Are Macro lenses only for Macro work ?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by vikas_kohli, May 1, 2010.

  1. I haven't done any macro photography yet, but work of champions here (Lil Jud comes to mind) amazes me every time I see the pics clicked by them, and am looking for a future Macro lens recommendation.
    I understand that you need to have some tele length available so that you can stay away from the creatures/bugs as well as use flash if needed. I see myself clicking lots of flowers etc as well, probably more than bugs.. but I am guessing buying a lens with more tele is better than shorter tele length... but I might be wrong.
    What else is important thing for macro lens ? (I have D90) what about the ratio... ?
    Also are macro lenses strictly for macro (extreme closeup is what I think macro is supposed to mean... micro to be correct?) or can they or should they be used for general pictures etc ?
    I hear good things about Tamron 90mm (but just recently returned Tamron 17- 50 as it won't focus right) and it's priced within my range too. Are there any other recommendations for a beginner macro experience ?
     
  2. Sorry could not add couple more things.. which I edited below but I was past 10 mins edit limit. Mods if you can take the whole of section below and merge with prior post that would be great..
    I haven't done any macro photography yet, but work of champions here (Lil Jud comes to mind) amazes me every time I see the pics clicked by them, and am looking for a future Macro lens recommendation.
    I understand that you need to have some tele length available so that you can stay away from the creatures/bugs as well as use flash if needed. I see myself clicking lots of flowers etc as well, probably more than bugs.. but I am guessing buying a lens with more tele is better than shorter tele length... but I might be wrong.

    What else is important thing for macro lens ? (I have D90 and have 18-105 VR, 70-300 VR, 35 1.8 and Sigma 50 1.4). What about the ratio... ? and what can a macro do that my existing lenses can not do other than give me more aperture at 90/105 ?
    Also are macro lenses strictly for macro (extreme closeup is what I think macro is supposed to mean... micro to be correct?) or can they or should they be used for general pictures etc ?
    I hear good things about Tamron 90mm (but just recently returned Tamron 17- 50 as it won't focus right) and it's priced within my range too. Are there any other recommendations for a beginner macro experience ?
     
  3. AFAIK, all modern 1:1 macro lenses also have floating elements that enable you to focus at infinity and still have good quality photos. That's why many people buy the longer focal length macro lenses so that they can also be used as portrait lenses.
    The Tamron 90mm has a very good reputation but I've never used it on a Nikon so can't speak from personal experience, but anywhere from 70-150mm should work for flowers and insects, with the longer focal length (150mm +) being better for insects but not as favored for portraits.
     
  4. Thanks Mike -what would a macro give me that my current selection of lenses (in 2nd post) does not give ?
     
  5. Some people feel that macro lenses are "too sharp" for portraits, preferring a gentler look from 85mm f1.4 etc., but that's a highly subjective view. In principle there is of course no reason why they can't be used at any distance and for any use.
    It's possible that they're also optimised to work well not just at close range but at small apertures (like f22) for achieivng lots of depth of field, but like most lenses they'll tend to perform best around f5.6 to 8.
    Steve
     
  6. "Some people feel that macro lenses are "too sharp" for portraits"
    I certainly have had that experience with the 52BB on a D90. I was surprised at how it picked out every wrinkle, pore, and blemish, every patch of dry skin on my subjects face.
    If I had any idea how to use photoshop, I imagine it could be fixed fairly easily. Fantastic for Macro, but I don't think I'd ever point it at anyone over the age of 22 again.
     
  7. Hi there, I use my 105 micro nikkor for portraits - particularly if the end result will be in B&W because it can give more imp[act and character to an older face.
     
  8. Also are macro lenses strictly for macro (extreme closeup is what I think macro is supposed to mean... micro to be correct?) or can they or should they be used for general pictures etc ?
    Well, the lenses you're talking about are really general purpose lenses optimized for close-up photography (i.e. 1:10 to 1:1). They usually work well also for distant subjects as long as you stop down a bit. I often use my 60mm AF-S and 105mm AF-S Micro Nikkors for people subjects and architecture, as well as for close-ups. They work great. In particular, the 60mm is fantastic, has beautiful bokeh, colour, excellent sharpness at 1:1 as well as on distant subjects, and with the D700/D3 it tracks moving subjects well. The older 60mm AF-D was not good for distant subjects at wide apertures (by f/8 it was fine) and its bokeh was not good. But you mentioned bugs, I have to say that I don't often photograph them and so I can't give advice about whether a short or long macro lens is ideal. Some insect photographers use a 50mm, and others a 200mm, and everything in between. However, I do think that Nikon's 105mm macros are not optically quite as good as their 60mm's. The 200mm AF Micro has an excellent reputation but I have never shot with it.
     
