Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system

_5009896 copy

Although ‘development announced’ (i.e. officially leaked) several months ago together with the 75/1.8, Olympus’ newest macro lens – the M.Zuiko Digital 60mm f2.8 (hereafter known as the ZD60) was formerly announced at Photokina 2012, and should be available sometime in October 2012 at a price of around RM2,000. It’s also only the second macro lens available natively with a Micro Four Thirds mount (and autofocus), the other one being the Panasonic-Leica 45/2.8 Macro-Elmarit, which I reviewed earlier here. Being an OM-D shooter, and heavily product-photography oriented, I was invited by Olympus Malaysia to review the ZD60 together with the new PEN Lite E-PL5 (review coming in the next week or so). The macro work I do almost always involves flash, so I had them loan me a set of their most recent flashes – the FL-600R. This review will therefore be approached from the point of view I’m most familiar with: photographing watches with speedlights, in a pretty much identical manner to how I do it with my main Nikon system. There will be comparative notes throughout, and no pictures of flowers, cats, eyes, coins, trinkets or other typical macro subjects. Let us begin.

_5009907 copy

All images in this review were shot with an Olympus OM-D and FL-600R wireless flashes; the images are all from the ZD60, except the images of the ZD60, which were shot with the PL 45/2.8.

Let’s talk about the lens first: it offers 1:1 reproduction ratio at a minimum distance of 19cm from the sensor plane, which translates into a healthy 7-8cm of working distance at maximum magnification. This is great news for people who want tight frame coverage; by comparison, if I try to get the same subject coverage (i.e. 2:1 on full frame) with my D800E and Nikon 60 macro, I’m down to around 4 of working distance, which makes even lighting control much more difficult. The optical design has 13 elements in 10 groups, with one ED element, two HR elements and one E-HR element (I presume these are different types of optical glass).

Optical design and MTF chart. From Olympus Malaysia

Three of the groups float and perform focusing functions. This is not a simple optical design! There are traces of a double-Gauss base design in there, but it looks as though heavy modifications and extra elements were added to optimize resolution and close range performance. By comparison, the excellent Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro – which has been my mainstay lens up til now – has one less element and one less group.

_5009904 copy

Size-wise, it’s similar to the 12-50 kit lens for the OM-D; build quality is definitely better, but still plastic and nowhere near as nice as the 12/2 and 75/1.8 lenses. The plastic used is matte, feels reasonably robust, but curiously has visible moulding lines in several places – I’ve not noticed this on any of the polycarbonate-shelled Nikon or Canon lenses before, but it may be because those tend to have a spatter-finish paint that hides the seams better. It’s also weather sealed, with ‘SPLASH PROOF’ in big letters on the bottom of the lens barrel. The lens is made in China.

_5009558 copy

Omega Speedmaster 9300.

_5009558 crop
100% crop of the above.

Two small points of interest on the ergonomics of the lens itself – firstly, although the (optional, shame on you, Olympus) hood is a bayonet fit, it telescopes in and out; neat, but I found it annoying after a while as if you support the lens by the hood and put too much pressure on it, the hood will easily shift or start to collapse back in. Second is the little rotary knob to control the focus range, accompanied by a pointer scale showing the subject distance and corresponding magnification level. The switch has several settings – full range, 0.4m to infinity, 0.19m to 0.4m, and a sprung detent to take the lens to 1:1. It sounds clunky but is actually very practical in use – selecting the right range keeps focusing fast and positive, and the 1:1 position is very helpful in traversing the focusing range when you don’t have a full-time mechanically coupled focusing ring. Overall, ergonomics are excellent.

_5009726 copy

_5009726 crop
100% crop of the above.

Once in a while, (though increasingly frequently with today’s computer-designed optics) you come across a lens that is truly outstanding – the last two that come to mind were the Olympus ZD 75/1.8 and Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH. I’ve used a number of competent, but imperfect, lenses in the meantime, none of which were that memorable for their optics. Fortunately, the ZD60 is another one of those lenses that falls into the ‘truly outstanding’ category – I’ve tried hard under many varied test conditions to find fault with the optics, and come up with an extremely short list. If you want the short answer, you can skip the next few paragraphs: this lens offers excellent optical performance at every aperture and focus distance.

