Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF review: Budget brilliance

If you regularly shop online at websites like eBay and Amazon, it’s highly likely you’re aware of budget brand Yongnuo. Over the last few years, this Chinese brand has become increasingly popular with photographers looking for decent quality photo accessories at a very low price. Its range of flashguns and flash triggers have sold particularly well, offering features and build quality, along with performance, that belies their low price tags.

The Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF is currently available in a Canon EF fitting only. It is the brand’s first macro lens and is priced at around £229, making it considerably cheaper than alternatives from the likes of Canon, Sigma and Tamron.

Its rivals all sport the advantage of offering AF as well as manual focus, but most dedicated macro photographers usually use manual focus to ensure critical focusing, so the lack of autofocus on the Yongnuo shouldn’t be a concern.

With the electronics in the mount activating the camera’s focus confirmation in the viewfinder/LCD monitor, achieving perfect focus shouldn’t be a problem. Whether its features and performance will make it a budget bargain or a poor cut-price option is what this test aims to find out.

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Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF review: Design and features

The Yongnuo has a minimalist appearance, with a matt black finish (and thin red line at the front), giving it a classy look. It is built to a very high standard, with a metal mount to minimise wear and gold-plated contacts.

The solid barrel sports a distance/magnification scale and wide manual focus ring. As the lens is manual focus only, these markings are particularly important. The grooved, rubberised ring has a smooth action, with a decent level of friction to prevent an accidental shift in focus.

The lens sports ten multi-coated glass elements in nine groups and an impressive fast maximum aperture of f/2 – most rivals are f/2.8 – meaning a brighter viewfinder and extremely shallow depth-of-field. The focal length of 60mm (96mm when used on an APS-C DSLR) means you’ll need to get closer to your subject than with macro lenses sporting longer focal lengths, but unless you’re shooting flighty creatures, this shouldn’t be a problem. To achieve life-size reproduction, you need to be approximately 23cm from the subject.

An interesting aspect of this lens is that its firmware can be updated when attached to a camera, although I’ve not yet been able to work out how this process is carried out.

Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF review: Manual focus

If you’ve always used AF lenses, you’ll need a short period of adjustment to get used to focusing manually. I’d suggest activating all your AF points, as when you focus, areas of the image in sharp focus will activate the focus confirmation LEDs in your viewfinder, which helps achieve critical focus. The manual focus ring has a smooth, heavy action, allowing you to make fine adjustments to the focus with ease.

There are two main techniques you can use to achieve sharp focus. The first is the obvious one, where you turn the focus ring to focus, but this affects the reproduction ratio, which reduces the further away you are from the subject.

The second method, when you want maximum magnification, involves setting the ring to its closest focus to give a 1:1 (life-size) reproduction, then physically moving yourself slowly towards and away from the subject until focus is achieved. This is tricky when shooting handheld and is easier if you have the camera on a tripod, especially if you can set the centre-column horizontally. Better still, invest in a macro sliding plate, which sits on your tripod head and allows you to precisely slide the camera for accurate focus.

Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF review: Performance

If you’re happy to shoot close-ups with a manual focus lens, you’ll find the Yongnuo is capable of delivering very sharp macro images.

At maximum aperture, sharpness is very good rising to excellent as you reach f/8-11. Contrast is very good and flare is well handled, although at 1:1 the front element is near to the front of the barrel, so a hood might be advisable if you think you might regularly shoot backlit images.

Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 MF review: Verdict

The Yongnuo YN60mm f/2 is the ideal lens for those wishing to shoot macro on a budget. While it doesn’t match the performance of the best macro lenses, it must be remembered that it costs far less. If you can live without AF, you’ll find this to be your ideal first macro lens.

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