Super Sharp 60mm

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.

14 thoughts on “Super Sharp 60mm

  1. Great photo Robin. I love this kind of subject matter. For someone like me who likes to shoot close, it’s odd that I have never owned a macro lens. I make do with a close focusing zoom or a reverse mounted prime, which works like the 1:1 setting on your lens. Kind of limiting composition-wise, it’s all in or nothing, plus I lose some automation. I plan to rectify that problem next year.

    1. Thanks David. I have to say that you would love this lens and it would suit your work down to the ground. I have used reversed primes and I used to swear by extension tubes with my Canon. This lens has really opened my eyes though. I finally purchased the Panasonic 14-140 by the way and it’s everything you said it would be. I’m very impressed.

  2. A motivational picture, thank you.
    It would help to reduce my learning curve if you would give the exposure details, particularly in this case of so shallow a depth of field.
    Photozone gives f5.6 as this lens’ sweet spot. So, a minimum focus distance of 20 in would produce a dof of less than half an inch, whereas a distance of 40 in. would extend the dof to almost 2 in. Am I beginning to get it right?
    If the rain holds off I shall experiment tomorrow.
    Thanks again for a stimulating article.

  3. Thanks for posting. I’ve been interested in this lens since I first read about it a few weeks ago. I like the fact that it can also serve as a good portrait lens. As an event photographer, a third use I have in mind is presenters onstage or at a podium. This raises the question of AF performance at normal distances, as I’ve read that this lens is a bit sluggish in this regard. Can you clarify this for me?

    1. For the use you are indicating I suspect the degree of focus shift required will be quite small. I did a few checks with mine set to the 0.4m-infinity range and I think you will find it fine. One thing I have noticed is that it likes a lot of light so if you are focussing where the contrast is a little low it sometimes hunts – not always though. Focussing close up, say a couple of feet and then move to 20 feet and you notice it change the focus. The speed is in line with my 14-140mm. It’s certainly faster than my 20mm (which I sold). I don’t know if that helps you at all?

      1. It’s not perfect (mainly due to CA) but I love the compact size, excellent build and I find the focal length just wide enough to add drama to landscape images without being too wide for general use. I can’t say how it compares directly with the 9-18mm, but I would expect it to be a bit sharper at the edges.

      2. Shame about the CA as it looks like a lovely lens. It would be great to compare it with the 9-18 when we next meet up. Finger crossed for the new year. Trouble is, I know I will want one.

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