Macro Lens Options

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by larry_pao, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Recently while exploring best options for macro photography, I checked out some of the lens recommendations from this site and others. The best ones are very expensive!! However, I read that Kenko extension tubes work well with “normal” non-macro lenses and was wondering if you thought the Kenko tubes might get me close to 1:1 with the 85 f1.4 as well as maintain its quality?

    I thank you in advance for your recommendations.
  2. The faster the lens, the less likely you will get good results with tubes/bellows.
    I am working now experimentally with a 105 2.5 and 60 2.8 on a 6" bellows, el cheapo PB2 borrowed. Visually the results seem good.
    My usual set up is Elpro Close up lens from my Leica R system on the 105 2.5. These are quality two element lenses. Results are very good.
    I also use the lens heads from 65 90 135 Leica rangefinder lenses on a bellows with CameraQuest Leica/Nikon Adapter. Results are excellent.
  3. There are no free lunch. Extension rings (we are at Nikon Forum) even it contains no optical elements do add lens aberration. It moves the focal plane of the lens out of it best aberration corrected position. In addition, lens are designed to work best within a limit magnification range. Better designed lens can degrade very quickly once you are operating outside of that range by moving it via too much extension.
    IMHO both extension ring and close up achromatic are good tools to get closer/higher magnification for both macro or non-macro lens. You can get good result with them. On a 85mm you can get to 1:1 by stacking the Kenko 35 and 25mm rings. Another option is the Nikon PN-11 ring (manual). It is well built and has a built-in tripod mount.
  4. There are lots of bargain macro lenses that have excellent IQ.
    Nikon 55mm f3.5 are about £50 ($75) and Nikon 105mm £100 ($150)....
    My favorite is the Kiron 105mm f2.8 it is a superb lens.
  5. "... was wondering if you thought the Kenko tubes might get me close to 1:1 with the 85 f1.4 as well as maintain its quality?"
    AIS or AF-D?
    Neither one focuses that close (with respect to "macro"). The AIS gets down to 1:7.9 at closest focus. The AF-D focuses to the same 0.85m minimum distance, but because it is internal focus (IF) lens it shortens its effective focal length at close focus, and so only does 1:8.8 by itself. So it's going to take a fair amount of extension to get to 1:1 (I guess 85mm of combined lens extension and tube extension for the AIS)
    I'm not familiar with the dimensions of the Kenko tubes, but I do have Nikon close-up tables for the PK tubes and the AIS 85/1.4. At a combined 50mm of tube extension plus full lens extension (i.e. minimum focus), the best the AIS 85/1.4 can do is 1:1.4. So close but not quite there with a 50mm stack. The AF-D might be slightly better, or worse (hard to tell without knowing the effective focal length).
    I have no idea about the resulting image quality or flatness of field at these magnifications, as I don't own either lens. I suspect a fast f/1.4 telephoto will not be ideal.
  6. Tobey: "The faster the lens, the less likely you will get good results with tubes/bellows."
    Michael: "AIS or AF-D?"
  7. Michael: "AIS or AF-D?"
    Then I can't tell you exactly how much extension you need, but if you stack enough tubes, you can get to 1:1. :)
    With the shortened effective focal length(?) of the AF-D at minimum focus, a PN-11 (52.5mm) might do it. I don't have tables for the AF-D. Apparently 60mm of extension does get you to 1:1 (see Tommy Lee's post).
    Since you have a D3x, you have a lot of options, including manual focus. The latest and greatest AF-S VR 105mm etc might not be the best "bang for the buck" if all you are concerned about is macro performance.
    Faster lenses tend to be more prone to field curvature and other optical aberrations at close focus than slower lenses.
  8. at


    Just another option...may sound crazy....but, If you want tremendous depth of field, check out a
    really good point-n-shoot. They have greater DOF. easy to carry and can perform very very well
    in the macro world provided you follow the same basic standards (tripod, plane of focus, lighting, etc).
    Now, I do have several macro of my all time favorites is the Tamron 90mm, and the Tamron 180mm macros. Both are fantastic lenses. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a 90mm on ebay
    pretty cheap. Try the p+s idea, they really excel at (non critial) macro work.
  9. SCL


    Think about it, you want a Ferrari but can only afford a Yugo. You aren't going to get similar performance out of gear which isn't designed to perform like a true macro. Extension tubes, bellows, reveral rings, and diopter lenses all can provide some help to achieve your goal...but the best results typically will come from opening your pocketbook and buying a good macro lens (used may be a good option...I've had excellent results with used macro lenses, indeed some of the really stellar performers are no longer available used is the only option).
  10. once you shoot using the 105AF-D or 105AF-S, you will know what it's all about.
    It's versatile, easy to use and you don't have to think about the lens. just compose, move your tripod and shoot.
    it worths every cent if you love extreme macro or portrait photo.
  11. Why ? Because of the trade off the optical designer must make in order to achieve F 1.4.
    Field flatness is the first to go. Then come some other aberations. There is a reason why micro lenses were 3.5 first, then 2.8.
    Two or three decades ago, modern or popular photography magazine tested the 50 1.4 and 50 2.0 in close range, 1:2 and 1:1 ratios, and the 2.0 was miles better. It still did not match a lens designed for those reproduction ratios though. It was just better than the 1.4.
    Basically a lens is made to work in a certain range and when you change that, aberations begin to show. Sometime reversing the lens helps. Sometimes a symetrical desighn helps.
    But basically the designer optimises for one thing.
    I`m not saying the 85 1.4 will not work at 1:2 or less, I am say you are stressing the design criteria. How bad it falls apart and how fast, I don`t know. But after you spend money it is too late. Buy a proper micro lens if you want to do close up work so you know it will be optimised for that. If I had a 85 1.4 I would test and report it. I can only give general principles for now. If you live near Chicago, send me a PM and we can arrange a test. Then you will know for sure. Or I will test anybodys if they care to volunteer a lens.
  12. I will add I have a Wallensak 210 mm made for 4x5 close work. Sharp as a tack to around 3 feet. It refuses to focus at 10 feet to infinity. I can rack the lens in and out all day and all there is is a fuzz ball. It is not just not sharp a little, it looks like bokeh examples people show.
  13. There are fast lenses that work well with extension tubes; the 100mm f/2 ZF is one such example.
    Not all macro lenses are expensive. The 60mm f/2.8G AF-S is exceptionally good and doesn't cost that much. If you use DX (and you probably should, for macro) you probably get adequate working distance in most cases with it; otherwise a 85-105mm would come to mind but they cost more.
  14. You did not disclose what camera body you use. If you shoot with an FX body, be aware that the extension tubes made by kenko are narrower than those made by Nikon and you might get vignetting when they are added to your wider diameter lenses. There is less risk of this with a body which has a smaller sensor. If at all possible get a true macro lens. Joe Smith
  15. Larry, with the advent of the present "digital" age, I got drawn into macro, 1:1 and sometimes higher. Digital means you can check your results (in camera, quick download, etc.) and adjust. Much faster learning curve! I learned surprising things. Lenses I thought would work didn't. And vice-versa. I reflected on my own thinking about lenses and came to an answer to your querry "why wouldn't such and such lense work for macro?"
    I have always thoughts about lenses in terms of their degree of perfection, like a perfect jewel. Free of defects and aberations. If it's really good, if perfect, it would perform perfectly in all situations, right?
    But, that's just thinking, and it's a bad model of lenses. I now think differently about lenses. I think of a lens as an engineer's compromise to achieve a certain purpose. There are lots of elements in a modern lens; most of them are to offset or correct aberations introduced by other elements. Looking at the charts for a VERY good macro lens, the APO Rodagon D 75mm f/4 1x lens at different magnifications, it is really clear that the designer made the lens really good at 1x, but by 0.8x or 1.25x, some defects start to show. It would probably be awful at infinity! Other lenses perform over different ranges.
    I think of each lens as a practical engineering compromise for a certain range of conditions. Understand the designer's intent, and first learn to use the lens in the intended context, then explore.
    For good macro, approaching 1:1, I suggest you try a cheap macro lens first, rather than pushing excellent expensive glass outside its intended range. Just my 2-cents worth. Have fun shooting.
    Chart below is on the Linos site at: (2 MB).
  16. Oops... Here's a jpg of chart from manufacturer's site, Linos.
  17. Excellent and very useful information here. I am very impressed. It looks like the concensus here is to buy a dedicated lens, which I am seriously considering. I have an opportunity to try out two older lenses. I am playing with the 200 f4 micro AIS, but I am somewhat disappointed with the results, especially when I combine it with the TC301 for a 1:1 ratio. I am sure part of the reason is my lack of experience in macro photography.
    In a few days I will have the well regarded 105 f4 AIS Micro to test. I plan to experiment with extension tubes to see if I can net some decent results at 1:1. The plan is to jump in conservatively (to see how much I enjoy the macro world) before planting both feet on the macro mound with a state-of-the art macro lens.
  18. For excellent macro image quality and low cost, consider getting a used, manual focus macro. $50 -$100 very often. The truth is that when using an autofocus lens at macro magnifications, autofocus usually does not hack it anyway. Some feel that the older Nikkors are superior to the recent 105mm VR macro. Bjorn Rorslett ditched his and kept the old. The third party macros also do an excellent job, e.g., Tamron 90mm F2.8 Di, or the Sigma lens. Almost nobody's macro lens for the Nikon does anything but an excellent job. I am using a 30+ year Nikon 105mm and a similar vintage 55mm F3.5, and I could not be happier for close in macros. Nothing wrong with extension tubes, and they can be used with the macro lenses as well.
  19. Larry, the 105mm f/4 is excellent; following Bjorn Rorslett, I put a chip in mine. I'm surprised you were not impressed by the 200 f/4. These, like most macro lenses, are optimized for close up, less than 1:1.
    If you really want excellence at 1:1, then I'd suggest a lens that optimized for that. These are rare. The ones that I have used are the APO Rodagon D 75mm f/4 1x (they also make a 2x version that's different) and the Olympus 80mm f/4. For either, you'll need a bellows or extension tube; neither have a focusing mount. Both should be at their sweet spot at 1:1.
    I like my 55mm AIS macro lenses (both the f/2.8 and the f/3.5).
  20. Let see. 200/4 micro nikkor plus 2X make that 400mm f8. Stop that down by 1 stop to get the lens to a sweeter spot make it to f11. Shoot that at 1:1 make the effective aperture at f22. I suppose you have to make it harder and shoot it on a non sunny day without using a flash too. 60/2.8 Af-S micro Nikkor is a much easier starting macro lens suggestion.
  21. What kind of macro shots are you looking for? Copy work, bugs, flowers, etc? I do bugs and flowers on a D700 (previously a D300) and find the Sigma 150mm 2.8 macro a dream to use. The focal length is geat for bugs and very useable for flowers. Image quality is really second to none
  22. Stan,
    I would like to see the head of a bug take up at least a third of the frame. Not scientific, but it gives you an idea of the ratio I would like to attain. Unfortunately, all the current options which give me 1:1 without any help like the Nikon AF200 f4 micro, the Nikon AF105 f2.8 micro ED and Sigma AF150 f2.8 macro are all way past my modest budget of $500. I might have a shot budget-wise, with a used Nikon AF60 f2.8G Micro which also has a 1:1 ratio or the venerable Nikon 105 f4 AIS. Drawbacks are that the AF60 f2.8 might scare off the bugs with its close working range and the 105 f4 would require extension tubes to get me to 1:1.
    On a side note, I am currently experimenting with the Nikon 200 f4 AIS micro, which is great for flowers, but forget it for shooting bugs because in order to get 1:1, Nikon recommends the TC301 2X teleconverter. This combo is a bit unwieidly for me and I am not digging the loss of light.
