help me spend my money for a macro lens

mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
edited February 2014 in Nikon DSLR cameras
so, i am considering buying a new lens for small product stuff. i got OK results with my 50, and 70-200, but they could be better. i have been reading around a lot, and have read through the old threads on here, which gave me some ideas, but also raised more questions

i am taking pictures of small stuff 5mm across up to around 20cm.

here is what i am thinking so far as a result of what i have read:

60mm micro nikkor - affordable, but you have to be really close up to the stuff - might make lighting more difficult

105mm micro nikkor - gets to f57 so would help to get more of the product in focus

85mm pce / 90mm schneider = more depth of field and more control

would you say that my opinions on the above are correct? and what lens would you guys recommend, and why? are there any lenses i should be considering that i havent mentioned above?

please tell me what you would buy, and why? and id love to see some examples if you have any .....
Post edited by Msmoto on
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Comments

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    The 105 2.8 would be the one I would go with. It is very sharp and has served me quite well. The ability to add a teleconverter is also a big plus. It's AF is also very respectful. Last but not least, VR is also another bonus.

    Sample images...all shot by hand-held:

    Shot on a D7000:

    ARN_3088-3

    Shot on a D4

    ARN_5552.jpg

    ARN_0027.jpg

    ARN_6949.jpg
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    another vote for the 105mm micro Nikkor
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    If money is no object, the 200mm f4 rocks and can't be beat. It is an old lens but still has superb optics. I intend to buy this lens BEFORE Nikon upgrades it. What will an upgrade have?

    VR? Are you kidding? If you are not on a tripod focus will be your issue, not shake. This lens is a very sharp distortion free telephoto, but it is not why you are buying this lens. Buy the 70-200 f4 for that.

    The cheap plasticky feel of the newer Nikon lens such as the new 105? Get a professional grade solid metal build while you still can.

    Extra $1,000? They will justify it with VR. Meh!!!

    And if I was going to wait for an upgrade, it would be because I believed that Nikon was adding great bokeh without otherwise compromising the optics. I would tolerate another $500 and a plastic build for that. If Nikon promised to LEAVE OUT the VR, my tolerance would increase to $1,000.

    Did I mention the superb manual focus on this lens. Half the barel length is the focus ring. If you really get into macro, you will be manually focussing. In fact, if I was going to design a perfect upgrade to this lens, I would change nothing except to trade auto-focus for bokeh!
  • +1 for the 200mm f4 Macro!

    Not because of any feel or any plastic or whatever, but simply because if you want macro and product photography, you want to be able to get far enough away from the object with the camera so you have space for lighting etc. The short focal lengths, even the 105, don't give you enough space if you want to fill the frame.

    The Schneider is a very nice lens if it's the one I'm thinking, but it's too short focal length.

    Apart from the perfect focal length, the 200mm is a *very* good lens, optically, and I'd say it can compete with the very best lenses on the market, especially concerning sharpness. I've only rented it a couple of times and don't own it, otherwise I'd show you some demo shots.

    The otherwise often ambivalent Ken Rockwell wrote a review on the lens that I'd agree with fully.

    It's the best you can get, so if you can afford it, go for it.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited February 2014


    The cheap plasticky feel of the newer Nikon lens such as the new 105? Get a professional grade solid metal build while you still can.
    Huh? Have you shot the 105? No plasticky feel there...so not sure what you mean by that. It is built just like any of NIkon's other pro lenses.

    I vote the 105 as it is Nikon's best macro lens, but another option might be something like the Sigma 150 F2.8 if you need more working room. I wouldn't waste the money on the 200 F4 for not really gaining anything IMO. Especially if you are in a controlled environment.

    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    My 105 shots:
    DSC_0247

    DSC_0130

    DSC_0025

    DSC_0359-1

    DSC_0356-1

    DSC_0347-1
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited February 2014
    105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor
    105mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor Test
    f/22 ISO 100 SB-800 Custom Soft light

    85mm f/1.8 Nikkor
    Close Ups
    f/11, 1/800, ISO 6400 D4

    Bugs & Such
    28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 Nikkor at 28mm, f/13, 1/800, ISO 1600

    However, if you are interested in serious product photography….think carefully about a PC lens or mounting the macro lens on a bellows with the ability to tilt/shift the front board such as the PC-E Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D. For best results have the tilt/shift axes aligned in one plane.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    You mentioned product photography so I assume you will be in a studio.

    Macro lenses are great, but if you are in a studio, you might want to consider using a bellows and an enlarging lens. You can get all the components from E-bay. My set up was less than $250 and I could have gotten it cheaper if I were a bit more patient.

