Whats the difference between a longer macro lens and and shorter one

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sun_p, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Hi Experts,
    Just to give you some information. I have the nikon d90 and 50mm 1.8 and now the sigma 30 1.4. I like both the lenses. The sigma is just a few days old and I love the Bokeh way better than the 50 nikon 1.8. MY interests are portraits, fashion, macro, anything that has bokeh, people. Now I was planning on getting the nikon 105 f2.8 also but had some questions/doubts which I though of asking all of you.
    1. What exactly is a macro lens? is it to do with the fact that you can shoot very close? Also, what exactly does 1:1 mean.
    2. I know perspective changes with focal length. But does a macro lens make the object look much bigger compared to a shorter one?
    3. Do longer length lenses produced better bokeh than the shorter one?
    4. Would the 105 be good for portraits? Is the bokeh good?
    5. I read somewhere that the 30/50 are not the right focal lengths for full body shots along with Bokeh. I really did not quite get that. I yet to test this out for myself.
    Please advice!
  2. 1) The ratio 1:1 means that the image in the camera is the same size as the subject. "Macro" means different things to different people, but in general it refers to a lens that can focus closer than about 3 feet. A better definition is a lens which is designed specifically to focus close enough to get 1:2 (0.5x) magnification or higher, often at the expense of performance at longer distances.
    2) Perspective depends on distance and only distance. At the same distance (focal plane to the subject), a longer lens will make the subject look larger.
    3) Bokeh is unrelated to focal length. It depends on the design of the lens, among other things.
    4) 105mm might be OK for portraits, because you would be over 5' away for an head-and-shoulders view, making the perspective more flattering than closer (or further).
    5) (I don't understand the question.)
  3. Your interests include macro and you don't know what a macro lens is or what 1:1 means?
    A macro lens allows for close focusing and is corrected for those closer distances (as opposed to other lenses that are optimized for infinity). Often, they are also corrected to have minimum distortion and a good flat field correction. 1:1 indicates magnification - a 1/2 inch subject will result in a 1/2 inch image on the sensor - 1:2 would mean the image would be 1/4 inch on the sensor.
    Longer focal length for a macro generally allows to get the same magnification from a greater working distance. A shorter focal length will give you the same magnification but from a shorter distance.
    Perspective does not change with focal length - you can stand at the same point and change lenses from wide angle to tele and then crop the wide angle shot into one with exactly the same perspective as the tele shot (setting the quality loss due to the crop aside). Perspective changes if you photograph a subject with different focal lengths and try to keep it the same size - the wide-angle will show a lot of background while the tele won't.
    You shoot anything that has bokeh - strictly speaking, that's impossible since bokeh is a lens property and describes the quality of the out-of-focus rendering. You use bokeh in the commonly used fashion to describe the use of shallow DOF - f/1.4 will give you the same DOF on any 50/1.4 lens - the bokeh quality can be dramatically different though.
    The 105 is excellent for portraits though many will consider it too long on a DX camera (I am not one of them).
    1. Yes, exactly. A macro lens shoots down to 1:1, which means that an object the size of a dime will fill the frame completely. 1:1 means the image on the sensor is exactly the same size as the object. Your D90 sensor is 16x24mm, so you can shoot a frame filling picture of something only 16x24mm, about the size of a postage stamp or a small coin.
    2. Perspective changes with location. Longer focal lengths let you get farther away. Macro lenses let you get closer, which is great for flowers and bugs, but people look more natural when taken from 6-12 feet away. That's a byproduct of a million years of hunter/gatherer evolution. You mentioned fashion. Fashion is often shot from longer distances, 20-30 feet, because the extra distance makes the perspective "flatter", there's less depth to the face, and this makes the model more "abstract" and less "human", it turns a person into a "living mannequin", exactly what a lot of fashion advertisers like.
    3. Lenses with good bokeh produce good bokeh, there is no connection to focal length. The Sigma 30mm has good bokeh, much better than just about any macro lens, whether it's 60, 105, or 200mm. The Nikon 105mm f2.8 "fair" bokeh, better than your 50mm f1.8. The old Nikon 105mm f2.5 AI (a manual focus lens that won't meter on your D90) has "great" bokeh. I have several expensive lenses with excellent bokeh (85mm f1.4, 105mm f2.5 AI-S (manual focus), 135mm f2.0 DC (that's not a macro, it's a special "portrait" lens, 300mm f2.8 AF-I (yes, some long teles have good bokeh, too, because backgrounds are important in wildlife and sports), and a little 45mm f2.8 Nikkor Ai-P).
