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Photography Question 
Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/12/2006

Macro Lens Buying Tips

I'm keen on buying a macro lens for my D70s. I would be shooting mostly flowers, bugs, fruits, etc. Nikon lenses are very expensive.
Any suggestions?

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4/5/2006 11:35:06 PM

Michael H. Cothran   Eliminating the excellent Nikkor Micros from consideration, I would strongly recommend the Sigma 180mm macro, the Sigma 105mm macro, or the Tamron 90mm macro.
If you can afford a little more, my first recommendation (other than the Nikkors) would be Sigma's 180mm macro. For the subjects you list (flowers, bugs, etc), I find that the longer the lens, the more pleasing the images.
My own personal 'flower' lens is the Nikkor 200/4 ED Micro. I've even used a 300mm lens with extension tubes. The problems with this latter system is the hassle of working with extension tubes, and the limited focusing area they allow.
For flower photography, you would do well with a longer lens, and the Sigma 180mm macro is priced significantly lower than the Nikkor 200mm. Furthermore, the Sigma macro lenses (either the 105 or 180) and the Tamron 90mm macro (which is a little too short for my tastes) yield top drawer, superb image quality.

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4/6/2006 5:32:08 AM

Mike Carpenter
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/9/2004
  I have the Sigma 105mm and I love it.

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4/6/2006 10:51:34 AM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/12/2006
  Thank you both but I don't understand the basic difference between a telephoto lens and macro. I already have a nikkor 70 - 300, will it also work as a macro or a dedicated macro 105 lens is better.
Can a 70 - 300 lens at 105 position give the same result as a macro 105?


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4/6/2006 5:44:15 PM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  Thanks for the tips Michael & Mike. I've been trying to research for a good macro for my D70, this will come in handy to help me!

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4/6/2006 6:28:07 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  A true macro lens gives you a 1:1 or lifesize image. The Sigma gives you 1:2 which is half lifesize. I have the Nikon 105mm macro but I also have access to the Nikon 60mm macro. I like the 60mm fully as well as the 105mm if not better and it's a lot less expensive.

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4/6/2006 7:48:57 PM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/12/2006
  Thanks Sharon. What mm lens will give me 1:1
If given a choice should I go for 105mm or 60mm
How does the mm works in regards to result and convenience.

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4/6/2006 11:32:37 PM

Michael H. Cothran   "A true macro lens gives you a 1:1 or lifesize image."
This statement, from a previous posting is not accurate or true. Whether the lens focuses to 1:1 or 1:2 DOES NOT define whether or not it is a "true" macro. A "true" macro lens could be more correctly defined as a lens whose optics are optimized for best performance at closer ranges. "Regular" lenses are optimize to give their best performance at farther distances, usually about 1:50 (not quite infinity, as many think). Most "true" macro lenses are optimized to perform their best around 1:10 (the distance normally accepted as being the beginning of "macro" focusing).

From a manufacturing point of view, it is less expensive, and less complicated to build a lens that only focuses to 1:2. However, the vast majority of today's macros do, indeed, focus 1:1. Most macros made in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's only went 1:2. And of those macros which only focus 1:2, the manufacturer usually provided a dedicated extension tube which will take the lens from 1:2 down to 1:1.

My 200mm Nikkor goes 1:1. My 55 and 105 Nikkors, which are older MF lenses, only go 1:2, but I do own the dedicated extension tube for each. Quite honestly, I hardly ever use the tubes, as I very seldom venture into the realm of 1:2 - 1:1.

FYI - All of the current Nikon micros focus 1:1.

Add'l FYI - It's not a matter of looking for a particular mm lens in regards to whether it goes 1:2 or 1:1. There is NO correlation. Simply check those lenses you are interested in, and the specs will inform you as to how close it will focus.

All said, the Sigma macros still remains a viable alternative to the more expensive Nikkors.
AND...the Sigma 105mm IS, I repeat -IS a "true" macro lens - designed for best performance at close range.

