When you’re looking to buy a macro lens, the first thing you need to determine is what you’re going to use it for. Are you a professional photographer or looking to become one? Or is this for a hobby or other personal reasons?
After that, you’d need to shop based on device and budget. There are macro lenses for SLR cameras among other standard type cameras, and then there are macro lenses for phone cameras. When shopping for a macro lens for your phone, whether it be an iPhone or another type of smartphone you’re looking spend between $50 and $130.
Now when it comes macro lens for DSLR or SLR cameras, you’re looking at a lot more money. While some manufacturers do make some affordable macro lenses great for hobbyists, there are more expensive ones for professional photographers. Ultimately, the one you choose to get will depend on the type of photographer you are and your budget. But when shopping for these types of macro lens, it’s good to be ready to spend as little as $200 and go all the way up to $1000 or more. You will sometimes get deals for certain macro lens that less than $200 but not less than $150. If you come across a cheap macro lens for your SLR camera or otherwise, then it’s best to avoid it because many times you get what you pay for.
Construction and Design
The materials used to make macro lenses vary. When you’re purchasing a macro lens for your smartphone, you’ll find the body is made from a type of aluminum. This guarantees strength and durability. The lens itself is made from optical glass.
However, when you’re purchasing a macro lens for your SLR or DLSR camera, then you will find the body is often times made out of plastic. Manufacturers will alter the plastic to give it a particular look and feel to make it easier for you to hold and operate. Some macro lenses will have external moving parts, so you’ll be able to manually extend it during use, however, some do not. It all depends on the macro lens of your choice, which ultimately depends on what your primary subjects will be.
Performance and Ease of Use
First, let’s talk about macro lenses for smartphones. These are much simpler than macro lenses for SLR or DSLR cameras. They are quite durable with the body being made from aluminum and the lens itself made from usually premium glass. Macro lenses for mobile devices typically use a clip to attach to your phone and while we understand you may worry about this clip damaging your phone, manufacturers usually take care of this by padding the clip jaws.
When purchasing your new mobile macro lens, choose one that comes with a case and cleaning cloth. These will come in handy for storage and maintenance. The magnification for mobile macro lenses tends to be much higher than that for regular cameras, due to the difference in technology. Often, you’ll find companies providing macro lens kits also include wide angle and fisheye lenses which gives you more variety. A good rule of thumb is to get a mobile macro lens that’s 10x or more in terms of magnification but if you fancy experimenting then do so. After all, they’re your photos and your expression.
While mobile macro lenses are a lot more straight forward, things can get a bit more technical when dealing with a macro lens for a DSLR or SLR camera. As we’ve mentioned before, one of the key features to look for when shopping for a macro lens is the focal length. Focal lengths range from 50mm – 300mm. Both may have the same magnification however if you were to use a 50mm macro lens, then you’d need to be much closer to your subject in order to get the desired shot rather than if you used, say, a 200mm lens.
Because your distance from your subject can affect your subject, your composition, and in some instances your light, you need to be mindful of the focal length of your macro lens. If it’s the case where you can afford multiple lenses then be mindful of which to use in the given situation. When photographing wildlife or bugs, you’d need a macro lens with a longer focal length as your closeness could affect your subject while if you were to shoot a flower, a macro lens with a shorter focal length would work just fine, and help reduce the effects of camera shake.
The focal length of macro lenses are also known as standard (50mm – 70mm), short telephoto (85mm – 100mm), and telephoto (180mm – 200mm). As you can tell, the short telephoto and telephoto lenses give you more working distance to shoot. However, these lenses tend to be heavier – especially internal-focus telephoto lenses – so it’s advised you use a tripod when shooting to retain the sharpness of your image.
Lighting is also important to consider, especially if you’re using natural light. Your closeness to your subject could cast a shadow, which would affect the outcome of your shot. As we said before, be mindful of your subject and the types of photography you’ll be doing when purchasing your macro lens. The maximum and minimum aperture of your lens also affect your shot as it refers to the amount of light your lens will take in. The aperture is referred to in numbers such as f/2, f/5.6, f/8, and so on. The lower the f/stops, the more exposure you will get with your camera as they refer to larger apertures while the higher f/stops give you less exposure because they represent smaller apertures.
Your lens’s aperture affects the depth of field which is basically the area of acceptable sharpness that’s behind and in front of your subject. In layman’s terms, it’s basically how blurry or sharp your subject’s background is. Lower f/stops have less depth of field which give you a blurrier background while higher f/stops give you greater depth of field which gives you a sharper background. The one you go for is ultimately your choice and if you aren’t sure, as you test out different apertures, you will find the setting right for the subject you’re shooting.
The magnification for DSLR or SLR cameras is different than that for mobile macro lens. These macro lenses are typically either 1:2 ratio or 0.5x magnification, which means they produce half size of the subject on the lens. While others are 1:1 ratio or 1x magnification which means they produce a life size image of your subject on the lens. Many people do not consider 0.5x to be macro but rather close-ups while others do. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and what type of magnification works best for your work.