Many photographers ignore everything that’s not full-frame. But the latest development announcement from OM System highlights why bigger sensors aren’t always better. OM System (formerly Olympus) is developing a 90mm macro lens that can capture tiny subjects four times closer than many full-frame macro lenses. The M.Zuiko ED 90mm f3.5 Macro IS Pro can get as close as 4x in 35mm equivalent: an impressive number considering most macro lenses from major manufacturers are lucky to get a 1:1 reproduction ratio.
Editor’s Note: As it’s still in development, there are no images from the new 90mm Macro lens yet.
The lens is still under development, but the company expects to launch the 90mm macro in 2023.
M.Zuiko 90mm f3.5 Macro IS Pro Key Features
- The 90mm lens has the equivalent of a 180mm focal length and a 4x macro reproduction ratio on a full-frame camera.
- The lens will have built-in stabilization.
- Like other Pro lenses, the lens will also be dustproof and splashproof. OM System is even giving the lens an IP53 rating to indicate just how much water and dust it can tolerate.
Micro Four Thirds Excels at Getting Closer
Cutting the sensor size in half means lenses get twice as close. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed shooting with Olympus for wildlife and anything else requiring a telephoto. But, that smaller sensor also makes it possible to get closer to small subjects. Most macro lenses from Canon, Sony, and Nikon have a 1:1 ratio, while some with a 1:2 ratio still label themselves as macro. The 4x ratio on this new lens is pretty exciting.
I know what you’re thinking: can’t you just crop a full-frame image by 2x to get in close? Especially with the number of megapixels many of them have now? You can, but, even then, most macros will only get to 2x when cropped in half. I recently shot with the Laowa 90mm f2.8 Macro 2x, and that 2x macro ability was incredibly fun and rewarding to work with. After using that lens, just reading about a 4x Macro has me itching to try it out.
There are, of course, a few macro lenses that get in closer than 1x. Venus Optics has quite a few of them, for example. Many of these are manual focus lenses, however. OM System hasn’t released a full spec sheet yet, but I would be surprised if the new 90mm macro was manual focus only; modern manual focus lenses are rare from the brand. If this lens can autofocus to that minimum focus distance, that would be a significant advantage.
A 180mm equivalent 4x macro lens with autofocus would be incredible for photographing bugs. That longer focal length will allow photographers to avoid scaring off shy bugs, while 4x should render quite a bit of detail. Of course, the 4x would also work really nicely for many other small subjects.
The f3.5 isn’t going to make this lens handle double-duty for portrait work. But, macro work typically requires a narrower aperture because getting in close reduces the depth of field to oblivion. So for macro shooters, I don’t think the f3.5 will be a deal-breaker.
Stabilization and a Pro designation seal the deal
The other thing OM System does well, besides telephoto, is stabilization. While we don’t yet know all the details on the upcoming macro lens, OM System has confirmed it will be stabilized. Stabilization is incredibly important for macro lenses. The closer the subject is, the more exaggerated any camera shake will be. In-lens stabilization and in-body stabilization are a big plus for macro work.
The other reason this lens is exciting is the Pro designation in the name. This usually indicates that the lens is among the company’s best optics. On the flip side, this also indicates that the lens might be expensive. The company hasn’t shared pricing details yet.
I’m not saying Micro Four Thirds is the best choice for portrait photography. (I shoot APS-C for portraits with the Fujifilm X-T4, so I’m not saying that full frame is a must for portraits either.) But, photographers who need to get close, whether telephoto or macro, shouldn’t easily dismiss Micro Four Thirds. The M.Zuiko 90mm f3.5 Macro IS Pro might be exactly what the system needs to stand out. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2023 to get our hands on that macro capability.