Canon Macro Lens

echo24

COASTAL CONSERVATION GROUP - TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN
Hi folks,:t:

I'm in the market for a Canon (or similar) macro lens to suit a Canon 400d body and would appreciate some advice before buying...

It's basically for photographing Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies etc, but having never used a macro lens before I'm not too sure where to start, so I was hoping that someone could point me in the direction of a reasonably priced (not too expensive;)) lens...

Cheers, Dougie.
 

Nikon Kid

Love them Sula Bassana
Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX DG Macro Lens - Canon Fit Thats the only one I have and tried love it, around £550 in UK cheaper from abroad, paid £450 for mine from ebay Middle East
 

stevetb

Registered user
In price order...

Sigma 50mm f/2.8
Canon 60mm f/2.8
Sigma 105mm f/2.8
Canon 100mm f/2.8
Sigma 150mm f/2.8

All lenses offer 1:1 magnification. However, the longer focal lengths mean that you can get the same magnification without getting so close. For example, with the 50mm, you might need to get within 15cm, but with the 150 only 40cm - which is a big difference when working with small, flighty critters. I'm not too familiar with the more budget lenses, but the last two are very, very sharp lenses.
 

screaming piha

Well-known member
You can add to AC/DC's list: Canon 50, Tamron 90, Tokina 100 and Sigma 180 before prices get a bit silly with the Canon 180.

All the macro lenses are excellent. Quality-wise you can't go wrong with any of them. Fifty is a little short for many insects (more often used for flowers).

Another popular (and versatile) option is the Canon 70-200 f4 with an extension tube.
 

stevetb

Registered user
Thanks for that jdj - I didn't realise there was a 50mm canon, but I have heard good things about the Tamron 90.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
To give you an idea of what others are using HERE is a poll of some 2500 macro users.
 
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Overread

Hunting birds with a canon
Hmm ok macro lenses on offer: note that they are pretty much all tacksharp options so you won't be getting noticably lesser image quality in the field with any of them (exception possibly the canon 50mm macro). So you can make your choice on budget and needs in the field.

Canon 50mm macro - this is not a true macro lens and only achives half of the true magnification that the rest achive (that is it only does 1:2 macro). It can perform true 1:1 macro by also bying the macro lens adaptor for this lens - however by then the cost of the two lenses would have let you get a single true macro lens of longer focal length. This is a macro lens I would avoid.

Sigma 50mm macro - its a solid performer, though lacking in any fancy sides. Note also that its budget range and I have met quite a few people who feel its contstruction is a little flimsy.

Canon EFS 60mm macro - a very good performer, don't let the EFS part throw you. It's a very solid short range macro lens, ideal for static subjects and working in very close environments. The EFS only compatabilty only really a limitation if you intend to go full frame later

Tamron 60mm macro *as yet not released* - this new and unreleased macro lens is very much like the canon in that its only for crop sensor cameras, however feature wise its more comparable to the canon 100mm, since it sports inner focusing and an increased working distance similar to that of the 100mm focal range lenses. Image quality wise is not yet known, but based on the 90mm by this company it is expected to be very high

Sigma 70mm macro - often stated as being on of Sigma's sharpest lenses this is a good short range macro which also will work on a fullframe camera. As an additional point it will also work well with sigma teleconverters, displite not being listed as compatable on their website (I have done this and the link is smooth and not forced). Aside from that its AF is slower and noisy (though there is a limiter switch) and it does extend whilst focusing, though its front element does not rotate (so polarizers are easy to use).

