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Thread: A good macro lens for a beginner?

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    A good macro lens for a beginner?

    Hey all,

    Newbie here, been doing photography for about 6months now and am slowly starting to work out my area's of focus... no pun intended lol One of the is Macro photography.

    Now, I've been doing a bit of looking into the various macro lenses, and am just overwhelmed with the different varieties, and all of the different reviews I'm finding on them. One site will tell me a lens is great, then the next will contradict it.

    So I'm just wondering what a suitable macro lens for beginner would be? I'm running a Nikon D5200

    I've been looking at the Sigma lenses, specically the 70-300mm Macro Telephoto lens and was thinking that it would be the best option for me. Mainly because of the price, as I can't really afford much over the $200 mark It seemed ok, but i've read some bad reviews on it, so thought I might ask you guys for some advice Is that a good lens? and is there a better one around the same price range?

    Thank in advance

    Jason

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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Jason, you will generally find that true macro lenses are defined as ones that have a reproduction ratio of 1:1 and typically with a very short minimum focus distance.

    By comparison to a Sigma 150mm macro lens, the 150mm offers a 1:1 ratio and a minimum focus distance of 38cm and the 70-300 gives you 1:4 ratio and a min focus of 95cm.

    You can do some very good close up work with the 70-300 but if you want better macro ability then a dedicated lens will ultimately give you better results.

    There really is no such thing as a free lunch with lenses as a rule but for more economical alternatives have a look around at pricing for Tamron 90mm macros and you might find some secondhand units that are selling cheaply. Be aware that the early versions of that lens will not autofocus with your current camera but that may not be a drawback as many many macro photographers use manual focus anyway.
    Andrew
    Nikon, Fuji, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and too many other bits and pieces to list.



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    Agree with Andrew.

    There is no such thing as a 'cheap' macro lens. What you seek is a good macro lens, that should last a lifetime. Andrew has explained how a true macro lens is 1:1, and I have the Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro he mentions and not only is is a brilliant macro lens, but also a great portrait lens as well. The Tamron 90mm macro won awards as the best macro lens every year for quite a few years and only recently, it has been surpassed by other macro lens offerings. The Nikon 105mm f2.8 is a fine example, but compared the sigma and tamron, you will pay more for one.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    Thankyou kindly for the reply

    I wasn't expecting a free lunch, but just a cheap one that doesn't taste too bad haha

    That was why I wanted to ask, the Sigma looked good, but from what I'd read elsewhere, a dedicated macro was the best option. I just wasn't sure if the sigma fell into that catergory being that its a telephoto lens AND macro... it just confused me a bit, especially as I'd read reveiws that it was a great macro lens... but then i'd also read that it wasn't so much

    Thankyou for the advise though, I will definately have a look into the Tamron alternatives. So realisticly I'm probably looking at between $300 and $400 for a decent macro lens then?

    Again, thankyou... i've been tossing this question up for a couple of months now and am just really struggling to decide one way or the other

    Edit: thanks Ricktas, I had thought that the 1:2 would have been better, being that it was a larger 'zoom'... obviously showing my inexperience here. So i appreciate your advice a lot
    Last edited by Bonsai Jason; 26-02-2015 at 6:08pm.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Jason. Just a point on nomenclature...

    The ratios 1:1, 1:4, x:y, etc refer to "image size - to - subject size".

    That is the same as saying "subject size - to - reciprocal of image size".

    Sigma give a "maximum magnification" size for their lenses.

    That 70-300 you're talking about (which I have, BTW), listed here,
    shows it to be 1:4. Ie, a full size subject will be 1/4 size on the sensor.

    Confusing? It can be.

    So, where the leading figure is larger, such as 2:1, that means the reproduction size at the sensor is
    TWICE life size of the subject.

    OK, just by-the-by. You can now cease to be confused.

    - No, wait! Don't get confused by the "crop factor" of a camera sensor. People somethings think that on a, say,
    APSC camera with a 1.5 crop factor, they will get a 1.5:1 magnification using just a 1:1 macro lens. This is not correct,
    as the ratio, x:y always talks about image and subject sizes - nothing else. (Ie, NOT about "angle of view".)

    Now you can take a Bex and have a good lie down.
    Am.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 26-02-2015 at 6:31pm.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    Jason. Just a point on nomenclature...

    The ratios 1:1, 1:4, x:y, etc refer to "image size - to - subject size".

    That is the same as saying "subject size - to - reciprocal of image size".

    Sigma give a "maximum magnification" size for their lenses.

    That 70-300 you're talking about (which I have, BTW), listed here,
    shows it to be 1:4. Ie, a full size subject will be 1/4 size on the sensor.

    Confusing? It can be.

    So, where the leading figure is larger, such as 2:1, that means the reproduction size at the sensor is
    TWICE life size of the subject.

    OK, just by-the-by. You can now cease to be confused.

    - No, wait! Don't get confused by the "crop factor" of a camera sensor. People somethings think that on a, say,
    APSC camera with a 1.5 crop factor, they will get a 1.5:1 magnification using just a 1:1 macro lens. This is not correct,
    as the ratio, x:y always talks about image and subject sizes - nothing else. (Ie, NOT about "angle of view".)

