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Hands-on with OM System’s new high-end 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO lens
posted Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 2:00 AM EDT
Initially disclosed as a development announcement back in September 2022, OM Digital Solutions has now fully unveiled their next OM System lens, the M.Zuiko 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO. The third macro lens in their Micro Four Thirds system lineup, the 90mm F3.5 is both the longest focal length macro lens they've ever made, with a 180mm-eq. focal length, and also the first Pro-series macro lens for OM System cameras.
OM Digital Solutions, or Olympus at the time, debuted the 60mm F2.8 Macro lens all the way back in 2012. A fairly specialized macro lens, it offered a 120mm-equivalent focal length and full 1:1 macro capabilities. And while not a "Zuiko Pro" series lens -- as that line wasn't even a thing yet (Olympus's Micro Four Thirds camera system was still fairly new around that time) -- it was one of the few Olympus lenses with a splashproof design. A few Photokinas later, and Olympus released the 30mm F3.5 Macro lens. This tiny, lightweight lens offered a 60mm-eq. focal length and an impressive 1.25x maximum magnification factor. Although, it does lack several of the bells and whistles of the longer 60mm lens.
But now, OM Digital Solutions has pulled out all the stops for their most advanced and highest-end macro lens to date. In addition to a longer focal length, the lens features even more powerful macro capabilities, with up to 2x magnification (4x in 35mm-eq.) or even more magnifying powers up to 4x when combined with OM's 1.4x or 2x teleconverters. Further, there's on-board optical image stabilization, IP53-rated weather-sealed construction, AF/MF clutch with focus and magnification markings and much more! At around $1500, it's undoubtedly a pro- and enthusiast-oriented lens, and one that's much more expensive than their other two macro lenses. However, it's their most powerful and feature-rich macro lens, so if you've been looking for the "ultimate field macro lens," the new OM 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro lens has all the boxes checked.
I've been fortunate to have an early look at OM's latest lens, so in addition to a full rundown of features and specs, let's also take a closer look (no pun intended) at how this new macro lens performs in the field!
Key Features & Specs
- 90mm telephoto macro lens (180mm in 35mm equivalence)
- F3.5-F22 aperture range
- Up to 2x magnification (4x in 35mm eq); minimum focusing distance of just 0.224m (8.8in)
- Up to 4x macro magnification (8x in 35mm eq) when using 2x teleconverter
- Manual focus clutch with focusing distance and magnification markings
- Autofocus capable across full focusing range, even at macro distances
- IP53 weather sealing
- Lens IS with Sync IS compatibility with up to 7 stops of stabilization
- Compatible with all OM System Cameras
- Weight: 453g (15.98 oz)
- Dimensions (D x L): 68.9mm x 136mm [2.7 in x 5.4 in]
- 62mm filter thread
- MSRP: $1499.99 US ($2049.99 CAD)
- Shipping: March 9th, 2023
Design and Handling
As with most Micro Four Thirds lenses, the new OM 90mm F3.5 Macro is smaller and lighter than an equivalent lens for a full-frame system, such as the Canon EF 180mm F3.5L Macro lens, for instance. The OM 90mm Macro lens comes in at just 453g, or right at one pound. The lens has a pretty thin and narrow tube-like shape, with a fairly long barrel (at least compared to OM's previous macro lenses) and a pretty small diameter. The lens measures 136mm (5.35 in) in length and a diameter of just 69.8mm (2.75 in). The 90mm lens has a filter thread of 62mm, which is the same filter size as several of their existing Pro lenses, such as the 12-40mm F2.8 Pro II and all three of the F1.2 Pro primes -- comes in handy if you want to share filters.
Despite the larger size of the lens compared to the Olympus 60mm Macro and especially the 30mm F3.5 Macro, the new 90mm F3.5 still feels impressively compact and light when you pick it up. The build quality is solid, just like I've experienced with other Zuiko Pro lenses, but this lens doesn't feel hefty at all -- which is great. Visually, too, the larger size fits nicely with OM's higher-end cameras, such as the OM-1 or with my E-M1 II. The tiny 60mm macro lens is dwarfed by these cameras, whereas the 90mm balances really well, both physically and just in appearance.
As part of OM's "Zuiko Pro" series of lenses, the 90mm F3.5 Macro lens features the best of the best when it comes to build quality and weather-sealing. The barrel and lens mount are made entirely out of metal, and the lens shares the same impressive IP53-rated weather-sealed construction as their flagship OM-1 camera. Though, of course, the lens is not waterproof, the lens is securely sealed against moisture, dust and freezing temperatures down to -10 degrees C (14 degrees F). The lens also has a fluorine coating on the front element for additional protection and easy cleaning of dust, moisture and oils. Like their pro cameras, the 90mm Macro lens is designed with outdoor adventures in mind, no matter the weather conditions.
