October 22, 2014, 05:53:11 AM

Author Topic: Help deciding on a macro lens  (Read 2766 times)

michalk

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Help deciding on a macro lens
« on: August 04, 2014, 08:54:10 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm a long time reader, first time poster and I'd really appreciate your help. I want to get into macro photography and I'm considering buying Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100/2 ZE. It seems to be optically superior to the Canon alternative and it also gives me one stop of light more than the Canon. I lack a dedicated portraiture lens above 50mm as well and the Zeiss seems to be a decent portrait lens (I own a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II L and I'm not certain whether Canon 100m 2.8 L would be any better than the zoom for portraits).

There are two obvious drawbacks, lack of AF and 0.5x magnification. I don't think the magnification will be a problem for me, but I'm not certain how important AF is in a macro lens. I'd be grateful for any advice and your experiences with different macro lenses.

Mike

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Help deciding on a macro lens
« on: August 04, 2014, 08:54:10 AM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2014, 09:08:16 AM »
The vast majority of my macro shots are either manually focused (using 10X live view) or pre-focused (set focus to the MFD, and move the camera back and forth until focus is achieved).
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cid

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2014, 09:10:53 AM »
here you can see one nice review
zeiss 100mm on the digital picture

I find 100L being one excellent lens, light, small, sharp. Zeiss may have a bit better image quality but for me it was not a choice. Canon has 1:1 macro, stabilisation, and AF. These three things create from 100L much more universal lens than zeiss - at least for me.

Compared to 70-200 mk II: I still like to use this lens when I want to go light or because of sharpness or beautiful bokeh, even when macro is not involved.

EDIT: and 100L does not extend when focusing  ;)
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 09:13:02 AM by cid »
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Maximilian

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2014, 09:23:14 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm a long time reader, first time poster and I'd really appreciate your help. I want to get into macro photography and I'm considering buying Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100/2 ZE. It seems to be optically superior to the Canon alternative and it also gives me one stop of light more than the Canon. I lack a dedicated portraiture lens above 50mm as well and the Zeiss seems to be a decent portrait lens (I own a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II L and I'm not certain whether Canon 100m 2.8 L would be any better than the zoom for portraits).

There are two obvious drawbacks, lack of AF and 0.5x magnification. I don't think the magnification will be a problem for me, but I'm not certain how important AF is in a macro lens. I'd be grateful for any advice and your experiences with different macro lenses.

Mike

Hi Mike!

Some general thoughts first:
In macro photography you (normally) do a lot of "static" work, means using a tripod, having time to do accurate focussing, deciding on DOF and so on. Therefore you often do LV focussing and have no need of AF.
You also have no need of f2, because to achieve enough DOF means using aperture 8 and upwards.
Mostly you need enough light.
But soon you will need or desire a magnification larger than 0.5x.

But if you want to have a good compromise between macro and portrait lens, then maybe the the Zeiss is right for you.
I have the 100L 2.8 HIS Macro and I had the 100 2.8 Macro. Both fine and sharp lenses and IMHO the only big advantage of the L lens is the HIS. For me that was the main reason to change.
because I take the 100L 2.8 HIS Macro with me hiking for occasional macros of insects and other things, like this one
http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=299.msg333809#msg333809
(taken with the 100 2.8 Macro)

I also use this macro for portraits and don't feel the need for f2.0 over f2.8.
Maybe someone does not like the bokeh of the macros but I am fine with it.

So I would always and again go for the 100L 2.8 HIS. But maybe the Zeiss is better for you.
I hope this helps a little bit.

*********************
PS.: Wecome to CR.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 09:27:04 AM by Maximilian »
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Forceflow

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2014, 09:29:23 AM »
It would help to know what you are planning to do with the lens. Macro is a huge field and depending on your goals the best lens for you might vary.
A magnification of only 0.5 would be a deal breaker for me, but might be perfectly fine for you. A while back I made a comparison shot that shows different magnification levels for macro shots:



As you can see the difference between 1:2 and 1:1 is quite significant. Personally I love and use Sigmas 150mm 2.8 macro lens. Image quality is stunning and the extra reach certainly gives you an edge when shooting insects and the such. It comes with image stabilization, AF and does not extend when being focused.

As for AF, it really depends. It's great for moving targets, but be prepared for a lot of hit and miss regardless. For pure static targets manual focus is king if you have enough time and a sturdy tripod. Where AF is also very helpful is when working with image stacking. Attach your camera to a remote computer and you can adjust the focus plane without having to touch the camera. This will make the stacking process later on a lot easier to do.

P.S. In the above picture the 2:1 shot was achieved using the 2x Sigma converter. You loose AF (at least on my 7D) and overall image quality does suffer somewhat. It's better than resizing the 1:1 photo, but not by too much.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 09:32:15 AM by Forceflow »
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mackguyver

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2014, 09:47:58 AM »
I wouldn't worry about autofocus or IS - neither are too useful for most macro work where you'll be using a tripod and focusing manually.  Unless you're chasing butterflies, at least, but even then you'll be shooting at less than 1:1. 

