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06-30-2012, 11:13 PM   #1
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Macro benefits? dedicated Macro VS Telephoto/Macro choices

I've read a lot of opinions on the best macro lenses out there and so much of it seems to be:
1 - personal preference, or
2 - Based on the type of Macro shooting you plan to do.

The problem with those scenarios is it doesn't address the benefits of a lens that is designed or dedicated to being a Macro lens VS a telephoto/Macro with a reasonable minimum focal distance. - SO -

My real question is, what am I gaining or losing when considering a wide variety of Macro shooting by choosing one over the other. A dedicated lens like the Pentax FA 100mm 2.8 WR Macro, VS something like the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 Di LD Macro. Both lenses are in the same price range and have excellent reviews for overall quality. Is it worth giving up the prime for the ability of more reach?

The budget right now with the acquisition of a new K-5 is maybe one more lens... but not both.

Open to any and all thoughts.?


Last edited by Tricktech; 06-30-2012 at 11:27 PM.
06-30-2012, 11:51 PM   #2
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With a dedicated macro there are two benefits: magnification and image quality

With most of the macro lenses made since the mid 80s you should get at least 1x magnification. This means the image on the sensor will be the same size as the object. The macro mode on zooms and telephotos at best give you 0.5x or typically 0.2-0.3x magnification. Any good dedicated macro should be a flat field lens: image quality at the corners and edges should be close to that of the center. This is important when shooting flat objects such as stamps or coins. Due to optical compromises this is difficult to achieve in zoom lenses while keeping costs down. Sure you can use a teleconverter but then you lose lens speed and image quality.

The longer working distance can be a curse as well as a blessing. When you are in tight quarters it might be impossible to get far enough away to be able to focus on the subject.
07-01-2012, 01:15 AM   #3
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I think trying to compare a 100mm Macro with a 70-200mm zoom is really apples and oranges.
But if you compare a 100mm Macro prime to a regular ~100mm prime,
- the macro is usually the sharpest at close focus distances (but not necessarily at infinity)
- the macro will be a bit longer to autofocus since the focus ring is long
- the macro is usually bigger and more expensive
Of course with the zoom you get a lot more flexibility, but at the cost of weight and size!

EDIT: I forgot the obvious: a macro prime will allow you to shoot 1:1 macro without any adapters and you will most likely never be limited by the close-focus ability in non-macro shots!
07-01-2012, 03:20 AM   #4
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Magnification
Image Quality
Flat-Field Optics

I have the 100mm WR and the 70-200mm Di, no comparison, the 100mm WR is superior for close-up/macro photography.

07-01-2012, 05:27 AM   #5
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I've used a telephoto/macro (Sigma 70-300) with good results for a few years along with a set of M42 extension tubes I use with my Taks. A dedicated macro is on my list of lenses to get. The Sigma has done a good job for close ups from my kayak while out on the water and will continue in that role. If you're interested in mostly macro shooting, I would go with the dedicated macro. The macro capability on many tele zooms is an added benefit to the telephoto but most of us bought our lenses mostly for the telephoto. For what it's worth, I think the relatively cheap Sigma 70-300 does a far better job as a macro than a tele zoom although stopped down, it's ok. Cheap extension tubes on a manual lens is a good budget solution for macro but a bit of a hassle to use sometimes.
07-01-2012, 05:45 AM   #6
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The Tamron 70-200mm you're looking at allows 1:3 magfication, vs. 1:1 for the macro primes. That means the subject will be three times larger at maximum magnification with the prime lens. That is a huge difference.

Sigma and Tamron abuse the term "macro" for marketing purposes. They call any lens that allows close focussing a macro lens. The most obvious example is the Tamron AF 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical [IF] Macro. Magnification is 1:3.5. The Pentax SMC DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF], , which is optically identical, is not labelled macro by Pentax.

None of the Tamron or Sigma zooms are true macro lenses. If the Pentax zooms were produced by Tamron or Sigma, most would be labelled macro because they allow 1:4, 1:3 or 1:2 magnification. If you're looking for a macro lens, you need a prime. If you're satisfied with close focus, there are more choices, but look at the actual magnification, don't just look for the misleading "macro" term.
07-01-2012, 05:57 AM   #7
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The DA18-55 kit lens actually focus very close as well at 55mm, i had the precies number but i believe it was in the 1:2,5<3 region.
07-01-2012, 05:58 AM   #8
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A macro prime will be much much sharper at close-up distance. If you don't do macro, get a good fast zoom. If you do, get a macro and double it as a general purpose lens.

07-01-2012, 08:01 AM   #9
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Precisely why I asked....

First of all - THANK YOU FOR THE RESPONSES! They are greatly appreciated.

I have heard the argument that a tele/macro isn't a true macro, but no one ever took the time to explain why. I do plan on doing a significant amount of macro, so the obvious choice will be the Prime.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the ad hype. When I saw the word "Macro" in the past, I guess I just assumed that the minimum focal length was conducive to macro photography... longer lens... Must be good right?? I never took the time to look any further than that or to try and wrap my head around the "Magnification" aspect of a lens and what that could bring to the table. I have shot with primes before, and I do consider the sharpness, contrast, and color the right prime can produce, to be all but essential in macro work.... so decision made.

My head was telling me to consider the alternatives before dropping that kind of cash on another lens, and I thank everyone who replied for confirming my original choice to go with the dedicated Macro lens. I should know better... what was that my father always used to quote? "Jack of all trades, Master of none." Suppose the same could be said of lenses.

.... anyone have a Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 125mm/f2.5 SL Macro laying around???
07-01-2012, 10:27 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tricktech Quote
.... anyone have a Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 125mm/f2.5 SL Macro laying around???
if only.... wished they put it in production again.
07-01-2012, 11:08 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Anvh Quote
if only.... wished they put it in production again.
Missed the bidding on one when I first got my K20D years ago - went for ~$412

...THOSE days are gone.

Has the market really pushed that lens to that level?! Or is this someone trying to gouge somebody?
07-01-2012, 11:17 AM   #12
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That one is quite high from what i've seen but 1,500+ is not that special anymore sadly.
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