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04-08-2011, 04:19 PM   #1
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Macro vs telephoto image quality

Hi everyone

Short story first... About 9 months ago, I bought a K-x camera as my first DSLR. I've bought a couple of Sigma lenses afterwards to get started. These are the Sigma 105 mm EX DG Macro and the Sigma 70-200 mm APO EX DG HSM II.

I got the macro lens first and have come under the impression, that macro lenses seem to produce sharper images over telephoto lenses, at least on my K-x anyway.

I guess what I'd like to know is, if there are others out there, that have the same impression. Am I wrong for hoping that pictures taken with a telephoto lens should be as sharp as pictures taken with a macro lens?
I get the feeling it is a stupid comparison to make, but what do you guys think, do macro shots come off as being sharper when compared to shots taken with a telephoto lens?

04-08-2011, 04:25 PM   #2
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Macro lenses are, generally speaking, the sharpest lenses out there. This is not a surprise.
04-08-2011, 04:53 PM   #3
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You are also comparing a prime lens with a zoom lens and a prime lens is generally sharper than a zoom.

Edit: However, there are some soft primes and some sharp zooms.

Last edited by OrenMc; 04-09-2011 at 04:15 AM.
04-08-2011, 05:30 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by OrenMc Quote
You are also comparing a prime lens with a zoom lens and a prime lens is generally sharper than a zoom.

Eggs-actly! So it makes me wonder if my Tammy 90/2.8 Macro that knocks the crap out of all my zooms at 90mm is better ONLY because it is a good, fast prime or because it is a Macro fast prime. My Phoenix 100/3.5 Macro (with 1:1 adaptor) takes macro every bit as detailed as the Tamron to my eye but falls flat with that comparison at 15'.

04-08-2011, 05:32 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by deadwolfbones Quote
Macro lenses are, generally speaking, the sharpest lenses out there. This is not a surprise.
I believe it, but then I can't explain why every quality prime can not be as sharp as a lower priced Macro lens. So many questions to ponder instead of just going out and shooting.
04-08-2011, 05:56 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by imtheguy Quote
My Phoenix 100/3.5 Macro (with 1:1 adaptor) takes macro every bit as detailed as the Tamron to my eye but falls flat with that comparison at 15'. So many questions to ponder instead of just going out and shooting.
I believe the Phoenix 1:1 adapter is a diopter lens that is used for close focus. The strenght of the diopter will determine the focusing distance.
One day of mostly sunny weather in six weeks and I am stuck in the house doing chores. Supposed to be anyway.
04-08-2011, 06:08 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by OrenMc Quote
I believe the Phoenix 1:1 adapter is a diopter lens that is used for close focus. The strenght of the diopter will determine the focusing distance.
All true. My tests at distance though do not include the adaptor, nor do macro shots at close distance and less than 1:2 magnification. The point being that the cheap lens can replicate expensive lens for macro but not as a short tele.

Last edited by imtheguy; 04-08-2011 at 10:08 PM.
04-08-2011, 06:41 PM   #8
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Generally, the closer one is to the subject the sharper the detail. The further one is from the subject the more atmosphere interfers and light-gathering capabilities are decreased, demanding smaller f-stops and narrower DOF. Get close, and you can shoot at F-8. Get far and you may have to shoot at F-2.8.
I have both the DFA 100mm Macro and the DA 35mm Limited. Both great, but as far as detail is concerned, the 35 is better, and I doubt any macro can beat it.
As far as cheaper lenses are concerned, most cheaper macros preform well, but I believe there is a difference between them and the more expensive models. With some, it is admitedly slight and only discernable under a critical eye and controlled comparisons. It all depends upon how critical you are, your purposes and how large you want to print.
Having said all that, I believe macro is one area where cheaper, 3rd party lenses are a good deal, with more than adaquate results for normal purposes.
What one always loses, however, with 3rd party lenses (except Zeiss) is the rendering qualities of Pentax coatings.

04-09-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
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Thanks for all your great replies, they got me thinking. Think I will have to go for a prime next time I buy a non macro lens. It's just too bad that Pentax original lenses are so expensive versus 3rd party lenses, like Sigma. And on that topic, I guess you get what you pay for. The Sigma was a lot cheaper.

