1X Macro lens Sharpness Test

Setup

The Nikon D850 camera was vertically mounted on a Nikon MM-11 stand for this test. For each lens and each aperture setting focus was bracketed and the sharpest image was chosen at 100% view in photoshop. Manual mode was used at ISO 64. To avoid any sharpness loss due to vibration a Nikon SB-R200 flash was used at 1/16th to 1/2 power. The flash 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 . RAW NEF files were processed in PS CC with all noise reduction and lens correction turned off, all settings were zeroed out and the same white balance setting used for all the images. All crops are shown here at 100% actual pixel view. 

Important notes:
① A test like this, with a detailed high-contrast test target, will tend to reveal sharpness differences and chromatic aberration much more strongly than a real-world image.
② All of the test result images are single frames.
③ To avoid focus shiftswith aperture changes 10-15 shots were made at 40 micron steps at each aperture.
④ The sharpest images were chosen at 100% actual pixel magnification, cropped and saved in Photoshop.
⑤ Although the sharpest aperture is, shown.each lens was shot in full stops from wide open down to f/8 or f/11.
⑥ Results of the other apertures will be posted on the individual lens pages (coming soon).

Lens Line-up

Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro
Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon
Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D

Schneider Componon-S 80mm f/4
Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6
Schneider Macro Varon CAS 85mm f/4.5
Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f5
Schneider APO-componon 90mm f4.5 line scan model 0018

Nikon Scanner ED Nikkor ED 100mm
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX OS Macro

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm f/5.6
Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX OS APO Macro

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX OS Macro
Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED

Surprises

A couple of the lenses in this test really performed better than I had expected. The Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm f/5.6 was a surprise since I just bought the lens the day before the test for $100 and especially since its brother the Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6 is really not really a great performer considering the cost.  The Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon was also a big surprise I had this lens for over a year just sitting since I could never figure out what magnification to use since information on these lenses is scarce.

Target

Silicon wafers are the best targets for tests like this since they are perfectly flat and have lots of fine details. With a single shot you can get the wafer sharp edge to edge. Without a flat subject, stacking is the only way to get corner to corner sharpness and I get a headache just thinking about the time it would take to run stacks for 16 lenses at different apertures. 

The is the test wafer with the 1X crop area outlined in blue.

The is the test wafer with the 1X crop area outlined in blue.

1X area showing the 3 crop areas, center, edge and corner.

1X area showing the 3 crop areas, center, edge and corner.

70-75mm 

Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro lens

Sharpest aperture for the Sigma 70 is f/5.6 where CAs are also well controlled. Wide open and f/4 there are some CAs but the image quality is great from f/5.6 and down. Overall the image quality is very good with this lens and it can be bought on the used market for not a lot of money. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon lens

This lens is designed to be used in an industrial application, you can see this with the geared aperture ring used for machine vision. The lens is optimized to work at a certain magnification range and aperture,  f/3.5 and f/4 are just about un-usable, but stopped down to f/5.6 image quality is very good overall and especially well corrected chromatic aberrations. Compared to the Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D, the Magnagon is almost as sharp but is much better corrected for CAs. These lenses are hard to find but do show up on Ebay now and then, but be sure not to pay over $200 for the lens. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon center at 1X, f/5.6, and 100% actual pixel view

Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon edge at 1X, f/5.6, and 100% actual pixel view

Rodenstock 75mm f/3.5 Magnagon corner at 1X, f/5.6, and 100% actual pixel view

Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D 1X duplication lens

The sharpest aperture is f/4 where the lens is optimized for 1X magnification. Sharpness at 1X is very good from the center to the far corner on a full frame sensor. The only downside to this lens is CA correction where it could be better especially since the lens is called an APO. These lenses were used in scanners and for industrial use and there are lots of the used market so the going price is low, about $150 - $200. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4

Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4

Rodenstock 75mm f/4 APO-Rodagon D corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4

80-90mm

Schneider Componon-S 80mm f/4 enlarging lens

At f/5.6 the center is nice and sharp with this lens, but the corners are soft on a full frame sensor, even stopped down to f/8. The lens would work well on a APS-C or smaller sensor since the sharpness at the center and edge are decent stopped down. At f/4 the center and corners are noticeably soft, but stopping down to f/8 improves the corners somewhat but at this point then the center sharpness drops. Reversing the lens at 1X did not improve the IQ. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Schneider Componon-S 80mm f/4 center at f5.6, at 1X and 100% actual pixel view

Schneider Componon-S 80mm f/4 edge at f5.6, at 1X and 100% actual pixel view

Schneider Componon-S 80mm f/4 corner at f5.6, at 1X and 100% actual pixel view

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6 macro lens

Wide open at f/5.6 and 1X is where this Makro-Symmars is sharpest. Even wide open the performance is very consistent all the way to the far corners. CA correction is especially good. This lenses big brother, the 120 Makro-Symmar, is a stronger performer. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6 center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6 edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 80mm f/5.6 corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, f5.6

