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New Macro Lens for dSLR

SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
edited November 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi All,

What type of things should I be looking for when purchasing a new macro lens for a Canon E400D dSLR?

My fiance is a huge photo-bug and loves her camera. She only has the standard lens and would love a macro lens and I plan on buying one for her! But I have no idea what type of specs to look for and compromises to make :(

Serpent on

Posts

  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    What does she want to take macro shots of and what's your budget?

    Depending on what she's shooting, she'll either want a shorter macro or a longer macro lens. For flowers and other things where you can get right up to them, a 60mm is fine. For things with stingers and things that might be scared away, a 100mm macro is preferable. The 100mm also doubles as an excellent mid-telephoto portrait lens.

    There isn't a whole lot of choice in modern macro design if your wife wants autofocus. If your budget is large enough, buy first party. Canon just put out a new 100mm f/2.8 L IS macro which is fantastic, but pricey. If you step down a bit in build quality and missing IS, the old Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro should be available used as some folks liquidate theirs so they can buy the new one. The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro is astonishingly popular, but keep in mind that it's an EF-S lens - if she ever moves to a full frame camera, it won't be useable.

    That all being said, one third party lens maker makes a pretty kickass macro lens. The Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP macro is astonishingly good and can be had for well under $400 new.

    If she doesn't need autofocus and is willing to adapt mounts, this opens up a whole bucket of options: Zeiss, Leica, Contax, Lanthar, Minolta, Pentax… about which I know nothing and so won't offer opinions on.

    3072973561_de17a80845_o.jpg
  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Dark Moon,

    Your reply was very thorough and exactly the type of thing I'm looking for, and also left my with a whole pile of questions!

    She'll be taking photos of flowers much more than stingers/animals. However, would a 100mm still work well for flowers? That is, would a 100mm 'just be better'?

    I did a quick google but didn't find the below terms quickly:
    What is EF-S?
    What is IS?

    It sounds like there are compatibility issues beyond 'Canon' vs 'Nikon' such as EF-S. Is there any warnings about what will fit?

  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Well, it's a very different focal length. She might find herself having to get rather far away from things to shoot them at lower magnifications, which can be problematic in tighter quarters. What other lenses does she have right now? If she has a 50mm, then getting a 60mm macro will be a fairly redundant lens (in non-macro situations). If she's already got a 135mm, on the other hand, a 100mm when she doesn't need the reach of a 100mm macro is redundant.

    You should really provide a budget for the best advice.

    As to terms: Canon and Nikon cannot use lenses interchangeably. They both have their own unique mounting systems. Canon only develops Canon lenses and Nikon only does Nikon - third party lens makers, like Sigma/Tamron/Zeiss and so on develop lenses for both (and more). EF-S is the designation for a lens that only works on a crop sensor (small sensor) DSLR, like your fiance's 400D. They won't fit on 1D-series or 5D-series Canon cameras, as they have a full frame sensor (sensor is the same size as a frame on a 35mm film camera). These cameras will only fit EF lenses. These lenses are more pricey but generally better built and are definitely more future proof should your fiance ever change bodies.

    IS is image stabilization - a bunch of gyroscopes mounted in the lens to keep it steady even when your hands are wobbling like crazy. It's really handy in some situations, but has limited applications in macro work (as you're generally on a heavy tripod when shooting high magnification stuff). That being said, if your fiance uses the lens for non-macro shooting as well, IS is very handy.

    3072973561_de17a80845_o.jpg
  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I'm a little confused here, why is the standard lens not good for flowers?

    Personally I recommend going for a lens with stabilization and auto focus whatever you decide on.

  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Dman wrote: »
    I'm a little confused here, why is the standard lens not good for flowers?

    Personally I recommend going for a lens with stabilization and auto focus whatever you decide on.

    The standard lens won't focus very close and so has a poor maximum magnification. For particularly large flowers it might be fine, but for smaller flowers or fine detail work it's useless. Never mind that the macro will be much sharper when wide open (which, I'll admit, won't be a huge deal at very high magnifications).

    Stabilization and AF are absolutely fantastic for every kind of photography…except macro. Most macro shooters will be using very heavy tripods, cable releases and mirror lock up for every shot because at 1:1 or 2:1 magnifications even the tiniest of movement during the exposure will be very visible in the resulting image. Macro is extremely demanding in terms of focus accuracy, and many common focussing practices (focus lock then recompose, use of non-centre AF points) simply don't work when your focal plane needs to be ±1mm of where your subject is (because your DOF is only 2mm). Manually focussing is one of the best ways of ensuring precisely what you want in focus is in focus.

    Now, this is all for dedicated macro lenses being used solely for macro shooting. If you want to do other things with your macro lens, such as portraiture or whatever, AF and IS once again become very handy things to have.

    3072973561_de17a80845_o.jpg
  • DHS OdiumDHS Odium Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I made my own macro lens by using a spare 50mm lens and reversing it. I used a short PVC pipe to extend the distance from the camera. There are a ton of guides to do this. A good way to get your feet wet before taking the plunge and spending all the money that a real macro lens costs.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dereksykes/sets/72157622786164482/

    That's what I've done so far. It's not much, and I'm still learning, haven't tried flowers yet. Note that I just picked up a couple more tips to make my macro shots better, and these have a very narrow depth of field partly because I had the aperture all the way open. Next time I'll have it smaller and just try to have the shutter open longer to get the light in. Doing that gives a little better focus.

    Wii U: DHS-Odium // Live: DHS Odium // PSN: DHSOdium // Steam: dhsykes // 3DS: 0318-6615-5294
  • saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Budget? I love my EF 100mm f/2.8.

