4X OBJECTIVE LENS TEST: PART 2

High-End Objectives

This is a second part of a large test where I compared 33 lenses at 4X magnification. Since most of the optics in the comparison were not designed with an image circle large enough to cover a full frame sensor, I chose to use an APS-C sensor equipped Sony α6300 body. 

The comparison results are separated into 4 parts:

1. 4X For Less Than $100
2. High-End Objectives
3. Enlarging Lenses Compared at 4x
4. High-magnification macro lenses at 4x

For part one of the test, follow this link: https://www.closeuphotography.com/4x-lens-test/part-one-4x-for-less-than-100-dollars

THE TEST SETUP

Nikon Super Fluor 4x objective mounted on my 52mm studio set-up with a Sony A6300 and Sigma 200mm tube lens.

Camera: Sony α6300, model # ILCE-6300, also known as: A6300, ALPHA 6300, and alpha 6300. 
Flash: Godox TT350s wireless flash x 2
Wireless controller: Godox X1s 2.4G wireless flash transmitter

For this test, the infinity corrected objectives were mounted on my 52mm studio set-up with a Sigma 200mm tube lens (Sigma Life-Size Attachment diopter). For more information on the setup used for this test, follow this link:  https://www.closeuphotography.com/52mm-setup

See the bottom of this post for more set-up details.

4X Comparison, Part 2: High-End Objectives

All of the objectives in this group all cost you a lot more than $100, and have a Numerical Aperture a lot higher than the last group of low-cost objectives. These were 0.10 or a nominal f/4, these are up to 0.20 NA, or f/2 nominal.

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13 160/- Microscope Objective
Nikon CF Plan Apochromat  
4x/0.20 160/0.17 Microscope Objective
Nikon CF Plan Apochromat 4x/0.20 160/- Microscope Objective
Nikon CF Plan Apochromat  4x/0.16 160/- Microscope Objective
Nikon CFI Plan Apochromat λ 4X/0.20 ∞/- Nano Crystal Coating Microscope Objective
Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4X/0.13 ∞/- Microscope Objective
Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective


For a detailed list of optics in this group, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

L-R, Nikon CFN Plan Knurled chrome ring 0.13 4x, Nikon PlanAPO 4x finite 2013 vintage, Knurled chrome ring 4X Plan APO, Black Plan APO 4x, Nano crystal Plan APO 4x, The Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4X, and the Super Fluor 4X/0.20.

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13  Microscope Objective

This lens is a good example of a decent performing lens designed with a really small image circle. The central zone is sharp and clean, but as you move away things change. Using an APS-C sensor, the corners are an example of very poor performance. Even worse, the sharper corner frames in the stack, seem to have even more severe lateral chromatic aberration than the crop below.

This lens is not recommended for use with an APS-C size sensor due to the small image circle and the large amount of CAs in the corners.

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13  Finite Microscope Objective

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13  Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13  Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4XA 4X/0.13 ∞/- Microscope Objective

This Plan Fluor objective results are crisp, clean, and clear over the entire APS-C frame. 

Even if there is a hint of purple lateral CAs in the frame, I still prefer shooting with this lens to any of the Plan APOs because the corner performance. 

This lens is labeled a Plan, or corrected for a flat-field, and this lens is, yes and no, it's not really, but it is slightly better than other Nikon lenses labeled Plan, that are not actually Plan corrected. 

These lenses sometimes sell for incredible prices on Ebay, down to less than $200. With my lens I think I got a deal that was almost a steal at $280 USD.

This lens is recommended for photography with an APS-C sensor.

Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4XA 4X/0.13 ∞/- Microscope Objective

Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4XA 4X/0.13 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4XA 4X/0.13 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CF Plan APO 4x/0.16 160/- Finite Microscope Objective

This is the all black barrel objective with the red stripe. Another standard Nikon Plan APO performance, awesome center sharpness with a small image circle that is too small for an APS-C sensor.

The overall performance of this ls a little crazy, super clean and CA free in the center, but the corners are the exact opposite, they look like the view through a kaleidoscope!

The center portion of the frame is one of the best, the areas away from the center its the worst of this comparison.

This lens is not recommended, and is not common on the used market anyway. So unless you are working with a really small sensor or can pick one up for a really low price, I paid about $160, I would recommend that you keep shopping.

Nikon CF Plan APO 4x/0.16 160/- Finite Microscope Objective

Nikon CF Plan APO 4x/0.16 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CF Plan APO 4x/0.16 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/0.17 Finite Microscope Objective

This the the really small with the red stripe on the black front cover or shroud.

