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 Post subject: Choosing a macro lens
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 9:51 am 
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I've received the following questions from penguinnikon919:
Quote:
Im a new photographer and have been blessed to have found the camera labs community, so i thank you for all you do.
So why im bothering you
1.) im interested in purchasing a micro lens from nikon mabye the 60 mm. Gordon said u were the expert in this area. i own a d3100 and have 18-55 and 55-200.
i like taking pictures of wildlife and close ups of bugs and flowers. First do i need a micro lens or should i not get one? and is 60 mm enough zoom or should i invest more in say the 105?

Also in your post can you talk about if a micro lens will be better with people shots than my 18-55 for example. What i mean, is a micro lens going to produce just as good or better pictures that are not supper close up?
please tell me when you post it. Thanks so much

First let me direct anyone interested in this question to Gordon#s write-up "Recommended Nikkor / Nikon lenses for insect, flower and general close-up photography". Plus there are other macro-lenses from manufacturers like Sigma or Tamron.
The fun part with all these macro lenses is that they produce pretty good pictures: sharp and contrasty. So the main choice comes down to focla length and stabilization.

Covering stabilization first: there are only 2 stabilized macro-lenses for Nikon bodies: The Nikon 105/2.8 VR which works on both DX and FX bodies and the 85/3.5 VR which is for DX bodies only.
There are people saying that the image stabilization in macro lenses is not very helpful, but:
1. All image stabilization in longer lenses comes in handy at normal shooting situations and
2. Even a 1-2 stop effect is very welcome when shooting macro handheld.

Now onto focal length:
Focal length determines from how far away you can achieve a certain magnification. So in a very simplified way you could say that with a 105mm macro lens you can achieve the same magnification as with a 60mm lens from almost double the distance.
This might a critical success-factor when you're shooting small critters that are shy and tend to run/fly away.
You might also find out that illumination of your subject becomes more difficult the smaller the distance between the front-lens and the subject is.
And a third factor that might influence your decision is: if you use your macro-lens in standard shooting situations like portraiture or nature would you prefer the longer (105mm) lens or shorter one.

Now this sounds like more questions than answers. But to put this in perspective I'd personally go for the long, stabilized 105/2.8 VR (which I own and am very happy with). It is the most expensive, but it gives you a good working distance, increases your chances of capturing sharp images and will also work an FX bodies. But this was just my personal preference, and sometimes I even need a longer macro lens (150mm-300mm), because getting close enough to beautiful insects can be pretty hard.

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Thomas (beware: Nikon-fanboy and moderator!) My Lens Reviews, My Pictures, My Photography Blog
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 3:10 pm 
Thanks for answering my question. Yet i really can only afford the 85mm. My second question is- will a the macro 85 mm produce better people and all around REGULARE photos than my 18-55 kit lens? So will it produce better non close up photos than my kit lens?

Thanks Thomas. Hope my question will help others!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 3:46 pm 
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you got to ask yourself what is the thing you will use the lens for more often, portraiture photohraphy or macro (bugs and stuff) photography. if it is portraits than with 60 mm f2.8 you will be set, but if it is macro id go for something longer.
i had the same problem not long ago, but in the end it seems i want to take portrait and macro almost equally so i went for tamron 90mm f2.8 (read the reviews and it's sharpness is as good as much costlier nikon 105mm, and it comes with af motor nowdays, for d3100 for it is necessary)
will it take better pictures? it is you who takes pictures not the lens (but for its purpose it will be more useful than 18-55 ;) )

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 4:06 pm 
haha i guess a camera is only as good as its photographer. What i mean is a macro going to be all around better for everything than my 18-55.

im leaning towards either the 60 or 85 mm. prob 85 mm for more zoom. Keep in mind i have a nikon 70-300 telephoto so i dont need a super zoom lens.

i just dont want to have to buy a 18-70 lens just to replace my 18-55 if my micro will get the job done for pictures that are not close up...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 5:29 pm 
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I'd go for the 60mm any day over the 85mm, I tried the 85mm out at the camera store a few weeks ago, and I just wouldn't work with the slow, f3.5 aperture. For only about $80 more, I'd say that the 60mm is a better choice than the 85, but that's just me. The 60mm would also be great for everyday shooting as well, it would make a superb portrait lens.

If I had the choice, I'd actually choose the 105 micro, but of course, that's another $400.

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Gear: 7 Nikon Nikkor AI-S and AF-S lenses, SB-700 flash, Nikon D7000, Nikon FM, variety of accessories

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 5:47 pm 
I wouldnt get too caught up about the aperture. At 1:1 both lenses are at f5 anyway (Ok f4.8 to be precise). And with modern ISO f2.8 and f3.5 really isnt much of a difference anyway.

When you say "better all around" than your 18-55 Im a bit confused.

Yes it'll be sharper and better built, but being a macro lens its quite slow to focus and also the focal length is a bit long for general use.

I like the 60mm btw, but the 105 is also awesome. Never tried the 85 as I was on film when I bought my macro.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 8:12 pm 
If price is a concern definitely take a look at the Tokina 100/2.8, it's a good deal cheaper than the Nikkor 105mm VR and would be much better suited to portraits and close up shots than the 60mm. It would also compliment the 18-55 kit lens quite well, but none of these lenses would be a suitable replacement for it as a general purpose lens.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 11:33 pm 
thanks everyone for your help. Im thinking of either the 60mm.

My last question :D
- what if i got a 18-105. First that would be an upgrade from my 18-55 vr and could it not be used as a macro. I know its not a full 1:1 ratio but still pretty close, and that way i would also have a lens for non close up also?

If this is not a good idea to use a 18-105 as a partial (i use that word losly) micro lens please tell me why

Thanks again to all the community taking the time out of your day to help a new photographer!! :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 6:17 am 
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The 18-105 would be a decent choice if you were chasing an upgrade to your 18-55 with a longer range and better optical performance (of course, don't expect a lens WORLDS sharper than your 18-55) and would make an excellent lens for everyday use. For macro work, you'd be able to get some pictures of flowers or do some food photography, but don't expect that you'll be able to photograph insects or extremely close up details of something.

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-Evan

Gear: 7 Nikon Nikkor AI-S and AF-S lenses, SB-700 flash, Nikon D7000, Nikon FM, variety of accessories

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."
- Ansel Adams


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 8:56 am 
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The 18-105 VR is a very competent zoom. But it goes only to a magnification of 1:5 while the micro-Nikkors all go down to 1:1.
You could buy a good close-up filter like the Canon 500D (don't confuse this with the camera!) with 67mm filter-thread that would fit on front of the 18-105 and probably brings you down to 1:3 magnification (no guarantee though!). That is enough for butterflies and the like but still there is a huge gap between 1:3 and 1:1 magnification!

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Thomas (beware: Nikon-fanboy and moderator!) My Lens Reviews, My Pictures, My Photography Blog
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