Dedicated Macro or Normal Macro?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by John Ortt, Nov 21, 2005.

  1. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    Hi Everyone,

    I am hoping for a bit of clarification please. What is the difference
    between a dedicated macro lens and a lens with a macro mode?
    Almost all lenses these days ahve a macro mode but the proper macro lenses
    are considerably more expensive....what do they offer over and above the
    normal lenses?
    Also what are the dedicated macro lenses like for non macro photography? For
    example would a 50mm macro perform similarly to a normal 50mm lens?

    Thanks in advance,

    John Ortt, Nov 21, 2005
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  2. John Ortt

    paul.busse Guest

    Short answers:

    Dedicated macros generally go to 1:1 ratio; macro mode usualy gets to
    1:4 or so.

    Dedicated macros are optimized for flatness of field at close ranges.

    Dedicated macros work fine a normal lenses, but are generally slower,
    typically f2.8.

    Paul B.
    paul.busse, Nov 21, 2005
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  3. John Ortt

    Jeremy Guest

    Lenses with "macro mode" do not match the performance of true macro lenses,
    although they may be acceptable if one does not have stringent requirements.
    True macro lenses are noted for their flat field coverage, their brightness
    right up to the corners, and their typically faster speeds than telephoto
    lenses with "macro mode." They are also optimized for best sharpness at
    closer focusing distances. Most lenses, by comparison, are optimized for

    Whether the additional cost of a dedicated macro lens is justified is
    something only you can decide. Clearly, if you make your living producing
    images, you'll want the best tools and a true macro lens is a must. The
    weekend photographer--especially one that does not do a significant amount
    of close-up work--might not see the cost vs. benefits to be worth it.
    Jeremy, Nov 21, 2005
  4. A "macro" lens would be optimized for

    1) closer focus and
    2) a flat field.

    The first is significant by definition; the second may or may
    not be (e.g., it won't affect pictures of flowers much, but for
    stamps it will make a difference.).

    Most "macro" lenses, and particularly those with a "macro mode",
    are actually just "close up" lenses. They won't do more than
    1:1 magnification without the use of a bellows or extension
    tubes. In that same range (less than 1:1 magnification) closeup
    filters are also usable. They don't have much effect with
    shorter focal length lenses, but with a telephoto the effect is
    increased as the focal length increases.

    Another option is to use a reversing ring and a normal lense,
    and one variation is to couple two lenses together, using a
    male-to-male filter ring adapter.

    For real macro work (between 1:1 and at least 10:1
    magnification) consider obtaining a bellows plus one or more
    enlarging lenses. It might cost less and get not only more
    versatility but much better performance. Compare, for example,
    the prices on eBay for a quality ~100mm macro lense and a
    quality 105mm enlarging lense! One trick to making it less
    expensive is to buy an M42 screw mount bellows plus an adapter
    for your particular camera body and an adapter for standard 39mm
    enlarger lenses. There are any number of suitable enlarger
    lenses of different focal lengths available at very reasonable
    prices (El Nikkor, Rodenstock Rodagon, etc.).

    Note that using bellows, extension tubes, or reversing rings
    calls for either *very* expensive equipment or the loss of
    functions such as auto focus, auto aperture, and perhaps even
    through the lens metering with some cameras. Hence if 1/2 size
    magnification is the only objective, a "macro lens" might be a
    very appropriate purchase, and if close up filters are adequate
    they should be considered too.

    I'm sure that if you use Google to beach on "macro-photography"
    or "photo-macrography" you'll find a great deal of tutorial
    Floyd Davidson, Nov 21, 2005
  5. Dedicated macro lenses are very well corrected for flatness of field,
    colour errors, and geometric distortion. They're also designed to be at
    their best at 1:1 or 2:1 scale, not infinity. They typically achieve
    higher resolution than most lenses designed for that format.

    A lens with macro mode is simply capable of "closer than normal"
    focusing. It probably won't focus down to 1:1 reproduction. If it's a
    zoom, it will probably give the closest focus at either the shortest or
    longest focal length only, not the whole zoom range. It probably has
    curvature of field and barrel or pincushion distortion, and these may
    get worse in the macro range. Basically, it's a lens that's really
    designed for use in the normal focusing range, with an extra-close
    focusing option thrown in for free.

    Dave Martindale, Nov 21, 2005
  6. John Ortt

    John Ortt Guest

    Thanks for the replies guys....

    Cleared up my confusion nicely :)
    John Ortt, Nov 22, 2005
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