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Macro Lens: Technique and Choices

Lesson 48 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

Macro Lens: Technique and Choices

Lesson 48 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

48. Macro Lens: Technique and Choices


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Canon Lens Basics


Focal Length: Angle of View


Focal Length: Normal Lenses


Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses


Focal Length: Telephoto Lens


Focal Length Rule of Thumb


Field of View


Aperture Basics


Aperture: Maximum Aperture


Aperture: Equivalent Focal Length


Aperture: Depth of Field


Aperture: Maximum Sharpness


Aperture: Starburst Effect


Aperture: Flare


Aperture: Hyperfocal Distance


Camera Mount System


Canon Lens Compatibility


Canon Lens Design


Canon Lens Composition


Canon Lens Shape


Canon Lens Coating


Canon Lens Focusing


Lens Autofocus


Canon Lens Image Stabilization


Canon L Lenses


Image Quality


Canon Zoom Lenses: Standard


Canon Super Zooms


Canon Wide Zooms


Canon Telephoto Zooms


Prime Lens: Normal Lenses


Prime Lens: Moderate Wide


Prime Lens: Wide Angle


Prime Lens: Ultra-Wide


Prime Lens: Short Telephoto


Prime Lens: Medium Telephoto


Prime Lens: Super Telephoto


3rd Party Lenses Overview


3rd Party Prime Lenses


3rd Party Zoom Lenses


Lens Accessories: Filters


Lens Accessories: Lens Hoods


Lens Accessories: Tripod Mount


Lens Accessories: Extension Tubes


Lens Accessories: Extenders


Macro Lens: Reproduction Ratio


Macro Lens: Technique and Choices


Fisheye: Technique and Choices


Tilt Shift: Techniques and Choices


Make a Lens System Choice


Choosing A Portrait Lens


Choosing A Sports Lens


Choosing A Landscape Lens


Best Lenses for You


Lens Maintenance


Buying and Selling Lens


What is John Greengo's Favorite Lens?


Lesson Info

Macro Lens: Technique and Choices

we all know that we would like to have a 1 to 1 reproduction ratio in the lands, but that's only gonna happen in the macro lenses. So the macro lenses that cannon has they have one land specifically designed for their crop frame cameras, and then they have a collection of them designed for their full frame. And they have a couple of interesting ones that will need to talk about in here, and you'll notice that they have different focal links. And down here at the bottom, we've added in our one times magnification because now we understand what this means. 10.5 magnification. Oh, this one's not as good as the others. 1 to 5 magnification way. What's going on there? That's kind of interesting. We're gonna talk more about this one, but all the others are at one times magnification. The difference on these lenses comes down to their focal length, and that's the next thing that we need to talk about before we actually get into the lenses themselves. The Focal Inc is going to determine how cl...