Tamron 90mm macro - a very sharp lens and often the best budget option for people interested in insect work, since the lens offers a good working distance as a respectable price, without sacrificing image quality

Canon 100mm macro - one of the most popular choices and also a lens with one of the better AF systems, being faster than most macro lenses. Its a very solid performer in all respects, though note that canon do not sell this lens with its lens hood nor with its tripod collar

Sigma 105mm macro - Again this is a sharp macro lens from sigma, though again its lacking in perks like fast AF its image quality is still very high standard and it makes a good choice for macro work in this focal range

Sigma 150mm macro - A lens fast becoming popuplar with macro workers with insects this lens offers a greater working distance. Further this lens is the start of the higher class macros from sigma, sporting inner focusing, HSM focusing and teleconverter compatability. Note that its AS, whilst HSM *so quite and always manual as an option) its not blindingly fast, a decent speed, but not outstanding. This lens is often considered the longest focal length macro which is still suitable for prolonged handheld macro work

Sigma 180mm macro - sporting features like the shorter 150mm macro this is another highclass macro from sigma; again having inner focusing, HSM and teleconverter compatability. However all this is at a slightly longer focal range (and thus longer working distance). Note that whilst handheld is still an option for this lens its often a more tripod suited lens than handheld suited - though of course this is just a general view and many do use this lens handheld. Note that many people choose this lens (or the tamron) over the canon.

Tamron 180mm macro - for some reason a less popular macro lens choice than the sigma 180mm, dispite this lens still being a solid performer devlivering a very good image quality

Canon 180mm macro L - the most expensive 180mm lens by far and also the only L grade one, though whilst it has teleconverter compatabilty (for canon TCs) it is not weathersealed (far as I know). In addition its build is very solid, but of course makes this a much heavier lens and very much more suited to being used on a tripod setup. Dispite its L status its sharpness is still on par with the rest of the range, so one does not get blindingly sharper shots with this expensive lens.


Some terms:
Inner focusing - the lens will not extend as you adjust the focus, all movement is done inside leaving the lens always at the same length

Some notes:
Focal length and working distance - simply put the longer the focal length the longer the distances from the camera body to the subject when taking a shot at full magnifcation (1:1).

AF - most macro lenses have a poor af functionality, this is partly the result of having very fine focus controls leaving the AF a lot of range to move through when compared to most regular lenses which lack this fine level of control. Though most macro lenses hava limiter switch to void using the closer distances for AF, most are still comparativly slow to focus.
For macro work though this is not a problem since the majority of macro work is done via manual focus, due to AF often not being able to aquire reliable focus (a product of working in dim lighting and so close). Typical method is to set to focus to fixed point and then move the lens and camera closer - gently rocking as you get near the point of focus to put it directly where you want it to be. One can also adjust the focus ring whlist doing this - though note that doing so will mean your not working at a known magnifcation factor (important for some who like to measure bugs off photos).

Tripods - these are often used for static macro work and still (cold) insects when there is time to setup the rig and take a shot. It offers unbeatable stabilty in a shot as well as the option of longer shutter speeds in still conditions. However macro work has some demands of its own - a tripod should idealy have a very low min height since working at ground level is common; then a tripod head is needed, typically ball heads are not well suited to macro work since they will droop down when the pressure is applied and your hands release the setup. This is not noticable for regular shooting, but at macro ranges the tiny droop will noticable change your framing. Further macro 3way heads and ballheads will struggle to hold a macro setup perfectly still without any drooping. The best head for macro work is the heavy and expensive Manfrotto Junior Geared head, it allow for very precise control of each axis of movment without having any droop problems - if tripod work is your prefered line then this is a must get head. Finally to focus the macro work best you are going to need a focusing rail on the setup also - moving the tripod setup back and forth in tiny movements to get perfect focus is not practical in the field and a rail is needed for this task. Myself I do not like the manfrotto wormscrew focusing rail and much prefer the design of the Novoflex (there are cheap ebay focusing rails of a similar design which are decent and more affordable)

Recomended working distances - if your intending to work with static subjects then there is no demend on a longer working distances; whilst if insects are your intended subject a longe working distances is very desirable since it puts greater distance between you and the subject and thus a lesser chance of spooking the insect. Generally speaking 90mm is the shortest recomended focal length for insect work

Focal length and Bokeh - longer focal length macros will yeald a greater amount of background blur in shots than shorter focal length ones. This is something to bare in mind when choosing a macro lens and many a photographer will even use teleconverters to get that increased blur in the background of a shot

Teleconverters and effects - if you add a teleconverter to a macro lens the minimum focusing distance of the setup remains the same, however your magnifcation factor increases by a set amount over the length of the lenses focus. This means that you can not only get shots greater than 1:1 magnfication, but also have an increased working distance at the 1:1 point (remembering that this point is now further along the lenses focusing range and not right at the closest focusing point).