_5009610 copy

The lens has an even more impressive MTF chart than its highly-regarded predecessor, the ZD 50/2 macro for Four Thirds; granted, both designs only have to cover the small Four Thirds frame, and they used a lot of elements to do it, but still: it clearly outresolves the OM-D’s sensor, even wide open. On my copy, I simply didn’t see any improvement in stopping down – you get increased depth of field, and sharpness stays constant (i.e. outstanding) at every part of the frame. There’s diffraction beyond f8, and that’s about it. The plane of focus is also flat, as far as I can make out, and there’s almost zero distortion present. Let’s just say that the ZD60’s resolving power is not going to be the reason for any soft images. Like most of the extremely sharp lenses, the ZD60 also has very high microcontrast – these characteristics are related because high resolving power is required to differentiate between subtle tonal differences in the subject. In fact, it’s amongst the best lenses I’ve ever seen; deserving of the superlative classification (for lenses, at any rate) – of transparent.

_5009812 copy

For reference, the screws on the right are about 1.5mm across.

Although overall resolution would support a much higher-density sensor, it wouldn’t be practical in use: on the OM-D’s 16MP sensor, you already have minor diffraction from f8, and visible diffraction at f11 and up (even though the lens can stop down to f22, I really wouldn’t recommend it; you might as well use a pinhole at that point). I suppose it would have been nice if it had tilt control too, but I think given the target market for Micro Four Thirds, that option might be a long time coming. I believe Novoflex has a T/S bellows system, which might be worthy of investigation at some point in the future.

_5009392 copy

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Latitude.

As for the other optical qualities of the lens – bokeh, chromatic aberration, color rendition and transmission – there are very few flaws. The only one I could find was some slight texture in the bokeh, and even then only in a couple of frames with circular out of focus highlights at a certain brightness level – one of the signatures of a moulded hybrid aspherical element somewhere in the construction. To keep things in perspective, even the Panasonic Leica 45/2.8 Macro exhibits this trait, and more obviously. Aside from that, bokeh is smooth and pleasant, with very minimal bright edges on defocused highlights. Chromatic aberration was nonexistent laterally, and more commendably, almost completely absent longitudinally, too, even wide open. I have not seen this level of CA performance in any macro lens I’ve used to date, even the Leica 120/2.5 APO-Summarit-S. Color rendition is neutral and pleasingly saturated, and taken in tandem actually quite reminiscent of the Zeiss lenses. Olympus uses their new ZERO coating on the lens, which keeps transmission high – I would estimate the lens to be around T3.0.

The ZD60 uses Olympus’ MSC system, which has the elements moving linearly on a rail; it’s not as fast as the 12/2 or 45/1.8, but with the limiter in the 0.4m-infinity position, it’s similar in speed to the 75/1.8, and definitely faster than the Panasonic-Leica 45/2.8.

_5010037 copy

FL-600R compared to the Nikon SB900. One would fit in your pocket; pocket the other and you’d probably be arrested on a public indecency charge.

Next up, we have the FL-600R flash; it has a guide number of 50m at ISO 200, or 36m at ISO 100, running off four AA batteries, with a wide panel and zoom head covering from 16 to 85mm. Full-power cycle time is claimed to be 2.0s with NiMH batteries; it didn’t feel any slower than my Nikon SB900s or SB700s, which I find to be pretty fast. In addition to the usual TTL and manual modes, the flash can also act as both wireless commander and slave using Olympus RC system. It’s also got a bright single LED in the base portion – ostensibly for video use, but I actually found it to be a useful modelling light for macro work, making focusing and composition quite a bit easier. If only it was in the head itself and even brighter…

_5009382 copy

In use, the flashes are fairly simple to operate, though the very low number of external controls means that a lot of button presses are required, and you have to remember what does what – I much prefer the softkey and physical switches approach of the SB900 and SB700. That said, the units are physically much smaller than even the SB700 and SB600, and positively dwarfed by the SB900 – this leaves very little real estate on the back for the LCD and controls.

_5009485 copy

Overall, I found TTL flash exposure to be mostly good; wireless TTL on the other hand, was a bit hit and miss. There were certain situations – specifically when one flash was firing at the background, and the other at the subject – where the subject exposure was a bit inconsistent. Not much of an issue, I just dialled in manual power. The limited external controls and display space also mean that adjusting settings for remote flashes with the FL-600R as master isn’t so easy, and requires far more button presses than I would like. Fortunately, even with the FL-600R on the hotshoe, the camera itself can be used to set the remotes; the hot shoe contacts then transmit the data to the flash. Coupled with the OM-D’s touchscreen, it’s a fast and easy experience – in this respect, better than the Nikon system. And you can control all three groups of flashes from the camera, regardless of which flash is attached to the hotshoe – which is one more than the Nikon system. There are also three available channels so other users’ flashes aren’t triggered by yours and vice-versa if there are a few of you. I can see this being useful if you shoot Nikon or Canon, but to be honest, I’ve never encountered an Olympus flash shooter…