    Now you can take a Bex and have a good lie down.
    Am.
    Wow! It really is confusing!

    So, with the ratio (that i was looking at backwards lol),1:2, it means that the image that comes out will be half the size of the subject? So if I was to take the same shot with a ratio of 1:1, the image would be life size?

    I'm trying to work this out in my head, but its just not clicking

    And again, thankyou all for taking the time to explain this!! Really cannot say how much I appreciate it
    Last edited by Bonsai Jason; 27-02-2015 at 12:11pm.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    So Jason. From what I saw of your bonsai photos, that can easily be achieved through simple close-up techniques.

    Are you after a macro lens to get right up close?

    Am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonsai Jason View Post
    Wow! It really is confusing!

    So, with the ratio (that i was looking at backwards lol),1:2, it means that the image that comes out will be half the size of the subject? So if I was to take the same shot with a ratio of 1:1, the image would be life size?

    I'm trying to work this out in my head, but its just not clicking

    And again, thankyou all for taking the time to explain this!! Really cannot say how much I appreciate it
    Yes – 1:1 means life size. That is;

    • At 1:1 a 5mm long insect will be recorded as a 5mm long “image” on your sensor.
    • At 2:1, a 5mm long insect will be recorded as a 10mm long “image” on your sensor.


    This is provided that you are at the minimum or closest focusing distance of the macro lens.

    Cheers

    Dennis

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    So Jason. From what I saw of your bonsai photos, that can easily be achieved through simple close-up techniques.

    Are you after a macro lens to get right up close?

    Am.
    I'm more after a macro lens for some more creative shots, not so much for pictures of bonsai

    I use either my kit lens, or my prime mainly for bonsai shows The macro is for shots of leaves, or flowers, etc

    Like my photos below (forgive the newbiness of them lol):

    Moss


    Tiny flowers

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    You need to get several things right to make a macro lens. Just writing "macro" on the outside of the box isn't one of them, alas.

    As Ian pointed out, a macro lens has good magnification (1:1 is usually regarded as the line in the sand for this).

    A proper macro lens also needs to be decently fast - typically f/2.8 or at least f/3.5. But you mostly stop well down (f/11 or so) when shooting macro, so why does this matter? Three reasons, all to do with focus: slow lenses (f/5.6 zooms and the like) don't give the autofocus system the right sort of "bite" to get an exact focus, and in macro work, a couple of millimetres out is all it takes to ruin a shot. Secondly, you need a bright, sharp image in your viewfinder to focus or check focus manually - as you get very close, there is less and less light, so a scene that looks fine at 50m is too dark to see properly at 50mm. This applies to all cameras but is especially so with crop bodies. Thirdly, you need a really shallow depth of field while you are framing the shot so that you can tell where the focus plane is, and for this you need a fast lens. Yes, the camera will stop down to (say) f/11 before it fires the shutter, but you want it as wide open as possible up until then. (This is actually the same reason, more or less, as the first reason, but applied to your eye rather than the electronic eye of the AF system. The underlying physics is the key.)

    A proper macro lens generally has a long, slow focus mechanism designed for very fine close-up adjustments rather than the faster, shorter mechanism you would design for a general-purpose lens. It's not essential, but it helps.

    Finally, a real macro lens is optimised for close-up work. That is its comfort zone. Among other things, it will have a flat plane of focus at short distances. (General purpose lenses tend to have a curved "plane" of focus, which doesn't usually matter at, say, 10 metres from the subject.)

    In short, if you possibly can, get a proper macro lens, not a general purpose lens with "macro" written on the box. They are not expensive (though they are not dirt cheap either) and I'm not aware of any outright bad ones on the market today. You'd almost certainly be happy with any of them. I'm a bit out of touch with the newer models so I'll leave it to others to make specific recommendations.

    Oh, and any decent macro lens also doubles as a more-than-handy portrait lens. I used to love using my 60mm Canon macro for landscapes and portraits on crop, and now that I've gone full frame, I use a 100mm one with equally pleasing results. Most people stat out with something in the 100mm category - 90mm, 105mm, something like that. I found the 60 was a little bit short for close-up work, though that's a matter of taste.
    Tony

    Edit and critique at will. Tokina 10-17 fish, Canon 10-22, 24-105, 100-400, TS-E 24, 35/1.4, 60 macro, 100L macro, 500/4, Wimberley, MT-24EX, 580EX-II, 1D IV, 7D, 5D II, 50D.

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    Wow Tony, thankyou so much for that explanation, that helps more then I can say

    I think in looking a macro lens, i got caught up in the sales pitch on the general purpose lens. I'm going to save my dollars I think, and get one that will give me the results I want

    There really is so much more to a lens then I orignally thought! I'm probably finding that the hardest part in learning photography, just when I think i'm getting it, i find out that I was way off the mark haha

    Can't say how glad i am to have found this forum!!

