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Starting with macro: some questions
Hello people,.

I am a hobbyist photographer, using my Nikon D40 to make pictures. I am seriously enchanted by the beauty of macro photography. Howeve, I still don't know a lot about it. The Sigma MACRO 70mm F2.8 EX DG seems like a lovely choice, at least that's what the sharpness test say. The Nikkor lenses are too expensive for "amateur" standards..

Anyway, some questions:.

*For my D40, with the Sigma lens, I presume I won't be able to use the autofocus. Is autofocus a MUST when it comes to macro photography?.

*The fact that it's 70mm forces me to get very close to the subject. Is it even possible to photograph insects without scaring them away?.

*Other options? I have seen a Tamron 90mm so I can get further away but the image quality isn't as good as the Sigma.*Anything else....?.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comments (24)

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

Hello people,.

I am a hobbyist photographer, using my Nikon D40 to make pictures. Iam seriously enchanted by the beauty of macro photography. Howeve, Istill don't know a lot about it. The Sigma MACRO 70mm F2.8 EX DGseems like a lovely choice, at least that's what the sharpness testsay. The Nikkor lenses are too expensive for "amateur" standards..

Anyway, some questions:.

*For my D40, with the Sigma lens, I presume I won't be able to usethe autofocus. Is autofocus a MUST when it comes to macro photography?.

No, in fact manual focus is usually recommended. I think you are right about the AF..

*The fact that it's 70mm forces me to get very close to the subject.Is it even possible to photograph insects without scaring them away?.

Yes, some put the critters in a fridge for a while to 'sedate' them..

*Other options? I have seen a Tamron 90mm so I can get further awaybut the image quality isn't as good as the Sigma..

Maybe the Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 micro - cheaper than the Sigma isn't it?.

Alex.

Http://alexandjustine.smugmug.com/..

Comment #1

Thanks a lot for the reply. You're not right about the Nikon 60mm though. In fact, it's even a bit more expensive than the Sigma..

However the biggest fear I have is the fact that I must get very close to the insects. maybe other people can share some more experience on that.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #2

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

*For my D40, with the Sigma lens, I presume I won't be able to usethe autofocus. Is autofocus a MUST when it comes to macro photography?.

No, in fact must macro photography is done using manual focus. That is not to say that you won't want AF with a macro lens, because there will be times when you will be using the lens at more normal subject distances..

*The fact that it's 70mm forces me to get very close to the subject.Is it even possible to photograph insects without scaring them away?.

Yes it is more than just "possible" I have seen excellent macro shots of insects with 50 mm macro lenses. Some insects, especially butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies are much more difficult and are easily scared..

*Other options? I have seen a Tamron 90mm so I can get further awaybut the image quality isn't as good as the Sigma.*Anything else....?.

The Tamron 90 mm lens has excellent optical quality, but it has the shortest working distance relative to focal length of any macro lens I know. I do not know the minimum working distance of the Sigma 70 mm lens, but the Tamron 90 mm has a minimum working distance of only 9.7 cm (not much better than the Canon 60 mm's 9 cm). Perhaps someone with the 70 mm lens could post the minimum working distance figure?.

If you want greater working distance at a reasonable price, then the Sigma 150 mm is worth looking at. It has a minimum working distance of 20 cm..

Note: Manufactures state minimum focusing distance (MFD). This is the distance from the sensor to the subject. Working distance is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject..

Brian A...

Comment #3

Hugowolf wrote:.

... I do not know the minimum working distance of the Sigma 70 mmlens, but the Tamron 90 mm has a minimum working distance of only 9.7cm (not much better than the Canon 60 mm's 9 cm). Perhaps someonewith the 70 mm lens could post the minimum working distance figure?.

According to http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/lenses/sigma_70_28_canon/index.htm it's 65 mm...

Comment #4

This talks about Canon Macro lenses, but if you go down to where it talks about choosing the right focal length, it applies to any system (just below the image of the three lenses next to each other):.

Http://www.the-digital-picture.com/...S-60mm-f-2.8-Macro-USM-Lens-Review.aspx..

Comment #5

According to http://www.microglobe.co.uk/...mm-f28-ex-dg-macro-lens-for-pentax-digital-slr the minimum focusing distance is 25.7 cm. That is on a Pentax SLR though.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #6

I have a sigma 105mm macro lens..

Some I nfo for you-.

-shooting distances. when I take a flower shot the flower being 3-4 inches in diameter, I am shooting from about 24-30inches away. this fills the frame on a 1.5crop dslr with a slight border..

-which mm lens. the sigma 70mm is a nice lens but for anyting like a small critter the shooting distance would come down to 12-18inches. I would think that you should be thinking of the 100-105mm macros. there are also some in the 150-180mm range. these would give you more shooting distance. I would suggest you try a 105mm vs a 150-180mm in a store and see what happens when you take a pic of a match box what distance you actually end up with so as not to alarm the critter..

-on my flower shots I have been using auto focus which works fine. but I am concerned in getting the whole flower(which is larger than small critters) in focus..

If you have a need fo selective focus of a small object or part of a small object then manual focus is needed..

-a reminder. in macro photography dof is importnt but as you increase the ftop past f11.0 or so you will be running into diffraction distorsion. this is what light does as it passes througha small hole. you will have to balance the need for dof with a increasing amout of distorsion and loss of IQ as the fstop rises..

With 105mm sigma macro-.

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Comment #7

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

However the biggest fear I have is the fact that I must get veryclose to the insects. maybe other people can share some moreexperience on that..

Only a few insects can harm you in any way. Even fewer will. You need to approach a wasp nest or the entrance to a beehive with a long lens that will allow you to stand off. Individual bees or wasps at flowers, though, won't bother you. In any event, unless you are prone to allergic reactions, the only consequence of a single insect sting is, it hurts for a few minutes. The Hymenoptera (Bees, wasps, ants, and such) are the only stinging insects.

You have to pick them up or lean up against them, or something like that. EVERYTHING else is essentially harmless. (Spiders and scorpions aren't insects, nor do any of medical concern occur in northern Europe.).

The critical concern is working distance. The problem with having to get very close to insects is that they are apt to move farther away, or leave. It is possible to slowly stalk in to photography range. You will have a lot of failures, but it does work. It might also be a good idea to get a set of supplementary closeup lenses. A +2 lens on a 300 mm lens (as in the long end of a good zoom) will allow you to fill the frame with moderate sized insects (roughly honey bee sized) from 50 cm or a bit less.

You might see if you can borrow some from a friend. The ideal, of course, would be a 200 mm macro lens, but the expense can be far too much. However, I have seen some remarkable insect photography done with high diopter supplementary lenses having a working distance of maybe 7 cm. A 60 mm macro lens will give you 15-20 cm..

WillWill PrattBarrick Museum, UNLV..

Comment #8

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

*For my D40, with the Sigma lens, I presume I won't be able to usethe autofocus. Is autofocus a MUST when it comes to macro photography?.

It's a MUST NOT .

*The fact that it's 70mm forces me to get very close to the subject.Is it even possible to photograph insects without scaring them away?.

Yes. Plenty of folk did macro with 90mm lenses on film where 1:1 fills the frame with an object 24mmx36mm. Now you don't have to get down to 1:1 to fill the frame with the same subject. So a 70mm macro should be similar to using a 90-105mm macro on film. Of course, the more working distance, the better ....

*Other options? I have seen a Tamron 90mm so I can get further awaybut the image quality isn't as good as the Sigma..

The Tamron 90 is an absolute legend ! It rivals the 100mm macros from Canon, Nikon & Minolta. The Sigma may be sharp, but if it's sharper, it's only sharper in carefully measured test chart shots. It's not a difference that will matter to anyone, particularly if it comes at the expense of working distance. The lens is physically big (about as big as the Tamron 90) for whatever that's worth. The only reason I can see for getting the 70 over a Tamron 90 or a Sigma 105 is because you want to use it as a portrait lens (and AF speed isn't any better than other macro lenses like the Tamron 90)..