Lighting:
When shooting macro also remembe that lighting is a key component in anyones setup since working at macro work around 1:1 is very dim work. You will need good strong lighting or a tripod and slow shutter speed toget the shots you need. This is a further increased problem since depth of field (area of a shot in focus) at macro distances is very small thus typical apertures used range from f8 to f13 - f16 is the lower limit since after that point diffraction can cause softening in the shot.
There are several lighting setups;

Natural light - just bare sunlight, this is good in still weather for static subjects but becomes much harder to use for moving subjects and for handheld work, depending of course on how much light you get. Its also important to note that its less controled - you have to position youself right to avoid shadowing the shot

Reflectors - these don't have to be massive for macro work and are great for directing natural light onto the subject. They are also very light and cheap so can provide a good addition to an existing setup. Note also that in strong sunlight a diffusion filter can be used to block some of the suns light to avoid hotspots

Flash - good macro flash is a massive subject to itself with many different setups possible. Basically put this form of lighting gives you the advantage of controling the lighting and its the prefered option used by many insect and handheld operators when subject and user shake/movment place demands on shutter speeds.
 
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macshark

Electron Chaser
Unless you want to get micro detail like eyes, antennas, legs, etc, to capture full-size shots of larger insects like butterflies, moths, dragonflies, etc. you may not really need a 1:1 macro lens. Several general purpose zooms offer magnification in the 1:3 range and minimum focus in the 1m range which may be good enough. EF-S 55-250mm may be an interesting option for hand-held use since it has image stabilization...
 

echo24

COASTAL CONSERVATION GROUP - TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN
Many thanks for the feedback folks - your help is much appreciated:t:

There's quite a lot of info there to take in and digest but I will get through it all over the coming days/weeks and hopefully arrive at the right decision:eek!: - it's just nice that I now have starting points...

Cheers, Dougie.
 

Jaff

Registered Member
Unless you want to get micro detail like eyes, antennas, legs, etc, to capture full-size shots of larger insects like butterflies, moths, dragonflies, etc. you may not really need a 1:1 macro lens. Several general purpose zooms offer magnification in the 1:3 range and minimum focus in the 1m range which may be good enough. EF-S 55-250mm may be an interesting option for hand-held use since it has image stabilization...

Yes quite. The 70-300mm zooms with macro functions can turn out pretty nice images without costing a lot. Just depends how close you want to get and also the limited aperture options from a f5.6 lens may not be to everyone's satisfaction but the extra focal length vs ordinary macros has it's benefits too.
If you want the whole creature in your shot Dougie then a macro lens is not strictly necessary. Any lens with a good close focus will take a photo of them just as well, even something like a 18-55mm kit lens.

Don't spend money on an expensive macro lens if all your after is a shot like this IMHO.
http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/262679/ppuser/42340

Hope I'm helping. It happens very rarely.
Adam
 
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Malcolm Stewart

Well-known member
I've got several macro lenses for the EOS system, but my best shots of butterflies were taken with an old EF 75-300 zoom, or with my EF 300 f2.8L IS. My problem is that I never get close to butterflies or dragonflies - they fly away well before I get close, so a good longer lens works best for me!
It's different with flowers, and earlier today I ran into depth of field problems shooting a passion flower at f8 with my Sigma 150mm macro. It was breezy and the flowers were moving, so f16 and a tripod would not have helped... OTOH, if I'd steadied the flower and used a tripod, I guess I could have stopped down to f22 for more depth, but I had other matters to attend to - like fixing my mower.
 

