View Full Version : Micro Macro :confused013

19-06-2011, 6:52am
Ive seen a lot of post people talking about Macro but when I go looking for Nikon macro they only seem to have Micro is this just the term used by Nikon or is Micro another type of lens altogether :confused013

I @ M
19-06-2011, 7:08am
As far as Nikon lenses are concerned, the term micro is the one they use to describe their macro lenses.

A Nikkor 60mm micro lens is in reality just the same as a Tamron 60mm macro lens as far as focal length and the ability to portray a subject at 1:1 resolution.

The actual terminology has more to do with microscopic vs macroscopic where there are very slight technical differences but as far as most camera lenses go you can read them as being the same.

19-06-2011, 7:32am
thank you Andrew I was just feeling a little confused about the wording makes you wonder why all makers can't call them the same thing but you have cleared this up for :th3:

19-06-2011, 7:40am
G'day Nikki

It's been a long time since I had to go back thru the ol' grey matter here ... but as I recall things -

"macro photography" is the use of lenses & accessories to photograph something thru the range of 1/10 of life size to about 10x life size,
"photo micrography" is the use of a microscope and is used for subjects magnified more than 10x life size [ps the term is pronounced photo - mi - crog - rafy]

Why Nikon have called their "close up / macro" lenses as a "micro-nikkor" I do not know
Regards, Phil

19-06-2011, 9:25am
I too have been wondering what the difference was...thanks for the info! :)

19-06-2011, 10:10am
And if that's not enough, what's "close-up" mean?

19-06-2011, 3:24pm
Thanks Phil I just wanted to make sure for when I am ready to go ahead I am not buying the wrong thing and Sezzy its great on the forum for reason's like this both wanted to know same thing and both got an answer so we both learnt today :th3:

19-06-2011, 9:23pm
G'day am

And if that's not enough, what's "close-up" mean? Um.

I guess that's where the big beefy fella is about to place his smackeroo smoochers onto the lips of the gorgeous, busty gal who is blinkin' her little eyes at him...... :eek: :eek:

Regards, Phil

19-06-2011, 9:56pm

Macro photography is close-up photography of usually very small objects. The classical definition is that the image projected on the "film plane" (i.e., film or a digital sensor) is close to the same size as the subject.[citation needed]

In recent years, the term macro has been used in marketing material to mean being able to focus on a subject close enough so that when a regular 6×4 inch (15×10 cm) print is made, the image is life-size or larger.[citation needed] With 35mm film this requires a magnification ratio of only approximately 1:4, which demands a lower lens quality than 1:1. With digital cameras the actual image size is rarely stated, so that the magnification ratio is largely irrelevant; cameras instead advertise their closest focusing distance.

20-07-2011, 3:25pm
I was wondering the same thing about macro/micro. Thanks

20-07-2011, 3:37pm
Nikon never, ever call something by the same name as Canon.

macro >> micro
Speedlite << Speedlight
IS >> VR
35mm fuill frame >> FX
Canon's name for self-cleaning sensors which I forget >> Nikon's name for self-cleaning sensors which I also forget

Doubtless there are others I can't think of at present.

20-07-2011, 9:32pm
To further the spirit of the Nikon-Canon sumo wrestle(of how one marque does things by half and due to populist opinion(usually Canon) and the other(obviously Nikon :D) does things contrary to popular opinion(as is the case with terminology, and in this instance strict adherence to classical definitions).

excerpt from Nikon's website as to what, why how and when...

The term “macro lens” refers to a publicly recognized generic name for lenses intended for close-up photography. But, how about the term “micro lens” ? Which term is scientifically acceptable, macro or micro ? Why did the developers in those days prefix the close-up lenses with the term "micro" ? In this episode, we will see the professional spirit of the developers who put a premium on strictness.

The classical definition of macrophotography is photography of a subject where the image is recorded on film in the same or larger than actual size. This means that macro lenses refer to the enlargement optical system similar to microscopes. However, the close-up lenses available in the days of S-type cameras provided a reduction optical system, at best involving a magnification from 1/2 to life size. Therefore, those close-up lenses were not classified as macro lenses (an optical system allowing photography at a life-size or larger magnification). In those days, Nikon had already developed and marketed superior enlargement optical systems (microscopes, etc.). The developers intended to make a clear and exact distinction. They preferred a strict definition and refused to attach greater importance to ease of marketing.

What's not remembered by a lot of folks is that the 'commonly accepted terminology' is not the same as the classical definition, as used many years(50 or more obviously) ago.