    Now a bellows/enlarger lens won't work well in the field, but in a nice stable controled studio environment, I have found it very handy and versitile. The key, in my opinion is using the enlarger lens, reversed, as it is a lens designed for flat plane focus.

    Good luck with it. If I were spending your money, there are some $2,000 lenses I would buy with your money. If, however, you are spending your money, there are other choices.

    Good luck with it!
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member


    The cheap plasticky feel of the newer Nikon lens such as the new 105? Get a professional grade solid metal build while you still can.
    Huh? Have you shot the 105? No plasticky feel there...so not sure what you mean by that. It is built just like any of NIkon's other pro lenses.

    I vote the 105 as it is Nikon's best macro lens, but another option might be something like the Sigma 150 F2.8 if you need more working room. I wouldn't waste the money on the 200 F4 for not really gaining anything IMO. Especially if you are in a controlled environment.

    I have tried out all the micros and PCs that Nikon makes including the current 105's immediate predessor.

    Note the 85mm 1.4G in my signature. Cheap plasticky feel? Yes? Is it as cheap and plasticky as my 50mm 1.4G? Not quite. Note the 135mm DC 2.0 in my signature (superb optics). This lens is built like an M1A1 Abrams. I am willing to pay money for that. My 50mm 1.2 MF? It could be sold in a jewellery store (but optically, not as good as I like it).

    So I stand by my original comment. The 105 has a cheap plasticky feel. Sorry tcole1983. The 200mm F4 is on my wish list and I won't bother with anything shorter.

    And as FlowtoGraphyBerlin said, you can shoot from farther away away with the 200. With wildlife, the 105 is too short. With coins and postage stamps the 105 is fine but even then you have to work harder with the lighting.

    And mikes, if you really want lots in focus, get a tripod and focus stack. Even better, add on macro focus rails. The RSS system is on my list.
  • michael66michael66 Posts: 231Member
    105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor
    However, if you are interested in serious product photography….think carefully about a PC lens or mounting the macro lens on a bellows with the ability to tilt/shift the front board such as the PC-E Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D. For best results have the tilt/shift axes aligned in one plane.
    Wonderful shots, @msmoto! PAD worthy.

    I've just started back into macro photography and use the older AF version without VR ( used from KEH for less than $400 ). Most of the time, I find I do a manual focus. But it is a nice portrait lens on a DX.

    A question; I understand why you would need such a camera for architecture, but why for macro? Wouldn't tilting the body ( and therefore the lens ) be just as effective?
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited February 2014
    @ThomasHorton

    +1 on the enlarging lens…. El Nikkor are inexpensive on eBAy. Or, if MNO, something like the new Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* ZF.2. Both on bellows with tilt/ shift.

    When shooting products, the camera may be tilted down from a perspective above the object,i.e., a box of cereal. Correcting this in camera is always best IMO, rather than trying to correct in post. Also, clients do not want to see a distorted image in the camera….they are sometimes very sensitive regarding their products.

    Product photos are most easily done with a view camera where a full range of adjustments are possible to obtain the desired DOF, plane of focus, and perspective. All of this is of course just my opinion.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor
    However, if you are interested in serious product photography….think carefully about a PC lens or mounting the macro lens on a bellows with the ability to tilt/shift the front board such as the PC-E Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D. For best results have the tilt/shift axes aligned in one plane.
    Wonderful shots, @msmoto! PAD worthy.

    I've just started back into macro photography and use the older AF version without VR ( used from KEH for less than $400 ). Most of the time, I find I do a manual focus. But it is a nice portrait lens on a DX.

    A question; I understand why you would need such a camera for architecture, but why for macro? Wouldn't tilting the body ( and therefore the lens ) be just as effective?
    You may want to change the focus plain without changing the perspective.

    ThomasHorten, good point on the bellows.

    And guys, the 105 is a decent lens, but Mikep asked for options and I am pointing out the "ultimate" options, albeit more expensive. Half measures (105 / 200 is about half) are not my style and that is the perspective I am coming from.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member


    The cheap plasticky feel of the newer Nikon lens such as the new 105? Get a professional grade solid metal build while you still can.
    Huh? Have you shot the 105? No plasticky feel there...so not sure what you mean by that. It is built just like any of NIkon's other pro lenses.

    I vote the 105 as it is Nikon's best macro lens, but another option might be something like the Sigma 150 F2.8 if you need more working room. I wouldn't waste the money on the 200 F4 for not really gaining anything IMO. Especially if you are in a controlled environment.

    I have tried out all the micros and PCs that Nikon makes including the current 105's immediate predessor.

    Note the 85mm 1.4G in my signature. Cheap plasticky feel? Yes? Is it as cheap and plasticky as my 50mm 1.4G? Not quite. Note the 135mm DC 2.0 in my signature (superb optics). This lens is built like an M1A1 Abrams. I am willing to pay money for that. My 50mm 1.2 MF? It could be sold in a jewellery store (but optically, not as good as I like it).