And, for what it's worth, I would never buy a macro lens in the 50-60mm range for flowers and bugs. It's simply too short. The 90-105mm range is better, but for the best image perspective, and most pleasing images, I find the longer macros (180-200mm) to be superior in every respect for flowers and bugs. And the added benefit with the longer lenses is that you can be farther back from your subject. An important fact to consider when shooting bugs and butterflies.
Michael H. Cothran

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4/7/2006 9:51:18 AM

Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  That's some great info Michael. I've been looking at different macro lenses today, I'm glad I haven't ordered anything yet. I was leaning toward the 105mm but now I'll check out the 180-200mm range as well.

Thank you again!

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4/7/2006 2:19:53 PM

Devon McCarroll
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2005
  I have a Sigma 105mm also, and love it! You can see it used on the flower shots in my gallery.

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4/11/2006 2:33:20 PM

Harrison G. Ball
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/23/2004
  I have the Sigma 150mm /2.8 macro lens with a Nikon D70 and have been very pleased with it. I have found it a good compromise between the 55/105mm macros and the 180mm macros.

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4/11/2006 3:58:06 PM

Kirk Lawler   Another excellent lens to consider: Tokina's Macro 100 f/2.8 D from their "pro" series (reviewed by Popular Photography 11/05 and given some of the highest ratings for any lens they've tested). I also have Nikon's 60mm macro f/2.8 lens, and can attest that choosing the much less expensive Tokina will not necessitate any compromises when it comes to build quality, sharpness, vignetting, lens distortion or chromatic aberation. Also, the Tokina came with a lens guard which can be screwed on backwards when transporting the lens. The lens guard for the Nikon macro had to be purchased seperately, adding another $40 to the true cost of the lens, is of an out-dated design that is not backwards compatible and is only (I kid you not) 1" deep. Getting to use these two lenses side by side for a catalog product shoot spelled the end of my unquestioning loyalty to expensive Nikon lenses.

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4/11/2006 9:24:02 PM

steve gardner   Want to go lots of performance for cheap? The vivitar 100 f3.5 macro with the 1:1 adapter is to be had for around a 110 dollars and test out the roof in performance. It is a very cheap feeling plasticy lens, but it can't be beaten for the price. In the magazine review (Kepplers?)it was compaired to the old 105 Kiron Macro, a very good lens, and it beat it in resolution and contrast. I have the 60 nikkor and often opt for the vivitar to get the added reach.

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4/12/2006 7:44:50 AM

Charlene Bayerle
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/9/2003
  I have a Sigma 105mm 1:2.8 macro lense that I was getting ready to put on ebay.
If anyone is interested, just email me at
Wolff Camera has it for $399.
Of course, I would sell for a better price.

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4/12/2006 8:58:21 AM

Ben LindoPhotography   I have the Tamron 90mm 2.8 DI macro lens.
It makes very nice photos. You can check out my macros here if you want.
About 95 percent were made using that lens, a couple at the end were using a reversed 50mm lens.

Its a sharp lens, gets lots of good reviews. Good for portraits as well they say.

I'm not sure, the other macro lenses might have the same 'issues' but here are the things that sort of bugged me about it.

It extends to double the length when focusing upclose, and it doesnt have a nice silent smooth focusing sound like expencive Nikon AF-S lenses. When focusing on things far away like people, it doesnt extend very much at all though!

Also when focusing up close the apperature slowly goes from 2.8 (at infinity) to 5.6 at full close up range.
But the depth of field is very small even at 5.6, most likely you want to shoot with flash (preferably bounced flash) at f/8 or above!

I think the other sigma macro lenses are also very good, should be comparible. But higher focal lengths tend to be more expencive. The 90mm tamron is probably the cheapest if comparing against a Sigma 180 or 150. Otherwise (since I wanted a telephoto lens as well) I would have gotten a sigma 180mm lens, or something simular.

