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macro photography questions
Good morning: I cannot find the answer to this anywhere, so I'm hoping an expert can answer it here. (before I buy a macro lens).

Everything I read tells me that a true macro lens offers a 1:1 life size image, and anything you add to increase the image size degrades the image quality. So how do I increase the image size without degrading the image? What do the pros do?.

Also, does a fixed focal length macro lens offer a better quality image than a zoom macro lens?.

Thanks so much, cg..

Comments (21)

There is no such thing as a zoom macro lens if I recall correctly. Best they offer is 1:2.

To increase magnification try a raynox M-2500 add on microscopic lens with something like a sigma or tamron 1:2 macro zoom. You get CRAZY magnification but you need a good flash and a diffuser. See sig for results with this set up..

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Pentax Lens examples at http://www.pbase.com/alfisti/images_by_lens.

Updated May '08..

Comment #1

The cheapest way to do it is to add an extension tube (or several). This allows you to get closer to your subject, and bcause there's no glass in it, image quality isn't affected. The amount of light is, however, and foucusing can be a bit tricky.Androohttp://Androo.smugmug.com..

Comment #2

I think first it is important to know what your current gear looks like? What lenses do you have, what kind of camera? Perhaps we can help you find the cheapest upgrade to get the best macro-abilities out of your current kit?.

Greetings,ErwinDon't blame me for just getting started....

Sony H2Sony A300.

My Pbase is finally online:http://www.pbase.com/ed197907/..

Comment #3

Yes a dedicated macro lens wiill be much better than a zoom with attachments..

A prime lens with a set of extension tubes would be better than a zoom. A dedicated macro lens with extension tubes is a good way to go to increase magnification. The Canon MP-E 65mm will go 5 times life size without attachments for around $870...

Comment #4

For starters, the best way to go, IMO, is a dedicated macro lens. One of the very best for the least money is the Tamron 90mm. You can add extension tubes to that for increased magnification..

The advantage of a dedicated macro lens is that you get close range correction where some of elements float. Extension tubes on a non-macro prime doesn't have that. One thing to remember, if using a non-macro prime with tubes, always leave the lens set to the closest focus it can then move in and out for focus. That way the lens is at least set for the best close focus it can..

You can get fancy later with reverse rings or bellows..

One last thing. Though most people now define "macro" as 1:1, some of the best legacy macro glass from days gone by were 1:2..

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Cheers, Craig..

Comment #5

"1:1" implies the field width is the same as the sensor width:.

Thus a "1:1" macro lens for a full frame camera at closest focus images a field 36mm wide..

Put that lens on an ASP-C camera and the field width imaged falls to around 24mm..

The same lens on a 4:3 camera images a field of about 18mm ..

In each case the magnification is 1 (image_size_on_sensor/actual_object_size) BUT an uncropped print from the 4:3 camera appears to have a magnification of twice the same sized print from the 35mm camera..

Before choosing macro equipment one should think about what field widths you'd like to cover...

Comment #6

The distance between the front of the lens and the subject, the "working distance", can be a serious limitation for close-up and macro photography because the lens interferes with lighting the subject..

As the image size gets larger and larger the lens gets closer and closer to the subject..

From thin lens theory, the working distance at a particular magnification is proportional to the focal length of the lens..

The construction of real lenses introduces a lot of variation in this relationship, but you can usually expect a long focal length lens to have a greater working distance than a short lens..

The kinds of subjects you expect to shoot can help you decide on your working distance requirements..

For technical work involving very hot or other wise inaccessible subjects it is common to use a telescope to increase the working distance...

Comment #7

Well, I can see I've come to the right place. Half of what I'm reading sounds like Greek to me..

To answer a few questions:.

I own a Nikon F80 that I used a fair amount years ago, but barely remember how to use now. and (I pulled it out of the closet) it has on it a AF Nikkor 28-105mm lens. I also have and am currently using a Panasonic DMC FZ18..

So I'd like to move up to a dSLR and what interests me the most is macro, specifically plants and flowers. So I'm trying to do my homework ahead of time before I drop a small fortune on a new body and new lenses..

I don't want to magnify things by 5 or 10X, but by 1.5 or 2 max..

While I'm here, I have another question. Are there other brand cameras besides Nikon that will take Nikon F-mount lenses? And the lenses will work the way they are intended? i.e. AF, VR, etc. etc.? I've read there are adapters but do the lenses work as well with an adapter?.

