I'm a macro addict. It's true. I love macro lenses. I love macro photography. Being able to photograph something and make it larger than life makes me realize how complex and intricate life truly is. So when Olympus sent me their 60mm Macro f/2.8 lens I was ecstatic. I mounted it to the OM-D E-M5 and couldn't wait to see what it had to offer. It didn't take long before I realized this lens was fantastic. From the first image I was impressed.
The addition of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 has brought on an onslaught of premium lenses from Olympus. Recently released lenses have ranged from the wide angle 17mm f/1.8 pancake lens to the telephoto 75mm f/1.8 prime lens (both of which we are in the midst of reviewing). These lenses provide users with wide open apertures and solid design features. The 60mm f/2.8 is no exception. But these premium lenses come with a significant price tag. And most buyers want to know they are getting a great product for the cost.
Overview of Lens
The Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens weighs 185g and its diameter measures 56x82mm making it almost the exact size of the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3, but weighing slightly less. It has a set focal length of 60 mm (equivalent of 120mm in 35mm camera standards). The lens has seven circular diaphragm blades that help to increase the "bokeh" effect formed in the defocused areas of the image. The lens is also equipped with a high-speed Imager AF system. Imager AF is acquired by way of contrast detection and generally focuses on the subject nearest the lens. This lens is designed for everyday shooting with an emphasis on macro photography. The 60mm macro lens is easy and fun to use. A small dial on the lens allows it to be operated in either traditional or macro mode. Currently, this lens retails for $499.99.
Build and Design
The 60mm f/2.8 lens has a dust-proof, splash-proof construction. This lens incorporates 13 elements in 10 groups and uses ED (Extra-low Dispersion), HR (High Refractive index) and E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index) glass. Olympus' goal of including this expensive glass is to completely eliminate chromatic aberrations that can be found in other lenses. The overall build of the lens is lightweight. It is seemingly sturdy, yet the outside of the lens is made of hard plastic not metal. Although this is something we have come to expect from a lot of current lenses, there is a dramatic difference between the weight and feel of this lens versus the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 (which is an extremely well-built, albeit chunky metal lens). Those users wanting an ultra-compact lens might be slightly disappointed. I believe, however, they will get over this feeling rather quickly after seeing the image quality this lens produces.
The lens has two main purposes: traditional shooting and macro photography. In both conditions the lens excels. I found I was able to use this lens in a variety of shooting conditions. However, the 120mm equivalent focal length made it nearly impossible for this lens to be used exclusively. Although this is a great addition to your camera bag, I wouldn't recommend it be your only lens. As a portrait and wedding photographer I had the ability to take the lens to several weddings and portrait sessions. These were circumstances where I needed it to preform quickly and accurately. In the majority of the situations it was flawless. In fact, the OM-D EM-5 combined with the 60mm f/2.8 macro was able to outperform my Nikon D600 setup on more than one occasion (gasp). Yes, it's true. In two separate hand-held low lighting situations, the Olympus combination was able to capture images that my Nikon rendered unusable due to camera shake. I know I have the OM-D E-M5's 5-axis image stabilization to thank for that, but my ability to capture those images was also due to the fast 2.8 aperture on the 60mm lens.
In traditional shooting mode I found the images to be sharp and have good color quality. In low light situations the lens performed well. I did not notice any chromatic aberration. In addition, I did not notice any blatant distortion. The lens was quiet while autofocusing. In most situations the AF was relatively fast, but I am not a sports photographer. In fact, I wouldn't recommend this lens if that is your sole purpose. Olympus makes far better lenses if you have a need for speed. But for portraits, this lens delivers consistently great results. The lens is slightly less than tack sharp. Which, when combined with high ISOs and lower shutter speeds is amplified.
Traditional shooting was great, but macro mode was even better. Macro photography requires a lot of patience. It involves a deeper level of concentration and attention to detail to create an exact point of focus. With some lenses I have found that my patience has been further tested by extreme "lens hunting" and slow AF. Although I experienced some hunting, this was typically not the case with this lens. I used the lens in both manual and AF while shooting macro. In both situations the lens created sharp images. The only AF issues I ran into was when the subject moved faster than the AF. This happened when I went outside to grab a macro image of snow resting on pine needles. A slight wind was moving the needles enough to make this image challenging. But, in AF mode I was able to nail the shot within a few exposures.
As I stated before, I did not notice chromatic aberration. The defocused areas were pretty smooth, yet I noticed a "ghostlike" doubled edge around the background objects in some images. Below you will see an example of the doubled edge effect.
Ease of Use
As a 60mm f/2.8 prime lens, one would expect that it is on the larger end of the Olympus Micro Four-Thirds lens spectrum. Currently, there are only a few Olympus lenses that are longer and/or heavier than this one. That being said, I wasn't overly aware of either measurement. Using the lens is not difficult to get used to once you figure out the small dial on the side of the lens. When choosing to use the lens in traditional mode the dial should be set to 0.4 to infinity. When shooting in macro mode, the dial should be set to the 0.19 to 0.4m setting. It will give you full 1:1 magnification. Moving the dial to the 1:1 setting automatically transfers the dial back to the 0.19-0.4m setting anyway. I used this action when I wanted a quick setting change to macro mode without having to look at the lens. Once I was used to changing the mode dial it was smooth sailing.
This one is a keeper. I am a big fan of this lens -- mainly due to my love of all things macro. The autofocus was generally fast, the color quality was very good and the images were pretty sharp. I found the image quality to be excellent for this price range. As a portrait photographer I could easily utilize this lens in traditional shooting mode. As a macro fanatic, the macro setting of this lens was extremely fun to play with. My only real concern with the 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is the double edge effect I noticed especially at wide open apertures. At times I did not notice it much, but sometimes it was far too obvious and quite distracting. That being said, I still recommend this lens. For me, it's simple. This lens makes me want to use it. For those who are not used to macro photography it will open up a whole new world to you. For those that already love macro it will allow you to further your craft.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is available for $499.99.