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Advice on macro lenses needed

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by pictor, May 7, 2011.

  1. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I want to buy a macro lens for my Olympus E-PL1. I could buy the Panasonic, but I prefer using MF macro lenses using adapters, since I could continue to use them, if I decided to change to a NEX or some other EVIL. BTW, there is no native µ4/3 lens which is as good as the Leica Summicron 50mm I love to use on my E-PL1.

    At the moment I have two options:

    The first option is a 100mm macro by Canon (FD). The owner of this lens used to drive with his Land Rover through the desert. His camera (and this lens) was positioned in the glove box. That means, that the lens was shaken thoroughly for a long time and exposed to much dust. There are several scars and there is no paint at some edges and it was very dusty, but the lens was cleaned in the shop, because I wanted to test it in the botanical garden. It really looks like a lens which was in a glove box of a Land Rover in the Sahara, but it could still be worse. The mechanics seems to be fine and the optical quality seems to be fine, too, but I have to test it further. The (very competent) sales person said, that this kind of lenses is built well enough to withstand this kind of strain.

    I need not buy it and may wait for the second option. Next week a used Leica 60mm macro will be brought from their other shop, but I expect it to be in a worse condition, if the codes of their homepage are correct (they are a little bit inconsistent). I do not need to buy it, either, and will be able to test it.

    I have found a shop in an other town, which offers hundreds of used lenses (as it seems). There are several used macro lenses by Canon including pictures on their home page. I want to visit that town at the end of this month and could visit that shop. The lenses which are sold there look better, but they are more expensive. A Canon FD 100mm macro which looks fine on the photo costs about twice as much as the lens I mentioned above.

    I need a second opinion. What do you think?
    • Like Like x 1
  2. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    with a bit of luck a macro specialist will come along and offer some well-informed help . .. but I've long fancied a good macro lens, so I've done a bit of research and asked advice, and the conclusions I came to were ... if you want a native lens, get the 45mm Leica ... otherwise, the Micro-Nikkor 55mm (2.8 or 3.5) or Micro-Nikkor 105mm (2.8 or 4) are reckoned excellent; and the Tamron 90/2.8 (Adaptall mount) has a very good name ... you should be able to pick up a 55mm or 90mm for < €200 or the 105mm for about €250-$300. I know grebeman really rates the 105mm Sigma 2.8 macro in 4/3 mount too.

    I've recently acquired a Tamron, basically because at the price it was not to be missed, it's mint, and it came with a hood and 1:1 extension ... but I've yet to try it as I'm waiting for an adapter ...

    Oh and I personally wouldn't be buying a lens that's been rolling around in a LandRover ina desert ... unless it was for a price where I could afford to throw it away if it was no good ...
  3. Country Parson

    Country Parson Top Veteran

    Apr 5, 2011
    North Carolina
    According to DXO the Zeiss 100mm f2 is the best, followed closely by the Nikon 100mm f2.8. However, if price is a principle concern it seems like you are already in a good place to find used lenses, many of which will do well. The Nikon 85mm f3.5 is a fine lens and much less expensive than the first two I mentioned. It is also very light and would handle well as an adapted lens. It focuses to life-size, whereas the Zeiss only focuses to half life-size. :daz:
  4. Brian

    Brian Top Veteran

    Jul 7, 2010
    What type of macro work are you planning to do?

    The 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor is going to give the equivalent of the 105 as used on a full-frame camera. They are inexpensive compared to most.
  5. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    The various Vivitar (and associated brands) macros are excellent, although because they are highly regarded they may not be much cheaper than an OEM lens, if at all. I have the 55/2.8 in FD mount. Do you know what working distance you require? This will determine whether you need a longer focal length e.g. >90mm. A 50 or 55mm macro lens will be only centimetres away from the subject at max magnification.
  6. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Many thanks for your answers!

    Flowers, insects, mainly nature. In Film days I had the Canon FD 200mm macro which is an excellent lens, but much too long for µ4/3. This is the lens I used most and I used it very much for photographing butterflies and dragonflies. Although 200mm were excellent for this application, I often wished to have a 100mm, too, because 200mm is very long for some other type of macro photography. So I consider even buying two macro lenses. A used 50mm and a used 100mm cost less than the Panasonic and offer me more possibilities and I do not need AF and IS for macro work (AF and IS are useless for macro).
  7. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    For a Canon FD 100mm macro the price is low (190 €), but it is too high to throw it away. I would prefer a more expensive, but less problematic lens.
  8. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    You are right and this annoyed me when I had my 60mm macro on my Nikon D90. For µ4/3 I prefer a 50mm lens for close but not dedicated macro work, but for dedicated macro work (and insects) I really want a 100mm. Yesterday I took some test shots with it and I felt at home immediately. The 200mm macro was my bread and butter lens for my Canon T90. So I prefer a 100mm macro to a 50mm.
  9. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I have had the 100mm macro for two days now and I have taken it to the botanical garden twice. Its optical quality is outstanding and there does not seem any mechanical problem apart from some paint defects. It has been cleaned and I cannot see any dust in the inside. Thus I have decided to buy the Canon. But I have also seen, that I will need a second macro lens which should have a focal length of about 50mm. Many thanks for your advice, which has helped me in deciding more than it may seem!

    There is still one problem left. I use a tripod for macro work. The lens and the adapter weigh about 1.1 lbs. It has no tripod collar. I know that the Panasonic 100-300mm weights more, but could there be a problem regarding the tripod mount of the E-PL1? I have tighten the friction control such that the camera/lens combination does not tip over by itself, thus by moving the camera there might act some more force upon the tripod mount than the lens alone would do. What does the tripod mount bear?
  10. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    Since I have made my decision, I want to update this thread. Yesterday I wrote:

    Today I have got the Leica 60mm in order to test it. In the shop I saw that the lens has some problems with the back lens. There are several fine scratches which look like someone was not careful with cleaning the lens. One could see that the coting was most probably defective or even gone due to abuse, after the very competent sales person cleaned the lens carefully. I was sure that I would not buy this lens when I saw this, but I tested the lens in the botanical garden, since I was very curious and maybe a little bit too optimistic. The contrast of this lens is extremely weak and it is very soft. I know how to get sharp pictures and I have to say, that I have never seen a lens with so bad contrast before. The lens will have to leave me again.

    After all I am happy with the Canon 100mm which is a very fine lens even after its adventures in the Sahara. Although the Leica is in a bad condition, it made fun to test it in the botanical garden and I even got some fine pictures. Thanks to Lightroom I could get a usable result, although even my 14-150mm could have done better with less post-processing.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Christian, those are indeed fine pictures! I'm glad that you've kept us updated, and would never ever have known there were any problems with that lens by the looks of those photographs - they're wonderful!

    The most important thing is that you are content and pleased with the tools at your photographic disposal, and it sounds as though the well traveled Canon 100mm has made the cut and found itself a new, comfortable home with you. :bravo-009:
    • Like Like x 1
  12. pictor

    pictor All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I am content and pleased now and you are right again that this is the most important thing. When I was a child I dreamed what I would do some day and one of my dreams was being a naturalist driving through the African savanna with a Range Rover. I am no naturalist and I am not driving through the African savanna, but I own a macro lens which did. What should that tell us? I don't know. :smile:
    • Like Like x 1

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