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Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Bill Stewardson, Jan 31, 2019.

  1. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    hello to all.

    Now then, before I go forking out on the wrong stuff again, which Macro lens would you suggest ?

    Cost is a consideration.

    I’m using Nikon bodies, looking to learn the basics in time for when the insects return in Spring.


  2. daft_biker

    daft_biker Action Man!

    A 60mm f/2.8 macro and then see how close you can get to various live subjects without spooking or casting a shadow on them?

    The standard advice tends to be buy the longest macro lens you can afford, particularly if is larger insects you are after. For smaller insects a shorter lens can be made more useful with extension tubes though.
    Bill Stewardson and peterba like this.
  3. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    About 90% of the photos I ever take are of insects using a macro lens and I've done it every which way. Unfortunately my experience leads me in a direction that you probably won't like.

    I'm going to give the advice that Andrew hinted at above - that is get the longest lens you can. I use a 200mm micro Nikkor and it ain't cheap. Sorry.

    If budget won't allow that then I'd look for a used 90mm Tamron. A lens with a good reputation and often available used.

    I'm not going to discuss all the other potential options because they all (IMHO) have difficulties that might put off a beginner from a fascinating and rewarding branch of our hobby.


    PS As always other opinions are available!
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  4. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    Thanks Andrew,,, food for thought.
  5. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    Many thanks Mick. I’m completely out of my comfort zone with Macro.
    Good Macro pics are awesome, time to trawl eBay etc.
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    I have nothing like Mick's experience or skill but I'd add that while 55-60mm is ideal for copying and the like, it's very short for most insects. A 90mm or 105mm is likely to be a lot cheaper than 200mm, though, and (within reason) longer is better. I have 55mm (Micro-Nikkor), 65mm (Macro-Elmar), 90mm (Vivitar Series 1) and a 90-180 (Vivitar Series 1 again). I have never seen any disadvantage to manual focus lenses as I was always told to set the focus on the lens then rock the whole camera slightly to and fro for focus, but it may be that modern autofocus can do even better. No doubt Mick can give you better advice on this.


    Petrochemist and Bill Stewardson like this.
  7. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I use a macro lens a lot, particularly for butterflies.

    My first was a 50mm for my Pentax SLR.

    For my Nikon D90 I bought the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5 ED VR, and I really appreciated the longer focal length, for more distance from the subject, and when hand-holding, the autofocus and VR (it’s difficult to get enough light when pointing downwards with a small aperture).

    More recently I bought the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED to give full frame on my D800, but at this time of year, without many of the summer’s macro opportunities, the 85mm DX is more likely to be in my camera bag, because it’s half the weight.

    I don’t think the image quality of the 85mm DX is quite as good as the 105mm, but it’s difficult to get anything sharp enough with a hand-held macro shot to tell the difference.

    The Sigma 105mm macro is well-regarded, and much less expensive than the Nikkor; one of my reasons for choosing the Nikkor is its minimum aperture of f/32 compared to f/22 for the Sigma. Lack of depth of field is usually a bigger problem than diffraction with macro photography. (But my 85mm only goes down to f/22, and on APS-C that’s more or less equivalent to f/32 on full frame.) Sigma also offer stabilized 150mm and 180mm macro lenses, which are increasingly heavy and expensive.

    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  8. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    You don't say if your camera bodies are full frame or APS-C (half frame).

    Having used both of these with an APS-C body, I'd suggest looking for one of them secondhand.
    Neither is 'image stabilised', but you'll probably be working with a tripod anyway.
    You can get a newer Tamron with this feature, but being a recent model it won't be cheap.

    Sigma 50 mm F2.8 macro (very compact and light). I've got one of these that's probably 7 or 8 years old.
    Tamron 90 mm F2.8 (bigger). I've got one of these that's nearly 20 years old and working well.

    I think I saw the Sigma in a Nikon mount at £125 in a recent AP.

    Finally, if cost is very tight, look for some secondhand extension tubes instead to use with your 'standard' lens.
    There probably won't be any electronic linkages, so you will have to focus manually and have limited exposure options (probably manual or aperture priority). But they will be cheap - £6 NEW.

    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  9. Derek W

    Derek W Well-Known Member

    Nikon user here and was just looking at the Sigma 105mm f2.8 lens as I fancy giving some macro photography a try myself
    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  10. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    I've got the Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX DG macro and I have to say that it's a lovely piece of kit. I use it mainly on my D810 (the Sigma 'DG' designation means that it's designed for use on full frame cameras). Oddly enough, I quite like it as a 'walking around' lens as well and it's nearly as good as my Nikkor 105mm f2 AF-DC leans for portraits.

    Cheers, Jeff
    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  11. velocette

    velocette Well-Known Member

    I use a Sigma 105 for dragon flies and anything else that gets in the way and find it a fine lens. For my purposes I could do with something a little longer to avoid disturbing the bugs but that'd be my only change.
    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  12. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    Many thanks for all of the above.

    I know my pics will not be winning awards or appearing on magazine covers.
    It’s more about satisfaction, doing the best I can, and the odd positive comment in forums.
    Luckily I live out in the wilds with a river close by.
    Main project come Spring is flies,, and hopefully Newts.
    I’m mainly using my trusty D7500 and back up D3400.

    Why does every lens out there say Macro when they are not ?

    Anyone round Sheffield way want showing around the river gimme a shout.