I can't remember who exactly were the first lens manufacturer to use the term macro for an obviously not macro capable lens, I think Leitz?? maybe.. I've read about it/them, but never really bothered to much with the genre, but I did tread an article about how Nikon's terminology is the correct version. Nikon have made 'macro' lenses since before most other (commonly known) lens makers still in existence, and before Canon ever did.

What's strangely amusing about Tannin's post is that it seems to be basically true. Canon did in fact use terminology that Nikon originally (correctly)used, in a few of their macrophotogrpahy related lenses(the 20mm and 35mm macrophotography lenses) made many years ago.
Macrophotography describes the process of larger than lifesized reproduction of the subject, and those two Canon lenses did just that, by magnifying the subject from 2x to 10x depending on which of the two version were used. BUT the lenses were not straight forward to use lenses as you expect a macro lens to be, and they were very small lenses that were mounted onto a flat plate like board which is mounted to the front of a bellows housing.

So in fact Nikon's use of the term Micro is the true and factually correct version.
But, what happened was that 'common acceptance' has altered the baseline which defines popular opinion!
Nikon have simply stuck to a system they used over 50 years ago, and not altered anything, other than the description in their marketing blurbs.

Micro Nikon lenses now do macro type photography or are used to capture macro photos(but never NOT macrophotography!!) Macrophotography is a term, and due to the scientific nature of the process is clearly defined(as Canon used to adhere too when they made macro lenses(which I don't think are made by either company any longer)
I think other lens manufacturers make these specialised lenses now, although Nikon do have a specialised 'industrial lens' arm of their company, which is not related or tied too the photograph lens company.
I have no idea if Canon have a similar lens manufacturing arm in their company tho.

I find it amusing how people's perception of these insignificant aspects of a particular genre of life is shaped by popular acceptance instead of what's technically correct, or maybe historically correct, but evolved into an alternative version.

The history of it all is readily found and there for all to see/view and disseminate.

I bet you also didn't know that the only reason for Nikon's existence is due to the fact that they used to produce lenses for Canon cameras(in the very early years) that were better than Canon's own lenses!
ie. If it weren't for Canon, Nikon would have never existed in the first place.

.. but that's a story for another time.

21-07-2011, 5:52am
Yes its good to get these answers to question even tho to some it may seem like a silly question but now its been explained its all clear now or should I say magnified :lol:you would just think that they would stick to the same word I mean I know and understand or so it seems even though there are a lot of other camera makers It would seem to me that Canon and Nikon have the market in there hands

21-07-2011, 11:39am
Danger Will Robinson, DANGER! Arthur's post is completely backwards. Do not take it at face value!

What he is saying is that the term “macro lens” derives from "the classical definition of macrophotography", which is 1:1 or greater. (That is true.) However some manufacturers abuse the term ( this is true to - Sigma, Tamon, probably others, but not Canon and I bet not Pentax either), so Nikon decided to use a wrong term instead, and this is described by Nikon themselves as we "preferred a strict definition and refused to attach greater importance to ease of marketing"! How stupid and contradictory can a marketing department get?

A simple reminder: macro lenses do 1:1 magnification or better. That's how a macro lens is defined. Anything less than 1:1 is not a macro lens. Some manufacturers (Sigma, Tamron, a few others) abuse the term by applying it to lenses which are not macro lenses at all. In theory this should be a matter for the fair trading authorities but they don't seem to bother. Nikon call their macro lenses "micro", which is wrong but nobody minds that as (unlike some others) they are not trying to dupe the public, just to pretend that they are a bit more special than they really are - which is something Nikon have done for years without any particular harm to anyone. (And more than a few Nikon owners too.) (No! Not you Arthur! You are as down to earth as they come, and although you are special in your own particular way, you never pretend to be anything you are not.)

Is all of this calculated to put Nikon's marketing department in a bad light? Well probably yes. But marketing departments the world over are much the same. Notice, as an example from my list above, the quite stupid misspelling of speedlight on Canon's part, merely because they didn't want to admit that Nikon thought of it first. (You will see my << arrows pointing in the opposite way to indicate this.)

Now Arthur, enough of this petty bickering ... I have a mutual photographic project to propose. I'll make a start on that thread a little later on this morning, all being well.

23-07-2011, 5:38pm

A simple reminder: macro lenses do 1:1 magnification or better. That's how a macro lens is defined. Anything less than 1:1 is not a macro lens. .....

