Should I buy a macro lens? If so which one would go best with my G3?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Tadgh78, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. Tadgh78

    Tadgh78 Mu-43 Regular

    74
    Feb 25, 2013
    Ireland
    Hello all! About a year ago I aquired my first m43 camera, a panasonic G3. I have been using a 100-300mm pany zoom for, amoung other things, shooting insects.In bright sunlight it seems to work quite well and I can get "pretty good" detail from about 5 feet away, which is far enough not to scare the insects. The problem I find is I would like to see "more" detail on the beasties than what I am currently getting (we always want more don't we? ;)). Anyway i've never used a macro lens before but inspite of the added difficulty and expense It will probably entail I've started thinking of buying just such a lens, perhaps either the Oly 60mm 2.8 or the PL45 2.8.

    I have used a magnification lens on my 20mm f1.7 so I know how tricky macro can be because of narrow dof but I'm hoping a dedicated macro lens will lessen the finikityness of bringing the subject and what little dof is available together in one place.

    I must admit I'm also sort of hoping people will recomend the Oly as its cheaper and seems to produce slightly more magnification than the panasonic. However, the Oly lacks OIS and realistically most of the time I'm not going to be using a tripod. So I supose (given the relative difficulty of macro photography to begin with) what it comes down to is which lens will give me the greater keeper-rate on my G3 body? That is of course unless the difference in keeper-rate turns out to be negligable or worth less to me than the €200 price difference.

    The other consideration i have knocking around in my head is portrait performance. I don't currently own a dedicated prime lens for portraits, so how well the macro lens handles portraits might also be a factor. If I wasn't thinking to buy a macro right now then a portrait lens would be my next purchase. If the macro out performs my pany 20mm 1.7 for portraits then perhaps I might not need a dedicated portrait lens at all?


    Thanks in advance. :)
     
  2. Timmy

    Timmy Mu-43 Regular

    110
    Dec 3, 2013
    Wiltshire - UK
    The general consensus is that the Oly is a far better purchase than the Pany lens - check out the image gallery and you'll see how good it is, + it's pretty handy for portraits too.

    You could also try a Raynox 150 or 250 on the end of your 100-300mm for a cheaper solution. If you Google it you'll find examples of people getting nice macro shots from that combo.
     
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  3. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I don't think simply getting a dedicated macro lens will help increase your keeper rate directly. The DoF at macro scale pretty much depends on your level of magnification, and getting a 1:1 macro lens won't change that. I'm surprised you're using the P100-300 for macro rather than the P45-175 actually - at such long focal lengths camera shake would make it quite difficult. With either of the dedicated macro lenses your working distance will be way shorter than the 5 feet you're used to, but the shorter focal length will also mean that camera shake is much less of a problem - I think this is the factor that will help increase the keeper rate more than anything else. The PL45 with OIS will probably be better in this regard on your G3 than the O60 will, but I'm not sure how big the difference would be.

    If you want to keep a decent working distance, but higher magnification, you could try an achromatic close-up lens (e.g. Raynox DCR, Marumi DHG Achromatic Macro) combined with one of your telephotos - I'd suggest the P45-175, as its shorter focal length should mean it's a bit easier to hand-hold. With a proper achromatic close-up lens (rather than the cheap single element ones) the image degradation is barely noticeable. This option is way cheaper than a dedicated macro lens, especially if you can find a decent legacy achromatic lens and use a filter adaptor to change size if necessary. I personally use two legacy achromatic lenses (a +1.6 Sigma, and +3.3 Sony) with my O40-150 and get pretty good results.

    Regarding portrait performance - what is it that you're looking for? To achieve a more flattering perspective, your P45-175 would be more suitable than the P20, but that is a function of its longer focal length, not because of any performance metric. Both of the macro lenses are typical portrait range focal lengths, and will work perfectly well for such a purpose except that the O60 is widely known to be a bit slower to focus at non-macro distances than the PL45, but it's not a biggie. Neither will be dramatically sharper than the P20 though. To get blurrier backgrounds (if that's what you're after for portraits), a longer focal length with a distant background will have more of an impact than going to a slightly faster lens.
     
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  4. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    719
    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    guys above desribed my thoughts on the subject.

    one minor thing, though.

    A dedicated macro lens will alway be better suited for macro work than regular work (be it short tele portrait or whatever).

