Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

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Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:37 pm

There are Macro lenses which come with variety of focal lengths and so are non-Macro lenses. What is(are) the difference(s) between these lenses? It appears that the Macro lens can get closer to the subject than non-Macro lens can. Is this it? Then, Is there a problem(s) using the Macro lens to shoot landscape?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:51 pm

Using a macro lens to shoot landscapes should be fine.

Also note that due to the close-focus ability, often there's quite a bit more travel in the focusing elements-- so focusing may be slower than non-macro designs with more limited focusing ranges.

Finally note that some macro lenses, despite the designation, aren't really macro lenses-- a true macro lens is generally advertised with its actual magnification (usually 1:1 or in some cases 2:1), as opposed to many regular lenses with a "macro" label applied that are not capable of 1:1 magnification or similar.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:11 pm

continuum wrote:Using a macro lens to shoot landscapes should be fine.

Also note that due to the close-focus ability, often there's quite a bit more travel in the focusing elements-- so focusing may be slower than non-macro designs with more limited focusing ranges.

Finally note that some macro lenses, despite the designation, aren't really macro lenses-- a true macro lens is generally advertised with its actual magnification (usually 1:1 or in some cases 2:1), as opposed to many regular lenses with a "macro" label applied that are not capable of 1:1 magnification or similar.

Thanks for your quick reply.
Is the "magnification" as referred to above in vendors' spec? I reviewed the specs for Micro-Nikkor lenses but could not determine which spec item is it. Could you help?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:19 pm

A 'true' Macro lens focuses down to 1:1, which means that the subject is projected onto the sensor at the same size that it is in real life. Also, if a true macro lenses is 1:1.0, or '1.0' magnification, many zoom lenses offer 'macro capability' that ranges from say 1:3 to 1:4, or .33 to .25 magnification.

Note that there a number of dedicated 'macro lenses that offer 1:2 or .5 magnification from various manufacturers. Many 50mm macro lenses are like this, while most 100mm macro lenses offer full 1:1 magnification.

What exactly are you trying to capture with a macro lens?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:59 pm

Airmantharp wrote:A 'true' Macro lens focuses down to 1:1, which means that the subject is projected onto the sensor at the same size that it is in real life.
What does this differ from my understanding that what you frame on the viewfinder hits the entire area of the sensor(full frame lens on full frame body)?
Also, if a true macro lenses is 1:1.0, or '1.0' magnification, many zoom lenses offer 'macro capability' that ranges from say 1:3 to 1:4, or .33 to .25 magnification.
What excatly do these "1:1", "1:0.25", etc mean?

Note that there a number of dedicated 'macro lenses that offer 1:2 or .5 magnification from various manufacturers. Many 50mm macro lenses are like this, while most 100mm macro lenses offer full 1:1 magnification.
I have AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. What is the magnification ratio of this lens?

What exactly are you trying to capture with a macro lens?
I have Nikon 50mm f/2.8F and 24-120mm f/4G. I like to shoot close-up views of flowers. I can do this using the 24-120mm if the flower is not a tiny one.
I am planning to get a wide angle lens for landscape photo but I start wondering if I also need the macro lens.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:29 pm

The real difference between a macro and non macro lens is the focus system. A macro lens in macro mode usually invokes a different focus strategy than in normal mode, it will focus closer.

The 1:1 is just that the image will be life size on the sensor, at 1:2 it will be half size.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:57 pm

PenGun wrote: The 1:1 is just that the image will be life size on the sensor, at 1:2 it will be half size.

What does "life size on the sensor" mean? Does 1:0.25 mean x4 size? If so, four times of what?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:07 pm

churin wrote:
PenGun wrote: The 1:1 is just that the image will be life size on the sensor, at 1:2 it will be half size.

What does "life size on the sensor" mean? Does 1:0.25 mean x4 size? If so, four times of what?

Ummm ... a nickel will be nickel size on the sensor at 1:1, half size on the sensor at 1:2 and so on.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:07 pm

Some quick tips on macro photography.

I'll generally list the best options, with 1 being the 'best' option in any one category.