I would recommend a 1:1 lens over a 1:2 like the Zeiss, and I would strongly recommend you consider the 180L macro if you're thinking about spending that kind of money.  Yes, it's a bit old and unpopular, but it is razor sharp and has excellent color and contrast.  The nice thing about it is that you can use both extenders with it (series III for best results) to get 1.4x and 2x magnification. 

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 10:04:57 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm a long time reader, first time poster and I'd really appreciate your help. I want to get into macro photography and I'm considering buying Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100/2 ZE. It seems to be optically superior to the Canon alternative and it also gives me one stop of light more than the Canon. I lack a dedicated portraiture lens above 50mm as well and the Zeiss seems to be a decent portrait lens (I own a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II L and I'm not certain whether Canon 100m 2.8 L would be any better than the zoom for portraits).

There are two obvious drawbacks, lack of AF and 0.5x magnification. I don't think the magnification will be a problem for me, but I'm not certain how important AF is in a macro lens. I'd be grateful for any advice and your experiences with different macro lenses.

Mike

Dear Friend Mike.
Just my IDEAS " I'm considering buying Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100/2 ZE. It seems to be optically superior to the Canon"= Yes, And NO----The Great sniper in the important mission need a great Sniper Rifle---BUT, Must to know the distant of the target = 200 Feet or half miles----Same Thing that we choose the type of the Macro Lenses too, I have all canon 100 mm, 100mm L IS, 180 mm L., Canon MP-E 65 mm. 1-5X plus 3 type of tubes too.
No. The Fast Macro Lens are not important to me, because the shallow DOF, and The SUPER / SUPER SHARP LENS are not important to me, because most of the time I use manual focus and F = 8.0 with super fast speed of Shutter speed, and use support Light for  low ISO.
No, I do not want to spend more hard earn money for German Lenses, Canon Lens are great for my Hobby already.
Have a great work week, Sir.
Surapon

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 10:04:57 AM »

Vossie

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2014, 10:15:41 AM »
For the price of the Zeiss 100 macro, you can almost buy a Canon 100L + a 135L. That way you can have f2 for portrait work and 1:1 reproduction for macro work for less than 116% of the price of the Zeiss.

I have not used the Zeiis, but when looking at TDP, I slightly prefer the 100L's bokeh (comparison @ f5.6) shown in the TDP review) over that of the Zeiss.

As pointed out by some others, macro can be quite static, but when shooting bugs on a hike, it can also be very far from static. Having AF and IS, can help quite a bit in such situation (much more helpful than the extra stop of the Zeiss).
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m

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2014, 10:19:33 AM »
it also gives me one stop of light more than the Canon.

While this is true, it will also reduce the amount of things being in focus.
I often found that with 100mm macro set to 2.8 (on a crop body) there wasn't enough in focus, so I ended up closing the aperture.

If you need AF or not depends on what you want to shoot.
I often use the macro lens to chase insects on stones or the ground without a tripod and am not normally doing much "static" work with it.
Auto focus helps a lot with this.

If you need more light, maybe a (macro) flash is the right tool for you?

I am using the non L 100mm macro btw. I'm sure IS can be beneficial as well.

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2014, 10:27:59 AM »
When I do my macro shots, I set my camera on a tripod and then the AF and IS off. I focus manually in 5x and 10x mode and go with 2 sec. selftimer to reduce vibrations. IS and AF are really not a big deal for a only-macro lens.  The magnification is a very crucial point for me, I would never go with just a 1:2 lens for macro. If you want to shoot portraits with the lens, it becomes a whole other thing. For me, it's very important to handhold the camera during a shoot because you can catch motions and emotions more flexible. But you have a very good, if not the best portrait lens with the 70-200/2.8. So I would go for which lens is best for macro, and that's the Canon 100L. Besides, AF and IS can help with difficult positions where no tripod setup is working. Also consider the Tamron 90/2.8. When I compared it to the Canon, I found that the only thing the Canon was better at was IS; I got perfectly sharp pictures handhold at 1/125th, whereas at the Tamron I need 1/320th. I mean perfectly sharp!  ;) The Tamron is better to manually focus (bigger ring) and very well built. It is also much cheaper (but only in price  ;) )! But if you're not budget-limited in that case and plan to do some handhold stuff, go for the Canon!  :D
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2014, 10:31:26 AM »
it also gives me one stop of light more than the Canon.
While this is true, it will also reduce the amount of things being in focus.

+1

At macro distances, depth of field gets thin.  Shooting at f/2 and 0.5x magnification, your DoF is ~0.75mm if shooting FF and ~0.5mm if shooting APS-C.  Stopped down as far as possible (f/22), you get ~8.5mm on FF and ~5.2mm on APS-C (and you're losing a fair bith of sharpness to diffraction, more loss on APS-C).  At f/22 you're also going to need lots of light (usually meaning a long shutter speed with static subjects or a flash); personally, I'd go with focus stacking instead of such a narrower aperture, if feasible.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 10:33:04 AM by neuroanatomist »
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michalk

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2014, 10:39:20 AM »
Thank you for all the replies so far!

