Using Micro/Macro Close-Up Lenses
My apologies, I realize that I keep reiterating that my new blog is strictly about my personal journey as a photographer; but for whatever reason, I seem to continuously find subjects that require a little technical background. However, not only am I giving you my personal take on the subject, I also do think these are important topics though; because most entry-level photographers don’t hear about a lot of things I write about on my blog. I do believe that my photo experience as a hobbyist will help a lot of newbies in general (at least the open minded). Please keep in mind, I speak from the “I.”
Let me start off by explaining the differences between Macro, Micro, and “Close-Up.” In the photography world, many manufactures use Micro and Macro interchangeably to mean the same thing. However, I do think there are slight differences IMHO. Because camera companies often do this, most people don’t really realize there is a difference; and I guess most wouldn’t because regardless, we know that they are both used for smaller objects.
The word Macro actually means big, therefore in most cases when using a macro filter lens, you must physically move closer to “fill the frame,” or to make big, or make “close-up.” A huge indicator of this, is when using at least the most powerful macro filter lens (10x) along with your main lens, you normally have to be at least about 4-6 inches or closer to your object before you begin to focus (on manual). The specific Macro lenses I’m talking about are the heavy, yet cheaper $20-30 lens filters to be used on your main camera lens. These are what I call magnifiers. The larger the circumference of your lens, the heavier and thicker your macro lens will be. There are dozens of sizes, so make sure you check the size of your lens first. If your still unsure, I know many cameras such as Nikon will often have the size printed in millimeters on the black plastic lens covers that came with your lens. Please note that not all Macro filters will work well with very powerful zoom lenses. It has been my experience that they work best with smaller prime lenses. However, maybe you can borrow from a friend, and find some artistic uses for them if you still want to try and use them with a powerful lens. Technically these Macro filter lenses are not professional, but with a lot of patience, and a good understanding of manual focus, you can get some really nice close-ups, from these filters.
Then we have the more professional Macro lenses such as this one made by Sony (which do not need the extra macro filters attached). The cost for these professional close-up lenses ranges from $300-6000. Quality and features will vary for each lens. Depending on what you like to shoot, you don’t need a Macro lens with a lot of zoom. My motto is, if you’re broke and you want a good zoom; then use your feet. If you can afford one with a good zoom capacity, then go for it. But keep in mind, like I’ve written earlier, they can get quite expensive, so be sure of what you want to do before you make the commitment to purchase. Check with the manufacture, or your favorite camera store for any specific features your looking for. Also, don’t forget that refurbished lenses are still a good option for those of us who are on a tight budget.
Now, the word Micro means small; which usually means (depending on the type of micro lens) you can actually zoom in on your tiny object to fill the frame with that object. Nikon chooses to use the word “Micro” for their lenses. Be aware (especially for Nikon users), lenses that are 105mm and greater, and or lenses with a significant zoom range, will most likely be in FX format. I am not sure if they make DX Micros with very high capacity (it would cost too much money to make). Keep in mind, just like regular lenses, Micro/Macro lenses will vary on different features, such as prime capacity, zoom ranges, aperture, even the type of glass, etc, which will also make the difference in quality, capability, as well as the price. It is also easy to assume that they all come with zoom capabilities; please keep in mind that not all do. But, even if you purchased a 50mm prime Macro/Micro, you wouldn’t have to be literally on top of your subject. Also, like I’ve said for the Macro, if you don’t have money for a Micro/Macro lens with a good zoom, use your feet. If not it is better to wait, save, and see what your options are concerning refurbished lenses.
If you love Micro/Micro photography like I do, I recommend saving money and getting the more professional Micro/Macro lenses, for one important reason, you have control of your depth of field. They don’t have to be expensive, just a basic/entry-level Micro/Macro lens.
The key difference is, with the cheaper Macro filter lenses, is that you must be at least within 4-6 inches away from the subject (sometimes even closer (even if you have your zoom at full capacity, because it works like a magnifying glass)). Professional Micro/Macro lenses are specifically designed for close range/close-up shots. The phrase “close-ups” only means the act of capturing your subject close up. To give you a good example of how different lenses and lens filters can effect your end result; take a look at the difference between figure 1 & 2. These are two pictures of the same wine glass I’ve taken. The first figure was at full zoom; and the second figure was taken with my other 18-55mm lens with one 10x close-up lens, and 1 telephoto lens at about the same distance. I should also mention that for figure 1, it was impossible to get closer to the lens without a “Close-up” lens attachment, because the sensor would keep the shutter button locked because it can’t focus properly. Macro lenses are perfect if you want to take pictures of stamps, flowers up close, some small species, tiny artifacts, and books. They are also great for taking pictures of textures, such as walls, concrete, metal, wood, etc. You can also stack lenses, but I’m not sure if there are limits on the amount you can stack together, the camera’s sensor is very sensitive. Macro Close-up lenses are NOT designed to be used for subjects far away, you will not be able to focus and loose your dept of field.
I do not have a micro lens yet, so I can not show you any examples, that will be later on in the future. I will not write more about micro lenses because I think it’s pretty much self-explanatory at this point. I deleted a lot of the old stuff I’ve written, just because I felt the information I gave was too extraneous.
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