    On my Oly60, the headshots look great, especially if i'm using the flash. The shoulder shots are getting a bit softer (definitely softer than P20mm) and any shot above is already dispaying certain artefacts. I don't know if my technique was bad or there was too much backlighting but it felt like a combination of a soft lens with some noise and not much sharpness. At first i thought i had a bad copy, but my friend (used to work for Olympus) informed me of what i stated above.
    I will definitely go do some additional testing when i get some time...

    The AF speed on my copy is definitely better than my P20, if i set the focusing distance beforehand.
     
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  5. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The P20 is one of the slowest focusing m4/3 lenses :wink:
     
  6. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    719
    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    I know, but many people disregard that due to sharpness, IQ and pancake-ness of the lens. AF speed on the Oly60mm while doing non-macro work should not be one of the reasons against it IMO...
     
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  7. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    673
    Sep 27, 2013
    FR
    Look at Raynox dcr250. Its cheap and awesome and weight less than a macro lens.
     
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  8. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    For insect macro photography, you will probably will better served with a longer focal length zoom lens rather than a dedicated macro lens. Basically, the difference between a macro lens and an adapter zoom lens with a closeup Achromatic double element lens is that, a macro lens is designed for "FLAT FIELD" reproduction. This means, the lens maintains edge to edge sharpness, more so than a normal lens. This explains why most of the popular Macro dedicated lenses are rated
    f/2.8 and higher. The reason you need flat field reproduction is because depth of field is very thin with macro photography and if you want to extend DOF deeper, the only way to do it is to use a method called "FOCUS STACKING". Taking a series of macro shots at different focus sweet spots and stack them together to provide a deeper DOF. This is where a macro lens shines over the normal zoom lens adapter with a closeup, because when you start stacking a serious of photos together, the edges will show up as more blur when you don't have a flat field reproduction lens. So if you are planning to do macro photography with focus stacking in mind, get an Olympus 60mm lens. If you are NOT planning to do serious focus stacking and don't need to have identical edge to edge sharpness with a thin DOF coverage, then the close up lens method would be better.

    Focus stacking requires luck and discipline; more so than just snapping away with a lens because you need to ensure the insect stays there for a few seconds as you grab multiple shots in different focus sweet spots.
    Thin Depth Of Field is the nature of macro photography and there is nothing you can do about it other than trying to stop the lens down and accept diffraction effect as a compromise or focus stacking.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  9. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    If you don't mind spending the money, the Oly 60 or PL 45 will give you great results. They also double as nice portrait lenses.

    A cheaper option would be to buy a legacy manual lens.
     
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  10. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    I would put in a recommendation for a legacy manual focus macro lens in the 50-60mm focal length. Every major camera brand made excellent ones, and you can pick one of these up on ebay for easily under $100.

    Olympus OM 50mm f3.5, Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f3.5, Konica Hexanon 55mm f3.5, Canon D 50mm f3.5, SMC Pentax 50mm f4, And Micro Nikkor 55mm f3.5 or f2.8 are all excellent lenses. I've used both the Minolta MD Rokkor-X and the 55mm Micro Nikkor f3.5 with excellent results. I paid $45 for the Minolta lens on ebay in mint condition, plus $12 more for the adapter.
     
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  11. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    851
    Jan 28, 2011
    USA
    Just to throw it out there. The Olympus 50mm f2 Macro lens for 4/3 is a special lens. You can pick them up for about 250 - 280 USD and throw in a cheap adapter and you have a $300+ Macro lens. It will do well with portraits and the colors and sharpness are very nice.

    I also owned the 60mm Oly Macro. It was a nice lens. I found at distance that it was missing focus more than I liked. Perhaps it was shutter shock. I never figured it out. It took some wonderful shots and missed some others. I sold it.
     
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  12. Tadgh78

    Tadgh78 Mu-43 Regular

    74
    Feb 25, 2013
    Ireland
    Thanks a million guys! I'm still digesting all of the points of view expressed here.

    As long as I keep the shutter speed at double the focal length I usually don't get shake. So at 300mm I need to have it at 1/600 sec. In bright sunlight its fine,

    But you might be right about the 45-175mm. While the 100-300mm will always gather more light than the 45-175 across their shared focal length and therefore give a better chance of getting the shot in general shooting, for macro the 45-175 focuses down to 3ft instead of the 5ft of the 100-300, perhaps negating all or most of the benefit of the extra reach of the 300mm.

