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I'm looking into getting a dedicated macro, i find im doing a lot more macro shots, and the 70-300 is a little large to be doing them with.
i guess what im looking for is a small lens that i can get super close with, and the lower the price the better. im not set on any certain brands at the moment. any suggestions?
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*peeks in profile to find out if Canon - Nikon or other*
Ah Nikon person!
Well for macro lenses you are really spoilt for choice, from the current market offerings of macro lenses there are no badly performing lenses. There are subtle differences in performance and in price and features, but all are working to a very high standard so many of the differences are much more marginal and often only show up in side by side controlled condition testing without any editing.
A few considerations:
1) True macro lenses give a magnification factor of 1:1, that is the size of the subject reflected on the sensor by the lens is the same size as in real life. This is the standard for macro lenses and nearly all the prime (single focal length) macro lenses on the market conform to this, there are a couple of exceptions, but I'll list these later.
2) Focal length in macro has no effect on the frame size. In short because the magnification (as stated above) remains the same at the closest point (that of 1:1) the frame from a 40mm through to a 200mm is identical. What will change is the background rendering, the longer lenses will blurr the background much more than the shorter focal length lenses. The depth of field will, however, remain the same (though the reduced blur with shorter lenses can fool some into thinking the depth of field looks a little bigger than it is).
Furthermore the longer the focal length the more distance you'll have been the subject and the lens (this is called working distance - its different to minimum focusing distance because the latter is measured from the subject to the sensor/film inside the camera).
3) Point 2 raises the subject of distances and, in general, a macro lens of 90mm or longer is advised for starters, especially if you are shooting insects. Shorter focal lengths are still usable (though can present more of a challenge) however 60mm is generally the cap; once you get to 50, 40, 35mm macro lenses the working distance becomes so small that 1:1 work becomes very impractical to nearly impossible without difficulty (40mm and 35mm are basically not usable at 1:1 without a more advanced lighting setup).
4) Lighting is always important, especially if you like to shoot with a greater depth of field; for macro ringflashes can often present an affordable and simple solution, but can also present a rather flat light, good for "technical" shots but not the best for more creativity; further the ringflash light is very hard to diffuse due to the shape of the light source and its position when mounted normally.
Generally I advise people that a good speedlite design flash with an offcamera flash cable and flash bracket is the best approach; the speedlite giving you a good light that you can control and diffuse (LumiQuest make a good standard small softbox for this as well as some larger variations). Further Speedlite flashes are generally usable in almost any other photography field of interest and thus make a for a solid investment - macro ringflashes tend to lack the power and features for this diversity.
5) VR/OS/IS - stabilizers have less effect at macro focusing distances than at normal focusing distance. This they are not "as good" in macro work as in normal use, however they do help give a smoother image view when handholding and focusing a shot. They are a boon, but not essential to handheld shots (flash however, is far more important, esp for sharp handheld work).
A rough list of the lenses you can consider would be:
Sigma 50mm macro, 70mm macro, 105mm macro, 150mm macro, 180mm macro -note that the last 3 are no longer in production and have recently been replaced with OS editions (OS is like VR) though the older versions will still be around second hand and still have good optics.
Nikon 40mm macro, 60mm macro, 105mm macro VR, 180/200mm macro (I know they have a longer one but I forget what its focal length is). Note, as said above, the 40mm is a very impractical choice.
Tamron 60mm macro, 90mm macro, 180mm macro - note that the 90mm macro is a favoured budget choice for many getting into macro photography; whilst the 180mm tends to be a bit more unpopular compared to the Sigma 180mm (that references the older, and still very good, non OS edition of the Sigma 180mm)
Tokina 35mm macro, 100mm macro (again, like the Nikon 40mm, the 35mm is a very impractical choice for pure macro work).
Note that the Sigma 28mm macro is not a true macro lens and is instead one with just a close focusing setup, its about the only prime (for Nikon - that I'm aware of) that carries the macro title whilst not being a true macro lens.
Pretty much any zoom lens with macro in the name is not a true macro lens (I'm not aware of any that are); again its just a close focusing setup and macro is falsely used to denote this.
good to know. ill have to look into samples from those lenses and decide on which one i like most.
The samples will really only be able to tell you who is the better photographer rather than which lens to buy.
+1 to cambirders point.
The only samples you can really compare are those taken on the same day, by the same photographer under controlled conditions. Even then you'll likely see only minor differences at the extremes of the aperture range, along with shifts in the background blurring (if comparing long to short focal length lenses) as well as the shape of the aperture blades.
In short the differences will be very minor and if you look around you will find stunning photos taken with any macro lens.
my idea was to look at multiple samples from the same lenses and see which one had a consistent look that i liked. i guess that is a little silly though given what you two pointed out.
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