Pergear 60mm F2.8 2X Macro Lens Mark II

Pergear sent me their upgraded macro lens, the 60mm F2.8 2x Extreme Macro lens (2023 version), and I brought the lens out together with my OM System OM-1 to shoot some insect macro. I did not intend to make a full review for this lens, as I only wanted to test the lens with its intended purpose - shooting extreme macro, and I thought what better way to do that than hunting local little critters, insects and spiders? Of course I'd share plenty of image samples, with my thoughts on what I liked and disliked about the lens, and I even made a video for this Pergear Macro lens, you can find it here (click). 

For those of you who are not familiar with my insect macro shooting technique, I have blogged about it in full detail here (click). Basically, I hold the camera and lens with my right hand, and the wireless flash with my left, being fired off camera, diffused by a small softbox. That blog entry also elaborated my camera and flash settings as well as my execution technique. For this particular session with the Pergear 60mm Macro, I used OM-1 camera, and generally my camera settings were 1/250 shutter speed, ISO200, F5.6-F11 aperture and for more precise control, I actually controlled the flash power output in full manual. 

There are two versions of Pergear 60mm Macro lenses, the first one which was launched in 2021, and this new one that I have and have used for this session, the upgraded 2023 version. I have no experience and cannot talk about the original 2021 version. I was told by Pergear that the new 2023 upgrade had two significant differences - better optimization for use with full frame cameras and improved flare control. 

Let me start with what I disliked about the Pergear 60mm macro lens. It is just a little too large and heavy for Micro Four Thirds system. I acknowledge that for simplicity's sake, a third-party manufacturer would make a lens that can fit as many mounts as possible, and that includes full frame mounts, which would need to cover a much larger image circle area. If the lens was made specifically for Micro Four Thirds, I am almost certain the size could have been cut to half, so is the corresponding weight. The lens weighs 600g, which was the same weight as the OM-1's body. Using it on OM-1 was still tolerable, as the camera had quite substantial hand-gripping area, and I can use the combination for several hours of shooting without much issue. However, the same cannot be said for smaller and lighter bodies, which is what Micro Four Thirds system is all about - such as Olympus PEN Lite series, or Panasonic GF series. The lens would be front-heavy and imbalanced even if you used on, say E-M10 series bodies!

The size and weight aside, there really is nothing else to complain about the Pergear 60mm Macro lens, and that is really impressive. 

The construction quality of the lens is excellent. It is made of full metal body, all around the barrel, to the mount, and you can feel how solidly built the lens is. There are no creaky parts, and the lens does not feel like a budget lens at all. There are only two controls on the lens body, the manual focusing ring and aperture control ring, they are both smooth and easy to operate. I particularly like the clear marking indications of magnification ratios and their respective focusing distances, which helped a lot in manual shooting. I also appreciate the lens having internal focusing mechanism, meaning the lens does not extend as you manual focus and increase the magnification. The minimum focusing distance is about 19cm, which is quite generous for a 200% magnification lens, and allows sufficient working distance between the lens and the subject, to not spook or scare them away. 

The fact that this lens can do 200% true magnification is incredible. When you mount this lens on a cropped sensor body, like the OM System OM-1, having Micro Four Thirds 2x crop sensor, you get even more magnification - twice of what the lens already gives you, you end up having 400% equivalent magnification. Some would argue this is the wrong way of interpreting the magnification, well, you can calculate it whatever way you want, but the results speak for themselves, and at true 200% lens magnification (minus the crop factor) you still get truly remarkable images of tiny bugs and insects. Generally, I don't see the need to get more than 100% magnification, but having more can be useful when dealing with much smaller critters. 

Image quality was very good for a budget macro setup. I get consistently sharp images; the lens manages to resolve good fine details and contrast. I must say I shoot mostly F8-F11 on larger magnification (more than 100%). And we all know that Micro Four Thirds system suffers diffraction which would cause a bit of softness in the final image. Having said that, I still am quite satisfied with the lens' ability to shoot very sharp and beautiful insect macro photographs. If you compare with the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens, the Olympus lens has a lot more punch and bite to the image, they "pop" better and look more realistic. The sharpness is also noticeably better on the Olympus. The images from the Pergear 60mm looks flatter, but in no way bad, just not as impressive as what can be accomplished by the Olympus M.Zuiko. However, the Olympus 60mm only manages half of the magnification of what the Pergear does, and to be frank, if you don't pixel peep or scrutinize the images too closely, the results from the Pergear are more than sufficient for some serious macro work. 

I cannot comment on the technical flaw controls, such as chromatic aberration, corner softness, distortion or flare because I did not test any of them, and I see no reason to. If I have this macro lens, I'd use them specifically or macro, and if I want to do other kinds of shooting, say portraits, or food or products, I will use my other Micro Four Thirds lenses. I will not go through the trouble of manual focus and aperture operations in normal situations, that would be making my life miserable. For the same of macro in terms of extreme magnification, I can see how this lens makes sense, even if you have autofocus you would probably end up using manual focus anyway, for better control. Those who have done extreme magnification would understand, especially when the insects don't stay still. For the insect macro shooting that I did, I notice no issues on the technical lens flaws, none at all. 

Overall, I dare claim that at the time of writing the Pergear 60mm F2.8 Macro (upgraded 2023 version) is the best value budget manual macro lens in the market now. Selling at about USD229, you get 200% true magnification (more if you use on crop image sensor bodies), excellent build and very respectable image quality. There are other manual lenses that offer 200% magnification, but they also cost at least twice as much. If you are a professional macro photographer who earns a living doing macro work, then there are better options for you such as the OM System 90mm F3.5 PRO Macro, which probably costs 7x more. For the rest of us who shoots macro casually and for fun, yet we want that delicious 200% magnification, the Pergear 60mm F2.8 Macro seems like the clear winner!

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