colour saturation.

      Bokeh was generally smooth and attractive, with no evidence of outlining around bright highlights. Even when the lens is stopped down, the depth of field in macro shots is extremely narrow, which makes focusing (and choosing where to focus) critical to producing the impressive results this lens is capable of.

      Buy this lens if:
      - You require a fast macro lens that delivers high resolution at the most commonly-used focal lengths.
      - You want a macro lens that provides a good working distance.
      - You'd like a close-up lens that is versatile enough to be used for portraiture and other types of subjects.
      - You'd like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.

      SPECS

       Picture angle: 20 degrees
       Minimum aperture: f/22
       Lens construction: 13 elements in 10 groups; includes 2 HR, 1 ED and 1 E-HR elements
       Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
       Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
       Focus drive: Inner focus with screw drive mechanism
       Stabilisation: n.a. (relies on in-camera IS)
       Minimum focus:  19 cm (from imager plane)
       Maximum magnification: 1.0x (Micro Four Thirds) / 2.0x (35mm format)
       Filter size:  46 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): 56 x 82 mm
       Weight: 185 grams

      RRP: AU$599; US$500

      TESTS

      (based on JPEG files from the Olympus PEN-E-PL5)

       

       

       

      SAMPLES

       
       

      Vignetting at f/2.8.
       
       

      Rectilinear distortion.

      1:1 macro shot of a strawberry flower; ISO 400, 1/125 second at f/7.1.

      1:1 macro shot; ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/11.
       
       

      1:2 close-up; ISO 1000, 1/160 second at f/9.
       
       

      Bokeh and narrow plane of focus at f/2.8; ISO 200,1/400 second.

      The same subject at f/5.6; ISO 320, 1/160 second.

      The same subject at f/8; ISO 640, 1/125 second.
       
       

      The same subject at f/22, ISO 1600, 1/50 second.
       
       

      Close-up with the 0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Strong backlighting with the 0.4m-infinity setting plus Digital Tele Converter; ISO 200, 1/2000 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      0.19-0.4m setting; ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/8.

      Used as a portrait lens in dim indoor lighting with 0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 1600, 1/10 second at f/4.5.

      0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/5.6.

      0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/5.

      0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/8.
       
       

       0.4m-infinity setting; ISO 400, 1/125 second at f/5.
       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$599; US$500

      • Build: 8.5
      • Handling: 8.8
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 9.0

      BUY

        No