Venus 60mm f/2.8 macro 2:1 lens review

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Last month Venus Optics announced their new 60mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro lens ($379) - the world’s first 2:1 magnification lens with infinity focus. Here is a review of this lens by Julian Eichhoff  (Website | Facebook | Twitter, see also his Samyang 12mm f/2.8 fish-eye lens review):

The Venus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens

Venus Optics, a Chinese manufacturer, released a 60 mm f2.8 ultra macro-lens. It is a special lens, because it can achieve a magnification of 2:1 (comparison: The 105 mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor “only” achieves a ratio of 1:1).

If you are not familiar with these numbers: The reproduction ratio describes the size of the image on the sensor in relation to the real-life size of an object. At 1:1 a 10 mm object will produce a 10 mm image on the sensor. At 2:1 the image of the very same object will be 20 mm.

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I ordered the lens for 379 USD directly from China, shipping was free (that’s a special offer during the introduction phase of the product). Roughly ten days later the lens arrived in a giant bubble wrap envelope. I also received a free bonus item - a 62 mm UV filter. Usually I do not use UV filters, but one could think about it when using this lens due to its optical construction – more on that later.

Unboxing and first impression

The lens comes in a vacuum-sealed bag (never seen that before…) together with an instruction manual and a nice bag made of a neoprene fabric. To be honest, I did not know what to expect because not many reviews were available when I ordered the lens. I braced myself for a cheap toy with a lot of plastic. But the lens proves to be solidly build with nearly everything made of metal (except the optical elements of course :-p). Even the focus ring is made of metal, which is commonly made out of rubber.

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The lens is fully manual. Notice the absence of electrical contacts or mechanical coupling elements apart from the bayonet.

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Construction

The construction is interesting. When focusing into the distance the optical elements retract into the lens barrel. That is why one could think about using an UV filter– it would protect the inside of from dirt and dust. I emphasize “one could”, because I opted not to use a UV filter. Your choice might be different and either one is ok.

The front of the lens barrel is covered with a mask that approximates a rectangle. Again something I have not seen before. Perhaps this mask is some kind of two-dimensional lens hood to reduce flaring. Perhaps it is supposed to protect the inside of the lens barrel when the optical construction retracts during focusing. Any enlightenment on this is welcome.

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Interaction with the camera

None. The end.

Jokes aside - As mentioned above the lens is fully manual. Camera-wise you have to shoot in manual mode. Shutter and aperture priority as well as program mode not possible since neither does the camera know what aperture is being used, nor can the camera control the aperture. Also there is no autofocus.

The camera won’t know what lens you have mounted unless you manually enter the information. Most cameras have a “Non CPU lens data”-setting, where you can dial in the focus distance and the maximum aperture. Both the D800 and the D750 have that function, but don’t have a 60 mm option for this menu item. You can choose between 58 and 70 mm.

The actual shutter speed and ISO value are written into the EXIF data, also the focus length you have entered manually (58 mm in my case). But there will be no information on the aperture you have used for the shot. Lightroom displays “f/0.0”. So either you have to remember or write down the aperture value for each shot or do without it.

Handling

The aperture is set by rotating the corresponding ring on the lens. The lack of automatic aperture actuation means, that with each step you close the aperture down, the viewfinder becomes darker. At f2.8 and f4 this is not a problem with sufficient light, but once you reach f8 and up the viewfinder becomes very dark, even in bright sunlight.

In order to be able to focus on your subject I used a small LED flashlight, which I switched off for the exposure. It is not a very good solution, since you need one hand for the flashlight and the other for the camera – it’s a bit shaky.

