First Day with M.Zuiko 90 mm Macro

Yesterday was my first attempt with handheld field testing and experimenting with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens.

Regular readers may remember that when the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO macro lens was introduced early last year I decided that it would not suit my handheld shooting style.

Based on some early reports on this lens, I made the assumption that I would not be able to fully leverage the image creating potential that this lens offered… unless I used a tripod. That was a deal breaker for me.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-125, cropped to 4371 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres

So, what has happened since early last year that led me to recently purchase the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO macro lens? Two things. The first was experiencing the outstanding Sync-IS performance of my M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS telephoto zoom lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/13, ISO-640, full frame capture, subject distance 2.8 metres

It was a revelation for me to be able to confidently handhold this lens fully extended at 600 mm (efov 1200 mm) at 1/20th, or even 1/13th of a second, and create good, sharp images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5, 1/8, ISO-250, full frame capture, subject distance 1.1 metres

This made me reconsider the assumption that I had made about the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO macro lens. I began to feel confident that I could effectively handhold this lens when using teleconverters with it.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 50 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4, 1/5, ISO-200

The only other M.Zuiko lens that I own which has Sync-IS is the 12-100 mm f/4 PRO IS zoom. This happens to be one of the lesser used lenses in my kit. So, I really hadn’t fully experienced the benefits of Sync-IS until buying the M.Zuiko 150-600 IS zoom.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

The second factor was my wife’s growing interest in macro photography. During the past year my wife has been enjoying experimenting with macro photography… especially with flowers. When we’ve gone out together to photograph this subject matter she has been using our M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro. Typically I put together another lens option for myself with a teleconverter and/or an extension tube.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

Lately we’ve been discussing buying a second M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. This would allow us to simultaneously use a macro lens when we’re out together doing close-up and macro photography.

I decided to revisit my previous assessment of the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS Macro and did some additional research using more recent reports on this lens. This led to my wife and I having some discussions which culminated in us buying the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO macro lens earlier this week. It arrived yesterday.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-160, full frame capture, subject distance 520 mm

I had some limited time yesterday afternoon to do a bit of initial experimentation with the M.Zuiko 90 mm macro lens. It was somewhat cold so there were virtually no insects to be found. And, other than some tiny flowers on our heather shrubs there wasn’t much in the way of plant subjects either. I captured the image above one handed to help illustrate the size of the blossoms in the majority of the images in this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/7.1, -0.7 EV, 1/640, ISO-160, full frame capture, subject distance 695 mm

As you review the EXIF data with the featured photographs in the article you’ll notice that I shot with the M.Zuiko MC-20 for many of these initial test images. As regular readers know, I’m not shy about giving myself a challenge with my camera gear. It didn’t take long for me to put the MC-20 on the 90 mm macro to ‘up the ante’ with my self-induced challenge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-500, cropped to 4243 pixels on the width, subject distance 450 mm

As I studied the blossoms on our heather plants I looked for stems of flowers that had some separation from other foliage… had interesting light… or provided decent shooting angles. Here is a small selection of these ‘standard’ handheld captures.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/8, -0.7 EV, 1/250, ISO-100, full frame capture, subject distance 295 mm
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-250, full frame capture, subject distance 335 mm
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-1000, full frame capture, subject distance 260 mm

As you review each image you’ll see how shallow the depth-of-field is when photographing at these high levels of magnification. Even when using apertures like f/11. Comparing the image above with the next two that follow will help illustrate the importance of shooting angle in terms of leveraging the available depth-of-field with a subject blossom.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-640, full frame capture, subject distance 320 mm

Composing a macro image with the subject is pointed towards the camera accentuates the shallowness. Shooting down on a subject, or using a profile view helps keep more of a subject blossom in focus.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-500, full frame capture, subject distance 260 mm

It didn’t take long for me to confirm that I could effectively use a teleconverter handheld with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens. I didn’t bother experimenting with the MC-14 during my initial session with this lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-400, full frame capture, subject distance 525 mm

