Looking for macro lens recommendations for D500

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by djthomas, Sep 20, 2019.

  1. I’ve started shooting more close-up work lately and have been considering adding a macro lens to my kit. I shoot a D500 and have recently been shooting flowers, the insects on them and other detail work. I can only get so much out of my current lenses, so a macro seems in order. I’ve been looking at write-ups on both the 60mm and 105mm and find myself leaning to the 105. The cost difference between the two is not an issue.

    What experiences have any of you had with these lenses? Are there other lenses worth looking at that will provide good results, even off brands? How does the 105 perform as a 105 telephoto lens. On a DX it’s probably a bit long for portraits, but other than that, any comments?

    I also saw something about additional screw on lenses that can go on these lenses to reduce minimum focusing distance; anyone using these?

  2. I have the 105/2.8 AFS Micro and find that it is a versatile and useful lens. Good for macro, portraits, general use, but not perfect for any of those applications.

    I also use a Nikon 55/3.5 pre-AI manual focus quite a bit, with extension tubes if necessary. When close, I actually like manual focus instead of hunting AF. Also, I have used a Leica Focotar enlarging lens mounted on a bellows with very good results. I don't have one, but would consider a manual focus longer than 55mm lens if I did a lot of close work. The Tokina 100 has a good reputation for this, maybe the Tamron and Sigma 150mm, also.
  3. The 105 is the better choice for photographing small objects and closeups in nature, because it has much more working distance (subject to front lens) than the 60. The shorter lens is better for copying documents to keep the working distance reasonably short (e.g., you don't have to stand on a table with the artwork on the floor). For living creatures, insects and such, even longer is better, and 200-300 mm (e.g., with extension tubes) is not unreasonable.

    Image stabilization is of limited usefulness for macro photography, but helps if the lens is used for normal photography. Use a flash if you want to eliminate blur for macro work.
    Gary Naka likes this.
  4. The above suggestions are good ones. I have just about used all of them, even the 70-300mm and 200-500mm and other long lenses do a good job. Hwvr, nothing beats the Nikon 200mm. The increased working distance does not easily spook the insect away and thus allow you to compose more carefully to isolate your subject and render the background beautiful.
  5. I prefer to do my macro work with a tripod as I focus my macro lens manually (even if it has AF.) I prefer longer focal length macro lenses as the working distance from the subject is greater and the lens usually has a tripod collar mount on it. If you prefer to take pictures w/o a tripod, then a 105mm macro lens might be the best length for working distance and weight considerations. My most used macro lens is a 200mm f4 Nikon macro lens. And I just heard about this macro lens: Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro--but note it is manual focus.

    If you want Nikon macro lenses with AF, consider the 60mm G and 105mm G lenses. Or the Nikon 200mm f4 AF D lens

    This link is a good intro tutorial on macro with a digital camera.

    Complete Guide to Macro Photography for Beginners

    For flowers where working distance is not an issue, I often use my 55mm f2.8 manual focus Nikon lens with a 52mm extension tube, the Nikon PN-11 tube. Nikon no longer makes this tube but it has a tripod collar mount built into it. Here is what it looks like. Electronic info will pass thru to your camera with it mounted, but AF if present on your lens , will not work.

    PN-11 Auto Extension Tube from Nikon

    Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 55mm f/2.8 Lens

    Third party extension tubes with electronic contacts should work on your D 500 without any problems. Just try and use one tube at a time as if too much stress is placed on two tubes, the tubes may break. This can happen is you mount a heavy lens to the tubes. Vello or kenko:

    Vello Auto Extension Tube Set for Nikon
  6. Any of the AF 105mm Micro-Nikkors will deliver excellent IQ. As will a Tamron SP 90mm macro (I own both and really can't see any obvious difference in IQ between mine). In fact you'd probably have to look hard, or be very unlucky, to find a bad macro lens from any of the major lens makers.

    The only slight concern I'd have is the choice of 105mm for the DX format.

    The small sensor size of DX already gives it a head-start in terms of macro working distance. So while having a fair distance between lens and subject is good for shy insects, butterflies etc. it can be a slight drawback for subjects that aren't likely to fly away. Because flowers in the wild don't stay still either, and may need to be constrained to prevent them shaking or waving in the breeze. Sometimes being able to grab a stem with one hand - out of frame obviously - while operating the camera with the other, is a skill that's worth developing. A shorter working distance makes this juggling act easier.

    Plant cataloguers and people that do this sort of thing professionally will equip themselves with clamps, supports, background card and all sorts of other paraphenalia to make a perfect image. It's not just a case of getting a macro lens and the job is done.

    The suggestion to do a bit (or a lot) of research on the subject is a good one. Macro generally needs the use of a good tripod and/or flash lighting to get vibration under control, which means that buying a macro lens is only the start of a fairly steep learning curve.

    Don't even consider using so-called 'diopters' (close up filters) for macro work. For a start they won't get you anywhere near to lifesize magnification where true macro starts, and secondly they can only worsen the image quality of any lens they're attached to. They're OK as a standby in the gadget bag, but no substitute for a true macro lens. Extension tubes, OTOH, work well and offer a cost-effective alternative to a macro lens. Always provided the lens you attach to them is good in the first place.
  7. Be nice if Nikon re-released the old 70-180mm macro.

    70mm end for flowers and 180mm for shy bugs....:cool:
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  8. I have the older (pre-VC) 90mm Tamron; it's good, but has a bit of LoCA wide open, which the newer one appears not to. It also has a massively inset front element, which removes most of the working distance advantage you might otherwise have got. The Tokina 100mm is supposedly a bit better than the old Tamron at LoCA (but slightly softer wide open) if you want a budget route. I've never really felt the 105mm Nikkor justified its price; it's sharp, but the LoCA is quite intrusive.

    I can vouch for the 150mm f/2.8 OS Sigma, which has very little LoCA and vaguely doubles as a portrait lens, although it might be a bit long as such on DX. If you don't actually need 1:1, the 70-200FL and 300 f/4 both get pretty close and are much more flexible. One of these is probably a better insect lens than the 105mm (not scaring insects off by being too close is a benefit) - but if you want flowers, you may want to get some background in there with something wider - and bear in mind that wide lenses typically become narrower at macro distances. I use the 150mm to isolate bluebells - or a 300mm (see here, with a Mitakon shot below it).

    In case you're tempted to get closer, I have the Mitakon 20mm f/2 4.5-5x (see here) - but its main issue is that it only has three aperture blades, and triangular bokeh is distracting. I'm thinking of getting the Laowa 25mm, which doesn't have the problem (but costs twice as much, although still not a lot).

    FWIW, I can vouch for bursts of shots with electronic shutter if you're pointing at insects and aren't sure when they're crossing the focal plane. It can work for flowers in the breeze, too. I've done a little with a cheap macro rail, but generally it's a bit of a pain compared with wandering around in the field hand-held and just discarding lots of failed images afterwards, so it depends how keen you are. A lot of the best insect photos have the benefit of starting with a dead insect...

    Good luck!
  9. SCL


    Everybody's experience with macro lenses is different, but generally you want a longer focal length if you are shooting small critters (bugs, spiders, snakes, lizards) and small flower components. The Nikon 105/2.8 does a fine job. Just remember, very often manual focus is going to be your friend, but occasionally it is nice to have the AF capabilities. I also frequently use an older manual focus Adaptall Tamron 90/2.5 l version on a number of DSLR/SLR and micro4/3 bodies. I find it a little cool in its coloration, but post processing takes care of that. Another really excellent macro lens, although a bit unweildy and expensive given its age is the Lester Dine/Kiron 105/2.8 which goes to 1:1. I've found shorter macro lenses in the 50-60mm range more useful with larger items (like wild mushrooms), copy work, and digitizing negatives). There are a good variety out there, but the Nikon ones have always been at or near the top of the charts. These days I do a lot of my macro work with m 4/3 bodies, so have a choice among Leica glass, Zeiss, Olympus, Canon FD, Nikon, and Minolta. I know there is the temptation to use accessory screw on diopter lenses due to their low cost, but I think you will find it a waste of money if you are seeking versatility and good results. Good luck in your quest.
    Albin''s images likes this.
  10. DJ, Its hard to make a bad macro lens and any and all of the Nikon lenses as well as the the current 3rd part lenses are very good. For macro/close-up I use manual focus exclusively unless I am underwater. I would consider a Nikon 200mm f4 AF or a Nikon 105mm f 2.8 AFS. But the older 105mm f 2.8 D and the 60mm f 2.8 D are very good and work well with Nikon auto extension tubes for even closer work than 1:1. The extra working distance of a 200mm and non macro/close up 300mm lens with tubes is very useful and something I prefer in order to isolate the subject plus with those lengths you get a tripod collar, but if your trying to work different angles then longer lenses are more difficult to use but never out of the question. So over all I prefer long. Extension tubes work well and the Kenko brands allow autofocus and aperture. The very old Nikon auto tubes only work with aperture and that is fine if you manually focus. Diopters really are OK if you purchase high quality dual element achromatic versions. The two companies that I would purchase from are Canon and Marumi. I have both as well as the ancient Nikon dual element close up lenses. Don’t but the cheap 3 for $20 close ups. I can use the 77mm Canon and or Marumi on my 70-200 or my 300mm f4. The advantage is that they are very convenient when you want to get in close and you don’t lose light like with extension tubes. Just so you will know they are not cheap and you can find a good used macro lens for the price of the Marumi close up filter. One disadvantage is that you lose infinity but you can always unscrew the diopter. Sigma, Tokina and Tamaron make outstanding macro lenses. True macro is 1:1 and less than that is called close up, not that it matters unless you like to argue. I do some under water and even though some housing accommodate 200mm macro lenses I prefer the 105 for this specific punpose. Some of the housing companies make dedicated high quality wet diopters that install on the outside of the housing with a fixed or swing down bracket when you need to get closer. The alternative is to put the diopter on before the dive and add some extension to the lens port so that the combination will fit in the housing but then your lose infinity. Again its hard to make a bad macro/close-up lens. Good hunting.
    Albin''s images likes this.
  11. I went out and shot a couple of example pix today to show how close the (old model) SP AF Tamron 90mm f/2.8 is to the AF 105mm Micro-Nikkor, but the Tamron actually appears sharper in this example.
    These are 100% crops from a D7200, with both lenses showing 1:1.6 magnification on their scales.
    The whole frame is this 23mm diameter Orange Hawkweed flower, with the focus on its tiny hairlike pistils.

