Recommend a Macro Lens for Use on a D90?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by tony12tt, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. Folks,
    I recently upgraded from a compact/bridge to my first DSLR, a Nikon D90. While using the compact I had a lot of fun and practice shooting closeups using a set of closeup filters for my Panasonic FZ18. I bought the D90 body and bought the 50mm F/1.8D lens seperate and Im glad I made that choice of lens. I was wondering though, whats a reasonable (price and quality) macro lens I can get for the D90. If anyone has used or is using one that they're happy with can you please advise? My limited understanding is that a 100mm lens is a good choice for macros. Any opinions?
  2. Do you want a prime macro lens (tends to be more expensive but in some areas better quality) or a macro zoom (often denigrated as "not real macro" but very useful when you want to add close focus to an otherwise useful lens)? Since you've already used closeup filters and aren't just buying some in 52mm thread I'll assume that's not what you're looking for. What's a reasonable price for you?
  3. It will help a lot to know what you intend to be shooting. For example: many people will use a macro lens while shooting food (say, a subject the size of a coffee cup, or a bowl of soup), while others are more interested in halfl-inch spiders that run away if you get too close. Knowing the sort of subject matter you're interested in will dictate the focal length of the lens, since that drives working distance.

    100mm is a good macro focal length. But so is 60mm, and 200mm. Depends what you're shooting!
  4. I still sometimes thread up the old 52mm filters on to the 50mm 1.8D but Im getting less and less impressed with the image quality. It seems like Im limiting the potential of the camera itself by using the relatively poor quality glass of the filters. Since I've never actually owned or used a designated macro lens before I cant say that I have a preference between prime or zoom. But if you think I can get better image quality with a prime I'd give it a try. Reasonable price I'd say around $300-$500. I know that designated macros are potentially more costly. Is it recommended to consider buying used?
  5. A set of extension tubes might be an option to explore. They will let your 50mm focus very, very close indeed. I use an old set of "dumb" tubes that work only with manual focus/aperture lenses. But for under $100 USD, these will let you explore the world of macro with your 50mm lens while maintaining auto focus and auto aperture control (bear in mind that macro work almost always uses manual focus).
    All the images in my Macro gallery were taken with a 50mm lens and extension tubes on a D90. For reference, the white bell-shaped blossoms are about a centimeter long.
    I also found this link to be very helpful in explaining the pros and cons of the various options for macro photography.
    Good luck!
  6. Matt,
    Subjects of interest include Insects, leaves, flowers, feathers, coins, seashells. These items apparently have some size differences amongst them. With the exception of insects the subjects will mostly be stationary. I have researched reversing rings and extension tubes heavily (thanks for the link Peter) but was discouraged in some of the reviews where people said the fit (depending on brand) was either tight or loose (one person said his lens fell right off the camera when mounted with the tubes) and from reviews that said metering and AF didnt work. Im fine without the AF though, I already mostly shoot using just MF. Im willing to invest in the designated macro lens with the hope of using it for years to come.
  7. Tiz' the season for those flowers and blooms.
    Item # 350334869994
  8. I will recommend either 60F2.8 AF-D or AFS micro lens. They work really well on the D90 and they are sharper their 105mm micro counterparts.
    I have a relatively fresh sample of the 60F2.8 AF-D and it seems to be a better at near infinity distance in comparison to an older sample I had.
    You can also try new 85F3.5VR DX lens for more working distance and VR.
  9. I've got the 105VRII and it's not only a spectacular insect and flower lens on a DX body (1.5X means 1.5:1 subject magnification), it's also great for people portraiture with beautiful bokeh (provided they perfect skin-- it's too sharp for photographing women of a certain age).
    I do find it a bit too long for shooting tutorials or for table top with a DX body, however.
  10. +1 on what Adam says above. I also recently purchased the 60mm f2.8 and it's a great lens. I do a lot of flower photography and have achieved wonderful results. It's also reasonable priced and on a DX body gives you the equivalent of a 90mm lens which is good for portraits.
  11. Most of the macro work in my portfolio was done with extension tubes. The black and white flowers were shot with a 35-105mm AIS manual focus Nikkor with a macro filter screwed on the end. Probably not the best set-up, but at tight apertures, the differences seem to vanish.
  12. Just checked out some sample shots for the 60 and 105mm. Seems like both are excellent choices. Of course on the issue of budget my natural choice may just be the 60mm.
    Im relatively new to the forum, maybe I need to read the rules but is there a reason why everyone refers to the obvious "auctioneer" by various non-discolosing names?? Reminds me of The Village, 'the ones of whom we do not speak".
