hopping for a macro lens? First, let’s get the definition right: To get 1:1 magnification, which you need for true macro photography, you need to buy a dedicated, non-zoom Macro lens. But which one is best for you?
Macro lenses come in a variety of fixed focal lengths, ranging from 50 to 200mm. Some macro lenses focus down to 1:2 but extend to 1:1 via an optically-matched adapter at an additional price. A handful go beyond 1:1 into super macro photography territory. Let’s take a close-up look at the top Macro lenses available now. Keep in mind that all the lenses in this article are available at Adorama’s Macro Lens department.
Once exclusively the domain of DSLRs, Macro has started to make inroads into the rapidly growing category of mirrorless interchangeable-lens compacts (MILCs). You can see the small but growing selection of MILC macro lenses at the end of this article.
Note: If you have a zoom lens that says it’s a “Macro,” don’t believe it. Sure it’ll get you close, likely to within 1:3 magnification (that’s 1/3 life-size on the film or sensor) but technically, true macro is considered 1:1 magnification—life-sized–or higher. ) Close-up filters are a less expensive way to get into macro photography, but you will probably lose a little image quality, especially if you use budget close-up filters. Stick to name brands and look for specially coated surfaces.
Reversal rings are another way to go. These rings mount directly on your camera; you screw the lens front into the ring, so it is facing the reverse direction. Turning the optics around can yield dramatic, super-close results.
Here is a look at some top macro lenses, by focal length (Prices accurate as of March 11, 2015 and factor in any instant rebates that may apply at the time of posting): Short Macro (30-50mm) These shorter lenses are primarily designed for smaller-sensor cameras. Shorter focal lengths mean greater depth of field, which can be worked to your advantage; the disadvantage? A shorter working distance, which means you can’t shoot skittish subjects, such as butterflies, and you have to take care so the camera and lens don’t block the light source because you may be working at less than six inches to get 1:1 magnification. Big advantage? In most cases, these lenses cost less than longer macros.All lenses listed here are available atAdorama’s Macro Lens department.
Standard Macro (60-105mm) This most common focal length for macro lenses gives you a somewhat more comfortable working distance of between 9 and 12 inches for 1:1 macro (depending on which focal length lens you are using), and in most cases these lenses are also well-suited for portraits, since the focal length is more flattering when photographing faces. Wide range of prices starting at around $450 for consumer-level optics. All lenses listed here are available atAdorama’s Macro Lens department
With a working distance of a foot and a half to two feet for 1:1 magnification, tele macro lenses let you get up close to hard-to-reach subjects (that perfect mushroom that’s visible behind an impenetrable shrub) and skittish creatures who don’t want you to invade their space. They are generally pricier, require larger filters, and are somewhat bulkier than standard Macros, but they let you get closer. Bonus: Use a tele extender and you can double your working distance when you need to. All lenses listed here are available atAdorama’s Macro Lens department Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG APO AF for Canon or Nikon: 1:1, wide aperture for a long lens, compatible with 35mm, APS format cameras. ($1,099) Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM: 1:1, internal floating system so front element doesn’t move ($1,499) Tamron SP 180mm f/3.5 Di Macro LD-IF: 1:1, internal focusing ($739) Nikon 200mm f/4 ED-IF AF Micro Telephoto Nikkor: Longest macro tele lens, 1:1 magnification ($1,749)
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