    And the setup.
    I borrowed the little table-pod from my spotting scope and used a right-angle finder for viewing comfort at such a low level. Nikon really ought to have fitted their DSLR cameras with tilting LCD screens!
  12. Wot? No D850 for you yet?:D

    I never thought my 105mm VR was very sharp. I sold it for the latest 90mm Tamron, which I love lots.. with no Chromatic naughtyness...;)
    Albin''s images likes this.
  13. Since in the 105mm world newer is apparently not automatically better.. ..I wonder what's the story on the 60mm front.. As I wrote in the current 50mm thread, my old 60/2.8 AF is sort of glued to my D800 nowadays. Autofocus makes one-handed life so much easier! (a flash or otherwise in the other) ..and optically it is good enough for most critical users.
  14. I shoot with an OLD 55mm Micro Nikkor. For close-up/macro stuff it works just fine for me.
    BUT, a longer lens like a 105 or 200 would give more working distance between the front of the lens and the subject.
    Beside not scaring an insect, the extra working distance makes it easier for me to adjust the lighting. I find adjusting lighting to be difficult when I only have a few inches between the front of the lens and the subject.

    Other stuff.
    A STABLE tripod, remote release, 4-way rail.
    Tripod and remote release.
    I found that at close-up and macro distances, I simply cannot hold the camera still enough. The close distance magnifies any body motion.
    And you need the remote release, so you don't shake the camera.​
    The 4-way rail.
    For fine adjustments, it is so much easier than trying to move the tripod a half-inch to the side.​
  15. FWIW, for the subjects I shoot, I find 105mm uncomfortably long on a DX camera. 55mm is a bit short, but tolerable-I've never used a 60mm, but I'd guess it's probably about right.

    Of course this is very much subject dependent-I've heard of nature/bug photographers saying with film or FX that 200mm is too short.

    Of the 105mm range-I use the 105mm f/2.8D. I've used it on FX and film as both a portrait lens/general short tele and as a macro lens, and its superb at both(although my ancient chrome-nose 105mm f/2.5 edges it out for portrait work in my personal preference for how both lenses render subjects-it's subtle but the chrome nose is a classic for a reason, and it's not all in test charts). I had a 105mm VR, and sold it. If one wants a short tele that can also focus close when the occasion calls for it, I don't know that there's a better lens around, or if nothing else it's as good as anything else. If your main goal is macro work, IMO the AF-D is a better lens.
    Albin''s images likes this.
  16. Me too.

    Why for you?
  17. Here's kind of my summary, which I sort of touched on, but my main points:

    1. The VR is probably as good or better of a general purpose short, fast tele than the AF-D, but for portraits I like the old chrome nose f/2.5 better, and I had better macro results from the AF-D.

    2. The VR is a lot bigger and heavier than the AF-D, presumablyI don't know this for sure) for VR, but as I'm sure you know VR doesn't actually help at macro ranges, so it's useless size and weight to me

    3. I bought mine used, and sold it for about what I paid for it. I had a hard time justifying having several hundred dollars tied up in a lens when I frankly had other very similar lenses that I liked better.

    That's the to the point summary for me.
    mike_halliwell likes this.
  18. The working distance at 180mm was about the same as for the Nikon 105 - no gain there.
    I own the Tamron 90 VC and the Sigma 150 OS; the latter replaced the 150 non-OS version. I can highly recommend all three.
  19. Agreed, but you have the flexibility of 80-150mm in one lens!

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