  13. How about the 55 f2.8 micro manual focus, surely one of Nikon's best ever lenses. And who needs AF for macro?
    Saying that, I have the 105 2.8 AF micro and it's superb.
  14. I'd have bought the 105VR over the AF 105 just for the ED lens elements even if it didn't have AF-S and a automatically de-clutching manual over-ride focus ring. As it turns out, this lens happens to do double duty with larger than macro-sized subject matter, where the faster responding AF-S is extremely useful.
  15. Steve, know where I can see some sample shots with this lens?
  16. Im noting the crisp clean performance of the 105mm. But its out of my price range for now.
  17. You'll have to do a search Anthony, I don't know anywhere off the top of my head. But I used to have one and it was so gorgeous and is known as one of Nikon's best. Handles beautifully and goes to 1:1 as well.
  18. Just to muddy the waters a bit, the Tamron 90 f2.8 has gotten some good reviews and it is in your price range. I prefer a longer working distance provided by a longer focal length lens for two reasons. I shoot a lot of insects and don't want to get too close to some of them and it also makes it a little easier to light my subject.
  19. 55mm is a great little lens.
    However rather than the MF 55mm, you might want to consider the 60mm AF. I actually use the 105mm f2.8 with PN-11 so I am OK with MF, but for the price, I would just go with the 60mm.
  20. The only thing that I don't like about my 55mm f3.5 micro is the close working distances. The working distance at 1:2 is only about 3 inches from the front of the lens. Add to that the fact that you are nearly at the close focus point of the lens, and you get some very shallow depth of field, which can be good or bad, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. If I could have afforded it, I would definitely have rather had a 105mm or 200mm, but they were out of my price range. Other than the working distance, I've quite enjoyed my 55mm.
  21. Anthony, given your budget and my limited time to read through everyone's posts today, here's my suggestions:
    I only suggest Nikon lenses for personal and QC reasons
    AF 60mm f/2.8 micro $469.95
    Pros: Price, true macro, easy to hand hold due to the focal length
    Cons: 60mm means you have to get closer to get true macro. Shadows become an issue on sunny days and you may want to invest in a flash. Slow focusing compared to AF-S lenses
    AF-S Micro-Nikor 60mm f/2.8 ED $539.95
    Pros: Price, true macro, easy to hand hold due to the focal length, fast AF
    Cons: 60mm means you have to get closer to get true macro. Shadows become an issue on sunny days and you may want to invest in a flash.
    AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED $499.95
    Pros: Price, true macro, great focal length on DX for hand holding and tripod work. Fast AF
    Cons: DX lens means that you can only use it on a DX format camera. Aperture doesn't give the shallow DoF of other macro lenses, but it is still very good.
    Anything longer is going to bust your budget. The 105mm is $890 and really needs a tripod due to the lens "breathing" or re-focusing as you breathe. The 200mm f/4 is probably the BEST macro lens out there for anything not moving, but then you're into the $1650 price range.
    Hope this helps,
  22. You mentioned filters. You did not specify what they were or how you were using them, or the image defects observced. Facts, facts are needed for responses to make sense.
    Many old 52mm filters are not suitable for use with digital cameras. I know. I have them all, and the lenses to put them on. E.g., linear polarizing filters will tend to interfere with focusing and metering systems on a digital camera. [Circular polarizing filters have a second coating behind the polarizing layer which disrupts the polarized light so that it does not interfere with your camera's systems.] Uncoated filters, such as skylights, warming, and UV filters will cause reflections between the filter and the front element, and cause flare and loss of contrast. Warming is unnecessary since that is now taken care of in software, in camera and on your computer.
  23. One other thing. When it comes to macros for your Nikon, nobody's third party macro lens should be overlooked. They are all excellent, Tokina, Sigma and Tamron ~100mm macros will satisfy you. And the cost is far less than the excellent Nikkor. The Nikkor's long suit will be that it is more rugged and will sell for more used. If you search these fora, or any other lens forum, the third party macros all are reported to do an excellent job.
    Why not used? KEH, Adorama and B&H are all respected sellers of used lenses. Fixed focal length lenses have less to go wrong with them than zooms and lenses with gadgets like VR. eBay is a huge roll of the dice.
  24. If cost is a major concern, you might want to also consider a manual focus lens, e.g.the 105mm F/4 Ai-S Micro-Nikkor. I picked up one on eBay along with a PB-4 Bellows Unit to copy slides with my Nikon D80.
  25. Your cheapest option is to reverse mount the 50mm 1.8. You can do this wish a $15 item from B&H (part #GBRRN52). Once you need to get closer the Nikon BR-3 adaptor will allow you to use your filters on the reverse mounted lens ($40 new).I was using the reverse mounting option as an inexpensive solution to experiment with macro photography.