*Anything else....?.

Get a Tamron 90 or a Sigma 105..

(I've owned Minolta 50, Tamron 90, Minolta 100 and Minolta 200/4 macro lenses in the past)..

- DennisGallery at http://kingofthebeasts.smugmug.com..

Comment #9

Thanks everbody! All the advice means a lot to me. It's still a tough call though. The Tamron 90 sounds nice because I can focus from a bit further away and I wouldnt use a non-AF lens for portraits anyway..

What I d want to know more about is what you guys tell me about the "1.5 crop". The (lame) guy at the photo shop told me about that too. How exactly does that work? Does it enable me to take pictures from further away?.

Sorry about the lack of know-how, I feel that now that I have my own camera I am finally starting to learn.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #10

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

Thanks everbody! All the advice means a lot to me. It's still a toughcall though. The Tamron 90 sounds nice because I can focus from a bitfurther away and I wouldnt use a non-AF lens for portraits anyway..

What I d want to know more about is what you guys tell me about the"1.5 crop". The (lame) guy at the photo shop told me about that too.How exactly does that work? Does it enable me to take pictures fromfurther away?.

In a sense, yes..

A 1:1 macro lens can focus close enough to make an actual-size image on the sensor. My Canon 100/2.8, for example, on my film camera will fill the frame with a 36x24 mm subject, at minimum working distance. To fill the frame of my 400D (sensor size 22.2 x 14.8) with the same 36x24 subject I would have to move back to 1.6x the distance..

It's a shame you don't have the 400D. Canon's 60 mm macro has almost the same working distance as the Tamron 90, more than the Sigma 70, and costs less than either, and is smaller and lighter. And it has ring USM focusing - Canon's best. If you are not yet heavily committed to Nikon it might be worth comparing the cost of switching to Canon and buying the EF-S 60mm macro, instead of keeping the Nikon and buying the Sigma or the Tamron...

Comment #11

The classical definition of macro photography is 1:1. In plain English this means the size of the image on the sensor is the same as the size of the image in real life. It is relatively uncommon to find images with this level of magnification. I assume you are talking about capturing images like this one which is really a close up image.

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This image was captured using a Sigma 150mm lens with a 1.4TC behind it..

I have a whole bunch of images with this level of IQ from the same lens..

I am a big fan of the 150 because it has a nice big working distance and is fast at f2.8. This really helps with the TTL flash which I think is necessary to do macro work..

One dirty little secret of macro/close up imaging is that lighting is the real key. Since most macro has a very shallow DOF you need to stop down the lens to the diffraction limit and then use a flash to get a shutter speed you can live with..

My theory on lens choice is you should only buy lens that you intend to keep for the long run. The Sigma 150mm macro is such a lens. Nikon has some nice ones too, but I shoot Canon and Sigma bodies so someone else may be better able to advise you..

As others have mentioned AF is not really a must for macro work. The general technique is to get close to the subject and sorta rock the camera back and forth till you get the composition and your subject in the critical focusing area..

The reason I mention this is I have a bud who got an old 200mm Nikor macro lens with no AF and used an adapter to mount it on his Sigma body. You should not need an adapter to use such a lens on your Nikon. You can sometimes pick these lens up for a song on ebay or at local camera stores..

But you may need to work on what type of flash you will use. Another trick is to use those sun blockers you put behind the windshield of your car as reflectors and wind blockers to shield your subject from the wind and reflect and warm the light..

Another option is to get some extension tubes to use with one of your current lens. I have a Canon 400/5.6 tele prime. By stacking some tubes between it and the camera body I can reduce the minimum focusing distance and get images like this one..

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Original here.

Http://www.pbase.com/tommy2guns/image/61622495/original.

A quick look at the original will show it does not have the detail you will get with a true macro, but I still think it has acceptable IQ..

Others have mentioned close up filters. I have both the Nikon 6T and the Canon D500. IMHO there is little to choose between the two IQ wise, but they do fit different filter sizes. Here is an example using my 6T..

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Keep in mind that you can use a 6T on a macro lens and stack extension tubes behind it for even more magnification..

If you are on a budget I would suggest getting a 6T first, then some extension tubes, then something like the Sigma 150 or a Nikor 200. And keep an eye on ebay for deals on older Nikon mount macro lens with no AF..

Once you get hooked on macro you will find out macro stuff is like potato chips, you cant stop at just one.Those who forget history are condemned to go to summer school...

Comment #12

Thanks Tom, that was some great advice. You really opened my eyes there. In a few months time, I already bought my D40 and a 55-200mm VR lens and some UV filters....total price card about $1000. But once you start buying lenses, it all seems to come down to the next lens..

Extension tubes and filters appear to be a great way to learn about macro and appreciate before going for the next "big one". It also helps my wallet because making 5 dollars an hour isn't doing me much good..

Next question (yes they keep coming up): if I am to buy filters, on which lens do you advice me putting them? Can they be put on and taken off at any given time? And how does it "stack" with my UV filters?.

Thanks for the great advice people, and for not making me feel like I make a fool out of myself by asking all these questions.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #13

Wicked_Cricket wrote:SNIP.

Next question (yes they keep coming up): if I am to buy filters, onwhich lens do you advice me putting them? Can they be put on andtaken off at any given time? And how does it "stack" with my UVfilters?.

Here is a link to the D500 at BH.

Http://www.bhphotovideo.com/...;is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation.

It looks very much like a UV filter, and screws on the lens the same way. It is possible to screw a UV tilter on a lens and then screw a CU (Close Up) filter on the UV filter, but many folks just use one filter. Depending on the size of the filter and the size of the filter thread on the lens you may need to get a step up or a step down ring..

Here is a link that came up in google, dont know how good these guys are, but there are lots of places to buy step up or step down rings.

Http://www.asiancamera.com/...=26&osCsid=4f6c1301207ef992e3b8e1e8d2ae19e2.

What you have to do is get one that matches the filter thread on the lens on the male side and the filter thread of the filter on the female side..

Keep in mind that the better quality the original lens is the better quality the image with a CU filter will be. I dont know too much about the Nikon zoom you have so I cant recommend it as being good or bad..

Also keep in mind my comment about lighting. If your Nikon has a flash you can use it, but you may want to look at getting one to put in the hot shoe, or even off camera. Also keep in mind that you can create simple reflectors from lots of common things. I tend to use the sun blockers you put behind the windshield of your car, but others have different solutions..

The reason I mention this is I doubt the lens you have now is really a fast one and if you stop it down for more DOF you may need more light to keep the shutter speed high..

Thanks for the great advice people, and for not making me feel like Imake a fool out of myself by asking all these questions.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!.

Those who forget history are condemned to go to summer school...

Comment #14

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

Next question (yes they keep coming up): if I am to buy filters, onwhich lens do you advice me putting them? Can they be put on andtaken off at any given time? And how does it "stack" with my UVfilters?.

I didn't see your list of lenses, but 55-200 seems like a good one. You can "try out" macro with a cheap closeup filter, but it's almost a waste if you think you're going to want to do macro (closeup) photography ... a $50ish 2-element filter from Canon/Nikon is good enough that some pros carry them to put on good lenses and use for "occasional" close up work. When you put one on, you're limited to close focus - with the lens at infinity, you're still focussed inches away, then remove it to focus in the normal range. It can stack with your UV, but don't - you'll eliminate possible problems by not stacking..

Also, try doing some google searches on Raynox macro accessories (essentially doing the same thing as close up filters, but apparently doing it very well). I don't know specifics ... the DCR-250 is one model I've seen mentioned..

Thanks for the great advice people, and for not making me feel like Imake a fool out of myself by asking all these questions..

Phil did a great thing by creating a Beginners Questions forum !.

- DennisGallery at http://kingofthebeasts.smugmug.com..

Comment #15

A close up filter really seems like "the way to go" at this point. Now, the magnifaction my Nikon D40 has is 0.8. Does this mean I only need one filter in front to get to the magic spot of 1:1? If so, I think I will put it on my 55-200 VR even though I guess I will need to use my tripod to avoid long shutter times.Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #16

Wicked_Cricket wrote:.

A close up filter really seems like "the way to go" at this point.Now, the magnifaction my Nikon D40 has is 0.8..

I dont know where you get the 0.8 from, any magnification you get is from the lens, not the camera..

Does this mean I onlyneed one filter in front to get to the magic spot of 1:1? If so, Ithink I will put it on my 55-200 VR even though I guess I will needto use my tripod to avoid long shutter times..

The maximum magnification from the 55-200 mm is 1:4.35 (or less than 0.25x).

A simple way to calculate the magnification is to divide the focal length of the lens by the focal length of the supplementary close up lens. A +4 dioptre close up lens has a focal length of 250 mm. So on your 200 mm lens you would get:.

200/250 = 0.8x, when the camera is focused at infinity, slightly more when close focused..

While high quality, multi element close up lenses provide an inexpensive way to try macro photography, they are not without their disadvantages. Apart from potential image degradation, the main problem is the restricted focusing range. With a +4 dioptre lens mounted, the maximum working distance becomes 25 cm. In other words you can focus nothing beyond 25 cm without removing the supplemental lens. (A similar effect occurs when using extension tubes.).

Brian A...

Comment #17

That makes sense. Talking about removing the close up lens, is it easy and smooth to do or do I need equipment/does it get stuck? And how do you calculate the "250mm" focal length on a +4 diopter(the Nikon T6 has +2.9 diopter, how to calculate that?)Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #18

*For my D40, with the Sigma lens, I presume I won't be able to use the autofocus. Is autofocus a MUST when it comes to macro photography?.

- Not at all, you'd prefer to use manual focus because of the shallow DOF. Like here:.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165025617.

You wouldn't trust the camera to choose where to focus, see?.

*The fact that it's 70mm forces me to get very close to the subject. Is it even possible to photograph insects without scaring them away?.

- It is very difficult - high quality long tele with extension tubes/TC could be better for that (but you said you're on a budget). However, it it possible to get close to them if you have enough patience to move very slowly - if you are slow enough, they don't actually perceive your movement as such, and if you are patient and stay in the same place for a long time, they stop seeing you as a dangerous object and start seeing you as just a part of surrounding landscape..

*Other options? I have seen a Tamron 90mm so I can get further away but the image quality isn't as good as the Sigma..

- 90mm would not be that much different - 180mm macro would make a significant difference..

*Anything else....?.

- Macro flash. Have a look at my samples:.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165037386.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165039025.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165018973.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165013451.

Http://lordofthelens.smugmug.com/gallery/3036379#165032034..

Comment #19

It is 6T not T6, but anyhow, just diviide into 1000. The Nikon 6T has a focal length of 345 mm. It will get you to a little more than 0.5x (half life size) with a 200 mm lens and a 2.9 dioptre close up lens..

I don't know what size filter thread your lens has, but you should look at the Canon 250D and 500D lenses too. There are plenty of Nikon shoters that use these, they are a little more expensive than the Nikon T lenses, but available in more thread sizes. They are +2 dipotre (500D) and +4 dioptre (250D). Nikon uses T for twin element, Canon uses D for doublet..

Brian A...

Comment #20

Now, buying a 6T sounds great. It improves my magnification to about 0.6. Now, where can I buy stuff like this? Adorama and B&H don't seem to have it..

Maybe people can share their experience on +4 Canon as well....

Slowly I am making progress! Whoop dee doo!Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #21

By the way, I think you guys mean I need a 4T lens because the thread size of my 55-200 is 52mm....Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #22

I think that Nikon has stopped making them. The few that are out there are old stock. Look at a Canon 250D, it is a fine two-element lens. Or look at the Raynox lenses..

Brian A...

Comment #23

Thanks for your reaction. Are those 52mm? And for my 55-200mm VR the 500d seems best, doesn't it?Practice makes perfect, but obsession makes even better!..

Comment #24

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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