_5009342 copy

The only major issue I have with the wireless flash system is triggering – the sensor on the flash unit itself seems to be very small, aimed forwards and somewhat recessed – this makes no sense whatsoever, seeing as the flash is likely to be facing the subject, which means that the sensor will be away from the camera. Even the Nikons – with side and front mounted sensors – still have problems picking up the optical trigger signal at times. With the FL-600Rs in orientations where the sensor wasn’t almost facing the camera directly, triggering was somewhat hit and miss, especially with the small flash supplied with the OM-D. Use of one of the FL-600R units as a master improved this somewhat, but camera companies really need to start making flashes with multiple optical sensors, or better yet, built in radio triggers for both camera and flash. I know some of you might suggest external radio triggers, but has anybody tried looking for a TTL PocketWizard for Olympus lately? It just doesn’t exist.

_5009513 copy

To date, when using the OM-D for macro work, I’ve either been using my large LED panels (and hence continuous lighting) or the SU-4 optical slave mode on my SB900s and the supplied small flash set to 1/64 power, which works well, but lacks the convenience of being able to set the power output from the flashes either via TTL metering or directly from the camera, let alone both. This can be inconvenient at the best of times – worse still if your flashes aren’t easily accessible. I’ve wanted to try the Olympus wireless flashes for some time now; my thoughts are that so long as you can spare one unit to use as a master trigger, they’re a viable alternative to the Nikon system; the problem is that I’d have to buy another five flashes to get the same flexibility as I have now, which seems somewhat silly.

_5009319 copy

That said, the Olympus system – and Micro Four Thirds – for macro work has a lot going for it; firstly, a truly outstanding lens which is almost completely CA-free; flashes that aren’t that expensive, and very, very small – like the rest of the system. I could fit an equivalent system to what I use now in a bag half the size. Although on the face of things, the Nikon system has a huge resolution advantage – you lose something in diffraction (despite the D800E not having an AA filter), and the OM-D files are clean enough to upsize well to 25MP or so. The difference is much less than you might think. I think I’d have a very difficult time deciding what to buy if I was starting over again with the same objectives. As it is, I won’t be returning the ZD60 to Olympus; it’s unquestionably earned a place in my arsenal, edging out the 45/2.8 (it’s also nice that I no longer have a focal length overlap with the faster 45/1.8). As far as I’m concerned, this is the new reference lens for Micro Four Thirds. It’s that good. MT

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 60/2.8 Macro is available here from B&H and Amazon.

The FL600R flash is also available here from B&H and Amazon.

Come back again tomorrow for part two: a four way shootout between the M.Zuiko Digital 60/2.8 macro, Panasonic Leica 45/2.8 Macro-Elmarit, Zeiss ZF.2 2/50 Makro-Planar and Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro!

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

_5009375 crop
Parting shot – another 100% crop.

Comments

  1. Leonard Hobbs says:

    Ming

    I bit the bullet and bought the 12-40 Pro – nice lens and not to big…….I am looking at the 75 1.8 and also the 60mm 2.8 macro on the long end. I do not do macro but have seen some excellent examples on FLICKR of the 60mm used as a medium telephoto but the 75mm is quite impressive, What do you think?

    Leonard

  2. Have you experienced any consistent underexposure with Olympus TTL? It’s been reported by many recreational Olympus users in one internet forum, but you have been cited as one pro who’s been getting right exposure with Olympus TTL. I wonder if you had different settings or something.

    http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52664884

  3. Remote control of fl-600r flash – The head on the flash revolves to cover the full 360 degrees. Thus you can always orient the recessed sensor to face the control flash on the camera. I didn’t see this mentioned in any of the comments. I know many flashes don’t allow this full 360 degree rotation and if you didn’t actually try it with this flash the assumption might be that it can’t be done. But it can, so the recessed forward only facing sensor for RC use isn’t a problem at all, since what’s foward can be backwards in a second by pressing the bounce/rotation button and swiveling the head.

    • I tried it, and it was still inconsistent to trigger unless perfectly aligned as the IR diode is very deeply recessed compared to other flashes. The SB900s don’t have the same problem because they have two sensors.

  4. ricky Lee says:

    hi ming, I’m confuse which lens to buy in for my OMD i love portrait less in macro but still sometime I do care to take macro…is 45mm f1.8 or 60mm f2.8? spent many days reading through all review and now I’m confuse which one to buy in…the 75mm f1.8 is out of my budget at this stage, I considering 60mm f2.8… can 60mm good enough for portrait or city shoots?