    When it comes to macro shots I must say my results with the two lenses have been pretty similar. I've mostly used the 100-300mm up to now without really thinking about it because it seemed to me that the bigger lens would do the better job of getting closer to the subject.When it comes to macro I may need to reconsider that...


    I already own an Marumi DHG Achromatic Macro which I was using on my P20 because I didn't know any better! I'll put it on my 45-175mm for the next while and see how i go with that. I've also ordered a step down ring so I can attach the Marumi to the 100-300mm and see how that compares. I supose the advantage of the Marumi over the Raynox is that I could add a ring flash to the Marumi more easily than to the Raynox, would that be right?

    .

    I'll probably get a separate prime for portraits. If what Ramsey has said is true then the Macros serviceable but less that ideal when it comes to shooting portraits. I like the look of the O45mm 1.8. I mostly value the sharpness of primes for portraits as well as for their light gathering capacity. I've gotten a good few shots with my P20 1.7 that I would never have gotten with a zoom owing to lack of light, and the portraits I've taken that I am most happy with have been taken with the P20mm. The only problem with them is that they usually have to be cropped down or the subjects get a bit "lost" in the image. I could live without a dedicated portrait prime if I had to...but I'll probably get one in the end anyway. :p
     
  13. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    I personally shoot macros with my Minolta MD Macro 50mm f3.5 with the 1:1 extension. I get great results but it does require some technique and finesse. The working distance is also rather short so often you will have to get right up to the subject. This is my macro only lens and I've never done portraits with this, since I have plenty other lenses for portraiture. Here are some samples of my macro work with the Minolta.

    14108587584_01a56d0d55_b.
    Fly Macro
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    7670798562_95d65835e2_b.
    P1350994-1
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    7987208229_0b5bc8d752_b.
    Bee
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    8733636652_0f108b0201_b.
    Ant Vs Ladybug
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    9397749396_15e0128787_b.
    59/365 Macro Monday: Japanese Beetle
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    14517615038_a5a0fc7155_b.
    Butterfly
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    I also have access to the Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro Elmarit. It is a great macro lens and far easier to use than the Minolta. However you are paying a hefty price for it. I would recommend finding a used copy.

    9358811159_351d6d6fb0_b.
    Urban Lizard
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    9297216274_0f825d146c_b.
    45/365 Compound Eyes
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    I'm not sure if I agree with the notion that the two m43 macro lenses are not good for portraiture. They are capable of good portraits and if you are not too serious about it then why buy two lenses when one can suffice? I don't have the Oly 60 but I've seen some great portraits taken with it. I've shot some portraits with the PL 45 and find them just fine. Of course if you have the money to spend then by all means buy yourself a nice portrait lens to go with the macro lens! :)

    A few portraits I took with the PL45:

    8194886262_f7e56e37d4_b.
    Orange Sweater24
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    12730178644_1e4110567f_b.
    Fire and Ice
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    11406093014_3e79155290_b.
    The sky is blown, but I don't care.
    by Vincent-F-Tsai, on Flickr

    So what does this all mean? Don't over think it. Equipment is just one part of the equation. If you have passion and dedication you can get the results you want. In the end though I think I would recommend the Olympus 60mm, a lens that I don't even own. :) I find it to be the perfect balance of performance, versatility, and price. Good luck and happy shooting.
     
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  14. Superstriker#8

    Superstriker#8 Mu-43 Regular

    194
    Jun 24, 2013
    I have the 60mm macro, and use it all the time, macro or not, and find it to be a great short tele. the auto focus isnt the fastest, but the focus limiter helps speed it up.
     
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  15. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    719
    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    i'm the one to blame for this motion. I did not say they are not good for portraits, i just said that a macro lens will be better suited for macro work than regular work (portraits, etc) and named my faults with the Oly60mm when using it for other purposes (and disclaimed that it could be my technique and not the actual lens).

    I just don't want people to get the idea macro lenses are ideal for portraiture (only due to focal length). Can it work - yes, as your photos show. Is it going to beat Oly 45 and Oly 75mm (both f1.8)? Probably no. Just my $0.02.

