(Nancy Kaufman) #1

What to look for...

Here are some key ingredients

for your macro lens

Many of us would
seldom consider
buying a manual-
focus, rather than
autofocus, lens. For
macro shooting,
however, manual can
often be preferable.

A macro lens with a
longer focal length will
have a larger minimum
focus distance,
enabling more
breathing space
between you and the
object you’re shooting.

With a typical aperture
r a ti n g of a ro u n d f/2. 8 ,
most macro lenses
c a n a l s o b e u s ef u l fo r
portraiture, and even
action sports and
wildlife photography.

To ma x i mi ze t h e
working distance
between the end of the
lens and what you’re
shooting, internal
focusing is beneficial,
so the lens doesn’t
physically extend.

Optical or in-cameras
stabilization is great
for general handheld
shooting but, for
extreme close-ups, it’s
relatively ineffective
and a poor substitute
for a tripod.

FX format lenses work
equally well on DX
format bodies and are
often preferred for
macro photography,
a s th ey te n d to h ave
longer focal lengths.



f/16 f/22


ome zoom lenses bear the title
‘macro’, even though they only
deliver a max magnification of
around 0.3x or 1:3.3. Similarly,
some macro prime lenses only give a max
magnification factor of 0.5x or 1:2. All of the
lenses we’ve chosen deliver a full 1.0x
magnification. But if you’re shooting with a
DX body, the 1.5x crop of the smaller sensor
gives greater effective magnification.
Macro shooting demands a high level of
precision. Depth of field can be wafer-thin,
even when using medium to narrow
apertures, so focusing is critical. Indeed,
you can be better off using manual focusing
instead of AF, and selecting a magnified Live
View image to accurately focus on the most
critical part of the object you’re shooting.

Some upmarket Nikon cameras,
including the D850, Z 6 and Z 7, have a
‘Focus shift shooting’ menu option. This
enables you to set up a series of sequential
shots in which the focus distance is slightly
altered from frame to frame. The resultant
collection of images can then be merged to
enlarge the effective depth of field with a
process called ‘focus stacking’.
Another challenge is that even slight
movement caused by camera-shake,
mirror-bounce or shutter-shock can
decrease the sharpness of an image. For
extreme close-ups, a tripod, or other sturdy
support, is all but essential. Most Nikon
DSLRs, apart from the most entry-level
models, have an ‘Exposure delay mode’
menu option, which creates a pause

between the reflex mirror flipping up and
the shutter opening. This gives the camera
a chance to settle and for any vibrations to
die down, effectively eliminating mirror-
bounce. You can also use Live View mode,
so the mirror remains in its upward position.
To reduce shutter-shock, the same
cameras mentioned above have an option
for using an electronic front curtain for the
exposure. ‘Silent’ shooting with a fully
electronic shutter can also available. Even
so, you need to eliminate any movement on
the part of the subject you’re shooting. An
effective way of doing this is to use a fast
shutter speed under lighting, or to use a
flashgun, which can help to freeze any
movement thanks to the short duration
of its pulse of light.

Macro prime marvel

Understand how and why you can bring minute models to life


Getting front-to-back sharpness for
objects in macro shooting can be rough

At, or near the shortest focus distance of a macro lens,
depth of field becomes tiny. For example, shoot with a
100mm macro lens at its closest focus distance of around
30cm, and the depth of field is just 4mm, even when using
an aperture of f/11. This series of shots taken of a
matchbox-sized model car at 0.5x magnification shows
the effect of aperture settings on depth of field.


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