  9. Thanks for all your responses.. but what does a macro lens give me that 18-105 or 70 -300 won't give me (is it only the 2.8 vs lower aperture ?)
    What should be the magnif ratio one should look for ?
     
  10. IMO, if it has a floating element it will be optimized over a huge range, but I only really know about the old 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor. It wants for nothing at infinity focus. If you want a lot of magnification you need to stay with shorter focal lengths lest the system become unwieldy. Flowers and big bugs no problem, but it takes a lot of magnification if you're talking fly size and smaller. The zooms, though amazingly good at what they were designed for, aren't designed for macro work and the difference in sharpness will be quite visible.
     
  11. SCL

    SCL

    Kikas - true macro lenses are optimized to provide a flatter field than your normal lenses. Also, true macros are prime lenses, not zooms...not that zooms can't have a "macro" setting, it is just that a true macro lens has a primary purpose and is designed to fulfill that purpose. Most macros either go to a 1:2 or 1:1 magnification ratio. Some modern macros are autofocus, but most macro shooters focus manually due to the extremely narrow depth of field. Often the camera and lens are preset to a specific magnification ratio and mounted on a focus rail which sits on a tripod; the rail moves the whole camera-lens combination together closer or further away from the subject until it is in focus. Also, because the DOF is so narrow, many macro shooters stop down their lenses to f16 or so (hopefully just before diffraction sets in) to try to get a slightly greater DOF. Advanced shooters sometimes actually shoot a series of shots, each micro thin at different focal points on the subject and stack the shots together to get incredible DOF unattainable any other way. I use 4 different macro lenses, the shortest being 50mm and the longest being 105mm. You might want to read the macro tutorial in the learning tab at the top of this page for more info on macro lenses and shooting.
     
  12. Kikas - as for magnification. Really it comes down to what you're looking to achieve. Here's a link to the macro forum at FredMiranda.com
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/45
    When I thought I was starting out fairly nicely, I soon realized that my magnification is where most of them start. Since then I've been pushing for more magnification. There are many ways to get Macros & the question is how much magnification you want. The more magnification you want, the more probable you'll need a dedicated macro lens & tubes. Many lenses you can simply use tubes with.
    The more magnification - the more important focus will become & placement of focus. So - the more difficult.
    I wish to thank you for your kind words in regards to my macro photography. I now use a technique called Reversed Lens. I'm simply using a 50mm f/1.2, but any 50mm lens will work, reversed onto the D300. I have a unit which allows me to mount the lens backwards onto the D300 & it even meters when I let it on the D300. Focus is achieved by the moving of the camera forward & backward. It is however a very difficult technique. And is far more involved than I'm writing here. A regular macro lens is far easier & for a beginner something I recommend over the technique I seem to have chosen to work with.
    I have an online friend who was working with a 24mm reversed & wanted to go to a 20mm. I've tried the 24mm reversed & you have to get to within one inch of your subject. Not easy to achieve. I'm at max 2 inches & that's hard. I'm going to try a 35mm next. I bought a 35-70 to try with as I was recommended, but I don't like the setup at all. Luckily I paid very little for the lens so it's no loss. I've also bought a 55mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro, but the copy I bought is very hard to focus. I actually love the 50mm for Reversed Macros now. But I'm in the process of trying to locate a 35mm prime I would be happy with. I figure I'll need to get within about 1,5 inch of my subject to focus it.
    I would recommend a 60mm f/2.8 AF D Nikon macro or a 105 of the older kind. With macro you want to get used to manual focus. AF is really overrated with macros. But, if you want the lens for other stuff as well - then AF is essential.
    Nikon has many wonderful macros - so I'm sure you can find a great one from them. Tamron & Sigma also make nice macros you can try.
    The thing to consider is the size of your subject. Flowers mostly do well with less magnification, while bugs often require more. Also, your comfort zone in how close you are to your subject. I'm right on top of them, but could not use this technique with butterflies as they never let me that close.
    Hope this helps a little.
     
