Olympus Malaysia has once again approached me with a new product in their micro 4/3 system line-up, the much anticipated Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens. This is the first Olympus dedicated macro lens released for the micro 4/3 line-up, and its development was initially announced at the same time of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 launch in March 2012. The official announcement for the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro launching would be today, 17th September 2012. I was privileged to be loaned a review unit for my own testing purposes over the weekend, and I am currently still in the process of shooting (well, in Malaysia we have a long weekend, hence effectively today is still a public holiday) and gathering material for my usual review write-ups in this blog. As for now, I shall post up a preview of the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 lens, and my initial impressions.
Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, main features:
1) True, dedicated macro lens, capable of 1 to 1 full magnification factor (which translates to equivalent of 2 to 1 magnififcation considering the 2x equivalent field of view on Olympus Micro 4/3 sensor)
2) Weather-Sealed lens, splash and dust resistant. This would be the second weather-sealed lens released for the Micro 4/3 system, after the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens.
3) Internal Focusing, with silent motor. The front element does not protrude any longer from what the lens already is. This lens is also Olympus MSC compliant, meaning the focusing is smooth and near silent, and is suitable for use in video recording purposes.
4) Focus Limiter switch, with 3 fixed Options: 0.4m to infinity, 0.19mm to 0.4m, and 0.19mm to infinity. In addition to that, there is a shortcut that allows the lens to immediately jump to full 1:1 magnification, as the forth option in the focus limit switch. This is very crucial for optimizing the Auto-Focus performance for corresponding shooting situations: if you are not using the lens for very large magnification shooting, by switching the focus limit to 0.4m to infinity, the lens will be optimized for that focusing range.
5) Magnification Factor scale indicator, that allows for precise control for extreme close-up shooting. This also doubles up as distance scale, displaying the distance of your subject in focus away from the camera.
6) ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) Coating, new coating that Olympus applied to this 60mm macro lens that greatly reduces flare and ghosting, especially when shooting against strong light.
7) Ability to render circular bokeh. Similar lenses from other systems, when shooting at wide open aperture, the bokeh may not be fully circular, and may appear "oval" or elongated in shape, which may be less pleasing and distracting. The 60mm macro lens has been optimized to produce uniformly even circular bokeh throughout the entire frame.
For full specifications, please visit Olympus' Official page (click here).
Placing the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro next to the Zuiko 50mm F2 macro, the 60mm is a lot slimmer in dimension, but appeared to be longer. However, do take note that the 50mm was in it's retracted position. Unlike the 60mm F2.8, the 50mm F2 does not have internal focusing, hence when shooting at full magnification, the front element will extend out a considerable length, as shown in the following image.
This image compares the 60mm F2.8 macro to the 50mm F2 macro (at its maximum magnification). In this scenario, the 60mm F2.8 lens is clearly a lot smaller than the 50mm F2 macro. In addition to that, the 60mm F2.8 macro is a full 1:1 macro lens, in contrast to the 50mm F2 which was only capable up to 0.5 to 1 magnification factor. All points considered, the length and diameter of the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 was indeed smaller than expected, for a true macro lens.
Oh and from the above images, you can tell how much I have tortured my beloved Zuiko 50mm F2 macro lens. I sort of felt bad for my lens, with all the bruises and battle scars.
Close up view of the Focus Limiter switch. VERY important to have for any macro lens.
In the micro 4/3 system family, there are already two currently available dedicated macro lenses: 1) Panasonic 45mm F2.8 macro and 2) Yasuhara Nanoha 5:1 macro lens. I have had completely no experience with either of those two lenses, and none of my friends had any of them. It was not until earlier this year that Olympus finally decided to add macro lens into their line-up of micro 4/3 system, and it was surely a welcome considering how incredibly well their other two older macro lenses for the 4/3 DSLR system were doing: 50mm F2 macro and the 35mm F3.5 macro.
I have been using the Olympus Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens (for DSLR E-System) for more than 2 years now, and I must say this is one simply amazing lens, with amazing sharpness and superb macro shooting capability. I have also heard that this lens was so technically excellent that it was described as the "God's Lens" among-st Japanese Olympus community. Certainly the "God's lens" may sound hyperbolic but the exaggeration was well justified when you see what that 50mm F2 lens can do, even in DPreview's official full review on the lens described it as the nearest to "technical perfection" any lens can be. I strongly agree and can testify to those statements as I have been using this lens for a while now. Nonetheless, I do have my fair share of issues with the lens, mostly due to its slow auto-focus, no magnification factor indicator, and having the maximum magnification factor of only 0.5 to 1, not a full 1 to 1 which should qualify as a true macro lens.
When the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens was announced, it was very interesting to see that many of the above-mentioned flaws of the original Zuiko 50mm F2 lens were eliminated, and improved further upon. Firstly, the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens is a true macro lens with full magnification factor of 1 to 1, which translates to an impressive 2 to 1 magnification effectively on Olympus micro 4/3 sensor (which has 2x equivalent field of view). Secondly, the auto-focus of the lens has been improved, and if this lens was used with E-P3 or newer cameras like the OM-D, you should be able to get extremely fast auto-focus. Thirdly, the lens comes with all the important items that were missing from the Zuiko 50mm F2, such as the magnification factor scale indicator for precise macro shooting control, as well as the focus limiter switch with several options for optimized focusing control. Like the older Zuiko 50mm F2, this new M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 is also fully weather sealed, and is the second weather-sealed lens in Olympus micro 4/3 system family.
What did Olympus say about the image quality? I was shown the MTF chart comparison between the Zuiko 50mm F2 and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8, and it was highlighted that the 60mm F2.8 will outperform the 50mm F2 by a slight margin. How true will this be? We shall test the lens to find out, and I shall do my best to push out my full review soonest possible.
Having a first glance on, one can tell this M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 lens means serious business, with the distance scale and the focus limit switch. When I first handled the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 mounted on an E-M5, it felt balanced and comfortable to use. This was no surprise considering that the lens is weather sealed, meaning it is designed specifically OM-D in mind. In fact, having the lens next to the original Zuiko 50mm F2 macro lens, you would not feel that the 60mm F2.8mm to be anything lesser. Yet the lens is still small enough and very light. Indeed, you would not be able to find such optimized size and weight for a dedicated macro lens at 120mm equivalent focal length (just compare it with 100mm macro lenses from any other manufacturer and you will get the idea). The built quality of the lens is no slouch either, feeling reassuringly solid in hand and this matches very well with the E-M5's strong magnesium alloy built.
At this moment I have not shot enough with the M.Zuiko 60mm Macro lens to make any useful comment, but I am very pleased with what Olympus has included in this lens so far. The addition of focus limiter switch, the distance/magnification scale, capability of full 1 to 1 magnification macro, and fast, silent focusing are enough to change any macro shooters experience completely, especially those of us who come from a history and background of shooting macro with the older brother Zuiko 50mm F2 lens. Moreover, Olympus' promise of delivering image quality that possibly surpass the older 50mm F2 lens was an exciting point that I must try and see for myself to believe.
The micro 4/3 system is maturing now, with more selection of lenses that are purpose specific. I cannot wait to torture this lens and see what it can do. Until then, do allow me some time to shoot and compose my blog entries. Stay tuned people !!