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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Multitasking With Macro

Consider the talents of a 90mm macro lens at both ends of the composition spectrum

This Article Features Photo Zoom

We took a Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD lens into the field to shoot everything from close-ups to broad scenics. Your macro isn't limited to small stuff.

The Face Of The Landscape
In traditional terms, the focal-length range from 80mm to 135mm has been considered ideal for portraits. There's something about the modest compression that flattens facial perspective while drawing close to lips and eyes. This has changed, to some degree, in more recent years. One, with the advent of sub-frame digital cameras, this focal-length range is cropped by the sensor to act like about 1.5X. Also, it became popular for swimsuit photographers to use as much as 300mm or more for the special effects of soft backgrounds, enlarging sunset backdrops in relation to the subject and more.

Nevertheless, in similar terms, a case can be made that landscapes look best when photographed with this portrait lens range. This is particularly true for landscapes with big features like massive mountains or old-growth trees (Photo 1). The moderate magnification and special compression draw distant subjects closer while rendering them larger in relation to the foreground. The result is a more imposing photograph. Of course, it's easy to use a wide variety of zooms in the range between 90mm and 135mm, but for our case at hand, we thought it would be novel to make use of the specialty 90mm macro as the less obvious choice. The justifications are these.

You can see the differences in background sharpness between ƒ/6.3 (above) and ƒ/8 (below). We prefer the less-distracting ƒ/6.3 version.
Dedicated macro lenses are designed for optimum sharpness across the frame, and as prime lenses, they're usually fast, with maximum apertures of ƒ/2.8 or greater. Compared with zoom lenses that often feature variable apertures, a fast prime macro is shooting at its sweet spot around ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8. For all these reasons, outdoor photographers may actually find that owning a 90mm macro provides more utility than a straightforward prime in the same focal range—you get the key benefits of a fast prime, plus the benefits of a macro lens.

Not-Quite-Macro Scenes
There's a massive gap between a big landscape and an up-close extreme macro. In this zone, one can find the sort of intimate scene that shows natural structures like flowers with some of their context. Instead of a tight shot of the edge of a petal or a flower stamen, these intimate scenes can tell a story of the flower in its place while still making a casual viewer sit up and take notice of the flower's details. The 90mm range of a typical macro lens can do a remarkable job with these types of photos. It also gives you a comfortable working distance thanks to its slight telephoto focal length. When you do back off slightly from 1:1 macro, pay particular attention to the depth of field.

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