Irix has been bringing out some tasty lenses recently, with both good optics and functionality. Now they are adding to the lineup with the Irix 150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly Macro which can double up as a regular lens with macro mode. 150mm is quite long for macro purposes, but the macro functionality has 1:1 magnification, which means your subject is life-size, thus pulling in the most detail from small subjects.
The lens follows the same design as the rest of the latest Irix lenses. A solid magnesium alloy lens barrel, with full weather sealing, white printed distance and magnification marks and the addition of a tripod mount makes the lens look that just bit cooler. There’s a large grippy focus ring, which has a long length of travel, but it can be quite sensitive at times. There’s also a focus locking ring which will lock the focus ring in place once you’ve hit the mark. The thin bright blue line on the focus ring makes the lens stand out from the rest, just like you can spot a Canon L lens a mile away with the red line, the Irix is now the one which owns blue in the lens world.
Irix doesn’t seem to be skimping on optic quality here with 12 elements in 9 groups inside the lens with 3 super-low dispersion ED elements and four higher refractive index (HR) elements. A rounded 11-blade diaphragm, ups other lenses with only nine blades and should make for pleasing rounded highlights and quality bokeh. Minimum focusing is at just 0.345m or 0.92 feet. The lens can also be used on a crop sensor body and comes out at 240mm on a Canon and 225mm on a Pentax and Nikon. The extra reach on a full frame sensor or crop body may prove an advantage to some, depending on your application.
The lens itself is quite compact and comes in at a reasonable 840g, another reason why the addition of a tripod mount is a nice bonus. There’s also no autofocus here, the lens is fully manual with everything set up so it communicates with the lens body.
Firstly, being a manual only lens means you have to take your time with nailing the focus. Center sharpness is very good, with a touch of edge softness which sharpens up across the board when you hit f/4. Overall, the sharpness is very good across the board throughout the aperture range.
Chromatic aberration is present but happily at very small levels, only identifiable when you’re really pixel peeping. Distortion is quoted by Irix as +0.1% pincushion, basically almost non-existent. Good job in a way because there’s no lens profile for the likes of Lightroom, which should give peace of mind in this area. Vignetting is minimal when fully open at f/2.8 and is virtually non-existent at f/5.6. Very good overall.
Having a wide aperture means that bokeh is very smooth, around the sort of quality you would expect for a lens in this price range. The 11 blade diaphragm also gives some very nice rounded highlights, possibly more rounded than the competitors.
As a lens that can do both medium telephoto and macro, the lens performs well at both jobs. Maybe a little longer in focal length than what I was used to, but the extra reach can be an advantage if you have the room to work.
How Does It Compare?
Most macro lenses are in the 105mm area, so the Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro Dragonfly is longer than usual, meaning the nearest competitor is the Sigma’s APO MACRO 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM. Optics on both lenses are comparable, with the same width aperture, but the Dragonfly comes out the cheapest.
There are other options which are more expensive and longer, such as the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX APO DG OS HSM Macro and the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L USM Macro. Both of these lenses are top performers and have the benefit of autofocus. However, when used as a macro, most would use manual focus, so the Irix doesn’t lose out that much in this respect. If you need a long macro lens which is cost-effective, then the Irix is a good contender so far.
|Irix 150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly||Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX IF HSM|
|Elements||12 elements/ 9 groups||16 elements/ 12 groups|
Trying out some of the wide angle lenses from Irix in the past was a positive experience and the same goes for the 150mm Dragonfly. The initial apprehensions of having a longer focal length for this type of lens was soon dispelled, as the extra length did come in quite useful. I was initially thinking along the lines of a portrait lens, but the extra length adds a little more flatness to the image, which in some cases is no bad thing.
The caveat of being manual only may seem initially a deficit, but get into the macro world and everything is manually focused anyway. Some reports on the lens say there is not enough travel in the focus ring, but the 270 degrees was fine for hitting focus just right. Manual focusing is also a fine line for evaluating sharpness, but once nailed this lens has great sharpness across the range.
You have to consider the price when evaluating this lens, which means for comparable optics it can be seen as a better deal than the Sigma 150mm APO Macro lens. Far more affordable with great functionality. In other words Irix have produced another lens with great optics and at a great price. The lack of autofocus is initially a hindrance, but not a problem when macro work is involved. If you need a medium zoom with macro facilities, then the Irix is definitely worth shortlisting.
Solid build quality
Good overall sharpness
Too long for general use
Manual focus only