Twelve lenses at 5X (full frame test)

To start our test section we have a 5X test involving 12 different lenses; camera used was a EOS 5D mkII

From the begining we will state what kind of camera has been used for the test, either full frame or APS-C, as depending on what kind of format we use some lenses may work better than others.

Full frame cameras are more sensitive to quality in the corners and because of this the range of useful lenses is more limited. 

APS-C cameras are not so sensitive to corner/border quality as they crop the better, center part of the image circle but as this kind of sensor tends to have a higher pixel density they need high resolving lenses (In my opinion the pixel density of some APS-C cameras is just insane, like with the 18mpx of the EOS 7D and specially the 24mpx of new sony cameras)

Something very important to bare in mind are aberrations of lenses, chromatic aberrations can be a nightmare when focus stacking

As I said, this test was conducted on a EOS 5D mkII, in silent live view mode (EFCS); lighting was provided by three Jansjo IKEA led lamps diffused through a paper cylinder

Lenses with iris were used at f4 (when posible), the Olympus 28mm also at f2.8. Mitutoyo 5/0.14 was used together with the 172mm morfanon tube lens.

First I run all images on Zerene stacker Pmax, the I choose a group of lenses and redid the stacking in Dmap mode to get the highest quality possible


The subject was a butterfly wing, Lysandra bellargus. Click on each objective name to see the full resolution Pmax image, light level adjustments applied but no sharpening.

Aquí podéis ver la imagen completa, los cuadrados rojos son los recortes Pmax, los cuadrados azules los recortes Dmap y los recortes verdes la segunda serie de recortes Dmap.


Pmax crops.

First row shows center crops, second row low left corner crops and third row top right corner crops. (click on the image to see it full size )

Imagen 02

Pmax crops, sharpening and levels applied
imagen 03

From this first round the following lenses are withdrawn: 
Fuji 24X, worst of them all, low contrast and resolution (John hallmen owns this lens and got quite good results from it, maybe mine is a big lemon)
Mikrotar 30mm and Bd plan 5/0.1 Both lenses because of same reason, low corner performance. Both lenses would do a good job in APS-C cameras
Rodagon 50mm 2.8 and APO rodagon 50mm 2.8, both lenses were a big dissapointment; I expected more from them, specially from the APO version
JML 26mm the reason I drop this one is because of some low CAs at some high contrast areas, nonetheless it is a very good lens as good as the 21mm 3.5 version. 
El Noname I I did not include it in the next round but it could have been included no problem. After seeing the pictures it could be better than the Noname II. I have used it both in the studio and field with very good results

All pictures in the next round were run through Zerene stacker in Dmap and mixed with the problematic areas with the Pmax outputs, as I normally do with all my shots. Click on each lens name to see the full size image

Dmap crop  I

First row shows center crops, second row top left corner crops and third row low right corner crops

Imagen 04
Dmap crop I with levels and sharpening
Imagen 05
Dmap crop II
Imagen 06
Dmap crop II with levels and sharpening
Imagen 07

In my opinion the Mitutoyo and the JML 21mm are the best, differences between them being quite small. The JML covers corners no problem, the mitutoyo might have some corner degradation but has great center and border resolution. Both lenses are CA free

All lenses in this final round are good optics (Noname I and JML 26mm could well be here too), the Olympus 38mm gives me mixed feelings but to be fair it seems that lighting conditions changed when I used it. At 2.8 it seems to work worse than at f4 and at f4 it behaves more like f4.5 because of its pupil ratio so any differences in resolution have more to do with effective aperture than with optical flaws. It is a great lens and I always get good results with it. It is the most expensive of the lenses on this test.

Best surprises have been both noname lenses (I do not know who made them or with what purpose) and the JML 50mm 2.8 (it says JML but I do not think it is a JML optical lens). All of them have good resolution and contrast and good working distances so they can be used both in the studio and in the field; the JML 50mm is going to be part of my field gear. 

Working distance (WD) can be an important aspect of this kind of lens, in the studio is not that important but for field work it is important. 

