Shooting Style

Before investing in camera gear it is critical that we have a clear understanding of our shooting style, as this helps us avoid making gear purchase mistakes.

In a previous article, I recently let readers know that I would not be
purchasing the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 Macro IS lens. I received a few emails from readers requesting more information and explanation.

The fundamental reason that the M.Zuiko 90mm f/3.5 PRO Macro IS lens doesn’t make sense for me is that my shooting style would not allow me to fully utilize the potential of that lens. There is no logical  reason for me to invest money in a lens that I would knowingly sub-optimize in terms of use.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/4, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking, cropped to 4544 pixels on the width, subject distance 285 mm

As regular readers know I basically hate using tripods, and only do so when absolutely necessary. Since buying my first E-M1X in June 2019 I have not used any of my tripods or camera supports even once.

In fact, last year we sold almost all of our tripods/heads and camera supports. We still have 2 tripods/heads in our gear closet… which were kept just in case I needed them to video myself on camera in a staged set-up. I still have a Blackbird Camera Stabilizer, but only because I’ve yet to find a buyer.

Many people would look at the M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens mounted on an E-M1X body and think it was a joke. Far from it. I absolutely love this combination and find I am much more effective shooting handheld macro images with the E-M1X than I am with my wife’s E-M1 Mark III. The grip and overall balance of the E-M1X are simply superb for handheld macro photography.

I find the E-M1X / M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro combination far easier to shoot handheld, and much more effective than was my full frame Nikon D800 / Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro combination.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-1600, cropped to 3775 pixels on the width, handheld hi res, subject distance 735 mm

I was out earlier this week doing a self-imposed test, shooting with my E-M1X using three different lenses, and a 10mm extension tube. As we know, using an extension tube shortens the minimum focusing distance of a lens. There is a penalty to pay in terms of some loss of light, but many people use extension tubes for close-up photography.

I use extension tubes with my M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 from time to time, and recently experimented a bit with the M.Zuiko PRO 12-100mm f/4 IS. Using the M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro along with a zoom lens like the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with extension tubes handles my handheld macro and close-up photography needs quite well.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 10mm extension tube, f/3.2, 1/40, ISO-800, handheld in-camera focus stacking

The three images that follow were all captured handheld using an E-M1X, M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro lens and a 10mm extension tube. I used increasingly slow shutter speeds, starting at 1/3 second, then going to 1/2 second, and finally 1 second. All of the images were captured handheld using in-camera focus stacking set to 10 frames with a focus differential of 4.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 10mm extension tube, f/3.5, 1/3 second, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 10mm extension tube, f/3.5, 1/2 second, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 10mm extension tube, f/5, 1 second, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

One of my issues with the PRO 90mm f/3.5 macro lens is that I have no interest in using a larger, heavier macro lens. The 90mm macro weighs 453 grams compared to 185 grams for the 60mm macro. It is 136mm in length compared to 82 mm in length for the 60mm macro, and is 69.8mm in diameter compared to 56mm in diameter.

The Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash mounts easily, is weatherproof and extends handheld macro photography capability.

I love the small size of the 60mm f/2.8 macro and I’m now spoiled by how adaptable and flexible it is to use in a wide range of shooting environments. This is true even when using the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash.

For me… bigger is not better. From my perspective the diminutive size and weight of the M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens is one of its greatest strengths. I was a fan of Mighty Mouse as a kid.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/9, 1/640, ISO-5000, photographed one-handed, subject distance 280 mm.

On occasion when I need to stretch one arm out to reach an awkwardly positioned macro subject, I shoot my E-M1X with the M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro one-handed.  This is reasonably easy to do, and good results can be achieved, especially if a photographer uses a somewhat faster shutter speed. This one handed approach was outlined in a previous article about photographing bees one handed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-5000, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 300 mm, captured one handed

Shooting one handed with the E-M1X / M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro combination can also be done when using Handheld Hi Res technology. This isn’t something that I do on a regular basis, but it does come in handy from time-to-time.

I would be concerned that using a larger, heavier macro lens like the PRO 90mm f/3.5 would reduce my one handed macro flexibility. Even with its Sync-IS.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, f/8, 1/100, ISO-1600, Handheld Hi Res, full frame capture, subject distance 990 mm

Some photographers will be excited by the capability of the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 macro lens to use an MC-20 teleconverter to achieve 4:1 magnification.

