Macro Lens Buying Guide


It is probably safe to say that many of us photographers have, either with our cameras or smartphones, tried to capture a close-up image of an insect, flower, toy, or other object. We have an idea of what we want this photograph to look like as we prepare to capture the image. We have seen and admired beautiful close-up images before but, when we nose the camera lens up to the object, the camera balks—it cannot focus close enough to create the image we want to capture. Fewer things in photography can be as frustrating as trying to get a close-up photograph of something inside the lens's minimum focus distance.

There are several ways to do close-up, or "macro" photography, but the macro lens is the easiest path to creating and capturing compelling, detailed close-up images of the larger world.

Macro Lens

The macro lens is an optic that is designed to have a very short minimum focus distance to facilitate close-up photographs. The mission of the macro lens is to reproduce objects at, or slightly smaller than, life-size. What does this mean? We have all seen large images of small things—a poster-sized image of a flower, for instance. The reproduced flower is obviously larger than life-size. In fact, if you make a big enough print of anything, it can be larger than life-size. The reproduction goal of the macro lens is the life-size reproduction of the object on the sensor or film. For example: If you photograph a small coin with a macro lens capable of life-size reproduction, the image framed on the digital sensor will be identical in size to the coin.

"Macro lenses have other tricks up their sleeve beyond the close-focusing capabilities..."

The reproduction dimensions of which a macro lens is capable is labeled with a ratio. A macro lens that can reproduce objects at life-size is said to be a 1:1 macro lens. A 1:2 macro lens can reproduce objects at half-size. A lens that can reproduce objects at double life-size will be a 2:1 macro lens. Many macro lenses feature the 1:1 or 1:2 ratios.

Beware! There are a lot of lenses on the market, especially some longer zooms that promote their "macro" capabilities. If your goal is close-up photography, keep an eye on the magnification ratio of these lenses, because they might not get you as close to the 1:1 or 1:2 ratios as you want for your images.

Macro lenses have other tricks up their sleeves beyond the close-focusing capabilities. Many macro lenses are designed with a flat focus field instead of a curved field, common in other lenses. The curved field means that the image is sharper in the center than at the edges. This is often not extremely noticeable due to the lens's depth of field. With a dedicated macro lens, the flat-field focus is designed to allow the image to be in focus from edge to edge in the frame.

Focal Length

Focal length, the distance between the optical center of the lens and the image plane, is one important factor when considering a macro lens. You might think that the longer the focal length—the more telephoto the macro lens—the more magnification you can get from the lens. This is not necessarily true, since certain macro lenses of all different focal lengths obtain a 1:1 ratio.

The difference you experience when using a normal or wide-angle macro lens versus a telephoto macro lens is a different minimum focus distance. In the macro photo world, this is known as the "working distance." A longer focal length lens will have a greater working distance than a shorter focal length lens. The advantage of the larger working distance is the ability to stay farther from your subject. That may not matter for shooting a still life, but if you are photographing a small animal, the extra distance might be just what you need to keep from startling the critter. A longer focal length lens will also have shallower depth of field. This may or may not be advantageous to the photograph you are trying to achieve. Lastly, the extra working distance may also help keep your gear from casting an unwanted shadow on your subject.

It sounds like a longer focal length is better for macro photography, right? Are there advantages to a shorter focal length macro lens? Yes. The shorter focal length macro lenses are generally smaller, lighter, and less expensive than their longer counterparts and they can achieve the same level of magnification. If you are a casual macro shooter, having a small and light macro lens in your bag might be a better option than carrying around a heavier, bulkier telephoto macro lens that might rival your largest optics for size and weight.

Two macro lenses that provide 1:1 reproduction produce the same image here. The longer focal length lens offers a greater working distance between lens and subject.
Two macro lenses that provide 1:1 reproduction produce the same image here. The longer focal length lens offers a greater working distance between lens and subject.

Macro Lens Options with Magnifications Better Than 1:2


Canon’s latest macro offerings are focused on the EOS R mirrorless system, where there are the Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM, RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM, and RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM lenses with 1:2 magnification, and the longest focal length native Canon macro for mirrorless is the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens with 1.4x reproduction. For the company's EF-M mirrorless cameras, the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM lens magnifies to 1.2x.