  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Bill,

    Well, not least because their marketing departments are lying bar stewards. Though be fair: not "every" lens. Just far too many.

    Secondarily, because "macro" has been hijacked to mean "close focusing". One of my favourite close-focusing lenses offers 1:2 at best. Another (a 200/3 Vivitar Series 1) offers 1:3. I can't help feeling that for many applications, this would suffice, especially with a 300. Yes, it won't be as sharp as a true macro lens but my own view is that often, in macro, composition trumps sharpness, not least because of the negligible depth of field.

    Third, you can rely on me for "the odd positive comment" if I see your pictures and if they warrant it -- though my criteria may be different from those of experts in the field such as Mick.


    Bill Stewardson and ChrisNewman like this.
  14. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

  15. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    Now that I know you're using an APS-C body, I would definitely suggest trying a secondhand Sigma 50 mm. You won't have any image stabilisation so a fast shutter speed is advisable for handheld shots. I use a Pentax, so there is some 'in body' anti-shake, but it's not a lot if use for macro work so a fast shutter speed is still advisable.

    The longer focal length lenses will allow you to be further away from the subject, but will be larger/heavier/more expensive. And, for the same aperture, the depth of field will be better on the 50 mm than on a 90 or 105 mm (the minute depth of field for close up shots usually surprises people who haven't used a macro before).

    'Macro' appears to be a much misused term. I you really want macro, try a 'macro' lens with extension tubes!

    This is the used on I saw in AP - it's about the same price I paid for my Pentax-fit one. It's also an excellent general purpose short telephoto lens when used on an APC-C body. I purchased mine when looking for a used 50 mm F 1.8 and realising that F 2.8 was quite adequate - the decent macro range was a bonus.


    Finally, for the macro photographer on a tight budget, there are also lens reversing rings. If you have a lens in the 50-90 mm range an it has a 58 mm filter thread you could try this (the web page explains all). I had one a long time ago, and the easiest way to 'focus' is to leave the lens on infinity and move the camera body. You'll need an old lens with an aperture ring, and will have to close down the aperture yourself just before taking the shot. In the days of film SLRs, a ring like this was usually used with the 50 mm 'standard' lens or a 135 mm if you had one. If you have a suitable lens, this is the cheapest way to experiment with macro shots of small subjects. And if you have an old lens but its filter thread isn't 58 mm, a cheap stepping ring will help.

    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  16. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    That's a real oldie, I'm not surprised it wouldn't work on the D3400 (or the 7500 either). I have one in Canon fit and it doesn't work on all but my oldest digital EOS. It is sharp though but only does 1/2 life size though a decnt 2x converter sorts that out...

    Necessary isn't the same as want...;)
    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  17. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    Yes, I’ve bought stuff that was wrong, I live and learn.(slowly).
    Converters had occurred to me,not overly keen though.
    I,m thinking about the Siggy 105mm,,,
    Have to see how things pan out, Macro is the best way for insects etc.

  18. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member


    I have read most of (but not all of) this thread.

    I stick by the advice I gave in post number three - go for a 'proper' lens. At a pinch add close up lenses (good, two element ones. not cheap ones!). Don't go for any of the many 'cheap' options that might be available to you. I read post 15 with interest. Although the advice it gave was correct (I'm talking about the reversing ring method) if you really think about it any self respecting insect would be in the next county before you had finished wrestling with that set up!!

    Then focus. Yes people say use a fixed focus and 'rock back and forth' to get your image in focus. It's probably me but I've never had any success at all with that method. My hit rate declines to almost zero. In fact I'm not great at hand holding at all and so almost all my photography is done using a tripod. Yes I miss a few shots - fewer now than when I began because my fieldcraft has improved with practice. In any event I usually end with a better result than many of my friends who insist that they can handhold. Sorry I digress - back to focus. I use manual focus most of the time (but I'll come back to that in a moment). The reason that I use manual focus (don't confuse with manual exposure - I use aperture priority mostly) is that the depth of field is very limited, very limited indeed, and so experience has taught me where in the 'depth' of the insect to focus to get best use of the depth of field.
    There are rare occasions when I use auto focus. I do it when I think that the subject might fly off soon or be spooked by my hand moving along the lens toward it. I also do it because, with my camera, it's very easy and unobtrusive to switch between manual and autofocus. Sometimes therefore I'll get 'rough' focus with auto, switch to manual and finish the job off manually.

    If you feel like it you may be able to see some of my stuff in appraisal. It's not always my best stuff - it's images about which there's a question in my mind and I want other opinion. All the same it illustrates what I get with the method I've briefly described above.

    Good luck
  19. daft_biker

    daft_biker Action Man!

    105mm is not a bad compromise.... Reasonably long on a crop sensor but short enough to use extension tubes on should you wish.

    Depends what size of beasties you want to photograph... Bigger lenses for bigger beasties basically.

    And FWIW if it is still enough to be shooting insects on a tripod it is still enough that I'll be getting bitten by insects. Up here in Scotland the cleggs are out the first couple of weeks in July and the midges the rest of the summer.... The more favourable the conditions for me shooting insects from a tripod the more favorable conditions are for me getting bit by insects.
    Bill Stewardson likes this.
  20. Bill Stewardson

    Bill Stewardson Well-Known Member

    Many thanks to all for the comprehensive info above.

    Can’t wait for Spring to sniff out the Damsel Flies, Caterpillars and above all...

    N E W T S ,, I’m told you need a licence to handle them and breeding places are very hush hush.

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