Macro Lens - Which One ??

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by anura|1, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. I have a Nikon D7000 and considering adding a macro lens to my gear. I did some research and short listed below three lens (Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR is out of my budget),
    1. Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro D Macro
    2. Nikkor AF-S 60mm F/2.8 G
    3. Nikkor AF Micro 105mm F/2.8
    I saw some good reviews for Tokina and would like to know the pros and cons of each from those who are already using these lens.
  2. I purchased a 105 f2.8 AF micro in 1993 and it has been one of my most useful lenses since. In 1993, I shot film and used the 105 for macro and portraits. Now that I'm shooting digital, I don't do so much macro, and shooting DX my 50 f1.8 (from 1993) is also a good portrait lens, but I appreciate the 105 micro's longer focal length for outdoors and its close focusing for food. More recently, I have the 70-200 f2.8 VR, so I don't use the 105 micro for portraits any more but it is a really good studio tool. It is probably the single best lens purchase I have made.
    I have not owned the other lenses you are considering, but here are my opinions comparing it to the:
    • Tokina 100 macro -- I've never had an issue with Nikkor glass and I often learn of deficiences of non-Nikkor glass. You get what you pay for. Also, the 105 f2.8 AF micro would be used, so it would not depreciate. I think you can get one for $350 now. If you chose to get the Tokina lens, it would depreciate like a brand new car.
    • Nikkor 60 micro -- More working distance is always an advantage for macro work. The 60 might be a better length for portrait than 105, but you could always pick up a $120 50 f1.8 to plug that hole.
    • Nikkor AF-S 105 f2.8 VR micro -- I like the old one better because it is much cheaper and the front element is recessed, giving it a built-in hood. What a nice lens!
    I frequently use the 105 f2.8 AF micro in the studio. I also have a 70-200 f2.8 VR2, but it is big and bulky, so I prefer the 105 micro. Often when I get to the final image I shoot with the 105 micro, I also shoot it with the 70-200. The 70-200 is claimed to be one of Nikon's best in terms of image quality (sharpness, bokeh, etc.) but I never notice any advantage over the 105 micro.
    Outside the studio, for sports and portraits, the 70-200 f2.8 VR2 is the bomb. The 105 f2.8 AF micro is lacking zoom, VR, and focusing speed. The 105 micro is a great tool for macro and stuido work and if you're ok with no VR and no zoom, a great portrait lens also.
    If I were considering the 105 f2.8 AF-S micro, I'd get the 85 f2.8 PC-E instead. I'd love to have a tilt-shift lens. Unfortunately, that bad boy is $2k.
  3. You don't mention what you'll be shooting with the lens, and that hinders any recommendation so I won't make one. A few thoughts though...for flowers, etc. a shorter working distance is usually fine. For shy bugs (most of them are shy), you'd want a longer focal length to get the front of the lens away from the subject enough to where it won't spook them. VR is useful for hand-held shooting, but not needed with a tripod. Fast lenses aren't necessary with macro since you'll be stopping down to gain depth of field, but it is nice for the usual macro technique of manual focus since you get a brighter viewfinder with the wider aperture. Selecting a macro lens to do double-duty (e.g. as a portrait lens also) seems attractive on the face of it from a purchase cost standpoint, but what you're really doing is compromising performance for both applications.
    A good macro lens will be slow to focus since the focusing mechanism is geared lower for finer focusing increments. I have to turn and turn and turn the focus ring to get anywhere using my macro lens for 'normal' photography, and the AF speed is glacial, but fine focusing control is just the thing to have when I'm on a bug's face or inside a flower's reproductive parts. OTOH, many of these lenses are quite sharp and may be suitable for landscape or other work. Don't let anyone tell you a macro is too sharp for portraiture - it's much easier to soften a too-sharp image in post than it is to sharpen one that's too soft. Good luck with whatever you select.
