Cosina Voigtlander Factory Tour

Last week during my Japan winter wildlife tour, I visited the Cosina lens factory in Japan.  Since I own Voigtlander lenses made at this facility, it was one of the highlights of this year's trip. After years of running tours for Japanese speakers only, I was told that my english speaking group was the first there as a trial run.


Cosina is a Japanese lens manufacturer, that is renowned for their low volume, high-end lenses. The most recognizable name brand that Cosina produces is the Zeiss lens line. All Otus, Milvus, Classic, and ZM Leica mount lenses are made in Japan by Cosina. Another well known high-end lens brand made by Cosina is the legendary Voigtlander lens line. Most notably, they made the Voigtlander SL lenses including the famous Voigtlander Macro APO-Lanthar 125mm F2.5 SL lens, and one of the CV lenses that I personally own. A detailed review of the CV 125mm and comparison of image quality is available here,, on


There are a total of four Cosina manufacturing facilities in Japan, my group and I were invited to the headquarters and lens assembly facility near Nagano,  just 30 minutes from the famous snow monkey park, and about 10 minutes from our hotel in Shibu Onsen, thank you, Mr. Yamada-san.


When we arrived as scheduled, we had three Cosina staff members waiting for us. We were moved into an upstairs conference room lined with cases of all the products Cosina has made over the years, including all of the Zeiss and Voigtlander lines, but also many low-end, but well known lenses, like the Vivitar Series 1 line, and some specialized equipment, like those made for use in satellites. Here the lens making process was explained to us step-by-step. We were told about glass producing, preparation, grinding, polishing, coating, edge anti-reflection coating, called "ink coating" and finally lens centering and MTF testing.


At this facility they make all of the metal parts used in Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, including smallest rings and internal parts, even the screws used in the lenses are made here. They take aluminum and brass and mill, anodize, and assembled the parts as a finished lens here in this factory. 


Before being moved downstairs to the ground floor, we were told that photography would not be allowed during the rest of the tour.  We were also warned that the factory floor might be coated with lubricant, and it was, but this was okay, this is a factory right? We were led into a corridor, where a dozen technicians were busy working with dozens of custom designed end-milling machines. Our guide took us into one of the rooms where lettering was being engraved into aperture rings for what appeared to be for a Voigtlander f/0.95 lens. We were able to handle the rings, but unfortunately we were not able to take any as souvenirs. Our guide told us that it can take up to 5 minutes to process one ring, where the normal silkscreen printing that other manufacturers use, takes less than 5 seconds per piece.

We were led into another room that was milling Nikon F-mounts out of a large hunks of brass. We were allowed to hold the pieces for a close-up look and they had a very nice weight, and were beautifully machined.

Next, we were led into a room where a technician was working next to a table with dozens of anodized inner and outer focus helicoids. We watched, as he painted on a grey compound and worked a pair of barrels back and forth. Focus helicoids are made with threads that use higher precision than normal screw threads, but still, there can be tiny differences in the matched parts. This could result in a  small changes in resistance, that may be detected by the user's touch. It's the technician's job to use his years of experience, in this case 40 years' of experience, to turn the mating parts back and forth, until the parts have the perfect silky smooth action, not too tight, and not too loose. We are talking about precision, not in millimeters, but in microns. Each helicoid pair is unique and it can take anywhere from 4 to 40 turns, to get it just right, the technician told us. At Cosina, every lens that leaves the factory with the focus helicoids lapped by a master craftsman before final assembly. 

The tour really opened my eyes to the impressive work that Cosina does. Unlike Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, Canon, or almost any other brand, Cosina still makes their own glass, makes the entire lens, start to finish, including all of the parts, down to the fasteners using their own designs. Unlike Canon, Nikon and Sony, all Cosina manufacturing takes in Japan.

Cosina has remained under-the-radar over the years, avoiding attention to their main business, which is OEM manufacturing. While most lens brands advertise their skills at making lenses only to outsource the manufacturing, Cosina has been quietly making high-end lenses for these companies over the years. These high-end lenses are made using much tighter tolerances and fit than the mass produced motorized AF lenses made by other brands.