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say you're off the mark. Rather, when you "get" something, you realise there's something else that opens up
    for consideration. Eventually little loops (of understanding) start closing. Don't worry if later you may have to open a couple
    up again to interlock them with other ideas...


    and so on...

    Am.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 27-02-2015 at 3:06pm.

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    Normally my comments would pretty much parallel Andrew's (I@M) on this topic.
    Tamron 90mm is a very good starting point for the low price.

    BUT!!! in this instance, I'd say forget that. Too pricey(for you) .. considering your less than $200 budget.

    Sigma 70-300 can provide some nice results at certain settings, but for macro .. again forget it! It's not going to give you decent results in the long run.

    I think a better alternative for you ATM would be an old Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 lens.
    The reason is simple .. very high quality lens, and cheap.
    Seeing that you have a D5200, you're in the ideal situation where you can use non Ai lenses(which most of these lenses will be) without issues.

    These lenses can go from anywhere between $50 - about $200 for a brand new condition version .. but in general about $70-80ish in good nik!

    Only drawback with these lenses is that they are full manual only, meaning not only manual focus, but manual exposure too, so you need to guesstimate exposure to get images come out right.

    I want one of these lenses one day, and if my name was Lucky(as opposed to AK83), I reckon I'd have 523 of these lenses by now. I've put so many bids on these lenses on ebay over the past few years, but keep getting beat by a dollar or two every time. This is only because I refuse to pay more than they are worth, so won't get into a bidding war over them. They're common as muck.

    An alternate source of these lenses is KEH, and you can get good copies of these lenses for about $70-ish.

    This is where my issue with the ebay prices comes from. I can get one from KEH for $70, but many ebayers of course want more for them .. and in some instances much more for the same thing!
    Problem with KEH is their shipping prices .. from memory about $65 or so. So you can get a good lens for $62, and the shipping doubles this!
    So, I've come to a dilemma, in that I constantly place bids on them on ebay, only to get beat by a dollar.
    In the end I'll just succumb and get one from KEH I reckon. (no rush).

    If all that is too much, then do like I@M said .. Tammy 90mm f/2.8. If you ever update to a D7100 type camera body, you'll then have AF too

    I reckon you should be able to find one S/H for about $150 or so .. maybe less.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Hi Jase,

    Just my 2c worth, my wife is a macro lover and she has the Tamron 90mm for her 5100. For under $500 brand new, I think it is great value and you should get great results. You will love it.

    Dan
    "The oxen are slow, but the Earth is patient"

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Only drawback with these lenses is that they are full manual only, meaning not only manual focus, but manual exposure too, so you need to guesstimate exposure to get images come out right.

    I want one of these lenses one day, and if my name was Lucky(as opposed to AK83), I reckon I'd have 523 of these lenses by now. I've put so many bids on these lenses on ebay over the past few years, but keep getting beat by a dollar or two every time. This is only because I refuse to pay more than they are worth, so won't get into a bidding war over them. They're common as muck.

    Thankyou for that! You may just have someone else bidding against you now :P

    I do like the sound of it, however the manual mode, especially manual exposure, makes me hesitate. But then if I could get one for under $100 it'd be hard to pass it up.

    Thanks a heap again guys, the advice around here is amazing!

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonsai Jason View Post
    ...however the manual mode, especially manual exposure, makes me hesitate...
    That delirious state should last fully five seconds, after which you will need a sedative to calm down your glad-that-you-got-it-ness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    That delirious state should last fully five seconds, after which you will need a sedative to calm down your glad-that-you-got-it-ness.
    HAHA to be honest, at that price I don't think I could really go wrong!

    And if I could pick it up for a decent price, then I'd be able to get my wide angle that much quicker, which is next on the list... or equal on the list really Am still tossing up between the too, everyday i seem to change my mind between getting a macro or going wide lol If i could simply win lotto, this would be so much easier! haha

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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    I agree with the Tamron recommendation. I was looker for a cheaper Macro and I have the Tamron 90mm. It's a very good lens and well beyond my capability along with being suitable for full frame. The reviews of the lens are also very good.

    It works surprisingly well for portraits although focus is a little on the slow side for any movement.

    Macro isn't my focus area (so excuse the settings of the camera because the DOF is a little shallow in some which is largely me and not the lens) but this should give you an idea of what it is capable of:







    This is just a normal photo where I was too lazy to change lenses.

    Fuji XT-2, Fuji VPB-XT2, Fujinon 16-55 f/2.8, Fujinon 50-140 f/2.8, Fujinon 23 f/2, Fujinon 35 f2, Fujinon 90 f/2, Yongnuo YN560 IV, Yongnuo YN560 TX, Benro C3580T
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/atholhill
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    Very nice! Particularly like the first one! They really make me itch to get one now

    So if I was to upgrade to a full frame camera, this would still be a decent lens? More out of curiosity then anything, the full frame is still a LONG way off in reality
    Last edited by Bonsai Jason; 04-03-2015 at 6:25pm.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    "Decency" aside, it would suit the camera, as it's a "full-frame" lens.

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