The minimal focusing distance (at 2:1 magnification) is ridiculous: approx. 6 cm (2,36 inches). Here is proof of my words:

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Getting a sharp shot at 2:1 magnification requires a steady hand (or a tripod 😉 and some skill. At this magnification you are focusing on such a small area, that the slightest movement back and forth will move your subject out of focus. Use a tripod if possible, for moving subjects like insects burst mode is your friend (“spray and pray” is allowed in such cases 😉

Image quality

Once you have nailed the focus down the lens produces very sharp images. The facets on insect eyes become visible, something that I barely achieved with the Nikkor 105 mm at a reproduction ratio of 1:1.
Despite the statement on the Venus Optics website (see box below) vignetting definitely is an issue at full frame bodies. Dark corners appear both hat 2:1 magnification (“macro mode”) as well as infinity (“normal mode”). Maybe a lens correction profile will be added to Lightroom in the future, although I am not sure how Lightroom could determine when to apply the profile (remember – non CPU lens, for the camera the lens is an unknown alien being).

The Venus Optics website states that ”slight vignetting will appear for Full-frame camera at normal shooting, while no impact for Macro shooting“ Source: www.venuslens.net => Specifications

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If you like to see a short behind-the-scenes report of that baby ladybug shot, visit my website.

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The tip of a pencil at 2:1 magnification. Very sharp, although strong vignetting occurs.

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This is a crop, hence no vignetting.

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The stitching inside my Crumpler photo bag. On the cropped image you can identify the single fibers in the woven structure of the nylon fabric.

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Here are some sample images in “normal mode” (focus set to infinity). As described above, vignetting occurs in contradiction to the statement on the Venus Optics website.

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And here is a pretty nasty example, photographed against the sun. A black frame is visible, vignetting, very unpleasant flare and reflections. The image looks so $#!tty that one could call it art *duck*. I have to say that this was the only image of that kind. All other test images in “normal mode” did not show the black frame or the reflections.

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Verdict

The Venus 60 mm f2.8 macro lens opens the door for stunning macro photographs without breaking the bank. The lens is very well built (full metal housing) and produces sharp images. Vignetting is an issue on full frame cameras, not only when the aperture is fully open. Definitely not a beginner lens! Handling this all-manual lens requires some skill, experience and a steady hand, focusing requires a lot of light when the aperture is not fully open.
Despite its shortcomings and limitations it is an exquisite macro lens at an affordable price. Bottom line - Recommended!

About the author: Julian Eichhoff is a photographer based in Hanover, Germany. He is married and has two kids. In his day job, he works as a mechanical engineer. You can follow Julian on his blog lumenatic.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

This entry was posted in Nikon Lenses, [NR] Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Louis-Félix Grondin

    It’d already be ordered if it had electronic aperture control…

    • Lumenatic

      That is definitely an issue since you need a lot of light to focus. As described above I used a small LED Lenser flashlight as focussing aid. It’s tricky.

      • Louis-Félix Grondin

        I’d have the same issues I have with my reverse macro lens and I don’t see many avantages versus extension tube since they allow electronic control…

        • Spy Black

          Depends on what lens you’re reversing. A reversed wideangle becomes quite the high magnification optic. The shorter the focal length, the greater the magnification. Below is a shot of a coin shot with a 55mm f/3.5 Ai Micro Nikkor, and then a shot of the edge of that coin shot with a reversed 20mm f/4 Ai Nikkor on a fully extended bellows. The reverse shot is an image stack made from about 15 frames.

          http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/vidrazor/macro1_zps5d69c800.jpg

          http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/vidrazor/macro3e_zps43f284c3.jpg

          • Jeffrey Friedl

            Impressive!

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          • Louis-Félix Grondin

            That’s not an answer to my comment, I was just saying that it is a PITA to use reverse lenses or this new 60mm since they don’t have electronic control… I wasn’t talking about the level of magnification.

            • Spy Black

              You said you don’t see many advantages versus extension tube since they allow electronic control. I gave you one.

            • Louis-Félix Grondin

              Either my english is really bad, or you can’t read. It’s not irony, I seriously consider the first option.

