Macro Lenses

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Get Close Up with a Macro Lens

What is a macro lens?

A macro lens is a lens that allows you to get close up images of small objects. Shooting macro photos can be a really enjoyable pursuit as it reveals a world of detail not normally visible to the naked eye. We’re not talking microscopic levels of detail here, but rather enlargements of existing detail. Macro photography allows you to delve into worlds that you might ordinarily overlook, and it also gives you the ability to create worlds that you could never create at full scale.

What is the difference between macro lenses and other lenses?

The key difference between a macro lens and other lenses is the minimum focusing distance. Macro lenses have a much shorter minimum focusing distance than a typical lens, and this is essentially what allows them to get much closer to the subject. True macro lenses are usually prime lenses, meaning that they have just one focal length. Typically, macro lenses are somewhere between 90mm and 105mm, although there are also wider angle macro lenses. The disadvantage of wide angle macro lenses is that they will often cast a shadow over the subject, and anything that obscures precious light is a nuisance for photographers.

What are the advantages of a macro lens?

The obvious advantage of a macro lens is that it allows you to get amazing close-up shots of small objects. But that’s not to say you can’t also use your macro lens for other purposes. In fact, a telephoto macro lens with a focal length above 85mm is also a fantastic lens to shoot portraits with. Lenses with a longer focal length have less barrel distortion (which tends to ‘bloat’ subjects) than wide angle lenses and are hence more flattering to human subjects. Prime macro lenses usually have a wide maximum aperture, f/2.8 or less, which is great for shooting in low light situations, but also allows you to throw your backgrounds way out of focus. Wedding and portrait photographers love this effect (often referred to as the Bokeh effect) because it makes their subjects really stand out.

What is the best lens for macro photography?

A prime lens with a long focal length, a wide maximum aperture and a short minimum focusing distance is the ideal macro lens, but in fact the definition of a macro lens is one which can create at least a 1.0x magnification (also referred to as 1:1 reproduction) at the minimum focusing distance. This means that the subject will be reproduced at actual size on the image sensor. So, if you photograph a leaf that is 2cm wide, it should appear 2cm wide on the sensor. This is not something you need to verify yourself however, just look for the magnification factor in the lens specs. Basically, the higher the magnification factor the more your subject will be magnified–provided you are close to the minimum focusing distance.

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