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View Full Version : Looking for a good macro lens, not sure where to start



onlythecat
03-01-2008, 07:11 AM
I own a Nikon D40x with a AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-135mm lens. I am interested in getting the equipment (lens plus any necessary accessories) to get into macro photography, but I have no idea what to look for.

What do I need to be able to get started with macro photography and hopefully be able to take pictures like this (http://www.pbase.com/duncanc/image/63965674)?

Thanks!

XaiLo
03-01-2008, 01:10 PM
ah ScoobyMarco Rooz, where are u. I believe Rooz uses the Nikon SB-R200 speedlights, macro lens or in Nikons case "micro" lens, a decent tripod, and a steady supply of bugs from Rooz won't hurt either he has plenty. Nikon also makes a $16 remote that will make life easier too. That's a start I'm sure some other will be able to offer some more specific advice as to lens options I like the Nikon 105mm Micro but it's on the pricey side. ( Of Course ) Congrats and stop by the "Some D40 Pics" thread there aren't too many macro shots there. :)

mugsisme
03-01-2008, 05:42 PM
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10435080@N00/
Look at Rooz's pictures. You can click on the picture, and pull up the properties. He happens to take the best macro pictures IMHO. (He can even make a spider look good!)

Rooz
03-01-2008, 10:36 PM
you guys are too kind.

cat, the sigma 150mm f2.8 is what i use and its brilliant. i swapped over from a tamron 90mm which is also an exceptional lens, (i'm guessing that the tammie was used in the photo you linked to), but it will not AF on the d40. the nikkor 105 is also a great lens and i have used it a fair bit but it doesnt have the reach i wanted for bugs. i think the new 60mm micro nikkor is also af-s so you can use that no probs aswell.

not sure if you have any flash equipment but its also essential for the type of shot you linked to where a very small aperture is used. i use the R1 kit now for almost all of my macro work but was using remote strobes happily before that and i still do on occasion when i need more light. another thing you may need is a good tripod. if you have any specific questions, ask away.

if money is tight, then a set of extension tubes will get you out of trouble and get pretty good results aswell.

Paradox
03-02-2008, 12:24 AM
Rooz - I'll chip in with a question if you don't mind. Would a cheapish (120) set of Kenko extension tubes work with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro? I might fork out the extra cash if they work, since it gets some extra working distance. Also, on an unrelated note, would they work with the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 I've got to boost that one's range as well?

Rooz
03-02-2008, 12:55 AM
i use those same kenko tubes all the time on the sigma. no visible IQ loss and no AF/ metering issues at all. they work a treat.

Paradox
03-02-2008, 01:01 AM
Ok, thanks very much. :)

onlythecat
03-02-2008, 06:00 AM
Thanks for all the help everyone!

cat, the sigma 150mm f2.8 is what i use and its brilliant. i swapped over from a tamron 90mm which is also an exceptional lens, (i'm guessing that the tammie was used in the photo you linked to), but it will not AF on the d40. the nikkor 105 is also a great lens and i have used it a fair bit but it doesnt have the reach i wanted for bugs. i think the new 60mm micro nikkor is also af-s so you can use that no probs aswell.

The Sigma 150mm and the Nikkor 105mm both seem quite expensive, so I would be inclined towards the Tamron 90mm or the Nikkor AF-S 60mm, unless you think one of the more expensive ones is better enough that it is worth paying the extra money.

Of the Tamron 90mm and the Nikkor AF-S 60mm, which one would you recommend. I know the Tamron does not have auto-focus, is that a deal breaker?


not sure if you have any flash equipment but its also essential for the type of shot you linked to where a very small aperture is used. i use the R1 kit now for almost all of my macro work but was using remote strobes happily before that and i still do on occasion when i need more light. another thing you may need is a good tripod. if you have any specific questions, ask away.

I do not have any flash equipment, except for the built-in flash. The R1 says it is not compatible with the D40x. I am not sure what you mean by remote strobes. Could you tell me the full product name or give me a link to the manufacturer's page?

One last question, on some of the macro lenses I have looked at the minimum focusing distance is longer than on my current lens. How does that work? It seems counterintuitive to stand a few feet back from a little bug to take a picture of it.

Thank you so much!

EDIT:

After looking at some more of your pictures, I have another question. (Sorry.) Could you give me a link to the extension tubes you use(d)? I tried a google search, but I could not be sure which ones you are using. Previously when I was trying to figure this out someone else recommended extension tubes, but the only things I could find were super cheap $15 ones. I tried them out anyway, but when I attach them, I have to use manual mode and I cannot set aperture anywhere, since there is no aperture ring on my lens. Would better ones solve this problem?