    I definitely agree on all your other points...

    nice photos, both with the Minolta and the PL45
     
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  16. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    768
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    I went with the Oly 60mm macro and love it. I have used it for general work, and it is just fine, but agree that it is not better than the other highly lauded primes around its focal length (75, 45, etc); but I don't see how anyone could expect it to be, especially since it is 2.8 versus 1.8 or less. The focus limiter helps with AF, but sometimes can be finicky when I am shooting right at the in-between distances. For macro I think it is fantastic. However, if you are not going to use a tripod and you have a Panny body, I doubt that anything without OIS would be the best choice.

    I am surprised no one mentioned extension tubes, such as the Kenko set. I don't own either them or the filter mentioned above, but I have read that for IQ tubes are generally better because you are not putting any extra glass in front of your lens. They are also a pretty cheap option to consider, and you can use your existing lenses.
     
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  17. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I haven't used tubes before, but there are some downsides. They reduce the amount of light let in, and for electronic lenses, unless you get the more expensive ones with electronic contacts, you lose AF (not a big deal for macro), and aperture control..
     
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  18. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    768
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    The Kenko tubes do have electrical contacts, so there is no loss of functionality or control. It's still inexpensive compared to a dedicated macro lens.

    As for loss of light... Nothing in the photography world is without some trade off. :cool:
     
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  19. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I definitely recommend getting a native Micro Four Thirds macro lens if you like taking close-up photographs: since buying my Olympus 60mm f/2.8, it has become my favourite lens. When I had a lot of equipment stolen in a burglary last year, many things I replaced with newer versions (including replacing a great many fixed focal length lenses with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8), but the 60mm f/2.8 was one of only two lenses that I had before of which I bought the exact same one again. Macro photography is such great fun: one can produce amazing images of things barely perceptible to the naked eye, and open up an entirely new perspective on photography.

    Do take note, however, that macro photography is technically challenging, especially relating to focus, and it will take a little learning, but I have found it entirely worth it even if the ratio of in focus to out of focus photographs is lower with macro than with normal photography. I do not entirely agree with the suggestion of getting a legacy macro lens, not least because you will almost certainly end up with only 1:2 macro rather than true 1:1 macro, but also because auto focus is viable with macro: it just takes more manual input (such as selecting a focus point, or, for full on 1:1 macro, sometimes just setting the lens to its closest focussing distance by means of the dedicated switch and moving the camera in and out of the subject until it is in focus; but that is generally only required for the very closest focus distances, and that will be too great a magnification for all but the tiniest of subjects). I don't think that I should be happy with a lens that does not select the aperture automatically when I ask it to do so, or even record the aperture for future reference.

    One aspect on which I cannot help you is the issue of image stabilisation. I have always used Olympus cameras with this lens (the E-P3 and the E-M1), both of which have decent (and, in the latter case, excellent) in-body stabilisation. If you have plenty of light, having no stabilisation will not be a problem. A decent macro flash setup (small to medium sized flash attached by bracket and cable and diffused with a small diffuser) should negate any lighting difficulties, and is a good way of lighting macro generally, but adds bulk, weight and inconvenience, especially if you are going out for the purposes of general photography with the option to take a few macro photographs should the occasion arise rather than going out with the specific aim of taking macro photographs. You might therefore find that the 45mm lens from Panasonic is better for you in that regard, although whether it is better enough to offset its higher price is a matter that only you can decide. As to image quality, I have not used the 45mm myself, so am no more qualified to comment than you are, but my general understanding is that the image quality of this lens is perfectly decent.

    May you take many a delightful macro photograph and post it here for our delight!

    Edit: I should also add that I also use the 60mm f/2.8 for portraits and get good results.
    Edit 2: The latest Olympus magazine has a section on macro photography and equipment, although that is not exactly impartial for comparing between brands; it might nonetheless be useful in considering what type of thing that you want.
     
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  20. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    I don't understand the dismissal here of legacy macro lenses. Autofocus may be viable with Macro, but if you know what you're doing, manual focus is easier and provides much more control, without having to switch modes, change focus points, etc. And just about any legacy macro lens can be gotten with a 1:1 extension tube - either a dedicated tube designed for that lens, or just a generic tube which will work the same way. And most of these legacy macro lenses were the sharpest lenses made at the time, so they are still as good as the better modern lenses optically. The fact that you can get great legacy macro lenses for under $100 is just gravy.
     
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