Photoessay: Street photography with the OM-D and ZD 60/2.8 macro

_5010194 copy
From outside looking in

All images in this series shot with the Olympus OM-D and ZD 60/2.8 macro.

There’s nothing that says you can’t use macro lenses for non-macro purposes; the old myth of the optics being poorer at longer distances is just that: a myth. In fact, macro lenses tend to perform better than most standard lenses even at long distances because they are so well corrected in the first place. There are two drawbacks: firstly, the apertures tend to be slower, which isn’t so good for achieving subject separation and is solely a physical property of the focal length and aperture combination of the lens; secondly, the focus throw tends to be shorter.

_5010332bw copy
Not wanting to be part of the crowd

This is a both good and bad – good because if an autofocus lens, the focusing elements don’t have to move as far since the lens must also be able to provide sufficient effective extension to focus at macro distances, bad because it means that if you have a manual focus lens – like the ZF.2 2/50 Makro-Planar I use – you have very, very little travel between mid distances – say 2-3m or so – and infinity, which can make precise focusing very difficult. For manual focus lenses, using the camera’s built-in rangefinder/ focus confirmation dot simply isn’t precise enough as the dot stays lit for some not inconsiderable displacement of the focusing barrel*. For autofocus lenses, the camera/ lens combination may not have the ability to consistently move the elements by the precise displacements required for very small changes in focusing distance – this is especially apparent with older screwdriver-focused lenses like the Nikon 60/2.8 D. Newer coreless motor lenses (AFS, EFS, M4/3 lenses etc) generally don’t have problems as there is very little backlash in the focusing system.

_5010144 copy
The writing’s on the wall

*Do this simple test to see what I mean: shoot the same subject, at the same distance, with the cameras on a tripod and your desired test lens attached. Using the viewdfinder or EVF, try to focus the lens/ camera manually from both infinity and near limit, stopping just once the focus confirm indicator lights. Do this with the aperture wide open, otherwise other focus errors like backfocusing or mirror misalignment can’t be identified and compensated for. Shoot the same frame again, focusing with live view to use as a comparison image. What you’ll probably see – is that neither image using focus confirm is as sharp as the live view image. This effect is even worse for telephotos, because of the depth of field characteristics of the focal length. The shorter the focus throw, the worse this problem becomes.

_5010527 copy
Untitled.

Potential focusing issues notwithstanding, so long as you have enough light for a sufficiently high shutter speed to avoid camera shake, the results are 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 change at all at longer distances. In fact, the one niggling flaw I saw at close range is mostly gone – I’m not seeing any bright edges to out of focus highlights. Both foreground and background bokeh is smooth and non-distracting. Subjects fall nicely in planes and are separated in a manner that has plenty of 3D pop; this is characteristic of a lens with excellent microcontrast.

_5010353 copy
Arches

Focusing is not an issue at all, and is just as fast as the ZD 45/1.8 providing you have the 4-way limiter switch in the right position. The one minor issue I did find was that the lens with hood is not exactly inconspicuous (and nowhere as compact as the 45), being nearly 15cm long with everything in place. Relatively small by DSLR standards, but probably not exactly what M4/3 users have in mind.. Personally, I find this combination of interest not because I’d take it out on dedicated street photography/ travel expeditions, but because I frequently carry the OM-D system either as a backup camera (or as a primary for assignments that don’t require the D800E’s resolution) – and the ability for a lens to do double-duty means one less thing to carry, break, fail or potentially lose. It’s always nice to have options. MT

The Olympus OM-D, 60/2.8 Macro and 45/1.8 are available through Amazon by clicking on their respective links.

____________

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

_5010264 copy
A pick-me-up before the pick up

_5010106 copy
Hiding from the dishes

_5010217 copy
Guardedly relaxed

_5010340 copy
I’m on the way

_5010076 copy
Hop to rainbow row

_5010091 copy
A surprisingly good soup

Comments

  1. Awesome pictures! I hope to someday take pictures this good and do it as seemingly inconspicuously as you do!

    • I especially like how you use the environment to frame your subjects. It amazes me that you can see that kind of potential through all the noise and distractions of a busy urban city.

      • It’s tougher with a longer lens, actually – you need to have a lot more distance between you and the subject, which means more potential ‘stuff’ to get in the way, which by the time you wait for it to clear, your frame composition has changed and the shot has potentially disappeared…

    • Thanks Ryan!

  2. I love the photo of the guy smoking… great shot.

  3. Great pictures, obviously the photographer much more influence on the results than the lens!

    That aside, I would still think the 45mm F1.8 is a better street lens than the 60mm F2.8. Not quite as long and with much shallower DOF when required. Glad to see the 60mm is so versatile though. For me, I have the 45mm for street and an old Vivitar 55mm macro on a screw mount for close work. Does just fine when the subject matter isn’t moving. I expect the combo cost less than the 60mm as well.

    • Thanks Darrell. I agree – I prefer the 45 over the 60 for street work because of the extra 1 1/3 stop and shorter FL. 60mm can be a bit too much for some situations. Actually, the new 60mm isn’t that expensive…

  4. i like 6 & 9 a lot

  5. Overall if you had to pick one: This or the 45 / 1.8 for Portraits/Street?
    Thanks!

    • The 45 – 120mm equivalent is a bit long and unwieldy in a lot of situations, and you lose a stop. But, the 60 will still make an excellent lens for both – it’s just that it happens to excel particularly at macro distances.

  6. The writing’s on the wall is amazing… Thanks for doing this post. I have wondered how the 60/2.8 would do at a distance.

  7. i love them all!!!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] See on Scoop.it – Olympus OM-DThere’s nothing that says you can’t use macro lenses for non-macro purposes; the old myth of the optics being poorer at longer distances is just that: a myth. In fact, macro lenses tend to perform better than most standard lenses even at long distances because they are so well corrected in the first place. There are two drawbacks: firstly, the apertures tend to be slower, which isn’t so good for achieving subject separation and is solely a physical property of the focal length and aperture combination of the lens; secondly, the focus throw tends to be shorter.See on blog.mingthein.com [...]

  2. [...] There’s nothing that says you can’t use macro lenses for non-macro purposes; the old myth of the optics being poorer at longer distances is just that: a myth. In fact, macro lenses tend to perform better than most standard lenses even at long distances because they are so well corrected in the first place. There are two drawbacks: firstly, the apertures tend to be slower, which isn’t so good for achieving subject separation and is solely a physical property of the focal length and aperture combination of the lens; secondly, the focus throw tends to be shorter.  [...]

  3. [...] 60mm F2.8 non-macro samples Photoessay: Street photography with the OM-D and ZD 60/2.8 macro It looks like a great lens to have. To me it's a bit longer than I'd have liked. But I'm sure it [...]

  4. [...] There’s nothing that says you can’t use macro lenses for non-macro purposes; the old myth of the optics being poorer at longer distances is just that: a myth. In fact, macro lenses tend to perform better than most standard lenses even at long distances because they are so well corrected in the first place. There are two drawbacks: firstly, the apertures tend to be slower, which isn’t so good for achieving subject separation and is solely a physical property of the focal length and aperture combination of the lens; secondly, the focus throw tends to be shorter.  [...]

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 28,067 other followers

%d bloggers like this: