Best all around "affordable" FX Macro

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sandyv, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Though I have had an old 55/ 3.5 Macro for years, it was used almost entirely for slide copying. A while back I picked up a Ricoh GXR to use with Leica and old Nikon lenses. Since I had no digital macro capability, I also bought a macro module to go with it. The last month or so, I have been really enjoying using it. Clearly, I already have that, and it works pretty well, though I still have a lot to learn about taking Macro shots. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is wouldn't it be fun to have a macro lens for my "Real" camera system, DF and D 750. I nearly always buy refurb or used. Don't believe I am willing (yet) to pay what they are asking for a 200. What would some of you macro enthusiasts suggest? Thanks!
     
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Although I have the newer 105mm/f2.8 AF-S VR macro, I still own the 105mm/f2.8 AF macro (pre-D) I bought back in 1990. Obviously that lens is over a quarter century old, but it is still very good.
    A lot of times I prefer to have a longer working distance and therefore I use the 200mm/f4 AF-D macro, which has the advantage of a built-in tripod collar, but we are talking about a four-digit price tag.
     
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Shun, Thanks. Certainly affordable even D, and plenty out there. Best, Sandy
     
  4. I got the old non-AI Nikkor 105mm "micro" lens for manual use on Canon EOS cameras, and since AF isn't as handy as you might think for macro work, it does just fine. It's a classic lens.
    However, my favorite lens for macro-style work is my Tamron 90mm in Canon EOS mount. They also make it in a Nikon F mount and it is a fine macro lens, especially on an APS-C body (Photozone review of the most recent version on FX sensor at http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/902-tamron90f28vcfx ) although it is a lot longer than your 55mm lens.
    If I did more macro work with a FX body, I'd be with Shun on getting a longer lens, in that case the Tamron 180mm.
     
  5. in addition to the Nikkor 105, the Tamron 90 and Tokina 100 are highly-reputed FX macros which don't cost too much.
     
  6. I also have the Nikon micro 105 f2.8.AF like Shun, but, after a few years, the AF failed to AF. But, using it manually for macro works better than the AF which spent more time hunting than finding when it worked. But the real problem with the lens, I think, is the short throw to focus.
     
  7. If you are looking to add a lens purely for macro photography to your line up then the Kiron 105/2.8 Ai manual focus lens is excellent, inexpensive, has an adjustable length lens hood and focuses to 1:1 like the Nikkor 105mm AF-D model which I used to have and is every bit as good as the Kiron and has AF for applications other than macro.
     
  8. Another vote for the old manual focus 105/2.8. I never understood AF in macro work...you're usually on a tripod, doing finicky positioning and DOF adjustments, seems like AF would just get in the way. I also have a 55mm I use with my PB-4 for slide and neg copying. I'm very happy with both.
     
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    JDM -- Thanks, I do love the old lenses. Manual focus for an awful lot more years than auto, you get spoiled, tho. Falling back on manual can solve a lot of problems! Actually, forgot I have a Tokina 28-70 AIS Macro I was given -- before I spend anything, have to give that a try -- have always done best with Nikon though. S
     
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Andy, thanks! I am beginning to think that for Macro, AF is pretty unpredictable. Sort of a half and half, for me at least. I'll probably find an old 105 at some point. S
     
  11. SCL

    SCL

    Sandy - I've used several macros over the years and can second the opinions of 3 longer ones - the Nikon 105/2.8 AFD, the Tamron 90/2.5 (manual focus, but with the adaptall adapters you can use it on almost any SLR/DSLR made, and the Kiron 105/2.8 (I used the Canon FD version, not the Nikon mount)). My rundown is that much of my macro work has been handheld in the field...and as much as I like manual focus lenses, the Nikon AF does a damn fine job and sometimes that quick focus makes the difference between getting a shot or not. The Kiron is my favorite for the long focusing throw and built in 1:1 magnification...but it is a pretty long beast at times. The Tamron does a fine job on any camera I've used it on and its versatility is an attractive feature, as I have a bunch of old cameras as well as modern DSLRs. Any of them should do a great job for you.
     
  12. I also use the Kiron 105/2.8 and for sharpness up close, I think it is the best macro lens at this focal length. But to be honest, I do not think you can go wrong with any of the macro lenses specifically for close up or macro work; i.e., as long as you don't expect them to be on the same par for long distance landscape work.
    IMHO, when shooting macros, the lens is of secondary importance; because it will be stopped down to maximize DOF at or close to minimum focus distance, your primary consideration should be lighting.
     