The WD of these lenses are:

JML 50MM -------------------------------42.5MM
APO RODAGON 50MM--------------- 42.5MM
RODAGON 50MM ----------------------40.5MM
OLYMPUS 38MM ----------------------36.5MM
MITUTOYO 5X -------------------------33.5MM
NONAME I ------------------------------32.0MM
MIKROTAR 30MM --------------------30.0MM
NONAME II ----------------------------28.0MM
NIKON BD 5X -------------------------24.0MM
FUJI 24X------------------------------- 22.0MM
JML 21MM-----------------------------16.5MM
JML 26MM---------------------------- 16.5MM

JML 21mm and 26mm have very short WD, so they are not that good for field work. The Mitutoyo has a very good WD but it is quite big and needs a tube lens so it ends up being quite bulky and I would not use it in the field.

Best lenses for field work are the JML 50mm 2.8 and the Olympus 38mm, this last one's tip is cone shaped which makes lighting quite easy. The Noname lenses also would work well but they have no aperture ring. 

There are many lenses that could be in this test, like Canon's MP-E 65mm (which would be among the best) but can only be used on canon bodies or the Nikon 4/0.20 plan APO that would outresolve all these lenses in the center of the frame but would probably fail in the corners (remember, this is a full frame test); many enlarger lenses could be in this test too.

If I could only keep one of this lenses probably I would keep the Olympus as in my opinion it is well balanced; works well in the studio and in the field, has an aperture ring, has good working distance, color and contrast, a cone shaped tip and it is CA free

If I had to keep one lens for the studio that would be the JML 21mm, has excellent color, contrast and resolution and it is CA free too. The advantage over the mitutoyo is that it has better corner coverage and it can be used on fullframe bodies from 3X

Flash tool to compare images

A good way to view/compare images is with this tool developed by John Hallmen


This tool only allows to view files with 3000px on the long side, so I did some crops that have the center part and the top left corner (for corner pixel pipping)

Noname I vs Noname II

You can see that images are quite similar, quality is of a high standard

JML 21mm vs JML 26mm

Both lenses give high quality output (even that JML 26mm is working with a higher effective aperture) but in some high contrast areas you can see the JML 26mm shows some CAs (nothing serious)

This images can be replaced copying any of the links bellow and swapping them pressing "change image" and pasting the link from the image you want to compare.

APO Rodagon
Olympus 2.8
Olympus f4
Noname I
Noname II
Nikon BD5
Mitu 5X
JML 50mm
JML 26mm
JML 21mm
Fuji 24x

Now some examples from the second round
Mitutoyo vs JML 21

In my opinion this two lenses are the best ; which one is best? I do not really know. The Mitutoyo might resolve more detail but shows some CAs that probably come from the morfanon (easy to fix in Camera Raw). If you have any of these you do not really need any other lens from the test (at least for studio work)

Mitutoyo vs JML 50mm

Here the mitutoyo proves to be a better lens

Mitutoyo vs Noname II

Once again the Mitutoyo is better but the Noname performs quite well for an unknown lens

Mitutoyo vs Olympus f4

The mitutoyo shows once again a better behaviour, the olympus may be affected by a higher effective aperture because of its pupil ratio of 0.89 so it behaves like a f4.5 (aprox) lens. I have to say that the Olympus is one of my favorite lenses and I always get good results with it. 

The people who designed it knew what they were doing and people from canon could learn something from its design (cone shapped tip)

Olympus f4 vs Olympus f2.8

I still had to see if the Olympus worked better at f2.8 (because of pupil ratio something like f3.2)

In my opinion even if it resolves more detail (which is not clear) is not worth the loss of contrast, the higher CAs and the higher number of shots needed.

Olympus f4 vs JML 50mm a f4

I might be wrong but I would say the JML 50mm resolves more detail than the Olympus 38mm; it has 8 iris blades for 6 of the Olympus and around 6mm more WD (with a little M42 hood this advantage dissapears). Javier Replinger has used it at 2-3X and says corner performance is good so it can be a nice lens for the studio and for field work.

The Olympus is a good lens but there seems to be better options; however when I have to take a picture in this range my eyes always look at it and there must be a reason for it. 

Once again bellow you have the links so you can compare images as you wish.

JML 21mm
JML 50mm
Mitu 5X
Noname II
Olympus f4
Olympus f2.8