Canon RF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens

Canon RF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM Lens

Canon only offers two standard macro lenses for its DLSR lineup. I will start with the exotic Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens that features a reproduction ratio of up to 5:1! Adding to the stable of legendary L lenses is the EF-S 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, with a 1:1 ratio and image stabilization.

Also for DSLRs, Canon has a battery of three tilt-shift lenses that all feature 1:2 reproduction ratios. The trio: the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro Tilt-Shift lens, the TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Tilt-Shift lens, and the TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro Tilt-Shift lens.


FUJIFILM now has a pair of macro lens offerings for the X-mount. One is the FUJIFILM 60mm f/2.4 XF Macro lens, with a 1:2 magnification ratio and the 1:1 magnification lens for the X-mount cameras is the 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR with which we got to go hands-on at a local New York jeweler.

FUJIFILM XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro Lens

FUJIFILM XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro Lens

For the FUJIFILM medium format G-mount, you can get to 1:2 ratio with the FUJIFILM GF 120mm f/4 Macro R LM OIS WR lens.


The Hasselblad H System has its 1:1 macro with the Hasselblad HC Macro 120mm f/4 II lens, featuring a minimum focus distance of 1.3'. The XCD 120mm f/3.5 Macro lens gives Hasselblad X System users a 1:2 macro option.

Hasselblad HC Macro 120mm f/4 II Lens

Hasselblad HC Macro 120mm f/4 II Lens


Better known for its ultra-wide-angle lenses, Irix gives Canon, Nikon, and Pentax shooters 1:1 reproduction with the Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Lens.

IRIX 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Lens

IRIX 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Lens


Leica has macro lenses for its L-mount, S-bayonet, and M-mount camera systems. The L-mount lens magnifies to 1:1 and is the Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens. For the S-system, there are the APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 and the APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 CS lenses, with 1:2 magnification. The M-mount lens is the Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens, which also features 1:2 reproduction scale when used with the Macro-Adapter-M.

Leica APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 Lens

Leica APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5 Lens


Macro photography can really lend itself to the different focus and sharpness effects known to Lensbaby shooters. With a variety of DSLR and mirrorless mounts, the Lensbaby Velvet 28mm f/2.5, Velvet 56mm f/1.6, and Velvet 85mm f/1.8 focus down to 1:2 magnification. See our hands-on review of the Velvet 85mm lens here and the Velvet 28mm here.

Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6 Lens for Nikon F

Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6 Lens for Nikon F

Mitakon Zhongyi

The Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 Super Macro lens for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras magnifies subjects by 4.5 times. This not only fits the "Super Macro" designation, but puts it in a rare category of macro lenses that magnify well past the 1:1 reproduction. 

Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4.5x Super Macro Lens

Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4.5x Super Macro Lens

For similarly high-magnification applications, Mitakon also has the Creator 85mm f/2.8 1-5x Super Macro, for mirrorless and SLR mounts, which operates within a 1:1 to 5:1 range.


Nikon has always featured an extensive lineup of macro lenses for all types of needs. Shifting its focus to the new Z-mount mirrorless cameras and dropping the storied “Micro-NIKKOR” branding, photographers have a choice of a Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens and, joining the ranks of the legendary Nikon 105mm macros, the NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S—both featuring 1:1 magnification ratios.

For Nikon F-mount photographers, you can still get your hands on another Nikon legend—the manual focus, old school, Micro-NIKKOR 55mm f/2.8 with 1:2 reproduction. Nikon DX DSLR photographers can use the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G and the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR lens with 1:1 ratios.

Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S Macro Lens

Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S Macro Lens

Two of Nikon's PC-E tilt-shift lenses magnify subjects at 1:2. Therefore, the Nikon PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED and the PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D lenses have earned a place in this article.