Cosina has been active lately with new designs in their own APO-Lanthar line with the new Voigtlander Apo- Lanthar 65 mm f/2 Aspherical 1:2 Macro lens for Sony E-mount. A detailed review and image quality test of the Apo-Lanthar 65 will be available here (this page will be updated soon with much more information)

At the CP+ show in Japan in March 2018, Voigtländer announced three new lenses for Sony E-mount, including very interesting Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 110mm f/2.5! It's great to see Cosina getting back to producing new Voigtlander macro lenses as they did in the old days, before they started manufacturing the ZE and ZF lens line for Zeiss.

The Cosina Voigtlander lenses are known for high-end image quality and superb build quality, but these are not the only factors that make these lenses so attractive. These high-end lenses are realistically priced at a level that an average photographer can afford.

For more information on Cosina, and Voigtlander:

The Cosina Voigtlander and Zeiss lens lines:



My Scanner Nikkor ED 7 element lens is finally back from the machine shop so I tested the performance against the Canon MP-E 65 f/2.8 1-5x macro lens. Does the little Nikkor have what it takes optically to match the performance of the famous Canon MP-E 65 at 1.3x? These lenses are very very different, and not just in appearance, the Canon is designed to work at close-up distances over a wide range of magnifications, the Scanner Nikkor is designed to cover a specific magnification and distance at a very high level of correction. One costs over $1,000 USD, the other costs almost nothing, but the test results are surprising! 

Follow this link for the test:

The Oshiro 60mm 2:1 Macro Lens vs. The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

The Oshiro 60mm 2:1 Macro Lens

Recently I compared two lenses from opposite ends of the market, the low price end with the Oshiro 60mm 2:1 lens and the top end with the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 macro lens and results are interesting.

Take a couple of minute to see the 100% crops and it would be interesting to hear what you think.

The Oshiro 60mm 2:1 Macro Lens and Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Comparison Test:

Why You should Know About The Lomo 3,7x Objective

This is the perfect microscope objective for people new to photomacrography. You can pick one up for almost nothing, it's easy to set-up and use and most importantly, it makes really clean, sharp images.

Lenses that perform way above their price range are rare, this Lomo can outperform a macro lenses costing about 20X the price! To see more on this lens, follow this link:

4X Objective Lens Test is Online


After three days of shooting a comparison of 33 lenses at 4x magnification the first part of the comparison is online.

The results of the comparison will be posted in 5 parts:

1. 4X For Less Than $100
2. High-End Objectives
3. Enlarging Lenses Compared at 4x
4. High-magnification macro lenses at 4x
5. 3x and 5x lenses tested at 4x.

Follow this link for the first part, 4X For Less Than $100:

Part two is almost ready to go and will be online next week.

Any questions, send me a email.

The first part of the 4x test includes, L-R: Lomo 3,7xFluor 4x$17 4x; Nikon BE Plan 4xNikon E Plan 4x; and Nikon Plan 4x (gold barrel) objective


Optikos Teradyne 106mm f/2 Inspection Lens

Recently I Stumbled on an interesting looking lens on Ebay, and thankfully, the seller accepted my offer. Once the lens arrived I realized that I got seriously lucky. The lens box has 2.82X printed on the label, and if thats true, at f/2, it has the potential to be resolve some seriously good detail. The bad news is that the lens has custom threads so I was not able to do any testing other than handholding. The good news is that the images were sharp over the entire frame at f/2 and the lens shows very good CA control, much less than a microscope objective at least.

After I have custom adapters made to mount the lens I can give it a real test and publish the results. 

If you know anything about this lens please send me a message. 

Thanks for looking.


Schneider-Kreuznach Vario-C-Claron 1:1 lens

These lenses appear on Ebay occasionally without any name, only the words, Lens made in Germany, and the 1:1 engraved on a wide adjustment ring. The 1:1 reproduction ratio is a big giveaway that this lens was optimized for work at 1X. The aperture ring has 1/4 stops, and the range is limited from f/5.6 to only f/16, so the lens was likely designed for copy work. But, the most important detail, the serial number, tells you its a Schneider-Kreuznach lens for sure.

Considering these no-name lenses sell for a bargain price, I payed less than $50 USD, what could go wrong?

