Disclamer: Yongnuo kindly sent the lens seen in this article and in my YouTube video of the same title for the purposes of these reviews as well as other articles. The YN60mm F2 goes to 1:1, bears fantastic colour contrast and beautiful bokeh. It goes for about 350$ USD. It has a number of harsh provisos, however. For more information about it, hit up Yongnuo’s page: YONGNUO Macro Lens YN60mm F2 MF.
NOTE: Only select images from the YouTube review are shown in this article. All images are uploaded to this album at Flickr.
Whilst penning a review of my favourite semi wide-angle medium format lens, I realised that I’d not updated my experience with Yongnuo’s 60mm F/2 Macro EF lens. The short of it is that in a few areas: contrast, sharpness, colour aberrations, and general mechanics among them, it is good. But its misses are big; one in particular is a show stopper.
The YN60mm is F/2 solid. Its metal barrel, and chunky, grippy, focus ring, feel great. The lens attaches solidly to a camera or high-quality adapter and clicks surely into place. If you’ve got the proper support, the 60/2’s combination of highly rigid body and heavily damped helicoid ensures that even at harsh angles, its focus won’t budge. Unfortunately - and despite being a macro lens -, the YN60mm’s focus throw is just 180º. While only ten or so of those degrees cover the range from infinity to one metre, the final 170º feels meagre next to other helical-based macro lenses, Zeiss’s Milvus, for instance, which turn almost 360º from infinity to 1:2. 180º doesn’t allow enough headroom for fine focus tuning at high magnifications.
Utilising native electronic EF calls, the YN60mm automatically stops down aperture prior to taking exposure. This ensures the brightest image for focus focus, and, depending on the taking aperture, a step-less and hands-free transition to sharp output. Typically I use enlarging barrel lenses and/or medium format board-mounted shutter lenses when constructing advertising images. These require manual opening and closing of the aperture blades for focus and exposure. If not careful, a small bump could throw the focus system off by a several millimetres, rendering a single exposure or a focus stack useless.
The internal focus system has pluses and minuses. At infinity and up to 1:2 magnification, the front element collapses way into the lens barrel. This seriously shields the front glass from oblique light, which, in turn, helps to suppress flare. That said, when hit by direct light, the YN60mm shows severe flare donuts whether shooting wide open or stopped down. Worse, its barrel heavily occludes/shades images shot at distances greater than 3 metres. Depending on the light, the corners turn either white or black. As a result, this lens is useless for landscape, architecture, and most portraiture. There is no way to fix it in post.
On the positive side, the YN60mm’s rigid body ensures that you will never extend the front element into an object whilst focusing toward it. Conversely, because the front element presses farther forward as magnification increases, its susceptibility to flare and other stray light induced aberrations increases in proportion to magnification. While a screw-in 67mm filter thread-mounting hood can help, the real problem is internal.
At highest magnification, the Yongnuo 60mm F/2,0 is generally sharp and contrasty. Sure, top-tier macro lenses are just as sharp or sharper wide open as this lens is stopped way down, but most top-tier macro lenses are F/4 at brightest. My best macro lens’s widest aperture is F/5,6. Focusing it beyond 1:2 magnification is seriously taxing on a Fujifilm GFX-50s, whose processor slows to a slide show. The SL retains excellent speed and detail all the way up to 3:1 magnification.
Contrary to many dedicated and high-end macro lenses, this Yongnuo is sharper stopped down than it is wide open. I reckon that F/5,6 is its sharpest aperture for high magnification photography. Because it isn’t that sharp wide open, F/2 is more of a focus-aid than anything else.
The Yongnuo YN60mm F2 Macro is more than capable of creating fantastic, high-magnification images ready for print and advertisement in the highest end boutique.
Inside or outside, the YN60mm is easier to use on a Leica SL than a Fujifilm GFX-50s. The reason is simple: the GFX’s finder slows to a virtual slide show under high magnifications, and even in the bright sun, it will stutter. The SL’s EVF and LCD are silky smooth in most light, and most importantly, even at high magnifications. It is also a lot clearer. When magnified to 100%, regardless the acuity of the output image, the GFX image feed is grainy and soft. Unfortunately, my automated stacker doesn’t come with an SL release. As as result, the stacked studio comparisons in this review were shot on the GFX. Despite being built for 35mm cameras, at macro distances, the YN60mm lights up the GFX sensor pretty well. When shot against a dark backdrop, any corner shading induced by the lens’s smaller image circle is up for moot.
But its bokeh is to die for. Smooth, free of swirlies, and composed of some of the smoothest sharp-to-soft gradients I’ve ever seen. Add to that lovely colour and contrast, and you would have yourself a great portrait lens- if only its barrel didn’t shade the image so much.
Prior to using this lens, I’d not encountered a single macro lens which showed significant barrel distortion at any magnification. Here, too, the YN60 surprised me, though not pleasantly. Scenes are pressed inward toward the centre, and are obvious even through the viewfinder or LCD. It can be corrected, but it shouldn’t have to be. If you do any of the following: material measuring, copy work, architectural photography, product advertising, or polygonal object lessons, skip this lens.
If all you need is a decently sharp, bright, and contrasty lens for play or for work that delivers good enough performance in at macro distances, the YN60mm F/2 recommends itself well at 349$ USD. Up close it even covers a GFX sensor well. And, thanks to its bright F/2 aperture, it makes framing and focusing at high magnifications a breeze. Unfortunately, flare, corner shading, and distortion wreck it for the careful sort of work that is my bread and butter. Yongnuo would do well to at install this lens’s glass into a non-internally focusing body.