Olympus makes a pair of macro lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm f/3.5. The 60mm lens features a 1:1 reproduction ratio and the 30mm lens has a better than 1:1 reproduction of 1.25x. They have 35mm focal-length equivalents of 120mm and 60mm, respectively.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens


For its full-frame L-mount cameras, both the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro O.I.S. and the Lumix S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 MACRO O.I.S. lenses reach 1:2 magnification. For Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds system cameras, it offers the Lumix G MACRO 30mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. and the Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S., lenses that both allow 1:1 magnification. They have 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 60mm and 90mm, respectively.

Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens

Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens


Pentax has three macro lenses in its quiver. The HD Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited features a 1:1 ratio. The Normal smc P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro and the smc Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro lenses both feature 1:1 magnification, as well. The 100mm lens is also weather resistant.

Pentax HD Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited Lens

Pentax HD Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited Lens

Medium format Pentax photographers have a choice between the 1:2 Pentax 90mm f/2.8 D FA 645 Macro ED AW SR lens and the 1:1 smc FA 645 120mm f/4 Macro lens.

Rokinon and Samyang

The 1:1 ratio, manual focus Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro is available in Canon EF, Nikon F, and Pentax K. The Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC reproduces at 1:1 and is also available in mounts for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Pentax K.

Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

For mirrorless shooters, the Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens does life-size reproductions and is available for Sony E, FUJIFILM X, and Micro Four Thirds mounts. The 1:1 Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro lens can be fitted on Sony E, Samsung NX, FUJIFILM X, and Micro Four Thirds bodies.


Sigma has a few 1:1 macro offerings. The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art lens is available for Sony E and Leica L mounts and the 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art lens is available in Canon EF and Sigma SA mounts.  For SLR mounts, the 70mm lens is compatible with Sigma’s USB Dock for fine-tuning focusing characteristics.

For DSLRs, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro lens is available for Canon EF and Nikon F.

Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens

Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens


Sony has a trio of macro lenses for E-mount mirrorless cameras offering 1:1 magnification. For full-frame E-mount users, there is the very popular telephoto Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens as well as the sleek normal-length FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro. For APS-C mirrorless shooters, there is also the especially compact E 30mm f/3.5 Macro lens.

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens


Tamron currently offers the Tamron SP 60mm f/2 Di II 1:1 Macro Lens for Sony A-mount DSLR shooters.

Tamron SP 60mm f/2 Di II 1:1 Macro Lens for Sony A

Tamron SP 60mm f/2 Di II 1:1 Macro Lens for Sony A


Tokina’s latest 1:1 macro lens is the Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro lens for Sony E-mount cameras. Tokina also offers its atx-i 100mm f/2.8 FF Macro lens for Nikon and Canon mounts. It features a 1:1 ratio.

Tokina atx-i 100mm f/2.8 FF Macro Lens

Tokina atx-i 100mm f/2.8 FF Macro Lens

Venus Optics

Macro and ultra-wide specialist Venus Optics has several lenses for different mounts. The rare-in-the-world-of-macro wide-angle Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro lens features 1:1 magnification and is available for Pentax, Sony A, Nikon, and Canon cameras. Also from the company, the world's first 2:1 magnification lens with infinity focus is the manual focus Laowa 60mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro lens for Sony E, Sony A, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax, and for APS-C-format mirrorless there is the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO, for FUJIFILM X, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z, and Sony E, which also offers 2:1 magnification along with infinity focus. Also 2:1, and for full-frame, is the slightly longer Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO, for Nikon Z, Canon RF, Leica L, and Sony E, as well as Canon EF, Pentax K, and Nikon F. The Venus Optics Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro lens has—you guessed it—2.5-5x magnification for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Pentax K. We used it to shoot the moon in this article! For Micro Four Thirds shooters, the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO lens goes to 2:1 magnification as does the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO for Canon EF-M, FUJIFILM X, Sony E, and Nikon Z mounts.

And, worthy of its own paragraph (and video!), the incredibly odd-looking Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Lens has a 2:1 magnification ratio and a truly unique design for Canon, Nikon, and Pentax mounts.

Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Lens

Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Lens


Voigtländer has a pair of macro lenses for the Sony E mount cameras. The Voigtländer MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm f/2.5 lens has a 1:1 reproduction ratio while the MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 Aspherical lens gives a 1:2 ratio. Both lenses are manual focus and mechanical masterpieces.

Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm f/2.5 Lens

Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm f/2.5 Lens


The Yasuhara Nanoha Macro lens is available for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-mount cameras and features a removable triple-LED light source. The lens allows incredible 4:1 or 5:1 reproduction!

Yasuhara Nanoha Macro Lens 5:1

Yasuhara Nanoha Macro Lens 5:1


The Yongnuo YN 60mm f/2 MF lens, for Canon EF and Nikon F mount cameras, offers 1:1 reproduction with a minimum focus distance of 9.2".

Yongnuo YN 60mm f/2 MF Lens

Yongnuo YN 60mm f/2 MF Lens


Zeiss has a pair of macro lenses for your full-frame close-up viewing pleasure. The ZEISS Milvus 50mm f/2M lens features 1:2 magnification. The ZF.2 version is for Nikon and the ZE for Canon EF. For longer reach, the Milvus 100mm f/2 lens also has 1:2 magnification and is available for Canon and Nikon.

ZEISS Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro Lens

ZEISS Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro Lens

For mirrorless, the ZEISS Touit 50mm f/2.8M does 1:1 reproduction for FUJIFILM X and Sony E-mount cameras.

Have we missed any current macro lenses? Do you have a question about shopping for your own macro lens, or do you have experience with one or more of these lenses that you would like to share? Let us know in the Comments section, below!


Hello.  I see the article is a little bit older.  However, do you have any opinion on the Venus Optics Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens for Nikon Z?  I am looking into a 2:1 reproduction lens for some fun food photography/ and my flowers too.

Hey Cindy,

I just finished working on an update for this article...but, yes, it is a tad bit dated!

I think the Venus option is great for working at 2x and beyond.

Not to complicate matters, but you could also get a "standard" 1x macro lens and extension tubes to get you to 2x. This might give you a bit more flexibility for general photography or less extreme macro.

Please let me know if you have follow-up questions!

Thanks for reading!



My wife loves taking close up pictures of flowers so I'm thinking about getting her a macro lens. She's not an expert by any standard but she loves photography and has a really good eye. She uses a Canon EO 6i (that I bought at your DC store before, well...). Based on this information, which lens would you recommend?

Hi, I am not an expert photographer so need little help, I am looking for a good macro set that can allow me to take detailed pictures of Gems. 

Hi sanath,

Thank you for your question! Gems are a challenging subject for any photographer, but there is no macro lens that will be superior to others in this pursuit. What kind of camera system are you using?

Thanks for reading!



Hi , I am not expert photographer so need little help, I am looking for a good macro set that can allow me to take detailed pictures of flowers , I want to allow for maximum details across entire frame so ideally not have parts of the flower which are out of focus. From little reading it seems that full frame sets might limit the depth of field which is in focus and wont allow to pass all the details of the flower. Therefore I thought that maybe a micro 4/3 will do a better job. Open to any suggestions (bdw the pictures are for exchanging flower information between grow experts and not for marketing or art purpose). Currently I have no DSLR camera so can choose any body and lens combination. thank you in advance. Nir

hi, i am very interested on macro photography. i am torn between samyang 100mm macro 2.8 and laowa venus optics 65mm 2.8 macro.

since i am a budget buyer, i know xf lenses is suits for my camera. but is is expensive. i am using fujifilm xt20 and soon i am upgrading it to xt4. can u enlighten me more. seems all the review and the side is on the laowa which has a 2x magnification.


and also can i add mcex 16 while using laowa? thanks i am waiting for the reply because somehow i will buy on your website. 

from arab emirates. thank you and appreciated. 