    4. I find the 105mm a bit long on a D90. It makes a great "tight" portrait like a headshot, but if you want the torso (or a couple of heads), you have to get farther away, and the perspective flattens. An 85mm is a good portrait lens on D90.
    5. 30 and 50 are great focal lengths for full body shots. A 30mm takes a full body shot from about 9 feet, and the bokeh is lovely. A 50mm takes a full body from about 12 feet, and the bokeh of the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 is great, the Nikon 50mm f1.4 G is pretty good, the older 50mm f1.4 AF-D and the 50mm f1.8 are only so-so. The 105mm wants to be about 40 feet away for a full body shot.
  4. macro thoughts-
    1. a macro lens is a lens that can focus quite close, far closer than normal lens. 1:1 means that and object that is 1/3 inch acroos will apear as 1/3inch across on the film por the sensor; or 1:1.
    2. a macro lesn can fill the file of view with a subject since it can focus so close.
    3. bokeh has nothing to do with a lens being a,mcro. it has to do with basic design of the lens.
    4. see next reply abpout portrait lenses.
    a macro lens is generally not the best if used for portraits. the reason-is that it is too good in picking up detail. a portrait of a person is supposed to flatter and please the subject. not show every wrinkle and imperfection that the face has got in all their unflattering glory. a mcro lens can be used for portraits, but the user should plan on a lpot of time in pping in order to get all the picked imperfections back out of the image in order to make it flattering. it is simpler to simply not shoot in such a way as to pick up the imperfections in the first place.
    5. forget bokeh. that is lens design not type.
    6. the difference in macro lens mm when you go from the 35 macro to the 50-60 macro to the 90-105 macro to the 150-200 macro lenses is an increase in the working distance. a 35mm macro at 1:1 you are working at a very close distance to your subject, litterally on top of it. as you increase the mm of the macro lens you increase the working distance to the subject. using a 180mm macro givesa large working distance to the subject. this is fine for macro shots of insects, so as not to scare away your subject. but as you go loger not only do the lenses rapidly become more expensive, but also become increasingly difficult to use. the compromise in cost and ease of use and general compromise of all kinds for macro lenses is the 90-105mm macro. i own the sigma f2.8 105mm macro. in shooting a 2-4inch flower i am shooting at about 30 inches. this keeps me and any shadows i might make out of the image.
  5. in 35mm terms portraits used lenses from 70-80 to 135mm. the former were the full or 3/4 body shots while the 135mm was for face only. when taking portraits the distances were always in the 10-12 maybe 15ft range in the studio. when one wanted a different type of portrait you simply changed lenses. you did not move the camera to subject distance. if you did and went closer the nose ended up as very pronounced, if you went farther then the face had a very flat one dimensional appearance.
    macro lenses are not used for portraits simply because they see too much facial features; no one is going to thank you with every wrinkle or pimple or imperfection shown in all their glory. The image will just not be flattering. if a macro lens is used then you should plan on plenty of pp time to get the bad features back out. it is far simpler to simply use a kit lens size, or a lens similar, that is a 16 to 50 for the 3/4 shots and if desired switch to a 70-200 zoom used at 70 for the face only, which is 105mm, if not tight enough zoom to 90 which is 135mm. but in all this keep the subject distance at the 10-12 to 15ft distance.
    for your info-
    portraits were done in the studio by pros using, in 35mm terms, about 70mm to 135mm. the distance was fixed you were shooting from 10-12ft. at that distance the 70 gave the 3/4 body shot while the 135 gave a face only. in c sensor the 70mm becomes 47mm while the 135mm becomes 91mm. the distances used were to keep the face and body from distorting from a natural appearance. For digital the f1.4 50mm lenses becomes a very good portrait lens. It can also double a lowlight lens.
  6. Ed and Deiter bring up some good (and conflicting) points, Here's another way of looking at focal length.
    Perspective how we see "closeness" in a picture. When you get really close to a person, the closest part of the face (the nose) looks very large in relation to the eyes, the ears look small in relation to the eyes. As you get farther away, the nose gets smaller (relative to the eyes) and the ears get larger. We learn all these ratios subconsciously, without thinking about it, as we grow up, so we can look at a person and think things like
    • That aggressive looking male is too close, I either need to prepare to fight him or get farther away.
    • My child is so cute, I'm just going to get right up and squiggle their nose...
    • I would like to get closer to that desirable looking female.
    • That unfamiliar individual is getting too close to my child, I must growl at him and thump my chest.
    What all this means is that 6 feet (2 meters) or closer makes for a very intimate portrait, too intimate for most subjects (although it works for children, who we're used to looking at from very close. 9-10 feet (3m) is "easier" on both the subject when you're shooting and on the people viewing the picture. 12 feet (4m) or more and the person starts to look "far away", which can be good for certain kinds of shot.
    Note: this is one of the hardest parts about learning to be a portrait or wedding photographer. Your picture typically needs to look as if it were shot from a comfortable "intimate" distance, as close as a good friend or family member would be. But these are strange people who have come to you, they don't look or smell like your friends or family, so you have to learn to get around that and get "friend or family" close. And, of course, you're as strange to your subjects as they are to you, so even if you can handle getting close, you're going to scare them a bit, a close stranger, with a big piece of equipment in your hands. You have to be good enough at being friendly (conversation, body language, clothing, smell) that you can make them feel like you're their friend.
    It's also why someone who has been successfully taking really good pictures of their own friends and family for years may fail miserably the first time they try to shoot a portrait of strangers. They haven't learned "rapport" yet.
    Note 2: The "safe distance" also varies quite a bit from community to community or from country to country. I've seen native Japanese walk up to strangers and happily chat 2-3 feet away from each other, and folk from US southern states backing off to 10 feet in a normal conversation.
    So, assuming 9-10 feet (3m) is appropriate for the country we're in and the people we're shooting, how do we get to be that far from a subject?
    Head and shoulders portraits
    If you stood an average adult male behind an 18 inch (45cm) square picture frame, it would frame their head and shoulders nicely. A female would be closer to 16 inch (40cm) width, but you'd probably want to have even more than 18 inches of height, because women often put a good deal of effort into piling their hair higher than men, and women also often want to show off a bit of cleavage. And you don't want your subject pressed tight against the sides of the frame, that makes them look trapped. So, a 24x20 inch (60x50cm) frame is pretty good for a person.
    • 30mm - 30 inches (75cm) is so close that any adult will look "wrong", nose so large it's like a cartoon character, ears that look disturbingly like a small animal like a rat.
    • 50mm - 4 feet (1.25m) is still so close that even the most familiar person (your wife or adult child) looks wrong, but it will work for a baby or toddler. It can also work for a very intimate portrait in countries where people typically live much closer than America or Europe.
    • 85mm - 7 feet (2.2m) is near perfect for an intimate portrait. It says "friendly" and "approachable". "Vote for me", "buy a car, a house, insurance from me". "I'm the surgeon you want to work on you". "You want me, and maybe you can have me". etc.
    • 105mm - 9 feet (2.7m) is pretty much perfect for an American or European formal portrait.
    • 135mm - 11 feet (3.4m) is on the "cool" or "aloof" end of portraiture. If you wanted the portrait to say "I'm aristocratic, a bit unapproachable" or "I'm a powerful executive, don't get too close", this is where you want to be.
    • 180mm - 15 feet (4.6m) now it's no longer a "portrait", it's "abstract". The person becomes a "thing", a "statue", a "mannequin". "You can't have the girl, but look at the earrings". If you're selling products to women, they like to see the product on a beautiful woman (implying that the product will also make them beautiful, like the model) but they are more at ease if that beautiful model appears far enough away to be at a "safe" distance, not "competition".
    Full length portraits
    Figure you can put most adults in a 6 foot tall box, but they will feel crouded, head too close to the ceiling. The same "human factors" that make 8 feet (2.4m) a comfortable ceiling height in a house make 8 feet a comfortable height to frame a full body portrait.
    • 30mm - 10 feet (3m) and we've got a nice distance for taking in a whole body . You don't normally get much closer, because if you're closer it's a lot of work to look all the way up and down a body.
    • 50mm - 17 feet (5m) and the body is starting to feel a bit distant and abstract.
    • 85mm - 28 feet (8m) congratulations, you're a fashion photographer. Your subject is "mannequin" far away.
    another wizfaq
  7. bokeh has nothing to do with a lens being a,mcro. it has to do with basic design of the lens.​
    That's a bit of an oversimplification. Being a "macro lens" is determined by the "basic design of a lens". Traditionally, macro lenses were designed for slight overcompensation of spherical aberration. In plain English, that meant that they had sharper looking edges and fine details for the part of the image that was in focus, but paid for that sharpness with some of the ugliest bokeh ("harsh" or "disturbing" effects in the out of focus background).
