Macro lenses

Close-up, or macro, photography requires a lens that is either dedicated to functioning at a close range or that has the ability to take short-distance images along with other features. Several Canon lenses offer a macro function either as an option to other capabilities or as their primary purpose, and they vary according to how specialized you want to be with this unique type of photography.

The primary difference between the various types of macro photography is how far you can be from your subject and how much magnification the lens provides. If you are shooting insects, for example, which in many cases won’t let you get a foot or less away from them to shoot, you’ll probably need a longer lens to capture them alive in their natural habitat. On the other hand, if you’re shooting something that will stand still for you — such as a flower or a small product for a catalog — you can get closer and you won’t need a long lens. As for magnification, being able to fill a frame with a close-up image is essential to producing high-resolution images.

UNDERSTANDING MAGNIFICATION AND SUBJECT SIZE

Because macro lenses vary greatly in focal length, and also because many other nondedicated lenses include a macro capability, it’s good to understand when, where, and why you would use these different types of lenses.

Dedicated macro lenses let you focus at a 1:1 ratio or better, meaning you can get ultrasharp focus at close range where your tiny subject fills the frame. The shorter focal lengths, such as the 50mm, are what you want to use if you’re shooting smaller objects, commercial items (such as for a catalog), or details of larger things (such as the dashboard on a car).

The mid-sized macro lenses, such as the 65mm-100mm range, are good for the smallest-of-the-small subjects, including insects, ultra close-ups of nature in general, jewelry, and so on. This is the most common focal range for a macro lens, and these lenses offer the most versatility.

The longer macro lenses, such as the 180mm, are designed to shoot small to slightly larger objects and nature — but, more importantly, to give you the luxury of having a little extra distance between camera and subject.

You can approximate some of these macro capabilities with zoom lenses featuring a macro function, but they typically do not produce a 1:1 image. While acceptable for some general shots, if you’re interested in macro photography professionally, you’ll find that they ultimately prove insufficient.

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Category: Science of Lenses

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