Caffeine Priority: A quick test run with the new Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro lens
posted Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 5:59 AM EDT
Wake up with IR! Here's today's cup of Caffeine Priority...
"Well, hey little guy. Aren't you cute!"
This statement could very well be describing the small frogs and bumblebees I happened upon yesterday afternoon while using the new Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro lens. It could also be describing the macro lens itself! Announced at Photokina, the baby brother to Olympus' highly-regarded 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens is not only light in weight but also on the wallet. These qualities make it a rather compelling option for those who have a curiosity about macro photography, but don't want to shell out major bucks for a high-end macro lens, lighting, and tripod accessories.
Having just arrived at the IR headquarters a couple of days ago, I decided to take it out for a quick spin. I already have a few initial thoughts on this compact macro lens that I thought I'd share with everyone. For starters, it's amazingly lightweight and compact. With a simple polycarbonate barrel, the lens feels solid and well made, yet without the slightest chance of weighing you down. Toss this guy into your bag and forget about it until you need it.
A minor sticking point, to me at least, is the lack of weather sealing. The bigger 60mm f/2.8 macro is splashproof, but while that would be a nice feature to have on the 30mm lens as well, at $299, I'm not complaining.
My biggest hang-up with this lens, right from the get-go is the focal length. It's too short. Walking around with the lens, I spotted a few bumblebees and a tiny frog. In order to get really close-up photos, I had to physically get the lens very close to the subjects to fill the frame. Thankfully, the cooler weather here made the bees very docile, and they remained perched on the flowers. I was able to get very close, but I had to be mindful that my lens wasn't going to bump into them. A longer focal length, like that on the 60mm macro lens, would have been very helpful for live subjects such as these.
As for image quality, so far I'm very impressed. When I was able to nail the focus -- thanks a lot, windy day! -- the lens produced very sharp photos with lots of detail. The close-focusing capability is also very impressive; I can basically have the subjects about a half an inch from the front of the lens, and it'll still focus! While this in and of itself is pretty cool, you have to then be careful about lighting. I often found myself completely blocking the light on my subject with the camera and the lens, in particular.
We're obviously anxious to see how this lens performs in the lab, but so far, we're expecting great results especially given Olympus' performance in the past with macro lenses. For now, enjoy a few sample images shot with my Olympus E-M1. You can view a few resized images throughout this article, but jump over to the Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro Gallery to view full-resolution JPEGs and RAW files.
Caffeine Priority is a series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully, these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!