When the lens shows up, I couldn't help wonder, why the box was so big and heavy for one lens.

This is a huge lens! 

Using the search terms "huge Schneider 1:1 lens", google turns up an old archived Schneider C-Claron copy lens brochure in PDF format.

These are the specs for the lens:

Schneider-Kreuznach Vario-C-Claron copy lens
8 elements in 6 groups
240mm f/5.6 o
ptimized at 1:1

255mm f/7.0 optimized at 1:0.61
Image diagonal 450-354mm

Lens production, late 1974.
No lens mounting threads or filter threads.

Since this is a copy lens, the field should be flat, chromatic aberration control should be very good, and vignetting should be almost zero, but this lens was designed to be mounted to a bracket, it doesn't have a lens mount, or even any threads, so it looks like it is going to be sitting on my bookshelf in the future.  

Schneider Makro-Symmar lens package I couldn't pass up

Right after I promised, for the 10th time, to stay off Ebay, I came across another deal that looked too good to pass up. A line-scan machine with servo motor driven X-axis stage, camera, tubes, adapters and a lens. Question is, what lens was it built around?


Since the lens was covered in electrical tape, it was impossible to see any details, but I did recognize the Schneider front lens cap! Feeling lucky, I took a chance and paid the $100 asking price. I couldn't resist.

Underneath all the tape and residue, was a Makro-Symmar HM 120mm. The lens included a really well-made 2 inch long adapter that took the odd-ball 32.5mm threads to a standard 42mm x 1mm. The adapter attached to a 5 inch long thick-walled 42mm x 1 extension tube, both with extra-long threaded sections.



Schneider recommends the 120mm Makro-Symmar for 12K machine vision applications for sensors with a 5µm pixel pitch and a line-scan sensor size up to 12,000 pixels wide. That is interesting, since that is a pretty good match for the D810 with 4.88 µm pixel sensor and the D850 with 4.35 µm sensor. Its also interesting that the 80mm Makro-Symmar is not recommended for 12K sensors. 


This lens is available in a few mounts, this metal lens body is known as B-0 iris mount. 

If you are not familiar with the Makro-Symmar lens, it's a true macro lens, optimized for 1:1 reproduction, sharp and chromatic aberration free at 1X, thanks to the ULD (Ultra Low Dispersion) glass in an 8 elements, 4 group design. 

When I received the lens had no idea what to expect of the 120 Makro-Symmar performance. I do own an 80mm Makro-Symmar but the performance was not that good.

A 12K line-scan spec lens, like the 120 M-S lens, should be excellent on a DSLR like a D810 or D850.  I was right in the middle of a studio 1X sharpness test when I got the lens, so of course, I included it, and I am glad I did.

Check out the test results below. Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm on the left, Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED on the right, both at 1x, f/5.6 and 100% magnification, all lens correction and noise reduction zeroed out in photoshop ACR.

At the center the Makro-Symmar has a slight sharpness advantage, at least in the lettering, over the Micro-Nikkor, but it is close. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

The corner crops show a huge difference in image quality. The Schneider lens is surprisingly clean and sharp right to the very edge of the frame. The Nikon, not so much.

This is an interesting comparison, but it's not really a fair since the Makro-Symmar is a more expensive lens, and it is optimized for 1:1. The Nikon 105 VR is about $800-900, or 40% less than what the Schneider costs, has AF, VR, and can give you sharp results from infinity to 1X. The Nikon 105 VR has one ED element, the Schneider doesn't say how much ULD glass is in this lens, but I can guarantee you it's more than one element. Anyway, the results are interesting!

 Wafer with 1X test area outlined with blue tape.

Wafer with 1X test area outlined with blue tape.

 1X test area with the crop areas highlighted.

1X test area with the crop areas highlighted.

More Info

If you are interested in learning more details about the 120 Makro-Symmar lens follow this link to another page on this site:

Also to see the test results of all 16 lenses in 1X sharpness test, follow this link:


Thorlabs SM2 Lens Tube System For Macro Photography

 Thorlabs SM2 Tube System parts including the SM2NFM2 Nikon F-Mount adapter.

Thorlabs SM2 Tube System parts including the SM2NFM2 Nikon F-Mount adapter.