  4. I've never had an issue with Nikkor glass and I often learn of deficiences of non-Nikkor glass. You get what you pay for. Also, the 105 f2.8 AF micro would be used, so it would not depreciate. I think you can get one for $350 now. If you chose to get the Tokina lens, it would depreciate like a brand new car.​
    total hearsay. the tokina is as good as any macro lens in its class. at least that's what the experts say. allen, you go out of your way to be hyperbolic about the tokina's alleged deficiencies -- have you ever used one? it's sharper at 2.8 than the tamron 90 and otherwise good at any aperture. build quality is superb. it's one of tokina's best lenses and has the one-touch clutch mechanism nikon lacks. i'm not knocking the older nikon 105 micro, which is probably a better pure macro lens than the 105 VR, but i think you go out of your way to down the tokina, which is an excellent lens by all accounts. and, for no apparent reason, you bring in the 70-200 and the 85 PC-E, which the OP didnt even ask about.
    granted the tokina costs $400 new, but you get a warranty with that. also, with a used lens you always run the risk of there being an undisclosed issue. to the OP, i would consider the tokina, along with the tamron 90, which is a little better overall but soft at 2.8. the tokina is very close, however--ultimately, i picked that over the tamron b/c i felt the 2.8 performance would be better for portraits.
  5. It depends upon what sort of "macro" subject matter you wish to photograph.
    If you want to shoot subjects at the smaller end of the scale I'd recommend not spending $$$ on autofocus lenses as with very small subjects / higher magnification micro photography you really need to manually adjust the focus so AF becomes somewhat redundant in these cases.
    As you have the D7000 which meters with Ai and Ais lenses, may I suggest you go for a relatively inexpensive Micro Nikkor Ai 55mm f/3.5 or a Micro Nikkor AiS 105mm f/2.8 both of which yield a 1:2 maximum magnification. Or better still, if you can find a Kiron Ai 105mm f/2.8 Micro lens you get 1:1 max. magnification, the same sharp IQ as the Nikkors and a super long focus ring throw which makes precise focusing much easier than short focus ring throw counterparts.
    I have the Nikkor 55mmf/3.5 and the Kiron 105mm f/2.8 and can recommend both for ease of use and IQ. I began with a Micro Nikkor AF 105mm f2.8 D lens - it was plenty sharp but I never used it as an autofocus lens so I sold it and purchased the Kiron MF lens for half the price and have never looked back.
  6. I just got the Tamron 60mm f/2, with rebate it was just over $400. It seems like it should be on the list, especially with it being f/2. I plan on using it for macros and portraits.
  7. Fernando,
    have you considered a 2nd-hand Nikkor 70-180mm micro ? It is the only macro zoom I know of. What else is remarkable about it is that maximum aperture (f/3.5-5.6) keeps constant regardless of the focusing distance, while most macro lenses get darker as focus gets closer. I personally own this macro lens and have a lot of fun with it. It has 1:1.3 magnification, and i still get great results with an additional 4x close-up lens attached to it.
    If you Google for it, you'll see that everybody who owns one loves it !
    ...just my 2 cents ;-)
  8. There is another one, you might consider: Sigma 50mm F2.8. The price is on the cheap side. But the optics are quite good. There is also the Nikkor 85mm macro, which should beat all of them.
  9. The 70-180 is indeed an awesome and unique product, and priced that way, too. You could pay nearly 2 grand for one (which is WAY more than they sold for when available new). So many people like them, and they made so few, that they carry an artificial premium.
    Another great alternative is older manual AIS lenses. Fact is, you could probably get BOTH a 55mm f2.8 or f3.5 AND a 105mm f4 used for close to or even less than one of the lenses you're talking about. And these lenses are EXCELLENT!
    Since AF is useless for micro (imho) and your camera will meter with an AI or AIS lens... I'd go that way.
  10. Thanks everyone, great advice so far. Sorry I couldn’t mention that what kind of subjects I am intend to photograph using this lens. DB Cooper, you guessed right, primarily flowers, insects and still subjects. Portraits are not one of my main objectives but its a bonus if the lens is good for portrait work too.