    Classic Nikon and Canon 55, 100, 105, 180, and 200mm macros all have terrible bokeh. It takes more lens elements (and more modern computations) to deliberately get good bokeh in a macro, and often getting better macro for portrait use compromises the lens's sharpness in macro use (I consider both the new Nikon 105mm and 60mm to be compromised in this way, not as sharp as their predecessors).
    The famed 90mm Vivitar/Kiron/etc. lens... I don't think the designer had access to the best computer tools when he created that lens, so its relatively nice bokeh I put down to getting "lucky".
  8. Joseph I take your word for it if you say so but my impression so far was that the computing power three decades ago was about sufficient (given more patience to wait for the printout those days^^) to design a macro prime in that focal length without too much luck, perhaps a little trial and error involved. Complex zoom lenses including pro as well as dirt cheap ones of recent years with excellent properties certainly did benefit from supercomputers.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.
    Also have you or someone else any comment why the current Zeiss 100mm f2.0 macro lens got such outstanding bokeh? Would that in turn be because of today's computing power?
    Willing to learn.
  9. There is so much wonderful information about macro photography on the web. The first link provided from a Google search is right here on PhotoNet. I've read many articles and there are so many techniques (ways to achieve what you want). In the end, it's basically about what works for you and what you want to capture. There's a lot of trial, error, and experimentation involved. I think VR is an asset as well as AF (not always, but sometimes), and some of the best macro photographers shoot without a tripod, so it's very dependent on your style and what you like to shoot (plus the magnification you are striving for). Good luck and have fun with the macro world!
  10. wow, what a wealthof information. wisniewski should rapidly be approaching hero status by now. i really appreciate the technical explanations and commentary to put it in context/perspective. thanks, wiz!
    hi sun, how are you enjoying that new 30?
    regarding sun's fascination with bokeh and macro--
    sun, the nikon 105 VR is a tweener. it's not the best macro lens out there at or around that focal length (the tamron 90 has a lot of fans, as do some of the exotic MF 3rd party glass), but the addition of VR and AF-S makes it a better portrait lens than most macros pressed into double duty. this also suggests its not the best portrait lens out there either, but competent enough to make it a versatile lens at either task.
    generally, you will get more compressed, but not necessarily better, bokeh with a longer focal length --bob atkins has the technical explanation here. on some lenses--the 50/1.8, for example--this is not good as all the imperfections of its bokeh characteristics are revealed. on others, the bokeh becomes smooth and the background kind of melts away.
    macro lenses are optimized for close-ups, so they highlight the difference between a sharply-focused close-up foreground and an OoF background, giving pleasing bokeh when used as intended. but for portraiture, they may not be as good as a portrait lens where bokeh is concerned.given the choice of a 105 VR and an 85/1.4 for bokeh in portraits, the 85 wins by a creamy mile.
    if you really want a good portrait lens, i suggest getting a good portrait lens--anything from the voigtlander 58/1.4 MF to the nikon 135/2 DC fall under the portrait lens category. if you have a genuine interest in macro but also want to do portraits, the 105 VR would be a good choice, as would the tamron 60/2. if, above all other considerations, you want creamy bokeh, then the sigma 50/1.4 and nikon 85/1.4 are the current champs. i personally dont have a dedicated portrait lens but i find the sigma 50-150 pretty good in this regard, with the second-best bokeh of any lens i own (the sigma 30 being mayor of bokeh-ville). some of the 50-150's bokeh characteristics may seem more pronounced as i usually shoot it at longer focal lengths.
    as jeanneane hints, macro is a world into itself, and there are all sorts of add-on dooddads and gizmos for serious macro people. but for the casual enthusiast, the nikon 105 VR is a good choice if you just want to test the macro waters and want something longer than your current set-up for portraits.
  11. General comparison of ~100mm vs ~200mm macros, * marked ones apply to ~50mm vs ~100mm macros
    - *angle of view = background blur (the longer the lens the narrower the AoV the more the blur)
    - *Weight (longer macro lenses weigh more, usually)
    - *Price (longer ones more expensive)
    - *Number of glass elements (longer one's have a few more, a touch less contrast sometimes - for the same reason)
    - *Working distance (longer one's have more)
    - Max aperture (typically less for longer lenses)
  12. Thanks everyone! for the great explanation! I had to read all of that a couple of times to digest the amount of valuable information.