Both the Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro Lens for Fujifilm X and the Venus Optics Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO Lens for FUJIFILM X are good economical macro lens options for use on the Fujifilm X-mount lens mount.  The Samyang lens will allow you to focus from further away, while the Venus Optics lens will give you more magnification.  Optically, you should be pleased with both lenses.  The Venus lens is slightly more popular, but that may be both a combination of the extra magnification, the smaller/lighter size, and the lower price.  If you like the Samyang lens, the Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens for Fujifilm X​, B&H # RO10028F, which is the same lens under a different brand name, but which (as of the date/time of this reply) currently has an Instant Rebate, making virtually the same lens more economically-priced.  The FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube for Fujifilm X-Mount may be used with all three lenses, but do note that as all three lenses are fully manual lenses, no electronic information will be transferred from the lens to the camera, such as focal length, aperture setting, or focusing distance.

About Panasonic, are the two 25 mm and the two 42.5 mm Panasonic lenses as suitable for macro as the ones you've mentioned. They have maximum aperture 1.4-1.7?

Hey Peter,

Unfortunately, none of those lenses will get you close to 1:2 or 1:1 reproduction. You could certainly add extension tubes or close-up filters to them and increase their close-up capabilities, but, on their own, they aren't really close-up specialty lenses. Extension tubes are inexpensive and do not alter the optical performance of the lens(es).

Please let me know if you have follow-up questions and thanks for stopping by!

If you are looking for Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses that would be good for macro photography usage needs & which would give you a true 1:1 magnification ratio, producing a life-sized image on the camera’s sensor when focused at the lens’ minimum focus distance, I would recommend both the Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens, B&H # PA4528, and the Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens, B&H # PA3028MOIS, as good options for your usage needs, although the aperture is not as bright as the lenses you listed.

Since you mention Nikon tilt-shift lenses with 1:2 macro capabilities, you should likewise mention Canon's TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro Tilt-Shift, TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro Tilt-Shift, and TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro Tilt-Shift.


And while you have to limit the article’s scope, I think the relatively new Vello Macrofier Reverse Mount Adapter for Canon Ef/EF-S lenses warrants a mention since this unique (I think) product maintains electronic aperture control of a reverse-mounted EOS (Electro Optical System) lens.

Hey James!

HUGE oversight on my part. Thanks calling out my incomplete research. I will have the article updated with those tilt-shift lenses soon.

And, yes, the reverse mount adapter is cool, but talking about extension tubes, reversal rings, and other accessories would take me down a rabbit hole that most readers would be unwilling to join me in!

Thanks for stopping by and pointing out my omission!

You people overlooked one of the best Macro lenses:  the 65mm f2.8 Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar.  I still use these lenses on my view cameras in 105mm, 150mm, 210mm and 300mm focal lengths.   When I sold cameras, I used to refer to the latter two as what Zeiss would have done if they had gone beyond the 135mm Planar (not counting the 250mm Sonnar which was a telephoto design and not admitting of much in camera movementts).

Hi Nelson,

Unfortunately for me, "you people" is just "me." My bad!

Thank you for noticing my omission! I will be having this article updated ASAP.

It is nice to have readers with eagle eyes!

Hello, I just purchased a Sony a6500, now my question is what would be a good affordable macro lens? I am a novice camera person, but now that I am retired I really want to use my camera and more importantly I would like to  use the right LENS.

Thank you


Hey george,

Congrats on retiring! 

Your choices are outlined in the Sony section above, but, in review, you have your pick of the two 30mm macro lenses (designed for APS-C) sensors, or the 50mm or 90mm. All of the lenses get pretty good reviews on our site, but I would recommend you do some digging on the internet to see what others are saying. The Sony shooters around here did not have a unanimous recommendation.

The 30mm f/2.8 looks like a great lens in the middle of that pack. If you went with the 50mm, you would be all set if you were to eventually get bitten by the full-frame bug in the future.

And, just because I like opening a can of worms, you could get a lens adapter and pick up a sexy macro lens from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or others.

Standing by for follow-up questions!

Hi George.  

Yeah, what Todd said...  :)  Here are a few thoughts more.

It sounds like you are in the same place I was in macro shopping a year ago.  I own an a6000, and opted for the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8.  Being designed for full frame, the 75mm equivalent focal length has proven to be helpful to get a little stand-off distance.  I've been very happy with the images coming off the camera. 