Using a teleconverter can cause some softness in image quality. It remains to be seen what impact the MC-20 may have on macro image quality with the MZuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 IS lens. Logically some degradation in image sharpness could be expected. Programs like Topaz Sharpening AI may be able to mitigate these affects in post.

Some photographers will love the fact that the PRO 90mm f/3.5 IS macro lens has a focus clutch. Since I never use manual focusing for macro photography this feature is irrelevant to me.

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

The minimum aperture of the 90mm f/3.5 IS macro is f/5 when shot at its closest focusing distance. This means that using the MC-20 would create a minimum aperture of f/10 when the lens is used at its closest focusing distance.

The MC-20 would probably also reduce IBIS performance by 2 stops… as this teleconverter does when used with other lenses. These considerations do not bode well for using teleconverters with the PRO 90mm on a handheld basis.

To effectively use an MC-20 teleconverter with the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 Macro IS lens, it would very likely need to be tripod assisted. I know myself well enough to realize that I would never change my fundamental shooting style to suit a lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/4, 1/100 ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking

This will not be an issue for photographers who already enjoy using tripods for their macro photography. For me, as a dedicated handheld shooter, the capability of the PRO 90mm f/3.5 macro to use teleconverters is a moot point since tripod assistance would likely be required.

In situations where I wanted to increase detail from a handheld macro image, I would choose to shoot my 60mm f/2.8 macro in Handheld Hi Res mode. It won’t give me 4:1 magnification but the additional resolution can be quite helpful with macro photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with 10mm extension tube @ 150mm, f/7.1, 1/100, ISO-800, handheld in-camera focus stacking

In summary, there are a number of aspects about the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 IS lens that are unsuitable for my shooting style. These include:

  • increased size and weight
  • increasing loss of light through the focusing range, culminating at f/5 when used at its closest focus
  • Likely some loss of depth-of-field moving from 60mm to 90mm
  • Probable necessity to use a tripod when using teleconverters
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 f/4 IS with 10mm extension tube, 92mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-800, handheld in-camera focus stacking

There is no intent in this article to suggest that the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 IS Macro lens will not be an outstanding product. Depending on a photographer’s shooting style this macro lens may be an excellent choice for their needs.

If you’ve made it this far in the article you may be wondering why I have not mentioned the price of the M.Zuiko PRO 90mm f/3.5 IS macro lens. The price of a lens… regardless of what it may be… is irrelevant if the lens does not suit your shooting style.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs using my standard approach in post. This is the 1,254 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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8 thoughts on “Shooting Style”

  1. Many thanks for the article.
    Just remembered I used to kayak with my waterproof TG6. I can bring it along in all weather and you can do focus stacking, focus bkt and use the built in continuous light & flash for general purpose macro photography. All in one small lightweight package in your palm. Also built in 4x zoom (25 -100mm) for everything else. Not sure about my style but its fun.

  2. Impressive that you haven’t used a tripod since purchasing the EM-1X. I shot a series of 1/2 second exposures with great results using an OM-1. Glad I didn’t bring any tripods with me forcing me to use the camera’s systems.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      If you are like me it really takes some time to get used to shooting with slower shutter speeds. At some point if I try using Live Composite I will have to do so tripod-assisted. One of the biggest advantages of the IBIS performance is being able to shoot video all handheld.


      1. I think that we all have a limit as to the slowest shutter speed we can be successful with. Practice will help but external factors like coffee or fatigue set limitations. Great shots as always.

        1. Hi Lewsh,

          I agree… I find that my handheld ability fluctuates based on my physiology, how well I can ground myself, and the camera body and lens I’m using. There are times I can tell that I’m not on top of my game and I’ll use a faster ISO value to get the shutter speed needed.

          My best lens for slower shutter speeds with the Nikon 1 system was the 6.7-13mm. I always felt confident with shutter speeds as slow as 1/10 on the wide end. I tended not to push it beyond that as experience proved that was my break point. One of the things I want to do this summer is do some work with each of my lenses to establish practical limits for each of them. Helps take the guesswork out of things.


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