    XBL: heavenkils
  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    She currently has an EF-S 18-55mm. Not sure what the f is -- couldn't find it.

    I didn't list a budget because I didn't know enough about lenses to get a feel for how much I 'should' spend. I'd rather spend a little extra to get something good than not spend enough and get something bad.

    What's the difference between $300, $400, $500, etc.?
    Dark Moon wrote: »
    For flowers and other things where you can get right up to them, a 60mm is fine. For things with stingers and things that might be scared away, a 100mm macro is preferable. The 100mm also doubles as an excellent mid-telephoto portrait lens.

    Would a 60mm be redundant because she has a 55mm?

  • saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Serpent wrote: »
    She currently has an EF-S 18-55mm. Not sure what the f is -- couldn't find it.

    I didn't list a budget because I didn't know enough about lenses to get a feel for how much I 'should' spend. I'd rather spend a little extra to get something good than not spend enough and get something bad.

    What's the difference between $300, $400, $500, etc.?
    Dark Moon wrote: »
    For flowers and other things where you can get right up to them, a 60mm is fine. For things with stingers and things that might be scared away, a 100mm macro is preferable. The 100mm also doubles as an excellent mid-telephoto portrait lens.

    Would a 60mm be redundant because she has a 55mm?

    These are your two options for a Canon macro lens under $1,000: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM. The only real difference is the focal length which is a question only she can answer. There are other brands you can consider such as the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX Macro and the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro but the build quality will not be up to par with the Canons.

    XBL: heavenkils
  • ED!ED! Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Here is a complete list of all EOS compatible "macro" lenses for the Canon.

    The 60 or even 50MM wont be redundant because they serve very different purposes. The "walk around lens" that she has, is just not capable of coming in as close as a macro lens. Of those on the page I listed, I would recommend the Sigma 105MM F/2.8 (I have this one) or the 60MM F/2.5.

    Also let me dispute the "build quality" comment about the Sigma. I have Nikon branded lenses and Sigma branded lenses, and the build quality of the Sigma is on par with that of the Nikon. Sigma may not make an all metal lens, but so long as its made WELL I could care less.

    "Get the hell out of me" - [ex]girlfriend
  • saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I forgot about the Canon 50mm macro although it's technically not really a macro since it doesn't do life size without the converter. All the zoom lenses that list macro in their name are also not macro lenses.

    My big issue with the third party lenses is the lack of full-time manual focus on most of them. This means you have to physically switch off the auto focus on the lens in order to use manual which can get very annoying if you switch between auto and manual focus a lot.

    XBL: heavenkils
  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Is there a difference between a macro lens and a non-macro lens other than the focal length and f-number?

    I understand in principle the difference -- Macro for close-up and zoom for far away.

    However how I can tell from the specifications of a lens whether it's macro or zoom/telephoto if it says it is both?

    Right now I am looking at the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 and am beginning to compare it against 3rd party lenses. I want to make sure I am comparing it against the right 3rd party lenses and getting a proper macro lens.

  • Uncle LongUncle Long Registered User
    edited November 2009
    Serpent wrote: »
    Is there a difference between a macro lens and a non-macro lens other than the focal length and f-number?

    I understand in principle the difference -- Macro for close-up and zoom for far away.

    However how I can tell from the specifications of a lens whether it's macro or zoom/telephoto if it says it is both?

    Right now I am looking at the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 and am beginning to compare it against 3rd party lenses. I want to make sure I am comparing it against the right 3rd party lenses and getting a proper macro lens.

    The 18-55mm is a zoom lens because you can zoom in from wide 18mm to a closer 55mm, a 105mm lens is a telephoto because its perspective is narrower than 50mm, and while it is longer than the 55mm of the zoom lens, and is a telephoto, it is not itself a zoom because it does not have a variable focal length. It is, in fact a prime lens. A zoom lens, 70-200mm is both telephoto and zoom but even if it says macro on it it is not a true macro lens (meaning that the image it captures is not 1:1, or the same size on the sensor as it is in real life). In fact, I can't think of any zoom lens with a true macro function.

    So, if it zooms, it's not a true macro lens (not that they're mutually exclusive concepts, but that a true macro zoom hasn't been produced yet). If it says macro and doesn't zoom, then you might want to also check the specs to see if it does 1:1 or not. The Canon 100mm does 1:1 and is a true macro lens.

  • SerpentSerpent Sometimes Vancouver, BC, sometimes Brisbane, QLDRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Alright so I'm looking at these two lenses:

    Canon EF-S 60mm F/2.8 Macro USM, available for $AU 522 from an ebay store. This lens has a minimum focus distance of 0.20m (7.8 inches).

    Tamron SP AF90mm F/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro, available for $450 from the same ebay store. This lens has a minimum focus distance of 0.29m (11.4 inches). I expect that the larger focal length would make up for this?

    I'm planning on purchasing one of this in the next 10 or so hours...

    (edit) Yes, the prices are high. The in store prices for these lenses in australia is ~$800! I wish my Fiancee's birthday was in January as we'll be back in Canada :(

  • Dark MoonDark Moon Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I'd go with the Tamron. Given her current kit, the likelihood that she gets a fast 50mm for general portraiture/walking around is pretty high and would lead to a lot of overlap in her kit if you got her a 60mm macro. The Tamron is also useful in that it'll give her the option of shooting things further away at higher magnifications, which will be useful if she branches out into other aspects of high magnification photography.

    3072973561_de17a80845_o.jpg
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