  13. My old Ser 1 70-210/3.5 Vivitar had a real nice macro....and if you can find one, it would normally cost $50 or less. For the most part I've been using Tamron 90/2.8 (older version) and it's a wonderful glass. Hmmm, unless I'd do focus-stitching, normally I'd be handheld and in manual. Any other way the critters would be 1/2 way to Alaska, by the time I disturb it....shuffling around.
    If you feel that you need more space between you and the critters, I think Sigma 150mm would give you that space...or the 180.
    Les
    00dz1P-563504284.jpg
     
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Gents, any who responded to whom I haven't replied, thanks! I'll get back -- I currently have a case of "relatives"! Again thanks, Sandy
     
  15. Best all around "affordable" FX Macro​
    I recommend the Tamron SP AF 180mm lens. It's comparable to the Nikon 200mm micro in sharpness and in effect, yet lighter and at a fraction of the price.
     
  16. It depends on what you want to photo, of course. Probably the best "general purpose" macro for someone who just wants a macro is the Tamron 90mm SP. Great lens, plentiful used. I have a Nikon 105mm f2.8 VR (current model,) but have found I don't use it since buying a Canon 500D diopter. I use that on either my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR or 80-400mm AFS. The results are very close to the 105mm micro, and the 500D takes up so little space. So, that's what I use now.
    Kent in SD
     
  17. Sigma 150/2.8 - the non-OS version should be readily available used for not too much money.
     
  18. +1 for the non Os sigma 150mm f2.8. Highly affordable, excellent quality, good working distance, excellent mid range tele to boot with zero LoCa.
     
  19. I much like my Tokina 100mm - sweet performer, decent price. Tamron 90mm probably makes an equally fine choice.
    Depending on what you like to do, I wouldn't discount the AF-S 60mm f/2.8G either - no personal experience with it (yet?) but everything I see with it does convince me it's a real gem in Nikon's current lens line-up. If you're more into living things, something longer than 100mm might be nicer, so the lenses recommended in the previous posts would be the prime suspects there.
    Maybe a bit of the beaten path - the Leica Elmarit-R 60mm can often be found at really decent prices, and can take a Leitax conversion to Nikon F. It only goes down to 1:2, but other than that, it's a pretty awfully solid performer.
     
  20. Another vote for the Tokina 100mm.
     
  21. I have the Tamron 90mm push-pull AF (pre-stabilised)
    version. It's pretty good, light and cheap, even if the AF is
    little clunky. Unlike the more expensive replacement
    (and possibly Tokina?) it IS a bit prone to LoCA, though
    (unless you stop down), and the deeply embedded front
    element means you don't have the working distance
    you'd think, but it's probably still better for not blocking
    the light than a 50-60mm macro. It'll also double as a
    portrait lens if f/2.8 will do you.

    I supplemented it with the more expensive 150mm
    Sigma OS, which fixed the LoCA and working distance (and replaced my 135 f/2 DC, whose LoCA annoyed me),
    but makes for a much bigger system (somewhat less so if you find the non-OS) - if the size and cost are okay, length is good for a lot of macro purposes, so I use the 150 more than the 90. Still, the Tamron will
    probably come with me on a holiday soon, for size
    reasons. Even if using manual focus at macro distances
    (and I've seen, in particular, my F5 struggle with the
    Tamron at short range), I find AF useful for general use.

    HTH!
     
  22. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks, all. I had forgotten the Tokina Macro Zoom -- on the GXR that will be 105 equivalent at the long end so I can get an idea of the difference between that and the 33mm (50 equivalent) GXR macro module in terms of working distance. Fundamentally, I will shoot our wildflowers, insects, and the occasional oddity for No Words. Understanding that it is counterproductive, I am no fan of tripods, and mostly work available light so will never attain the levels of perfection some of you achieve. Knees no longer quite as willing or flexible, so a bit longer reach would be nice, the trade off, another enormous lens, with which I am already well supplied! I appreciate all of the suggestions and will make a list of lens recommendations in order to see what I can actually handle at my local camera shop and what might be available on the internet. Many thanks to all for sharing your expertise!
     
