Review by Mark Degner
Photographers like things that are familiar or comfortable and often shun things that are different. This can be said about photographic styles, techniques and equipment. However, this can also limit photographers in pursuit of their craft. Three of the products in this issue’s gear reviews fall into the category of different or unique and many photographers may just ignore them, which is unfortunate.
The lens is a true macro lens that’s capable of very close focus, up to true 1:1 or 1X magnification (equivalent to 2:1 or 2X magnification on 35mm or full-frame DSLR cameras). Having a focal length of 60mm (equivalent to 120mm on a full-frame DSLR) is a nice compromise between angle of view (20°) and working distance (the distance between the subject and the front of the lens – 83mm), making it a good all-around macro lens. But don’t pigeonhole this lens as just a macro lens; it’s also great for portrait and landscape photography.
Optically it consists of a total of 13 elements in 10 groups, with one ED (extra-low dispersion), two HR (high refractive index), and one E-HR (extra-high refractive index) elements that help to reduce diffraction and chromatic aberrations. Overall, the optical qualities are very good to excellent. Edge-to-edge sharpness is very good at its maximum aperture of ƒ2.8, and when stopped down to ƒ4 through to ƒ11 it’s excellent. At ƒ16 the sharpness is still excellent in the centre, but falls off to very good towards the edges. When stopped down to its minimum aperture of ƒ22 diffraction becomes noticeable and the image sharpness drops down to good. I would probably only use ƒ22 when absolutely necessary. Image sharpness is comparable throughout its entire focus range, from infinity down to 1:1 close focus. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled over most of the aperture range, but becomes a bit more noticeable when stopped down to ƒ22. There’s about a stop of vignetting at ƒ2.8, but it disappears when the lens is stopped down one stop to ƒ4. The seven-blade circular aperture diaphragm produces a pleasing bokeh.
Like most MFT lenses, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens is fairly compact (82 mm long and a 56 mm diameter) and lightweight (185 g). One of the reasons for its compact, lightweight size is that it doesn’t have image stabilization built in to the lens; instead it relies on the in-body stabilization found in all Olympus MFT camera bodies. Photographers who use Panasonic MFT camera bodies will be a little disappointed with the lack of in-lens image stabilization, but the lens will still give excellent results, especially when the photographer uses a sturdy tripod. The build quality is excellent and it’s sealed against moisture and dust.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens incorporates Olympus’ MSC (movie and still compatible) auto focus mechanism that results in smooth and quick internal auto focusing, resulting in no change in the lens’ overall length. In addition the front element doesn’t rotate, which makes it much easier to use filters (uses 46mm filters), especially polarizer and neutral density grads, on the lens. The inclusion of a focus limit switch that can be used to set the focus range prevents the lens from having to hunt for focus over its entire range. Manual focus is smooth and the focusing ring is a decent size to allow for easy control.
Based on its very good to excellent image quality, rugged build and weather sealing, ability to focus to 1:1 magnification, excellent focusing abilities and reasonable price ($499.99), the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens is definitely worth checking out.