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Nov 12

Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro

Image Quality – Sharpness

Spider Eating – Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro

Image sharpness is a quality in a Macro lens that is more or less a foregone conclusion.  The vast majority of macro lenses are pretty sharp.  And in this realm, the Olympus doesn’t disappoint.  In the macro range, the lens is extremely sharp from corner to corner, and even maintains that blistering sharpness throughout most of the focus range, making it fantastic for a wide range of photographic pursuits.  Compared to the Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro, I did some head-to-head comparisons about a month ago, and the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 outclassed the PanaLeica in the sharpness department.

However, at infinity focus, the jury is still out for me, as my copy of the lens seems to possibly have a slight decentering problem that only shows up on more distant subjects.  At longer distances, if focused with the focus point on the center or right side, the left side of the image is a little soft, even if focusing on a flat field.  It’s not terribly bad, and I honestly only noticed it in some test shots I was doing, rather than my daily shooting (as I tend to use this lens for macro and portrait work, so it was flawless in this situation).  It acts almost like a left edge field curvature, as the left side will sharpen up just fine if I focus with the focus point on the left side.  I will likely send my lens to Olympus to have this corrected at some point, but for the time being it doesn’t affect my use of the lens due to the subjects I shoot with it, and the limited cases it is visible.  I will update the review with my notes on this after the lens has been looked at.

Image Quality – Bokeh

Leaf in Water – Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/2.8

Since macro shooting involves relatively shallow depth of field, and the other major use for a telephoto macro lens is portraiture, the quality of the out of focus areas is a rather important thing to note.  The Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro doesn’t disappoint here.  It renders out of focus areas smoothly and evenly, with smooth flat specular highlights and practically zero chromatic aberration in the bokeh.  I have absolutely no complaints about the bokeh  of this lens.

The lens has an aperture that maintains a constant f/2.8 throughout the focusing range, and the blades will actually close a little to maintain that due to the internal focus design.  As such, you are shooting with partially closed aperture blades even wide open through most of the focusing range.  While this does make the specular highlights slightly less than perfectly circular, the curved blades means any out of focus highlights will remain generally circular throughout most of the aperture range as well.

Image Quality – Color, Contrast, Chromatic Aberration and Distortion

To sum up the other qualities of this lens in a word: outstanding.  The Olympus 60mm Macro has very rich and vibrant color response and relatively high contrast, though not too high.  I think it hits my personal sweet spot in this respect.  There is extremely low chromatic aberration, with essentially zero lateral CA and only the very slightest hint of longitudinal (or bokeh) CA.  In most shooting, it’s invisible, though you can see a very slight magenta cast in front of a focus point and a very slight green cast behind if you’re shooting something like black text on white paper.  Otherwise, it’s invisible.

There is no noticeable distortion, either in the macro range or in more general field use.

Next: Conclusion and Sample Images

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

20 comments

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  1. Chris K

    The lack of hoods annoyed me for a while, but the more I think about it the more I don’t care. The recent Olympus lenses I’ve owned perform great without a hood, and since the prime virtue of M43 to me is its size I don’t know that I would bring a hood anyway, unless it made a dramatic difference in image quality. (And if it did I probably wouldn’t have bought the lens anyway… see the size/handling difference between the 9-18 vs 7-14.)

    I wonder, does the lack of a hood impact the image quality of the 60/2.8? Are we in a “post-hood” era, thanks to fancy coatings?

    1. Mary

      No, we are not in the post-lens hood era. A lens hood was and still is a necessary and useful addition. I think you should use one whenever you can. It’s such a waste of energy and time if a photo is weakened or even ruined by flare or low contrast. It’s just bad practice and amateuristic to not use a lens hood.

    2. Ron

      +1 Just buy the damn hood and use it. It doesn’t add any noticeable weight and I believe the hood for this particular lens is of the sliding type, so it will hardly take up any extra space in your bag.

  2. rogerml

    A great review, JS. Seems to be a great macro lens. A pity it’s quite ‘expensive’ where I live. As always Americans are blessed with lowest prices on photo gear, – compared to anywhere in this world. Got to get myself a friendly ‘buying agent’, :-)

  3. tgutgu

    I own the lens too. While I agree with almost every assessment you made, your “cons” conclusion that this lens is not the smallest m4/3 lens is quite idiotic. Do you really expect that each new m43 lens needs to surpass the already smallest. Please, remove this con item, because it does not make any sense, and gives the wrong impression what users really want and need. Not every lens needs to be a Pancake lens!

    To me, the 2.8/60mm is even surprisingly small and light. When I unboxed it, I could hardly believe that it is that small! If you compare this lens with a FF equivalent like the EF 2.8/100mm IS L the Olympus lens is really small.

    I guess that the length of the lens is also due to the smooth and precise focus ring design. To date, I haven’t had any m43 lens, which can focus manually so precise. And the 1:1 “dial” also works in manual focus mode!

