how will i choose a macro lens?

zoranzoran Posts: 27Member
edited March 2015 in Nikon Lenses
I want to deal with macro photography. I have a NIKON D7000 and would like a help on how to start looking for a macro lens. A few questions...
1. What specifications should I look for the candidate macro lens?
2. what exactly does a flash ring do and in which cases should one be used?
3. is it limited to mounting on specific lenses?
4. I've noticed there are lenses with large / small diameters etc. For example, in practice what distinguishes a lens Nikon AFS 105mm F2.8 VR from a Nikon AF-D 60mm f / 2.8 micro?
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  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,518Member
    Nice series of question. But first, from one NRF member to another, welcome to NRF.

    I owned the Nikon 55mm macro lens for ten years and then about 6 years ago sold it and bought the AF-S 105 F2.8 VR lens. I have also used one of the Tamron 90mm macro F2.8 ($500-$750) lens at a photo workshop. With the move from 55mm to 105 what you gain is the distance between the front object you are photographing and the film plain. Translation you get more working distance between the front of the lens and object which is very important when doing 1:1 images. Have not used the Sigma 105mm F2.8 at $669 or the 180mm F2.8 at $1,699.

    Since you are using a DX DSLR the 105 is equivalent to a 157.5mm lens which is even better for those micro shots.

    Question 1: Look for feedback from users of the lens, check DxO site for results, and Popular Photography testing. I assume, but don't know for sure, but Nasim Mansurov at www.photographylife.com should have tested this lens and perhaps other macro lens. I have taken over 1,000 images with this lens and I love everything about it. Very sharp and great brokem. When it doesn't AF correctly I switch to manual. Did I say this is a very sharp lens.

    Question 2: There are lots of options. Depends upon our budget. Check my signature for the generic ring I use. Mine is an interim ring light to see how much I really would use it.

    Question 3: Most ring lights screw into the filter ring but some mount on your flash shoe or to an "L" bracket or on a RRS extension bracket.

    Question 4: Pay more attention to the length of the lens...40/55/60/105mm etc. This is far more important than F stop value. For the type of images I take the 105mm is much better than the shorter ones.

    I am sure you will get lots of comments from others. I know Sigma or Tamron also makes a 180mm lens
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    edited March 2015
    What do you want to shoot with "macro" ? that will narrow down your choices.

    Macro lenses are used for the following reasons.
    1) Photographing paintings or stamps. They usually have a flat image plane whereas most other non macro lenses have field curvature. This is where the Nikons lenses have a big advantage over the third party macro lenses.

    2) Photographing Products - usually small, like rings or jewellery. the 35 to 60mm macro lenses are best for these as they provide a nice FOV (makes the diamond on the ring look much bigger!). Here a ring flash is very useful.

    3) Photographing insects - The longer the lense the better. I have a 150mm macro and there are 180 and 200mm macro lenses. These gives you good working distance between the tip of your lense and the subject so it doesn’t get spooked and fly away!

    4) Portraits - the 105 and 60mm are very good portrait lenses that allows you to get really close for the "eye" shot!


    Not sure what you mean by "diameters" do you mean the focal lengths ? or the apertures ?
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    The first thing I bought when I wanted to get into macro was a set of extension tubes so I could focus closer. Some folks prefer reversing rings, but either way a good value for the cost.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/375238-REG/Kenko_AEXTUBEDGN_Auto_Extension_Tube_Set.html
    image
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,025Member
    You ask some great questions, but it'd really help us if you can also let us know how much you're willing to spend. It's not to say you can't get great images for cheap, but it also lets us know what your upper limit is in terms of lenses and accessories.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    The 105 F2.8 is probably my best and most favorite lens I own. However I have not had a chance to check out many of the third party brand options that are available now. I did try to 60 and 85 Nikons before I purchased my 105 and they were good, but not exactly what I wanted. I got the 105 because it had the best working distance of the modern Nikons (there is an older 200 F4, but it isn't af-s which I needed and pretty expensive). Since I have owned mine I have found it is such a versatile lens. It is an awesome portrait lens and great for telephoto shots as well. It has VR and nano coating. It is really hard to find a downside to the 105. That being said every one of the Nikon macro lenses are sharp. My friend owns an older sigma 105 and he doesn't like it. He always asks to use mine when we are shooting together. The newer one might be better.

