BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: To Be Categorized

Photography Question 
Dawn  Knuppel

What Lens is the Best for Close Up Shots?

I am trying to buy a lens for my boyfriend. He wants one that will take close up shots of engravings on guns. He owns a Canon EOS Elan II. Which is the best one for that sort of thing?

Thank You

To love this question, log in above
12/9/2000 11:53:06 AM

Mark A. Braxton   Dear Dawn,
Any micro or macro lens will work for this. The easiest way to tell, if no one else answers with a similar use, is to look at the size of the engraving with your naked eye. Then go to a camera store that would have these lenses in stock and try viewing with several macro or micro lenses. Find something with writing the size of the engraving and, pick the one that is in your price range and makes the writing the easiest to read.

To love this comment, log in above
12/10/2000 10:33:23 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Dawn, true macro lenses focus close enough to produce a life-size image on the film (1:1). Many zoom lenses have "macro" as part of their model name (eg. Sigma 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DL Macro Super) but they only focus close enough to produce 1/2 (1:2) or 1/4 (1:4) sized image on film. A zoom-macro tends to loose sharpness from the center to the edge of the frame, where a true macro lens will be very sharp throughout.

The most common focal lengths for macro lenses is 50mm or 100mm. 100mm allows more working distance between the camera and the subject. The greater working distance allows greater flexibility in lighting. A 50mm lens will close focus at 7 or 8 inches v. 12+ inches for 100mm.

I would recommend the Canon EF Macro 100 f/2.8 USM, about $650 at B&H. (Canon's non-USM version is $470) Less expensive alternatives are the Tamron Macro SP 90 f/2.8 at about $410, the Sigma 105 f/2.8 EX Macro lens at about $390, or the Sigma Macro 50mm f/2.8 EX at $259.

To love this comment, log in above
12/11/2000 2:35:10 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001

If you're suffering sticker shock at the cost of a true macro lens, then you might consider the next best alternative, a set of extension tubes. Canon makes two: the Extension Tube EF 12 (12mm), and the Extension Tube EF 25 (25mm).

Since I do macros occasionally, a set of extension tubes is very cost effective with very little compromise in optical quality, if any at all. If your boyfriend does these macros occasionally compared to other photography, this might be a more affordable solution.

These tubes allow closer focus by mounting the lens farther away from the camera body. The farther the lens is moved away from the body, the closer its focusing range. Typically extension tubes can be stacked to get even closer than a single tube allows. These tubes contain mechanical and electrical linkages so the camera body can control exposure and auto-focus on the lens.

If your boyfriend already has a 50mm or especially a 100mm lens for his camera, then these tubes will allow the types of macros he is wanting to make. Depending on the size of the engraving, he may need to stack the 12 and 25 together on a 100mm lens to get close enough.

I don't recommend "diopter" auxiliary lenses that screw onto the front of a lens (much like a filter does). The majority of these, especially the inexpensive ones, are not the best optically. While they are OK, extension tubes are much better. There is no glass inside an extension tube to introduce aberration or distortion.

In addition to a macro lens or extension tubes, your boyfriend will need a sturdy tripod from which to do macro work, if he doesn't already have one. As with a long telephoto, it can be difficult to hold a camera steady enough when making a macro photograph.

-- John

To love this comment, log in above
12/16/2000 1:42:27 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.