    Love you hear your professional comments

    Thanks
    Ricky

    • The 45 is not a macro lens, but the 60 works fine for portraits. You can shoot any subject with any lens, it’s down to the ability of the photographer.

  5. Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge.

    ian

  6. plevyadophy says:

    Hi Ming,
    Excellent review.
    Here’s a few tips I would like to share with you (if you know these things already please accept my apologies):

    ( 1 ) External radio triggers for Oly system flash
    ======================================

    In your quest for finding such items you might care to subscribe to and peruse these two sites:

    FlashHavoc

    and

    Lighting Rumors

    Those two sites combined are the DPReview of the flash world; if a product, no matter how obscure, exists one or both of these sites will have a review or some commentary on it.

    ===========================================
    ( 2 ) Issues with on-camera wireless trigger ergonomics
    ============================================

    You may overcome this problem by buying a used copy of Oy’s previous flagship flashgun the FL-50R. This flash is a full sized flashgun akin to Nikon SB-800/900 (but not quite as huge as the 900) with remote control facilities.

    And if you wanted to stay within the Oly family of flashes and needed some slaves then I would recommend the cute looking and very small FL-36R flash. It’s not too expensive; it’s menu is easy to understand; it’s part of the Oly wireless system; and is easily powerful enough for macro work; it also offers a plain vanilla optical slave mode. The downsides for some people are it’s slower recycle time which comes about because it runs off of two rather than four AA batteries. It also doesn’t offer a port for external batteries, in fact it doesn’t offer external anything.

    ==================================
    ( 3 ) Wireless receptor and poor sensitivity
    ==================================

    I note your comments about the poor design of the optical sensor on the FL-600R. A very simple and very effective little trick you can employ is to simply use a bit of white paper or tin/aluminium foil as a “flag” to bounce light into the recessed optical receptor. You may have to experiment a little bit as to size and angle of this flag but once you get it right it will make all the difference.

    To explain what I mean,what you do is, if your off-camera FL-600R is to the right of you and the sensor is not facing you and your camera directly, what you do is place (i.e. stick to the flash body) the flag to the right side of the receptor and at such an angle that the flag is facing you and likely to catch the signals from the on-camera Master flash. If my description still doesn’t make sense I am happy to send you a demo picture if you email me.

    Regards.
    plevyadophy

    • 1. Noted.
      2. I wanted to try those, but Olympus didn’t have any demo models available.
      3. Landed up doing that, but as you say it was fiddly – and when you pack them away into a bag, etc. you have to go through the whole shebang again. Not exactly impressive when you’re doing this in front of a client…

      • plevyadophy says:

        Yeah, I can see what you mean about fiddling in front of clients. But on the other hand you could take the view that a client seeing you fiddling and fashioning something out of paper or tin foil adds to your professionalism; it gives the impression of something being custom made for their shoot and creates the impression of a photographer who has some knowledge that can’t easily be replicated by Joe and Joesphine Public. ;-)

        But still it would be nice to have a solution that just worked out of the bag rather than all the fiddling. Well, how about trying this for your Oly flash “flags”:

        If you make say three flags of varying angles that you know from experience will cover most (all?) situations/angles in which your Oly off-camera flash is positioned, and you have made them of stiff card, you could perhaps use them as a template. As a template you can take them to a metal worker and get the metal worker to fashion something out of light metal to match your templates. You could then spray paint the metal flags in white or silver and being metal they wouldn’t lose their shape when packed away in your kit bag.

        And in fact, thinking about it, I am actually wondering whether very small mirrors (like the very small one’s women use for vanity mirrors to apply make-up) might do the trick; but then again that might be a bit daft given the risk of breaking glass unless you can get those plastic mirrors (they are basically made of transparent plastic and have highly silvered backing and function just like glass mirrors).

        Regards
        plevyadophy

        • Or, I could just use my Nikon system which works fine without fiddling. Simple reality is that I often don’t have the time on shoots to mess around with things that don’t work properly…time is really money.

  7. Dear Ming.

    I am considering an OM-D as a smaller companion to my D800.
    I exclusively use primes and would like to know your take on the following question:
    For the long end of a two lens kit I am considering the 45/1.8, the 75/1.8 and this 60/2.8. Whereas Macro is not my main focus I can see myself doing it as a nice addition (more for fun than anything). Taking everything into account (price, size, performance), which one of them would you recommend and why? I mostly shoot family, often in rather low light – is 2.8 together with the sensor stabilization fast enough for that?