            • Spy Black

              I understand what you’re saying, but I merely replied to the comment concerning “don’t see many avantages”. There’s more than just one lens to shoot macro with.

              It’s not that big a deal in macro not having electronic control either.

            • true
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  • fjfjjj

    This lens could be ‘sharp’ (hard to tell without knowing how tight the crops are) but the microcontrast and overall contrast seem to be very poor. The rectangular cutout is simply a non-protruding lens shade, as seen on many an Angenieux.

    • Eric Calabros

      they just wanted to build a lens not made before, that’s all about it

    • Yes, the lens lacks “acutance”…the ability to form an edge. Lots of resolution, but so what?

    • You beat me to saying Angenieux!

      It’s hard to critique these images without knowing what aperture they were shot at.

      • fjfjjj

        The haze is nasty even for wide-open. If these images were shot at small apertures, only the worse.

        • I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt until I’m sure I’ve seen images at shooting apertures. I remember large format lenses that were mush wide open, but sharp enough to cut diamonds closed down. And closed down performance is what’s most important with a macro lens like this.

          The newer Nikons (including the newer macro models) have been sacrificing stopped down performance for larger aperture performance. For most users this makes sense. Here, I’d rather see something optimized for say ƒ11. Or smaller. I know about diffraction, but DOF is the name of the game with macro. And you can’t get it with large apertures. Definitely not at 2:1 on 35mm.

          Since nothing here looks flash lit, I’m guessing these are mostly opened up. Which is silly for a macro lens.

          EDIT–I didn’t realize this lens is stopdown only! Wtf?! Lamesauce. No wonder it was shot so open. Might as well get a bellows adapter, which will go greater than 2:1!

          • fjfjjj

            The 60mm f/2.8D Nikkor is bitingly sharp wide-open.

            • My 50mm is sharper at 2.8. Of course the 60 AF-D is great, but why use a micro/macro for general shooting?

            • fjfjjj

              It can be a very different look, compared with the same-maker’s fast non-macro offering at the same focal length. I tend to prefer it, and I have a few successful fine-art friends of like mind (and naturally also a few who strongly disagree). Depends on what you’re after.

            • fjfjjj

              Sharpness isn’t everything.

            • True story! But it’s also not something that can be completely disregarded. And I’m quite fond of the bokeh of my 50/ƒ1.4G at 2.8. I think the aperture stays a little rounder than the 60mmAFD at smaller apertures, but I could be remembering wrong.

          • Spy Black

            “I know about diffraction, but DOF is the name of the game with macro. And you can’t get it with large apertures. Definitely not at 2:1 on 35mm.”

            Only if you’re shooting moving objects. If you’re shooting static objects you have the luxury today of shooting stacked images, which wasn’t possible in the analog era (as far as I know). Even in the early days of digital, computers would probably have been quite challenged at it. One of the big advantages is that it allows you to shoot at your lens optimum aperture, the combination yielding the best possible image quality you could get.

            It’s obviously more time consuming, but the end results are unparallelled in macro photography. I did a product shoot a while back where I simply would not have been able to do otherwise.

            Below is one example of it. The image on the left, focused on the very front of the item on the left, is the first of 26 shots taken to create the image on the right. I did a total of 11 shots like this, some requiring around 45+ frame to create the finished product shot(s).

            I shot this with a 105mm f/4 Ai Micro Nikkor at f8 on a D600. Although you can stack in Photoshop, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. I used a program called Serene Stacker to do this assignment. There are several other dedicated stack programs as well.

            For me, image stacking is the way to go if you’re not shooting live, moving objects.

            • Spy Black

              Once again Disqus eats my images. Really annoying, you should hopefully be able to see the image below:
              http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/vidrazor/example_zps924e2163.jpg

            • Stacked is not a perfect solution. Doing it manually is slow, and automated always reduces detail for me.

            • Spy Black

              I wouldn’t call it a perfect solution either, but for controlled environments there’s no better option if you want the absolute best image quality.

