Photography / Hands-on Review

Macro SLR Lenses with Image Stabilization


A macro lens is an important tool for a wedding photographer. Perhaps not as crucial as capturing the kiss at the altar or the daddy-daughter dance, a close-up of the rings, flowers or candle being lit is considered part of the standard package. These moments may very well be situated in less than ideal lighting conditions, so a fast macro lens is needed to guarantee you get that shot, but lenses that offer up to four stops of image stabilization compensation will certainly give you an advantage.

Needless to say, image stabilization is a technology that is here to stay, and more and more close-focusing macro lenses now feature image stabilization for clear images at slower shutter speeds. Below is a glimpse of a few macro lenses for SLR cameras, with image stabilization capability, that are available at B&H. For more information on these and other lenses, you should feel free to be in touch with a B&H sales professional, whether on the phone, via live chat or in person at our New York SuperStore.

Let’s start with one of the few zoom lens in our profile, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens, which can be considered a workhorse for any Canon camera user. With a popular and practical set o focal lengths for full-frame and APS-C sensors, this L-series 24-70mm f/4.0 may not be as fast as an f/2.8, but it makes up for that loss in speed with Hybrid Image Stabilization, which provides four stops of stabilization compensation for both angular and shift types of camera shake. Its macro mode is available at the 70mm end of its zoom range and is activated by a simple switch.

In macro mode, the lens offers 0.7x magnification and focuses as close at 7.87”; its stabilization function is effective to 2.5 stops in macro mode. Thanks to two aspherical and two ultra-low dispersion elements, the lens is particularly sharp, with minimal distortion throughout the zoom range. The Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) and high-speed CPU enable fast and quiet autofocus, and a zoom lock lever keeps your chosen focal length in place. It is a compact lens (3.3 x 3.7”), weather-sealed for dust and moisture protection, and has an anti-smudge fluorine coating on the front and rear lens elements. It has an inner focus mechanism, nine-blade circular aperture and a (non-macro) minimum focus distance of 1.25’ throughout its zoom range.

The second zoom lens, which is specifically designed for APS-C-sized image sensors, is Sigma's 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM Lens. It is available in Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA mounts with the Optical Stabilizer function, or in Pentax K or Sony A mounts without OS due to their incorporation of image stabilization within the camera body. This versatile wide-angle to telephoto zoom features a 1:3 magnification ratio and a minimum focusing distance of 15.4" to enable close-up, well-detailed shooting opportunities. Furthermore, this lens' design is comprised of Special Low Dispersion elements, as well as a Super Multi-Layer Coating, to offer high imaging quality throughout the zoom range with maintained contrast and color fidelity. As part of Sigma's Global Vision, too, this lens is compatible with the USB dock for adjusting focusing parameters and updating lens firmware.

Also from Sigma, the APS-C-dedicated 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM Lens, available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sigma SA, and Sony A mounts, features a slightly wider and more compressed zoom range, but gains the benefit of having a faster f/2.8-4 maximum aperture. This lens, too, has a slightly greater maximum reproduction ratio of 1:2.8 at the 70mm focal length, along with a minimum focusing distance of 8.7" to realize a working distance of just 2.2". FLD, SLD, and aspherical elements are integrated into the optical design as well as a Super Multi-Layer Coating to offer a reduction of aberrations and maintained sharpness and contrast. Like the Sigma 18-200mm lens, the 17-70mm is also compatible with the USB Dock for fine-tuning focusing performance.

Regarding macro prime lenses, the Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Prime Lens offers a classic standard focal length for Sony/Minolta full-frame cameras and can be used on APS-C sized SLRs to provide an equivalent focal length of 75mm. Its minimum focus distance is 7.87” and it offers a 1:1 maximum reproduction ratio for highly detailed, true macro shooting. Like all Sony and Sony-mount lenses, the image stabilization function comes from the camera body, so this is not technically an IS lens, but then again, it doesn’t need to be, because your camera provides that feature. Its aperture range is f/2.8-32, allowing you low-light effectiveness when shooting close-up, and a Focus Range Limiter button lets you control the distance range in which the lens will focus. This is a great help if you are only shooting close-ups.

The Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR Lens is built for Nikon DX-format DSLRs and offers focusing as close as 10.8” and a 1:1 reproduction ratio for full macro functioning. Featuring Nikon’s Vibration Reduction II image stabilization, it provides up to four stops of compensation. Its 85mm focal length is perfect for portraiture and its macro capabilities, combined with the sharpness and reduced distortion provided by its extra-low dispersion lens element, offers crisp details. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) provides fast, accurate and quiet autofocus and its internal focus design keeps the front of the lens from extending and rotating during focus.

The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di MACRO 1:1 (VC) USD Lens with mounts for Canon, Nikon and Sony is a full-frame format lens with Tamron’s Vibration Compensation image stabilization technology in the Canon and Nikon mounts, but omitted from the Sony mount, as image stabilization is a camera-body function for Sony. Tamron’s tri-axial VC configuration employs three pairs of driving coils and low friction ball bearings around the shake compensating optical group to produce a free-floating system that compensates not only for vertical and horizontal shake, but diagonal as well. It provides four stops of compensation. 