    Once I got into it more and was committed to spending the money, I got the 60mm 2.8 and LOVE it. It's a great portrait lens and phenomenal for macro. Setting your camera into commander mode and using an external remote flash is a great way of preventing the need for a tripod. It's a tack sharp lens and on a DX body it is a 90mm equiv.

  26. Anthony, I have both the 60mm and 105 VR, both are great lens.
    In my portfolio, the reflections/refractions and water drops are with the 60mm
    Most of the flowers are with the 105VR.
    You will not be disappointed with either lens.
    Best ,
  27. The longer the focal length the greater the working distance. And, the working distance is usually stated as from the front lens element which may end up being an inch from the filter ring on the lens! I had a Nikon 60mm macro but returned it as it was very difficult to use as I approached 1:1. This can be an issue with bugs as they will certainly notice you and also an issue with lighting. You will need more lighting with macro unless you always shoot when its only perfect. Awesome bokeh though.
    I ended up buying a Sigma 150/2.8 macro lens and I love it. I have a massive working distance, about 11", from the front lens element. This allows me plenty of room to work with as far as positioning is concerned as you will probably need a tripod and X-Y stage to control position and focus. As you approach 1:1 your exposure time will increase making handheld difficult at time. This working distance also allows for plenty of ambient light to get in without worries of casting a shadow.
    I have heard good things about the Nikon 105 VR macro lens but I do not think it's worth to spend the money on it as the VR portion will not be used tripod mounted. And, I'd be surprised if you could get 1:1 even with VR on unless you had some good lighting going on.
    From my personal experience I would say try and borrow other peoples lenses. See if a shop will let you put them on your body in store and bring things to shoot. But, I would also say not to go below 90mm. Working distance is too short.
  28. "Steve, know where I can see some sample shots with this lens?"
    I usually suggest a good performer that doesn't break the bank for someone just getting their feet wet with close-up photography. I currently play with several dedicated macro lenses, have used tubes, bellows, diopters, reversed and stacked lenses. All have their strengths and some weaknesses.
    I have many photos buried in my Lightroom archives, but I don't have them tagged by the lens used. If it's a good day tomorrow I'll take a few and email a link with a full sized jpeg, if that's OK.
    I feel that uploaded sample pictures are not real helpful for determining lens resolution. If you do a search on for "vivitar. cosina, promaster" 100mm/3.5, it gets a good report. The build quality isn't it's strongest point, but it is quite sharp. Though the price I linked is OK, it can be had at times for less.
    (I got hooked on pixel-peeping, viewing color positive film on a projection screen a long time ago.)
  29. I have the Tamron 90mm 2.8 and have been very pleased with it. It is extremely sharp, and it renders colors beautifully. A high-quality lens for a very reasonable price.
  30. A 105mm macro lens, I have sold it, is too sort for insects. Nowadays I use a Nikon 180/2.8 lens with macro-tubes which works much better. For the other macro-things I use my Nikon 60/2.8D. Sometimes I use a Nikon AF 35-70/2.8 lens (second had for about $250) with a 35mm macro switch, it is not a real macro (just 2:1) but that is not always needed.
    I have also some close-up filters, but I do not use them anymore. There are lots of ways to make macro's, but I would start with a more or less cheap one, a choice like my second hand 35-70 is my advice.
  31. To further confuse matters, there is a very low cost option. Get a lens connector ( or whatever they call it. ) The first lens is mounted to the camera normally, then the connector, then a second lens is mounted backwards. The connector joins the lenses filter thread to filter thread. If the 2 lenses are of equal focal length, you will get about 1:1 magnification. ( It will vary depending on how the lenses are focused. ) If the outer lens is of shorter focal length than the inner, you can actually get greater than 1:1.
  32. Starting at the lowest cost ...
    1 BR2 adapter and reverse the 50mm/1.8 AF-d
    2 Buy some cheap extension tubes .... and a flash
    3 Bellows Nikon PB-4 or PB-6 and El-Nikkor 50mm/2.8 or Schneider Kreutznach 50mm/2.8
    4 Tamron SP90/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro (easily a match for the Nikkor 105 plus a better bokeh for general use)
    I have and use all five above plus a 55mm/2.8 and a Nikkor 105mm/2.8 AF-d both of which are stunning.
    After you get into it you'll find that lighting problems, DOF and defraction are you constant companions! :)
    This is a good guide to cheap macros ...
    Good luck.
  33. I fully agree with proponents of the 105mm VR, the sample shots I saw were technically clean and sharp. Im actually eager to see some samples of the 55mm 3.5, sharpness is a major concern for me and like I said, I can live without Autofocus. David, the filters I used before and sometimes now are close up filters (Opteka brand). The problem is that I end up getting a realtively high amount of chromatic aberration /colour fringing and the shots are a bit noisier than Im willing to accept. Steven, I'd greatly appreciate that link to your shots. Also, I've no prpblem buying used provided its in good-great condition.
    From all the feedback I've gotten it seems that the top choices so far (with my lousy budget) are :
    55mm f/3.5, 60mm f/2.8, Tamron 90mm f/2.8, and Vivitar 100mm.
    I actually had no idea the range of choices was so expansive
  34. Clive, excellent link. Thanks.
  35. Tokina 100 f/2.8 macro. Not mentioned often, but a very nice option. Not very expensive.
  36. "whats a reasonable (price and quality) macro lens I can get for the D90"

