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Samsung 60mm F2.8 Macro ED OIS SSA Lens Review
by Jim Keenan -  2/12/2014

Don't speak Samsung as a second language? The 60mm F/2.8 macro ED portion of the lens's official designation is relatively universal--a 60mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and at least one element made of extra low dispersion glass. OIS indicates the lens is stabilized, while SSA refers to the name Samsung applies to the autofocus motor of the lens: super sonic actuator. SSA uses the vibration of a piezoelectric element to produce a powerful driving force and fast autofocus performance according to Samsung.

Overview
The Samsung 60mm macro is fast prime lens designed principally for extreme close-up photography of what typically tend to be small subjects. But you don't need to be shooting the spines of a mini cactus from a couple inches away to enjoy the 60mm, it works quite well on a sleeping cat from a distance also.

When mounted on Samsung cameras utilizing APS-C sensors the crop factor causes the lens to perform as if it were a 92.4mm lens in 35mm equivalents. Back when we all shot 35mm film, portrait photographers specializing in head and shoulder style shots tended to use lenses in the 85 to 135mm range--my personal favorite was a 105mm. That 90+mm lens focal length falls right at the lower end of the old portrait lens range so the 60mm is a good candidate for portrait work even if you never plan to get very close to a tiny subject.

The lens offers automatic and manual focus and carries a $600 MSRP from Samsung, but is currently available at reputable internet vendors for about $509.

Build and Design
The 60mm macro features a robust construction consisting of a composite and metal barrel and metal lens mount --weight is about 13.15 ounces. When you consider that our Galaxy NX review camera with the 18-55 kit lens weighed in at 25.3 ounces you gain an appreciation for the solid feel imparted by the 60mm. Lens dimensions are 2.89 inches diameter and 3.3 inches overall length. Construction consists of 12 elements in 9 groups, including 1aspherical lens and 1extra low dispersion lens. The front of the lens is threaded and accepts 52 mm filters - minimum aperture is f/32.

As you would expect from a lens designed for close-up photography, minimum focus distance on the 60mm macro is about 7.36 inches - and it is important to remember that this distance is from the subject to the sensor plane in the camera, not the subject to the front element of the lens. That means you can focus with the front element of the lens just inside 3 inches from your subject, if necessary. The 60mm macro produces a reproduction ratio of approximately 1:1 -- that is to say, it is able to capture very small subjects at life size on the camera sensor. Here's two looks at a red coral squash blossom necklace: the first from a bit of a distance and the second at minimum focus distance.  The diameter of the rounded bottom portion of the necklace is 2.75 inches.

As mentioned earlier the lens is stabilized, which can be a big help when trying to do macro work handheld. The design and very nature of their close focus properties means macro lenses tend to produce very narrow depth of field--this can be helped somewhat by closing the lens down toward the minimum aperture end of its range, but in doing so shutter speeds drop and will quickly enter a range where, stabilization or not, you're not going to be able to hand hold the camera and produce a sharp image. If you plan on doing a lot of macro work and want to maximize the limited depth of field available with a true macro lens, invest in a sturdy tripod if you don't already have one.

Image Quality
Image quality out of the 60mm macro was quite good - the lens appeared uniformly sharp across the frame, including edges and corners at maximum aperture. It looked a bit sharper stopped down to f/5.6, but suffice it to say if you have to shoot the 60mm wide open you're not giving up much in terms of optical performance. I didn't notice any pincushion or barrel distortion with the lens and images of high contrast boundary areas appeared free of chromic aberration (purple fringing). This is a good piece of glass.

Ease-of-Use/User Experience
When matched up with our Galaxy NX review camera the 60mm macro produces a nose heavy balance, although not disagreeably so. With the relatively short length of the lens barrel supported by the left hand during two-handed shooting the camera is actually quite pleasant to use. The 60mm macro comes with a lens hood but none was provided with our review sample.

If you look closely at the 60mm you'll notice what appeared to be 2 focus rings: a wide ring near the front of the lens and a very narrow ring towards the base of the lens, just forward of the i function button on the left side of the lens barrel. The wide ring is the focus ring, the narrow is the i function ring. When using the viewfinder it's a simple matter to activate the i function button with the thumb of the left hand while rotating the ring with the left forefinger to change settings selected by the i function button. You can perform the same operation using the camera monitor, but it's an ergonomic disaster trying it that way--with the camera at eye level shifting gears with the i function button/ring on this lens is a breeze.

This lens is also equipped with a full/limit button which segments the lens focusing range depending on setting: with "full" selected the lens will focus from its minimum focus distance of a bit over 7 inches out to infinity. Switch the lens to "limit" and it will focus from about 19.75 inches to infinity. If you're not using the lens for close in work keep it switched to limit to help autofocus performance by disregarding the nearby focus area.

The Galaxy NX/60mm macro combination made one technique I often employ when shooting quasi-macro close-ups handheld a fairly easy operation. I established a manual focus point and then using the large Galaxy NX monitor slowly moved the entire camera in and out from the subject until I acquired sharp focus on the part of the subject I was interested in. At that point I held the camera steady (with stabilization enabled) and then tripped the shutter using the voice activation feature of the Galaxy NX.

Conclusion
If you're shooting a Samsung NX mount camera and have need for a true macro lens, you'll love this 60mm macro. You'll have to because the big aftermarket lens makers Sigma and Tamron don't make any products for the Samsung NX mount at present. But based on my observed performance of this lens it's a fine piece of glass that would be a credit to its maker if the name were changed to Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.

The primary question becomes if you want to truly do macro work or simply close-ups. The 18-55mm lens provided with the Galaxy NX kit has a close focus distance of just a tiny fraction over 11 inches--and again, that's 11 inches from the subject to the sensor plane near the rear of the camera, so you got a fairly decent close-up capability with the kit lens alone.

But there's a lot to recommend the 60mm macro--it's fast, it's sharp and it does a lot of other things extremely well besides macro. This lens is a worthy addition to your lens arsenal if you're shooting a Samsung.

Sample images