Thanks so muchI hope these questions aren't too stupid. CG..

Comment #8

Photographer slang for a fixed focal length lens is a "prime lens". Good quality primes are genrally regarded as better than zooms, but zooms have their place..

When you consider buying a camera, thinkinking about the lenses for it is as important as what features you want in the body. In a few years you may upgrade the camera body with relitively little cost compaired to changing from one brand camera to another and having to buy all new lenses..

For macro work IMHO one of the beat macro lenses ever was the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f2.5. It's also known as a Lester Dine 105 because the L.D. ompany used this lens for many of their dental photography systems..

Search Flicker using the various lenses mentioned here. You'll find hundreds of photos for many of the macros so you can make your own comparison of the results of the various lens and camera systems..

I use Pentax not because it's best but it's what I started using many years ago and my old lenses, (some very nice primes) fit on the new K20D..

This is a shot of part of a baseball size glass paperweight. The lithe colored part is about the size of a quarter. Using a tripod and a table lamp..

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Comment #9

Cgquilter wrote:.

I own a Nikon F80 that I used a fair amount years ago, but barelyremember how to use now. and (I pulled it out of the closet) it hason it a AF Nikkor 28-105mm lens. I also have and am currently usinga Panasonic DMC FZ18..

So I'd like to move up to a dSLR and what interests me the most ismacro, specifically plants and flowers. So I'm trying to do myhomework ahead of time before I drop a small fortune on a new bodyand new lenses..

I don't want to magnify things by 5 or 10X, but by 1.5 or 2 max..

Canon has a lens that does 1x to 5x, but with other mounts you would have to use bellows, extension tubes, supplemental close up lenses (also know as close up filters), or telephoto extenders. You do realize what 1:1 means: an object the same size as the sensor will fill the frame, so on a Nikon crop sensor that is approximately 22 mm horizontally..

Here is a good link to the various devices used for decresing focusing distance, and therefore increasing magnification:http://www.shutterbug.net/refreshercourse/lens_tips/172/index.html.

Also look at Mark Plonskys site:http://www.mplonsky.com/photo/article.htm.

I have three dedicated macro lenses, and generally use extension tubes when I need more than 1x. I have no idea about Nikon extension tubes, but for Canon EF mount, Kenko produces a set of three extension tubes with full electronic coupling that are equal to Canons quality for a far lower price..

Brian A...

Comment #10

Now that's what I'm talking about. What kind of mount does that vivitar lens have? I would have sent you a message off list, if I knew how to do that.....thanks..

Comment #11

Cgquilter wrote:.

So I'd like to move up to a dSLR and what interests me the most ismacro, specifically plants and flowers. So I'm trying to do myhomework ahead of time before I drop a small fortune on a new bodyand new lenses..

I don't want to magnify things by 5 or 10X, but by 1.5 or 2 max..

How do you mean "magnify"? Do you want your final print to be magnified 1.5 to 2X? This sounds reasonable to me for flower pictures..

A 2X macro on a Nikon will have a field that covers 12mm X 8mm, or 1/2" X 5/16" for Americans. Now this is a tiny field. I do this all the time but I take pictures of microchips..

I think a good field for flowers is something like 150mm X 100mm (4" X 6"). This is 1:1 on a 4" X 6" print but 0.16X on the sensor. So you probably don't need a macro lens to do this, but a macro will be sharper than a conventional zoom..

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #12

Leonard Migliore wrote:.

How do you mean "magnify"? Do you want your final print to bemagnified 1.5 to 2X? This sounds reasonable to me for flower pictures..

Yes, that's what I mean. In the final print, I'd the images to be 1.5 or 2x the real size. I'd like to do 5 X 7" prints..

A 2X macro on a Nikon will have a field that covers 12mm X 8mm, or1/2" X 5/16" for Americans. Now this is a tiny field. I do this allthe time but I take pictures of microchips..

How do you do this calculation? When you say field, what do you mean exactly?.

I think a good field for flowers is something like 150mm X 100mm (4"X 6"). This is 1:1 on a 4" X 6" print but 0.16X on the sensor. So youprobably don't need a macro lens to do this, but a macro will besharper than a conventional zoom..

Can you do this calculation again for 5 X 7? And .16X on the sensor, doesn't that depend on the size of the sensor?.

Thanks very much,cg.

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #13

Working forward from the object approach:.

