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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Closer And Closer Macro

The OP Guide to close-up gear

Close-Focusing "Macro" Zooms
Many zoom lenses are touted as being "macro," but usually that just means they will focus closer than non-"macro" zooms, not that they're optimized for close-ups. This makes them very convenient to use.

• Closer focusing capability than standard zoom lenses
• A variety of focal lengths in a single unit

• Less magnification than true macro lenses
• Not as sharp as true macro lenses at close focusing distances
• Most focus close only at a certain focal length

True Macro Lenses
True macro lenses mount directly on the camera and operate like regular lenses, but have an extended focusing range—most focus close enough to produce a life-size image of a subject on the film or image sensor, as well as out to infinity whenever you wish. That's a big advantage when you're shooting both close-ups and landscapes at a location.

Macro lenses come in normal (50-60mm), short-telephoto (90-105mm) and telephoto (150-200mm) focal lengths to suit your needs for control over composition and shooting distance. A 200mm macro lens produces its 1:1 reproduction ratio from much farther away than a 50mm macro lens, handy when the subject is a skittish insect. The greater shooting distance provided by a longer macro lens also gives you more room to position flash units and reflectors, and can keep you from inadvertently casting a shadow on the subject when working with natural light. And camera-to-subject distance affects perspective: Shooting a 1:1 image of a subject with a 200mm macro lens flattens the perspective and includes much less of the background, compared to the expanded perspective and greater amount of background you get by shooting from the much closer distance required to produce a 1:1 image of the subject with a 50mm macro lens.

There are at least two macro zooms that truly are macro: the Canon manual-focus MP-E 65mm ƒ/2.8 1-5X Macro Photo and the Tamron AF70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 LD macro zoom.

• True life-size image magnification
• Continuous focusing from 1:1 to infinity
• Operates just like a regular lens
• High sharpness at all ƒ-stops

• Often larger than non-macro lenses of equivalent focal length
• A bit slower than non-macro lenses of equivalent focal length
• More expensive than non-macro lenses of equal focal length

Also known as tele-extenders, teleconverters fit between the camera body and the lens like extension tubes, but they contain glass elements. Teleconverters increase the focal length of a lens: for example, a 1.4x converter by 1.4x (a 100mm lens becomes a 140mm); a 2x converter by 2x (a 100mm lens becomes a 200mm). Their close-up value lies in the fact that the lens' minimum focusing distance doesn't change when a converter is used, so a 300mm telephoto that focuses down to five feet becomes a 600mm telephoto that focuses down to five feet.

• Super-telephoto focal lengths at a fraction of the cost
• Retains the lens' minimum focusing distance

• A significant reduction in light (one stop for a 1.4x converter, two stops for a 2x converter; e.g., a 1.4x converter turns a 300mm ƒ/4 lens into a 420mm ƒ/5.6)
• Slight loss in image quality (using a quality converter designed for the specific lens you're using minimizes the loss)

Non-SLR Digital Cameras
Nearly all compact digital cameras have macro modes that allow them to focus extremely close—some to within less than an inch of the lens. This ability, combined with live-view LCD monitors that show you just what the lens "sees," makes these cameras terrific close-up tools. Check the specs: Some cameras provide the close shooting distance only at their widest focal length.

Many advanced compact digital cameras not only focus extremely close, but provide advanced features such as LCD monitors that tilt and rotate for easy odd-angle shooting, and the ability to focus manually and add accessory lenses (including achromatic close-up lenses) to the built-in zoom lens.

• Extreme close-up capability
• Easy operation
• Compact size


• Higher ISO settings result in lower image quality than D-SLRs
• Lower-priced models have fewer manual control options
• Noninterchangeable lenses

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