Advertisement

There has been an upsurge of interest in macro photography during the lockdown, which is not surprising as opportunities for travel have been restricted. If you want to get frame-filling shots of small subjects then you need to add a macro lens to your kit bag. These specialist optics can be expensive, but we’ve rounded up the best value macro lenses on the market so you can get close-up imagery without breaking the bank.

Laowa 65mm f2.8 2x Ultra Macro

Laowa CF 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro Lens

Price: £429

Rather than being content offering the standard 1:1 magnification, this lens offers 2:1 magnification, letting you get even closer to your subject. Whilst some specialist ultra macro lenses only offer close-up focus, this one can still focus to infinity. The lens has a manual aperture ring, and you’ll need to get used to using manual controls, as the lens does not have an electronic connection to the camera.

This manual focus lens, designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras, is available in Sony E-Mount, as well as Fujifilm X-Mount, and weighs just 335g.

What we like
Impressive magnification available
Excellent image quality
Relatively small and lightweight

Could this be the best value macro lens?

Canon EF-M 28mm f3.5 Macro IS STM

Price: £309

Canon’s range of small mirrorless cameras are often under-rated and one of the best lenses available for cameras like the M50, M50 II and M6 Mark II is the f3.5 aperture 28mm macro lens, that converts to 45mm with the APS-C crop factor.

Now, this optic is special because it comes with a twist, featuring a unique party piece in the shape of a ring of LEDs around the front element. This genius feature banishes shadows that can often be a challenge when a lens is used to close to a subject.

Better still, the optic, which has a 1.2:1 magnification ratio, comes in at just over three hundred pounds, which is great value-for-money. With a compact, portable design, the 28mm Macro tips the scales at just 130g, so it won’t even take up too much room in your kit bag.

What we like:
Unique LED ring lights
Compact dimensions
Lightweight

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art

Price: £699

Sigma’s Art series of lenses has drawn great acclaim and the new 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art raises the bar even further. Built for Sony E-mount and L-mount cameras (Panasonic full-frame, Sigma and Leica), this lens is a little weighty at 715g, but is all about one thing – premium image quality that will find appeal from professional image makers who make their living with a camera. With this in mind, the £699 price-tag, while more expensive than many others in this shortlist, is actually incredibly good value-for-money when compared to rival optics.

Benefitting from a high level of weather sealing that resists dust and moisture, the lens features a focus limiter and an aperture declick switch, which widens the lens’ appeal to videographers who want to capture close up footage but want to be able to adjust the exposure during the take with recording any clicks from the lens.

What we like:
Premium image quality
Weather sealing
Declick aperture switch

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 MACRO VC

Price: £649

Tamron has a long history in making great macro lenses and the SP 90mm is no different. A high-performance all-rounder that boasts a number of key functions that will make a real difference out in the field, the build of the lens features weather sealing to keep out moisture and dust, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry using this lens in harsh conditions. The front element of the lens benefits from a fluorine coating that helps repel water and oil, and the build of the lens is backed up by a five-year warranty. The SP 90mm, which comes in fitments for most DSLRs includes Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation) technology, which will help keep shots steady. You may need to try and track one of these second-hand as these can be hard to find at the moment.

What we like:
Impressive build quality
Credible warranty
Decent price-tag

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro

Price: £399

Photographers using Micro Four-Thirds cameras such as the Olympus E-M1 Mark III or the Panasonic GH5 have an integrated advantage when it comes to shooting macro imagery. That’s because the sensor in their cameras features a 2x crop, doubling the effective focal length of a lens, meaning the optics can be smaller, lighter and more affordable. This is the case with the ED 60mm f2.8 Macro, which of course gives an effective focal length of 120mm and tips the scales at just 185g. With a fast maximum aperture of f2.8, the lens can also be used to capture portraits with a shallow depth of field and the optic can focus as close as 19cm away from a subject.

Also consider, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm f/3.5 lens with 1.25x magnification, available for around £200, or the Panasonic Lumix G 30mm f/2.8 lens for around £255.

What we like:
Lightweight and portable
Fast maximum aperture
Weather sealing

Samyang 100mm f2.8 ED UMC Macro Lens

Price: £399

A lot of photographers prefer to use manual focus when capturing close up imagery, so it makes sense to save some budget and select a manual focus lens instead. One such example is the Samyang 100mm f2.8 ED UMC Macro, which is available in a large number of fitments including EF, Pentax K, Canon M and Fujifilm X.

While autofocus is missing from the lens, there’s plenty of other features, including the presence of a ‘15 lenses in 12 groups’ optics design that includes a high refractive lens (HR) and extra low dispersion lens (ED) to minimise colour aberration and improve overall image quality. Also important is the 9-bladed aperture design as its shape will create attractive bokeh when used at the large f/2.8 maximum aperture.

What we like:
Large focus ring
Simple design
Decent price tag

Sigma 70mm f2.8 DG Macro Art Lens

Price: £449

The 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro was the first ever macro lens to join Sigma’s acclaimed Art series line up and is a stonewall classic thanks to its excellent build, superb image quality and reasonable price tag. Available for Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony E-mount amongst others, the 70mm can be paired with Sigma’s 1.4x or 2x Teleconverters should you need even more focal length and is also future proof as it can be connected up with Sigma’s USB dock should you need to update the firmware.

As you’d expect from Sigma’s Art series, the 70mm f2.8 DG Macro offers excellent image quality, thanks in part to the two FLD glass elements and two SLD glass elements used in the construction, which keep images sharp, even when the lens is used at is maximum aperture of f/2.8.

