Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro Review
By Yvonne
2022-09-27

Olympus M.Zuiko digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro lenses allow you to lock in the tiniest details. However, a small working distance can cast a shadow over subjects.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro

Let's get to the bottom

Olympus M.Zuiko digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro lenses allow you to lock in the tiniest details. However, a small working distance can cast a shadow over subjects.

The pros

  • Sharp images, from edge to end.
  • Minimal distortion.
  • 1.25:1 macro capability.
  • Inexpensive.

Cons

  • Wide apertures have dim corners.
  • Focus limiter function is not used.
  • Lighting can be difficult when there is a short distance between you and your workstation.
  • Weather sealing is not possible.

Olympus M.Zuiko digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro (299.99 USD) is a compact macro lens that works with Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus and Panasonic. The lens captures excellent details and projects subjects at a larger than life size onto the image sensor. Although it's an excellent performer, it may take some time to focus when it needs to search across the entire range of its image sensor. Also, lighting can sometimes be difficult, especially when your subject is close to the lens.

Related Reading: Olympus PEN E-PL9 Review

Design

Amazon's 30mm F3.5 Macro (299.99) is small and lightweight. It works well with Olympus mirrorless camera models. The dimensions of the F3.5 Macro are 2.2x2.4 inches (HD) and weigh 4.5 ounces. It supports 46mm front filters. It is the same size filter as the prime lenses of Olympus' f/1.8 series. This means that you can use the filters from multiple lenses. Olympus also offers other lenses in black or silver, however the 30-mm Macro is only available in black.

Except for the manual focus ring there are no physical controls. The camera body controls the switching of focus modes. The electronic focus system is responsive and smooth, although you don't feel any tactile feedback when the ring is turned. Although you may not feel the physical movement of the focusing elements when turning the ring, I believe this lens provides a great electronic focus experience.

However, autofocus speed can be a problem. There are no problems when the image is almost in focus before you take the shot—it confirms and locks on in 0.1-second in those cases. The lens may take up to one second to change between a distance and close-up focus. The lens can also have a tendency of searching for focus close to the subject, particularly in low lighting. A focus limiter switch would have been nice to allow you to restrict your focus to near or close distances. This could eliminate some of the back-and forth searching.

Another issue is lighting. Because the lens focuses so close—3.7 inches from the sensor, which is about a half-inch from the front element—it's very easy to cast a shadow on your subject. If the flash casts dark shadows on your subject, it won't help speed up the focus. You might consider using an LED on-camera light. Olympus should have included a built in light like that used by Canon on its 28mm Macro lens.

The lens project subjects at 1.25x life size from its closest distance. Olympus uses some odd language in its marketing materials, claiming a 2.5x magnification in full-frame terms, but that math doesn't work—magnification is not dependent on sensor size. Despite the lack of marketing hype, the lens captures finer details than macro lenses that can only shoot at 1:3 at minimum focus distance.

In-lens stabilization is not available. Olympus incorporates this function in its cameras bodies. Recent models from Panasonic also include it. This is only a problem if your older Panasonic camera body does not have it. Olympus bodies with 5-axis stabilization will provide the most stable results, however I found the 30-mm version with 3-axis PENE-PL8 to be the most effective.

This lens doesn't belong to the Olympus Pro Series, and therefore there is no weather sealing. If you use an OM-D camera, this is a problem. The 30mm Macro should not be used in severe weather or heavy rain. Olympus also offers a 60mm Macro that's sealed. The 60mm F2.8 Macro is a shorter option. The price is $500 higher, and it magnifies at 1:1. It also includes a focus limiter. The lens' narrow field of view is not ideal for macro and general photography. However, it can be used for macro or all-weather macro.

Related Reading: Nikon Coolpix A1000 Review

Image quality

Imatest (Opens in a new browser) was used to test the sharpness and contrast of the 30mm Macro when paired up with the 20MP OM–D E-M1 Mark II. At f/3.5 the lens produces strong results, achieving 2,541 lines per picture height with a center weighted evaluation. Although edges are not as strong as the average (2.256 lines), they still perform well. On a 20MP camera with 1,800 lines, we consider that acceptable. The lens, however, exceeds this mark by quite a bit, providing excellent image quality.

Image quality remains the same at both f/5.6 (2.588 lines), and f/8 (2.605 lines), although there is a slight improvement in image quality. At narrower settings, diffraction can reduce image quality. This is expected for Micro Four Thirds lenses. While f/11 can be shot with minimal clarity (2.535 lines), you will lose resolution at f/16 (2.116 lines) or f/22 (1.47878 lines).

To increase the depth of field at high magnifications, it is necessary to shoot at a narrower aperture. Olympus's latest bodies now support in-camera stacking. This allows you to combine images from multiple focal points into one image, allowing for more focus on your subject. If your shot calls for a narrower aperture than f/11, you might consider using the tripod along with it.

It doesn't show any visible distortion. This is especially true for macro lenses, which are often used to digitize negatives or reproduce documents. At f/3.5, there is a slight drop in lighting at the corners. This drops to -1EV at f/4. It's less noticeable at smaller settings. Although the -1.4EV difference is not acceptable, it is noticeable on many images and it isn't distracting. It can be easily compensated for by using software.

Related Reading: Fujifilm X-S10 Puts IBIS Into Compact, Affordable Body

Conclusions

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30-mm F3.5 Macro macro lens is a great option for anyone who shoots with a Micro Four Thirds digital camera. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro has a standard field of view, making it easy to use as an everyday lens. It is also less expensive than the Olympus Pro lenses at $300. The autofocus speed is a little slow, particularly if it has to focus across the entire range of its lens to find a subject. The high magnification makes it stand out from other kit lenses or top-end zooms. This is definitely an option Micro Four Thirds users should look into.