I think if you read the sentence again Tony, you've just agreed with Nikon's terminology on what describes a macro lens, and what describes a micro lens!!

anything less than 1:1 is not a macro lens! That is, if the lens does up to 1:1, it's a micro lens, and if it does beyond 1:1 it's a macro lens.

The distinction between a micro and a standard lens is that the micro can focus from infinity all the way up to 1:1 magnification as a single barrel lens.
Of course all lenses are 1:1 capable, with the addition of extensions between lens and camera, but not all are capable of macro(ie,. beyond 1:1).

A macro lens should have the capability to produce 1:1 or better. If the lens is restricted to only 1:1, then it's not 'accurately' described as a macro lens, because it can't do better.
While it has macro capabilities, it's still not purely a macro lens.

At the time Nikon produced lenses with a reproduction ratio of up to 1:1, and some only up to 1:2, (ie. not better than) and they used the term micro for that lens type.
They(as did Canon) subsequently produced a series of equipment(Nikon's was called Multiphot) where the lenses only produced greater than 1:1, and these were labelled Macro lenses(as Canon also did!!) .. but more specifically macrophoto.

So consider that as a company that produces a lot of different gear and types of gear that they produce truly macro level lenses, and also these pseudo macro lenses as well. They need to have some form of differentiation for the different level of work that this gear is capable of producing so as to not cause confusion amongst the buying public.
Call it marketing speak or whatever you want too, but if you produce a series of lenses capable of macro, but in fact real macro which goes beyond 1:1, and you also produce a series of lenses that go up to 1:1(but not beyond), is it not a moral obligation to differentiate between the two vastly different types of products?

If they produce a true macro lens say with the specs of: 35mm f/2.8 that does 2x-6x magnfication, but also produce a general purpose lens type that allows from infinity to 1:1 focus capability, they have an obligation to use differentiating naming convention for each gear type.
Although in saying that, they did use the Multiphot branding on their only macro lens varieties.

Anyhow, if you take all of this into consideration, then Nikon's terminology makes not only perfectly good sense, but amazes me that it hasn't been taken up in a more general manner!

That is, with the situation that Canon have.. their MPE lens is a macro, and yet so is their 100mm f/2.8 lens. Vastly different types of lenses, even tho they do technically have one aspect of photography in common.. 1:1 capability.
Apart from this, they have no other common aspect(other than the fact that they contain glass elements, and are both used on an SLR camera format)

You can't argue with the science of it all, but because general consensus is not bound by any scientific requirements, there will always be dissent on what the real terms are.

Me personally, I go with the general consensus, even tho my moral obligation is to the Nikon way of doing things.(OK.. call me immoral if that makes you happy!)
But I use the generally accepted terms, macro for photos, macro for lenses, but I'll use the term Micro when it comes to the actual naming of the particular Nikon lens(in 99.9% of instances), even tho I'll describe it a lens that does macro photography.

OH! and FWIW, the first macro capable lens(without extensions) was the Kilfitt lens in 1955(wiki).

23-07-2011, 6:00pm
Sigh. Not at all.

"Macro" = 1:1 = all of the genuine macro lenses on the market today, from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Tokina, Olympus, and so on. (A partial exception is the ancient and peculiar Canon 50mm macro, which requires a dedicated accessory to achieve 1:1, and is sold with that caveat clearly explained.)

To my knowledge, there is only one lens with significantly greater than 1:1 capacity on the mainstream market today. This is the Canon MP/E 65, which they call a "super-macro". (Shouldn't that be "micro"?)

I think we agree that "macro" <> those various general purpose zoom lenses made by the likes of Tamron and Sigma and branded "macro" to confuse the unwary.

Me personally, I go with the general consensus ... I use the generally accepted terms, macro for photos, macro for lenses, but I'll use the term Micro when it comes to the actual naming of the particular Nikon lens(in 99.9% of instances), even tho I'll describe it a lens that does macro photography.

I agree entirely. I can't stand the illiterate Canon habit of calling their flashes "speedlites", but (however reluctantly) I will write "Speedlite 580EX" when I want to refer to that particular model. Something you may not have noticed, though, is that I only do that in writing - when speaking about flashes, I always carefully pronounce it with the silent "g". :)

23-07-2011, 6:40pm
so by this 'generally accepted' version of a macro lens labelling, any lens with the capability of focusing from infinity up to 1:1 is a macro lens.

So what of the 1:1 and beyond lenses?

This is where the confusion in terminology should be put to rest!(but it's not like it's a pressing urgency to resolve).