    Fred, you have certainly given me another option to consider, sure I will do some research on that too.
  11. Peter is right: I didn't realize which price range this discussion was set in before recommending that zoom. The 70-180mm sure is a costly lens. However, I got mine at closer to $1500 than $2K.
    Fernando, I've had a look at your gallery. I like it, and understand why you want a macro lens ;-) ! I'm sure you'll take great pictures no matter what lens you choose.
    Now, you can do like me: buy 2nd-hand on eBay. You try the lens for a while, and then, if you don't like it, you can sell it for about the same price because prices on a global market such as eBay tend to be stable and coherent, then buy some other used lens and so forth until you're satisfied (if ever). I've had some "rotating" gear that passed through my possession that way, and a friend of mine does the same with audio gear. All in all, following Ken Rockwell's advices on eBaying, we don't loose (or earn) money.
  12. Anura
    My advice...
    You should decide first whether you need 60mm or 105mm for macro. If both seem equally useful to you, next think about how each lens would fit with the rest of your system, eg would you use the 60/2.8 for portraiture, or do you already have a lens for this purpose? Would you use a 105/2.8 as a fast short telephoto, or do you already have this covered? After clarifying these quesions, then you are ready to pick between alternative models at the desired focal length.
    PS Although I have never used it, the main advantage of the 70-180 zoom seems to be in composition on a tripod. This might or might not be relevant for you.
  13. @Peter Hamm: not to threadjack, but are there any older lenses that go to 1:1 without using an adapter? I'm interested in a cheaper way to get into macro photography, and the 55mm f/3.5 AI micro lenses are incredibly cheap on KEH, but I'm thinking I'd miss the range from 1:1 to 1:2 (and I don't know what the performance is like with the adapter). Or should I just look for a lens + adapter and be happy with that?
    Hopefully this is relevant to the OP too, since reproduction ratio may be important to them.
  14. I don't miss the range from 1:1 to 1:2 on the 55 (I think the lens is too short for 1:1 as you're SO close to whatever you're focusing on so if you need 1:1, I say go elsewhere), but there are extension tubes that get you there.
    I think that some of the 105s do go to 1:1. I don't know which, though.
    My 55mm f3.5 is the sharpest and most fun-to-use lens I've ever owned, btw, and that's without being able to even meter!
    in any case, for when you shoot macro, I don't think you need AF, so why not get two lenses for the price of one!?!?
  15. Hi Eric,
    I mentioned the 70-200 VR2 to point out how an 18-year old 105 micro lens is, as far as I can tell, every bit as sharp as Nikon's latest technology.
    As for the Tokina, I don't have direct experience with it, but when I researched options to the Nikkor 70-200 and 24-70 I learned of several deficiencies of the alternatives. I meant my comment to apply to Nikkor vs. alternatives in general, not specifically this lens. If the Tokina 100 macro has no deficiences, and I think you have experience with this lens, then I stand corrected.
  16. Anura, I do have the Sigma 150 mm f/2.8 and I am very happy with it. It is very accurate, great color rendition, build like a tank and you can also use it for portraits. Here is a sample picture taken with that lens.
  17. Michael : A cheap solution could consist in screwing in a close-up lens (also called close-up filter) in front of your 1:2 lens.
    Anura : this could be an advice for you too. Taking the close-up shots in your portfolio as a reference, would you say you'd like to get much closer, or just closer ? A close-up lens fit to any regular lens will let you focus twice closer, or more, depending on its strength. You could just buy one for all your lenses, using supercheap step-up rings...
    The pro is that there is no light loss whatsoever.
    The con is that you can't focus to infinity while it's on.
    Very strong ones are too bulged to accept another filter on top of them, but since they're not more expensive than UV filters, they don't need further protection.
    Now, I have never seriously tested image quality with that solution. All I can say is that i've played a bit and it seemed ok. Anyone with more experience ?
