Photography Cheat Sheet: Quick Macro Lens Guide

Want to shoot macro but can’t figure out which lens to get? This cheat sheet will help you decide.

With all the options available for macro photography lenses, how do we know which one to choose? Apart from dedicated macro lenses, many zoom lenses also offer a “macro” function, making it somewhat confusing for anyone starting out. Fortunately, Digital Camera World has put together another tutorial and handy photography cheat sheet to help us choose the right macro lens for the job.

In their tutorial for TechRadar, Digital Camera World says we should be taking note of the necessary specifications and features to look for when choosing a “good” macro lens. It discusses technicalities like magnification factor and focal lengths, so you might want to check that out if you want more detailed insights on the topic. But if you want a quick visual reference, the cheat sheet below should help.

Some zoom lenses can give a decent close-up image at a fifth of life-size with minimum focus distance. There are also kit lenses that can produce one-third of life-size of your subject, also at minimum focus. So, if your close-up shooting requirements are at those levels, you may do well without a dedicated macro lens. But if you really want to get into close-up photography, your best bets are prime macro lenses that offer 0.5x to 1.0 full magnification. It’s possible to get extreme magnification at a whopping 5.0x, but these lenses, like the Canon MP-E 65mm f2.8 can be difficult to work with.

Going back to the tutorial above, an important factor for close-up photography is the minimum focusing distance. Macro lenses with longer focal lengths have a longer minimum focusing distance, allowing for more working space between you and your subject. This will come handy when you want to shoot small wildlife and insects in macro. Even when you’re photographing an inanimate object, you’d want ample distance from what you’re shooting, so you don’t block out the light and cast a shadow over your subject. That said, the tutorial recommends 150mm and 180mm prime macro lenses, so you have a working space of around 38 cm and 47 cm respectively. The downside? Those are often on the pricier side of the spectrum.

Still can’t decide? All factors considered, Digital Camera World recommends going for a multi-tasking macro lens with the following features: a focal length of 90mm to 105mm, a fast f2.8 aperture, and good autofocus and manual focus capabilities. Effective image stabilization will also be a plus if your camera doesn’t come with built-in, sensor-shift stabilization.

Want to learn more about macro photography? Don’t forget to check out our tips, tricks, and tutorials here.