    Thank you very much in advance for your input.

  8. Hey Ming Thein!

    I chanced upon this page while reading up on the Oly OMD and its prime lenses. What can I say? Your reviews and photos absolutely rock! I’m now a fan! =)

    I’m very new to the MFT system. So my questions may sound basic. Please bear with me.

    1. What are the pros and cons between this 60mm Macro lens and the Kenko DG Extension Tube Set for M43?
    2. Can’t I just use the tube sets for macro photography?
    3. Which one would you recommend me to buy? I just bought the OMD and the 12mm f/1.8, 25mm f/1.4, and 45mm f/1.8 primes. Next on my radar are the 75mm f/1.8 and this 60mm Macro lens.

    By the way, I live in the little red-dot island below your country. And if any of your courses or workshops falls on the dates I’m free, I will sure drive up to attend it! =)

    Regards,
    Melvin Neo

    • Thanks Melvin. To your questions:
      1. Macro lenses are optimized for close distance performance. Normal lenses + extension tubes are not.
      2. Yes, but the optical quality will be noticeably worse.
      3. It depends on what you shoot. 75 would be better for portraits/ events/ low light, and the 60 for macro (obviously).

      Nothing planned for Singapore at the moment – sad to say but most readers there seem to prefer to think buying more gear will improve skills instead of actually learning…I will let you know if there’s anything in the works.

  9. Andrew Kok says:

    Hi Ming, This lens is cheaper and better than the Lumix /leica 45mm. F2.8 macro lens, but it has no OIS built in. Would it be okay and compatible with my Lumix GX1 ? Compatibility , focussing speed on GX1 ? Thank you in advance

    • Compatible – yes, it’s a M43 lens. No stabilizer, focusing should be fast.

      • Andrew Kok says:

        Hi Ming, My Lumix GX1 comes with stability system in the camera body. Will the antishake system in the GX1 body work with the Ollie 60mm. F2.8 lens to reduce shake ? If I bought the Lumix/leica 45mm. F 2.8 with OIS built into the lens, what’s the purpose of having 2 anti shake systems .ie in the GX1 body and the OIS in the lens ? Will it be better with 2 antishake systems ? Sorry for novice questions.New to digital cameras.Thanks in advance Ming.

        • No it doesn’t. None of the Panasonic cameras have anti-shake in the body because most of the Panasonic lenses are stabilized.

          Two antishake systems do not add up to give you more stabilization, if you leave both on you’ll see the image jumping. The only situation where you can get this is with a Panasonic OIS lens on an Olympus body.

  10. Thank you very much for your review(s). Always good to hear from a true user. I think I’ll replace my 45/2.8 with the 60 both for the FL overlap issue, greater working distance and slight optical improvement. Too bad it’s not shorter, but I’ll accept that for it’s performance.

    One thing; you mention that the 12/2 is not fly-by-wire (probably referring to the ‘manual’ mode). Unfortunately, it is still fly by wire, but even more unfortunately it is rather coarsely stepped and inaccurate on all samples I have had a chance to try. A truly useless ‘feature’ in it’s implementation. Best to use it like the other lenses and leave the ‘manual’ mode alone, unless you have calibrated it yourself and are using it for zone focussing where it can be of some help.

  11. Based on the mtf charts, which lens is the sharpest, the 60/2.8 or the 75/1.8?

    • Can’t remember what the 75’s MTF chart looked like, but I can safely say that either one used properly, even wide open, will outresolve the OM-D sensor. I feel the 60 has slightly better microcontrast and much less CA though; it’s almost apochromatic.

  12. Man you are such a wizard with light!! I always look up to photographers who shot light, myself am confident with my frames but my light has a long way to go until am satisfied.
    Some of your shots are a lighting tutorial on their own. Congrats! am already following !

  13. Thank you MT for such a indepth review of the 60mm. I too have a omd and have considered buying this and selling off my canon 100L. I love that this 60mm is so small too and the image quality coming from my 25 and 45 lenses for the omd always amaze me from such a small system. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos

  14. Thankyou for your excellent review, I haven´t been interested in macro photography and now I am: seems to be a whole new world to explore. ¿Have you tested the 60mm as a prime lens, not exclusively as a macro? I am an architect that will be interested in a sharp lens for certain details.

