Macro Lens Buying Guide

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.

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

Canon doesn’t offer many standard macro lenses for its DLSR lineup. Of those select few, the most notable is the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, which features a 1:1 ratio and image stabilization.


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


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 some notable macro lenses in its quiver as well. Both the HD Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited and the Normal smc P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro feature a 1:1 magnification.

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 Canon, Nikon, etc.

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. Meanwhile, for APS-C-format mirrorless, there's the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO, which also offers 2:1 magnification along with infinity focus.

The Venus Optics Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro lens has—you guessed it—2.5-5x magnification for Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. We used it to shoot the moon!

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.

Finally, there's the incredibly odd-looking Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Lens, which features a 2:1 magnification ratio (as well as a truly unique design). We were so intrigued by the Laowa Probe Lens, we decided to do a hands-on review.


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 both 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!


Question:  I am interested in the Laowa 2.8 APO 2X Macro lens for Canon RF mount.  Can this lens focus at 1:1 macro, or is it always at 2X magnification?  Thank you in advance for explaining.

I have been dealing with a macro photography question for the last 6 months and cannot find a answer. I have both of the Nikon Z macro lenses. I want to use extension tubes on both. I have tried every one I can find including getting the Novoflex Z bellows and cannot get a sharp image. The 50 is "ok" with a small extension tube but it gets worse with longer tubes. The 105 is bad as soon as I add extension. I have done macro work for 40 years and have never run into this problem. I have a set of the Zeiss Luminars and Nikon Macro lenses from the Multiphot and have no issues up to at least 40X. Any ideas?

Hi James,

That has to be frustrating!

Before I begin, know that I did see you have 40 years of experience with macro photography, so please don't let me insult your expertise.

If you were a beginner, I would feel safe mentioning that higher magnifications equal both increased chance of blur from camera shake as well as longer shutter speeds to compound the issue. Focus also becomes much more critical as magnifications increase.

You likely already know this, so permit me to ask some follow-up questions:

1) Are you using manual focus?...I assume "Yes" with bellows and/or tubes, but with technology always improving, you never know if AF systems are working magic!

2) Are you able to get a sharp image in the viewfinder/LCD that doesn't translate onto the final image? Or, are you not able to get the subjects in sharp focus at all?

3) How do the lenses perform without tubes or bellows? Super sharp?

My hypothesis is that the tubes/bellows are causing some sort of misalignment with the image plane or wreaking some sort of non-correctable issue with the focus.

I hope we can figure this out for you!

Thanks for reading. Standing by to discuss!



I was not able to glean the understanding that I sought with the ratio vs. magnification specification on macro lenses.  Maybe I'm missing something that is understood by everyone else.  Its said about the reproduction ratio . . .  "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".  When a lens says that its 'Magnification' is 1.4x, what is that in terms of the ratio?  (Is that 1.4:1 ?) Could that be that if an object is 10 CM, then the image will span the sensor at 14 CM?  Doesn't the distance of the 10 CM object from the lens come  into the equation? 

Hi Robert,

I knew when I wrote this article that eventually someone was going to make me do math. That day has come! Ugh!



At 1:1 a 10mm object can be projected onto the sensor at 10mm—life size.

At 1:2 a 10mm object can be projected onto the sensor at 5mm—half size.

At 1.4:1 a 10mm object can be projected onto the sensor at 14mm—1.4x size.

The distance where the lens reaches that maximum magnification is the minimum focus distance of that particular lens—and not a constant number if talking about different lenses.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the question (even if it made me do math!). Please let us know if you have more questions!



Hi Todd,

I've just moved from EOS 77D to EOS R body but I kept my old lenses (with EF-EOS R adapter) like Sigma 105mm macro. Should I change it to native RF 85 f2 macro or keep it? As I can see RF 85 f2 macro (and RF 35 f/1.8 too macro) has only 1:2 macro reproduction ration vs Sigma105mm 1:1.

What would you recommend in the same price range as Sigma 105mm for Canon mirrorless camera for macro photography with AF?


Hi Tibor,

Great question!

Take a minute to thank Canon for creating an EF to R adapter! That was/is a great idea for those switching to mirrorless.

If you are happy with your Sigma macro, then by all means, keep using it. The 1:1 magnification advantage is not something to ignore. 1:2 is pretty good, but if your Sigma is sharp and working well on the adapter, there is no need to change, in my mind!

While it is always tempting to upgrade to mount-native lenses and get the latest and greatest, I find that, especially with macro (and other genres) photography, the advantages of the latest lenses are often negated by the  "manual" nature and process of macro photography (focus, exposure, etc). If you were using that 105 as a portrait lens and the AF was feeling sluggish, you might want to consider an upgrade, but for macro work, sometimes older lenses are just as good—if not better!

I personally use a manual focus Nikon 55mm macro and a screw-drive AF Nikon 200mm macro adapted when doing macro stuff.

Thanks for reading!



Thank you Todd. Yeah that's what I feel sometimes: "it is always tempting to upgrade to mount-native lenses and get the latest and greatest". You'rr absolutely right about this. Not always the latest is the best or the better choice.

I'll keep the Sigma 105mm then becasue it produces laser sharp macro photos for me which I'm really happy with.
Have a nice day,


What about macro lenses and smartphones?

Hi Deborah,

Great question!

Many of today's smartphone cameras have macro modes and focus pretty darn close on their own, but there are also add-on lenses you can use, if you want to up your game a bit or create unique camera phone images.

I believe Moment is the current leader in the field, but those sands shift fairly often...

Here is where you can find the whole bunch:


Here is a Moment macro:…

And...a lens kit with a macro included...…

My friend Mary L. wrote about her love for add-on lenses in this article:…

Please let us know if you have more questions!



Hi Todd. I had the same question, and am noticing that for these mobile device lenses, the Macro lens are advertised as 10x, 15x, even 20x. I’m guessing that the higher the number, the closer you can get to the subject and get a clear picture? 

Also, is it true that the higher the number, the less focal range? Meaning the range where the picture is sharp is reduced. 

Thanks in advance for the clarification!


Thanks for the question (or the same question!)!

The "X" number you are referring to is the advertised magnification of the lens. A standard "macro" lens for a traditional camera will have a 1:2 (half-size) or 1:1 (full-size) reproduction ratio... 0.5x or 1x respectively.

Anything higher than 1x is a larger-than-life-sized reproduction and entering the realm of "extreme macro."…

More magnification may mean a shorter focus distance, but not always. Minimum focus distance with macro photography is also a function of focal length. Generally speaking, the longer the focal length, the longer the minimum focus distance to achieve the reproduction ratio.

Not having used one of those macro lenses, I am sure that the range where the picture is sharp is pretty narrow and I don't know how well those add-on lenses interact with the smartphone camera's auto focus system.

Having said that, I bet they are pretty fun to use!

Let me know if you have more questions!



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!

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