I then decided to do a bit of experimenting with computational photography technologies… specifically with handheld in-camera focus stacking, and HHHR (handheld hi res) imaging.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-500, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 360 mm

Trying to do handheld in-camera focus stacking with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens proved to be a bit challenging. I started out using my standard settings of 10 focus stacked images with a focus differential of 4. I missed my first half dozen attempts which I found quite unusual.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-125, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 355 mm

There was an intermittent, slight breeze that quite likely had an impact. So, I took a few test images of leaves on the ground, wood chips etc. I had success with these more sheltered subjects which indicated that my technique with the new lens wasn’t totally to blame, and that the slight breeze could be an issue… so I pressed on.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/8, -0.7 EV, 1/125, ISO-64, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 295 mm

I only had some sporadic success using my standard settings, so I changed my settings to 15 stacked images, using a focus differential of 3. This seemed to help a bit… but I’m still not happy with the consistency of my results. Obviously more in-field experimentation is required.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-250, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 285 mm

Here are a few more test images using handheld in-camera focus stacking technology.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/8, -0.7 EV, 1/250, ISO-80, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 260 mm
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-400, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 335 mm
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-2000, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 375 mm

As you review the EXIF data you’ll notice that I also shot some handheld in-camera focus stacked images while using the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.7 EV, 1/200, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 350 mm
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/125, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 265 mm

For an interesting comparison, I’ve put an additional copy of image 7 below. You can compare the size of the blossom in the above photograph with it, by toggling back and forth. Both images are full frame captures.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-160, full frame capture, subject distance 520 mm

I really need to do a lot more work and experimentation with handheld in-camera focus stacking to determine how I need to adapt my technique and/or settings to get more reliable results when in the field.

My next challenge was to use the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens with HHHR (handheld hi res) technology.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO @ 90 mm, efov 180 mm, f/8, -0.7 EV, 1/250, ISO-125, full frame capture, Handheld Hi Res, subject distance 290 mm

The first thing that was immediately noticeable was how rock solid the Sync-IS performed with HHHR technology. It was simply superb.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/60, ISO-80, full frame capture, Handheld Hi Res, subject distance 400 mm

Even when shooting with the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter… creating a focal length of 180 mm (efov 360 mm) and using a shutter speed of only 1/60th of a second… I was able to get very good HHHR (handheld hi res) images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/13, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-800, full frame capture, Handheld Hi Res, subject distance 275 mm

The benefits of using HHHR technology are well know to OM/Olympus camera owners… increased dynamic range coupled with a reduction in noise. Plus a dramatic increase in resolution going from the native 5184 x 3888 to 8160 x 6120.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/200, ISO-2500, full frame capture, Handheld Hi Res, subject distance 350 mm

The macro imaging potential of HHHR, coupled with Sync-IS, auto-focusing performance, and the ability to use teleconverters with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro… boggles the mind.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/11, -0.3 EV, 1/640, ISO-1000, full frame capture, Handheld Hi Res, subject distance 285 mm

It is hard for me to describe the feeling of creative freedom that I experienced during these first few hours using the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro lens.

The M.Zuiko 60 mm Macro is a fantastic lens that I have loved using for the past number of years. My wife will get many additional years of enjoyment using it.

There no doubt in my mind that as a handheld macro photographer, the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO Macro will be a game changer for me… once I put in the time and effort needed to learn its nuances. Any challenges that I have had using this lens thus far have been caused by my technique. As quoted in the Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the camera equipment noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW files or out-of-camera jpegs, using my standard process in post. This is the 1,380 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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2 thoughts on “First Day with M.Zuiko 90 mm Macro”

    1. Hi Riccardo,

      Thanks for your comment and information on the work of Barry Webb. This lens is capable of some truly incredible images when in the hands of skilled artists like Barry.

      Tom

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