I would really like to do some macro photography. What are my options?
- Macro Lenses
- Extension Tubes
- Close-Up Filters
Macro Lenses are likely the best option.
True macro lenses are lenses that can focus at extremely close distances. The reason I say
"true macro" is because a lot of the zoom lenses that we encounter will say that they are "macro". If we look at the specifications of theses lenses we might see that the reproduction ratio is 1:4 or 1:2.
Tamron 60mm f2 Macro
If we are using a lens that is 1:2 on a film camera, this would mean that the object would be half life size on the film. For the purpose of this conversation the term macro will refer to lenses with a reproduction ratio of 1:1 or greater magnification. 1:1 means that if we are using a film camera and we shoot at the greatest magnification of the lens the image on the film would life size.
Say we photographed a dime.
When we took the slide or negative an actual dime would fit perfectly on the image of the dime on the film.
That is what we mean by a one to one magnification ratio.
When selecting a macro lens the things we want to consider is what type of macro shooting we are going to do. The two most common uses for a macro lens will be copy work such as copying photographs or documents, and field work such as photographing flowers or bugs or any other small objects.
Macro lenses are not zooms. They will range in focal length from 50mm up to about 180mm. Most will focus to infinity so you can use them as you would any lens. Most of the macro lenses will work great for portraits since they are about the best focal length for that type of photography. The longer 150mm or 180mm versions will work fantastic as telephoto lenses.
More exotic lenses like the Canon MP-E 65mm will not focus to infinity so they are used strictly for macro work. The MP-E with its reproduction ratio of between 1:1 and 5:1 (read that 5x life-size) is advertized by Canon as being able to fill the frame with "a grain of rice". The MP-E is a super lens for someone that needs or wants to do some very serious macro work, but might not be the best pick for most of us.
For copy work most people will be looking at something like a 50 or 60mm lens. These lenses will be the best choice in this situation because you do not have be so far away from an 8x10 page to get the entire image in the frame. This is important because most copystands do get high enough to get the 8x10 in the frame with something like a 100 or 105mm lens.
All of the manufactures have really great macro lenses in the 50 to 60mm range. These lenses are all 1:1.
For field work the longer 90, 100 or 105mm lenses will generally work better because you get a little more working distance between you and your subject. The greater working distance will make it easier to get some light on the subject if you are using a flash or other lighting. In an available light situation you will be less likely to cast a shadow on your subject.
All of the manufactures will have great macros for the longer field work type lenses which I think is what most people in the group would use.
Sigma 150mm Macro
The Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro has Sigma's Optical Stabilization. Owing to its Hyper-Sonic Motor focus is very fast and quiet. It is designed for full frame cameras but will work on the cameras with APS-C sensor as well with an effective focal length of 225mm! It also has a tripod mount.
Nikon has the 85mm and the 105mm. Both of these lenses have the VR (vibration reduction) system.
Canon has the 100mm as well as the 100mm IS (image stabilized) system.
Tamron makes the old standby 90mm as well as a fantastic 180mm. These lenses do not have Tamrons superb VC (vibration control) system as yet. However, much of the macro shooting most people do is done on a tripod so the absence of an image stabilizing system may not be a big deal to some shooters.
Most of the macro lenses are f2.8. The exceptions are the Tamron 60mm which is f2. The Tamron 180mm is f3.5 as is the Nikon 85mm. Thus, lens speed is probably not a big factor when shopping for a macro lens because there is not a significant difference between them.
Macro lenses are going to start at about $450.00-$500.00 and prices can go north of that pretty fast.
If you are reluctant to make that kind of investment or are not interested in carrying the extra weight keep reading.
Extension tubes are tubes that fit between the body of your camera and your lens. This method will provide a lot of magnification, in fact, typically more magnification than a macro lens.
The tubes do not have any glass in them so there are no worries as far as the quality of the optics
Extension Tube Set
because other than the glass in your lens, there are no optics to bother about.
The correct set of tubes will maintain the connection between the lens and the body so your focusing and aperture should all work properly.
The downside of the extension tubes is that the lens will not focus to infinity with the tubes in place.
So if you are out in the forest shooting a tiny mushroom and you see a huge grizzly bear
coming towards you.You will have to change lenses or at least get the extension tubes off before you can photograph the bear.
The extension tubes are sold in sets of three, and you can increase the magnification by selecting one of the longer tubes or by using two or all three of the tube together. The tubes will work extremely well with the Canon or Nikon 18-55 zoom lenses that many of you all ready own. They also work very well with a 50mm lens. Extension tubes are not compatible with all lenses so the best bet is to take your camera and lens with you into a store and see that they all work well together. The set is lightweight and will only set you back $229.99.
Close-up Filters Set of Three
The least expensive option is a set of close-up filters. These are sold in sets of three and screw on the front of your lens just like a filter. Like the extension tubes you can increase the magnification by which filter you select or by using more than one on your lens. When the filters are in place the lens will only be able to focus close so as in the mushroom/grizzly scenario mentioned previously you will need to remove the filters before you shoot the bear. Close-up filters are only sharp in the center so they are fine for flowers and small objects but are not suited for copying documents or photos. These close-up sets start at about $55.00 for 49mm and up in price depending on the size you will
One more option is a Canon part called a 500D.
This is a very high quality close-up lens that is available in 52, 58, 72 and 77mm filter sizes. The one I see the most is the 77mm which is widely used by both Canon and Nikon people who are using it on the[masked] f2.8 lenses. It will also fit the Tamron[masked] f2.8 lens.
This combination gives excellent results. In fact, I think that anyone with one of these lenses who has never tried this part has missed the boat. The 500D in 77mm is $189.99.
There are other ways to accomplish macro photography such as using lenses with reversing rings, bellows attachments and by using two lenses attached together end to end, but these are more difficult to do. So, I'll save that for some other time.
I hope that you have found this information helpful and if you have any questions please shoot me an email or stop by the store and I will be happy to help you out.