The Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm F2.8 ASPH. ($899.99 direct) is a macro lens, compatible with Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. Its field of view is roughly equal to a 90mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera, and it focuses close enough to support 1:1 magnification of subjects. Like most Panasonic lenses, it features optical stabilization—a feature that is lacking from Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses; Olympus puts stabilization into camera bodies. If you’re a Panasonic shooter in want of a macro option it’s worth consideration, but Olympus shooters will be better served with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro. It’s less expensive and sharper, but lacks stabilization.
The Macro-Elmarit is a squat lens. It’s 2.5 by 2.5 inches (HD) in size, weighs 7.9 ounces, and supports 46mm filters. There’s a bayonet hood included, but it’s not reversible. It only adds an inch or so to the height of the lens, so leaving it on won’t eat up too much storage space in your gear bag. There are two control switches on the lens barrel—one toggles image stabilization, the other sets the autofocus limit. When the focus limiter is enabled, the lens will only attempt to lock focus on objects that are more than half a meter away from the sensor plane.
I used Imatest to check sharpness and distortion when paired with the Lumix GH3. As you would expect from a macro lens, there’s no noticeable distortion. At f/2.8 the lens is a disappointing performer. We require 1,800 lines per picture height via a center-weighted test to call a lens sharp. The 45mm only manages 1,558 lines, and the edges are a serious issue—they score just 1,358 lines.
Narrowing the aperture to f/4 rectifies the issue. Here the lens manages 2,078 lines, with edges that are just shy of 1,800 lines. You’ll get the sharpest results at f/5.6; the lens manages 2,153 lines, and edges are just shy of 2,000 lines. The Olympus 60mm is a noticeably sharper macro lens. It too has some issues at the edges at f/2.8; it’s sharper in the center than the Macro-Elmarit, but soft edges bring its overall score down to 1,690 lines. At f/4 it improves to 2,123 lines, and it hits 2,300 lines at f/8.
We were disappointed with the sharpness that 45mm delivers at f/2.8, especially when you consider its asking price. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro is a little bit sharper and a lot less expensive, and is a better macro option for Micro Four Thirds shooters who own a body with a stabilized sensor. But, aside from the new GX7, Panasonic owners need to rely on in-lens stabilization. Serious macro work is frequently done on a tripod, so stabilization is less of an issue, but it’s something that you’re better off having as an option. For general use we recommend shooting the lens at f/4 when possible; when you’re working the close focus point of this lens you’ll likely be stopping down a bit anyway to get more than a sliver of your subject in focus.
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