The Thorlabs SM2 lens tube system is designed for optomechanical lab set-ups. I put this set of parts together to make a flex and vibration free setup to mount special lenses for macro photography. This system should be more rigid than the system I am using now and a lot easier to setup and use.

 Scanner Nikkor lens with and without the Thorlabs SM2 52mm threaded sleeves.

Scanner Nikkor lens with and without the Thorlabs SM2 52mm threaded sleeves.

Thorlabs SM2 tube couplers make a very convenient way to mount the Scanner Nikkor when fixed to the lens. The threaded collars will make mounting the Scanner Nikkor and setting the magnification ratio quick and easy.

The male 2.035-40 threads are compatible with female 52mm x 0.75 threads. I used SM2 couplers on both the front and the rear of the Scanner Nikkor. The front 52mm x 0.75 threads will make it easy to mount a hood or to mount the lens in reverse.


 Thorlabs SM2 system parts with Scanner Nikkor lens.

Thorlabs SM2 system parts with Scanner Nikkor lens.

The SM2NFM2 Nikon F-Mount adapter at the rear with SM2 tubes with mounts, and the Scanner Nikkor lens mounted with SM2 couplers and a SM2 tube at the front being used as a lens hood. This is just a quick check of the parts, the tube mounts are not fixed to the quick release plate at this point.

Thorlabs makes 42mm, 49mm, T-mount > SM2 adapters so mounting other lenses to this system should be clean and uncomplicated.

More info on the SM2 system on the Thorlabs site:

SM2 adapters from Thorlabs:

Silicon Wafer Photography

Finally I found a simple low cost easy to set up target for lens tests, a silicon wafer!  This wafer makes a target that answered all my dreams, it is perfectly flat, has tons of detail, is easy to clean, and was only $7. 

With the naked eye, the details are hard to see in the image above, but, here is a section of the wafer photographed at a little over 1X.  To see the images in a larger size, click on the images and they will open in a new window.

The image was made with a Nikon D810, Scanner Nikkor ED, at 1.1X with a single Nikon SBR200 flash. 

100% center actual pixel crop. 

100% crop, lower right extreme corner. 

100% crop, lower left extreme corner. 

Click on each image to see the image in a larger size. 

100% crop, upper left extreme corner. 

100% crop, upper right extreme corner. 

If you are interested in buying a silicon wafer use Ebay search term 'silicon wafer' or search for item number 262635273324

Meet Your Neighbor: The Native Long-horned Bee

 Male long horned bees, Melissodes sp., sleeping together in a sunflower at Madrona Marsh, Torrance California. This final image is made up of 3 images stacked.  Sigma 150mm Macro lens Nikon D810 Single SB-R200 flash with diffuser 1/30s f/8 ISO 100 Acratech Ballhead and carbon fiber tripod.

Male long horned bees, Melissodes sp., sleeping together in a sunflower at Madrona Marsh, Torrance California. This final image is made up of 3 images stacked.

Sigma 150mm Macro lens Nikon D810 Single SB-R200 flash with diffuser 1/30s f/8 ISO 100 Acratech Ballhead and carbon fiber tripod.

As I pulled up and opened the door of my SUV, I glanced up, and the first thing I saw, was a cluster of bees on this sunflower. I couldn't pull out my tripod fast enough!

Male long-horned native bees, cluster together overnight, and this will sometimes last until late morning, if the ambient temperatures are chilly enough. I can tell they are all male, since the females have shorter antenna and sleep in an underground nest, only the males cluster like this. Photographing native bees is always my first choice over the much more common european honey bees that most people are familiar with. I find the natives to be much much easier to work with than the non-native honey bees. The natives are never aggressive and are always cool and calm,  I never been stung by a native bee in my life. 

The long-horned Melissodes sp. bees seem to prefer sunflowers and this year my local photography spot,  Madrona Marsh is doing better than ever, and thanks to the rain earlier in the year, Madrona has more sunflowers than I have ever seen there!

