We are going to test these lenses on a full frame 5D mkII but we will also simulate the results with an APS-C camera too.
All images were taken with the same light conditions (you have to bear ion mind the different working distance of each lens), the diffuser was common for all 13 lenses and only the distance to the subject changed. The Nikon M plan 10/0.25 was included on the test but there was a vibration problem due to lots of traffic on the road, so result with this lens is not taken into account. It is not very important as we know that optically is exactly the same as the Nikon BD plan 10/0.25. The interesting test is to see the difference between the normal lens and the DIC one.
The exposure was adjusted to get a similar result between lenses. After the Zerene Stacker there is no extra processing, so we can see the real contrast and definition of each lens; images were taken in RAW with zero adjustments. To get the same framing on each image a little bit of cropping was necessary.
With the infinity lenses the famous Morfanon 170mm was used, pushed a little bit to reach the desired 10X magnification.
Diffraction makes the biggest difference between all these lenses, so we have two different leagues, considering maximum aperture of each lens group. On one side we have microscope lenses with an NA of 0.25 or above ( equivalent to f1.8 or better) an then we have the bellows lenses and the JML’s. We are going to differentiate them as the can not resolve same detail as the microscope lenses but some of them are very competitive as they cover full frame very well.
On this picture you can see the center, APS-C corner and FF corner.
(click the image to see full size in a new window)
We will analize the lenses on order according to the first picture
Clearly the worst lens on the test. Its cromathic aberrations and lack of resolution power make this lens useless for quality work. Just by initial inspection I could tell the lens was not very good.
Olympus made 5 versions of this lens and this one is either the first or second version. Serial nº is 200500
It does show better performance than the older lens and shows good center/corner balance, with resolution expected for this aperture. Has low contrast but good highlight control with less halos.
In general terms it can give good results if we know how to edit this kind of image wioth lack of punch.
This lens starts to show results with better contrast and resolution than the Olympus lenses. There are halos in the more bright scales but may be due to keeping the exposure to the right and also because we did not use the sweet spot, f3.3 according to some tests. However we used f2 which is maximum aperture and it shows some Cas.
Corners are a bit worse than thoise on the Olympus MC but is better in the center. I did own the f2.5 version and I do not thinks this one is much better, maybe just a bit.
Here we have a lens with a big image circle, even at the camera mount it has decent coverage at 1.6X so we are talking about a len that may not have very high resolution due to a small maximum aperture but can be used on a good range of situations from 2X to 7X.
It is a weel balanced lens with low Cas. It always gives me good results.
The wanted one. A lens that always surprisses us with its quality and low Cas and alsogood coverage like its cousin.
At 10X its resolution is lower tahn with other lenses but it is a easy lens to work with. Part of the exit of this lens is ofcourse its quality but also how easy is to work with it in Zerene Stacker giving high quality images with few defects as halos or CAs.
Good lens for subjects with bright details or crossing hairs were we do not want Zerene to go bananas.
Here we start with the microscope lenses we resolutions gets improved from the first sample lens, we start to see the texture on those brown butterfly scales but on this microscope lens league this is the one that gives worst result. It has good center resolution bad very bad corners on FF and just acceptable for APS-C, it also shows quite a bit of purple fringing which is hard to remove.
It can give good results but can not compete with the the other microscope lenses.
This is a lens with very high resolution but with lower contrast than other nikon lenses. It gives very would results under certain situations, the biggest con is quite pronunced Cas. It covers full frame very well.
A cheap option that can give very good results.
This lens is one of my favorite lenses with good contrast , resolution and low chromatic aberrations. Corner performance is low on fullframe but covers APS-C pretty well , even in full frame sometimes we do not need those good corners anyway so it can work very well. It was my first microscope objective and I was really impressed at the time for it quality and easy to use. In my opinion is the easiest and most comfortable choice for a good quality 10X image.
Basically performs the same as the normal version of the lens, only the highlight may have stronger halos. Being a DIC lens may make it more sensitive to contrast changes. On a whole it it gives very similar performance compared to the normal version, maybe a little bit less contrast but it is difficult to tell. Another great optic to enjoy extreme macro photography.
Here we have a lens with a very high theoretical resolution, nut I canm not see it any better than the 10/0.25. Quite the oposite, corners are one of the worst we have seen yet, with high aberrations. It would work well on APS-C but I do not think it lives to its fame. Three years ago was a wanted lens but today the 10/0.25 can be more expenssive. Sometimes it sells expenssive because it is a rare lens with high NA. Its quallity is lower than what would expect.
This lens has surprissed me with its good coverage and resolution; may have a little less resolution in the center compared to the nikon BD but has better corners. Also gives lower contrast compared to the nikon BD but with a little post processing cvan be fixed. The problem is to find it as does not appear very often.
A good choice if good balance in the whole image is wanted.
Here we have the winner of the test because of its resolution and great quality on the center as well as on the corners. A high quality lens that produces very clean stacks, it is a superior lens compared to the others. Being a infinite lens it needs a tube lens (same as the nikon CFI), it is a heavy lens and difficult to find for less than 400€. Its main advantages are abscense of cromatic aberrations, some degree of telencentrity producing less halos and great working distance of 33.5mm which is quite a lot compared to the 10.5mm of the nikon BD; it is also true that front element is much wider so at the end lighting is the same.
Conclusión general del test
My favorite lenses are the mitutoyo as example of perfection (or very close to it) and the nikon BD with its good contrast and resolution which can also make a very compact stacking system. The JML 21mm it is also agreat lens with fantastic colour correction and good resolution limited by diffraction, 10X is too much for it anyway. The rest of the lenses can be considered of good quality except the non MC Olympus and the Edmund which gave the worst results on eaqch category.
I would have liked to test a high NA lens like the nikon 10/0.45 ( I almost bought one) or the mitutoyo HR series which I have never seen second hand and costs over 7000$ new. This kind of lens must offer very high resolution levels but I have been told the nikon is a very difficult lens to work with, you need way more shots to complete the stack and halos are stronger.
Nothing is perfect but the mitutoyo gets very close .