With shorter daylight hours and longer dark, cold, and wet nights, it's time to think about what to shoot indoors: something new perhaps? For myself, it's going to be trying something new, and that's macro with the Astrhori 85mm f/2.8 Macro Tilt lens.
I haven't actually shot any macro since my college days, and although I loved the images I saw other photographers creating, at that point in time, the appeal wasn't as strong as landscapes. So, I focused heavily on that. Fast-forward to the present day and the urge to broaden my photographic horizons and understanding, plus keep me occupied on these long winter nights.
1:1 Magnification and Tilt
The Astrhori 85mm f/2.8 Macro Tilt lens provides this and initially, I wanted to experiment with the tilt option for portraits and architecture, but at the time of writing, I am still fixated on the macro and focusing distance of the lens. The focusing distance is a sweet 11 cm and perfect for some of the images I have planned for the lens. That 1:1 magnification is going to make for a really interesting few months for me photographically.
The ability to tilt the lens can be used for creative image-making such as the toy town effect or creative portraits and food photography or increasing depth of field independently of aperture. Tilting the lens alters the focal plane of the image, not to be confused with shifting the lens which corrects the perspective. Normally, the plane of focus is parallel to the camera's sensor, and so, the ability to tilt the lens, moving the plane of focus, allows for some quite interesting effects.
Build and Quality
This fully manual lens measures 110 mm and is a solid full metal construction weighing in at 720 g, which you do notice considering its relatively compact size. Featuring 11 elements in 8 groups. The lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 - f/16, with the sweet spot being around the f/5.6 to f/8 mark. With a 55mm filter thread and plastic lens cap, it should also be noted that it doesn't come with a lens hood, so you would have to purchase one of them separately.
The focusing and aperture rings are heavily dampened, but just to the point where they don't resist when you move them, yet don't move once you have reached your focus — perfect for macro. All the markings are clearly inscribed on the lens, and the knurling feels right for the focusing and aperture rings, with good friction.
The tilt lock and angle tilt buttons again are dampened enough not to release or be bumped out, and although it doesn't have any discernable lock to the middle point, due to the construction and markings, you can reseat it back extremely easily. The magnification is stated at 1:1 with a minimum focusing distance of 11 cm, which it does achieve.
How It Performs
I've really enjoyed my time with the lens so far, and although I've not tried any creative street or portrait photography with it, I think in the right hands, this would produce some really great results. For me, it's been mainly macro or product shots that I have practiced with to get a feel for the lens. So far, this has been a very interesting experience, as the depth of field is really narrow when shooting for focused stacked images. Each time I used the lens, I made sure that focus peaking was enabled in the camera. You could see it subtly shift through the image as you re-adjusted focus, which proved very helpful.
The lens is sharp where you focus, as it should be, of course, but with the very narrow depth of field, it really stands out and captures crystal-sharp details, as you can see by the image below of the bugle.
Everything I have tried with the lens so far, it's achieved. It's keeping me engrossed in wanting to try more with it to see exactly what I can do. Macro is relatively new to me, and the results I am able to get from the lens are encouraging me to try more.
Using the tilt and rotation of the lens produces some interesting results as the focal plane shifts and can aid in fewer stacking shots when photographing products, for example. The results of the +/- 8 degrees can be clearly seen in your images. The images below were photographed from around 140 cm away from the subject.
These images are some of the initial shots I took when I first got the lens. The first shows 100% magnification at the focus point, which was the top of the "o" and shows how narrow the depth of field is. The second image of the owl is a five-point stacked image to see what the results would be with only five focus points. The other two images were focus practice with the second series set being 11cm away from the front element.
What I Like
- The solid metal construction.
- The heavily dampened aperture and focusing rings.
- The minimum focusing distance.
- The shallow depth of field.
- The tilt and rotation for product and macro photography and, should you wish, creative shots.
What I Don't Like
- The weight: I wouldn't like to carry this lens around too often for handheld shots.
- No EXIF data: I don't have the time to note down all the settings.
- The rotary control ring lock I did find awkward at first due to the proximity of the camera body, but after a short while, I got the knack for it.
This lens for me is not a carry-around lens due to the weight, but it has proved itself for macro and close-up shots. With a minimum focusing distance of about 11 cm and a creamy background bokeh, I'm looking forward to exploring the possibilities. I've found that the image results I've had so far have only encouraged me to want to try more with it, and that's a good thing. Yes, it's a comparatively heavy lens considering its size, but there are heavier, and what I will use it for will mean it will always be locked off on a tripod, so I don't have to worry about the weight.
Considering the image quality you get at a relatively low price and with tilt and 360 rotational abilities for creative photography, I don't think you would go too far wrong if this is also your first venture into this type of photography. You can purchase the lens here.