The 90mm lens (135mm on Nikon DX mount and Sony APS-C, 144mm on Canon APS-C) offers 1:1 macro magnification with a minimum focus distance of 11.8”. An internal focusing system does not extend the lens when focusing, which is important when shooting close-up macro. Full time manual focus is available, which is also very helpful when shooting macro. An Ultrasonic Silent Drive offers accurate and quiet autofocus, and two extra-low dispersion lens elements and one low-dispersion element correct aberrations, for sharp imaging. A nano-structured layer of eBAND coating provides anti-reflection properties for reduced ghosting and flares, and moisture-resistant construction protects the lens.

The Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens mounts to Sony Alpha and Minolta DSLRs and can also fit on APS-C-sized cameras at a 150mm equivalent. As a full-on macro lens, its magnification ratio is 1:1 and it can focus as close as 1.2’. Its f/2.8 maximum aperture is effective for shooting in low light and enables fine, shallow-depth-of-field imagery, ideal for portraiture. An auto-clutch on the manual focus ring keeps it from moving during autofocus, and a range limiter and focus hold button allow for more precise focusing.

The Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM EF Lens fits all Canon EOS SLRs, full-frame or APS-C, and offers a 160mm focal length equivalent in the APS-C format. Its 1:1 reproduction ratio enables life-size macro capabilities, and Canon’s Optical Image Stabilization system brings with it four stops of camera-shake correction. Its Ultrasonic Motor means that autofocusing is fast, smooth and quiet, and as an L-series lens, the optics are sharp and the rugged barrel is weatherproof. Minimum focus distance on the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens is 11.8” and the presence of a f/2.8 maximum aperture and image stabilization system means this lens is very effective for low-light shooting. An optional tripod collar is available for this lens, and can provide further stability during macro shooting, when even the slightest movement can blur an image.

The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG (OS) Macro Lens is a durable lens optimized for full-frame shooting and is also compatible with APS-C sized cameras, with an equivalency of 157.5mm (168mm on Canon). Its minimum focus distance is 12.3” and, as a full macro lens, its reproduction ratio is 1:1. Sigma’s Optical Stabilization (OS) provides compensation for the blur created by camera shake, which is noticeable not only in low-light situations, but particularly when shooting at longer telephoto lengths in macro mode. Its inner focusing system means the front lens does not rotate and the front lens element does not extend. Special Low Dispersion and high refractive index lenses minimize distortion for clear imaging. Super Multi-Layer coating reduces ghosting caused by reflections. This Sigma lens is available for Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Sony cameras, with the Sony version lacking the OS function.

The Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR II Lens from Nikon is a second generation Vibration Reduction (VR II) enabled macro lens for full-frame format, with the 35mm equivalent focal length of 157.5mm when used on a DX camera. Its maximum aperture of f/2.8 provides effective low-light imaging and shallow depth of field, and its VR function offers four stops of correction. Its minimum focus distance is 12”. It features an internal focus system, Silent Wave Motor, a built-in M/A switch, an extra-low dispersion lens element and Nano Crystal Coating for superb light transmission. 

Jumping up a bit to longer telephoto lenses, Sigma offers the 150mm f/2.8 EX DG (OS) HSM APO Macro Lens for Nikon, Canon, Sigma and Sony mounts. This is a full frame format lens with a 225mm focal length equivalent for Nikon, Sigma and Sony APS-C cameras, and a 240mm equivalent for Canon. It offers Optical Stabilization (OS) on all but the Sony version, providing four stops of correction. It can focus as close as 15” with 1:1 magnification, and its Floating Internal Focus design does not extend the lens or rotate the front element. The Hyper Sonic Motor focus system provides quiet, high-speed autofocus, and three Special Low Dispersion glass elements minimize aberrations. 

The Tamron Telephoto SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD IF Macro Lens, available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts, is a light and compact lens, considering its long focal length, and with 1:1 macro capability it offers a minimum focus distance of 18.5”. It provides a 35mm equivalent focal length of 270mm with Nikon and Sony APS-C-sized sensors and 288mm with Canon APS-C-sized sensors. An internal focusing system means the lens does not extend when focusing, and Filter Effect Control rotates any filter to the desired position even with the hood attached. This is accomplished by rotating the FEC ring that in turn rotates the portion of the lens where the filter is mounted. Two low dispersion lens elements also work to control distortion for sharper up-close imaging.

Lastly, the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG (OS) HSM Lens for Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Sony mounts offers telephoto macro at 1:1 magnification with a minimum focus distance of 18.5”. Optical image stabilization provides four stops of correction on all but the Sony mount, and its f/2.8 maximum aperture provides sufficient light when shooting close-up and narrow-depth-of-field focus. It is compatible with APS-C cameras at a 270mm equivalency (288mm for Canon) and its Hyper Sonic Motor provides fast, smooth and quiet autofocus. This lens incorporates 3 “F” Low Dispersion glass elements for color aberration correction, as well as a floating inner focusing system to reduce other aberrations such as field curvature and distortion, resulting in accurate scene rendition from minimum focus to infinity. A rounded nine-blade diaphragm produces nice bokeh, and multi-layer coating reduces ghosting and flare.

For more information, contact a B&H sales professional in our New York SuperStore, on the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or via Live Chat.

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The Sigma 105 2.8 sony version does offer the OS too, i have one for my A6000

Thank you Jorge Luis.

Please note a correction.

The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG (OS) HSM APO Macro Lens  does offer Optical Stabilization (OS) for the Sony version.   I recently purchased one from you that I'm using on a NEX-6.