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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Best Lens For Macro

Lenses That Get You Close • Stabilizing On Monopods And Tripods • Remote Camera Control • The Wildflower Photographer’s Toolbox

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips

Classic Colorado Columbine. Lepp used a 180mm macro lens to emphasize the columbines in the foreground by throwing the background out of focus. The lens was stopped down to ƒ/11 to maximize the depth of field on the subject, keeping it sharp. 1⁄250 sec. at ISO 200

Lenses That Get You Close

Q I want a macro lens to capture close-ups of spring wildflowers. There are several choices, however, and I'm not sure which type of lens to purchase. What are the pros and cons of each available type?
K. Brian
Seattle, Washington

A When choosing a macro lens, it's not just about magnification. You need to consider also the type of sensor your camera has (full-frame or APS-C), the kind of working distance you need and the variety of uses you plan. Once you have a macro lens, you'll be photographing more than flowers with it, I guarantee.

Standard-focal-length macros in the 50-65mm range for full-frame and APS-C cameras have been around for a long time. They usually offer magnification to 1X, but with limited working distance—that is, the distance from the front of the lens to the subject. In other words, to use the lens effectively, you have to position it very close to the subject. This makes it difficult to get enough light onto it, whether it's ambient light or flash, and tends to scare away live subjects, such as insects.

There are special macro lenses in the 60mm range designed just for the APS-C-sensor formats. The angle of view of these macros is equivalent to approximately a 100mm macro, which means you can achieve 1X with them.

If you can only buy one macro lens, I think the best choice is in the 90-105mm focal lengths. These offer more working distance and still give 1X magnification; most have exceptional image stabilization for handholding.

The telephoto macros in the 180-200mm focal-length range offer the most working distance for a true macro lens. They also offer 1X magnification without any accessories, and because they're a longer focal length, they tend to throw the background out of focus when desired. Because of the working distance and the ability to isolate the subject from a busy background, this is the ideal butterfly lens.

Another macro lens, exclusive to Canon, is the MP-E 65mm 1-5X lens. It won't focus to infinity, but gives excellent sharpness from 1X to 5X on a Canon full-frame DSLR. The magnification is 1.6X to 8X with a camera having an APS-C sensor. I've used this lens with both the EF 1.4X and EF 2X tele-extenders to achieve magnifications up to 10X on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Note that either a tripod or an electronic flash is needed for sharp results in magnifications beyond 1X.


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