  23. When you add a teleconverter, your multiple the base lens' focal length. For example, a 1.4X TC on a 200mm lens is a 280mm set up, 2X TC (which the TC301 is) turn you lens to a 400mm. The problem is, when focal length are increased by teleconverter, optical physic say the lens' aperture goes down. A f4 lens with a 1.4X TC become a f5.6 lens (1 stop). A f4 lens with a TC301 become a f8 lens.
    I hope this cover some of the light loss thing but all these really don't solve the issue you have at hand now, which is get more close up and easier system handling. In your case, since you already have a 200/4 Ais micro and have a limited remaining budget, I would suggest looking for a Nikon 3T closeup lens ($50 to $100 used). It will get you much closer to 1:1 and leave you with about 2 feet between you and a bug (working distant). It does not increase focal length and actually increase effective aperture. Nikon also has a 6T which on a 200mm micro will get you pass 1:1 but you will lose working distant and create other problems. I would go to that later. An alternative (almost but not as good IMHO) which you can buy new is a 52mm diameter 500D (made by Canon). You will have about one and half feet of working distant and higher magnification.
  24. Tommy
    I have the 200 f4 AIS on loan for consideration. The other I will have a chance to preview is the 105 f4 AIS. Both of these older lenses are less than the $500 budget plus it allows me to get some extension tubes. I got sidetracked by the extension tubes on my "normal" 85 f1.4, thinking naively that I could get good results for macro work for much less than my budgeted amount.
  25. I would advise against the 200/4 AI/AIS Micro. It is not up to the optical level usually shown by Micro-Nikkors. What Nikon had in mind when they recommended using the TC-301 to give 1:1 is beyond me, since the combination makes for a very unwieldy 400/8 with poor image quality.
    On the other hand, the 200/4 AF Micro-Nikkor is excellent. Also the 70-180 Micro is surprisingly good with a D3X. Both are likely above your budget, so getting the 105/4 seems more realistic.
    Stacking a reversed 50/1.8 in front of the 105 will give around 2X magnification with very acceptable quality.
  26. Thanks Bjorn.
    Say what do you think of the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HS macro? It seems to be very popular and supposedly a good portrait lens to boot? Plus its about half the price of the Nikkor AF200 f4 micro.
  27. Surprising to me is how well the Nikon 85 f1.4 with Kenko tubes compares with dedicated macro lens like the other two i am evaluating: The Sigma 150 f2.8 macro and the Nikon 105 f4 AIS Micro. Here are some samples with the 85 f1.4 with Kenko tubes:
  28. And another
  29. And finally
  30. Here are three with the Sigma 150 f2.8 EX DG HSM Macro:
  31. Here's another
  32. And third
  33. Here are three shot with the Nikon 105 f4 AIS Micro
  34. Second shot
  35. And the third
  36. "Surprising to me is how well the Nikon 85 f1.4 with Kenko tubes compares with dedicated macro lens like the other two i am evaluating ..."
    If you really want to compare apples to apples, then you need to shoot a flat field subject (postage stamps for example). Then you'll see if any aberrations like field curvature or light falloff are a factor at macro distances. That won't be evident in shots like the above.
    Of course if flat field performance isn't very important (and it really isn't for subjects like flowers, etc) and you don't want to shoot postage stamps but your intended use is as above, then things like field curvature and flatness of field are low on the scale of what's important.
    I see your "Nikon 85 f1.4 with Kenko extensions" and raise you a "Micro-Nikkor 55 f2.8" ... :) ;-)
  37. Michael, I agree that we need to compare apples to apples, so do you have some flowers or bugs or something else other than circuit boards to compare with? As impressively sharp as the circuit board is, it doesn't show me anything about bokeh which is important to me. Otherwise, I have to set up the Sigma 150, the Nikon 105 and the Nikon 85 + Kenko's to shoot a circuit board. Boo hoo!

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