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6 Points To Consider When Buying A Dedicated Macro Lens
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through those links. It is important to note that I only post products that I personally would purchase from companies that I trust. Any reviews are based on my honest opinion.
Last week, we talked about how you can save a few dollars by buying Macro extension tubes. This week, I thought maybe we would talk about the tubes higher priced cousin, the dedicated Macro lens.
I am considering six points in my search for a dedicated Macro lens:
1. Does it have a 1:1 or greater magnification ratio?
2. Is it a Canon (insert your camera brand here)?
3. What is the minimum focusing distance?
4. Is it a prime lens or zoom lens?
5. Can I realistically achieve my goal images with this lens?
6. Is it autofocus or manual focus?
Let me just say this: While I do have a working knowledge of Macro photography along with the techniques and equipment needed, I am not an expert in things like...um....light refractory mechanisms, ring cupalators, and other things that I am literally just making up right now. I am not a nitty gritty techie, just an artist who loves photography.
And what I do know is that I want to take pictures like this. Seriously. How amazing. This would be my goal image as mentioned above.
Point 1: Does the lens have 1:1 or greater magnification
A true Macro lens has a magnification ratio of at least 1:1. Anything greater such as 5:1 or 3.5:1 is considered extreme macro (my favorite).
Point 2: Is it a Canon? (insert your camera brand here)
In my lens collection I have lenses that are not branded by the brand of my camera (Canon 5d Mark iii). They work great but I do not have the ability to send it to Canon for warranty work, and I trust Canon. While brands like Sigma are great, I would only buy less pricey lenses in an off brand. I also know that I can take Canon lenses to my local camera shop to be sent away for work.
Point 3: What is the minimum focusing distance?
The minimum focus distance is ultra-important to me. If a lens has a minimum focusing distance of let's say 12 inches, it means that I can get no closer than 12 inches to my subject and still be able to focus. This is concerning if I am attempting to get shots like my "goal image" above.
Point 4: Is it a prime or zoom lens?
Prime lenses are well known for being sharper than zoom lenses. A prime lens has a fixed focal length such as 100mm, while the focal length of a zoom lens can manipulated from the low end to high end (ex. 70mm-300mm). I am looking for a prime lens in order to get the sharpest image possible.
Point 5: Will this lens help me achieve my goal image?
If I want to capture an image like my "goal image" I want to be sure that I don't compromise on all of the points that I am considering. Regardless of the cost, I want to make sure that I purchase something that will ultimately help me achieve my personal and professional goals.
Point 6: Is the focus auto or manual?
This point is tricky. I prefer auto focus and luckily my Macro Extension Tubes have connectors that allow for autofocus. It can be difficult to steady yourself for a Macro shot in the field and auto focus helps. At the same time, I find myself switching off the auto focus in favor of manual at times. The tricky thing about manual is that with the ultra shallow depth of field that is inherent to Macro Photography the plane of focus can be difficult to find. I would say that this point could go either way depending on how many other points are acceptable for a particular lens. These points obviously become more clear when a tripod is involved.
LENSES THAT FIT MY CRITERIA
This Canon lens is at the more affordable range of quality Canon Macro lenses. It offers 1:1 magnification, autofocus capability, and a minimum focusing distance of 12 inches.
This lens from Nikon offers internal autofocus and 1:1 magnification.
The minimum focusing distance for this is lens is .8 ft!!! That means that there is no other option other than to get ultra close. The maximum magnification is 1:1 -5:1. True macro at 1:1 and extreme macro at 5:1 magnification. This is the best dedicated macro lens that Canon offers. It is also worth mentioning that this lens is Manual Focus only. There is no auto focus option.
The closest focusing distance with this lens is 1.6 feet and the magnification ratio is 1:3.5 (extreme macro). I love the idea of extreme macro and at 180mm you can really get in close.
If I had to make a decision right now, I would go with number 3, the canon 65mm 2.8 lens. It offers everything I need, 1:1 magnification, autofocus, and extremely close minimum focusing distance of .8 feet. The 5:1 magnification ratio would allow me to get extreme macro shots and I would use a tripod to steady the camera. Finding the plane of focus would still be hard and focusing on different areas would be hard from the same vantage point for focus stacking which must happen in order to get the entire image in focus.
I have been trying to make this choice now for 2 weeks. What would you do? Let me know, I need help deciding!!!
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