    But as others have said...price and use are important factors. If you have an idea what you want to shoot that would help.

    Some examples of the 105
    DSC_0198_20140917_1239-1

    DSC_0126

    DSC_0040-1

    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)
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,518Member
    Here are some of my photos using the 105mm F2.8 on a D750.
    DSC_1385

    DSC_0934

    DSC_0739

    As tcole1983 said, it's an excellent lens and very sharp. What is your budget?
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,901Member
    If you are shooting postage stamps or any other flat piece of paper, buy a good scanner. IQ will be better.

    If you are shooting animals (insects) then you want to get as far away as possible. Here is an example with my 200mm f/4:

    Any Nectar Here?

    And another:

    Succulent Nectar

    and another:
    The Eye

    but this is an expensive lens at $2,000. Don't let the fact that it is old sway you if you like the focal length. It is arguably the best macro you can buy. The large focus ring superb - yes, you will be focussing manually if you really get into macro.

    Another advantage of a longer lens, is that you will not block your light. Light is your biggest challenge when shooting macro as you will want to stop down to avoid a paper thin depth of field. The Nikon ring light system (R1C1) is an example of a good ring light system to buy.

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited March 2015
    @zoran: Our member above have given you some much food for thought. Macro photography is very unique form of photography. It will require a good amount knowledge base about your subject and the level of detail you intend to show your viewing audience. Hence, focus stacking.

    But to begin, you will and should get a real macro lens. I have the 105 2.8 and find it to be an amazing lens to own....and not just for macro. It is a joy to shoot with regardless of the subject. Get it and start playing with it. Once you have played with it and are ready to "invest" in really macro work, we will give you some other goodies to get. Hence, put aside a $1000 at the least.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    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 |
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,021Moderator
    edited March 2015
    @zoran: As asked by heartyfisher, why do you want a macro lens? If you can answer that point we will know better what to recommend and explain why. Everybody is recommending you long focal length macro lenses on the assumption that you are shooting insects which they prefer to shoot with a lot of distance between them and the subject but if you are wanting to shoot table-top still life (for example) then you could spend a great deal less money and get better results. What I mean is, if you want to photograph flowers in a vase with a 105mm ($734 from B&H) you may need to be around 15 feet (5m) away from the subject (!) but if you used a 40mm macro ($246 from B&H), you could be only 3 feet (1m) away. when shooting insects, I find I get much more pleasing results using flash up-close with a 40mm or 60mm lens than I do using available light and a 105mm or 200mm lens. My old 60mm macro cost me just about $200 but it can't be beaten for sharpness:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/spraynpray/16450897122/sizes/o/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/spraynpray/16431321286/sizes/o/

    There are a couple of images large size that I shot with it using flash up close.

    More info please!
    Post edited by spraynpray on
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited March 2015

    2. what exactly does a flash ring do and in which cases should one be used?
    3. is it limited to mounting on specific lenses?

    2 in very simple terms a ring flash allows shadowless lighting. with Macro photography the lens and camera can get in the way of normal lighting

    3 there are as many types of ring flash, as there are cameras
    The Nikon Close-Up Speedlight comes with a set of adaptors to fit any Nikon Macro lens
    Some cheap ring flashes, that use the light from say an SB xxx , are specific to the camera, the flash and the lens. I would avoid these

    Depending on what other lenses you have, to get started I would look at

    The affordable Nikon 60MM f/2.8 D Micro AF Lens
    or from more money
    The Nikon 105MM f/2.8G IF-ED AF S VR II Micro Lens

    in practice what distinguishes a lens Nikon AFS 105mm F2.8 VR from a Nikon AF-D 60mm f / 2.8 micro? -

    They are different focal lengths the 105 will give you a greater working distance between the subject and the camera, useful for bugs and other creepy crawlies

    Forget macro zooms

    extension ring are cheap but tricky to use

    Macro photography is a very big subject, start but getting a good book

    http://nikonrumors.com/forum/topic.php?id=3387

    the above thread is a bit out of date from the old forum and is locked

    may be we need a new one ??