My main use for the macro will be food close ups to start with, but I will also use it for a variety of other purposes (e.g. I travel a lot and often find myself wishing for a macro lens while doing it). As I mentioned I was hoping to use the lens as a portrait lens as well (f/2.0 would sometimes be useful here), but on the other hand I wouldn't want to compromise its primary use.

As the general consensus seems to be that AF is not very important for macro (with the exception of insects), it seems I need to decide whether my assumption that 1:2 magnification will be enough is actually true... Tough choice. 100L + 135L is a good idea, the only drawback being travel use (more lenses in my backpack).

EHBoe

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2014, 10:41:58 AM »
Hey Mike,

Macro is my very favorite type of photography, in fact the 100mm f/2.8L was one of my first purchases upon getting my first camera.  I couldn't recommend the 100mm lens any more.  The color, contrast, bokeh, and sharpness are all stunning right out of the box.  I almost wish I didn't have the lens just so I could buy it again, that is how much I love it.  Also, it might not matter in most instances, but since you are interested in macro it's worth mentioning that you'll only ever want to get closer.  1:2 won't be sufficient for long.

Never having tried the Zeiss, I can't really speak to how they compare, but I do know that the Zeiss 135 that I've rented, and the Zeiss CP.2 cine-lenses (18mm, 35mm, 50mm, 50mm Makro, and 85mm) that I use for work are all great, but take an additional level of patience and skill to use.  That is not a bad thing by any means, just that when I'm going out to take pictures of everything from Landscapes, to Portraits, to Street Photography, to Macro work, I am more likely to grab my 100mm f/2.8 than any other lens.

I know a lot of other posters here use a tripod and focusing rails, focus manually, and don't rely on IS, but I like to go handheld.  I chase insects mostly, and they don't really like sitting still waiting for me, so I need to move around a lot.

Most of the photos in my portfolio are taken with the 100, although the Macro stuff is taken with a mix of the 100L, the MP-E 65mm, and a reversed 50mm f/1.8. 

Here are some examples...

http://www.edwardboe.com/tabletop/
(all but one are taken with the 100L)

http://www.edwardboe.com/portraits/
(all are taken with the 100L and the 135L)

http://www.edwardboe.com/nature/
(roughly half are taken with the 100L)

Maybe rent both of them over a weekend and run them both through their paces.  Either way, macro is super fun!

Ed
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 10:51:51 AM by EHBoe »

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2014, 10:41:58 AM »

NancyP

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2014, 10:47:14 AM »
What do you want to photograph? Consider your working distance above all else. Working distance is the distance between your subject and the front end of your lens - very important when shooting with available light or shooting live skittish subjects.

For FOOD: Maybe you want a TS-E 90 and extension tubes (very common set-up for 1:5 to 1:2 product photography of all sorts of subjects.). Or a medium format lens mounted on a Zoerk adapter (expensive).

Commonly done by beginners:
Flowers and plants, 1:5 to 1:1, natural light: EF 100mm f/2.8 / L or EF-S 60mm f/2.8 (the 60mm is a great value, I highly recommend it for beginners with a crop camera).
Insects: longer FL is better - 150 or 180mm; Snakes: even longer FL is better (I add the 1.4x TC to the 180mm)

More specialized and often more demanding technically:
Coins, watches at 1:1, with lighting: a tilt-shift macro setup, or mastery of focus stacking program
1:3  product photography, with lighting: TS-E 90mm with extension tube
Greater than 1:1, in the field: Only one choice here, the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 (DO NOT buy this lens until you have worked a fair amount at 1:1)
Significantly greater than 1:1, in the studio, with lighting: tilt-shift macro setup or focus stacking, possibly using  bellows and reversed enlarging lens or specialized microscope lens (eg, used tilt-shift bellows plus adapters plus reversing ring/adapters plus 65mm enlarging lens)
Flat documents in indoor studio with controlled lighting: short focal length, 50 to 60mm

Which brand? Seriously, almost all purpose-built 1:1 macro lenses are very good, and I would certainly consider the 150mm or 180mm Sigma optical stabilization versions if I wanted a long lens for "hand-held" work. Tamron's 90mm is well regarded. Canon does not yet have IS in its 180mm offering. Not that IS is great at 1:1, but it does help for those 1:5 to 1:2 situations. I have gotten decent results with an old preset macro (on adapter) from film days, and will be testing an old manual Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 with adapter.


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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2014, 10:58:15 AM »
Sir, the Makro-Planar T 2.0 lens is one of the best and sharpest lenses, you can own. My youngest son, who works as an biologist uses this lens nearly each day on the Nikon 800E for off-laboratory shots. And the shots are really superb. You will find no better lens in image quality.

But: The lens (and the Camera) alone are no guarantee for superb pictures. As the posters before mentioned, there are a lot of other factors that influence the IQ.
My son uses an very expensive tripod, an Nikon multiflash system with (I think) 6 flashheads, an micro adjustment slider, and a lot more things to get the shots for their scientific magazines.

If you own this or similar equipment, the Zeiss lens will be the lens of your choice.

If you want to be more flexible the Canon 100L might be better for you.

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Re: Help deciding on a macro lens
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2014, 10:58:15 AM »