I heard its hard to find a BAD macro lens, since they're kind of a specialty lens and they have to be designed well I guess :)

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4/12/2006 10:40:00 AM

Ellen    sorry this is not an answer to the question, but I have a D70s like you and have recently come across somone else with one, they mentioned that the pctures tend to be blury which is my problem as well is this a thing with this camera? I have tried to sqeeze the button but it has no slack. Be interested in your answer. ta ellen

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4/13/2006 3:56:17 AM

Sachin D. Das
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/12/2006
  The new Nikon 18 - 200 vs Macro 200. Can they both do the same job at 200mm.


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4/19/2006 12:21:52 AM

Ben LindoPhotography   "The new Nikon 18 - 200 vs Macro 200. Can they both do the same job at 200mm."

Sorry Sachin, but I really doubt it.
It's not a macro lens, it doesn't have the 1:1 ratio (it means the subject is full sized on the sensor, or something, iono. But I couldn'd even find what the rating for macro was, like 1:6 or anything, so its probably not too great.

Even if it was good, from the review I read / photo ive seen, it doesn't have a very good bokah (blury part of the picture) which is CRUCIAL for macro.

I'm sure its a good lens for other purposes but not if your main concern is MACRO.

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4/21/2006 5:19:02 AM

Dave Hymers   Hi

Interesting discussion, I have a couple of questions regarding macro lenses.

I just switched from a Minolta Dimage 7 to a Nikon D50 (kit with an 18-55 and a 70-300 both nikon lenses)

I understand that these two aren't comparable because they have a different size sensor (?) I am looking into getting a macro lens for the D50 that I can use like I did my old D7.

200mm with a minimum focus distance of .25m, (I dont know the reproduction ratio sorry ..) what equivilent lens for the D50 would I look at to get similar results ?

Do you crop your shots and how much ?

The D50 is awesome compared to the D7, my main reasons for making the leap to DSLR where the speed and allowing lens change, but its seeming a little confusing atm :/ ...

Any help would be appreciated thanks.

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4/21/2006 11:24:56 AM

Ben LindoPhotography   I'm not sure what the D7 was... Its a film camera? Anyway, for the nikon D50 the crop factor is 1.5, so a 100mm lens looks kind of like a 150mm lens. You multiply the actual focal length (100) by the 1.5 crop factor).

So if the D7 was a film camera with no crop factor (or a crop factor of 1), then 135mm would be like 200mmm.

I think your talking about this camera right?
Its a digital SLR, so it probably has a simular crop factor to the new nikon you have.

meaning u should get another 200mm lens :p

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4/21/2006 2:32:12 PM

Dave Hymers   Actually this is my old camera -

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4/21/2006 6:00:36 PM

Dave Hymers   Actually this is my old camera -
It is not an SLR, hence me moving to the D50. Sorry if my post sounded a little confusing as I refer to it as just the D7.

The Diamge 7 has a Minolta GT lens which is actually 7.5-50mm (28-200 35mm Equiv)

Basically what I am looking for is a lens of around 200mm with a minimum focusing distance of around .25-.3m Am I going to find that for under $200 ?

Is it worth seeking out older lenses with an M42 mount/adaptor ring ?

I currently have a 70-300 also, is it worth using exstension tubes ? (currently has a minimum focus of 1.5m pretty useless for macro in my opinion) or even a teleconverter on my 18-55 ?

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4/21/2006 6:11:51 PM

Dave Hymers   Hmm..

I think I pretty much just answered my own question :) oops.

The minolta has a lens of 50mm and I have an 18-55dx for my D50 (minimum focus distances of .25 and .28 respectively)

I did a comparison and you can get ever so slightly closer with the minolta's gt lens because of its .25 distance, and maybe its smaller sensor too (?)