Schneider Macro Varon CAS 85mm f/4.5 line scan lens

Amazing reference class performance all around.This lens and the Scanner-Nikkor are the two sharpest lenses in this test, wide open at f/4.5 and with the CAS correction ring set to 1X ration the images are 100% free of CAs and zero drop in sharpness even in the extreme corners. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5 center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5 edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5 corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f/5 scanner lens

The center and edge are sharp at 1X without any hint of CAs, but it looks like this lens, designed for use in Scitex scanners, might not be designed for 1X, as the center and edge sharpness did not carry over in the far corners on the D850. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f/5 center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f5

Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f/5 edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f5

Rodenstock Scitex S-3 89mm f/5 corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f5

Schneider APO-componon 90mm f4.5 line scan model 0018

This is the line scan model 0018 APO-Componon 90mm that is optimized for 0.3X magnification that unfortunately performs poorly at 1X. There are two other versions of the APO-Componon 90mm f/4.5, both designed for 0.17X use.  The center was sharpest at f/4.5 but the corners were unacceptable on the D850. Closing the aperture down to f/8 helped the corners but the center sharpness dropped at the same time. The lens should be a good performer at 1/3X life-size but at 1X it fails in the corners. I also tried this lens reversed mounted but the results were indentical.

Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Schneider APO-componon 90mm f4.5 center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

Schneider APO-componon 90mm f4.5 edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

Schneider APO-componon 90mm f4.5 corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, at f4.5

100mm - 105mm

Nikon Scanner Nikkor ED 100mm scan lens

This lens and the macro varon are my reference lenses, sharp corner to corner and no CAs anywhere in the frame.Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Nikon Scanner ED Nikkor ED 100mm center at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, wide open

Nikon Scanner ED Nikkor ED 100mm edge at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, wide open

Nikon Scanner ED Nikkor ED 100mm corner at 1X and 100% actual pixel view, wide open

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED macro lens

This lens at 1X has the distinction of worst image quality in this test. At f/8 Chromatic aberration is gone from the center but is still visible in the edges and corners. The center seems to be sharpest at f/5.6 but it shows CAs, even in the center. The level of CAs is so high wide open that it make it hard to look at my computer monitor painful to look at when viewed at 100%. This lens has decent center sharpness in the center but the CAs and soft corners make it the poorest performer out of the 16 tested. Be sure to click on an image below to launch a new window with a full size image.

Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G center at f8, 100% actual pixel view

Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G edge at f8, 100% actual pixel view

Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G corner at f8, 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX OS Macro

The Sigma 105 is clean and sharp at f/5.6 with only a small amount of CAs. At f/2.8-f/4 there are some CAs present. Overall the lens does a pretty good job balancing sharpness, CAs and corner performance.

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX OS Macro center at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX OS Macro edge at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX OS Macro corner at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

120mm - 150mm 

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm f/5.6

Wide open this lens is sharp from corner to corner, edge to edge, without any hint of chromatic aberration. The performance of the 120 Makro-Symmar was a nice surprise especially since I received the lens only the day before the test. This lens is the all metal B-0 mount, with the blue ring around the barrel, and is optimized for 1X and a wide open aperture. The industrial V-mount mount version of this lens is available in 4 different magnification optimized versions, from 0.33x to 1X. The 120 Makro-Symmar performs much better than the 80 Makro-Symmar that I have. 

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm center at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm edge at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm corner at f5.6 and 100% actual pixel view

Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar

At 1X this lens is sharpest wide open at f/2.5, that is impressive! Although there are some CAs in the corners wide open these disappear by f/5.6. Great performance for a lens that is almost 20 years old. For a good example of what real true APO correction looks like see the Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm lens crops directly above. 

Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar center at f2.5 and 100% actual pixel view

Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar edge at f2.5 and 100% actual pixel view

Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar corner at f2.5 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX OS APO Macro

The Sigma 150 center is very sharp at f/4 and that sharpness continues all the way to the extreme corners with almost no chromatic aberration. Compared to its closest match, the legendary Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar, the Sigma 150 has slightly less sharpness but has much better chromatic aberration correction. The APO correction with the lens is excellent, but a few lenses, like the Schneider Makro-Symmar HM 120mm f/5.6, are cleaner.

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX OS APO center at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX OS APO edge at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX OS APO corner at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

180mm - 200mm

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX OS Macro

The Sigma 180 is sharpest at f/4 but there is an issue with chromatic aberrations in the corners, stopping down only makes the problem worse. Compared to the Nikon 200, the Sigma 180 has slightly less CAs, but is Nikon is slightly sharper.

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX OS Macro center at f4 and 100% actual pixel view center at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX OS Macro edge at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX OS Macro corner at f4 and 100% actual pixel view

Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED macro Lens

This 200 f4D is very sharp at f/8 but there is an issue with chromatic aberrations in the corners at all apertures.

Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED center at f8, 100% actual pixel view

Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED edge at f8, 100% actual pixel view

Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED corner at f8, 100% actual pixel view