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The Macro Lens

Lesson 23 from: Choosing the Right Camera Lens

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

23. The Macro Lens

Next Lesson: The Fisheye Lens

Lesson Info

The Macro Lens

Alright folks, it is time to dive into some of the specialty lenses that we've been promising that we're going to talk about. And so we're going to be talking about some macro and a little bit on tilt shift and a little bit on fisheye. We'll be talking about some of the accessories that you can use, and then finally some of the best lenses on the market for a particular type, a lot of particular types of uses. So let's dive into the first of these, the macro lens. So any lens that can focus really close is considered a macro lens. Now the exact definition of macro is not written in stone, but in general it's a lens that does one to one magnification. And this is the thing that you really need to learn about if you want to learn about macro lenses is reproduction ratio. The gold standard in this is a one to one reproduction ratio. And this was a little bit easier to understand back in the days of film. And what this means is that the object size and the image size are the same. And as I...

say, this was easier back in the days of film because if you were to photograph something like a quarter or a Euro coin, it would be the exact same size on the negative or the slide film that you shot. And that means the camera needs to produce a fairly large subject in the viewfinder. So both a Euro and a U.S. quarter are roughly about an inch in diameter. And that is about the size of a piece of film. Well not as many people are using film these days, they're using sensors. And the largest of those sensors, as we mentioned before, is the full frame sensor. And so if you were to photograph a quarter with a macro lens that did one to one reproduction ratio and you had it focused as close as it could go, you are going to fill the frame with a quarter or a single Euro coin. Now for those of you using cropped framed cameras, you're going to have a little bit of an advantage here because you are going to get even closer to your subject, at least not physically, but as far as how much of the frame you are filling of that particular subject. Because you're getting a cropped view, you're going to be getting in a little bit closer to those subjects, and so I often use a cropped frame camera when I'm doing macro photography because it allows me to be a little bit further away from my subject. There are a number of macro lenses and other lenses that also do macro or have macro capabilities, but they are at half life size which is still quite good and very practical. And so there is the half reproduction, which means your subject is going to be half the size on the sensor or on the film as it is in the real world. And this is still pretty good macro work, just not as good as one to one. If you have a half reproduction ratio lens and you're using a crop frame sensor, it's going to come pretty close to filling the frame. Now on some of the better quality macro lenses, especially ones from Nikon and Canon that have little focusing windows on them, you're going to find that as you focus the lens, there is the actual reproduction ratio listed right above the meters and feet. So if you knew that you wanted something reproduced at one half life size, you could simply turn your lens to where it said one to two, which is a half live, half life-sized reproduction, and then move the camera forward and back in order to focus. And as I say, the top, the best of these will do a one to one magnification ratio. And so that is also known as a one times magnification ratio. If it's one to two, it's a half life size. If it was a quarter, it was one quarter life size or 0.25. So let's take a look at some common lenses and see how good they are at magnification. One of the worst lenses you can find for macro work would be the 85 millimeter lens. This one from Canon has only a 0.13 magnification ratio. A much better lens is a lens that sells for much less money in this case, but happens to have a little bit of zoom and can focus a little bit closer, 0.31, which is still pretty good. An unusual lens, the 45 perspective control lens from Nikon, will do half life size magnification. One of the best of the zoom lenses that are on the market is the Canon 24 to 70. You can do 0.7, which is getting pretty close to life size, one to one. If you do want to get that one to one magnification, the 100 millimeter from Canon and a variety of other lenses will be able to do that. Now as you look through macro lenses, you'll notice that there are a lot of different choices in focal links. And they're going to be useful in shooting at different distances from your subject. A 50 millimeter lens would be considered for a full frame camera, a very general purpose macro lens. I have one of these myself, and I did find it very practical. I could shoot all sorts of subjects, no matter how big they were, because I had a lot of room to back up or you could easily back up with a 50 to 60 millimeter lens. With a 100 millimeter lens, that pushes you further away from your subject, which can be good for lighting or not disturbing your subject. And those that are really into macro photography tend to get the 180 or the 200 millimeter lenses, and that's going to push you back even further, so you can have additional lighting equipment in there and not disturb the animal and so forth. So let's take a look at some of the recommended macro lenses out there. First up for Canon and Nikon, the Canon 100 is actually an older lens, and I've owned this lens for quite a while, and it's a really sharp lens. It's one of CAnon's sharpest lenses, even if it's a bit older at this point, it's not an L lens, but it is really sharp. Canon has a new 35 with a built in light to help illuminate your subjects. The Nikon 60 is a classic design that they've had for quite some time. It is one of their sharpest lenses. And if you're using crop frame, that is a nice lightweight small lens that can be used for a lot of things beyond macro, but it is very good at that. With the mirrorless manufacturers, we're going to have a number of good choices in here. And one of the nice things about all of these is that they're all pretty small and lightweight. When we get into the premiums, then we're definitely going to be getting into one to one. You're going to be getting lenses that are definitely a little bit larger in size. Most of these are going to be in the 80 to 100 millimeter range, which is where kind of the sweet spot is for most people in shooting macro. If we look at the mirrorless ones, Sony has just put out a new 90 for their mirrorless system that is growing very rapidly. Fuji has a beautiful new 80 that's come out. It's a little bit large in size, but it is very good quality for sure. And Panasonic has one that is using that influence from the Lika manufacturers. So these are all really good lenses. Once again, all of these lenses will be listed in the pdf that comes with the class, be listed right along with whatever manufacturer you have, and so there's a separate listing for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and so forth.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Choosing The Right Camera Lens Handout (15 pages)

Ratings and Reviews

E.L. Bl/Du

John is one of the best instructors Ive watched. he's clear, concise, and gets right to the point. His display's and diagrams are so great, he makes very complicated subjects easy to understand, and fun. He holds your attention and interest b/c everything he says is valuable. This really helped me understand the vast complicated world of lenses. I would highly recommend this class to anyone who doesnt know what hyperfocal distance is.

Boris Dimitrov

Excellent class packed with incredibly useful knowledge. John is an amazing lecturer. He has also developed really great materials to help explain all the concepts and technologies that are explored in the class. Looking forward to my next class with him!

a Creativelive Student

Great class. So informative. John Greengo is such a fantastic tutor and explains everything in such and easy-to-understand way. I would highly recommend this class. Prior to doing this class, I was so confused about which lenses are best for various photography. Now I understand lenses completely. Thanks John!

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