As expected, OM System has today officially announced the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens. As a Micro Four Thirds lens, it offers an equivalent field of view to a 180mm lens on a full-frame body with a 2:1 magnification ratio for larger-than-life macro shots. A minimum focus distance of only 22.4cm means a working distance of around 8cm from the end of the lens, letting you get very close to your subjects.
It features built-in optical stabilisation, and with IP53 weather sealing, it’s useful for all kinds of location macro work in all different weather conditions. As with most macro lenses, it features a focus limiter switch, and a floating focus mechanism maintains sharpness throughout the entire focusing range all the way up to infinity. It’s also compatible with the MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters for 2.8x or 4x magnification, respectively.
2x magnification provides a large view of very tiny subjects to highlight details of flowers, insects or other small, detailed objects. A manual focus clutch mechanism lets you easily see the magnification and focus distance markings on the lens barrel as you close in on your subject. The 22.4cm minimum focus distance (from the sensor) means that you can get extremely close to those tiny subjects, too.
As an M.Zuiko PRO lens, it features an optical design that’s been optimised for sharpness and colour accuracy. It also means that it minimises aberrations, flare, ghosting and colour fringing for the most realistic colours possible. Of course, these days, most modern lenses tend to boast these particular assets. But what this lens does feature that isn’t terribly common is an IP53 rating to protect against the harshest of weather. Sure, other cameras are weather sealed to varying degrees, but few companies go so far as to give it an IP rating.
The M.Zuiko 90mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro, as the name suggests, features built-in optical image stabilisation. When used in conjunction with a camera that features 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), OM System says this provides up to 7 stops of shake reduction. At 90mm on MFT, that means you can potentially handhold down to a half-second exposure.
That might seem pretty long, but given the smaller apertures you need to use at macro distances to get enough depth of field, combined with the light you lose by simply shooting macro in the first place, that’s not an unreasonable shutter speed to need without additional lighting.
The internal focusing design uses two focusing lens groups. This allows the lens to maintain its length throughout the focus range. This is important when using the focus stacking features of various cameras that rack the focus from one point to another to composite several shots into one final image for a deeper depth of field. It also means that as you’re focusing in on your subjects manually, you’re not potentially scaring small bugs away before you’ve got the shot by having the front of the lens constantly moving closer towards them as you rotate the focus ring.
It’s not an inexpensive lens, though, by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, being the only autofocus macro lens at this focal length for Micro Four Thirds and having built-in image stabilisation, it doesn’t really have any direct competition. OM System can pretty much set their own price. So, they have. There are other – much cheaper – options out there, like the $499 Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC, but that’s manual focus, doesn’t have IS and offers only 1:1 magnification. There’s also the $499 Mitakon Zhingyi Creator 85mm f/2.8 lens. This one’s also manual focus with no stabilisation, but this one does boast up to a 5:1 magnification. There’s also that weird $399 Yasuhara Nanoha 5:1 macro lens, too.
To put things into context, you could buy all three of those lenses and still not quite meet the cost of the new OM System lens. You could even go with something like a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro or a Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 and an autofocus lens adapter and still come out spending less money. Of course, you might need a teleconverter or extension tube to reach that 2:1 magnification ratio.
But everybody’s needs are different, and some people will need this lens enough to justify the cost. Others won’t. Personally, I’ll be sticking with my adapted Nikon lens for shooting macro on MFT.
The OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm f/3.5 Macro IS PRO lens is available to pre-order now for $1,499.99 and is expected to start shipping in March.