  13. Just get the shot you want and no one will care what lens you shot it with. The shot at this link was done with a non-AI 55mm f3.5 Micro-Nikkor with a Nikon F/F36 at close to infinity . . .
    http://www.jaypix.com/pix/bss.jpg
     
  14. The older macro lenses (prior to floating element design) still deliver good image quality. The older f3.5 lenses were easier to correct than the faster ones, is one explanation that I've heard.
     
  15. The main difference between macro lenses and the lenses that you have is the ability to focus closely. My 55mm f3.5 AI focuses down to 9.5 inches, as measured from the focal plane, to give 1:2 magnification. At close focus, the subject is only about 3 inches from the front of the lens. Longer focal lengths will give you the same magnification, but with a longer focus distance. With regular non-macro teles, you can get the same amount of magnification, but the subject is much further away, thus it does not take up as much of the field of view. With good technique and a good quality lens, you can crop the image to get the same framing you would get by focusing closer, but it still won't look quite the same, due to the flat field of true macros. Trust me, I've tried.
    Another thing to consider is that with increased magnification with any prime lens, the closer you have to get to the close focus point, meaning that you get less depth of field. This is the main issue with my 55. Many times in lower light, I have to open the aperture to the max, causing the DOF to be very small and making focusing very challenging. I often find out when I'm processing my images that the focus was off just a bit and some part of the subject is out of focus. (See this image)
    I've also tried using both my 50mm 1.8 and 24mm 2.8 reversed. It's very similar to using the 55. No metering, manual focus, very short working distances (less than an inch with the 24) and incredibly short DOF. I'll post a sample taken with the 24mm reversed. It's a shot of the inside of a flower. You'll see that the DOF in this shot is measured in millimeters (I think the lens was focused at infinity and wide open). On the plus side, you can try this without buying anything, provided that one of your primes has a aperture ring that you can operate manually. If you reverse the lens, you have to manually operate the aperture (unless you buy an accessory that I can't remember the name of that operates it for you). Just set the camera to manual, use sunny 16 to get a starting exposure, and hand hold the lens backwards on the front of the camera. That's what I did.
    00WN9q-240855684.jpg
     
  16. I forgot to add that I had the HN-1 metal lens hood on the 24 when it was reversed, and this acted like a short extension tube.
     
  17. "what would a macro give me that my current selection of lenses (in 2nd post) does not give ?"
    1. your present lenses can't give you a 1:1 mag.
    2. a macro lens is sharper and has a higher contrast than your zooms and about the same as your Sigma 50 1.4.
    So the only reason to buy one is if you aren't satisfied with the sharpness of your zooms for portrait work and/or want to do extreme close-ups. Again, 90-105mm is the ideal focal length for a dual use lens for both portrait and general macro and 150mm or greater is best for skittish insects.
     
  18. The Tamron 90mm is a really nice lens for people photos on FF. On a D90 the extra reach should make it even better (depending on your preferred shooting style). The bokeh is pleasing and it just makes people look good. As for "portraits" - well, I don't do those, so the "how sharp is too sharp?" conundrum doesn't keep me awake at nights! Personally, I'd rather remove a little detail post-shot than somehow have to put it in - of course, there is a long tradition of such softening in the fashion and celebrity photo or film industry worlds. You could even use a diffusing filter if you wanted to gloss over significant imperfections.
    The macro capabilities of the Tamron are great BTW - as with my other (current) gear, I'm certainly the weakest link, it's not my equipment!
     