For this image I used a single SB-R200 wireless flash and set the shutter speed at 1/30s and my flash to 1/16th power to balance the ambient light and to let some of the warm morning backlight show through in the upper edges of the flower. I chose the 150mm Sigma over a shorter lens to help isolate the flower from the background. Using a tripod made it really easy to shoot multiple images at different focus points in case I would need to stack to get additional depth of field.

 100% crop of the image above to give you a look at some of the level of detail in the full size image.

100% crop of the image above to give you a look at some of the level of detail in the full size image.

Summer is here, so get out there and look for your native bee neighbors at your local nature park, but make sure you get there early in the AM, and look for the solitary bees that overnighted on sticks, or inside flowers. This kind of behavior is common with native bees all over the US, even Alaska, and in most parts of the world that I have visited.

Nikon Measuring Microscope 5X Objective Section Just added

After back to back trips this year, I finally have time in the office to catch up with my to-do list and this week I finished up a section on the Nikon 5X MM objective with lots of images.

Nikon MM 5X page:

The Nikon MM objectives are some of my favorites out of all the lenses I own. These objectives are made for Nikon industrial measuring microscopes that cost tens of thousands of dollars. They are very sharp, easy to use and are not very expensive, maybe $200-300 on the used market.

This pollen covered anther, sitting inside a flower, was made at 5X with a Nikon D500 and 5X MM objective and a single Nikon SB-R200 flash 1/60s ISO 100 manual mode.

This is a 100% crop of the image above showing details of the individual pollen grains.

The section includes lot of info about the objective but also an example on how set-up an installation for photography.


Over the next few weeks I will finish up all the Nikon measuring microscope objectives and the Mitutoyo objects, hopefully getting to almost all the lenses I have listed already. My goal is to add a section for all the lenses that I recommend and use, and sections on how to set up and use them in the field or studio.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

DIY, Build-up, Macro Stand

Vertical Macro Stand Project

The Zygo NewView 200 Microscope Stand with bottled water for scale.

Last week I came across one of those unbelievable deals where you can't seem to press the buy-it-now button fast enough. How good of a deal was it, well I spend over $150 on fuel and had to drive 763 miles round trip to pick up my gently used $50 microscope stand.

It turns out the Ebay seller, was getting rid of the stand, from a Zygo NewView 200 Interferometer (surface structure analyzer) microscope, since he no longer needed it, having purchased it, just for the special XY stage that came with it.

Luckily, the fine and coarse focus movements are in excellent condition, so over the next weeks and months I will cover the build-up to setup the stand for macro photography. This project will be easy for someone to do on their own, since I will be using only easy-to-find low-cost parts for the build, and when I say low cost, I mean really low-cost.

Before anyone goes out, and starts looking for a hard-to-find used Zygo microscope, I would recommend instead to look for the same stand used by Nikon for the MM-11 Measurescope. These are very common (there are six used MM-11 units on Ebay as I write this), so with some patience you can find them for really good prices on the used market. There are things to look out when looking for one of these, so I will be covering in the next part of this build-up series.

The $17 Plan 4x Objective for Macro Photography: LARGER THAN LIFESIZE FOR A LOW PRICE

The Big Surprise
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a new objective on eBay that had all the right specs but I was really doubtful about the image quality, just how much sharpness and correction can a buyer expect for $17? I felt lucky so I ordered the lens anyway and took the risk. Once I had a chance to make a few images with the lens, as you can see below, it turns out that $17 buys a hell of a lot of image quality in 2017.

Multicolored pencil tip at 4X. Uncropped 5 image stack handheld. Plan 4x Objective on Nikon D810 1/60s manual mode ISO 100 single flash at 1/32 power.

Why a microscope Objective?

For magnifications of 4x and higher I prefer to use to microscope objectives. They are a great cost effective way to move into high magnification macro photography. They are designed to cover a certain magnification range and a small field at the highest resolution where normal lenses must cover a bigger range and larger field but at a lower resolution. The downside to using objectives is that they have a very shallow DOF because of their large apertures and lack of an aperture so they are best used for flat subjects or for 3D subjects you would want to use image stacking best results.