    Joseph W, thank you so much for the detailed information. Including the information on Portraits/distance etc. !
    Eric, I love the 30mm, so much that I am thinking about the 50mm 1.4 ! By the way I love the shot by the 50-150 also. I dont have ny lens in that range. But I will leave the questions on that for another time :). Great photograph and lovely bokeh again!
    Thanks Edward and Dieter! Yes, Dieter, I was not sure what the 1:1 meant. I was only using my Nikon 50 1.8 to do what ever macro I could. Now I have the 30 mm for full length portraits and since the problem with portraits,people photography is that, you might not always have someone to shoot, you can do some macro, product, abstract photography at home/outside. Thats why I was planning on the macro lens.
    But I think, I will stick with lenses that are good at what they do, rather than mix them up. I think my requirements are not much, I plan to use the 30mm 1.4 for full lenth, and 50 mm 1.8 for half body shots. I use a nikon d90 so effectively, they are about 45 and 75mm. I think I might need a slightly longer lens for face shots. Probably the 85mm 1.4 But that might have to wait. For macro, I will try the 105 f2.8 later.
    From the discussions, I had one query, many of you have mentioned post 135mm, for people photography, the focal length is not good, since the subject appears to flat and compressed, like a mannequin. I have never used a lens greater than 50mm (75 equiv on my camera). But I thought the longer you go, the more magnified the subject appears. So we literally have to step back if we have to capture the same size of the subject with a smaller FL. I know perspective changes with distance and not focal lenth, but, isn't the idea of having a longer lens actually to not have to go that close to a subject and capture it from a distance? Or like what all of you say, that comes at a cost of the subject looking flat/compressed?
    E.g, lets say I am on the street and want to capture someones photograph who is about 10-15 feet away, I can use my 30 or 50 mm and take a photograph. But Lets say if the subject is on stage performing and I am 50-100 feet away, If I have a longer focal length, I can stand at the same place and get the person to cover my frame, depending on my lens FL. Are you saying the photograph will be very flat? The reason why I was asking is, because at a later stage, I also plan to get a longer lens, which I can use to capture some street portraits of subjects not very close. Like those candid moments. I know 30 50 would be better, but then you are that close and many people do not like themselves getting clicked by strangers.
    Thanks for all the valuable information gurus! I have a print of this page now :)
    I hope the week is going great for you guys!
  13. Joseph, just one question, the 30, 50, 85 mm focal lenghts that you have listed. where in you have mentioned, 30mm would make the person look wrong, is that for a full frame camera or a DX as well? I have been taking portraits mostly with only the 50 mm on my DX camera and as such did not find any serious issues. I have never tried longer than that, so I am not sure if they would turn out better. But if that is the case, I guess its time to seriously think about a longer lens also.
  14. well, sun, i was in the photo pit, probably about 25-30 feet away for the last shot i posted, probably at or close to 150mm. a long 2.8 tele is great for portraits and getting close-ups at concerts. i like the 50-150 as its compact and handholdable, but a 70-200 would let you get even closer. i hear good things about the nikon 180/2.8 as well, although a zoom gives you more wiggle room if space is tight.
    i hardly ever shoot street with the 50-150, though--it scares people, and a 70-200 would be even worse. the 50 is the perfect size for street but sometimes a bit long. the 30 is a better FL but bigger than the 50, size-wise, though still not super-intrusive. i also use the tammy 17-50 a lot for street, for a 2.8 zoom its not much bigger than the 18-70.
    since you already have a 50mm lens and you love bokeh, the 85/1.4 might be your next logical lens purchase. but dont get too far ahead of yourself -- enjoy that 30/1.4! also, fyi, you can get closer with your two primes with a closeup lens like the Canon 500D--my biggest regret about the 30 is that its close-up focusing range isnt all that great.
  15. Thanks Eric!! Yes, I am not going to buy new lenses until I feel really restricted with what I have. Thats the policy I follow, including with my camera. The 50 was getting to be too long as a walkaround and also the Bokeh, like you already know :) . I am going to use these two for a while and see how it goes and only then if I find I am missing something, willplan. Currently, I was looking to get a longer one for headshots basically, but that can wait for while.!
    thanks and have a great weekend!

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