Thanks again!

KTherrien
03-02-2008, 10:56 AM
Try this: http://www.adorama.com/KNAETSDNKAF.html

You should be able to search for the product on the net easier by that info... I keep a running "wish list" at that website and those happened to be on it.

TheWengler
03-02-2008, 11:04 AM
I am not sure what you mean by remote strobes. Could you tell me the full product name or give me a link to the manufacturer's page?

One last question, on some of the macro lenses I have looked at the minimum focusing distance is longer than on my current lens.

Remote strobes...it's just an external flash that's fired with a wireless trigger so you can move it off of the camera.

Magnification...it's a combination of the minimum focusing distance and the focal length. So a longer lens (assuming the same level of magnification) will have a larger minimum focusing distance. What lenses are you referring to?

Rooz
03-02-2008, 01:58 PM
The Sigma 150mm and the Nikkor 105mm both seem quite expensive, so I would be inclined towards the Tamron 90mm or the Nikkor AF-S 60mm, unless you think one of the more expensive ones is better enough that it is worth paying the extra money.

Of the Tamron 90mm and the Nikkor AF-S 60mm, which one would you recommend. I know the Tamron does not have auto-focus, is that a deal breaker?

the af-s nikkor is quite expensive too. its not a deal breaker that it wont AF. with my d80, i used to shoot say 80% of my macro in MF. just depends on your preference.

i havent seen the nikkors performance yet, i suspect it will be outstanding. (this is the new one i'm talking about here, the older model is not af-s).

I do not have any flash equipment, except for the built-in flash. The R1 says it is not compatible with the D40x. I am not sure what you mean by remote strobes. Could you tell me the full product name or give me a link to the manufacturer's page?

you will struggle without a flash. like i said, if you want pics like the one you linked to, flash is a pretty important part of the equation.

One last question, on some of the macro lenses I have looked at the minimum focusing distance is longer than on my current lens. How does that work? It seems counterintuitive to stand a few feet back from a little bug to take a picture of it.

not sure what the MFD is like compared to other lens, have never really checked that. i dont know enuf about the tech side of lens to be able to answer that well enuf for you. what i do know is that macro lens' give you a 1:1 ratio, other lens give you like 4:1 or at best maybe 2.5:1.

After looking at some more of your pictures, I have another question. (Sorry.) Could you give me a link to the extension tubes you use(d)? I tried a google search, but I could not be sure which ones you are using. Previously when I was trying to figure this out someone else recommended extension tubes, but the only things I could find were super cheap $15 ones. I tried them out anyway, but when I attach them, I have to use manual mode and I cannot set aperture anywhere, since there is no aperture ring on my lens. Would better ones solve this problem?

i just use kenko extension tubes. KT linked to them just above. i've never had an issue with AF on them. not sure what you mean by aperture setting. most newer lens dont have an aperture ring, you need to set your aperture in camera.

onlythecat
03-04-2008, 02:46 PM
Thanks for the continued help!

I think my decision on lenses will come down to extension tubes, the Tamron, or the Nikkor depending on how much I am willing to pay. I will probably look at reviews of them and decide that way. Any recommendations would be welcome too, though.

For flashes I am also going to look at reviews, but I have a few questions first:

How important is it that the flash I get be a Nikon product?

How much should I expect to pay for a decent flash?

And does anyone have specific reccomendations?

Thanks so much!

PS,
My problem with the previous extension tubes was that they do not preserve the connection between the camera and the lens. The Kenko ones are supposed to, so that should not be a problem.

wh0128
03-04-2008, 04:54 PM
For flashes I am also going to look at reviews, but I have a few questions first:

How important is it that the flash I get be a Nikon product?

How much should I expect to pay for a decent flash?

And does anyone have specific reccomendations?

It isn't that important to have a Nikon flash product, but that R1 set Rooz has is real slick. You can do your with with an off camera sb600 or sb800 as well which will run you either 179$ (SB600) or 314$ (SB800). For the 600 you'll need a sync cable to have it off camera along with the SB800 since your camera doesn't do wireless flash from the body itself.

Already told you the prices for the Nikon brands, for anything else, expect to pay less such as for a Sigma flash.

I highly recommend either Rooz's R1 kit or the R1C1 which includes the commander to fire the ring flash. The R1C1 being more expensive $624 versus $389 for the R1.

onlythecat
03-05-2008, 02:31 PM
OK, now I have three more questions.

1) With a flash that does not attach to the camera, I assume I would need an additional tripod. Is that correct or could someone hold the flash?