Image Quality

Amazingly this objective produces clean sharp details across the frame. Chromatic aberrations, purple and green fringing, are almost unnoticeable and very well controlled. The CAs or chromatic aberrations are better corrected than some expensive objectives that I have tried and easily removed using post processing software. Flare is very well controlled thanks to a deep barrel and recessed front element.  Corner performance is decent. Field curvature was flat as it should be for a Plan objective. Excellent results overall.

FYI most finite type microscope objectives are designed to be used with eyepieces that correct for chromatic aberrations.  Nikon CF, CFI and a few Olympus finite objectives are corrected for CAs within the objective so they make great lenses for macro photography.


More information

If you would like to see more images made with this lens and get a lot more information, follow this direct link:

Or its easy to follow the navigation on the column on the left: Equipment > Objectives > then click on the Generic Objectives thumbnail

Young sub-adult green Aphid. Uncropped handheld single image.  Plan 4x Objective on Nikon D500 1/200s manual mode ISO 100 single diffused flash at 1/32 power.

 Top and bottom view of the Plan 4x Objective supplied by Amscope.

Top and bottom view of the Plan 4x Objective supplied by Amscope.

Enlarging lenses: Why You need one and what makes Them so Good

If you are not familiar with enlarging lenses they are an excellent way to get into high magnification close-up photography for larger than life-size or beyond the 1X range images. Macro lenses normally work up to life-size or 1X but a 50mm enlarging lens can give you good, even great image quality up to four times life-size or 4X . The best part is that you can pick up a very high quality enlarging lens for very little, just a fraction of the cost of a new macro lens. For the 50mm Componon S lens you see below, I paid $98 new and still in the box, and it is one of the sharpest enlarging lenses out there. Good clean copies of this can be found easily on Ebay for about $50-60.

For more information on the Componon-S and how to get the most out of it see the links below.

For the 50mm Componon S enlarging lens:

For the Componon S Industrial version:

 Schneider Componon S 50mm f/2.8 and Nikon D500 at 2X, 1/60 s, f4.5, ISO 64, single SBR-200 flash, MM-11 microscope stand.

Schneider Componon S 50mm f/2.8 and Nikon D500 at 2X, 1/60 s, f4.5, ISO 64, single SBR-200 flash, MM-11 microscope stand.

This image was made in the studio on a vertical Nikon MM-11 microscope stand with a single flash and lots of diffusion. I shot this at f/4.5 since this is the lenses sharpest aperture and to avoid losing sharpness to diffraction.

 The same shell in hand to show scale.

The same shell in hand to show scale.

Welcome to Close-up Photography

This is a very young female variable wisp damselfly, Agriocnemis femina femina, on fern frond. The males of this species are green and back with an orange tail turning all white with green eyes as they age. Eventually this female will turn to green and black as an adult. Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sigma 105mm macro, Nikon D810, 1/200 second, f/8, manual mode, single SBR-200 flash, Acratech ballhead, Berlebach ash wood tripod. 2017 Robert OToole Photography

Thanks for stopping by my brand new site!

Soon the site will feature lots of new image galleries, all kinds of equipment reviews, and lot of useful information like set-ups, how-to guides, and FAQs all easily accessible with navigation menu on the left. Also I will have up to date information on my workshops and presentations. Please contact me if you have an opportunity or idea for workshop or presentation near you.

To receive the latest updates and to stay in touch join the newsletter list by hitting the newsletter link on the navigation sidebar on the left or by following this link:

If you are on Facebook you can join my close-up Photography Facebook group where you will be able to receive all the info, latest updates and also to have the ability to ask questions and get help with anything you need:

For my wildlife photography please visit my main site:

Also I run a wildlife photography Facebook group that you can join:

My goals in creating this site:

Help you to see really good photos and find ways to capture what they see out in nature
Challenge you with macro techniques to stay creative and to help you to try to keep seeing things differently
To help you find answers to any technical questions you may have
To help choose good close-up equipment
To help you avoid getting frustrated with close-up photography
Expose you to expose you to new professional techniques
To help you have fun doing close-up photography

100% actual pixel crop of the image above.

The equipment that I used to make this damselfly image can produce an amazing amount of detail but there is no way to appreciate with with a 1500 pixel web file but these 100% crop samples will at least give you an idea of what the quality you can expect from modern equipment. 

Tail details, 100% actual pixel crop of the image above.