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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Choosing Your Macro


Getting in close and maintaining critical focus is the forte of this breed of lens

Click Images To EnlargeThis Article Features Photo Zoom
Macro lenses come in a variety of focal lengths: standard 50mm to 70mm, short telephoto 85mm to 100mm and telephoto 180mm to
200mm. With standard focal-length macros, you have to be physically much closer to your subject to get the full, 1:1 life-size magnification. Lens-to-subject distance usually will be less than six inches.

Short telephoto and telephoto macros allow for a more moderate working distance between the lens and the subject, usually one to two feet. The greater shooting distance also is better if you need to use a tripod, which frequently is the case with heavier, internal-focus telephotos. Because telephoto macros are particularly susceptible to image shake, to get focus dialed in properly and ensure the sharpest image, a sturdy tripod can be essential.

For including more background or foreground detail to complement your subject or serve as a visual reference for scale, a standard focal length will give you a much wider perspective. For minimizing backgrounds and getting selective focus, a short telephoto or telephoto macro is what you want. The focal length, together with a large aperture, will effectively reduce everything around your focal point to a beautiful abstract collage of color and light.

John Isaac
Olympus
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm ƒ/2.0
Macro equivalent to 100mm in the 35mm format, the Zuiko 50mm will give you 1:1 life-size magnification at the closest focusing distance of 9.45 inches. With excellent all-around sharpness and optical quality, it performs equally as well as a standard lens for regular landscape shots.
John Isaac
Nature-wildlife photographer John Isaac says one of his favorite features in the Olympus system is its incredible macro lenses. “I use the 50mm macro as well as the 35mm macro,” says Isaac. “The new 12-60mm [standard zoom] also is very good as a macro lens. Whether it’s wildlife or a simple portrait, I tend to use the 50mm macro. I like the 50mm focal length a little better than the 35mm, since I can get my macro image from a farther distance. With the 35mm macro, I have to get a little closer. That’s the only reason why I prefer the 50mm. Sometimes I like the wider angle in the 35mm, but most of the time I tend to use the 50mm. Since all Olympus cameras have a Four Thirds chip, the 50mm is like a 100mm [in the 35mm format]. Many times, I just leave the macro on one of my cameras as my standard lens. In terms of sharpness and color, the 50mm macro works just as well as my other lenses, but it has that large ƒ/2.0 aperture and the moderate focusing distance. It’s nice not to have to get right on top of something to get a good macro.”

That ƒ/2.0 aperture lets Isaac blur out the background and turn it into an abstract wash of color and texture, bringing focus of the viewer’s eye almost solely on the focal point of the image. With its 0.52x magnification, the 50mm is equivalent to 1:1 in the 35mm format; the 35mm is equivalent to 2:1, or two times life-size. The amount of detail you can capture on a flower petal or a bird’s feather is amazing. And, like the 50mm, Isaac says you can leave it on the
camera and use it like a standard lens.

Adam Jones
Canon
Canon EF 180mm ƒ/3.5L Macro USM
1:1, life-size magnification can be captured as far as 1.6 feet away from your subject with the EF 180mm macro. Three UD glass elements and a floating design correct for chromatic aberrations, while the included tripod collar makes it easy to use with a tripod.
Adam Jones: Canon Explorer Of Light
The Canon EF 180mm ƒ/3.5L Macro is the lens Adam Jones uses for all his macro photography. Says Jones, "The narrower background of the 180mm gives me less distractions and that nice posterboard look behind my subjects, whereas a 50mm lens is going to get the trees and everything else in the frame. That’s the main reason, but I also like the longer working distance and the fact that it has a tripod collar, which facilitates using the lens on a tripod much better".
It’s a big lens, though. It’s heavy, and it’s Canon’s most expensive macro.So it might not be right for everyone. For fieldwork, the EF 100mm ƒ/2.8 still gives you a moderate working distance, and it’s one-third the price. Plus, if you’re using the lens with anything other than a full-frame sensor, the focal length will bump up 1.3x to 1.6x anyway. So it will perform like a 130mm or 160mm lens.

"Close-up photography in the field demands exacting skills" says Jones, "and longer lenses simply make working in the field a lot less aggravating and a whole lot more fun".

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