    The Tamron 90/2.8 SP AF macro comes to mind. One of the more versatile macro lenses in the medium tele category. Very lightweight (I am about to switch to m4/3 and lightweight macro lenses are of special value to me now) and doesn't not need a lens hood. Exceptionally nice background renditions.

    Ok -- what's most exciting about this lens is that it mates beautifully with the Tamron SP AF 1.4x teleconverter to give some impressive max-mag/working distance. For all practical purposes -- no optical degradation is observed at f5.6 and less.

    The following photo was shot using Tamron 90mm/f2.8 + Tamron SP AF 1.4x -- straight from raw, no color manipulation or sharpening anywhere. D200 @ ISO100 raw
    And here is the 100% crop -- again, unmanipulated
    The new 85mm micro nikkor looks good too but I do not have first hand experience with it -- if you get it remember that it isn't really usable on FF DSLRs. The Sigma 105/2.8 is sharp but has harsh OOF renditions sometimes. Tokina M100 ATX Pro D is good but has relatively more CA compared to other macro lenses in similar FLs.
  37. The longer the focal length the greater the working distance. And, the working distance is usually stated as from the front lens element which may end up being an inch from the filter ring on the lens! I had a Nikon 60mm macro but returned it as it was very difficult to use as I approached 1:1. This can be an issue with bugs as they will certainly notice you and also an issue with lighting. You will need more lighting with macro unless you always shoot when its only perfect. Awesome bokeh though.​
    Yuri (and anyone else)... can you tell me if you were using APS-C or full frame? I'm shopping for a macro lens and I'm concerned about focal length as well, so when I hear statements such as "don't go under XXmm" it's very confusing as to what's ideal when dealing with a 1.5x multiplier as I will be.
  38. One advice with D90: metering will not work with older (pre-AF) lenses like the 55/3.5 micro.
    Take a look at Tamron 60/2 (DX). It is a nice little lens with twice the working distance of the Nikkor AF-S 60/2, quite pleasant bokeh and very well controlled CA, and also doubles as a portrait prime (instead of the 50/1.8). Mind that the max aperture of the Nikon mount version seems to be actually somewhere near F/2.4 instead of F/2. And that AF is too slow for moving objects due to the lack of the AF limit switch (but many macros share this issue). Some samples, and comparison to 50/1.8 on tubes, at:
    Macros with longer focal lengths provide more working distance (*generally*) and blurring of the background; but they are larger & heavier, worse suited for handheld work and require larger flash setups for proper diffusion of light. Essentially you should figure out what perspective you prefer; the working distance is a major factor only if you are into bugs and snakes.

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