.28 is close enough I think for the d50 as it has 1 more MP so I can crop ..

wow sorry for filling this thread just by talking to myself lol :)

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4/22/2006 8:53:17 AM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  "This statement, from a previous posting is not accurate or true. Whether the lens focuses to 1:1 or 1:2 DOES NOT define whether or not it is a "true" macro."

Excuse me but if my statement was wrong then Wikipedia is wrong as well :o)!

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4/22/2006 9:25:04 AM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  There's a lot of information here (including mine) that isn't totally accurate or complete.

My old Canon FD macro does only do 1:2 without an extension. Macros are corrected for "flatness of field." This is something I wasn't really considering when responding to a question asking for information on the best lens to shoot bugs or flowers.

While you do have "slightly" more working distance with a 105mm over the 60mm it's not a lot of difference. When I want to capture butterflies in the field I use my 80-400 VR or my Sigma 70-300.

The only time a 60 or 105mm macro is practical for shooting butterflies is IF they are just emerging from their cocoons at a butterfly festival or something of this nature. Right after emerging they will sit in one place for minutes on end. Here's a gallery of bugs I consider awesome and many are captured with a 300mm lens and Kenko extension tubes. This combination works well as I've tried it with my 80-400, but it has to be absolutely still outside and the focus is critical.

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4/22/2006 9:46:33 AM

Dave Hymers   Good tips :)

I got this -

with my 18-55 real close, he wasn't bothered at all, I even had time to switch from my other lens.

I've been looking at various 28-80mm lenses and thier average minimum is about 1.1ft (compared to my 55's .92ft) would there be much point in buying one of those ? I really don't think I'd see much difference :/

I think I might get a set of exstensin tubes and try that, or a set of 'macro filters' for the 55 .. ?
I'm just a bit concerned that exstension tubes will make my 70-300 very unstable and I like to avoid tripods if I can.

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4/22/2006 10:55:59 AM

Dave Hymers   Hmm .. I'm pretty screwed if I want to buy exstension tubes too as the G lens is full auto >.< I'll be forking out $100 for something I don't know I will want to use if I get the auto ones.

Would these work ok with a Nikon 70-300 f4-5.6 G lens ? -

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4/22/2006 11:30:04 AM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  It's been my experience that typically butterflies are skittish so I try to be as far away from them as I can most of the time, however there are exceptions.

Check out to see if extension tubes will work with lenses designed for digital sensors. I don't know why I'm thinking they won't work together. I'm sure someone here can tell us though.

Extensions tubes would require a tripod with the 70-300. I never shoot with my zoom lenses and extensions without one.

With macro photography a tripod is usually a must have. You'd be surprised how accustomed you can get to using them. I'm older now and it doesn't bother me to carry one around all the time.

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4/22/2006 11:33:21 AM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  Dave, the Kenko extension tubes should work fine. The Nikon 70-300 is similiar to my Sigma and they work well with that. They work fine with my Nikon 80-400 VR too. I do manual focus with them. To me it seems the focusing struggles when using them and I find manual focusing easier anyway.

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4/22/2006 5:33:30 PM

Ben LindoPhotography   Sharon D is right about what she said about what makes a macro lens. I just wanted to keep it simple, by saying the lens someone mentioned earlier was not a macro lens :p

If your thinking of buying the nikon 70-300, i'd get the Sigma 70-300 instead, since it should be better, based on the reviews i've read.

I have the older sigma 70-300 lens (with a gold ring) if your buying used, make sure you get the newer red ring version with "APO" .

I dont think Youl find another lens with macro capabillity cheaper than the Sigma 70-300mm, especially in that range.
A good 200mm Macro lens would probably cost over $1,000. (Theres a few 180mm ones out there).

For smaller focal length macro lenses they're usually cheaper.
But you gotta get physically closer to the subject, which isn't good if it will get scared away. I havent had too much trouble with my 90mm macro yet... havent tried any butterflies, but I got pretty close to a bee so far.

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4/22/2006 7:41:14 PM

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