I am back again guys! I have been spending my time preparing better flash diffusers for my new macro setup (check out My Macro Rig for more details) which will hopefully produce even better photos. I hope you all are doing great too!
Anyway, I am writing this article since I have recently got a few questions from keen beginners in Macro Photography on top of being encouraged by Macro Enthusiasts. It seems that some still do not fully understand how macro or its accessories works; thus I will be covering some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) here today. Of course, feel free to ask should you have any more questions after reading this article~
Actually some of the contents below have already been covered in Macro Photography- 1:1 Magnification Explained which I have written some time ago in my old blog but I suppose it might have been overlooked, so please feel free to check out that article.
The following are some of questions I got asked most about magnification:
1. “What is 1:1 ratio in magnification?”
1:1 is basically the comparison between the size of your object against that of your camera sensor. For example, if your camera sensor is 24mm (Length) x 36mm (Width); at 1:1 ratio, when you frame a bug perfectly i.e. the head touching the top of the frame and the abdomen touching the bottom, you will know that the bug is precisely 24mm in length (Please see photo below for details).
In short, by shooting at 1:1, you will know how big your subjects really are. Of course, this is not too much of a concern unless if you are taking scientific shots for size measurements.
Also, please do take note that not all DSLR sensor sizes are 24mm x 36mm, and there are different ratios when it comes to Macro Photography. Please read here if you are interested in them: Macro Photography- 1:1 Magnification Explained.
2. “What lens do I need for Macro Photography?”
The great thing about Macro Photography is that it is cheap: you can actually take extreme close-up shots using any lens you already have (even kitlens), with only a few exceptions like ultra wide angle (UWA) lens etc.
However, normal lens have a certain limit to how close you can actually get to a subject, which is why you cannot normally take proper macro shots with just a standard lens. You will require some accessories like Reverse Rings, Extension Tubes, Teleconverters or Macro Conversion Lens to help attain sufficient magnification.
Of course, if you have the budget, you can always consider specialized lenses dedicated for Macro Photography. These lenses will definitely have a 1:1 magnification label on them. Dedicated macro lens allow you to get really close to your subject even without the accessories mentioned above.
3. “I’ve heard that a dedicated macro lens can make great portrait lens too, is it true?”
Definitely! Contrary to what most beginners believe, a macro lens not only allow you to take up-close shots, but distant, everyday shots as well. Thus, if you are interested in both Macro and Portrait photography, you can always consider macro lenses. In fact, I love and use my Nikkor 105mm F2.8 so much that it is not my favourite lens, even though I have a Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8!
4. “If I want higher magnification, I should choose a macro lens with longer focal length right?”
This misconception often pops up among Macro enthusiasts, even seasoned ones. A lens with a longer focal length doesn’t mean you can get higher magnification. For example, a 180mm macro lens will not get you more magnified shots than say, a 50mm macro lens.
All dedicated macro lens (excluding only the Canon MPE-65) boasting 1:1 magnification WILL get you that specific maximum magnification, and that’s it. This means that at 1:1, the resulting photo taken using a 50mm, 100mm, 180mm etc. macro lens will be similar.
So, how are they different in terms of Macro? The main difference between a 50mm and a 180mm macro lens is the distance required to attain 1:1 magnification: you can get 1:1 magnification of a subject at a farther distance using a 180mm macro lens as compared to a 50mm lens. Please see photo below for details:
A longer macro lens allows you to shoot from a greater distance, thus minimizing the chances of scaring certain creatures away. Of course, the longer working distance means higher susceptibility to shakes due to movements (hand, wind etc.), and then there’s the higher price to consider.
5. “How do I increase magnification beyond 1:1?”
Most Macro Enthusiasts will not be satisfied with 1:1 magnification since it is not capable of properly capturing slightly smaller creatures, say those <1cm. This is when, again, we use Reverse Rings, Extension Tubes, Teleconverters or Macro Conversion Lenses to increase magnification. Please see Point 6 and 7 for elaboration.
6. “How do Reverse Rings, Extension Tubes and Macro Conversion Lenses work?”
Reverse Rings, Extension Tubes, Teleconverters and Macro Coversion Lenses enable higher magnification by shortening the effective minimum focusing distance, thus allowing you to get really close to your subjects, even when you are not using a dedicated macro lens. Please see photo below for better illustration on how they work. To learn more about how to use a Reverse Ring and Manual Extension Tubes, please read HERE.
7. “Which is better? Reverse Rings, Extension Tubes or Macro Conversion Lenses?”
Each macro accessories have their own advantages and disadvantages, so which one to choose depends on your budget, performance expectations and your available gears. For more details, please read this article: Getting Your First Camera.
8. “Why would I need a dedicated macro lens when virtually every other lens is capable of macro with the right accessories?”
This is a good question, even though most lenses can be converted into “macro” lenses, they might not be as versatile or specialized as a dedicated macro lens. Apart from the ability to achieve 1:1 magnification, most macro lenses tend to be sharper than normal lenses (especially at high F values required for close-ups), autofocus faster yet relatively compact. Higher-end macro lenses tend to be weather-sealed too.
So, if you are really interested in Macro Photography, and have some money to spend, a dedicated macro lens is always good to have!
Guess that’s all I can remember at this time, please feel free to ask if you have some more questions about magnification in Macro Photography. I will add them into the article if deemed suitable. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!
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