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12-01-2012, 01:48 PM   #1
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Affordable Macro Lens

I have limited means, but I am able to save up for things I want. My collection of lenses ranges from 10-300 (DA 10-17, DAL 18-55, DAL 55-300 and two primes DA 35 2.4 and DA 50 1.8). What I don't have is anything with true macro capabilities (although I can get quite close with the fisheye). What would you recommend as an affordable macro that would allow me to capture insects? I'm not averse to used, but being in Canada means importing can be more expensive. I would prefer to stay away from manual as I'm not as confident with manual (yet).
Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

12-01-2012, 01:58 PM   #2
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Macro is usually a far more sedate process in my experience than non-macro and I find manual focus to be relatively easy. If you are willing to give it a try the M100 & M50 lenses are actually very solid performers. If cost is an issue you can buy a reverse mount adapter for an old M50/2 and have a total of around $30 or so invested in a fun macro setup for insects. On the AF front choices are more limited and more expensive. The cheapest "macro" is the F35-70 for around $50 usually. Its a nice little lens in its own right but does have a macro setting. It's nowhere near 1:1 but it is a fun lens to use and is AF.
SMC Pentax-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
12-01-2012, 02:00 PM   #3

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QuoteOriginally posted by bigted Quote
I would prefer to stay away from manual as I'm not as confident with manual (yet).
You may find you need to get used to manual when you work macro.
At least for focusing, and possibly aperture too,
especially if you use reversed lenses or non-automatic extensions..

Catch-in-focus often helps, though, with old, cheap, manual lenses.
12-01-2012, 02:04 PM   #4
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Get one of these:
SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2.8 Macro Reviews - A Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

It's auto-aperture, only manual focus, which you basically always use for macros anyway

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12-01-2012, 02:09 PM   #5
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If you have a 55-300 already, have a look at a Raynox
12-01-2012, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #6
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The definitive article on cheap macro:
12-01-2012, 03:57 PM   #7
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A 90-105 would fit into your existing primes, and extra focal length is better for bugs. I tried a few manual-aperture lenses (Pentax-M 50/4, Pentax-M 100/4, Vivitar 55/2.8, Panagor 90/2.8, Tamron Adaptall-2 90/2.5) and they are OK, a bit fussy but macro is kind of fussy anyway. I didn't like using an M42 macro because at typical shooting apertures, it's too dark to focus stopped down, so there's the extra step of opening and closing the aperture. I now have an older manual focus Sigma 50mm f2.8, 1:1 magnification and a KA mount, a pretty good lens that doesn't sell for a lot. I also have an AF version of the Tamron 90/2.5. The AF is not necessary for macro. You can get the same optics with a KA Adaptall-2 mount. The Tamron only does 1:2 magnification by itself but is fast enough to be fine with extension tubes.

The KA mount makes it easier to use flash which is nice for macro. Because you are frequently using a small aperture for depth of field, you may have to use a slow shutter speed, creating trouble with hand shake or wind. Flash helps a lot there, like this shot:
12-01-2012, 05:15 PM   #8
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I also recommend getting comfortable with your manual settings which will open yourself up to some fine legacy macros, extension tubes, and reversing rings. You could reverse your primes(if they have an aperture ring, I hope?)
I liked the Vivitar 90mm that I used to use for macros and it was under $100. Currently I gave a tamron SP EX 90/2.8 that doesn't work, so it is quite worthless. I don't recommend that one due to the fairly well documented aperture defect.

12-01-2012, 05:23 PM   #9
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I got my Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro really cheap and the prices are so low, at least here in Sweden, for that lens that it wouldn't even be worth to selling it. It works very well and if you can live with AF that is outrun by a snail it's good for a lot of stuff besides macro too.
12-01-2012, 07:52 PM   #10
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I'm in the learn manual camp too. I use a couple of different macro setups, both K mount and M42, and actually I don't use focus at all. I preset focus to infinity, on the pretense that infinity depth of field is greater than depth of field at 2 feet, then lean in or out to get good focus. I very rarely use any other focusing method for macros.

The rigs I'm using -

Lentar 135mm and extension tubes, I have 3 sets of M42 tubes, adding up to around 150mm total, I use any combination I want to tinker with. Downside is I have to open the aperture up to focus, it's too dark to see at f11 or f16, the usual settings for flash use. (Vivitar 285HV) Fortunately the Lentar has a dual aperture ring, one for a stop, one to actually adjust.

Pentax 50mm and binocular lens. Any of 5 or 6 nifty fifties, flash or no, works great.