The other macro on my short list at the time was the Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8.  That looks like a wonderful lens but the Zeiss costs twice the price, and is designed for APS/C.  While it would work in crop mode on a full-frame body, I wanted to be a lens ahead when that full-frame bug bites me in the future.  Yoiur a6500 does so much more than the a6000, this might not be important to you.

Macro photography opens a whole new world!  For example, we can see interesting, complex details of various insects, but then we can also capture what the world looks like from the bug's point of view!  Blowing things up in size shows so many details outside our usual perspective.  But with it come some different techniques that come along with the tools.  Check B&H's videos for some excellent help, and I'm sure YouTube is full of them too.  But here are a few relevant suggestions:

 - Don't get hung up on autofocus.  My lens is often slow to autofocus, and occasionally fails entirely, endlessly hunting.  Reading reviews of other macro lenses, including much more expensive ones, this seems fairly common among macros.  Manually focusing isn't that big a deal anyway, especially with "focus peaking" turned on in your camera.  So, to do it again, I'd consider manual-only focus designs at least as highly as those with autofocus.  (Hint: When actually taking macro photos, you'll often be turning off autofocus anyway.  Things move a lot when you're that close, and AF will be constantly fighting the movement and you'd never get the photo!)  

 - As noted in Todd's article, and my experience concurs, mild telephoto is helpful so you don't have to crowd your subject.  Things move, or move away, and at some point you start blocking your own light if you get too close.

 - Your camera has in-body stabilization, so your choice of lens doesn't need to offer OIS.  For anyone else who has read this far, consider a lens with OIS if your camera body doesn't offer it.  

Your original question asks for lens suggestions, and I don't mean to dodge by just offering observations and opinions about features.  It's just that it depends what you will really DO with your chosen macro.  You must have some ideas in mind about what you want to captrure already, but you'll also find new ideas as you go along.  Flowers and bugs are fascinating, but there's a LOT more to see.   Macro is a fun and interesting branch of photography, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

Good luck, and congrats on retiring!

Hey Anthony,

Awesome stuff! Thank you for sharing your experience and helping a fellow B&H customer and Explora reader!

"and the 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM lenses exclusively for the Nikon F mount. "

This info from the article is wrong. From what I remember Sigma 180 f/2.8 was first available on Canon EF then after a few months also on Nikon F and other mounts. It was the first macro lens from Sigma with the optical stabilization. It replaced the Sigma 180 f/3.5 without stabilization. A year later they also updated their 105mm and 150mm with the OS.

Hey Eliz,

Good catch! Either Sigma expanded the mounts for that lens after I wrote the article or my research was flawed. Knowing me, it is probably the latter. Thanks for catching this. We will update the article immediately.

We (I) appreciate you finding our (my) mistake!

insightful article, but including the prices of the lens would have been helpful.

Hi eugene,

I agree, but the problem with including prices is that, if they change and go higher (hopefully not) then someone will read the article and want the difference in price and B&H will take it out of my paycheck! :)

There is a typo in the caption for the Tokina, it has repeated info for the Tamron.


Rather than it being a typo, it was just our way of checking to see whether anyone was really paying attention. wink Thank you for being attentive!

— Copy Editor

Thanks for a helpful article on macro lenses, but the statement that the depth of field is less with longer focal lengths is not true. In the macro range, we are interested in magnification necessary to fill the frame with the subject. In this situation, depth of field is determined by the f/number and the magnification, and is independent of the focal length. 

Many of the telephoto macro lenses are of an asymmetrical design and have a pupillary magnification of less than 1.0 and actually have more depth of field than a lens of shorter focal length. For an example and some background theory see this link in the macro depth of field section.


Hey Bill,

Interesting stuff. I used Paul Van Walree's website heavily when researching my DOF article. He has some great stuff there.

He makes an interesting caveat in his macro section when he says "lenses of similar optical design." To me, that might mean that all bets are off when it comes to comparing the DOF of different focal length macro lenses from different manufactures. I won't discount his findings, as that website seems to be spot-on with everything I have read, but it is worth noting that on every DOF calculator I have come across, there is no "macro mode" that magically removes the focal length of the lens from the DOF calculations.  