    • ss

      I agree. I’ve tried most all of the nikon micro lenses except the 200 prime, I agree with you completely. I’ve always loved the 60mm d, even more than the af-s 60/105 versions. My absolute favorite though is the 55mm with the m1 extender ring.

      • fjfjjj

        I’ve been thinking about picking up the new AF-S 60mm, since my copy of the AF-D version took an impact. Why do you like the D better?

        • ss

          I used the d version on my d7000, and the af-s 105/60 on my d600. Not sure if that has anything to do with it but the d always seemed the sharpest to me. Don’t get me wrong they are all sharp, but the 105 didn’t blow me away like I expexted. The 55mm is the sharpest I’ve used though in my opinion. The 60mm at-s is tempting to replace my 50mm but not sure 2.8 is fast enough

        • Paul H.

          Compared to the newer G lens, the D is sharper, has less chromatic aberrations, vignetting, and distortion. Crazy. You can compare the metrics over at dxomark (I used the D810 as the comparison test body)…

      • bob smith

        i recently had the chance to swap the nikon 60 af-d for the af-s. i was reluctant at first after seeing how good the af-d had been. i only had an hour or two to make the decision but after 50 test shots on my d600 i felt absolutely confident i made the right decision. the g lens was slightly better in every facet. it was sharper, had less vignetting, focussed faster and looked better when used as a non macro (i.e. landscapes). i admit i did not have time to look at color and micro contrast. i know in that aspect i sometimes prefer some of the older Nikon lenses.

        • ss

          Maybe I had a bad copy or the ad needed fine tuned, I mean don’t get me wrong, both were awesome, for some
          Reason It just seemed sharper with the D. Have you ever tried the 55 though, I also have an amazing shot from my d7000 with the af-s 40mm… Gets the bugs eyes like the op mentioned

          • bob smith

            ss- the old af-d 60 micro was one of the sharpest lenses i ever owned and blew me away as a macro. if i had the room or money i would have kept it forever. allowing for sample variance, i found the af-s version was slightly sharper but not sure if the sharpness would be worth the money to upgrade. the focus was much faster and when focused out toward infinity was much better though i would argue that the purpose of this lense is macro and not landscape. if you are using the lense for manual focus macro work then i would keep the af-d. i have upgraded lenses where it was well worth the cost and this was not the case with this lense swap. i only did it because a family member was getting out of macro and was willing to swap lenses and sell the loser. i have not tried the dx lenses tough i suspect a d7100 with a 24mp aps-c would tell which lense is sharpest.

    • Scythels

      Lots of spherical aberration in this one, hence the bad “microcontrast” and “contrast.”

    • I have to agree. Based on these samples, image quality as a whole is barely better than a simple (=no-brand) set of closeup filters. Although an interesting effort, it is nowhere near the quality offered by established lenses. In addition, it is an interesting example of how image quality is made by more things than just “sharpness”.

    • bob smith

      wholly agree. for the price get the nikon 60 micro instead.

      if you want to go 2:1 then add the $50 meike/neewer/vello set of AF extension tubes. i keep the 20mm tube in my bag at all times.

  • Nice review. I appreciate the art part 😀 And of course, the skillful use of this lens 🙂

  • fanboy fags

    id rather buy a used micro 60 or 55 and crop (if I need more than 1:1) for that amount of money. no contacts and heavy vignetting. nice pics

  • Christopher Zeller

    Another way to get 2:1 is to use close-up filters or extension tubes on a nikon 105 or 60mm . Close -up filters will still allow aperture control and af, although at this distance I would suggest focusing by moving the camera in manual focus would be easier.

  • WIELGUS Roger

    The minimum focus I can see, according to your picture, is not 6 cm, but 14cm. Flange to object is the real focus distance, not lens front to object. Sorry for the correction.