  23. If you refuse to use a tripod, the image stabilization (VR, OS) will really make a huge difference. Huge. Macro magnifies all the little jiggles to the point of making it very difficult to get a sharp photo. Another thought is using flash, but that would add several notches of difficulty, set up time, and stuff to carry. I had a non-OS Sigma 100mm macro but quickly replaced it with the Nikon 105mm VR. Huge improvement. I now just use a Canon 500D on my 80-400mm AFS, which makes for one less lens to carry.
    Kent in SD
     
  24. Ditto the old 105mm macro. I have the 105 mm D AF version. I Traded in my 105 manual focus AIs version for it. THe
    manual focus version is much easier to focus manually than the AF version. For that reason, I would get the manual focus
    version. If you can find it on eBay or used, also get the Nikon PN-11 extension tube. A tripod collar mount is built into it
    and allows for certain Nikon manual focus lenses to get to 1:1.

    For a brand new AF macro, check out the sigma 150mm. If you do not need to get real close to the subjects, an old Nikon
    300mm f4 afD with an extension tube works just great too especially for subjects like dragonflies.

    Joe
     
  25. If you do not needto get real close to the subjects, an old Nikon 300mm f4 afD with an extension tube works just great too especially for subjects like dragonflies.
    Joe​
    Be careful. The Nikon 300mm f4 AFS will vignette on FX with extension tubes. Been there, done that. You need to check whether that is true of the AFD also.
     
  26. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Went out with the Tokina 28-70, Nikon adapter on the GXR A 12 and took a few shots earlier 105 equivalent. The dark Peony is apparently a Chocolate Soldier, and not too common. Have been burning up the internet pricing several of your suggestions. Many affordable choices. Possibly one of the longer ones, since I do have the old AI 55 and the Tokina. That would let me shoot some of the Bees, Wasps, Spiders and non venomous reptiles. The venomous ones we handle "administratively". Greatly appreciate all of the advice! S
     
  27. Regarding ext tubes, if you use Nikon made tubes, you will not get vignetting. If you use third party tubes with full
    electronic contacts, you may get vignetting as these tubes are narrower than Nikon ones. The degree of vignetting also
    may depend on the Nikon lens used and its diameter.

    Joe
     
  28. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Joseph, thanks!
     
  29. Kent - I thought the general advice was that VR was less useful for macro because translational movement of the camera starts to dominate rotational movement, and only a few lenses (Canon's 100mm macro, the newest version of the Tamron 90mm macro - any others?) have a stabilisation system that can compensate for that? Certainly I've been grateful of the 150mm OS's stabilisation at longer range and moderately small subjects, but not so much for true macro. Although insects and flowers tend to move on their own, which can be as much of a problem. Maybe my perceptions are wrong - I don't do that much true macro (or I'd have got around to getting some focus stacking software).
     
  30. Andrew
    You are correct that conventional VR becomes less effective at closer focusing distances. Most people use macro lenses at a variety of distances not only at 1:1 magnification. VR retains a degree of usefulness at the many distances between 1:1 and the minimum focus of your normal lenses, for which only your macro lens can be used. As a practical matter, VR in a lens such as the 105VR is quite helpful in a variety of close-up situations. I suppose that's why Nikon made it.
     
  31. Thanks, Nick - I doubted my sanity there for a second! And agreed, VR is useful, but we're pushing the definition of "affordable" there. :) (Unless "not affordable" in a macro means an APO-Lanthar 125mm at inflated prices, or a 60mm Coastal Optics.)
     
  32. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Affordable, in my current situation is equal to the balance in my photo fund which is right around $500 max, with a bit more coming later in the month. A lot of the suggested lenses are close to that in price used on line. I am leaning toward a longer FL, though this morning I am going to give the Tokina a Garden test on my DF.
     
  33. I'm curious why no-one has suggested using the 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor that Sandy already has. It will work perfectly well on a full-frame DSLR, albeit with a rather short subject distance - plus needing a PK13 tube or similar to reach 1:1. But it'll certainly be better than any so-called "macro" zoom like the Tokina 28-70mm.
    FWIW, I have both a 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor and a Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Macro. Both focus to 1:1 and there's almost nothing to choose between them in terms of image quality. The old Tamron 90mm f/2.5 lens is noticeably inferior at macro distances and also only focuses to half-lifesize.
    Tokina's 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens gets good reviews, but I have no personal experence with it.
     
  34. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Rodeo Joe, good point! Because of the GXR, I had "modern" lens stuck in my head. I will break that out & give it a try as well -- I have a variety of Nikon Tubes. I think the issue will be working distance & knees! Thanks for a useful suggestion! S
     
  35. Oh - I'd thought Sandy wanted to supplement the 55mm! Yes, if that lens will work for you, there's nothing wrong with it - people still suggest it as a cheap macro option. Depending on the subject, going longer certainly has merits, but there's a lot to be said for trying what you have before going elsewhere! This is usually a very good forum for not telling people to spend more money. (Says someone about to pick up two new lenses...)
     