Do you actually get telephoto lenses that produce 1:1 images on the sensor, rather than say, 1:2?
04-09-2011, 12:32 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikknu Quote
Do you actually get telephoto lenses that produce 1:1 images on the sensor, rather than say, 1:2?
Yep. 1:1 is easy to find in $100 (used) 100mm lenses if that is the main requirement.
04-09-2011, 02:32 PM   #11
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A 100mm macro lens *is* a telephoto lens. So I'm not sure what distinction you are trying to make here. Primer versus zoom, maybe, or shorter telephoto versus longer. Indeed, primes generally beat zooms, and shorter lenses beat longer ones. And between two telephotos of the same focal length, a macro will generally beat a non-macro, at least for performance up close. But asking which is better, a macro or a telephoto, makes no sense, since many (most) macros *are* telephoto.
04-09-2011, 03:47 PM   #12
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It's not so much about one design type being better than the other but how well each type is corrected for aberrations by the designer.
04-09-2011, 04:52 PM   #13
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I have a question regarding Macro

Hi, I am new to this forum and to getting accessories for my camera.

The camera, a Pentaz K200D was a gift a couple yrs ago. I have 2 lenses for it, but use one most of the time... a Tamron 18-200mm lens with Macro capabilities. I use if on MF. I never use the AF.

My problem is, when I try to get up close and personal to subjects to use the Macro, I always have to back off some in order to get it to focus. My question, naturally, is why? I thought Macro allowed you to get up close. I was told by someone that even with Macro you still have to be a specific distance from the subject.

Which brings me to my next question... do they make lenses just for Macro photography? Such as for extremely close up floral photos & such?

I see such great up close shots, but can't seem to get mine to do it right. Am I doing something wrong?

If you need more info, let me know. I don't completely understand all the jargon with cameras, but I love them just the same.

Thanks!
04-09-2011, 06:54 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by paws4critters Quote
The camera, a Pentaz K200D was a gift a couple yrs ago. I have 2 lenses for it, but use one most of the time... a Tamron 18-200mm lens with Macro capabilities. I use if on MF. I never use the AF.

My problem is, when I try to get up close and personal to subjects to use the Macro, I always have to back off some in order to get it to focus. My question, naturally, is why? I thought Macro allowed you to get up close. I was told by someone that even with Macro you still have to be a specific distance from the subject.

Which brings me to my next question... do they make lenses just for Macro photography? Such as for extremely close up floral photos & such?
On your lens, the macro really means that it is close focusing. It's more of a marketing term. You'll be able to get closer than other lenses of similar range, but it's not really a true macro lens.

Yes, they make true Macro lenses, but they are always prime lenses. You can also use extension tubes to allow you to enlarge the subject significantly. If you are on a tight budget, you can get screw-on macro filters, but they are worth about what they cost (they are cheap and bad in most cases).

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
A 100mm macro lens *is* a telephoto lens.
Yep. A telephoto lens is simply a lens that has a focal length that is longer than it's physical length.
04-09-2011, 08:29 PM   #15
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How Do I Know A Good Macro Lens...

Sorry, to be a bother to all y'all. I am fairly new to cameras that you have to focus. I have always liked them, but never understood them. Now, I am trying to understand them. I can take photos with them, but I really could not explain what I did except focus and shoot.

I really would like to understand the Macro because I see really great photos I would love to shoot myself.

These are the two lenses I have and what they say on them...

Tamron: Aspherical LD XR DiII Tamron AF 18-200mm 1:3.5-6.3 [IF] MACRO 62 A14
Before the 62 is a symbol that resembles a computer zero, you know a zero with a line through it.
At the back of the lens, where it attaches to the camera, the numbers left to right read 200, 135, 100, 70, 50, 35, 18
At the front of the lens, farthest from the camera, two rows of numbers for feet & meters read (ft) 100, 20, 8, 5, 3, 1.48; (m) infinity symbol then 30, 7, 3, 2, 1, 0.45
Pentax: Pentax 18-55 II SMC Pentax DA CE (and a number like a serial number)
At the back of the lens, where it attaches to the camera, the numbers left to right read 55, 45, 35, 24, 18
At the front of the lens, farthest from the camera, two rows of numbers for feet & meters read (ft)7, 3, 2, 1.5, 1.15, .82; (m) 2, 1, 0.6, 0.45, 0.35, 0.25

While playing with the two lenses, I found the Pentax appears to get a little closer to the subject than the Tamron when using Macro. I am sure all y'all are probably rolling your eyes by now, but, here comes the stupid question, does the Macro have something to do with the ft/m numbers... and are those numbers telling me how far I have to be from the subject for it to focus?

I am trying to take good photos worthy of selling. I realize there are tons of folks out there doing the same. Could anyone tell me how they would rate these two lenses?

Appreciate it. Sorry to bug everyone with such novice questions.
Thanks!
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