Help Selecting Macro Lens

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by dgphelps, May 5, 2013.

  1. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    Hello, I've read some really useful posts on the topic of selecting a macro lens in this forum. I'm trying to narrow down and select a prime macro lens for my Olympus E-PL3 body.

    Currently I am between a Kiron 105mm 2.8 Macro or a Panagor PMC 90mm f2.8. I toyed with the idea of a 55mm Vivitar but am now thinking the longer focal length and distancing from the subject would be best.

    I've seen amazing things done with both the 90mm and 105mm lenses (or their alternative makes) but can't get a clear idea of the difference between them.

    In the end it will likely come down to finding either at the right price - so far they are all ending just out of my price range. :( Can anyone provide some insight or feedback? Thank you!
  2. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    I'm always on the lookout for the Kiron or its derivatives (Lester Dine etc) but you're right about the price - saving up a little more would get me a native macro (the 60 f2.8 looks like the one to get; the Pana 45 is still too pricey for me).

    There are likely to be pictures under the adapted lens threads on the forum. Take a look and see if the lens character appeals.
  3. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    The panagor is one of the few macro's in this class I haven't used so I cannot say too much other than I have never really been enticed into trying it by examples I have seen. The kiron is a great lens but its "cult status" and the advent of mirrorless adapted lenses has made finding a good deal harder and harder.

    Other lenses that I would rate up with the Kiron (remember too the Kiron can be found under a number of other names Lester Dine, Vivitar, Ricoh...) is the Tokina/Vivitar 90mm 2.5 (aka Bokina), and the Tamron 90mm (there is a older 2.5 that is very sharp but has some issues with sensor reflection, there was a semi rare version of the 2.8 that was MF), and also the Nikon 105mm 2.8 AIS.

    Next up would be the Canon/Minolta/Nikon 100/105 f4, no floating elements or anything fancy in these but they are all good for straight macros, I feel the panagor is along these lines.

    You may also want to keep an eye out for the lens I just bought which is a 4/3 mount Sigma 105mm 2.8. I actually purchased it for less than a Kiron I had previously and overall I actually think it is a better lens.
  4. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    The Kiron is certainly nice and the examples I have seen very sharp with great bokeh... I've lost at several auctions in the last few days, they sold just above my price range.

    The panagor from what I could tell has problems with flare that dissuaded me from keeping it on the list.

    Thank you for the additional suggestions heli-mech, I'll keep my eyes on them as well. The sigma seems nice but seems much more expensive than the Kiron at least on my side of the ocean. Do you have any samples from the Sigma you could share?
  5. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    The second shot of the bee and the dandelion are very nice. Definitely will keep my eyes out for this, after not shooting with anything but legacy glass for the past two years having electrical connection and options would feel odd I think. Not bad, just odd.
  6. burdickjp

    burdickjp Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2013
    I'm very happy with my Volna-9 for precision macro work. It's a 2.8/50mm
    Very often, though, I find myself stepping back and using my Helios when I'm shooting plants or flowers, etc.
  7. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I picked up a Cosina 100mm f3.5 and it performs extremely well. In its day, it was favourably compared to the Nikkor equivalent, although the build is somewhat low-rent. It was pretty cheap too (about £50). Probably not up to the Kiron, but I don't do enough macro work to justify spending too much on a specialised lens. I'll post some examples if anyone is interested - there's no sample thread for it (maybe I should create one!).
  8. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    Good info so far.

    I own the Cosina 100mm f3.5 since it is so cheap. It has remarkable good IQ for the build quality which is, frankly, crap. Don't get confused with the AF version. Buy the manual focus lens for cheaper since AF is rather useful for macro anyway.

    This lens is light at 270g and small at 71mm in length. Another bonus: it takes a standard 49mm filter.

    But this lens cannot compare with the Kiron / Lester Dine / Vivitar Series 1 105mm macro, which is truly excellent though much bigger (102mm long) and heavier (656g). Note that this becomes a rather excessive 210mm FOV equivalent on MFT. But I still enjoy using it.

    While maybe not a typical macro shot, this is an example of why I love the lens.

    View attachment 276603

    You might also consider the SMC Pentax-M 50mm F4 Macro. It is compact, well built, very sharp, and has a flat field. Also cheap. The equivalent FOV comes out at 100mm, which is the typical macro length. Wish I had one.
  9. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I think the Kiron (and its re-branded derivatives) is well worth the extra money! Especially when you're buying legacy glass, you need to get the best you can so you don't end up being disappointed and spend even more money re-purchasing something else.

    Here's one taken from mine (the Vivitar branded version) the other day. An ugly photo aesthetically, but I think it's not a bad example of the technical prowess of the Kiron.


