Super Sharp 60mm

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Lichen and rock. Captured with a 60mm Macro lens on an Olympus EM5
Lichen and rock. Captured with a 60mm Macro lens on an Olympus EM5

I think I have mentioned previously that I recently purchased a 60mm Olympus Macro lens for use with my EM5. At that time I hadn’t had the opportunity to use it but I finally put the lens through its paces during my visit to Acadia National Park in the US. Here are my thoughts having now it used it for a number of days.

First off I should say that although I have a number of prime lenses, I have historically tended to use zoom lenses. I think this is because they are better suited to shooting on a tripod (which I do a lot being a Landscape Photographer), as you tend to place the tripod first and then use the zoom to fine tune the composition. With a prime you find yourself moving the camera and your position constantly to refine the composition. The benefit to this is that you feel you are engaging much more intensely with the subject matter. It’s a different way of shooting that I actually find more rewarding.

The 60mm lens is quite long in terms of focal length as its equivalent to a 120mm lens on a full frame camera. This results in a very shallow depth of field, even when you stop down. It does however allow you to maintain a nice working distance to your subject. If you are unfamiliar with using a macro lens of this focal length I think there is a tendency to move too close to the subject initially, unless you are doing serious close-ups. In the image you see at the top of this post I would estimate I am around 4 feet from the subject.

On the side of the lens there is a switch which allows you to set the focus distance to the subject. The options are 0.19m-infinity, 0.19m-0.4m, 0.4m-infinity or 1:1. The idea of the first three is that you can set the working distance and helps prevent the camera hunting around to focus. At first I thought this would be a bit of a pain but it isn’t and the focus speed isn’t bad at all.

The 1:1 focusing that I mentioned above works slightly differently to the other options. When this is selected you can move in really close to your subject and achieve a 1:1 magnification. With this option you don’t focus the camera with the shutter but move the camera backwards and forwards. The depth of field even when stopped down is wafer thin due to the long focal length and close working distances. If you are going to do any close up work I strongly suggest purchasing a focussing rack such as the one mentioned in my panoramic kit in a previous blog. This will allow you to move the camera to focus.

In case you are not familiar with Macro lenses, they can be used at distances up to infinity. I would say this particular lens would also make an amazingly good portrait lens. I had a lot of fun using this lens in the woodlands of Acadia to pick out trees. The focal length was good but it was also nice not to have to think about it. By removing the zoom aspect of composition it somehow simplified my working but at the same time made me think more.

So, in terms of operation I thought this lens was great. It provided much more flexibility than I had expected. As for results, this lens is exceptional. It is so sharp and renders such detail as to be breathtaking. OK, that’s hard for me to quantify and prove but I would say this is the sharpest lens I have, even sharper than the 45mm (but it’s only marginal).

I will look to post some further example images in the near future, both close up and distance.

I hope you like the image.

Looking Closer

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Close up with the macro function on the 12-50mm Olympus kit lens.
Close up with the macro function on the 12-50mm Olympus kit lens. The shallow depth of field has been exagerated a little with OnOne FocalPoint software.

I have to start this blog post with an admission. I have been purchasing new camera equipment again. This time it’s the Olympus 60mm macro lens. I had promised to buy myself one of these when I sold my Canon 5D MkII, but then thought I couldn’t justify it.

Macro isn’t my usual style of photography but on my recent trip to France I spent some time in a botanical garden photographing the flowers. I didn’t achieve anything spectacular (or even close to spectacular) but I did enjoy myself. The experience convinced me that I should buy the lens.

The image you see above was shot using the 12-50mm kit lens from my Olympus OMD. This has a macro button on the side which is surprisingly good at getting you close to subjects. It’s not as sharp as a dedicated Macro lens but it certainly provides better magnification than simply using a telephoto lens.

Another alternative I had looked at was a Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter that will attach to the front of other lenses. This was good value for money but the results from the 12-50mm kit lens are much better. If you have a micro 43 camera and would like to try macro photography but don’t want the expense of a dedicated macro lens, these options might be worth a look.

Once I have managed to capture some nice images with the Olympus 60mm macro lens I will post a few samples.