Like all the Nikon Plan APOs, superb in the center but the image quality drops as you move towards the corners. The small image circle  also means that the corners will not improve in a stack. 

For photography with an APS-C sensor cameras, there are much better lenses out there that cover the APS-C field for a lot less money, but if you keep your subject centrally located and out of the corners you should do okay if you can pick one of these up for a good price. In 2016 a seller on Ebay cleared out about a dozen or so of these for $100 - $200.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective

This the knurled chrome barrel type CFN type Plan APO with the red stripe on the knurled chrome ring.

This objective, like other Nikon Plan APOs, is super sharp as long as you stay in the very center of the frame. This Plan APO has a weird, it seems almost over-corrected for CAs. All the PlanAPOs were shot with the same settings and processed with exactly identical setting but this objective has really strange colors, not a cast, but just very dull and flat. Not my favorite Plan APO. Compare these results with the Nano Crystal PlanAPO to see the difference.

For photography with an APS-C sensor camera there are much better lenses out there for a lot less money. This Plan APO is only Plan corrected and APO corrected in the center portion, outside of that area the lens is worse than the $17 Amscope objective, or Lomo 3.7, but it is sharper in the center.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Plan Apochromat λ 4X/0.20 ∞/- Infinity Corrected Microscope Objective

This the large chrome barreled CFI λ objective Nano Crystal Coating type PlanAPO with the dark gray threaded section.

This lens the newest Plan APO 4X from Nikon, like the other 4X Plan APOs is capable of making ultra sharp and detailed images as long as you keep the subject is kept in the central portion of the frame.

Compared to other Plan APOs, this lens is different from what I can see here. It has more CAs in the center, but the colors and contrast are the best with the deepest blacks, and the corners are still poor but is not as bad as the other Plan APOs. Maybe its the Nano Crystal Coating

The small image circle of this lens means that the corners will not improve in a stack. The center sharpness is pretty awesome and the CAs in the corners aren't so bad so if you can deal with the small image circle you can make some beautiful images with this lens. My main problem with this lens is that there are much better lenses out there for a lot less money.

Nikon CFI Plan Apo 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective

Nikon CFI Plan Apo 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Plan Apo 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Infinity Corrected Microscope Objective

When I bought this lens I hoped it would be as sharp as the Plan APOs in the center, but with better corner performance, and with a $2300 retail price, I thought that it would be almost impossible to have worse corners than a Plan APO right?

The image quality of the Super Fluor? Just look at the 100% crops below. The Super Fluor is sharp and contrasty all the way to the far corners of the APS-C frame. 

The S-Fluor exhibits less lateral chromatic aberration than the λ Nano Crystal Coat 4X/0.20 Plan APO on the number 9 and 13 in the center!  In the corners the comparison is no contest. 

The Super Fluor is my new favorite Nikon and the very best of the all objectives I tested at 4X. The S-Fluor shows that it is possible to have great corners with a non-flat-field corrected lens.

The downside of the Super Fluor is that it is not plan corrected, so even for something flat like a silicon wafer, you will have to run a stack.  For the results here, the center image was cropped from a different frame than the corner image.

In the part 5 of this test I will compare the Mitytoyo Plan APO 5X, shot at 4X, side-by-side with this lens. I haven't peeked yet, but at 4X my money is on the Super Fluor!

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Microscope Objective 100% actual pixel view corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X vs Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Lens

This comparison doesn't seem fair since the Nikon retail price is $2300 compared to $1049 or so for the MP-E, but on the used market its a different story.  The Super Fluor is actually cheaper. I paid less than $400 where the MP-E is selling for $600-900 USD in used condition. (I paid $770 for my MP-E 65, new, directly from Canon years ago).

Nikon Super Fluor 4X on the left, Canon MP-E 65 on the right.

Nikon S Fluor is an f/2 nominal aperture, the MP-E 65 was shot using f/2.8 (f/4 was not as sharp).

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X vs Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Lens, center of the frame, 100% crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X vs Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Lens, far corner of the frame, 100% crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Lomo 3.7x 0.11 Microscope Objective vs Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4XA 4X/0.13 Microscope Objective vs

Lomo 3,7 0.11 on the left and the Plan Fluor on the right.

The Lomo images have more noise because of the under-exposure mistake, I didn't notice it until after I sent the objective back to the owner.

The Super Fluor has a big advantage in image quality over the Canon at 4x but the MP-E 65 wins in flexibility with a 1-5x magnification range.