Pretty facinating...until it gives me a headache! Thanks for sharing the link and commenting!

   The formula for depth of field (not involving pupillary magnification) is derived from geometric optics, and can be expressed either with the magnification m, i.e.  DOF = 2Nc(m+1)/(m^2)  [where N is the f/number (e.g. f/8 or f/22 or whatever the photographer has set) and c is the diameter of the circle of confusion]  or with the dimensionless ratio u/F, DOF = 2Nc (u/F) ((u/F) - 1) [where u is the lens-to-subject distance and F is the focal length].  Note that magnification and focal length are related through the lens equation,  1/F = 1/u + 1/v  where v is the lens-to-sensor distance.  A reference for the derivation of the DOF formula is Kodak's publication N-12B, "Photomacrography."

   If one shoots at the same magnification, the DOF is the same for any lens [ignoring here the effects of pupillary magnification P, which changes the (m + 1) term in the expression for DOF to ((m/P) + 1) ] but the shooting distance will be further for a longer focal length lens than for a short one.  If one shoots at the same lens-subject distance, then the shorter focal length lens will have more depth of field, but it will also have lower magnification.

   One point that wasn't metioned in the article was the matter of perspective.  Because a longer focal length lens works from further away, it has a "flatter" perspective than the shorter focal length lenses. The latter are subject somewhat (this is an aesthetic value judgement, and thus open to endless discussion) to the "big nose" effect of being too close to your subject.  Perspective is controlled solely by lens-to-subject distance; see Kingslake's book, "Optics in Photography."

    I have used macro lenses from 50mm to 200mm.  The 50mm will absolutely limit your ability to get good shots of skittish active subjects, and has too much "big nose" perspective effect (again, the latter is a personal aesthetic judgement subject to argument :-).  100mm-class lenses are much better, but you will still have difficulty with the larger skittish active subjects (e.g. butterflies) than with a 180mm or 200mm.  The longer working distance of the long lenses is a huge benefit except in one case: use of flash.  Longer distance means less light (assuming the flash is physically attached to the camera or to a mount on which the camera is also attached) at the subject, so that you are pushed to getting very powerful (and very expensive) flashes for the longer focal length lenses.  Flash use is another of those endlessly arguable issues among macro photographers.  It certainly helps stop motion blur, but some object to the non-natural lighting.  One can, of course, use more wide-open apertures to enhance the light getting to the lens, but that will cost you depth of field. Whether that bothers you depends a lot on your photographic objectives.  If you do documentary work, you will want as much DOF as you can get so that everything possible is sharp, and hang the aesthetics.  If you are looking to isolate the subject from the background for aesthetic reasons (as many do), then shallower DOF (to a certain degree :-) is a benefit, not a curse.

     Price? Yes the longer lenses cost more, but if you are fool enough (this author included!) to chase after skittish insects, you're fool enough to spend the bucks, too :-) :-) :-)

Hey Matthew,

Whoa. Thanks for all the math! :)

Great stuff! Good luck chasing the skittish critters! Let me know if you want to borrow my 200mm macro!

I see you have also spent the bucks, and are thusly as much of a macro-fool as I am :-)  Waxing "gear-poetic" for the moment, the Nikon 200mm macro is the best macro lens that I've owned (of 6).  Some may be consider it to be an "older" design nowadays, but it has not been bettered yet.

I also have the AIS 55mm Macro to use on my PB-4 bellows...the 200, I think, will be too heavy!

You'd think I would shoot more macro!

Yes, that 200mm is fantastic. I have used it to get super-sharp landscapes as well as its usual macro work.

Enjoy #macrophotoweek here at B&H!

Gasp! "Another reputable reseller?" :)

Don't worry. Used gear is their forte and they're not in NYC. They also do repair work; they repaired my Sunpak 522 flash and the motor drive for my Canon A-1. I did buy my used Canon New F-1 system from them; it was a great price. Paula asked me "That's their flagship?" I answered "Yes, for the 80's" and she replied "Buy it."

