tuttifrutti wrote in post #18939495
Good evening all,
I'm seriously considering buying a macro lens and trying to get in to macro photography shooting flowers, bugs, flies etc etc.
I have absolutely no experience of this since i've got my 5DmkIII and 6DmkII, generally taking landscapes, architecture and anything else that comes my way.
So, I have no clue on what lens to buy and i'm looking for advice from experienced macro photographers.
I know of the Canon 100mm f/2.8 mkII which may be an option, I know there are also some Canon-fit Sigma lens which i've seen some good results on. I also know of the Canon MPE-65 but that's not quite where I want to go, maybe just sticking to a 1/1 lens for now.
Thanks in advance for any info
Hi there Tuttifrutti.
Since you're already shooting with Canon cameras, I'll take an opportunity to answer since I do too. In fact I spent several hours this morning shooting Macros of insects. There's a few options for shooting Macro. Macro photography can be easy or it can be challenging. It depends how critical you are with your gear and lighting. There's a few different Macro lenses out there but the longer focal lengths (eg 100mm+) mean that you don't need to get too close to your subject since many insects and other small critters frighten easily and will avoid your lens as you get too near. Wider macro lenses are a little less common but they tend to require that you shoot quite a bit closer. Another alternative if you don't already have a Macro lens is to use a normal lens but with a "tele-extender" tube between the lens and the body of the camera. This will enable you to capture Macro shots but you will need to remove the tele-extender before you can focus on things further away again. I would suggest several options for you:
Some people thing a Macro lens is only capable of closeup photography. That's only the case with perhaps the MP-E 65 lens. With the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens, you can carry it anywhere for solid all-purpose performance. This shot of my Cat "Zima" was taken on a whim. I had a remote trigger (Canon ST-E3-RT Remote Flash Control Transmitter) on my EOS 6D camera and my flash was behind me on my bedside table... enabling the flash to bounce off the ceiling. It captured her eyes in low light, before they could expand in reaction to the bright Flash (Canon 580EX II). The benefit of the Canon ST-E3-RT Remote Flash Control Transmitter is that it does not require a line of sight from the transmitter to the flash. This image also demonstrates the shallow DOF from this lens when shooting object quite a distance from the lens.EF 100m f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens
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You'll probably consider purchasing the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens. This will work well on both of your full frame DSLRs and you'll find the bokeh delightful. It's a true 1:1 Macro lens and it handles nicely. It's one of the best value Canon L-series lenses out there as the price has dropped considerably in recent years. Don't be tempted to buy the version without the Image Stabilizer because a 100mm focal length needs it unless you want to bolt it to a table with a tripod. This is the staple macro lens for many, many DSLR photographers. It works just as well on an APS-C camera and this includes mirrorless. The pictures from this lens are beautiful and as a 100mm lens it doesn't produce distortion due to proximity. I live in Australia so I find it beneficial to shoot with the 100mmL lens since closeups without our venomous wildlife with wider macro lenses have resulted in those lenses being stung and bitten by more than a few lethal critters. With 100mm I can safely shoot with as much distance as I might need. This lens has a focus-limiter switch to cut down on focus travel (if required) and a dedicated AF/MF switch plus an external Image Stabilizer On/Off switch. This lens has a rubber environmental seal at the rear and can be further sealed for dust etc by adding a filter to the front. It is internally focusing so there's no shift or rotation on the front end. The samples below are NOT cropped.
TIP 1: Buy the optional MA67 Macro Ring Light mount. It's just a metal ring that threads straight onto the front of the lens but the forward portion has 58mm threads which will accept the cheaper 58mm filters. Don't bother buying the MR-14EX Speedlight Ring Light for this lens. It's awkward to handle and limited in use... and I've not been impressed with the results from that flash. The more expensive Twin Macro Light would be more effective but a top-mounted External Flash with a reflector is even better for most application. The MA67 also serves as a defensive buffer when the lens is rested against surfaces. One of the methods of shooting super close involves sliding your lens a few millimeters towards or away from the subject so this is where the MA67 can act to protect the lens.
Tip 2: If you get this lens, Canon doesn't supply it with a "Lens Collar Foot". This is a foot that connects to the lens via a collar mechanism which enables the lens to be mounted to a tripod with your camera hanging off the end at the back. Without using a Lens Collar Foot, your lens needs to be supported with two hands to prevent too much weight from bearing down on the lens mount of the camera. It's not essential but if you're doing Macro photography it is handy and reduces stress on the mount. Canon's own collar is moderately expensive. You can either source the Canon one or you can obtain a cheaper non-Canon alternative on Ebay etc. The earlier non-Canon versions were known for breaking occasionally and you don't want that to happen. The Gen III version that I bought was supposed to be a lot better and I've had no problems with it in over 6 years.
This lens comes with a lens hood. The optics are well recessed so the hood can be left behind if not desired. A lot of Wedding Photographers seem to like this lens. The Image Stabilizer is very useful and the bokeh has just enough strength to appeal to the brides and produce subject separation in the photographs. The advantage of the 100mmL Macro lens is that you don't need to get so close to the subject that you end up eclipsing it with your shadow from the lens. This can be a problem with other types of Macro lenses that are designed for closeup work. The Minimum Focus Distance from this lens is 11.8 inches (300mm) so this means you can't bring the lens any close than about 1 foot from the subject or the image will not be in focus range.
