Small, affordable and with a minimum focus of 16.3cm, Nikon’s 40mm f/2.8 micro lens may be suitable for more than just macro images. Richard Sibley finds out what it can do
With its solid plastic construction and lack of an aperture ring, the 40mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor feels like other, similar lenses in the company’s range, such as the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens. The only change I would make to the physical design of the lens body would be a slightly wider rubber grip for the focus ring.
The modest size of the macro lens, its 60mm (equivalent) focal length and f/2.8 aperture make it a nice everyday lens for portrait and documentary images. However, if you specialise more in documentary images than macro photography, then the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G lens may be a better option, and it is £100 cheaper.
As far as using the lens for its intended macro images, there are a few things potential users should be aware of. The first is that at the optic’s closest focus point, the lens movements reduce the amount of light reaching the image plane. Nikon DSLRs take this loss of light into account and report the aperture range at the minimum focal distance as f/4.2 to f/36.
However, it must be remembered that as far as calculating the depth of field is concerned, the nominal actual aperture should be used. So when the camera is quoting the lens aperture as f/36 for exposure purposes, remember that it is actually f/22 with regard to depth of field calculation.
Another, more important thing to remember when using the lens for macro use is that the minimum focus distance is just 163mm from the focal plane.
Take away the distance between the lens mount and sensor (46.5mm) and the length of the lens (64.5mm), and at the minimum focus distance, the subject will be just 52mm from the front element. Shooting at f/22 means that the nearest point of the depth of field is 47mm from the front
of the lens. As such, this then limits the ways that the macro subject can be lit. Photographing it from above requires additional lighting in the form of small LED lights or a ringflash, as the working 1:1 distance causes the subject to almost always be in shadow. Although photographing insects in daylight is possible, the working distance means that it is difficult to get close without scaring
the insects away.
For stationary subjects it is easier to be more creative with how the subject is lit, but larger studio lights and even flashguns will most likely be out of the question.
Image: At 1:1 reproduction you have to get extremely close to your subjects