  15. Ming,
    Thanks for your fine work. I pay much attention to your recommendations.
    Keep up the good work!

  16. What an excellent review. Images are so sharp. I shoot a Canon 7D with the 100/2.8 non IS Macro and it is really good. Just got a EM-5 for my wife and she made the mistake of letting me try it. Like it so much I am down sizing my 7D stuff and going towards 4/3. My wife has the 12-50 kit lens and 45/1.8 for portraits. After seeing these images the 60 Macro is next on our list.

    Thanks for posting such an informative review.
    Lenshead (J. Allen)

  17. Steve Jones says:

    Wonderful quality from Olympus. You’ve got me wanting the lens AND the watch which is quite beautiful. I love that blue and also the contrasting burnt orange/ brown in these photos. Absolutely no regrets at buying the OM-D EM5.In August I got the most amazing shots of a beach on the East coast of England with the sunset reflecting off the cliffs into pools of water.And…wait for it…I took those photos with the 12-50mm at the wide setting…so there! I haven’t been this happy with a camera since…well,… I can’t remember.
    Very pleased that Olympus can maintain this level of consistency in quality in their ZD series.

  18. Great review Ming! Your watch photography is superb! I would definitely consider getting the 60mm if I didnt have the 50mm f2 adapted to the OMD with the free mmf3 :)

    Recently I got rid of my entire FF kit (a850 and lenses) to move entirely to m43rds (and 43rds) for my shooting. I have found it very versatile and reliable, with excellent colour, competitive noise/DR and brilliantly portable.

    All the best, and your other posts show a great writing style and sense of humor (as a full time designer many of your clients from hell port very well to my industry).

    • Thank you – watch photography is what I do for a living. And I think all creatives somehow suffer from the same clients…perhaps it’s the left/right brain divide? Or the corporate/ non corporate one?

  19. William Jusuf says:

    Ming.. what a great review

    I also think to get one.. to shoot .. watch :)

    starting shoot photos because of collecting watches (vintage king seiko and grand seiko)..
    I really need a good macro lens ( doing quite good with LX3 and GRD).. but a dedicated macro lens like this will complete me

    Ming.. great talent… such a desire to share… very enjoyable read and most of it
    Love the watches photos… goshhh….

    I will vote you to come to Jakarta next year…
    do a watch photography training.. I ll gather up all the WIS here

    William

    • Thank you. Go ahead and buy one, I honestly can’t think of a better lens for M4/3 – and you can see I tried a lot of them in today’s post!

      As for Jakarta – if you can get a group together, I’ll come!

  20. Hi Ming, another great review with wonderful pictures to illustrate it. One small detail you might want to correct though: when comparing with the Zuiko 50mm macro lens for Four Third, you wrote “granted, the design only has to cover the small Four Thirds frame”. I think both Four Third and Micro Four Third share the exact same sensor size, only the flange distance are different.

  21. Thanks for this great review!
    Seems to be a must-have lens in time.

    But at one point you are wrong:
    “has anybody tried looking for a TTL PocketWizard for Olympus lately? It just doesn’t exist.”

    Well, since recently, actually there exists one system working with remote TTL for Olympus: the AK-TTL from Aokatec.
    It is a general optical-signal-to-radio transmitter that “captures” the optical signals at the camera and “re-emits” the optical signals at the receiver(s) for the TTL slaves.

    I don’t use the system yet as it is really new to the market, but there are other users reporting a reliable working remote TTL system with their Olympus flashes: http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/discuss/72157631523525204/

    Look for the reviews of these triggers, they seem to be pretty reliable, comparable to Pocketwizards system.

    (I don’t have anything to do with Aokatec, but i’m just over the moon that finally ONE manufacturer realized that there is more on earth than Nikon and Canon…)

    Greets,
    Amicus

    • No problem. I wasn’t aware of this AK-TTL product – certainly isn’t available in Malaysia. Does it contact with the hotshoe pins, or just fit over the flash? It definitely sounds like a good idea, but I can only imagine there’s going to be some lag introduced in the process – flash fires, sensor detects, converts and then transmits radio signal, then the reverse at the other end…

  22. A great read, thank you!

  23. Tom Hudgins says:

    Ming, can you comment on the OM-D/ZD60 combo as a lighter weight alternative to a Nikon D800/105VR combo (apart from sensor specs) for image-stablized, hand-held field work?

    • Yes. And to me it feels a bit more tolerant of slight slop in technique than the D800 does; not to mention having incredibly effective stabilization with the OM-D – even at macro distances.

  24. So I guess Olympus delivers yet again, amazing review as always.
    As regards to the CA or simply the lack of it, I always thought that the whole concept of the four thirds design was to reduce CA. In which light is delivered perpendicular to the sensor, thus minimizing CA.

