Macro Options: Using A Dedicated Macro Lens

Traditional camera lenses are optimized for focus at infinity not within close-up range but the best macro lenses let you focus to life-size (1:1) magnification while some only achieve 1:2, where the image on the film is one-half the size of the object being photographed. Best of all, a macro (Nikon calls’em “micro) lens can be used at infinity.  Some macro lenses have a 50-60mm focal length while others have what might be considered a portrait focal length around 100mm or slightly longer and I often use my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens for portraiture.

Tip: If you use a macro lens for portraiture, make sure your subject can handle extreme sharpness that will show every skin defect or just use any of the soft focus and diffusion software tools that are available to take the edge off the extreme clarity these lenses tent to produce.

EF 60mm EF-S lens

Caption: Canon’s 60mm EF-S macro lens produces 1:1 reproduction but because depth-of-field at this distance becomes microscopic I stopped the lens down to f/32 and that produced a eight second exposure at ISO 400. © 2012 Joe Farace

Macro lenses are available in many focal lengths including the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Compact Macro AutoFocus lens that I used to make the above shot or the longer focal length Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Auto Focus lens that I like to use when I can physically get to close to the subject. The big advantage of using a longer focal length macro lens for close-up work is that the longer focal length provides extra working space and you won’t shadow or startle the subject. Think butterflies. Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron offer macro lenses in longer focal lengths such as 180-200mm that serious nature photographers will find handy.

Join me on the May PhotoWalk which has theme of macro photography.

Author: Joe Farace

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