LENSES:
1. Macro lenses. A good dedicated macro lens is better than a generic lens. As Pengun says, beware manufacturers that add 'Macro' labels willy-nilly to non-macro lenses (usually zooms). A good macro lens is always a prime. For insects, you will want a 1:1 macro lens. For flowers, a 1:2 is often good enough.
2. Extension tubes. You can increase the maximum magnification of any lens (even macro lenses) by mounting them on an extension tube (also known as macro tubes). When so mounted, the lens will be able to focus closer, but will not focus to infinity. You will also usually lose autofocus.
3. Magnification lenses. These clip on to the front of an existing lens and increase its max magnification. The most commonly used is the Raynox 250. You can get pretty decent results with these for cheap.
4. Reverse mounting. If you mount your lens backwards, you can get insane magnification (5:1 or better is not unheard of), but will get degraded quality and also risk damaging the back element as it's not meant to be exposed.

GEAR:
1. Macro rails. Best used indoors/studio. Not practical in the field.
2. Tripod. You don't want to shoot macro hand held. Trust me.

TECHNIQUES (in no general order):
a. Lighting lighting lighting. This is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of shooting macro. A good light source will help you get good shots, whether it's a light box, lamp, macro flash (also known as ring flash) or regular flash (best mounted off-camera).
b. Stop down. You want as much depth of field as possible, but be careful not to exceed the diffraction limit (the value beyond which your image will get softer the more you stop down). A good rule of thumb set of values are f/22 for full frame, f/16 for DX/APS-C, and f/8 for micro four thirds.
c. Focus manually. If you have live view, switch to live view mode instead of using the optical viewfinder. Exposure is also tricky for mirror-based systems and you'll get better results in live view.
d. Experiment, and practice.
e. Focus stacking. This is a software-based technique to take multiple shots at different focus points and then combine them in software on the computer. Some of the best macro shots are taken this way.
f. See above. Try not to shoot hand held. If you don't have a tripod, try to rest the camera or your arms on a solid surface.
g. Avoid slow shutter speeds. Small movements from the camera or on the subject are greatly magnified close up. If you have mirror lock up, use it to reduce shutter vibration.

Good luck and happy shooting!
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:18 pm

PenGun wrote:
churin wrote:
PenGun wrote: The 1:1 is just that the image will be life size on the sensor, at 1:2 it will be half size.

What does "life size on the sensor" mean? Does 1:0.25 mean x4 size? If so, four times of what?

Ummm ... a nickel will be nickel size on the sensor at 1:1, half size on the sensor at 1:2 and so on.

An image of a nickle can be life size on the sensor but how about that of an elephant? I am asking this to possibly provide a clue why I fail to understand your explanation.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:20 pm

Voldenuit,
Thank you very much for your detailed suggestions about macro photography.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:42 pm

churin wrote:
PenGun wrote:
churin wrote:What does "life size on the sensor" mean? Does 1:0.25 mean x4 size? If so, four times of what?

Ummm ... a nickel will be nickel size on the sensor at 1:1, half size on the sensor at 1:2 and so on.

An image of a nickle can be life size on the sensor but how about that of an elephant? I am asking this to possibly provide a clue why I fail to understand your explanation.



He means that at maximum magnification, a 1:1 macro lens will produce an image on the sensor that's the same size as the actual object. So something 0.5 in long in real life will cover 0.5in on the sensor. When you display it on a screen or print it out, you will usually arrive at a displayed image that's larger than the original.

Obviously, you won't be able to fit an entire elephant at 1:1 on a DSLR sensor. But you will be able to capture details on an elephant (eyes, skin, etc) at 1:1 detail on the sensor, assuming you can get close enough.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:11 pm

churin wrote:I have AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. What is the magnification ratio of this lens?


About 1:7. See here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/5 ... _1_4G.html

An aspect of dedicated macro lenses that many folks find appealing is that they are flat-field - that is, there is little field curvature, so the edges of the lens are nearly as sharp as the center.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:12 am

Question to consider: what is your goal in shooting macro? Do you want to be able to have a bee on a flower fill the entire image, at a detail level where you can count the hairs on the bee's closest leg? Or maybe capture the beautiful intricacies of an ice crystal? If so, you want a macro.

Or, do you just want to get some really spectacular shots of flowers with excellent sharpness of the foreground subject while maintaining a fairly shallow depth of field and and spectacular bokeh in the background? If so, you can do this with a macro once you figure out how to use it, but you can also do it by shooting a long-zoom at the closest distances which it will focus.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:46 am

Yeats wrote:
churin wrote:I have AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. What is the magnification ratio of this lens?


About 1:7. See here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/5 ... _1_4G.html

An aspect of dedicated macro lenses that many folks find appealing is that they are flat-field - that is, there is little field curvature, so the edges of the lens are nearly as sharp as the center.