  19. Sometimes macro lenses are even better at distance. I don't know about the corresponding Nikon, but Canon's 100 f/2.8 IS actually gives up to four stops of image stabilization at distance, but about half that up close. I can't figure that out. Does Nikon have any lenses that do the same thing with VR? Considering that many people buy the lens for the maco capabilities, the IS performance when used as a macro has led to some disappointments.
    Not trying to be a troll here. I just can't figure it out.
    --Lannie
     
  20. Landrum, is that not just because you're magnifying things so much more, so magnifying the shake along with it?
    Steve
     
  21. I've owned the Tamron, mentioned above, for about two years. In that time I've been very happy with its performance in the macro and portrait areas, but, when used as a short telephoto to capture things at a distance, its focus accuracy on my D200 leaves something to be desired.
    I was doing some focus testing yesterday and the Tammy is spot on at close range. An incidental, but not inconsequential benefit of this lens is its bokeh.
    [​IMG]
     
  22. I just noticed this is a Nikon forum, but there is one macro lens that is strictly for Macro work because it cannot focus to infinity. The Canon MP-E 65mm lens is manual focus only and can produce a magnification of 5:1, but the drawback is that it cannot be used as a normal lens.
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/mp-e-65.shtml
     
  23. Lots of good information posted above and as a person who has recently started macro photography I purchased used equipment to keep the costs down.
    I have started an article on using enlarging lenses with bellows at http://macrobellowsphotography.blogspot.com/. It also discusses using a manual focus prime lens.
    Regarding focal length, it will impact both magnification and working distance. In general, all things kept constant, the shorter the focal length the greater the max. magnification. Sounds nice, however, there is a cost and that is the shorter the focal length the shorter the working distance (your lens gets quite close to the subject).
    To give you an idea, this picture was taken with a 50mm enlargement lens is probably 3:1 or greater for magnification. It is a water drop on a lilac bush. The lens was almost touching the drop of water.
    I prefer 105 or 135 due to a greater working distance for most of my macro photos.

    [​IMG]
     
  24. Is that not just because you're magnifying things so much more, so magnifying the shake along with it? --Steve Phillips​
    Now that makes sense, Steve. Why didn't I think of that? After all, the number of stops of VR, IS, OS, etc. one can practically use in actual photography determines those magic numbers in the first place.
    In any case, to the original poster, yes, macros are very commonly used "at distance" as portrait and other lenses, often very effectively.
    --Lannie
     
  25. Mocro lenses don't have to be telephoto lenses. Macro lenses are generally those that can achieve a magnification of 1:1. This means that a macro lens will create an image on the camera sensor that is the same size as the subject.
    In order to achieve macro, macro lenses have a sepcial focusing mechanize that allows you to achieve focus hen the subject is very close to the lens. For example youre Sigma 50 11.4 has a minimum focusing distance of 1.5ft. In comparison a true 50mm macro willl have a minimum focusing of about 7 or 8 inches to the subject. The Tamron 90mm isn't a macro because it is a telephoto lens. It is a macro because it has a focusing mechanism that allows you to get the lens very close to the subject. Most telephoto lenses cannot focus very close to the subject and therefore cannot achieve macro magnification.
    what can a macro do that my existing lenses can not do other than give me more aperture at 90/105 ?​
    Your existing lenses don't have focusing mechanisms that will alow you to get the lens close to enough to the subject to achieve 1:1 magnification.
    If you want to get into macro photography the best thing to do is to buy a dedicated macro lens with 1:1 magnification capability. I have used the Tamron 90mm macro and it is a good lens.
     
  26. In addition to being a superlative macro lens, the 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor (mine is an AIS, circa 1985) is also a terrific lens for general photography. It is very sharp and contrasty, and it has the added benefit of focusing down to 9.8" unaided for a 1:2 reproduction ratio. The f/2.8 maximum aperture is plenty fast enough for most applications.
     
  27. I use my Nikon 'Micro' lens for general purpose type shots. I often carry only two lenses - 35mm and 85mm, or 55mm Micro and 105mm Micro. Adds variety to walk-arounds.


    For me, with respect to my 'Micro' lenses, the focal length matters more than 'Micro' or not. For me, the 'Reproduction Ratio' markings on the lens barrel makes a difference. I also purchased each 'Micro' lens with the corresponding extension ring which allow 1:1. BTW, depending on the alignment of the planets, I might use any extension ring with any lens.


    105mm f/4 Micro - skin tones with flash


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mix-plate/3503276957/in/set-72157617672350719/


    55mm f/2.8 Micro - mid-range 'landscape'


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mix-plate/3269082284/in/set-72157613550963771


    We all choose equipment for different reasons. For me, who has refrained from zoom lenses, a macro lens and extension rings expand my photo adventures in a modular way. One of my reasons for staying with the 35mm format is the lower cost range of optics. Macro lenses are an example.


    Good luck.
     

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