Macro Lens Swap
Thursday 8 November 2012 — Category: Equipment
When I first put together my Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) lens kit back in July, as far as macro lenses went, the Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 Aspherical Mego OIS lens was the only game in town — although Olympus had announced their own macro lens back in February.
Even though the Panasonic macro lens has received lots of praise for its image quality, and it has worked OK for me, I have not been totally happy with it. Compared to the Sony macro lenses I have used in the past, this lens seems to have a hard time auto-focusing on the object I’m trying to photograph. In addition, a longer focal length would allow me to stay further away from the subject, which is important when taking close-ups of living creatures.
Nine months after the Olympus announcement, the M. Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 macro lens arrived on my doorstep today, one day ahead of schedule. There are a few things I like about this lens, even before I have had much of a chance to use it.
First of all, I appreciate the magnification and distance scale on the lens body (as you can see to the right), which makes it easier to focus on the subject at hand. Secondly, as I mentioned above, it has a longer focal length than the Panasonic macro (45mm vs. 60mm — 90mm vs. 120mm equivalent), so you don’t have to get as close to the subject you are photographing.
Finally, the Olympus macro has a more useful focus limiter switch compared to the Panasonic, as shown to the right. The Panasonic macro focus limiter switch has only two positions: one for focusing from 6 inches to infinity, and the other for focusing from 20 inches to infinity.
The Olympus macro has more numerous and more useful settings: one position for focusing from 16 inches (0.4m) to infinity, a second position for focusing from 7.5 (0.19m) inches to infinity, and a third position, perfect for macro photography, limiting the focus from 7.5 to 16 inches (0.19-0.4m) — there’s no use trying to focus far away when you’re trying to take a close-up! When you turn the dial to the fourth position (1:1), the lens automatically focuses all the way to 7.5 inches, and then the dial snaps back to the third position. Very nice!
Now let’s take a look at a few test shots I took in my home office. Let me first say that they were all shot handheld in low light at ISO 1600 — this is where the Olympus OM-D E-M5’s excellent optical image stabilization and low-noise sensor really shine. Even though the pictures came out pretty good, they would have been even better if I had put the camera on a tripod, so I could have focused more accurately, and also reduced the ISO for less noise.
The first test shot shows some numbers — 3.5mm (just over ⅛ inch) tall — stamped on a metal disc 16mm (⅔ inch) in diameter.
The second test shot is of an Israeli flag lapel pin, again, like the disc, about 16mm (⅔ inch) across.
The last photo shows the subpixels of my HP desktop computer screen, cropped at 100% magnification. Each pixel — made up of a red, green and blue subpixel — is only 0.27mm (one hundredth of an inch!) across, so each colored subpixel is only about 0.09mm (3.5 thousandths of an inch!) across. With the naked eye, it’s hard to see the individual pixels on the screen, not to mention the actual subpixels. Again, if I had been using a tripod, these pixels might have been in better focus. Still, it’s a pretty detailed view of some very small electronics.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of interesting close-up shots I can get with this new macro lens. And just like the Olympus lens I mentioned in my last article, my Panasonic 45mm macro lens is now up for sale on Amazon.com. With this acquisition, my Micro Four Thirds lens kit is complete — soon I will post an updated article about its final composition.
For a great hands-on review of this lens, be sure to check out the three-part article by Robin Wong in Malaysia.