I'll browse the used gear on B&H and that company in Jawja for interesting Canon FD gear or daydreaming about a Mamiya RZ 67 and 645. I also got my Canon FD 28mm f2.8 from B&H.

I must agree that the Nikon 200 f/4 is a great lens.  i hope they develop and produce at least an AF-S version so it will work with the stacking feature on my D850.  Now that would be cool.

Hey Thomas,

You'd hope they would update that lens, but I don't know how good of a seller it was for them...

I am happy to keep a hold of mine for the time being!

Thanks for stopping by!

The 60mm Olympus lens is µ 4/3 but the other two have 4/3 mounts designed for Olympus SLRs but usable with an adapter on the µ 4/3 mount cameras.  The 50mm, as the image shows, is a 1:2 lens, not a 1:1 lens as stated, but an extension (which works with all the 4/3 lenses) is available to take it out to 1:1.

As a point of interest, the 60mm supports in-camera focus stacking on the E-M1, the other two don't.

Hi John,

Thanks for clearing up the Olympus section for us! Yes, the lens has a 1:2 ratio (its even written on the lens itself), but the Olympus marketing folks like to claim a 1:1 ratio (on a 35mm frame). We bought their snake oil!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

The article doesn't talk about depth of field, though that is a major limiting factor.

An advantage to shorter focal length lenses is that they have better depth of field, which can simplify the process.

I've been very happy with the 30mm sony macro. Depth of field is much greater than with my old 100 mm macro.

Not included is a discussion of focus stacking, which could be required with a longer lens...

Hey stephen,

I did make brief mention of DOF, and I wrote a 3-part series on the subject that is fairly comprehensive. It starts with this article:

However, I guess I could have dived a bit deeper into the subject here in terms of macro lens buying. "Better depth of field" is a statement of opinion as some photographers prefer long depth of field over shallow and vice versa.

Thanks for reading and commenting! Let me know if you have any specific DOF questions.

Hi Todd....I see macro photos of insects that, for example, have the eye of a fly in so close that it seems as if it's under a microscope. What kind of macro lens is used in a situation like this? I can't do it with my 85mm macro lens. Thanks!

In your section titled "Focal Length", you state "A longer focal length lens will also have shallower depth of field." This appears to contradict the following, which appears in an article by Michael Reichmann, the founder of

 "In fact, if the subject image size remains the same, then at any given aperture all lenses will give the same depth of field."


Can you comment on this apparent disagreement?

Hi Donald,

Thanks for your question. The late, great Mr. Reichmann is correct in his statement. But, he mentions subject image size staying the same. In order to do that with different focal length lenses, you need to change your subject-to-lens distance and that will change your DOF.

Here is part one of my 3-part dissertation on DOF:

Let me know if you have any more questions or confusion. Thanks for reading!

Hi, Todd.

Yes, as you say you do need to change your subject-to-focal plane distance to obtain the same subject image size with different focal length lenses. But after you do change that distance and have obtained the same subject image size, all lenses with the same aperture will produce the same depth of field. In other words, the same image produced at different focal lengths will have the same depth of field when the same aperture is used.

This is why the statement that "longer focal length produces less dof" is misleading. It's kind of irrelevant to compare the dof of images when their subject image sizes are different, as would be the case if you just stayed in one place and shot the same subject with lenses of different focal lengths. The whole composition changes in that case. (If you then crop to get the same subject image size, we're back to the same dof when the apertures are the same.)

It is helpful to state that dof depends only on magnification and aperture, not on focal length. (Aperture means the physical size of the opening, not f-stop.)

Hey Rich,

You are correct, but we are starting to dive down into the rabbit hole here with echoes of the argument/discussion over DOF on full frame versus smaller sensors. Beware of the rabbit hole!

Having said that, if you boil DOF down to the mathematical formulas, the statement that "longer focal length lenses produce a shallower depth of field" is correct as focal length is one of the factors in the formulation of hyperfocal distance which, in turn, is a factor in the calculation of DOF.

When you start factoring in consistent subject sizes, then the variables start to change.

Check out Part II and Part III of my DOF articles, if you are sleepy! In Part III I specifically cover this topic.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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