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05-06-2013, 03:18 AM   #1
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Standard prime vs macro?

Hello all,

We all know that for the possibility for zoom lenses to zoom, they pay for it in terms of IQ, speed, price... In other words, zoom lenses will always have disadvantages over prime lenses.

Can the same be said between macro-prime-lenses and normal-prime-lenses? In other words, will it suffer in any way from the ability for a lens to focus close? IQ at a distance less? Not as fast? Significant gain in weight?

The only thing I can think of is that the manual focus should be more convenient in a macro-lens. You also may want to have a longer focus throw, which may result in slower AF. Any ideas?

05-06-2013, 03:56 AM   #2
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Comparing the DA 35 AL to the 35 Ltd, the former is much lighter and has far superior manual/auto focus (non-macro focus throw on the Ltd is pretty much non-existant, and the macro range means it hunts badly if it misses, thankfully that doesn't happen too much), but IQ wise the Ltd has more bite and clarity and the build is much better. IQ drops in the Ltd as you focus further away, but I wouldn't say it gets any worse than the DA 35 AL.
05-06-2013, 04:13 AM   #3
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To be a proper macro lens, a combination of features is sought after. Of the top of my head;

1) Focus close to the subject
2) High sharpness and contrast over the whole frame
3) Peak image quality at close distances.
3) Peak image quality at small apertures.


Naturally, focusing on these properties will induce constraints into the lens design. Satisfying (1) will require a larger and more stable barrel/focusing helicoid which increases weight. Not to mention that both MF and AF will either have to turn more or be less precise. Satisfying (2) probably requires more and heavier glass. (3) is a tradeoff in some designs. As for (4), I'm no expert on the subject, but it seems to me that slower lenses attain their peak IQ at higher F-stops than do fast lenses. Also, one of my macros (Elicar 90mm f/2.5) sacrifices bokeh quality for lowering diffraction by plalcing the aperture in a non-standard position. So yeah, all the potential drawbacks you mention exsist and more. But all lenses don't have all of them.

Last edited by topace; 05-06-2013 at 04:16 AM. Reason: Change dispersion to diffraction.
05-06-2013, 04:37 AM   #4
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Macros have a long throw meaning they take significantly longer to focus. Not much if a downside IMO, but a factor.

05-06-2013, 05:24 AM   #5
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from the lenses i ve tried, i ve seen macro lenses have creamy bokeh in macro range. but in normal focus range other primes are better. they also have long focus throw in macro range but not in normal use they are bigger, slower, and a burden to use compared to normal lenses. only macro lens i like using in normal situations was canon 100mm usm macro, and the reason was only its mechanical build which doesnt require lens to extend for closer focus
i tried pentax 100, 50 macro , pentax 77 ltd, 40 ltd and jupiter 85, pentax m 50 f1.7 . and i can say if u are not taking macro or close ups carrying a macro lens is not necessary for sharpness, bokeh or anything u can think of
ah and they are also so big u cant properly use with internal flash of camera '-.-
05-07-2013, 03:43 PM   #6
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I have settled on carrying a DA35/2.8 macro, FA50/2.8 macro and a F100/2.8 macro for those focal lengths. I find the macros to take very sharp regular shots from wide open. If I want to do portraits with shallow depth of field I have several good value manual 50s I can trot out.
12-30-2013, 03:18 AM   #7
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Wait, so a 50mm macro and a 50mm prime have no difference? The 50mm macro can just focus closer than the standard? that's it ?

What about the difference in their infinity focuses? no diff?
12-30-2013, 03:27 AM   #8
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They can both focus to infinity, but a macro lens will usually be optimised for close range and a flat field of focus, and maybe not as good at distance. But that's not a universal truth.

Main drawback with a macro lens is slow AF. Macro needs good manual focus which means a long focus throw. Which doesn't go well with AF.

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