  18. Just get the Tamron 180mm F/3.5 (SP Di LD IF Macro 1:1). I've been very pleased with it. It's sharp, here's an image (with autofocus) if you're interested. The working distance is excellent even with the hood attached. The bokeh is relatively good both for macro and normal shots. The autofocus is slow (which you sometimes don't need for macro), but I've shot birds in flight with it (also in same folder). It has a sweet spot at F/16, so you'll get a good depth of field for macro. I really doubt you'll find anything better.
  19. I don't have the exact figures handy, but on a cropped-sensor camera an 85mm lens will work out to something like 105 to 115mm equivalent (i.e. close to the traditional 100 or 105mm macro lens focal length) on a full-frame camera. And sometimes having to back away from flowers too much can end up making things as awkward as having to be too close.
  20. As for the Tokina, I don't have direct experience with it, but when I researched options to the Nikkor 70-200 and 24-70 I learned of several deficiencies of the alternatives. I meant my comment to apply to Nikkor vs. alternatives in general, not specifically this lens. If the Tokina 100 macro has no deficiences, and I think you have experience with this lens, then I stand corrected.​
    allan, it's not a good idea in general to compare all products made by company X to one specific product made by company X. i mean, i wouldnt even say all Nikon lenses are equal. and blindly comparing pro zooms to macro lenses is apples and oranges, anyway.
    i'm with you on the 70-200 and 24-70 being currently unparalleled. but you are talking about two of the best zooms nikon has ever made, just to put that in context.
    as far as Tokina goes, the company was founded by Nikon engineers, and owned by the world's largest producer of optical glass. Tokinas are known for excellent build quality and sometimes, excellent glass. they don't currently have a 24-70 equivalent, but their older 28-80/2.8 had a decent rep. they also don't currently make a 70-200 or 80-200. their new 16-28 has had good reviews, and their 11-16 is better than any nikkor DX UWA. i personally have five Tokinas: the 35 macro, the 100 macro, a 24-200, a 17/3.5 i bought used, and the 12-24/4 which was my first non-nikon lens. the only one which i would say isn't tack-sharp is the 24-200, which is an older design from the film era. but then lack of contrast at open apertures is common to the entire superzoom class, and you can always correct in post. the tokina macro in particular has an excellent rep, and is well-reviewed on both photozone and lenstip, as well as nikonians.
    in general, it's not that hard to make a sharp macro lens. usually the trade-off is slow autofocus, and in tamron's case, featherweight build. but adding too many bells and whistles, like the 105 VR, can result in a worse lens for actual macro usage.
  21. If you looking for a macro-lens for only macro use, my vote would be for a secondhand ai or ais lens.
    In my opinion a 105mm is too short for taking bug, butterflies.. That is the reason I sold my 105 macro, nowadays I use extension tubes (12,20 and 36mm) on my primes, 50/1.8, 105DC/2, 180/2.8. That is as good as with a real macro lens, and far more flexible.
  22. If you are looking for a lens you will just use for macro, as Ted pointed out, I would go with an AIS. I have used my 55mm f/2.8 AIS Micro Nikkor with the PK-13 extension ring for going on 26 years now and it produces razor sharp images. With the f/2.8 maximum aperture, it also works well as a "normal" lens on both my film and D700 cameras. If you are on a budget, you can still find 55mm f/3.5 AI Nikkors, which are also very good.
    If you want some more working distance, then go with the 105mm f/4 AIS Micro Nikkor along with the PN-11 extension ring.
    Both are readily available on Fleabay for great prices given their very high quality.
  23. I own a D90 and 7000. recently purchased a Tokina 100 mm macro.. I want to purchase a sigma ring flash but am concerned that the ring will damage my camera motor since the Tokina barrel moves in and out. Can I damage either the bodies or the lens itself.
  24. This continuous light works very well. Not sure about the Sigma, but the Nikon ring flash system is cumbersome and costs 20 times as much - I ended up selling it.

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