ose to our subject we are when we're taking pictures with the 50 millimeter lands were going to be very, very close to our subject. With 100 millimeter lens, we're going to be further away. And that could be advantageous because maybe this isn't the tulip. Maybe it's a snake, and we don't want to be really close to it. Maybe there's lighting that we have. We have a soft box or we have the sun or reflector, and we don't want to get in the way of that. And so it's many times more convenient to be further away from your subjects. So you're not disturbing the light or distribute your subject in any way. And what tends to happen is that the Maurin more serious of photographer you are, the longer the focal length lens that you'll choose to get. And so having a little bit of working spaces. Nice, mostly for light reasons, you're not blocking the light source. If you're no going in two inches above your subject, you are going to drastically change the light source and so having a slightly longer focal length lens so that you're just a little bit further away from your subjects so you don't disturb it. You don't actually bumped. The drops of water off is a nice thing to have. And so that's one consideration in getting the macro lens. So this is gonna be the sharpest way that you can get close up subjects. These also tend to be very sharp for other purposes as well. If you want to shoot him for portrait photography or landscape photography, all purpose photography, it's very good. They tend to be a little bit bulk here and a little bit slower than standard prime lenses for general work. But if you're looking for a multipurpose device that is also very good at close up, it works very well. It's also really nice for portrait work. For instance, if you want to dio wedding photography occasionally, you're gonna shoot a lot of portrait's. But you might want to get some ring shots where you might want to a really tight shot of just the eye and the nose, and you can do that with a short telephoto in a macro lens. Very, very white purpose lens. So as far as the technique, a lot of people don't do it right with the macro lenses. What you want to do is you want to set the lens to the desired magnification. If you can figure that out ahead of time, which means manually focusing as close as you think you need to be. I need to photograph a baseball. That would be How big is a baseball? About three inches across. Maybe. So why We need to set it. 123 If so, if you're gonna said it wanted to I'm gonna photograph I know something two inches. What's like a payer or something? Something that size. So you would set this manually and then you would move the camera for focusing. And so you would change magnification by changing the focus. And then what you would do is you would move the camera back and forth. And so the problem that a lot of people have is that they're using auto focus and they're in on their subject, and they focus in on their subject and they don't realize this, but they're moving back and forth ever so slightly. And so they focus and they lean in two millimeters and it throws all the focus off. And so it's better just to set the focus. And it's nice that you saw me. Don't you see me when I was kind of bracing my hand right here. I'm trying to stabilize my movement, so I'm not moving as much. Honestly, though, that handheld is just not the way you should be doing that. You should be doing it on a tripod. It would be a much better technique, and there are special focusing rails to move the camera back and forth if you really get into that type of photography. So for their crop frame cameras, they make a good general purpose. Mac Roland's 60 which has the angle of view of a 90 which for macro photography has been a very popular number that short telephoto of 90 makes for a good general purpose. If you are using crop frame and you know you're going to stay in the crop frame world, this is a great lines to get very, very sharp, probably the sharpest E. F s lens that Canon makes at any focusing distance for the rest of the group. There's each one that fits kind of a special, unique needs, so let's go ahead and run through these lenses pretty quickly. So, as I said, this is the only one that they make for their crop frame sensors. I really can't say enough about this. This is, I think, probably the best lens that Canon makes with their GFS lenses in mind specifically for it. Very good general purpose gets up 1 to 1 with that crop frame sensor. It's not too big good for portrait work, So great general purpose lands think it's think the highest of it, the E F lenses This lands is E. On's old It's came out in 1987. It is long overdue for an upgrade, and given the fact that there are some after market lenses that we're gonna talk about, I really can't recommend this lens for anyone. I think there was some better options out on the market. It's small, it's lightweight. It does a decent job. It is only a 1 to 2 macro. It's not a 1 to 1 mackerel, but you'll be able to find someone to one macros in this size and price range. If you're willing to look at some other manufacturers to get to 1 to 1, it just they didn't have the technology back then to do it very well, so it was very common for lenses to go 1 to 2 and then you had to buy a life size converter, which works a little like an extension to. But it does have optical elements, and it is specifically die designed for this one lens. In order for it to get to 1 to 1 Mac relation. Now, this land is gonna cost around 300 bucks, and this converter is gonna cost you about 300 bucks. And so if you want to get 1 to 1, just take that 600 bucks and spend it on an actual macro lens that will get you where you need to go. This is a very unique, very special lands. This is the 65 millimeter lands, and you cannot focus on infinity on this lens. It is designed specifically and Onley for close up work, but it will do so at a magnification of one times. Zooming in doesn't really technically zoom in, but by focusing closer, it changes the magnification to five times magnification. And so, if you want a photograph on two letters on a printed page ah, BB in size, you can do so with the 65 less. And so it is close up work only it is extremely close. We do have one of these lenses over here, and this is the 65. It comes with Thistle, tripod collar, and it's focused at infinity right now, which really is in infinity. But as we focus up closer and closer and closer, I think we did. We do this before this feels this is the close up lens and you're focusing about this far away and you can photograph a grain of rice and aunt anything really, really small like that. And so this is for somebody who is very, very into macro photography. The downside on this is that you can't shoot standard stuff with it, and it be nice if you had a little bit more working distance between the front of the lens and the subject. And so it's a It's a fairly pricey thing, and it's it's probably not gonna get updated anytime soon, because it's a very specialized item. All right, This was kind of their older 100 millimeter lens. They replaced it with a new L version we're gonna talk about next. I own this lens for many years, and I always thought this was my sharpest canon lens that I had ever had, and it is a really, really good lands, and it's it's a great value. I think of anyone who wants a good standard. Full frame lands for Canada. This is just a great value. Does not come with the tripod Mount ring. That's an optional thing. The lens really isn't that heavy, so it doesn't need it on many cameras. But I really feel like I want to recommend this to a lot of people who need a reasonably priced well is reasonably priced to. Some of these lenses are a decent can and brand macro lens from SF Photo man, Um, wondering about the reverse mounting of a cheaper lens to make it a macro. Yes. So one of the interesting things that you can do is you can take a wide angle lens, reverse it, shoot to a wide angle lens, which expands, but now you're gonna make it contract and you can get a macro out of it. The downside to that and the reason I'm not even gonna go into that in this class is that you lose all the electron ICS, all the focusing options and so it becomes a very, very manual operation. And if we were doing a weekend workshop just on macro photography, yes, that would be part of the topics. But it is a way that they people have done that in the past, and typically a 20 millimeter lands 24. 18 millimeter lens would be the ideal lens that you would want to reverse in that sort of case. But it's just it throws so many things off on the camera. It's not something that most people want to dio. So that's the 100. And then the new 100 l has been their new, popular kind of main go to macro lens for most people who are into this and so intermediate in size. I think we had one up here that we're looking at a little bit earlier. I don't know exactly what they changed on it and to make it a nail, they might have changed some of the lens elements in there, but they did upgraded a little bit, makes for very nice portrait lens. They did add hybrid image stabilization, and I've always thought this is something that you really don't need on a macro lens, but I have found out from time to time you do want to shoot things, handheld, close up, and when you're magnified up that close, the stabilization system helps out quite a bit. And this hybrid stabilization system is fantastic from Canada is a really good job, with twisting and up and down and side to side movements. And so, if you do need to get handheld shots up close by far and away, best lens on the market for doing that. For those who really get into it, they want a little bit longer. Focal length lands and cannons longer. Focal length is 380 millimeter lands, and this is going to nearly double your working distance. You have twice a much room to put lights or stay further away from your subject. This is something that is very particular to those who are very into macro photography. Problem that I have with this is that there is not much else that you were going to use. This lens, with 1 83.5 is a little bit slow and a little bit big for kind of a general purpose telephoto, although it will focus on infinity and do a decent job. You can use this with extenders. So if you wanted to put the 1. extender or the two Times Extender, you can do so on this one. And so this is the nice thing about this. One is it gives you a 48 millimeter about a foot and 1/2 working distance. So if I'm focusing on something right here, it's gonna put the lens back about that far from it. And so if you need to stay a little bit further away from your subject for a wide variety of reasons, that's their longest. And the 1 80 to 200 range is where the longest of these macro lenses are gonna work. If you needed to get longer than this, you could always choose a three or 400 millimeter lens and add on extension tubes. But this is probably your way of getting the actual greatest magnification ratio. This question was from design Baby, who said, does the macro setting on a camera matter when it comes to macro lenses, or do they even relate? So I think talking about maybe like a custom function putting it onto macros. There are some cameras that have a Mac remote and that does nothing about focusing and your close up distance. And I don't know the idea or how it came about them having the macro mode on there and the design of it, because what it appears to be is it simply sets the aperture to an aperture of 5.6, as if 5.6 is the perfect aperture for shooting all macro work, which it definitely isn't. But I guess if you had to choose one number, it might be a default number to choose. And so those little close up modes on the Rebels they're not doing anything with the lens. The close up ability totally depends on the lens. That's just playing around a little bit with the exposure, and it's not really doing much good anyway. One more question. In a different segment, you talked to us about the difference between zoom and what zoom should be and just how we relate to that. The lens that you have up there is that a true zoom lens? This is not a zoom lens. It's a 65 millimeter lands, but it has a magnet. As you cloak focus closer, it increases the magnification ratio. So when it's all the way back, it's at one X. And if we get a close up on this, you can actually see. It's at one x two x three X, and so it's just allowing us to focus closer. And so if you were in the same spot where you have to reposition yourself for what it's saying yes, yes, And so with this at five X, we would probably be about this far away. And as we focus down to one X, we would have to move a little bit further away. I don't know what exact distance would be, but yeah, he would have to move away. Highly specialized lens. There's really no competitors to that lens on the market. Start looking at some of the macro options that you have and we're gonna be looking at after market as well as cannon ones. This 1st 1 is a really unusual one. And just because we're going by focal in number, this is a 15 millimetre lens. That's a really wide angle lens, folks, and this is a brand new one that just came out. I have not shot with this or held it in my hands, but it's interesting because it allows you to shoot up very close with a very wide angle lens. Getting 1 to magnification with a 15 millimetre lands is your kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty kitty and you're right in Kitty's face and you're going to see the cases fat I eyes and face and everything around it really, really close, and it's gonna be very unusual. It's kind of a bug's eye view, if you would. So it's 110 angle of view. It also adds in some tilt shift capability, which we're going to find out more about here in a little bit. And I suppose you could use Cannons 24 14 because it's a wide angle and it does focus up pretty close, but it is much, much cheaper. And so if you wanted something really different in the macro world, that's an option. Sigma makes a number of lenses in here. This is a pretty good option for somebody who wanted a 50 millimeter lands. And so this one is going to be a comparison to that older 50 that cannon makes. So this one gets 1 to 1 magnification and the cannon, one that we talked about gets 1 to 2. Now what? And you'll see that we'll actually canon is quite a bit less than the Sigma, because this one does get 1 to 1, but it allows you to get closer. Now you might be wondering who buys a 50 millimeter macro versus a 100 millimeter macro? Is there a benefit to it? And there is a benefit to a 50 millimeter macro winds, and my camera's gone, so I'll just pretend to have my camera here. One of the other reasons that you might be using this is to reproduce products or documents. Let's say you're in charge of taking pictures of documents, paper documents. What you might do is you might put him on the floor, and then you would photograph him straight down in a great lens. To use this with is a macro lens, the problem with 100 millimeter macro lenses. If you're trying to photograph ah book or a piece of artwork, the camera starts needing to be up here and mounting the camera here, focusing and working on it is very challenging. And so if you have a 50 millimeter lens, you'd be more in this range with an object that is maybe one foot by one foot. And so for reproduction, props is for little bit larger objects. The 50 is really sharp. It still allows you to get close. So let's say you made pottery or sculptures that were tabletop sizing. You wanted a really sharp lands to photograph it in some of the details. Ah, 50 millimeter macro wins would be my first recommendation for that type of use. So Zeiss makes, uh, macro lens, and this is a 1 to 2 ratio. And because a lot of macro photographers prefer manual focusing, having manual focus isn't nearly handicap. It was back in the standard prime lenses, and so this makes pretty good sense for a macro lens. Very sharp lens. Zeiss makes some of the great lenses, and when you compare it to the cannon, I'm going to guess that it's gonna blow it out of the water. When it comes to image quality, it kind of blows it out of the water when it comes to price tag as well. But it's also built really, really well. And the canon is their first generation of auto focus, which which had a lot to be desired in their construction, speed and noise of their system. Tamron has a legendary macro history. They have made some of the best they traditionally they have been the best macro company to go to if you wanted if you wanted to lands. And so they make a 60 millimeter lands and this is for their A P S C system. And so, if you have the crop frame sensor, that would be a nice lens for that 1 to 1 magnification ratio gets you up nice and close about four inches away. This is going to compete with the cannon. 50 millimeter lands. Also the cannon 61 designed for the A. P s. And it's just a very high quality lands. And I think it's gonna knock the socks off of the canyonlands. In this case, Venus Optics makes another unusual one, and this is the only one on the market that I know of. Other than this 65 that will go more than 1 to 1. And so, if you need more than 1 to 1. It is a manual focus on Lee. It's a very simple design, and it is only for the A P S C system. And so, in this case, it's going to use being used for the rebels in the 60 d seventies and so forth. And if you want that to tow one, well, there's really not a lot of competition out there. And so it's the same price, but it's twice as close. Definitely some tradeoffs in that one going full frame with Tamron. This is kind of the classic 90 that they've had out for quite a while. They have a very good optics system in here, so you can expect very sharp pictures. A lot of people very happy. Who owned this lens who want to shoot close up. Probably best comparison is with the older 100 millimeter lands, and it's gonna be near to the same price. But their reputation says that you're gonna probably get very good images from that. Although I was really happy with the Nikon, so that's a bit of a toss up between those two. This is the new version of the 90 Cosmetically, it's new. It's got a nice, big focusing ring on it, and this is probably kind of the go to standard for a lot of photographers who wants something other than the cannon option. And so, price wise, it's gonna be a fair bit mawr, and it's one of those things you're going to get your hands on to see if it's really worth it for you. But it's something I would look at strongly if you're interested in that focal range for a full frame camera. Toki no makes macro lenses as well. This one is 100 millimeter for their full frame cameras, 1 to 1 magnification. So it's quite close. And this one is for somebody who wants to save a little bit of money because it's gonna be noticeably less money. So quite a bit cheaper and a lot cheaper. If you were to compare it to, say, top of the line L lens from Canon. So Sigma makes a number of longer focal length ones. They have a and all of these air gonna be 1 to 1 magnification ratios and so different focal links are going to give us mawr working Distancia Pierre, we're now up to 12.2 inches away from our subject. So if you need a little bit more working space, you need a longer focal ink that's gonna end up costing you a little bit more. Sam. Yea, our bodies over in China are making this one, and this is manual focus. Only a lot of the other ones. We've been talking about our auto focus, and this is going to give us very good, close up ability at a very reasonable price. So manual focus only, and I don't know that I have a good reason why it's the same prices to canon. But if you like that manual focus, it's there, back with his ice as we're going up through our focal range, the 100 millimeter. And so this is 1 to 2. A lot of those isis air 1 to 2 rather than 11 But if you really appreciate that manual focusing feel and style of this ice, they knew makes a very high quality optics in there, and they tend to sell for a lot more money. A lot of these lenses have what more costs built into the construction of it, their hand built in most all cases and very beautiful glass. For those needing the longer focal lengths, signals got a 1 and these lenses are ones that are gonna be getting bigger, very heavily, very specialized lenses. And I guess the best comparison is the can in 1 it's gonna be a little bit less than that. And that's mostly because it's just a little bit shorter in focal length. And then we're at the longest focal length kind of the end of the road. Here 180 millimeters. This lands has something that's kind of unusual about it, and that is it has a secondary focusing ring up in front so that you can turn filters more easily, so that once you attach filters, ah, lot of times there's lights and hoods and things attached to the front of the lens. And so now you can just simply grab this and turning filters. And the most likely filter that you would want to be turning is the polarizing filter. People use polarizing filters when they are shooting close up to control the reflections, and this gives you an added element of control. If you're using a sit in a situation like that, and it does sell for noticeably less than the canon camera or the Canon lens. Sigma makes a 1 80 as well. This is a fairly new style, blends from them, so it's got a lot of their new focusing systems built into it. Nice ergonomics on it. And so once again, this is that longer focal length for getting further away from your subject. So here you're now 18 inches about a foot and 1/2 away from your subject and comparing the price, it's actually more money than the canon. The canon is an older design and is kind of working off of old R and D that has been paid for, and at some point we'll see an upgrade to the Cannon 1 80 that will probably double that whole lens in price. So that is the macro lens. Let's see if we got any specific questions that I can answer on that Absolutely. John, Let's see at question from a Z, photography said. How about adding on an extension tube on a macro lens? You talk a little bit about that again. Yeah, that's one of the neat things about extension tubes you can, Adam on Danny Lens you want. And so, by all means, if 1 to 1 is not close enough, you can have an extension tube onto your 1 to 1 macro lens, and now you're gonna get closer. How close? Well, I don't know. It depends on how big that extension tube is and what that lenses. All right, So just to summarize macro lenses, tell us again, what is the difference between the normal 100 millimeter lens and the macro 100 millimeter lens? Macro lens simply means it can focus really close and traditionally with the normal photographic terminology, macro lens means oneto one in some cases, 1 to 2 reproduction ratio, half life sized. The object to photograph would be half life sizer actual life size on the sensor itself. Thank you, and Emily's got a question. How about a beginner? Mac Roland's You deciding to get Let's say, I'm going to get into macro Don't know what I like or don't like, So I want something just begin with. Well, I would probably start with the extension tubes because you can always add the extension tubes to everything you use. So even if you get the extension tubes and then you want to step up from there, you can add those onto the macro lens. If you have a crop frame camera with cannon, that's 60 millimeter lens that I would probably first look at on. Then there's also the Sigma, and I think Tamerlan made one as well. And so there are some other brands. And so I think this. Like a lot of the other lenses. You start basic and get more advanced as you get more proficient in your skill set and what you're doing with macro. So maybe one more don, and just to get people's heads wrapped around this who have, maybe, ah ah, full frame camera or have a crop sensor camera salsa guy says. So would you suggest using a crop sensor camera for shooting macro shots with a macro lens? Instead of using the full frame camera, I've quite frequently will choose to use a crop frame camera when shooting macro. It just enables you to get a little bit tighter, narrower angle of view. If the crop frame camera meets your quality needs, it gives you a little edge. When it comes to close up work because you don't have to be quite as close to your subject or you can get closer up, so that is an advantage.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

What's in the Frame? HD
What's in the Frame? LOW
Field of View HD
Field of View LOW
Lens Keynote Parts 1-4
Lens Keynote Parts 5-8
Canon® Lens Data

Ratings and Reviews


I so appreciate what a good teacher John is. I wish I would have known this much about lenses when I first started out buying my lenses. It was hard finding information about lenses. I didn't want to spend money on a lens I wouldn't use. The better understanding we have about our gear the better photographers we will be. I have never seen a class like this. Invaluable...yes I bought the class! I am really impressed with the high quality photography classes available on Creative Live!

Tami Miller

Have loved the other John Greengo classes I've watched & purchased - and this is another winner! Having been a high school/college science teacher, it is refreshing to take a course with someone who not only is extremely experienced, seems to be a computer having stored so much knowledge, but is equally concerned about making the information truly understandable to different levels. And he shares the information using every tool he can: slides, video, interactive presentations, and great quizzes. I learned so much about my Canon lenses - and lenses in general with their many components. I am excited about testing each of mine to see what macro ratio they handle, and especially appreciated the tutorial on testing each for their specific quirk that affects super sharpness. This class is great whether you own Canon lenses or not. Thanks John Greengo!


This was a great class not just about the lenses that Canon offers but also how each lens works. As usual, John's slides are alway informative and entertaining. There is a phrase: John has a slide for that! I am not even a Canon user and found this class to have great information for the use of each specific lens. Great work John! Thank you Creative Live for another great class!

Student Work