EOS M + EF-M 28mm f/3.5 IS Macro STM lens
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Another alternative is the buy an EOS M camera and buy the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 IS Macro STM lens. Most DSLR users know to keep a backup body around for either travel or as a backup. The newer EOS M models with the recent Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DPAF) sensors are incredible with the EF-M 28mm lens. The models that use DPAF include the M100, M200 (just announced), M5, M6, M6 II and M50. The EF-M 28mm f/3.5 IS Macro STM was the lightest, smallest and cheapest Macro lens on the market when it was announced. It contains a unique LED "ring light" that is controllable and is more like two half-moon illuminatiors built into the lens that is powered by the camera battery. It's not a flash but it does carry just enough power to be useful for reflections on surfaces (eg bugs eyes), dim-light illumination, Auto Focus assistance etc.
The dragonfly above is around 2.5 inches long and is one of the smallest of the local species. Only the FIRST shot above was taken with Super Macro and that insect (a female juvenile Harlequin Bug was about 12mm long). The lens itself offers both 1:1 (1.00x) and 1.20x magnification (aka: Super Macro). Uniquely, it has a polymer mount rather than a metal one and this does cut down on weight - which is surprisingly useful. The lens ships with a unique filter mount/lens hood for a 43mm filter - which is both common and inexpensive. It's a wide-angle Macro so it produces some distortion to the subject up super-close. But the results are unique and are visually appealing. In Super Macro mode this lens acts like an extender tube has been added - so it can't focus beyond a few centimeters at best until the setting is changed back to 1:1. But it's quite powerful magnification and Canon have added a bevel to the front part of the lens to help reduce the chances of the lens from casting a shadow over the subject. It's such a sharp lens that it performs well for Landscapes (see example above). Buying an EOS M100 + EF-M 28mm Macro lens is cheaper than some Macro lenses alone and the body can accept EF lenses with an optional adapter if needed. Minimum Focus Distance from this lens is 3.7 inches with 1:1 normal Macro engaged. This lens is also internally focusing with no movement from the front element. "Extender Tubes" for Macro
It can get a little confusing with Tele-extender (AKA: Extender tubes) because Canon also market a device called an 'Extender' (which is applied in the the same way and even looks similar but is WHITE and contains lens elements and an electronics module inside). The Extension Tubes made by Canon are BLACK and are called the EF-12 II and EF-25 II. The number relates to how many millimeters thick the tube is. These tubes are EMPTY inside. This is why they are not as expensive as the White Extenders. The Canon Extender Tubes for Macro are still a little expensive but they are very well made. Better than any alternatives in terms of construction. However, since these tubes are hollow and contain no optical elements, you can always use a non-Canon brand since image quality won't be affected.
Using Extender Tubes puts a gap between the lens and the camera, forcing the lens to become an instant "macro" lens. It essentially turns a wide angle lens into a "wide angle macro" etc. It can convert any lens into being a super-closeup lens.
The benefit of buying a dedicated Macro lens is that it was designed especially to perform well as a Macro lens. This means that the final product is well designed for this purpose and has been designed that way from the moment of its inception. A lens not to use with Extender Tubes is any ultra wide-aperture lens with f/1.2. The DOF becomes so thin with these lenses that when an extension tube is added, the lens struggles to produce anything noteworthy since the shallow DOF can be as thin as half a millimeter. So for Pseudo Macro work, use the Black tubes. The White tubes are for adding zoom to certain lenses (only specific lenses) and they won't magnify closeup subject like the black ones will. (*An exception to this rule may apply to the EF 180mm Macro lens)
.Reverse Lens Macro method:
Another method used is to reverse an existing "normal lens" to convert it into a Macro lens. I've not done this myself but many others have had success. There's ways to flip your lens around so that the front of the lens ends up facing your sensor and that smaller real element of the lens then becomes the front optic. Again, this probably requires a special mounting device and I've not pursued it. But it was VERY popular back in the days of film cameras before digital models."Closeup Filters"
Closeup Filters (sometimes called Closeup Lenses) made by Canon include the 250D and the 500D. These each have a different thickness and they allow you to shoot closer to the subject than the native lens normally allows. These filters force a normal lens to become a Super Closeup lens and they often allow the lens to produce a really nice bokeh in the background. If you buy a common size like 58mm, you can thread these onto most lenses (or get a step ring) and convert them into a pseudo Macro lens. There are two different sizes because they are for use on different types of lenses. They can also be stacked together for an even stronger effect. Canon's are made from their finest optical glass so there's no risk of image degradation. They're also fairly expensive though Hoya and other brands make their own versions for a lesser price. But comparing them side-by-side, I found the Canon Closeup Filters produces hardly any Chromatic Aberration yet the Hoya and other brand filters most certainly did. You get what you pay for. But carrying a single THICK filter around in your pocket is a lot easier than wandering around with a larger Macro lens like the 100mmL Macro. Still, you can actually place these on the front of the 100mmL Macro lens to enable you to get closer to the subject, thereby increasing the size of the subject in the frame slightly.Dedicated Canon Macro lenses