Nikon Kid

Love them Sula Bassana
I've got several macro lenses for the EOS system, but my best shots of butterflies were taken with an old EF 75-300 zoom, or with my EF 300 f2.8L IS. My problem is that I never get close to butterflies or dragonflies - they fly away well before I get close, so a good longer lens works best for me!
It's different with flowers, and earlier today I ran into depth of field problems shooting a passion flower at f8 with my Sigma 150mm macro. It was breezy and the flowers were moving, so f16 and a tripod would not have helped... OTOH, if I'd steadied the flower and used a tripod, I guess I could have stopped down to f22 for more depth, but I had other matters to attend to - like fixing my mower.


I suppose for Butterflies you have to get out early in the morning when they are not active, My problem is I am just getting up when they have warmed up,
so have the same problem with the 150mm, I am getting better at creeping up on them.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Dougie, if it just for butterflies/Dragons and the like then I also think there is some merit in not getting a real macro lens. Nice habitat shots of butterflies and the like do not need a lens capable of 1:1 shooting. I have a 100mm macro but much prefer the 70-200 or even my 400/5.6 + ext tubes for these subjects as you can stand a bit farther away from the subject. I am not suggesting that you should run to the expense of these lenses but as already been mentioned there are some cheaper zooms that could for fill your needs and also double up for other uses.
 
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Shaggy2070

Well-known member
Like Jaff said, the 18-55mmm kit lens can give some half decent results.
I was wondering whether to save for a Macro or a Long lens first, but seeing the results I'm getting with the "Kit Lens" I decided to save for a big lens.

Shots aren't perfect but they'll do for meB :)
Give it a go you may be surprised and save a bit money;):t:.
 

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David Smith

Warrington Lancs
Just to add my twopence worth.
If (as others have said) its for records and general butterfly/dragonfly shots then a longer lense will serve that purpose and give you more versatility-as well as saving you some money.
If you real want macro then I would recommend the Sigma 150 as it is a quality lense (not tried others so not suggesting its the best).

I attach a full dragonfly taken with my 100-400 (it was random as it just landed while I was photographing something else). It shows that even longer lenses can give good results.
I also attach a macro taken with the Sigma as I doubt you could get similar with a standard lense (no doubt someone will prove me wrong:-O)
 

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andrej 4153

Well-known member
The Canon 100 macro is very good for real macro pictures.
But: you have to get very close to the subject. For perfect macro pictures you need most of the time a good tripod and it is also question of the flashlight. there are special macro flashs that are expensive. If the animals or plants are moving its also hard work to get good macro pictures. Then i often use the manual focus and thats a bit tricky.

So as the others write its probably better and easier with a 300mm or a 100-400mm.
 

cab1024

Well-known member
To give you an idea of what others are using HERE is a poll of some 2500 macro users.

One of the first commenters on that link said they primarily used their Sigma 105, but really liked using their Nifty Fifty with extension tubes. That's the route I hope to take as my next lens purchase. That said, has anyone here used that setup? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is supposed to be super sharp and have great bokeh, both of which I'm after in a portrait lens for the 40D. But for macro purposes, what are the focusing distances and magnification factors for the different tube lengths? Do I need a set of tubes, or is there one tube that is ideally suited for 50mm on a 1.6 crop-factor camera?
 

Jaff

Registered Member
I started out just like that. 50mm f1.8 w ext tubes but it wasn't long before I got a Sigma 105mm macro and haven't looked back since. To acheive a 1:1 reproduction using tubes means you have to stack a lot on which really buggers up your shutter speed, and can make the AF go funny (although MF is the preferred tool for macro anyway).
Of course going right in to a 1:1 on a macro lens has extremely low shutter speeds too but perhaps not as bad. If it's true macro work your after I'd save the money on tubes and look for a s/h macro lens which come up FS fairly frequently.

EDIT: If you hurry there's one FS now at a great price.
 
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