Mitakon Zhongyi Super Macro Lens for Micro Four Thirds Cameras
Macro,  Photo Gear

Testing the Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4.5x Super Close Up Macro Lens on Olympus Micro Four Thirds Cameras

The Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4.5x Macro lens is an extreme close up macro photography lens.  The Mitakon 20mm only focuses at 4.0x – 4.5x magnification (8.0x – 9.0x 35mm – equivalent).  For comparison, Olympus has 2 macro photography lenses in their lens line up.  The 60mm f/2.8 macro which shoots at up to 1.0x (35mm equivalent) magnification and the 30mm f/3.5 macro which shoots at up to 1.25x (2.5x – 35mm equivalent) magnification.

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The magnification on each of these lenses can also be increased by adding extension tubes or by adding an attachable close up lens like the Raynox DCR-250.  For more information on using the Raynox DCR-250 see my blog on using the Raynox with the Olympus 60mm macro lens.

So how close is 4.5x magnification?  Below are photographs taken of the year on a U.S. Dime which has a diameter of 0.705 inches (17.91 mm).  The photograph on the left was taken at 1.0x magnification using the Olympus 60mm macro and the photograph on the right was taken using the Mitakon 20mm at 4.5x magnification.  Neither image has been cropped.

Dime Magnification Comparison
Dime Magnification Comparison

Completely Manual Lens

The Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm macro lens is a completely manual lens.  The lens is manual focus only.  There are also no electrical connections between the camera and lens.  This means that the aperture can only be set on the lens and the aperture information will not be recorded in the EXIF data.

Features like focus bracketing and focus stacking will not work with the lens.  If you want to focus stack images you will need to manually adjust the focus nearer/farther to the subject and stack the individual photos in Adobe Photoshop or other focus stacking software.

Focus peaking and auto zoom will also not work when you turn the focus ring.  You can assign focus peaking to a button on your camera and this will work when focusing the Mitakon 20mm macro lens.  In fact, I found focus peaking to be the most reliable way to focus this lens.

Watch Movement 4.5x Magnification f/8, ISO 200, 2.5 seconds
Watch Movement 4.5x Magnification f/8, ISO 200, 2.5 seconds

Sharpness / Focusing

I did not find the Mitakon Zhongy 20mm Super Macro lens to be an extremely sharp lens.  In testing the Mitakon Macro lens across the aperture range (f/2 – f/16), I found the lens to be the sharpest at f/5.6 and f/8.

The 4 – 4.5x magnification has an extremely narrow depth of field.  I found shooting at f/8 to have the best combination of sharpness and depth of field.  In my testing, I did get quite a few sharp images at both f/5.6 and f/8.

I had the most success focusing this lens using focus peaking.  I also tethered my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III to Olympus Capture and Workspace software to verify the focus, composition, and view the results on a bigger screen.

I found that the best way to focus this lens is to adjust the distance between the lens and the subject to achieve focus.  This is most easily accomplished using a macro rail system.  I used a Newer 4-Way Macro Focusing Rail Slider to adjust the focus.  A rail system is also useful is you are going to do manual focus bracketing of your macro photographs.

OM-D E-M1 III & Mitakon 20mm Macro Mounted on a Newer Focus Rail
OM-D E-M1 III & Mitakon 20mm Macro Mounted on a Newer Focus Rail

You Need a Stable Set Up

Since the Mitakon 20mm Macro lens has such a high magnification you will need an extremely stable shooting set up and you will probably need to add additional light since the lens is very close to the subject.

I tested the Mitakon 20mm macro lens with my Olympus E-M1 Mark III mounted on a Newer Focus Rail Slider.  The rail was attached to my tripod using a ball head.  Once you have the rail correctly positioned, you can easily adjust the distance between the subject and lens.  You can also adjust the position of the lens from side to side.

Minimizing vibration is also very important when focusing at this high magnification.  I tethered my O-MD E-M1 III to my computer using a 10 foot long USB-C cable.  I used Olympus Capture software to check the composition and focus, and to press the shutter.  You can also use a remote shutter release to minimize the vibration.

Watch Movement 4.5x Magnification f/8, ISO 200, 4 seconds
Watch Movement 4.5x Magnification f/8, ISO 200, 4 seconds

Settings and Tips

Photographing with the Mitakon Zhongyi Super Macro Lens has a learning curve.  Here is a summary of some tips that can help to help shorten the learning curve with this lens and shooting at high magnification in general.

  • Assign focus peaking to a button on your camera and use it to manually focus the lens.
  • Don’t use the focus / magnification ring to adjust focus.  This could throw off your composition and focus.  Focus the lens by adjusting the distance between the lens and the subject.
  • Use f/5.6 or f/8.0 for the sharpest focus.
  • Use a remote shutter release or tether the camera to your computer to minimize the vibration from pressing the shutter button and from your footsteps walking close to the camera / lens.
  • Turn off Image Stabilization and shoot in Anti-Shock Shooting Mode.
  • Shoot in Manual Mode or Shutter Priority.  You will only be able to change the Shutter Speed and ISO from the camera.  I kept my ISO at 200 and increased the length of the shutter speed to get the right exposure.
  • Use a small light (I used a clip-on reading light) to add additional light to your subject.  For metallic objects I bounced the light off a piece of white cardboard to reduce the specular highlights.

Conclusion

The Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm Super Macro is a special purpose macro photography lens.  It was designed for extreme close up macro photography.  If you are interested in trying extreme close up macro photography and don’t mind that the lens is completely manual, the Mitakon 20mm Super Macro lens is worth considering.  It also has an attractive price of less than $200.

However, if you prefer autofocus or want to do in camera focus bracketing or focus stacking, you may want to consider the Olympus 30mm f/3.5 macro lens that can focus up to 1.25x magnification.  You can also focus even closer by adding extension tubes to the lens.

Written by Martin Belan

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