You want the image projected by the lens to fit within the sensor in the camera. The subsequent printing process simply magnifies the sensor to fit the paper..

Say you want a close-up of a 10mm long bee; about a 12 mm wide field of view should be ok..

To fit the 12mm field of view onto the sensor you'll find:A full frame sensor is 36mm wide so you'd need a 3:1 magnification (36/12=3).An ASP-C sensor is about 24mm wide so you'd need a 2:1 magnification (24/12=2).A 4:3 sensor is 18mm wide so you'd need a 1.5:1 magnification (18/12=1.5)..

The out-of-the-camera image of the bee will be 10/12ths as wide as the print no matter how big the print is; the dimension of the bee will increase with the print size..

The various magnification effects make it pretty hard to insure that the person viewing the image can figure out the true dimensions of the object. This is why photos presented for technical purposes usually include an object of known size, like a ruler...

Comment #14

Cgquilter wrote:.

I also have and am currently usinga Panasonic DMC FZ18..

...what interests me the most ismacro, specifically plants and flowers. So I'm trying to do myhomework ahead of time before I drop a small fortune on a new bodyand new lenses..

If you don't want to spend a fortune on a new body (DSLR) and new lenses, what's wrong with the "Macro" mode on your Panasonic DMC FZ18? This would appear to be your simplest and (by far) the cheapest option...

Comment #15

Cgquilter wrote:.

Leonard Migliore wrote:.

How do you mean "magnify"? Do you want your final print to bemagnified 1.5 to 2X? This sounds reasonable to me for flower pictures..

Yes, that's what I mean. In the final print, I'd the images to be1.5 or 2x the real size. I'd like to do 5 X 7" prints..

That's what I thought. Technically, that's not "macro". But it's the right size for the subject..

A 2X macro on a Nikon will have a field that covers 12mm X 8mm, or1/2" X 5/16" for Americans. Now this is a tiny field. I do this allthe time but I take pictures of microchips..

How do you do this calculation? When you say field, what do you meanexactly?.

OK. I looked in dpreview for a Nikon DX review, and it said the sensor is 23.6 X15.8 mm. Let's call that 24 X 16..

Here is the point: What "2X macro" means is that the image on the sensor is twice the actual size of the object. So on a DX Nikon, a 2X macro will cover half of 24 X 16 mm, or 12 X 8 mm..

By "field" I mean the entire image on the sensor, which is close to what you see through the finder or on the LCD..

I think a good field for flowers is something like 150mm X 100mm (4"X 6"). This is 1:1 on a 4" X 6" print but 0.16X on the sensor. So youprobably don't need a macro lens to do this, but a macro will besharper than a conventional zoom..

Can you do this calculation again for 5 X 7? And .16X on the sensor,doesn't that depend on the size of the sensor?.

You're correct about that. I was assuming a Nikon DX sensor for that value..

Anyway, to do a 5 X 7, which is 127 X 178 mm, you have to enlarge the sensor image 127/16 or about 8X. If you want the print to be 2X actual size, the image on a Nikon DX sensor must be 2/8 or 0.25 X..

Your questions, which are reasonable, are the exact reason I find the customary definition of "macro" to be useless. No one cares how big the image on the sensor is; you want the final print to be the right magnification..

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #16

Print size is not the same as image size...image size is what should be called field of view. For the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f2.5 the fiels of view at 1:1 which is at the minimum focus distance of 18 inches ( 0.4M for the rest of the world) is a about 2 inches or 50mm. When you put that image onto a sensor things begin to change. If the sensor is FF (that's a full 36mm by 24mm) and the senaor is 10mp the resulting ~ 2x1.3 inch [field of view] image is recorded onto a 3872 x 2592 pixel field. A good printer needs a minimum of 250 pixells per inch (the professional standard is 300) to create a good photo print. So your print of a 2 or so inch field of view is now going to print at about 10x12..

[CROP FACTOR] A 2/3 sensor has a crop factor of 1.5 for a 35mm lens of any focal length..

With a 10MP 2/3 sensor (24mm by 18mm) the vield of view is cropped 2/3rds. SO the 105mm lens vield of view is reduced by 2/3rds and that gives you a 1.5 inch feild on a 10mp sensor able to be printed at 10x12 inches..

Sensor size and pixel count change the size of the a given field of view. At printing, PPI (Pixels Per Inch) change image size and print quality..

