Why do I need a Macro Lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by mickeysimpson, Jun 7, 2020.

  1. I want to shoot more macro photos. What does a macro lens, e.g. Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, give me that I can’t get with my EF 24–105mm f/4L IS USM?
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Depends on what you are trying to do. So called True Macro involves working very close to very small subjects and achieving a 1:1 (or better) reproduction ratio. I use both macro lenses and short telephotos for insects with cropping, both produce effective and dramatic close ups, but not True Macro. The macro lens, even closer, things like photos of Stamps , copying slides, numerous other tiny subject. Macro lenses are very sharp, and have a variety of applications in general photography. Question of personal style, project needs, etc. I'm sure others can contribute more input.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  3. The macro can achieve focus at around 1 foot with 1:1 magnification (a 1" subject renders a 1" image on your sensor or film). Your 24-105L can focus to 1.5 feet and will provide 1:4 magnification (a 1" subject renders a .25" image on your sensor or film). The macro lens is also optimized for close focus and is sharper up close and its IS system is more effective for macro than the 24-105L. That said, for casual use, the 24-105L is perfectly fine for close up photos within its limits. Adding a close up lens (screwed in like a filter) can get you even closer with reasonably good results if you are using a good 2 element close-up lens. Don't do a lot of macro work myself since I don't like bugs, stamps, coins, or watches.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  4. Actually I find the ordinary 18-55 kit lens to be very good for close up work, it can focus to less that 10 inches. And the results with a close up lens added were surprisingly good,
  5. well, a MACRO lens is designed specifically for that purpose, so it will always be better than a zoom with macro *focusing* ability. Whether you need to spend the money on a dedicated Macro Lens would depend on how "serious" you are about macro work..If you only do it occasionally, may not be worth it. However, the 100m also makes a good portrait and all around lens, with some caveats.
    Brian Murphy and mickeysimpson like this.
  6. There are lots of options, but the close-up capabilities of the 24-105mm lens are not really among them:
    Here's a blast from the past:
    Popular Photography 2004-02
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  7. SCL


    Honestly, if you need to ask, you probably aren't at the point where you "NEED" one. However, in summary, the various optical corrections for aberrations in normal lenses at close distances, are minimized, usually resulting in sharper images edge to edge, ability to focus closer to your subject (or at greater magnification), better color correction, less distortion, among others. A good macro lens can be relatively expensive, but there are other options, such as supplementary lenses which screw onto the front of your current lens, extension tubes, and bellows. I went for years without a macro lens, shooting small reptiles and amphibians, but when I wanted to shoot dragonflies and small spiders, I knew I had to reopen the wallet...and have never regretted it...nature provides such a variety of subjects for a macro, and they do a great job digitizing my old slides and negatives.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  8. 1. To get closer. If you are satisfied with the degree of magnification you can get with your current lens, you don't need a macro lens.

    2. As some people have noted, macro lenses are optimized for close-focus work.

    If you want to experiment with macro work and don't want to invest in a macro lens, there are several alternatives, as SCL notes. Another is reversing a standard lens.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  9. Back when I was still shooting EOS, the only decent lens I bought beyond the 18-55 was a 100mm f/2.8 Macro. I had the older pre-USM version, which I still found to be excellent.

    When I made a wholesale system switch and REALLY invested in Nikon, my starting kit actually had an AI Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5. I don't find "normal" macros particularly useful for my work(they can be workable on crop sensors) but they are often among the best lenses in the line-up. It wasn't too long before I bought a Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D. I've added a handful of others-a 105mm f/2.8 AF-S VR, which I sold after finding it inferior to the older lens for macro work(don't know if this is the case with Canon) and a 60mm f/2.8D.

    I do a decent amount of high magnification photography. A lot of general purpose lenses can get surprisingly close, but typically even approaching 1/2 lifesize and going beyond there, you will be happiest with a proper macro prime.

    What I would say to summarize this-if you're getting close enough with your current lens, you probably don't need one(at least yet). If you're hitting the focus limiter and thinking "I wish I could focus closer" a macro lens is a logical next step. Once you have one, it opens a world of possibilities that you may never have considered before, but you may not want to explore those possibilities.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  10. Thank you all for all of your technical and practical advice. I have learned that which I had sought. 1) The difference between a macro lens and zooms, and I assume primes as well. 2) what the camera captures, e.g. a true 1:1 image versus a smaller image such as 1:4.
    Finally, I have learned from all of you that I do not need that EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM that I have lusted for all of these years because I do not engage in true macro photography.

    I thank you all, and most of all my wife thanks you as I will not be spending a lot of money for a lens I will likely use once in a blue moon. :)

    Stay well!

    (Now I just need to convince my wife that I NEED that new EOS R5.
  11. Let us know how that goes for you. Good luck. :) I want one too, looks like it will be a great camera, but may have to make do with my 5D MK IV for now.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  12. Mark, truthfully I think the little woman has a tight hold on the purse strings. I may nee a winning lottery number or an unknown rich uncle to die and leave me a large fortune. :-(
  13. It's a common misconception that one needs a macro lens to take close up pictures. For many shots the closest focus of your current lens will produce a good shot. I have been shooting lots of nature shots that many assume are taken with a macro lens, but were not. Very nice close up pics can be taken using a telephoto in particular. If you need to shoot life size (1:1) then a macro lens is needed, but very many people seem to think that you need one just to take a few shots of flowers in the garden.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  14. If you do get the urge for a macro lens and money is an issue, then it wouldn't hurt to look at a nice vintage lens. Manual focus isn't a big issue for macro and macro lenses have historically been optically excellent, so a nice M42 macro shouldn't be much of a risk.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  15. Mickey, to quote my brother in law: "then the wife will have to work some more hours"
    And point 2: it's an L lens, you need all L lenses.. :)
    I love my 100 2.8 Lis, it practically lives on the 5d4. I bought it years ago, when the flowers i was photographing were like 1cm ( .5 to .25 inch)
    Just look at my thursday pix, most are 100 LIS, uncropped (too lazy) most are in camera jpg, just resized.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  16. I am on a 30 year losing streak on the lottery tickets. The money I spent over 30 years on Lottery I could buy that new R5.

    Good luck. Maybe she will surprise you.
    Nick D. likes this.
  17. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Justification for a Macro - this afternoon, old Nikon 105 2.8 hand held DSC_4991 (1024x1024).jpg
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  18. I only buy L glass after getting back into photography along with my 5diii. The 100 2.8 has been tempting me for 3+ years. I'm going to look at your Thursday pix.
  19. Agree with Steve, above. If you really need a macro, I'd consider getting a secondhand manual focusing lens. I got a Nikkor 55mm macro for about $50. It goes only to 1:2. without the extension tube. I had the 100mm Canon macro L, which is a good lens, but I sold it as I found inadequate for street shooting (AF too slow) and I wanted this for dual use. Tokina and Tamron, in particular, make great macro lenses. AF is not needed for macro. If you want AF, then there is the Canon 50 EF f3.5 (1:2 only, although there's a close up tube available) and the original 100mm EF f2.8 macro.
    mickeysimpson likes this.
  20. That's very interesting about the Canon 100 f2.8 macro being too slow for street use. I had looked for info regarding its use for other types of photography and that was something I had not seen in any reviews. I recall it being OK for studio use though from the reviews I read. I think that I am probably going to shy away from a macro lens for now because the closest I get to macro photography is with flowers and maybe a bee looking for pollen..

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