Looking Closer

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.

12 thoughts on “Looking Closer

  1. Hello… um, anonymous lightweight photographer!

    I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and I’ve been enjoying your posts very much. I can identify closely with much of what you’re writing so it’s very nice to know there’s someone else out there with similar ideas and opinions.

    I was impressed to read that you sold your 5D mkII in favor of m43 gear. It’s certainly a big leap… or rather a small one. 🙂 I too sold my canon gear to pay for my lovely OM-D and a variety of lenses.

    I’ve always been an avid macro shooter even since childhood… so I was thrilled when the 60mm macro was announced and I purchased it the minute I could get my hands on it. It is a spectacular macro lens. Truly breathtaking. If this lens were for larger formats, I’m certain it would give the best Leica, Schneider and Zeiss glass a run for their money. I think the only thing standing in the way of this Olympus 60mm macro taking the title of all time best, sharpest macro lens in history, is the fact that it only fills a relatively tiny sensor. Imagine a macro lens of this quality and sharpness filling a 36x48mm medium format sensor!!

    Once again, I’m enjoying reading through your posts. I feel as though you are writing the blog I’ve always wanted to write myself… focusing on thoughts, experiences and opinions rather than technical specifications and new products. Keep up the wonderful work! I look forward to more.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback Neil, both about the blog and the quality of the Macro lens. I understand what you are saying about the 36×48 sensor and that the OMD sensor is tiny in comparison. The only point I would make is that most people will never truly benefit from the larger sensor. In my experience having given presentations at lots of camra clubs, when I ask people to distinguish between a well printed LX5 image at A3+ and a well printed Canon MKII image at the same size, they can’t pick one from the other. I would say that for printed work up to A2 the OMD is more than sufficient for the majority of people. For images to be viewed on a computer screen, why would you want more. I would however love to see the lens on the larger sensor though, you know, the curiosity thing about how good it really is. Hope to hear from you again. Robin

      1. Robin, your points about print size are absolutely right and I whole-heartedly agree. I tell most of my students not worry about sensor size or noise levels for facebook images… even ISO 25600 shot on the OM-D in a dark night club looks fantastic when viewed on Facebook! The main this is to have a lens and sensor combination that allows for creative control of depth of field and enough light for reasonable shutter speeds. Honestly, for most consumer needs, I think you’d have a hard time proving any modern camera seriously lacking in image quality. Features are a different story.

        However… for my studio work, I do use a Hasselblad with a Zeiss 120mm or 180mm lens and a PhaseOne medium format back. For product work, I attach the PhaseOne to my Sinar view camera with a Schneider lens. I often have to make very large poster designs from these images and for this application, the Olympus isn’t sufficient, (or so I would assume.)

        That being said, I recently did a head to head comparison of my Sinar/PhaseOne product rig and the OM-D with Zuiko 60mm macro. I was shooting a $28,000 wrist watch and I just wanted to see how the little Olympus champ would do outside it’s weight class.

        Honestly, I was very shocked. Even at medium print size (relatively large for most people; 16×20), it was difficult to say that one was significantly better than the other.

        Amazing. Period. Micro 4/3 vs Medium Format… seems like a ridiculous comparison… and yet the prints don’t lie.

        It should be noted, my digital back is one of the older 22 megapixel models… new 8 years ago, these were about $30k. Obviously, I’m not saying the Olympus beats a PhaseOne medium format digital back… even an older model… and certainly not a newer model… but I can’t deny the 16 megapixel Olympus OM-D is a game changer.

        Is my PhaseOne back higher quality? Yes. Is it $29,000 better? Um… no.

        Also, the OM-D is practical to use in a huge variety of situations that would be completely ridiculous for a mechanical Hasselblad/PhaseOne combo.

        So what’s the point of this rambling? If I had to pick between the Hasselblad/PhaseOne or the Olympus OM-D on pure image quality alone for my larger print needs, I’d have to go with the Hassy. But I’d probably never take a picture outside of my studio. For any location work, I’m more than satisfied with the Olympus and the many exceptional prime lenses available for it.

      2. Brilliant. You should do a guest post here. Let me know if you are interested. I would love to read more about such quality comparisons. I take your point about the bald and digital back for studio work. It also gives your clients confidence in you as a professional.

  2. Quick crop of hand-held image EM5 + Pan 20mm 1.7. Jpg from ORF, unsharpened, colour as was.[image: Inline images 1] I have the 60mm, but hadn’t packed it!

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