  36. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Andrew -- I am simply exploring options. I got the GXR and Macro module, and that sparked an interest in a modern, possibly longer macro lens. I do have the 55 / 3.5, and the Tokina that I had forgot. I shot a series at the Desert Museum in Phoenix a while back with regular Nikon zooms, and that along with recent (experiment) garden shots got me thinking. Still thinking and looking! Thanks, S
     
  37. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Believe I have found a clean inexpensive Nikkor 105 / 2.8D -- I'll start there. If macro really engages me long term, and I need it, I'll look for a longer FL somewhere down the road. Many thanks to all!
     
  38. The Sigma 150 f2.8 OS macro. F2.8 bright in viewfinder (you can only photograph what you can see), exquisitely sharp, up to date lens technology for digital cameras, and has a tripod collar for verticals. Nuf said.
     
  39. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Robert, Thanks! Over all the decades, whenever I have strayed from Nikon, I have sold what I settled for and returned when I could afford to. I am sure this is a fine lens, heard a lot of good things about Sigma. I will take another look at it when I move up in FL. Appreciate your feedback. Sandy
     
  40. Over all the decades, whenever I have strayed from Nikon, I have sold what I settled for and returned when I could afford to.​
    there are almost no "bad" macro lenses. for decades, the tamron 90 carved out a stellar reputation which is matched by the tokina 100 and all the nikon 105 versions. these days, nikon's build quality isnt what it used to be, and some of the contemporary 3rd party variants are actually better in IQ. that said, some of the older AF-D Nikons are pretty good -- the 28-105 has a trick 1:2 macro mode which makes it pretty versatile. in a perfect world, it would be updated with VR for handheld closeup use!
     
  41. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Eric -- no question that all of the major brands produce excellent lenses, and obviously what I don't know about macros and macro technique would fill a book. The little Tokina Macro Zoom produced fine results. But I am comfortable with Nikon, the lens from Japan was inexpensive, and seems virtually new. All of the used equipment I have bought from Japan has been excellent. As / if I move to a longer FL, everything will be on the table, and the info in this thread will be the place I start. Thanks for contributing. Sandy
     
  42. Mmmm... lovely! A long thread on old and new Nikon micro lenses! :)

    Which one? The Obvious answer is: collect them all!
    The sensible answer is the question that was asked above.
    .. What is wrong with the 55/3.5?

    I have that one for years and it is fine. Then I added the AIS 105/2.8.. for use on small mammals. Then I did all my micro-work with 24/2.8 (on extension rings .. sometimes reversed) .. Then I added a classic 60/2.8 AF, for AF convenience.

    If you cannot take good insect images with a 55-60mm, a longer lense is not going to be a great advantage. Is my personal opinion from my experience.
     
  43. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Since the OP already has a 55mm macro lens, going to something like 105mm (or 90mm) is the next logical step. A longer macro lens gives you more working distance, which makes it easier to light the subject, and you won't disturb the subject as much.
    Going to a 150mm or 200mm macro could be even better, especially a tripod collar could be very helpful, but the cost will be higher and it becomes a bit more specialized.
     
  44. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Albin -- each of the shorter lenses does a fine job. Distance is the key to the longer ones for me, both to give space for potentially unpleasant insects and reptiles, and to spare my sport and life battered knees. Though I can when necessary, crawling around on the ground is uncomfortable!
     
  45. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Shun, Thanks! My rationale exactly, as you can see. I am sure that eventually, I will get around to a 180 or 200. Just exploring this facet of photography, which I have long ignored, has been both refreshing and enjoyable. Heaven knows we have myriad insects and wildflowers out here!
     
  46. Sandy, I do realise that keeping a distance by using a longer lense can have it's advantages. Such as not-disturbing the subject, and different background (un)sharpness.

    Maybe the 'next logial step' is in fact 180-200, in stead of somewhere inbetween!
     
  47. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Albin -- too late! As is my custom, I gathered info, made a decision, and moved. The AF 105 /2.8 D is on the way from Japan. The lens was just slightly over $300 with shipping, and seems minty. We will see after I have used it for a while. The Yucca and various other wildflowers are just starting to bloom. Thanks for your input!
     
  48. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    It is not too late. I have 60mm, 105mm, and 200mm macro lenses. Nothing prevents Sandy from doing the same. :)
     
  49. It's not too late anyway! Like I said: "collect them all!"
    Enjoy the 105.
     

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