Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro M.Zuiko Digital ED
Lab Test Results
Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro Review
January 5, 2017
by Andrew Alexander
Olympus announced the 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro M.Zuiko Digital ED lens at Photokina in 2016, offering their second dedicated macro lens for the Micro Four Thirds platform (the first was the 60mm macro). The 30mm lens offers an 35mm-equivalent field of view of 60mm, and will mount on all Micro Four Thirds compatible camera bodies.
The lens offers a constant ƒ/3.5 aperture, however, in macro use it's typical that the actual aperture will be stopped down from ƒ/3.5 when the lens is focused at extremely close distances since the depth of field becomes very narrow.
The lens ships with the LC-46 lens cap, accepts 46mm filters, and is available now for around $300.
The Olympus 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro offers very sharp results, even when used wide-open at the ƒ/3.5 aperture setting. At this point there is just a small trace of corner softness, but otherwise the center of the image is tack-sharp. Stopping down further increases sharpness in the corners, to a point of optimal sharpness at ƒ/8. By ƒ/11, diffraction limiting begins to set in, but you won't really notice it until ƒ/16 where there is a very light softness across the frame, or more particularly at ƒ/22 where softness is somewhat more prominent.
Chromatic aberration is a bit more noticeable than we'd like to see: it's more evident in the corners, showing magenta fringing in areas of high contrast. Unfortunately, there's no particular advantage in stopping down.
With the corners of the image coming up at only 1/3 darker than the center, corner shading isn't a huge concern for this lens. And when the lens is stopped down to ƒ/5.6 or smaller, there is no significant corner shading to speak of.
Like most macro lenses, the Olympus 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro provides images without any noticeable distortion in them.
The 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro lens uses Olympus' "MSC" (Movie and Still Compatible) designation meaning the electronic "High-speed Imager AF" system is nearly silent to help avoid picking up focusing noise in videos. In our handling experience, the lens is indeed very quiet to focus. The AF system is also very fast with no hunting, taking well under one second to sweep from minimum focusing distance to infinity.
Manual focusing is also available with this lens using an electrical focus-by-wire system. There are no hard stops on the lens' focus ring to let you know when you've reached maximum or minimum focus distances, however, there are on-screen indicators. Attached filters won't rotate during focusing operations, and the lens does not extend at all during focusing.
Compared to its larger brother, the 60mm Macro M.Zuiko, the 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro doesn't have the bells and whistles for macro work such as macro reproduction scales or a focus limiter switch. However, the lens is designed very well for macro work, offering an impressive 1.25x magnification rating (Olympus also mentions that when considering the image in 35mm terms, it's actually offering a 2.5x magnification rating). The minimum focusing distance is 9.5cm (almost 4 inches): when you take the length of the lens into account (60mm eq.) it's worth noting that for maximum magnification, you will almost be on top of your subject, so you may encounter issues where you are shading your subject.
Build Quality and Handling
The Olympus 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro is a solid little lens which does not add much weight to the camera (in this case, a mere 128 grams, or just over 4 ounces). The lens has 7 elements in 6 groups, including 1 aspherical, 1 DSA and 1 EDA element. The lens features a seven-bladed circular aperture which stops down to ƒ/22, and as previously mentioned, takes 46mm filters. The lens features a metal body mount and plastic filter threads, and, unlike the pricier Olympus 60mm macro lens, does not come with any measure of weather proofing.
The exterio of the lens is fairly spartan; no switches or features at all other than the 1" wide manual focusing ring. Manual focusing action is silky smooth, and works very well.
We couldn't find any information about a lens hood, however, there are specific accessories listed for underwater shooting including the POSR-EP11 Anti-reflective Ring and the PPZR-EP07 Focus Gear. Other special accessories include the FR-2 adapter ring for the RF-11 ring flash or the STF-22 twin flash.
Olympus 60mm ƒ/2.8 M.Zuiko Digital ED ~$500
The Olympus 60mm is larger and more expensive than the Olympus 30mm macro, but it does offer more for the money: dedicated macro features include a four-stage focus distance limiter, and macro reproduction scales. The aperture is slightly wider (ƒ/2.8 instead of ƒ/3.5), but the 30mm does offer slightly greater maximum magnification.
Panasonic 30mm ƒ/2.8 ASPH LUMIX MACRO ~$400
Sharing the same lens mount, the Panasonic 30mm ƒ/2.8 Macro offers a slightly wider aperture, as well as built-in optical image stabilization, for only a slightly greater expense. The lens performs very well for sharpness, though chromatic aberration becomes a bit of an issue when the lens is stopped down.
Panasonic 45mm ƒ/2.8 ASPH MEGA OIS LEICA DG MACRO ~$800
We haven't yet tested this lens, but it's another macro offering from Panasonic, at a 90mm equivalent field of view. It also comes equipped with optical image stabilization.
At the time of writing, if you're interested in macro shooting you only have Olympus and Panasonic options in the Micro Four Thirds mount: Sigma has a few Micro Four Thirds "DN" optics available, but nothing in a dedicated macro design.
If you're interested in getting into Macro photography but don't want to lay out a big investment, the Olympus 30mm ƒ/3.5 M.Zuiko Macro is your best bet. It's the least expensive option, and while it doesn't come crammed with features, it does produce the highest-magnification images of all the alternatives.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro M.Zuiko Digital ED
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