2) With a flash that does attach to the camera, could I use the camera and flash without a tripod at all?

3) What are the choices for on camera flashes that would work for macro photography? I am having trouble figuring out which of the flashes are on camera and which are off camera.

Thanks!

onlythecat
03-05-2008, 02:38 PM
Sorry, accidentally posted twice.

TheWengler
03-06-2008, 10:53 AM
OK, now I have three more questions.

1) With a flash that does not attach to the camera, I assume I would need an additional tripod. Is that correct or could someone hold the flash?

2) With a flash that does attach to the camera, could I use the camera and flash without a tripod at all?

3) What are the choices for on camera flashes that would work for macro photography? I am having trouble figuring out which of the flashes are on camera and which are off camera.

Thanks!

I was going to let someone else fire at this one because I'm certainly no expert, but its been a day, so I'll give it a go.

I'll start by saying that the same flash can be used on or off camera. I believe the SB600/800 will work fine. I'm not sure if these swivel and bounce (they probably do), but you'll want to get something that does that for general indoor photography. If you use the flash off camera then you can put it on a flash stand or use another method of positioning it. You need some other stuff to trigger it (I think), go here (http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/) for more. If it's on camera then you can use a tripod or not use one. It really depends on the situation. Though for macros, a tripod can help a lot. Rooz has a picture of his set up on his flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/10435080@N00/1946845928/in/set-72157603051208588/).

erichlund
03-06-2008, 11:46 AM
I don't do a lot of macro, so keep that in mind. However, when choosing your lens, while the shorter lenses are cheaper, you should also think about the working distance. If your goal is to shoot stuff that might be a bit skittish, one of the longer lenses will give you more working distance from your subject. OTOH, flowers don't care, so lens choice may be less important.

Rooz
03-06-2008, 01:53 PM
OK, now I have three more questions.

1) With a flash that does not attach to the camera, I assume I would need an additional tripod. Is that correct or could someone hold the flash?

no, you dont need another stand. they come with their own flat stand so they can be placed on any flat surface fine. or someone can hold it, or improvise with bungy cords which is what i do when i cant get a tripod in there. a tripod is preferable though, just a cheap light $20 one for a compact is fine in most cases.

2) With a flash that does attach to the camera, could I use the camera and flash without a tripod at all?

yes

3) What are the choices for on camera flashes that would work for macro photography? I am having trouble figuring out which of the flashes are on camera and which are off camera.

the sb600/800/400 can be used on camera without need of a wireless trigger. to use the sb600/800 off camera, you need a wireless trigger. the R1, (sbr200 strobes), needs a wireless trigger for the d40 series.

Sisselb
03-07-2008, 07:39 AM
Sorry for asking a question in your thread onlythecat, but I was looking for som answers about that flash system that you are discussing in this tread, the Nikon SB-R1. My mother has a Nikon D80 and a Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro. She has become so hooked on macro photography, that she wants a proper macro lighting system. The system with the SU-800 is a bit to expensive though, but the SB-R1 seems great, if it works like I think it does. Can you with the D80 and the internal flash control the output of each of the flash heads (SB-R200). So that they can have different output? And the Sigma 50mm f2.8 has a 55mm thread, but the set comes with filterrings with 52/62, 67, 72 and 77 mm. How do you fasten the flash system to lenses with different diameter then those?

Rooz
03-07-2008, 08:08 AM
yes, the d80 can act as commander for the R1 kit, (and set different outputs per strobe), so you dont need the SU800.

i did a quick google search and it doesn't appear that nikon make a 55mm adaptor ring so there is no way i can see that you can attach it to the lens unfortunately.

Ray Schnoor
03-07-2008, 08:25 AM
Sorry for asking a question in your thread onlythecat, but I was looking for som answers about that flash system that you are discussing in this tread, the Nikon SB-R1. My mother has a Nikon D80 and a Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro. She has become so hooked on macro photography, that she wants a proper macro lighting system. The system with the SU-800 is a bit to expensive though, but the SB-R1 seems great, if it works like I think it does. Can you with the D80 and the internal flash control the output of each of the flash heads (SB-R200). So that they can have different output? And the Sigma 50mm f2.8 has a 55mm thread, but the set comes with filterrings with 52/62, 67, 72 and 77 mm. How do you fasten the flash system to lenses with different diameter then those?
Yes, you can use the D80 in commander mode to operate the 2 SB-R200 heads.

To attach the flashes to your Sigma lens with 55mm threads, you can use a step-up ring such as this (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/6266-REG/General_Brand_55_62_55mm_62mm_Step_Up_Ring_Lens.ht ml).

Ray.

