New Gear! Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f2.8

Two gear-related posts in a row!

No don’t worry, my beloved Olympus 90mm f2 vintage lens hasn’t died just yet. It’s still alive and working fine, but I did see a used Leica macro on sale at a place I trust so I grabbed it. A while ago I did some research and decided the 45mm f2.8 was the one to have and so I’d been keeping an eye on prices, both used and new. The one I have is used, but in EXCELLENT condition. A bargain.

It is smaller, lighter and a true macro lens in the sense that the image of your subject on the sensor is life sized at its closest focus point. That’s about 3 inches from the subject, or maybe even closer. It’s crazy and the biggest change for me. The OM 90mm had approximately a 9 inch working distance and because of the thick adapter, may have also been a true macro or even more by the time the image hit the sensor. I haven’t gone out and tested them side by side because I find that kind of thing tedious, but I did do one little scene (on tripod) –

Eyelash cup w/Lumix 45mm macro at f11 – cropped


Eyelash cup w/ OM 90mm at f11 – not cropped

I processed each shot side by side in Lightroom, but I didn’t take them one after the other. I should have, but it was wicked humid and the 90 took a long time to clear after fogging up from being brought outside from the air-conditioned house. The 90 has a little less contrast, but a longer working distance for the same or greater magnification. The colors also render a little differently. I haven’t used it much since I bought the new one.

Lucidata altra (a firefly species, 1/30 sec, f 4.5, ISO 200, handheld)

Hand-holding is a new thing for me and a macro lens. I’ve been doing it a lot because I can (Dual IS, baby!). I’ve also been using a support (beanbag or tripod), so I haven’t gone completely rogue. There are fewer keepers as a result. The auto-focus is finicky and sometimes doesn’t hit right when I think it has. Also it can be a tough thing to get it to focus close and not on the background.

1/500 sec, f 2.8, ISO 200, handheld

So I’ve had to change my process a little. When it comes to focussing I’ll either force it to focus close by choosing another subject that isn’t so separate from the background. This gets the lens into the close range and sometimes I can get it to focus on what I want with this method. Using pinpoint or single point focus area is critical. When this fails I put it in manual and do it myself. Often times I’ll take an auto-focus shot at the same time, but sometimes the manually focussed shot is the keeper. It’s relatively easy to do with the help of focus peaking and being able to shrink or enlarge the focus area on the screen.

Bog willowherb, 1/100 sec, f 4.5, ISO 320 (handheld)

It’s either that or take a ton of shots hoping for at least one that works. That’s how it went with this mayfly on my back door –

1/100 sec, f 3.2, ISO 200, handheld

IRL it’s about 2 cm long and very delicate so focussing was tricky. I like the way it came out though. Very close shots aren’t all the lens is good for though. I like it for microscapes and close ups that aren’t true macro images.

Indian pipe – 1/800 sec, f 7.1, ISO 400, beanbag
Hepatica leaves – 1.6 sec, f 11, ISO 200, tripod

That image is so crispy you can almost touch it. This one, too –

Ironwood bracts and seeds – 1/30 sec, f 5, ISO 650, handheld

Not many shots have showed off the bokeh qualities, but a couple have –

Green frog (@ 1.5 inches) 1/30 sec, f 5.6, ISO 640
Shinleaf – 1/30 sec, f 4.5, ISO 500, handheld

Not bad. Especially for micro four thirds. But getting really close is what this lens does best. Not just for magnification, but also working distance. I’m used to setting up farther away from my subjects, but this lens can get things in focus just a couple of inches away. It’s weird, but I’m getting used to it.

Acorn – 1/6 sec, f 9, ISO 400, tripod
Moss agaric, 1/8 sec, f 7.1, ISO 200, tripod
White spotted sawyer beetle – 1/80, f 3.2, ISO 200, handheld
Immature Carolina locust – 1/15 sec, f 7.1, ISO 200, handheld (braced on ground)
Ichneumon wasp (2cm IRL) 1/6 sec, f 10, ISO 200, handheld (braced on railing)

I even tried a little post-focus stacking (you can see some errors, but it’s not too bad) –

Spider wasp – 1/40 sec, f 6.3, ISO 250, beanbag

And now a live version of that same type of wasp which had just killed this poor ground hunter –

1/80 sec, f 4.5, ISO 200, handheld (braced on front steps)

On the computer or tablet screen each of these critters is larger than in real life. Probably on a cell phone screen, too, for that matter. Most of them were less than 1 inch long. Even this tiny toad was under an inch –

Common toadlet – 1/20 sec, f 6.3, ISO 500, handheld (braced on ground)

With the naked eye you can’t tell from a distance how many tiny flowers are in this group and you have no idea that they only have four petals. It just looks like a weed.

Berteroa incana aka hoary assylum – 1/30, f 4.5, ISO 250, handheld

Overall I’m pretty pleased with it. The sharpness is intense and it’s about 1/4 of the weight of the OM 90mm. Mushroom season is upon us so no doubt it will get a lot of use! You have been warned.

5 thoughts on “New Gear! Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f2.8

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  1. Nice work. I really like my midrange (60mm) macro, even as a walk-around. With the 4/3 setup, the magnification is even better. I love the details you can get, but will admit that really big pictures of bugs can be the stuff of horror movies, so I move past those pretty quickly!

    1. I used to feel that way about bug pics, but not anymore. At least not much. Now I find them beautiful most of the time, and interesting or complex wonders when they’re not quite making the pageant finals. On the 60mm – you mean the Olympus, right? I considered that one, but everyone said the working distance for true macro meant you practically had to touch the front element to the subject and I knew that wouldn’t work for me. The 45mm makes me get much closer than the 90mm and so both have their uses.

      1. My primary cameras, film and digital, are Nikon, so it is the Nikon 60mm f2.8 macro. I use it on my Nikon Df. My D7000 vanished somewhere (loaned it to my husband!), which would be even better for macro with the 1.5 mag factor of the cropped sensor. I like bugs- but I really do get rather creeped out by them if they get too big, like in a photo! Horror movies and I do not work well together – nightmares still even after all these years – and too big of a bug can be pretty darn scary!

      2. Oops, sorry I misunderstood and thought you used M4/3 as well. When I was working at a camera store in the 1980s, I was tempted by Nikon. The FA in particular made me drool. The shutter sound alone was seductive. And that 105mm macro! Swoon. And sorry about the bugs. Next time I’ll put a trigger warning just for you. 🙂

      3. Don’t worry about warnings about bugs! I just scroll past fast – like I do with some other things I find out in the world (don’t we all?). And I do love the sound of those Nikon shutters.

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