Caveat: Not all macro lenses are flat field. The ones that are tend to be for document copying, and tend to be 35 or 50 mm lenses that often top out at 1:2. I'd also say that being flat field conveys little benefit when shooting conventional macro subjects like flowers and insects, which are 3-dimensional and often not filmed co-planar with the sensor. Lastly, a lens can have field curvature and still have sharp corners, it just means that planar subjects will have the frame edges out of the plane of focus (but often still within the zone of confusion).

EDIT: Also worth pointing out that many macro lenses are often prized as portrait lenses, though obviously not for shooting the subject at 1:1. This is because they are usually the sharpest lenses in a camera system's stable, and often have good bokeh characteristics. Although sometimes they can be too sharp (showing up blemishes and imperfections in the subject).
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:40 am

The APS-C sensor on a "DX" DSLR like the Nikon D300S is 23.6 mm x 15.8 mm. With a 1:1 magnification macro lens like the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, you can focus close enough that an object that is 23.6 mm x 15.8 mm will fill the entire image. Yes, this applies to elephants, too, though an elephant's eye is about 34 mm across, so it wouldn't all fit into the frame. A living elephant might not stand still if you pushed your camera to within a few inches of its eye to get that shot, anyway.

Note that when you're focusing that close, the depth of field is extremely thin. This sequence (all shot with the EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM) may illustrate that. Notice how much shallower the depth of field got as I walked closer to the flower. On the last (1:1) shot, you can see that the depth of field was so shallow that I couldn't capture the gnat in focus (hand-held with a light breeze blowing).

Click to enlarge:
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:39 am

Voldenuit wrote:Caveat: Not all macro lenses are flat field. The ones that are tend to be for document copying, and tend to be 35 or 50 mm lenses that often top out at 1:2. I'd also say that being flat field conveys little benefit when shooting conventional macro subjects like flowers and insects, which are 3-dimensional and often not filmed co-planar with the sensor. Lastly, a lens can have field curvature and still have sharp corners, it just means that planar subjects will have the frame edges out of the plane of focus (but often still within the zone of confusion).


You're right, I should have said that most macro lenses, regardless of focal length, are flatter of field than non-macros. Also, the macros in the 90+ mm range are generally very flat, both 1:1 and 1:2. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is Canon. Sigma, Tamron, Pentax & the old 100/105's are all pretty even across the frame.

Personally, I don't care about flat field, but measurebaters often do.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:41 pm

I think I now fully understand what the life size on the sensor means.

What does "flat field" mean mentioned in the above posts?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:38 pm

Flat field, aka planar, means the plane of focus is flat.

e.g. focus on a brick wall with the lens perfectly perpendicular to the brick wall, and the entire brick wall will be in focus.

Many lenses do not actually have a flat plane of focus-- instead it is curved-- so in the situation as described above, the focused point used (say the center focus point) will result in the center of the brick wall being in focus and the edges of the wall being out of focus, due to the curved plane of focus of the lens.

Caveat, of course, is that if you are shooting with sufficient depth of field, the whole brick wall may remain in focus despite the curved plane of focus...
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:03 pm

continuum wrote:Flat field, aka planar, means the plane of focus is flat.

e.g. focus on a brick wall with the lens perfectly perpendicular to the brick wall, and the entire brick wall will be in focus.

Many lenses do not actually have a flat plane of focus-- instead it is curved-- so in the situation as described above, the focused point used (say the center focus point) will result in the center of the brick wall being in focus and the edges of the wall being out of focus, due to the curved plane of focus of the lens.

Caveat, of course, is that if you are shooting with sufficient depth of field, the whole brick wall may remain in focus despite the curved plane of focus...

Thanks for your help.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sun Feb 23, 2014 7:42 am

Is there any problem or disadvantage using macro lens for other ordinary photography?
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:33 am

Because they have a very wide range of focus (from infinite distance down to just a few inches in front of the lens), true macro lenses may be slightly slower to focus than non-macro lenses. Many of them will include a focus range limit switch to eliminate this drawback when the lens is used for non-macro photography.
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Re: Difference between Macro & non-Macro lenses

Postposted on Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:21 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:Because they have a very wide range of focus (from infinite distance down to just a few inches in front of the lens), true macro lenses may be slightly slower to focus than non-macro lenses. Many of them will include a focus range limit switch to eliminate this drawback when the lens is used for non-macro photography.

Thanks for your reply. I will look for the switch when I review macro lens specs.
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