Rooz
03-07-2008, 08:28 AM
good idea Ray

VTEC_EATER
03-07-2008, 09:11 AM
I have to say, since owning the D300, I really love commander mode. My D50 doesn't have that option, and it really sucks that it doesn't.

One of these days Ill get myself some sort of Macro/Micro lens. I'm just trying to figure out if I should go with the 55/3.5 or the 105/4. Both can be had really cheap, but the 55/3.5 would probably have to be Ai'd to work with the modern cameras. Hmm, do I get the Micro lens, or do I send the D50 off to Lifepixel for an IR conversion... Decisions, decisions...

Sisselb
03-07-2008, 09:41 AM
Yes, you can use the D80 in commander mode to operate the 2 SB-R200 heads.

To attach the flashes to your Sigma lens with 55mm threads, you can use a step-up ring such as this (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/6266-REG/General_Brand_55_62_55mm_62mm_Step_Up_Ring_Lens.ht ml).

Ray.

So you screw the flash system ring to the lense as a filter? So there would be wiser using a 55-62 step up ring to use the 62mm adapter instead of using a step down ring to use the 52mm adapter? The latter will maybe cause vignetting? Has someone really tried this, so they are not only guessing it works?

Ray Schnoor
03-07-2008, 10:27 AM
So you screw the flash system ring to the lense as a filter? So there would be wiser using a 55-62 step up ring to use the 62mm adapter instead of using a step down ring to use the 52mm adapter? The latter will maybe cause vignetting? Has someone really tried this, so they are not only guessing it works?
Yes, 1 of the adapter rings which come with the flash screws into the lens as if it were a filter. The attachment ring then snaps onto this adapter ring. The SB-R200 flashes then snap onto the attachment ring.

Yes, you would want to go with the step-up ring instead of the step-down ring for the possibility of vignetting.

Yes this will work with a step-up ring, I am not just guessing.

Ray.

Sisselb
03-07-2008, 10:32 AM
Yes, 1 of the adapter rings which come with the flash screws into the lens as if it were a filter. The attachment ring then snaps onto this adapter ring. The SB-R200 flashes then snap onto the attachment ring.

Yes, you would want to go with the step-up ring instead of the step-down ring for the possibility of vignetting.

Yes this will work with a step-up ring, I am not just guessing.

Ray.

Thank You Very Much!
That what I wanted to hear. I have only seen pictures of it and never seen it in real life, so I did not know how it would fasten to the lense. But your answer gives me the idea of how it works :)
The SB-R200 can they be fastened in any poition on that ring, on the top/on the bottom/on the left/on the right and so on, so you can lighten your object quite flexible?

Ray Schnoor
03-07-2008, 10:52 AM
Thank You Very Much!
That what I wanted to hear. I have only seen pictures of it and never seen it in real life, so I did not know how it would fasten to the lense. But your answer gives me the idea of how it works :)
The SB-R200 can they be fastened in any poition on that ring, on the top/on the bottom/on the left/on the right and so on, so you can lighten your object quite flexible?
Yes, they can be moved to any position on the ring. Next to each other, opposite each other, in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock position. However you want. There is a lock on the flash so that you put it in the position you want and then lock it in place. They also come with a little stand, so that you can use them off-camera sitting on a table pointing at your subject.

Ray.

onlythecat
03-09-2008, 12:44 PM
I am starting to do some more research and I just discovered that the prices for the lenses I am looking at are VERY different from what I thought. (Sigma sells their 150mm for $200 more than Amazon.) Based on this, the Sigma 150 is not too expensive to consider as I has said before.

Based on my research so far, I have a few more questions: (Sorry for so many questions.)

- I read a comparison of the Tamron 90 and the Nikon 105 here (http://www.bythom.com/105AFSlens.htm) that said that optically they were quite similar. Rooz mentioned that the Nikon 105 was not very good for bugs, which is a deal breaker for me. Would the same be true of a Tamron 90?

- None of the lenses I am looking at (Tamron 90mm, new Nikon 60mm, Sigma 150mm) have vibration reduction built in and the d40x does not either. Does this mean I will have to use a tripod all the time? I know I asked this before, but I wanted to make sure that no VR does not change the answer.

Right now I suspect I will either decide on the Tamron 90, because of its low price or wait for the Nikon 60mm to come out and look at reviews of it and the Sigma 150.

Thanks so much!

erichlund
03-09-2008, 01:20 PM
VR is only necessary if you are trying to hand-hold a shot with a long shutterspeed, longer than 1.5/focal length. Of course, this number is a generalization, and your own ability to hand hold a shot may vary significantly. If you have enough light, you do not need VR.

