Introduction to Macro Photography

Lesson 2/12 - Lens Choice for Macro Photography


Introduction to Macro Photography


Lesson Info

Lens Choice for Macro Photography

All right so let's start off with lens choices. I had Nikon corporation send me some lenses to show you all in the class and so I think... So let me talk about the three main macro lenses. I'll show you kinda the three main lenses here. We've got 105, we've got an 85, and we have a 60. So let me talk about each of those independently and explain how they're useful and why we care about those focal lengths. Okay. We'll start with what I call the quintessential macro lens. This is the 105 millimeter F2. macro lens. Nikon makes these, Canon makes these, a lots of other manufacturers make these as well. 105, why 105 millimeters? Well the reason why is because 105 millimeters gives you a nice working distance. So I'm gonna grab my camera over here and just give you a physical understanding of what a 105 millimeters gives you. This lens that I have on here is a 50 millimeter, a normal what we call a nifty 50, just a regular 50 millimeter lens, a 50 F18. Now it's not a macro lens. In other wo...

rds, it can't, it won't focus really close on the subject. The minimum focus distant on this lens is, it's .45 feet. Or about, what is that, half a meter or so. No, little bit less than half a meter. If my subject is here, the closest I can get is about here. And when I take that shot, you'll find it's pretty small in the frame. So a macro lens, a true macro lens, allows you to get really close. And the term macro technically means one to one magnification ratio. One to one. In other words, if my object is one inch tall, when I take the picture it will appear one inch on the actual sensor. So literally if I measured the sensor, the little CCD on the camera, I get one inch of thing on the sensor for one inch of thing in the real world. That's a one to one magnification ratio. All right so this macro lens, if I wanna get to one to one, I get to one to one about right there, at that distance. So let's imagine that's a bug, or a bee, or a wasp you know. Some animals are skittish, and other animals are kind of dangerous. So you want a little bit of working space. So 105 millimeters allows you to maybe shoot about a foot away or more, and still get really good magnification. So that's 105. Let's talk 60. So this one here is the 60 millimeter macro. This is a Nikon lens, a Nikkor. So 60 millimeter lens, to get that same magnification, it's a shorter focal length. Now I gotta be like right there. So you see the working distance is much closer, much tighter. So this works... A 60 millimeter lens, you're gonna use for more like still lifes. Flowers, jewelry, maybe something that's not moving around. Whereas 105 millimeter you get a little more working space. So 60, 105. Now there's lots of other macro lenses. Heres one. This one is an 85. Now this one is... The difference with this lens, is that it's a DX lens. And in the Nikon terminology, that stands for the crops sensor lenses. So you know Nikon and Canon and lots of other camera manufacturers, they have full frame sensors. They also have crop sensors. Well this camera I'm using right now is a crop sensor camera. And this lens, if I show it to this camera over here, this lens says DX. So it's only designed to work on this D500 camera. So it won't, if I took it on a full frame camera it wouldn't fill the frame with the image. So this is specifically designed as crops sensor lens at 85 millimeters. So I'm just gonna do some quick math for you. Full frame equivalent, you multiply 85 times about 1.5, and that gets you what, to a 130 ish, 130 millimeters in full frame, full frame parlent. That same working distance is about the same as the 105. Okay. So what type of macro lens should you buy? Well it depends. Do you like bugs and animals? Then you want a longer focal length, at least 105. And I would even encourage you to consider those... Like Nikon makes this really great 200 millimeter F4 macro. And Canon I think makes one in the similar focal length. If you're doing a lot of bugs, you want that working distance so you can be a long ways away from that bug. So it doesn't fly away when you approach. On the other hand, if you're more of a studio person you're doing jewelry, I've got some jewelry I'll show over here in a little bit. You want a little bit, maybe more like a 60 so you can get in nice and close and fill the frame that way. So those are the lenses, the macro lenses. Most commonly you're gonna find something in the 90, what do I have, yeah 85 to 105 range. Tamron makes this really, it's a classic. It's the Tamron 90 millimeter macro. And if you're looking for an inexpensive lens for your Nikon, Canon or Sony, I would consider that Tamron 90. Really good deal. Tack sharp. Excellent lens. It's been around for a long time and it has a great reputation in the pro industry. And then if you're a Nikon or Canon shooter, and you're like nope, I gotta stick with that manufacturer, well then, I just showed ya. These lenses are also very good. I think I'll just keep this one on there. So I'm gonna shoot. I think today I'll shoot mostly with this 85 millimeter macro. And my camera here is the Nikon D500. So it's the DX sensor.

Class Description

Learn how to unlock the fantastic world of macro photography. Instructor Mike Hagen details the gear, techniques, and software you’ll need to capture extreme detail in everything from flowers to insects to jewelry. Create larger than life images with intricate detail using methods that Mike clearly demonstrates in this class.


Amy Vaughn

Good class, but I want more. CreativeLive, please get Mike Hagen to come back to do a full 1-2 day macro class. I'd love to see a deeper exploration of all his macro gear, diy toys, demos of Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker, and maybe showing live examples beyond flowers like bugs, abstracts and shooting through water.

ESther IGlich

A good intro course.I learned a lot in a short period of time, but really this class needs to be longer. It felt rushed. Would have liked to seen more on lighting specifically. However given the time Mike had to work in he did a great job and I enjoyed his insights.


I appreciated Mike's suggestions for DIY macro equipment. There is a lot of money you could save with those ideas alone. Great class and I agree ​it would be great to see more!