There's a few out there but not too many. There's an EF-S lens but that won't safely mount to a Full Frame EF mount. Some standard lenses like the EF 135mm f/2 USM lens can produce very good closeups. As does the amazing EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. But a dedicated Macro lens ought to present a 1:1 ratio on the sensor with the subject. Most Closeup photography isn't true Macro. Canon have an RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM lens for the new EOS R camera series but that lens is technically an excellent Closeup Lens and probably shouldn't be referred to as a Macro lens because the magnification is 0.5x. Other Macro lenses to come out recently include the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens - which is VERY similar to the EF-M 28mm macro lens. But again, that's not designed to fit on your Full Frame cameras.Canon's Macro Lens list
(from the Canon brand alone) include:* Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM
* Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM
* Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
* Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM
* Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
* Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM
* Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM
* Canon MP-E 65mm Macro LensFull Time Macro specialist lens - eg Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro
The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens is Canon's most powerful Macro lens but it is not an EF lens though it mounts to any EF mount. This lens has a POWERFUL magnification but it is only useful for Macro and nothing else. You cannot use it to take non-Macro shots like portraits or landscapes. But with a 1x to 5x magnification, it's capable of some amazing photography. It's extremely popular for photographing insects. I've personally thought of buying one several times but have not done so because it would be something of a luxury item for me since I own several other dedicated "normal" Macro lenses. This lens is somewhat expensive though it's great value if Macro is your bread and butter. It's also Manual Focus ONLY.Macro - Lighting
Most macro photographers will tell you that light is important. It is. In order to get more than a few millimeters into focus on a small insect, you'll have to reduce the aperture on the lens. In many instances you may need to stop it down so much that you'll either need to have the camera on a tripod to allow for a longer exposure (not ideal if the critter is moving) or you will have to introduce more light to the scene with a flash.
There's quite a few alternatives for lighting. Some of the newer LED light sources are designed for camera applications and will not produce a flicker. Some photographers like to create their own special flashes for Macro use (see Pringles Can method). I made one out of cardboard and lined it with foil on the inside and secured it with tape. It's ugly but it works. You can use a Lightbox at home and put your subject inside it. But for shooting in the field, even the slightest breeze will prove to be problematic. A method some people use is to tie down the waving plants and branches with a strand of cotton to keep it from moving. My own method is the rest the lens on my thumb and hold the plant that the critter is on... this way, the subject isn't moving towards or away from the lens.
You can attach a wireless transmitter to your camera and use it to fire external flashes. This technique can be useful indoors or outdoors. You can place the flash on the ground (see ladybug picture above) so that it generates light from below while the sunlight can offer illumination from above. There are MANY alternatives for lighting but a dedicated flash is usually very practical. Macro Flashes like the Ring-Light or the Twin-Light Speedlites are available and they tend to be very specialized and tend not to be useful outside the realm of Macro Photography.Tripods, Monopods and Slider Rails
A tripod is helpful and for anyone using very small apertures it's probably essential. A tripod is very practical if you intend to stack images together (see Image Stacking below). But even the use of a cheap monopod is all you need to increase your "keepers" since it prevents the camera from drifting as you take your shots. A mini-tripod is fine for desktop work with a lightbox etc but outdoors you'll probably need a full sized tripod. A Slider Rail for macro use is another tool. These are best used for Image Stacking and I've not needed to buy one myself. But set one of these on top of your tripod and use it to crank your lens back and forth towards or away from the subject. It's useful for capturing successive pictures of the subject in minute increments with the focus shifting on each shot. This makes image stacking easier. Image Stacking
This is easy to do but you need to have software available to do this. You take multiple shallow DOF images with various parts of the subject in focus and then use the software (eg Helicon Focus) to stack the images together and produce a final image with much greater depth. This is often used with extreme magnifications using certain lenses. Another method is to use software like Photoshop to stack a few images and just reveal the areas from each image to generate a little more detail in the final image... giving it just a little more depth than a single image. For example, you might have a great picture of a critter but the body is in focus in one shot and the eyes are in focus in another. You can combine them to form a final image that looks great. You don't have to Focus Stack though. The two lenses I'm using above (EF 100mmL Macro + EF-M 28mm Macro) can take single shots that look decent with a single exposure.
The best lens for the dollar value is still the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM lens. The other alternative is to buy an EOS M (with DPAF) and use it with the very affordable EF-M 28mm f/3.5 IS Macro STM lens. But the EF 100mmL Macro lens can be used immediately with your existing DSLR cameras and works beautifully with a Full Frame camera. It can also work smoothly on an APS-C camera and the resale value is usually there since this lens has always been popular and in demand. It's also considered one of Canon's finer portrait lenses. On an APS-C camera this lens becomes a 160mm lens due to the crop factor associated with the sensors. But the image quality is lovely from either sensor size. Some of my samples above were shot with an EOS M Mk1 using an APS-C sensor. I only shoot JPEG so these images were all shot in JPEG instead of RAW.