If you put an extension tube on you increase the focal length by the multilpier of the extension. ie. a 2x tube converts the 105mm to a 210mm, with 1/2 the light and an image size at 1/2 and I can't tell you what the minimum focus distance would be...maybe 36" but I haven't used an extension tube so I can't say for sure. Calcs say 36"..

Slightly out of focus andat the end of a barley visaible rainbow ata birthday party in TX in June butit was fun trying this.

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Comment #17

Most Vivitar lenses come in several different mounts, Nikon, Pentax and Minalta are three that come to mind. I don't know about Canon. The Lester Dine isn't the only lens that will do this. Search Flicker.com for "Macro 105mm" and change the 105 to 90 or 100 to see other lenses that can taake these shots..

This lens is no longer made and can only be bought used on Craigs List or Ebay. That's a great way to buy good primes. you have to hunt and wait and bid smart, but you can get good deald... this lens off Craigs List was $208 with shipping. I've seen them go for as much as $400 on ebay..

The dohicky light on the stem on the bumper of the truck.taken with the 105mm macro.

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Notice the dohicky lighttaken with a 16-55mm zoom @16mm.

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Comment #18

Mikelis wrote:.

If you don't want to spend a fortune on a new body (DSLR) and newlenses, what's wrong with the "Macro" mode on your Panasonic DMCFZ18? This would appear to be your simplest and (by far) thecheapest option..

There's nothing wrong with it, and I do, but I want to graduate to a dSLR. I want to learn how to use it well, so I'm doing my homework now. I have a film SLR, and I want to move to digital. I know it's an expensive hobby, but that's my entertainment. I want to have a clear idea what to buy and why I'm buying it before jumping in. I think I'll wait until next year and see if Nikon comes out with a new body on the lower dSLR end.cg..

Comment #19

What make your fslr?.

Shakespear in Ashland OR.

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Comment #20

You've got some facts wrong here..

RBroomall wrote:.

Print size is not the same as image size...image size is what shouldbe called field of view. For the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f2.5 thefiels of view at 1:1 which is at the minimum focus distance of 18inches ( 0.4M for the rest of the world) is a about 2 inches or 50mm..

1:1 means 1:1. Object size to image size. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_photography.

If the Vivitar you describe has a 2" (horizontal?) field of view on 35mm film at it's minimum focusing distance, then it's not 1:1, it's 1:1.4.

When you put that image onto a sensor things begin to change..

The magnification does not change..

If the sensor is FF (that's a full 36mm by 24mm) and the senaor is 10mpthe resulting ~ 2x1.3 inch [field of view] image is recorded onto a3872 x 2592 pixel field. A good printer needs a minimum of 250pixells per inch (the professional standard is 300) to create a goodphoto print. So your print of a 2 or so inch field of view is nowgoing to print at about 10x12..

[CROP FACTOR] A 2/3 sensor has a crop factor of 1.5 for a 35mm lensof any focal length.With a 10MP 2/3 sensor (24mm by 18mm) the vield of view is cropped2/3rds..

24mm X 18mm is generally referred to as an APS-C sensor. A 2/3 sensor is 8.8mm X 6.6mm. In your APS-C example, the field is cropped to 2/3 of full frame, not cropped by 2/3..

SO the 105mm lens vield of view is reduced by 2/3rds andthat gives you a 1.5 inch feild on a 10mp sensor able to be printedat 10x12 inches..

And it's still not 1:1, it's 1:1.4.

Sensor size and pixel count change the size of the a given field ofview..

Pixel count has no effect on the field of view. A 6 megapixel D40 has the same field as a 10 megapixel D40x..

At printing, PPI (Pixels Per Inch) change image size andprint quality..

You can't change your image size no matter what your PPI is. The image is what strikes the sensor, and you always have the same sensor..

If you put an extension tube on you increase the focal length by themultilpier of the extension. ie. a 2x tube converts the 105mm to a210mm, with 1/2 the light and an image size at 1/2 and I can't tellyou what the minimum focus distance would be...maybe 36" but Ihaven't used an extension tube so I can't say for sure. Calcs say36"..

An extension tube is just a tube. It does not change the focal length of a lens, it just puts it further from the sensor, allowing you to focus closer. Also, I have not seen tubes marked "2X", they're just marked with their length. Now, teleconverters are marked "2X" and "1.4X" but they're completely different devices that actually do change the focal length by the magnification factor. Teleconverters do not change the focusing distance of the lens..

Leonard Migliore..

Comment #21

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