Pentax 50mm and extension tubes. I use teleconverters that were useless as such, remove the lenses and you have extension tubes. Also recently got a combo 2x teleconverter and extension tube both K mount to add to it. The lens in the teleconverter might be yanked outta there later, need to try it out as a TC first. For now I'm leaving it alone, and have tried using it in conjunction with the two tubes, but so far not overly impressed with image quality.It might end up another extension tube...I also sometimes use a Makinon 135mm in K mount, haven't used it enough to form an opinion yet.

With all of these I mostly use the same focusing method. Get the subject into the frame, move closer or further away to get the focus, adjust aperture if necessary.

If you're going to get into macro, I strongly recommend getting comfortable with manual focus. The only auto focus lens I've tried was the kit lens, but I've seen many comments on here about it, almost without exception manual focus is recommended. As I said, I don't use the focus ring at all, I lean in or out. Seems to work quite nicely.
12-01-2012, 08:32 PM   #11
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If you want cheap with what you have raynox would work well with the dal 55-300 but remember working distance is shortened and in the case of insects it may not be as good.

If you dont mind manual then a pentax m or pentax a 100 macro would fit the bill. That will get you some distance away from the subject and good magnification.

As for auto focus and everything the tamron 90mm or sigma 105mm or pentax 100mm wr would work well these will cost you more then the other options

Lastly there is extension tubes. I find that they usually give you more working distance.

If you are really going to spend time doing macro but cant afford spending lots id go with the pentax m or pentax a macro lens itd run just under 200 depending on a or m. Raynox can give good results but you have to be very patient and careful
12-01-2012, 08:52 PM   #12

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At 1:1 you probably won't be using the ring much to focus or relying on the motor to autofocus and, instead, will simply be moving back and forth slightly (the entire camera).. that is all it takes.

I second (or third) the advice of going with a 90+ mm focal length.. esp if you are planning on photographing insects... you will want as much space as possible between you and them (since they can be skittish and you surely don't want to smush them in the process of photographing them!!)

Welcome to seeing another world within the world. :c )
12-01-2012, 09:58 PM   #13
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I have an M 100/4 macro and a 50mm extension tube that gets it to 1:1. I find I actually use the tube more on my M 400/5.6 to reduce the focus distance. First off, manual focus is the only way to go. With Pentax bodies, MF lenses will work just fine in Catch-in-Focus, where you set the focus distance and the subject triggers the shutter. This also works for those awkward flower shots where you cannot get any of your tripods, even the Benbo, to put the camera where it needs to be.

With the K and M lenses, use Manual Exposure as well. Just preset it. If you are chasing bugs in your garden, you will spend a considerable amount of time with the camera pointed at objects that are similarly if not identically lit. So, set your aperture to something necessary for macro. I start with f/11 and sometimes go to f/22, rarely to f/8. Point the camera, with your eye at the viewfinder so the sun doesn't upset the exposure through the eyepiece and press the green button to set the exposure - I think some cameras use the [+/1} to do this or the AE-L, but my K10 has a green button. This sets the shutter speed. Ignore the exposure from then on. All will be well, until you go to the other side of the flower when it is backlit.

Any Pentax macro lens (even the less appreciated 100/3.5) is as sharp as you need to get started. The 100 or so focal length as stated by MEE above is correct. That keeps you 20 cm to 30 cm from the bug.
12-01-2012, 10:38 PM   #14
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what is your definition of affordable anyway? $50 ? $200?

i suggest that you get a good macro and a good flash for you to get a good macro picture. i have used sigma 50mm macro, pentax 100mm f4 macro, sigma 105mm macro and now pentax fa 100mm 2.8 macro and hopefully im done buying macro lenses. it was a process of learning in using different macro lenses that i really recommend that even if you are on a budget, get either a sigma 105 or pentax fa 100mm macro. both of them are really worth the price.

some sample pictures

sigma 105mm

pentax fa 100mm

12-02-2012, 01:09 PM   #15
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For macro work, I have used a Sigma 90mm f2.8 (my review is there in the database; note that it uses the matched apochromatic adapter to get to 1:1), a Tamron SP AF 90mm F2.8 Di Macro, and a Pentax A 50mm 1.7 with tubes. Results are pretty similar, but the Tamron is certainly the easiest to use. You don't have to get as close to the subject with the 90mms, and that makes it easier to use as well.
In all cases, I've found it very handy to use a ring light/flash, but the light is easier to use.

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