Looking at the lens's exterior features, one of the most notable features of the 90mm Macro lens is the large focusing ring and AF/MF clutch mechanism. Like most (but not all) of OM's Pro-series lenses feature a physical clutch mechanism to toggle the lens back and forth between autofocus and manual focus modes. Pulling the focusing ring back towards the camera engages manual focus mode and also reveals a focusing distance scale as well as magnification factors from 0.25x all the way to 2x, which I find very helpful. Want to make sure you're shooting at exactly 1x or 2x macro magnification, simply rotate the focusing ring to your desired magnification setting and move the camera back and forth until you get your subject in focus. (However, speaking of autofocusing -- which I'll touch on more further down -- AF does work throughout the lens's full focusing range, even at macro distances!)
The 90mm macro lens also includes small panel of controls, including a customizable lens function button, an image stabilization on/off switch and a three-way focus limiter switch. The focus limiter switch lets you dial in how much autofocus range you have, which depending on your shooting situation, can help speed up AF performance. The slider switch has a position for full* focus range (0.25m to infinity), a close-up range of 0.25 to 0.5m (down to 1x macro magnification), and then an even higher-powered macro mode ("S Macro") that lets you autofocus down to 2x magnification, or 0.224m (4x in 35mm-eq.).
(* Normal autofocusing range is from 1x macro to infinity, or from 0.25m to infinity. You'll need to switch into the "S Macro" mode if you want to autofocus closer than the 1x magnification level.)
Now, on its own, the 90mm F3.5 Macro lens is an amazingly powerful macro lens that lets you get down to 2x magnification. However, if you want more magnification, you can add OM's 1.4x or 2x teleconverters for even closer focusing performance. With the MC-20 2x TC attached, you can get full 4x macro magnification for some extreme close-up shooting performance -- and you still have autofocus functionality.
The 90mm Macro lens also features built-in optical image stabilization, making it one of the few OM or Olympus lenses to have OIS. Like the 300mm F4 Pro and 12-100mm F4 Pro lenses, the 90mm Macro is compatible with Sync IS, and the lens's IS will work in tandem with the camera's body-based IS system for some impressive stabilization performance. OM doesn't provide a spec for the number of stops of correction for the lens's IS system alone, but together with a supported camera body, the 5-axis Sync IS is rated for up to 7 stops of stabilization.
In the field, and especially when focusing at macro distances, vibrations are extremely noticeable, and when activated, the IS system does an incredible job and creating a smooth and steady view to help compose and focus your shots. Typically, with high-powered macro shooting, you really need to use a tripod, but the combination of autofocus and excellent image stabilization with the OM System 90mm Macro lens really makes it possible to shoot macro handheld. It's quite impressive.
In terms of the OM 90mm F3.5 Macro lens's optical design, the lens features a total of 18 elements arranged into 13 groups. The lens includes two Super ED elements, four ED elements, one Super HR and one HR lens. The array of ED and Super ED glass elements help suppress chromatic aberration and fringing, while the HR lens elements help ensure sharpness across the frame and also help reduce the size of the lens. OMDS also states that the defocused areas and the bokeh of this lens are designed to have minimal color bleeding. The lens also features their ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coating to help reduce ghosting and flare.
Though I've only had a short amount of time to test out the new 90mm Macro lens so far, the image quality I've seen from this lens is definitely impressive -- though given the excellent legacy of previous Zuiko Pro lenses, I wasn't expecting poor performance. Images are extremely sharp, both at the center and in the corners -- and even wide open. Despite being a macro lens, the 90mm F3.5 can work perfectly well as a normal short telephoto lens, too.
When shooting macro shots, you're probably not going to shoot at F3.5, as the depth of field will become incredibly shallow and you'll only get a tiny sliver of your subject in focus. Fortunately, the 90mm works very well when used stopped down, even at very narrow apertures, such as F18, for example. Usually, stopping a lens done that much, you can experience some diffraction-related softness that you'd not see at wider apertures. This side effect can also be more noticeable on smaller sensor camera systems, but I am very pleased with the performance here with this lens. I took some test macro shots at F18, and the amount of incredibly fine detail I could see in the resulting photos is outstanding.
I've mentioned a lot about the macro focusing capabilities of this lens already, but the 90mm F3.5 Macro lens can also be used for normal photo and video scenarios, too. The lens features a high-speed focusing system with dual focusing groups that are driven independently, which helps provide fast and precise AF performance.
With autofocusing available for macro shooting, too, the lens is easy to use with OM/Olympus cameras that feature in-camera Focus Stacking.
As mentioned, the minimum focusing distance with normal autofocusing range is 0.25m (9.84 in), but you can focus slightly closer when switched into S Macro mode. Here, you can focus down to 0.224m (8.82 in) for 2x macro magnification.
Pricing & Availability
The OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO will go on sale in March 2023 for $1,499.99 in the U.S. and $2,049.99 CAD.
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A full, in-depth review of the OM System 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro lens is in the works, so stay tuned for more. For an initial sampling of more real-world images, head over to our OM 90mm F3.5 Macro Gallery.