What we like:
Affordable price
Premium build quality
Future-proof features

Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro

Price: £429

Available for Canon EF, Nikon F and Pentax K mounts, the Irix 150mm is growing a reputation as a genuine alternative to brand-made optics. This is in part to the fact that the lens boasts both a 1:1 magnification ratio and a 150mm focal length – this allows photographers the ability to shoot true to life, frame-filling images from a distance, which is particularly useful when shooting subjects like butterflies, who will flutter off if you get too close.

There’s no autofocus, but many photographers prefer to rely on manual focus when capturing close up imagery anyway and the Irix benefits from a weather-sealed build and also features a tripod collar, should you want to work with a tripod or monopod support.

What we like:
Extended focal length
Tripod collar
Weather sealing

Tokina atx-i 100mm F2.8 FF MACRO

Price: £399

While Tokina is perhaps not as well known as Tamron or Sigma, the atx-i 100mm F2.8 FF MACRO offers photographers a whole lot of lens for your money. Coming in at under £400, the optic is available for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs, but can also be used with crop sensor DSLRs from these brands where the effective focal lengths switches up to 150mm (160mm for Canon).

Boasting a focus limiter, which will help speed up focusing when compositing subjects closer to the lens, the Tokina also sports an innovative focus clutch where the photographer pushes and pulls a barrel ring to switch from autofocus to manual focus and this allows for a rapid transition between the two modes. The combination of a 1:1 magnification ratio and a very close minimum focusing distance of 30cm will enable you to capture frame-filling images of small subjects. You may need to try and track one of these used as these can be hard to find at the moment.

What we like:
Innovative Focus Clutch
Great value-for-money
Close minimum focusing distance

Best EF-S Macro Canon EF-S 35mm F2.8

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

Price: £389

Designed to be a compact and affordable option for photographers using Canon’s APS-C DSLRs, this lens packs in an impressive array of features. It offers 1:1 magnification at a minimum focus distance of 13cm, which equates to just 3cm from the front of the lens. To help with illuminating your subject at such close range, at also includes a built-in LED ring light. Meanwhile, Canon’s Hybrid IS system provides up to four stops of stabilisation. Weighing in at a mere 190g, the 56mm equivalent focal length also allows it to do double duty as an everyday standard lens.

What we like:
Unique LED ring lights
Compact dimensions
Lightweight

Laowa 100mm f2.8

Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO

Price: £469

Venus Optics produces a whole family of Ultra Macro lenses with a unique trick, in that they offer 2x magnification while still focusing to infinity. The 100mm f/2.8 is designed for full-frame DSLR cameras and available in Nikon F, Pentax K and Canon EF mounts, with the latter coming in two versions with a choice of manual or electronic aperture setting. The lens has also been adapted for full-frame mirrorless, in Canon RF, Nikon Z, Sony E and L-mount versions. The minimum focus distance is just 24.7cm, and colour fringing is suppressed thanks to the apochromatic design. Despite the enhanced close focus, the size and weight are similar to conventional 100mm macro lenses.

What we like
Impressive magnification available
Excellent image quality
Choice of mount

Laowa 25mm f2.8 Macro

Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5x – 5x Ultra Macro

Price: £399

For serious devotees of close-up photography, this unusual lens provides ultra-high magnification at a remarkably low price. Unusually, it doesn’t focus to infinity, but instead provides between 2.5x and 5x magnification across a focus distance range of 17.3cm to 23.4cm. It requires both manual focus and aperture operation, and is generally best used on a tripod fitted with a macro rail. The slimline, tapered barrel is specially designed to minimise shadowing of your subject. The optics cover full frame sensors, and the lens comes in Canon EF, Nikon F and Pentax K mount versions for DSLRs, along with Canon RF, Nikon Z, Sony E and L-mount mirrorless options.

What we like
Impressive magnification available
Intelligent design
Choice of mount

Best DX Macro: Nikon DX 85mm f3.5 Micro

Nikon AF-S DX 85mm f/3.5G ED VR Micro

Price: £399

Designed specifically for DX format (APS-C) DSLRs, this lens offers an unusually long 128mm-equivalent focal length. It’s packed full of attractive features, including a silent wave motor that promises quiet, precise autofocus, and optical image stabilisation. At its minimum focus distance of 28.6cm it can focus on subjects measuring 24 x 16mm, which is equivalent to 1.5x magnification in full-frame terms. The 9-blade aperture promises attractive bokeh and stops down to f/32 for extended depth of field. For those on a tighter budget, there’s also a Nikon AF-S DX 40mm f/2.8G Micro for just £269.

What we like
Optical stabilisation
Great value for money
Made for DX cameras

Best Sigma Macro for DSLR: Sigma 105mm f2.8

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro OS HSM

Price: £359

Long one of our favourite lenses, for many years this was our go-to option for testing the resolution of DSLRs, due to its superb sharpness. Available in Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA mounts, it provides a comprehensive feature set at a very tempting price. You get an ultrasonic-type autofocus motor that enables full-time manual override, along with optical stabilisation that’s good for up to four stops of shake reduction. An inner focusing system means that the length doesn’t change on focusing from infinity down to its 31.2cm minimum, at which point the lens provides life-size magnification.

What we like
Superb sharpness
Optical stabilisation
Great value for money

Once you’ve found the best value macro lens that’s right for you, have a look at our Top 12 Macro Photography Tips to make the most of your macro lens!

Further reading
Expert tips for award-winning macro shots