    • OttoVonSchriek

      You know I’ve seen Minimum focussing distance being measured to the sensor plane, and in some none photographic scenarios I’ve seen it quoted as the distance from the focal point.

      From the flange would seem to be an unusual measurement, especially as the focusing distances given on lenses relate to the sensor plane.

      • merops

        … and the author may have meant working distance.

        • OttoVonSchriek

          Ah yes, he most probably did; and it’s so much more useful a number as well!

      • WIELGUS Roger

        By flange, I did mean of course the sensor plane. Object to sensor plane distance. My language error comes from the fact that flange means the distance from the lens mount to the sensor plane.
        What I see looking at the picture is that 6cm represents the distance from the front of the lens to the object. My reaction comes from my former experience a film operator assistant ( focus puller) and I had to measure with a decameter, the distance from the actor eyes to the film plate, and that is called the focusing distance. It is in fact the one engraved onto the lans barrel. Sorry to say that, but distance from to lens front to the object is not useful at all.
        I does not speak to me.

        • merops

          It is a useful measurement in macro-photography. Firstly a longer working distance makes lighting the subject as you want easier. Secondly, your subject is less likely to fly off with a longer working distance 🙂

        • from the image, I would not have guess the sensor is at 14cm either … It looks more like 16-17cm to me, the flange is at 14cm though 😉

  • Aekn

    Ironic the company’s logo is an upside down Inifinity logo. Why not just use an upside down logo from a photo company and at least they’d get more mileage.

    • TheInconvenientRuth

      It is a cultural difference… In China people put an ‘Apple’ logo on the wierdest stuff, not because they want people to think that Apple now makes sports shoes, but simply becasue they like Apple. There is some -vague- awarsness about copyright and intellectual property, but any Western company would have to fight you in a Chinese court. BMW failed… Apple failed… Many failed.. It is not so much ‘stealing’ in their mind as much as a ‘hommage’ to the brand in their eyes. So probably the boss of Venus drives an Infinity and likes the logo. Turn it upside down, job done.

      • brn

        You may be correct, but that doesn’t make it right. If their “culture” thinks it’s OK to steal logos (designs, technology, etc), that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. Our “culture” says otherwise.

        • TheInconvenientRuth

          I never said it was right, but it IS how it works here. A few months ago I lectured at a prestigious university there on photograpy. There was a ‘contest’ attached and about a third of the students simply handed in a carbon copy of one of my images I showed them during the first lecture… They figured, if she made this, she must love our copy of them…

          • Franc Peret

            Sorry, but I have to disagree on your “it IS how it works here.”. You should say “it IS the way I see it”, at most.
            Former journalist (my first documentary about China dates back to 1997), and film making + photography teacher based in Shanghai since 10 years.
            I did lots of research and report about industry in China and the main motivation behind copying logo and design is faster profit (no time wasted in market or design study for a genuine design that might be immediately copied by a concurrent), the fear of taking risks (being the first one to try something) and an overall lack of creativity from local “creatives” due to rigid Chinese educational system.
            For example, in my other activity which is directing and shooting TV commercial, each time, I am working on a commercial project for local brand, the script is a slightly modified copy of western big brand storyboard, not because Chinese companies admire it, but because client are scared to try something new and different.
            If it worked for Apple or Buick, it will work for them!
            The total lack of creativity in this field just make it so boring that I am not doing much anymore, preferring to focus on my educational program.

  • WHAAAAT??

    “The facets on insect eyes become visible, something that I barely
    achieved with the Nikkor 105 mm at a reproduction ratio of 1:1.”

    There is something seriously wrong somewhere with your 105mm or your use of it………….

  • IndyReader

    I’m not one to use non-Nikkor optics, but for those problematic metadata issues you mention:

    “The actual shutter speed and ISO value are written into the EXIF data, also the focus length you have entered manually (58 mm in my case). But there will be no information on the aperture you have used for the shot. Lightroom displays “f/0.0”.”