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited March 2015
    Guess I forgot to talk about the flash. It basically gets the light in front of the camera because of the small working distance of macro shots. I haven't ever used it, but seriously considered the Nikon R1C1 at one point. If you look at the pictures of the flash setup you can probably figure out how it would help when taking a picture of something 6 or so inches away from the front of the lens element. Depending on your lens choice though you might be able to get away with an SBXXX external flash in the hotshoe. Lighting might not be perfect with it, but it is possible to at least not get the shadow from the lens with it if you aren't too close.

    Here is a shot just using the SB400
    DSC_0130
    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)
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,021Moderator
    Sorry TC, you'll never get away with an SB in the flash shoe unless you put on of these clip-on ringflashes on it. You can use an SB but it needs to have a modifier close to the subject which means on a long bracket if you use a 105mm - especially on a DX. 40 or 60 on DX give best lighting options but you have to commit to the genre more fully than with a 105 and available light.
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited March 2015
    unless you put on of these clip-on ringflashes on it.
    I have tried these and found them completely useless
    I use the Nikon Wireless Close-up Speedlight System with 4 SB-R200s
    I use an SB 900 as a controller/ trigger, rather than the overpriced SU 800

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited March 2015
    Sorry TC, you'll never get away with an SB in the flash shoe unless you put on of these clip-on ringflashes on it. You can use an SB but it needs to have a modifier close to the subject which means on a long bracket if you use a 105mm - especially on a DX. 40 or 60 on DX give best lighting options but you have to commit to the genre more fully than with a 105 and available light.
    All depends on your lens and how close you are trying to get. I have gotten away with it on my 105 when not too close. Or course I have gotten shadows from the lens also. I almost always just shoot natural light though so it hasn't been an issue for me. When I did do some shots inside I just used lamps and constant lighting I had around my house.

    I used an sb400 on the mushroom picture above. It is possible in some cases.
    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)
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,708Member
    owning the older sigma 150mm 2.8 I can say that is a nice lens but heavy and it was slow to focus.
    I have the 55 2.8 ai-s it is a nice little gem.
    Off camera flash

    For my sunshine

    I agree that off camera flash will work better. I shot a cake one day with the speedlight on hot shoe pointing at the celing at the results were not flattering. The lens used was the 105mm.

    I haven't done much macro with it but I do have a test shot. I had the speedlight on a softbox and that is all I remember. Not sure if it was on camera or off.

    I left this photo unedited.

    Macro test shot

    I would have liked the 200mm f4 but I wanted to go with the 105mm as it is one that is mostly high on the recommended list.

    Plus I have used it for portraits and the AF is fantastic.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,021Moderator
    Sorry TC, you'll never get away with an SB in the flash shoe unless you put on of these clip-on ringflashes on it. You can use an SB but it needs to have a modifier close to the subject which means on a long bracket if you use a 105mm - especially on a DX. 40 or 60 on DX give best lighting options but you have to commit to the genre more fully than with a 105 and available light.
    All depends on your lens and how close you are trying to get. I have gotten away with it on my 105 when not too close. Or course I have gotten shadows from the lens also. I almost always just shoot natural light though so it hasn't been an issue for me. When I did do some shots inside I just used lamps and constant lighting I had around my house.

    I used an sb400 on the mushroom picture above. It is possible in some cases.
    You illustrate my point exactly TC as IMHO your mushroom shot has a tad too much shadow behind it for my liking, and the light is a little too harsh straight on. That is of course, the trade-off for using a long lens with a greater working distance whereas a shorter lens allows the light modifier to be closer to the subject and the light to wrap around more as in my white butterfly shot.
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    For the economy minded, a reversing ring on a normal lens, combined with a light box attached to one's on camera flash can produce excellent results for very little expenditure.
    Or, a lot of money can be spent in getting the macro lens of your choice.

    For a beginning pursuit, I might recommend the first alternative.
    Msmoto, mod
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,901Member
    edited March 2015
    All of this is why I bought the 200mm f/4. I have rarely found myself worrying about shadows and getting in the way of the light.