    • Not always; to me, the E-P3/ E-PL23/ E-PM1 strategy didn’t make sense – the prices were too close together, and the lower end models had more features in some ways (speed, for instance). Lenses, on the other hand…they’ve been mostly on a roll starting with the 45/1.8; the 75/1.8 and now the 60/2.8. I suspect the upcoming 17/1.8 will be fantastic, too. The 12-50…not so much.

    • @ EvanY:
      The Four Thirds telecentricity requirement was primarily to reduce vignetting and color crosstalk. Even in telecentric lenses, chromatic aberration can occur to light rays between the convergent front and the colimating rear elements.

      The Micro Four Thirds specification relaxes the Four Thirds requirement for telecentric lenses in order to achieve more compact lenses. The Olympus lenses seem to be a bit better than the Panasonic lenses with respect to lateral CA as Olympus doesn’t correct for CA in camera. I believe Leica requires optical CA correction for their co-branded Panasonic lenses.

      @Ming Thein
      Thank you for this review. I already had a preorder in with Olympus US (and its arriving in two days!). Am I safe in assuming you are using a light tent for most of these shots? I would love to see any post you’ve done on typical light setups for studio macro.

      • No problem. I use a custom setup for my macro work, which I’ve covered before in previous posts – watch photography is one of my primary commercial specialities.

  25. Wow! What a lens! What a review! And you make me so happy: I am now absolute shure (but wasn´t I before?), that the investment of EUR 239,– between christmas and new years day 2011 in my beloved Olympus E-PL 1 (inclusive set-lens!!!) was a more than excellent investment! The Olympus guys know how to build lenses (and other gear): They gave the products “the special touch” that I miss in many flickr pics that are made with Canon or Nikon (not Leica!) stuff…

  26. Hi, thanks for the excellent review. I wonder by chance if you ever used the 55mm 2.8 Micro Nikkor? It’s presently my macro of choice on m43 (with tilt adapter) as I find AF unnecessary. But curious to know if you think the ZD60 is a step up in optical performance from your Nikkor…?

    • Yes, I have actually – presume you mean the 1:1 version – I prefer the new 60/2.8 G to that lens; it’s got better microcontrast and higher flare resistance.

      Your question will be answered tomorrow…I’m finishing up a four-way between the ZD60, PL45, ZF.2 2/50 Makro Planar and the Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro :)

      • All these lenses have very different focal lengths and effects on their native systems and as such are designed accordingly. When using the same AOV lens on the D800 it has a very much improved resolution , I do have both the E-M5 and the D800 though not the D800E.Your conclusions are clearly wrong and every single test out there confirms this.

        • I don’t think you understand basic optics. If you’re trying to get the same AOV *and* the same DOF to match both cameras, you’re going to run into diffraction on the D800 which will reduce effective resolution. I shoot watches for a living. I’ve tried and seen this under more circumstances and situations than you can possibly imagine; if not, I wouldn’t have to resort to tilt-shift half the time.

  27. Hi. Nice review. My question is about manual focus ? Is it ugly like in the 4/3′ 50 F2 or the did somehow improve it ?

  28. ANother $ 1500 lens from m4.3.

  29. Ming, just tell me whether your dealer can hook me up with one next week when I’m in KL :)

  30. Reviews infer some form of independence which in Wong’s case cannot be guaranteed , getting free equipment from Olympus does not make for a fair review. “I was invited by Olympus Malaysia to review the ZD60″ also sound dodgy would any company seriously give a personal invite if they thought there was nay chance of criticism

  31. Actually yes, believe it or not. Some companies genuinely want feedback on their products. I didn’t particularly like the FL600R and found it unreliable to trigger compared to my Nikon system, which I’ve clearly reported. I only review loan equipment on the condition that I can publish whatever I want, and I’ll only review things that are interesting or useful to me. I just don’t have the time to do otherwise – I’m a commercial photographer first, and a blogger distant second. Most of the gear I have to buy myself and use, otherwise it wouldn’t make any commercial sense!

    Besides, what evidence do you have that I get anything for free? I wish! Unfortunately I have to buy my equipment like everybody else, even though it’s a lot of work to produce these reviews. Although I welcome legitimate challenges and questions, non-objective personal criticism is both rude and uncivil and will get you banned.

  32. @ D w tURNER, I can’t get around why your cynicism was necessary. If the 60mm doesn’t interest you, why would you be reading reviews of it and than question the reviews objectiveness when the lens comes out tops? Do you have vested interest in protecting other ‘competing’ lenses then?