    You can use my MetaMFix:: utility to apply the correct values in DNG image files before importing them into Lightroom, etc. Makes understanding what you did much easier there.

    • Spy Black

      ExifToolGUI is another program, although I’m not sure if it’ll work with RAW files.

  • Stop down aperture only?! No thanks.

    (well, except to the brave tester–thank you!)

  • Spy Black

    “Vignetting is an issue on full frame cameras, not only when the aperture is fully open.”

    I can’t help but feel that if you took that rectangular front off, you just might not be getting that. Either that, or it seems to me they’re trying to sell an APS-C engineered lens to a FF market, simply to try and cash in on any users they can. I’m leaning more towards the latter. I bet if you used this on a DX body it would be a nice lens, albeit fully manual.

  • Global

    How does this compare to the 105mm f/2.8 Macro VR + 2xTC III..?

    As far as I understand, the 2x Teleconverter allows you to keep the SAME minimum focusing distance — but effectively doubles the magnification. As such…….. shouldn’t the 105VR be a “2:1 Macro” with a TC attached?

    I only raise this question as an option for those who already have a macro.

  • Paul H.

    The distortion that is apparent on that image of the building is really bad – especially for a lens in the normal range. On a DX body, it isn’t much of a problem but…

  • Maccam25

    Does anyone realize that the logo is just the Infiniti car logo upside down.

  • Cesar Sales

    Why the shot at art photography? Roger Cicala also trashes art photographers- despite the fact that successful fine art photographers have studied, practiced their art, and suffered the disdain of other photographers (who obviously don’t consider their own work art. )

    You know, there are wedding, commercial, and editorial photographers who do bad work as well, yet no one ever thinks to publicly trash them because they’re hard working pros. I doubt most of the people who insult fine art photographers know the first thing about the grueling market and critiques they endure.

    • Lumenatic

      Calm down, it was a joke.

      • Cesar Sales

        Common excuse. When you’ve heard it for the thousandth time it ceases to be humorous and simply becomes insulting.

  • saywhatuwill

    This lens would be good to throw on a PB6 bellows and do slide copying. Since there’s no electrical contacts on the bellows it doesn’t matter if that the lens doesn’t have it.

  • Chaitanya

    @Lumenatic:disqus you can always ask someone to hold flashlight for lighting. I regularly do macro photography with Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 and Pentax 50mm f/1.4 lens for this purpose. once you get the technique right, shooting macro is fun. also do check kurt orion mysteries blog, he does a lot of shooting with this lens and his photos are definitely better than once you have posted above.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/chaitanyashukla/7839069242/in/set-72157625280679640

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/chaitanyashukla/9518103003/in/set-72157635091330904

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/chaitanyashukla/8090709980/in/set-72157625280679640

  • Captain Megaton

    I’m not convinced… raise your hands if not being able to go to 2:1 repro has been causing you to lose sleep recently.

    (…..)

    If not, then you might as well grab a Nikkor 55/3.5 Ai or 55/2.8 AiS with the PK-13. Far cheaper, no distortion, auto indexing (that’s a biggie), and – if your body has the Ai coupler – a functional meter.

  • Laszlo Folgerts

    Just get a regular 1:1 macro lens and some raynox macro converters. That way you’ll get the same if not more magnification, keep aperture control and have much less vignetting.

  • Glambike

    Stop trying to sell me specialty stuff of suspicious quality and usefulness. That is why I like the Nikkor 35-70 2.8 af D so much. The macro setting on it is amazingly similar to the above samples plus it serves almost the same function of the 24-70 2.8 which costs four times as much.

  • jake337

    I think I’ll stick with my tokina 100mm f2.8 macro.

  • here is another post on that lens: http://regex.info/blog/2015-02-26/2530

  • Charles

    Hello, great pictures !
    There are bodys with an internal focus motor like the D7100, D750, D610 etc… Does it works with this lens ?

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