    The Olympus 60mm is perhaps e most beautifully macro lens design ever. It should not be any smaller, the broad focus ring is an asset and not a obstacle (or a con feature, as you claimed).

    1. Jordan Steele

      While I agree with you that the lens isn’t huge, and in fact is small for what you get, it is significantly longer than the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 (which shares the same absolute aperture size), and the Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro (which shares its 1:1 capabilities and adds OIS). That’s all that list item was meant to do, and since you’ll see that my conclusion doesn’t consider anything on the ‘cons’ list to be even close to a dealbreaker, I’m going to leave it as it is. I did not say that the broad focus ring was a con…just that it was important to point out that it’s not a super tiny lens.

      Many people who read reviews only skip to the conclusion, and it is something that is to be noted compared to the only competition this lens has in the m4/3 space in the PL 45/2.8. It’s not a detriment to me 90% of the time, but the length DOES prohibit it from making it into my super tiny bag, which I generally use to take my 45/1.8, 12/2 and 25/1.4.

      The length of the 60 means that I can only fit it on the camera in that bag, so the length reduces by two full lenses the amount I can take in that bag. Now, 90% of the time, I take my Think tank Retrospective 5, which easily fits the 60 (and the 75/1.8, and other ‘bigger’ micro 4/3 lenses like the 45-175 (which is amazingly compact for it’s focal range, but still largish compared to the smaller primes), and the 7-14 f/4, which is, again, very small for a lens of that width, but large compared to many of the other m4/3 options. None of these are too large for me to carry or use, but it is worth noting, as many of these lenses can’t make it into my ultra-light bag like some of the smaller primes.

      1. John Kubler

        The reason the 60 mm is so much longer than the 45 mm is that it has an internal focussing mechanism. If it would built like the 50 mm f2.0 (4/3) it could be smaller when set for infinity, but grows to twice its length when focussing very close. The internal focussing also make weather sealing easier to achieve.

        1. Jordan Steele

          The Leica 45/2.8 is also internally focusing.

    2. Scott

      I own the lens and I think it is rather long, too.

      I would list it as a con.

      Also, it’s rude to label someone’s thoughts as “idiotic”.

  4. Chris K

    The difference in size between my 45/2.8 and the 60/2.8 is something that matters to me. No, the 60/2.8 is not a big lens. In SLR terms it’s not even a medium-size lens. But it is bigger, and the difference is big enough that I can fit one more lens in my bag with the 45/2.8 than I’d be able to with the 60/2.8.

    I might buy the 60/2.8 anyway, but I would miss the absolutely tiny package of the 45/2.8.

  5. Franz Rabe

    Super ‘real life’ review – ordered the lens 5 minutes BEFORE I read the review – all possible apprehensions laid to rest now ; )

  6. Joseph

    Thanks for your review.
    I’ll get one!

  7. athos

    excellent review that focuses on ‘real life’ impressions – and happens to concur with what the technical shoot at charts reviews tell us anyway. good to have both kinds of reviews at our disposal.

  8. Thaiusmle

    Nice review and sample pictures. How do you compare this lens to Olympus 75/1.8 for close up children portrait? I plan to buy one of them for my newborn portrait. Thanks.

  9. Jess Demant

    My best lens, since it is also great for portrait photography and of course marko photography, but also general photography where I do not want to get too close to the subject. It’s just a winner …..
    Had thought about buying 45mm.f.1.8 lens for portrait photography, but now I am very much in doubt …..

  10. jrsilva

    I own this lens and I’m very pleased with it.
    It is as good as they tell it is.
    I’m using it on a Panasonic body rather than on an Olympus one, but still perform very well. Just need to use it carefully when hand weld becuause it doesn’t have built in stabilizer (I try to avoid slower speeds).

    I don’t understand why people say it is “long” or it is “huge”… in fact I found it so small and light, and when you open the box where it came in it looks like a toy lens.
    Still it feels solid and well build when you have it in the hand.

  11. Bobby

    Great review, this lens is super sharp. I’m glad this lens is internal focusing so that the length is constant. This is a feature I think all macro lenses should offer. I’m also very happy about it being so lightweight, I can carry it on an OM-D E-M5 camera without problems such as hand fatigue. Olympus you’ve done very well.

  12. Seamus

    Everyone raves about the 45mm f/1.8 but I wonder if I could get by with just my 60mm Macro.

  13. Seamus

    Everyone raves about the 45 f/1.8 but I wonder if I could get by with just the 60MM to use as a portrait lens in addition to it’s Macro capabilities.

  14. Ken

    My copy is soft on the right side when used for landscape photography. I have tried other copies of the lens and all have the same image softness. Maybe due to the macro lens being optimized for closeup focusing as opposed to decentering.

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