It’s that time of the year; huge spiders in the bath, a distinct chill in the air, a phone call to the central heating engineer when you realise your boiler doesn’t work and more macro subjects than you can shake a stick at. That’s right, it’s autumn and say what you like about the photo opportunities that come with this time of year, I spend most of it shooting close-ups. This year that means giving the XF 60mm F2.4 Macro lens a real workout. It’s been glued to my X-T1 since mid-September and I don’t see it being removed this side of Halloween.
As one of the original trio of XF lenses, the 60mm will always hold a special place in the line-up. It was there at the start, along with the 18mm F2 and 35mm F1.4, but before I’d even handled one I had the feeling it was the black sheep of the triumvirate. I’d read that it wasn’t a ‘true’ macro lens by virtue of its 1:2 magnification ratio and that the autofocusing was sluggish. Like all XF lenses, it did have optical quality on its side, but some reviewers didn’t seem to think this was enough.
The first time I attached the lens to an X-T1 it instantly evoked memories of using a 50mm standard lens on a film SLR. Sure, the 60mm is physically a little longer, but the third-stop aperture ring and deep manual focus ring make for great handling. It’s also got a lens hood that’s almost as deep as the lens itself, which simply can’t be argued with. Straight out of the box, the lens did need a firmware upgrade, which is meat and drink to X-series shooters like you; completed with a click of a mouse here and the insertion of a memory card there. From that point on I was ready to go, stepping into the autumn sunshine – and the obligatory spider’s web that had been pitched across my front door overnight.
I started off with a few looseners, shooting more general scenes before the inevitability of shooting close-ups loomed large. For general picture taking, the 91mm equivalent is a really pleasant focal length to work with. You’ll have to stand back further than you might think to get larger subjects in the frame, but shooting in my preferred aperture-priority mode and working with that sublime aperture ring is a simple aesthetic pleasure. The focusing was good too; crisp, accurate, no hint of the sluggishness suggested by previous reviewers.
But I’d come for the close-ups and as I inched closer to my first decaying leaf, the focus did seem to falter. Sure enough, the sure-footed focusing performance switched to a less convincing AF show. Being half-dead, my arboreal subject sat patiently, but had I been photographing an insect or the like, I could imagine frustration would have been setting in.
It was at this point I remembered the X-T1 had a macro mode, which turned out be the 60mm’s saviour. With macro mode on, the lens was revitalised and while it’s not the fastest focusing XF lens I’ve tried, it certainly didn’t stop me taking any of the close-ups I was after. The ‘lack’ of magnification didn’t bother me either. I got as close as I wanted to and, let’s be honest, could easily crop further in during post production, such is the quality of the X-Trans generated files.
And what about those files? Well, naturally, they’re great. Right across the aperture range, they’re sharp from corner to corner. Is there really anything else you could ask for from a macro lens? No, probably not. Although image stabilisation and weather resistance would be handy on the MkII version as and when that comes along…