SELECT THE PERFECT LENS
Macro optics are highly specialised tools. Understand the key features for informed buying decisions
When working in such a specific genre, it is essential that you choose the correct tool that will enable you to capture the types of images you desire. If you are new to macro photography, you may choose to opt for a more general-purpose lens model, as these will allow you to get to know the field without making a large financial commitment. Ultimately however, the best results can only be reliably captured using dedicated equipment that has been specifically designed with pro macro shots in mind. Dedicated macro lenses can reproduce the subject at life-size on the camera’s sensor. These feature an optical design which permits very close focusing, while yielding the best possible sharpness and quality at these extreme distances. The focal length you choose will
“Dedicated lenses can reproduce the subject at life-size on the sensor”
depend upon the subject and environment you expect to find yourself shooting in.
The shorter lenses have fewer and smaller glass elements and so provide weight and portability benefits, however their usefulness can be limited under certain conditions.
When shooting wildlife subjects such as insects or small mammals, the very close working distance of a 60mm macro lens can be prohibitive, as these animals are easily disturbed and will likely run away as you bring the camera near. In most cases 100mm to 180mm will be the better choice, as these models allow high magnification when shooting from further away. For less expense, many zoom lenses feature a ‘macro’ mode for close-up captures. These don’t offer true macro photography, although they can be useful for capturing larger subjects in greater detail, especially flower structures. On some lenses this mode is activated by a switch on the lens barrel which locks the lens at the upper end of the focal length range. Another affordable alternative is a macro ‘filter’ or dioptre, which attaches to any lens’ filter thread and increases the magnification power. Available in multiple strengths, these can be stacked for even higher magnifications, albeit with some quality loss.