    However, with Macro, shooting at f/4 (or 5.6 at a "1" reproduction ratio on my 200mm f/4) produces an extremely narrow depth of field and I often want to shoot at f/16 or even f/22, but rarely can because there is just not enough light. I am thinking about what kind of off camera lighting setup to use. I currently own 5 SB-910s. I am thinking of buying the RRS off camera flash accessories to leverage this investment.

    I also have a TC-201 which gives me double the reproduction ratio and the Kenko extension tube set. This of course compounds the lighting issue, so I have not used these much. After I get my lighting sorted out, I will combine all of these tools to see what kind of images I can capture.
    Post edited by WestEndFoto on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,021Moderator
    Reversed primes do give fabulous sharpness and, if a wide angle of 24mm is used, a high degree of reproduction ratio but the difficulty of using reversed primes means that is it better for the more practised user IMHO.

    My best bang for the buck would be the 60 micro as it can be taken to FX later and goes to 1:1. Most people think macro is anything close-ish. 1:1 is hard to do and most people never go close in normal use.
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited March 2015
    Here is an interesting (to me) close up, shot with the 24mm f/3.5 PC Nikkor.

    Aces_II_03.17.14

    Bigger, and one can easily see how this was shot:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/13221868723/sizes/o/

    So, sometimes thinking out of the box can be useful.

    Or this, both examples using the tilt feature of the lens, as well as the swing, to some degree.

    Train_N_Scale_03.18.14

    Bigger: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/13248423815/sizes/o/
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,021Moderator
    Whoooooa! Sweet!
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    The Op is a completed beginner as S&P says the Nikon 60MM f/2.8 D Micro AF Lens
    will get him started and maintain all the auto features he is used to
    PC lenses and reversing rings is just going to confuse him
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member

    You illustrate my point exactly TC as IMHO your mushroom shot has a tad too much shadow behind it for my liking, and the light is a little too harsh straight on. That is of course, the trade-off for using a long lens with a greater working distance whereas a shorter lens allows the light modifier to be closer to the subject and the light to wrap around more as in my white butterfly shot.
    I said it could be used to light the object...it isn't the best choice. An off camera flash setup with a soft box would provide better lighting...I am not denying that. I also won't overly rate my macro skills...I am not sure I do it right at all. And I usually don't do super close shots.

    Your examples are much better than mine ^:)^ I need some practice apparently....or some more macro flash gear.
    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)
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,708Member
    edited March 2015
    @WestEndFoto how about adding the softbox you just ordered? Now that I remember I saw a photo on flickr with the same softbox and sb-910 of a flower shot. Thats what convinced me to order mine. The white flower above i used the rogue flashbender above camera if memory serves me well. Its ok but I would preffer the softbox for the controlled light.
    Post edited by Vipmediastar_JZ on
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member

    1. What specifications should I look for the candidate macro lens?
    2. what exactly does a flash ring do and in which cases should one be used?
    3. is it limited to mounting on specific lenses?
    4. I've noticed there are lenses with large / small diameters etc. For example, in practice what distinguishes a lens Nikon AFS 105mm F2.8 VR from a Nikon AF-D 60mm f / 2.8 micro?
    1. I think a lot will depend on what you shoot. I think at a minimum you'd want a 1:1 reproduction ratio. Being able to shoot wide open is less of an issue, since so much of macro photography is shot stopped down anyway.

    2. I use one in focus stacking situations to generate a certain effect, and in low-light situations in the field. If you're shooting with a tripod, a flash is generally less necessary (although I love mine). I often use a diffuser.

    3. My RC1 kit can mount on virtually any lens up to 77mm, thank to multiple adapter rings.

    4. The macro lenses I've seen tend to have smaller diameters. For instance, my 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 are 77mm diameter lenses. My 105mm macro is smaller (62mm). Someone smarter than I will have to tell you why.

    For someone with a D7000 on a budget, the 85mm f/3.5 or the 40mm f/2.8 (both DX lenses) would be a nice intro to macro shooting.

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