  33. Dwaine Dibbly says:

    Order placed. Thanks for the Amazon link.

  34. Thanks for the support, Dwaine!

Trackbacks

  1. […] as vignetting are nothing to worry about.” Ming Thein, who got his start in product photography has a fantastic (if rather technical) review, where he says it’s “one of those lenses that falls into the ‘truly outstanding’ category […]

  2. […] glass in there at all. It also benefits from Olympus ZERO coating (previously seen on the 60/2.8 Macro), whose aim is to reduce flare and increase microcontrast. It works. I did encounter occasional […]

  3. […] lenses are also on sale – I own all of these and rate them very highly – the Olympus 60/2.8 Macro, 75/1.8 and 12/2 (click on the lens names for my reviews). You can find them up to $100 off here. […]

  4. […] Olympus ZD 45/1.8** 8/10 – review B&H Amazon Olympus ZD 60/2.8 macro** 7/10 – review B&H Amazon Olympus ZD 75/1.8** 9/10 – review B&H Amazon Panasonic Leica 25/1.4 8/10 […]

  5. [...] Abbott Members (0) Share Sort: Newest Oldest Title Publisher Sort Share blog.mingthein.com       2 minutes [...]

  6. good thoughts…

    Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system – Ming Thein | Photographer…

  7. [...] If you want some proper reviews written by real photographers, I recommend the macro features review by Robin Wong here, and his general shooting review here. If you want a more technical review, together with some rather stunning watch shots, go here. [...]

  8. [...] G, AFS 85/1.8 G, PCE 85/2.8 Nikon SB-700 x1, SB-900 x3 Olympus OM-D Olympus ZD 12/2, ZD 45/1.8, ZD 60/2.8 Macro Panasonic 20/1.7, 100-300/4-5.6 Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon; ZF.2 2/28 Distagon; ZF.2 2/50 [...]

  9. [...] its Micro Four Thirds lenses – first the 12/2, followed by the 45/1.8, then the 75/1.8 and 60/2.8 – the latter two of which are amongst the best lenses I’ve used for any system, period; [...]

  10. [...] generally excellent. Specifically in the case of the ZD60, (my full review at macro distances is here) I’m pleased to report that the lens’ already excellent optical properties do not [...]

  11. [...] good. A few more reviews: Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system Macro shootout on Micro Four Thirds: four lenses, one winner Robin Wong: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 [...]

  12. [...] together with a number of other items at Photokina 2012 – notably the E-PL5, E-PM1 Pens, 60/2.8 Macro and the wireless SD card [...]

  13. [...] Re: m.Zuiko 60/f2.8 Macro More poison images Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system – Ming Thein | Photograph… [...]

  14. [...] reviews. Direct links: Robin Wong: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Review: General Shooting Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system I enjoyed both of these reviews a lot, and while I have decided against buying this lens, these [...]

  15. [...] system maturity. Whilst I won’t be buying the 17, Schneider 30/ 60 or Panasonic 35-100, the Olympus 60/2.8 macro has proven to be one of, if not the best lens I’ve used on M4/3, and one of the best macro [...]

  16. [...] of some user experience based test of the macro lens has showed up: Robin Wong: Part 1 Ming Thein: Part 1 Zuikoholics: Part 1 The general consensus so far seems to be that it is an excellent lens if [...]

  17. [...] post is a continuation of yesterday’s review of the new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 60mm f2.8 Macro; aimed at answering two questions: what is the best macro lens for Micro Four Thirds, and just how [...]

  18. [...] Je was me iets te snel af Was ook net aan het lezen. Ik heb er nog eentje: http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/09/21…-60-2-8-macro/ Nikon D300s & Olympus OM-D E-M5 Flickr Met citaat [...]

  19. Anonymous says:

    [...] Muy buen objetivo, y encima lo prueba con lo que nos gusta… http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/09/21…-60-2-8-macro/ [...]

  20. [...] lens on different perspectives and you can check out their reviews too – from Robin Wong and Ming Thein for [...]

  21. [...] New 60mm f2.8 macro lens for uFT Bad news–it might be a must-have lens. Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system The price:utility ratio seems compelling given the price of all the other new releases of late. [...]

  22. [...] 3 I'll order one even if Nauticam doesn't make a port, but I sure hope they do. This lens looks great. Review: The Olympus ZD 60mm f2.8 Macro and FL-600R wireless flash system [...]

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,206 other followers

%d bloggers like this: