macro lens
Last updated: 05/29/2020

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Are you a photography enthusiast who loves to capture the most minute details? You have probably already seen macro shots of flowers, insects, or other objects. Observing the stamens of a flower or the eyes of a fly so clearly is incredible, and the macro lens is the accessory you need to take these photos.

Different types are available on the market, with some models being more technically advanced than others. Throughout this guide, we will help you identify the macro lens that is most suitable to you. We will delve into the main technical characteristics of these accessories, as well as the aspects to keep in mind when making your purchase. That way, you will be enjoying photomacrography in no time.

Key Facts

  • The macro lens is essential for any professional and amateur photographers alike, allowing you to focus in greater detail on the subject of your shots.
  • You can find a wide range of models on the American market, each with its own set of technical characteristics. The quality of your work will depend on these specifications. In that regard, you should pay particular attention to the magnification ratio and the aperture.
  • The subjects you want to photograph are vital in determining the macro lens you need. Different models will be more suitable depending on whether they are inert objects or living beings in movement. This is why professional photographers often own more than one macro lens.

Our Selection: The Best Macro Lenses on the U.S. Market

In the following section, you will discover our selection of the most popular models currently available out there. We have chosen different models that offer optimal results in a range of situations. With varying technical specs and features, these are some of the very best macro lenses on the American market. You might just find the model you’ve always dreamed of!

Best Macro Lens for Nikon Cameras

Nikon is one of the two leading brands in the camera world, so it’s no surprise to see the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR be Amazon’s Choice in the category. Compatible with a range of DSLR cameras from the Japanese manufacturer, it has a focal length of 40 mm and a minimum focus distance of 0.53 feet. The Close-Range Correction System (CRC) is a feature that provides superior picture quality at close focusing distances.

Best Macro Lens for Photography Professionals

Canon is the other leading manufacturer in the industry, and the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a top-quality lens for DSLR cameras. It offers a 100-mm focal length and 1:2.8 maximum aperture, as well as a minimum focusing distance of 0.99 feet. Ideal for macro photography, portrait, and food shots, this model is weather-ready so you can always take it with you on your adventures. Its price may be prohibitive for beginners.

Best Budget-Friendly Macro Lens

Japanese company Tamron designs affordable optic lenses for cameras of different brands. The AF 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 Di LD Macro will fit various Nikon models, with a focal length ranging between 180 and 330 mm. With its 1:2 magnification ratio and minimum focus distance of 3.1 feet, it is great for taking shots of small objects. Don’t let the price have you doubt the quality: this product comes with an incredible 6-year warranty!

Best Macro Lens for Sony Cameras

Last but not least, this macro lens by Sigma is an excellent choice if you own a Sony DSL camera. Specifically designed for full-frame models, it is also compatible with some APS-C sensors. This model has a 1:1 magnification ratio and a minimum focal length of 105 mm. It integrates the Optical Stabilizer (OS) system, allowing you to take high-quality close-up photos. In addition, you can focus automatically or manually.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Macro Lenses

It is always essential to learn more about a new product before purchasing it. This is especially true when it comes to technical items like macro lenses. If you’ve never used one before, you likely know very little about them, which is why we have prepared the section below. You will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding these photography accessories. That way, you’ll be all set to make an informed decision.

Image of person with a camera lens

The type of subjects you want to photograph should play a role in the macro lens you opt for.
(Source: Georgiev: 29425198/ 123rf.com)

What is a macro lens exactly?

This photography accessory is one of the different lenses that you can use with your camera. Once attached to it, it allows you to take large-size, magnified pictures. Like any other lens, it has a tubular shape of varying size and weight. The macro lens is one of the best-selling accessories in the camera industry.

Every model offers different results and can be used in various situations. This is why you should pick the macro lens that best suits your needs. These accessories are generally grouped into three main categories: short lenses, mid-range, and long lenses, depending on the focal length. We will delve into this concept later on.

Why are macro lenses so useful?

They allow you to take high-quality, magnified shots at close range. Both professional and amateur photographers often use them. With your own macro lens, you will snap detailed pictures of elements that are almost invisible to the naked eye. In a way, you could say that it is the microscope of cameras.

Macro lenses are generally used to take photos of flowers, plants, and insects in nature. The photographer can portray and enlarge any subject without losing image quality. In fact, this is the only way that you can focus on the stamens of a flower or the stinger of a wasp.

image of various lenses

Today, you can find a wide range of macro lenses on the American market.
(Source: Lightpoet: 30099191/ 123rf.com)

Which macro lens will fit my camera?

Macro lenses and cameras aren’t necessarily all compatible with each other, so this is definitely something you have to pay attention to. While you can find universal models or macro lenses that are compatible with several camera brands, many are neither. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer before making your purchase.

Indeed, compatibility will vary for each brand.

The type of camera you own – full-frame or APS-C – is another determining factor. Generally speaking, full-frame lenses will work with APS-C cameras, while the other way around is impossible. Keep in mind that full-frame cameras are the most expensive professional cameras on the market.

What is the magnification ratio?

This technical specification indicates the degree of magnification of the macro lens. This ratio is expressed in X:X format, with one of the two X’s always being the number one. When it is on the left (1:1, 1:3, or 1:4), the image will not be larger than the actual size. If it is on the right (2:1, 3:1, and so on), the photo is enlarged.

The other number represents the degree of magnification. A ratio of 3:1, for instance, means that the photo is three times the actual size. The 1:1 ratio allows you to photograph the subject in real size, without any kind of zoom. In that case, the subject also occupies the whole photographic frame.

What does an image stabilizer do?

This element that sometimes goes unnoticed is actually fundamental. As its name indicates, its primary role is to stabilize the image. This is how you prevent your photos from having motion blur. Any time you photograph a subject in movement, there is a risk of this happening.

The stabilizer is, therefore, essential if you don’t have a tripod.

Imagine taking photos of a butterfly perched on a flower. This is typically the kind of photography that justifies the use of a macro lens with a stabilizer. You will be able to focus closely and obtain incredible details, knowing that no movement from the insect can ruin your shot.

What is the minimum focus distance on a macro lens?

This very common parameter is also crucial in photography. This is particularly true in the field of macro photography. This value represents the physical distance needed for the subject of a photo to be in focus. If it is below this distance, you will get a lower-quality, blurry result.

The minimum focus distance is directly related to the focal length. The latter is expressed in millimeters (mm) and varies from one lens to the next. The longer the focal length is, the higher the minimum focus distance will be. This is definitely something you will want to keep in mind before making your purchase.

Robert FrankSwiss-American Photographer & Filmmaker

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”

What are the advantages of macro lenses?

If you’re still undecided as to whether or not you should get your own macro lens, you may want to weigh their pros and cons. In some cases and depending on the type of photography you want to do, they are essential. However, they represent an additional expense that you may not have thought of initially. So, is it really worth it? Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of macro lenses:

Advantages
  • They are ideal for macro photography
  • You can enlarge your shots without losing quality
  • There is a wide range of products on the market, for professionals and amateurs alike
  • You can find many online resources to learn how to use them
  • They allow you to explore different fields of photography
Disadvantages
  • They tend to be fairly expensive
  • The model you buy should be compatible with your camera
  • They require a certain know-how

Shopping Criteria

By now, you already know most things you need to choose your own macro lens. Over the last sections, we have delved into what they are, how they work, and when to use them. Besides, you have discovered our selection of the best models currently available on the American market. Before we end our article, we want to introduce you to a few shopping criteria that you should evaluate when purchasing a macro lens:

Type of Photography

As we explained earlier, there are different types of macro lenses. First of all, we can separate models tailored to professional photographers and those used by photography enthusiasts. Their technical specifications can vary greatly, which will naturally influence the quality of the results. A professional in the field needs to take perfect photos.

Regardless of your level of expertise, you also have to take into account the elements that you want to photograph. In most cases, animals require you to have an image stabilizer, for instance. In that case, you will also find that a lens with a longer focal length is very helpful. To photograph flowers, on the other hand, a model with a shorter focal length and without stabilizer can easily do the trick.

image an outdoor camera lens

This photography accessory is one of the different lenses that you can use with your camera. Once attached to it, it allows you to take large-size, magnified pictures.
(Source: Schan: 81071361/ 123rf.com)

Compatibility

Keep in mind what we said: every macro lens isn’t necessarily compatible with all cameras. This is why it is fundamental that you check this criterion before buying any model. In that regard, you should know that the fact that the lens and the camera are from the same manufacturer doesn’t ensure compatibility.

So, what do you need to look at?

Basically, you have to look for the letters DX or FX, which refer to the type of sensor your camera has. This will largely determine compatibility. If you get it wrong, it’s quite simple: the macro lens won’t physically fit on your camera.

Brand

As you probably know, cheap items can quickly become expensive if you have to replace them often. In certain products like macro lenses, the brand is incredibly relevant. First of all, it will influence the compatibility with the camera; secondly, each manufacturer offers different features in their models.

In that regard, the brand is a key shopping criterion. Otherwise, you risk spending money on an accessory that you can’t use. This doesn’t mean that you should only purchase the most expensive models on the market, but quality, reliability, and brand reputation certainly matter.

Image Stabilizer

We have already discussed this element throughout our article, and it’s a factor you can’t neglect when you decide on which macro lens to buy. Why, you ask? Because the quality of the photos you take will depend, to a large extent, on whether or not you have a stabilizer. In short, it helps to freeze the subject.

That way, the photo is less likely to be out of focus due to movement. This is fundamental if you intend on taking shots of living beings or objects in motion. You can always ask a person to pose for your photograph, but that’s just not possible for an insect or a bird. This is why you need to have an image stabilizer.

Size & Weight

These are two important factors when choosing your macro lens. Photography is generally an activity practiced outdoors, which means that you have to carry all your equipment with you from one place to another. You never know what photo opportunity will present itself, and few things are as frustrating as not having the right accessory for that perfect shot.

Besides, you have to keep in mind that specific means of transport – train or plane, for instance – may have restrictions. This is especially relevant if you are a photography professional. If that’s your case, you probably travel with your camera and a tripod, as well as several frames and lenses. This can quickly add up, so don’t forget to check the size and weight of the macro lens you are interested in.

Macro Lens

Macro lenses are essential accessories for professional photographers.
(Source: Welcomia: 32720543/ 123rf.com)

Summary

There is no doubt that macro lenses are one of the most useful and used camera accessories. Throughout this article, we have introduced you to the most relevant technical specifications of macro lenses. Knowing a product in depth is the best way to make a successful purchase, which is why we provided you with all this information.

In addition, you have discovered our selection of popular models, each designed for different user profiles. We hope that this list of products allowed you to identify the features and characteristics that most suit you and your style of photography. Are you ready to delve into a whole new world?

Did you find our shopping guide on macro lenses helpful and interesting? We’d love to hear which model you decided to purchase, so feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article on your social media. That way, your friends and family can also learn more about this essential photography accessory!

(Featured Image Source: Only4denn: 27269857/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.