    So I stand by my original comment. The 105 has a cheap plasticky feel. Sorry tcole1983. The 200mm F4 is on my wish list and I won't bother with anything shorter.
    No doubt I saw what you own in your signature. Not saying it is solid metal like the older lenses, but it doesn't feel "cheap" like the variable aperture lenses. It has the same build quality as any of the F4, F2.8 pro lenses. So your perception of build quality isn't actually build quality, but that of Nikon used to make old heavy all metal lenses...and the new ones aren't. But I would never equate it to how great a lens is.

    Anyway you have your heart set on the 200...which still isn't long enough for wildlife, but it obviously gives more working room and some reach for other purposes. The 105 has VR, nano coating, AF-S and costs half the price of the 200 F4. And he mentioned he already has the 70-200 F4...so no need for it really. I highly doubt there is any benefit of the 200 F4 in a controlled macro setting besides possibly a little more working room for lighting which isn't a problem with the 105...maybe the 60 F2.8 or 40 F2.8, but again cost a fraction of $1600.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    Having used both the 105 and 200, I'd say that the 200 is designed to be manually focused, whereas the 105 isn't specifically so. So if you're not getting rails, it's more 'macro comfortable'.
    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    +1 for the 200mm f4 Macro!
    i did read about this 200mm f4, but i worry that with the longer focal length of 200mm the depth of field will get shallower and prevent me from getting the objects sharp from front to back

    i dont really want to do a bunch of focus stacking as surely it will just add a lot more time to the work, and i would like the option to have either a shallow DOF, or the whole product in focus should i choose

    correct me if i am wrong, but wont a bellows solution create the same issue, ie increasing the focal length and shortening the DOF in the process? and also, the bellows i have seen only go back and forth, and do not offer the tilt/shift function ?








  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    @Mikep - not directly addressing your question directly, but there comes a time in macro when you will want to get closer than hand-holding and a small aperture/flash combo will just not be enough. Focus stacking is something you should be prepared for... and I would encourage you to try it. With a decent computer, it doesn't take long and when you're shooting something 5mm in size, you'll probably want as much sharpness as possible, making the end result worth the effort.

    A (my favorite) focus stack I did a while ago, that sold me on the process:

    image

    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    ^^Awesome. What program? I'm thinking about delving into this for exactly these kinds of shots.
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    yeah, i am sure stacking works well, and gets great results, and i am sure i will try it sometimes, but

    for the time being i need to do a large number of products, so i am looking for a setup where i can switch them in and out quite fast. id like to get everything set up and then just send the products through without having to then spend time on each one. (im gonna be doing some watch straps/batteries/watches etc)

    im starting to think i have to buy a tilt/shift, but i dont want to spend that much if i can help it

    does anyone have an example of the 105mm @ f57, to demonstrate the DOF available ?
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    The wildlife that I am talking about is the wildlife that Elvishefer has in the previous post. Spiders and ants, not BIF.

    In a controlled environment, the 105 will work, it is just not as good as the 200mm. However, it is half the price. IQ is probably similar.

    Note that both go to F32, though the DOF on the 200 will be narrower due to the longer focal length.

    I believe that you will have an issue with teleconverters with the 200mm. Not sure if it is just a focus issue. But I have a TC-201 that I have saved for my 200mm. My friend (the one with all the macros and PCs) uses a TC-201 with his 200mm and it works well giving him a 2:1 reproduction ratio, though only in MF, but is auto-focus really important with Macro?

    Mikep, I doubt that you will be able to get much "all in focus" with a reproduction ratio of 1:1 at any aperture. Focus stacking is something that you will want to wrap your head around if you want to get really serious.
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    oh right, i had read it went to f57, perhaps that is a mistake ?
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    oh right, i had read it went to f57, perhaps that is a mistake ?
    Mistake...F32 is the most.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    edited February 2014
    For the record, I have been able to use the 105 with a TC1.4 to great effect.
    _DSC4018
    _DSC4000

    As well as an extender to change the minimum shooting distance:
    _DSC6752
    _DSC4816
    Post edited by proudgeek on
  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    @proudgeek - just photoshop. I started out by following this tutorial:

    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • mikepmikep Posts: 280Member
    i think stacking is ok, but i dont think it can be part of an efficient workflow ? i duno. ...

    im leaning towards tilt shift, id really prefer a single exposure tbh
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited February 2014
    Mikep, you don't mention what body you are using, but one way to increase DoF is to use a crop sensor, which also turns that 105 into a 158.
    Post edited by Ironheart on
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