When I decided to pick up the Fuji X-E2 I was most skeptical about its macro capabilities. For me macro, especially flowers and insects, is one of my main photographic interests, so any change in camera has to be able to support this. The Fuji (when I bought it) only offered one native macro lens, the 60mm f2.4 macro lens from Fuji itself with a second macro from Zeiss already announced.
I decided to go test the lens in store before deciding to actually buy the camera (and the lens). I did some tests in a store, though they only had the X-E1. The macro capabilities worked fine while the auto-focus was rather slow and clunky – i was hoping though that this was more due to the X-E1 and not the lens.
These last few weeks I actually went out into our gardens a lot more than I had done in recent years with my Canon, mainly to experiment with the macro lens. One of the first things I found was that, when I am shooting macros, I should also engage the macro focus mode the X-E2 has, which shifts the auto focus so that it expects objects to be closer to the lens when focussing. The auto focus is still not the fastest, especially if you are trying to focus on very small objects close to the lens (in which case it might not be able to lock the focus on it) but it is a working alternative.
The real advantage though of a mirror less camera with macro photography comes into play when you shift into manual focus mode and use the highlights mode for focussing. In this mode the object that is in focus will get moving lines around it (since the latest firmware update you can chose from a variety of colors to best match your eyesight and objects you are photographing). This works especially great for macros since you will often want to focus on minute details or be working with a very shallow depth of field for which it is hard to be super certain that your focus is correct when you are working with a DSLR (or my eyesight isn’t good enough). With the highlights in both the display and in the view finder and the added ability to switch to a 100% view of any preselected part of the image, I can be pretty certain to get the focus where I want to have it. I think this is an awesome tool to have for macro photography and is also something that works with old manual lenses which you can use on the Fuji with an adapter.
The focus will be very similar – apart from the speed of the auto focus – with any lens but the differences come in the depth of field (bokeh), the focussing distance and the reproduction scale.
Let’s get into the technical details first, the reproduction scale of the Fuji 60mm unfortunately is only 0.5, meaning that a 1 cm object will only be able to cover 0.5cm of the sensor. Ideally you want 1:1 or sometimes higher (The Zeiss has 1:1 afaik). I was hesitant about the lens due to that, because both of my Canon Macro lenses offer 1:1 but while using it so far it has not done much of a difference for me – of course I sometimes would like to get in closer but the results are great like this, too. This brings me to the focussing distance, which is 26.7cm officially which works out pretty well, though I sometimes would like it to be closer but you cannot have everything…
Now on to other technical details: the Fuji 60mm has a maximum aperture of 2.4 which is wider than both of my Canon lenses, which end at 2.8. This increase in aperture is very good in this case since the sensor of the Fuji is smaller than the crop sensor of my Canon which, in theory, takes away from the depth of field at the same aperture. I have to say, I am really in love with the depth of field at 2.4 and also with the bokeh you get, which is really creamy and does not look like you took this image with a “small” camera. As for the sharpness – the Fuji lenses are just absolutely amazing in terms of sharpness.
I think after reading the last few paragraphs you can already tell what my overall impression of doing macro images with the Fuji is. I was afraid of not being able to take the same type of images as with my Canon but that fear was unfounded. Thankfully! The image quality is great and while it will take some getting used to the focussing distance that is just a learning process to be done while being out shooting. I definitely don’t regret the decision and am thinking about picking up an old manual macro lens for a closer focussing distance and different focal length. Additionally I am saving up for the Zeiss 60mm Macro but that will take a while. But it will only be as an improvement to an already great experience!