Lomo 3.7x 0.11 Microscope Objective vs Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4X/0.13 Microscope Objective vs 100% center crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

The side-by-side center crops are interesting. Sharpness is closer than I expected, some areas the Nikon has a slight edge. The Plan Fluor has a a slight hint of purple CAs around the edges of number 9 and 13, the Lomo also has very slight red CAs. The CAs are easier to see if you open your browser to full screen and click on the image to open a new larger image in a new tab.

Lomo 3.7x 0.11 Microscope Objective vs Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4X/0.13 Microscope Objective vs 100% corner crop. Clicking on an image will open a larger version.

Both are capable of producing a great image, but in the corners the Lomo wins the chromatic aberration control award with amazing CA suppression, but, the Plan Fluor is definitely sharper. 

The Lomo engineers did an amazing job, the Sony sensor is a few mm outside the designed image circle and don't forget it is being pushed to 4X for this comparison. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

There are easy to recommend objectives from this group.

Overall best lens in this group: Nikon Super Fluor 4x objective
No competition from any Nikon lens, or maybe any other lens at 4x?

Price vs Performance winner: Nikon Plan Fluor 4X/0.13 objective
Solid performance.

Objectives from this group that I would not recommend for APS-C: From a price vs performance standpoint It would be hard to recommend any Nikon Plan APO objective for an APS-C. You would be better off buying a $17 Amscope Plan objective and using the extra money for other equipment, like a new flash or macro stand.

Set-Up Notes

The Nikon Super Fluor 4X objective studio set-up with Sony A6300 body, and Sigma tube lens.

The Sony α6300 camera used for the test was vertically mounted on a Nikon MM-11 stand. Manual mode was used at ISO 80, with EFCS. To avoid any sharpness loss due to vibration I used the two Godox TT350s, at 1/128th to 1/4 power. The flashes remained in place for the entire test to avoid changes in light angle, the flash was mounted on a flash bracket bolted to an optical breadboard shooting into a 4-3/4 inch (12 cm) Godox plastic half dome diffuser placed over the target which was a 6 inch silicon wafer purchased on Ebay. For more about the flash I used in this test, follow this link: https://www.closeuphotography.com/godox

Each lens was focus bracketed and the single sharpest image for flat field lenses was chosen at 100% view in Photoshop (for non flat field lenses the best center and best corner image were selected). For lenses with an iris, the widest two or three apertures were shot, and the sharpest was chosen for the comparison.

All images were shot as RAW ARW files and processed in PS CC with all noise reduction and lens correction turned off, all settings were zeroed out (true zero) and the same settings were used for all of the images. 

4X Objective Test: High-End Objectives

Nikon CF N Plan Achromat 4X/0.13  Finite Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 16.22
Note: Knurled chrome ring
Mount: RMS
Note: Expensive used and not really worth the price over other 4X objectives.
Typical used price: $100-200

Nikon CFI Plan Fluor 4X/0.13 ∞/- Infinity Corrected Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 17.2
Nikon Part number: MRH00041
Note: Gold tinted colored barrel
Mount: M25 x 0.75
Full Retail Price: $495
Typical used Ebay price: Around $150-300+

Nikon CF Plan APO 4x/0.16 160/- Finite Microscope Objective
Mount: RMS thread
Note: All Black barrel type
Full Retail price: $ 1,598.67
Typical used Ebay price: $200-300, can be found for less if you are patient.

Nikon CF Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/0.17 Finite Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 14.8
Nikon Part number: MWW40109
Mount: RMS thread
Note: Made by Nikon 2013 printed on the package. In 2016 an Ebay seller sold a large number of these for only $100-175 USD. 
Typical used Ebay price: $400-500

Nikon CFN Plan Apo 4x/0.20 160/- Finite Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 15
Nikon Part number: MSR00041
Mount: RMS thread
Note: Knurled chrome barrel CFN type
Full Retail price $ 1,598.67
Typical used Ebay selling price: $400-500

Nikon CFI Plan Apo 4X/0.20 ∞/- Infinity Corrected Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 20
Nikon Part number: MRD00045
Mount: M25 x 0.75 mount
Note: Nano crystal coating type with black threaded section
Retail price: $1660.00
Typical used Ebay selling price: $400-500

Nikon CFI Super Fluor 4X/0.20 ∞/- Infinity Corrected Microscope Objective
Working Distance: 15.5
Nikon Part number: MRF00040
Mount: M25 x 0.75
Note: Large gold color barrel. These are very hard to find on the used market but worth all the trouble. 
Full Retail price: $2,295.00
Typical used Ebay price: $400-500.