You said yourself, a macro lens is one that is capable of 1:1 and beyond magnification ... whereas there is only one lens(that I know of) that can do this!!(Canon's MPE).

The terminology used to describe the lenses ability doesn't match the purpose of the lens.

So(as Nikon rightly point out) a macro lens that can produce 1:1 and or greater magnification should be called a macro lens.
A lens that can produce up to 1:1 should be called something else.

Today it's all really irrelevant, and Nikon's terminology has to be taken into context.
Way before Tamron/Canon/Sigma and just about any other lens manufacturer even knew of macro lenses (1961), Nikon used a particular nomenclature for their lenses, based on other currently available lens types.
This labelling was called micro, which describes what the lens is capable of .. infinity up to 1:1.

Don't confuse Nikons use of the term micro for the lens as microscopy.

It's a well known fact that for microscopy, you need a microscope to produce a result .. not a micro lens!!
Nikon do not call their micro's microscopes(which is a totally different kettle of glass elements. It is clearly a Micro lens.

Many folks have confused themselves with this terminology as well, and is easy to do, except that the distinction is clear!!

The differentiation made perfectly good sense because of the prevailing conditions at the time.
At the time, Nikon produced Microscopes and now produced Micro lenses for general photography.
They are different beasts.

I see Nikon's marketing department as self deprecating in this instance, because: If the situation was such that the company could have taken advantage of the term macro in a false manner(as a macro lens is now used), they should have seized the opportunity for this particular type of lens.
Here was an opportunity to use marketing to add to the value of a product, in calling a clearly non fully conforming macro lens type to boast of it's capabilities, but they didn't take any advantage of the fact.

That is: we know a macro lens to be capable of 1:1 and greater magnification, but even tho the lenses specs only allow for only a part of that macro genre(and not the full gamut of magnification), then Nikon have only done themselves a disservice. They haven't really used it as a marketing tool to any advantage to themselves(as have Tamron, Sigma, and any others that have 1:3 capable lenses and call them macro too).

I don't know of any Nikon macro lenses that do not go to 1:1 and or beyond, and they only ever had one micro lens with zoom ability(70-180mm) which was natively 1:2 and could be persuaded to go to 1:1 with an extension tube.

it must also be clearly stated that even tho Sigma and Tamron have been singled out as perpetrators of marketing mischief in this realm, the reality is that their dedicated macro lenses(fixed focal length types) are usually proper 1:1 capable devices. It's only in their macro zoom lenses where the issue of marketing bovine droppings make for a bad smell.
None of their zoom lenses are true macro lenses that can achieve 1:1 magnification.

One thing is for sure, tho. It ain't going to change.. at least not in our lifetime. Nikon have recently introduced a new macro lens, in the 40mm Dx lens.. and guess what? .. it's still called a Micro :th3:

23-07-2011, 6:50pm
Is there any zoom lens that is a true macro lens? I can't think of any?

23-07-2011, 8:22pm
Nikon's 70-180 did 1:1.3(just looked it up again, and I originally thought it did 1:2 and you added tubes, but I got it confused with another lens I've had my eye on at the same time).

1:1.3 isn't too far off the mark I guess, and is a lot closer to the usual maximal marketing guff spewed out by Sigma and Tamron on some of their zooms!(1:3)

Two aspects of this lens that attracted me too it: Aperture is not variable over the focused distance(as a lot of macro lenses will be prone too. That is, if you set your aperture to f/5.6 at 180mm, it doesn't surreptitiously develop tunnel vision and in reality become an f/8 180mm lens. Most macro lenses do this, so you set your aperture and it stays there. As an example of how other lenses do this.. Nikon's 105VR Micro is an f/2.8 lens at moist focused distances, but once you focus down to 3m, it then closes itself down to f/3, and so by the time you've focused down to it's MFD(and 1:1) it's really an f/4.8 lens.
I guess that with a variable aperture design anyhow, and in reality quite a slow one at that (being f/5.6) this should be the case anyhow!
The second aspect of this lenses ability that looks attractive is the MTF graph. I've never seen any other lens produce this type of MTF graph, but the contrast measured is better at the long end of the zoom scale, than it is at the shorter end.

Look at any manufacturers zoom lens MTF data, and you always see them produce better MTF figures at the shorter end than at the longer end.

(for those that want to know, the MTF figure is also taken as a lenses ability to resolve detail.. ie. sharpness).

I remember Vanbar having one for sale not that long ago, for the princely sum of $1800, and this is long after the production of the lens was discontinued.