As Rooz has discovered, the longer the focal length, the more working distance you get from your target. This is important if you are going to photograph bugs, because they get nervous when the big eye in the sky gets too close. So, if you are going to chase bugs, get the longest micro/macro you can afford.

If you are only going to chase plant material, you can get whatever you like, though I suspect that Nikon (and others) put more tech into the bigger lenses than they do the small ones. More revenue, so more bells and whistles.

Rooz
03-09-2008, 05:13 PM
- I read a comparison of the Tamron 90 and the Nikon 105 here (http://www.bythom.com/105AFSlens.htm) that said that optically they were quite similar. Rooz mentioned that the Nikon 105 was not very good for bugs, which is a deal breaker for me. Would the same be true of a Tamron 90?

as eric has summarised in the above post, what i meant about the 105 not being the best for bugs is its focal length. from my experience shooting bugs with the tamron 90mm, (which i used to own) and nikkor 105, (which i have used alot), is that you cant get close enuf to them before they fly away. thats not to say you can't but it will take you longer to get really close.

- None of the lenses I am looking at (Tamron 90mm, new Nikon 60mm, Sigma 150mm) have vibration reduction built in and the d40x does not either. Does this mean I will have to use a tripod all the time? I know I asked this before, but I wanted to make sure that no VR does not change the answer.

the only time you will need a tripod is if you are shooting at very low shutter speeds so alot of this will depend on whether you use flash or not. if you do use flash then the VR becomes redundant cos you can get higher shutter speeds. sometimes i have found VR useful on the 105, but its not that often. if nikon released a 180mm marco lens with VR then it'd be my dream lens.

Right now I suspect I will either decide on the Tamron 90, because of its low price or wait for the Nikon 60mm to come out and look at reviews of it and the Sigma 150.

the tamron is a beauty no doubt. imo, i'd be thinking seriously about the 150mm sigma for 2 primary reasons. its longer focal length and its ability to AF on a d40. the only drawback with the sigma is its a large and heavy lens, much more so that the tamron.

onlythecat
03-09-2008, 07:17 PM
If a focal length of 90mm or 105mm is often too short for bugs than I assume that would mean that the Nikon 60mm would be even worse, right? In that case, I think my decision is probably done for the lens, because the Sigma would be by far the best for bugs.

For a flower or something like that, there would be no downside to a longer focal length, right?

Thanks!

Rooz
03-09-2008, 08:03 PM
If a focal length of 90mm or 105mm is often too short for bugs than I assume that would mean that the Nikon 60mm would be even worse, right? In that case, I think my decision is probably done for the lens, because the Sigma would be by far the best for bugs.

For a flower or something like that, there would be no downside to a longer focal length, right?

Thanks!

correct. for flowers or any stationary object the focal length is pretty irrelevant. its easier to shoot flowers with a 60mm macro cos its much smaller and lighter. but if bugs are your go, the longer the better from my experience.

LR Max
03-09-2008, 09:06 PM
I kinda hate to do this, but I figure I'll bite the bullet.

I'm trying to sell a 60mm macro lens right now. PM me if interested.

ooverdrive
03-10-2008, 08:06 AM
I know for macros we need a dedicated lens.still on a budget ,so trying to get a combination of 50mm f1.8d and a M2 extension tube ....but still you have to manually focus with your D40x.

ooverdrive
03-10-2008, 08:33 AM
For budgetary reasons,I still live with my D40 kit lens and Raynox DCR-250:)
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2295/2320966620_2de799fbea_b.jpg

onlythecat
03-18-2008, 03:14 PM
I am about ready to go ahead and get the Sigma 150 and the SB-600 flash, I think, but I have a few more questions about the flash.

I understand that the SB-600 is not wireless (for a D40x body), but if I get a SB-800 later I can use both wirelessly, right?

Is there any important difference between the SB-600 and SB-800 other than wireless/not wireless?

Should I be considering any non-Nikon flashes and if so which ones?

Thanks!

britkev
03-18-2008, 03:47 PM
The wireless commander mode is the main difference between SB-800 & SB-600... the 800 is a little more powerful, comes with some filters, and a few little extra bells and whistles that most people never live long enough to learn how to use...

I bought my 600 knowing I needed flash as a necessary evil and if I ever wanted to get fancy with flash later I could buy an 800... of course my disappearing D50 and forthcoming new arrival mean I now have other flash options, but it'll be a while before I can afford an 800 now anyway.

Nikons flashes really are superb, and designed to work best with Nikon cameras, of course. Buying third party would be a false economy in my opinion.