    And here is the lens itself...
  10. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    Paul, I'd love to see some sample photos with that lens.

    Ned - I am afraid I didn't get your advice above in time (have to fix my notifications). I found a good price on a Vivitar 90mm f2.8 1:1 with a canon mount and it just arrived yesterday. The natural light is abysmal right now and I haven't really had any time to play with it.

    My first reactions: despite reading several reviews of how solid the build it, the mount and lens are wobbly and wiggle slightly. While it is a 2.8 I seem to need to shoot at least at f8 or I have an extremely limited DOF and anything above f4 and I almost need a flash.

    I created an extendable flash tube with diffuser for macro shots and it worked ok with a small frog last night (attached images are at 1:1). I am not blown away, but I had a good working distance and I think that with some practice I could get some nicer shots with f16 or f22 and the flash.

    I brought it to work today and took some shots out of my window and of some people in the office - I am not pleased at all. Very soft, bad with light pickup, and frankly I worry it won't do portraits or anything beyond macro well - but I will take it for a further spin tomorrow with the kids.

    I wanted 105mm kiron but they were all far out of my price range. I'll know in the next day or so if I made the wrong decision. If the wiggling is causing issue I should be able to send it back for a refund within 7 days so at least I have an option if I can't find my way with it.

    Attached Files:

  11. Jcarrith

    Jcarrith Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 26, 2012
    Just a general observation many here responded with the typical "I use this and like it so you will too." I tend to separate my "macro" photography into 3 general categories. First is the "close up" type typical is flower or insect-in-it's-environment type photography. For this type I like the vivitar 55mm or Olympus 4/3 35mm or tamron 300 f5.6 sp. For "insect isolated from environment." I like the tamron 90mm. For true macro 1:1 I go with the Olympus 80mm on a bellows although obviously I need to be in a much more controlled environment. I believe the depth of field advantage of the shorter lenses is significant.

    Sent from my HTC One X using Mu-43 mobile app
  12. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    Thank you Jcarrith. I think I will eventually want a few scenario setups but for now need to get solid with at least one. I'm still on the fence with this Vivitar. I grabbed some shots of the kids after work today and while the portrait is pleasing, it's hard as hell to get a shot that is sharp. In macro work it seems to be better. Below is another image of the tiny froglet at 1:1 with diffused flash. I set this to f22 and while better DOF still tight.

    I'm curious what tomorrow and some sun will bring. I think it may be that it's sharp for macro work, softens for portraits, and is rubbish at telephoto.

    Attached Files:

  13. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    The wiggling mount might just be the adapter's fault and not the lens's.
  14. mnhoj

    mnhoj There and back again

    Dec 3, 2011
    Los Angeles
    John M
    Some of my manual focus favorites that I've owned include:

    The Nikkor 105 F4, Nikkor 55 2.8 AIS, 55 3.5 AI and Pre AI(on the way), Tamron 90 2.5(52E), Panagor 90 2.8, and lastly my favorite, the Tokina 90 2.5.
    All except the Panagor require an adapter to do 1:1.
    All said and done they all produced amazing results.

    Here's a shot of the Bokina with Nikon PN1 on the PM1.
  15. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    Which is your favorite Nikon 55, for both macro and all around?
  16. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    The wiggling is certainly part of the lens. I took it out today in a nice sunlight garden and took about 100 photos, of those only 3-4 are even potentially useable and this was this full sun and a flash. Attached are a few of the better shots plus 100 crops to show what I am seeing.

    I reached out to the seller and he's said he had a similar lens that was loose like this and he had it tightened in a camera shop and it worked perfectly after. He's offered to cover costs to take it in for tightening or to send it back to him so he can use the camera shop he used last to do it. There are no scratches on the lens, internal dust is minimal except one larger piece that does not appear to be visible in photos.

    Should I go for this option or do you think it's likely to be something else? It does have quite a bit of wiggle and give. The focusing and everything above the aperture ring is fine and tight, but the mount and aperture ring all are part of the wiggle.

    Attached Files:

  17. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Just making sure, you did check to make sure the diopter isn't out of whack for your eyes right? Sometimes bumping it can cause havoc with MF lenses, as what is sharp to the EVF isn't sharp on the frame.
  18. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    I don't think it is a diopter issue. I use the lcd screen at 5x for honing in focus. It works great for my manual canon 50mm f1.8 (non-macro) with extension tubes to get 1:1 magnification.

    I would show some examples with that lens but today is not my day apparently. My SD card keeps failing to transfer files to Lightroom.
  19. dgphelps

    dgphelps Mu-43 Regular

    May 5, 2013
    Maybe I am just expecting to see an amazing step up in sharpness and I just won't?

    Here are shots with my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 (non-macro) with extension tubes to 1:1.

    Attached Files: