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08-13-2009, 08:00 AM   #1
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Macro lenses -- AF or MF?

I tend to favor manual focus macro lenses, as the smaller detail I want to be mainly in focus usually requires my tweaking even if using an AF lens. MF macros are cheaper. Therefore, is AF really a necessity on Macro lenses? I don't think so.

08-13-2009, 08:03 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
I tend to favor manual focus macro lenses, as the smaller detail I want to be mainly in focus usually requires my tweaking even if using an AF lens. MF macros are cheaper. Therefore, is AF really a necessity on Macro lenses? I don't think so.
That's for macro though. Some also like to use their macro lenses for other work like portraits (including me).

It may not be useful to you but someone will always find a use for something. Plus, releasing a MF lens in this day and age would be extremely pointless. a lens made in 2009 would be inferior to even the F 100mm macro released however many years ago.
08-13-2009, 08:30 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by GLXLR Quote
That's for macro though. Some also like to use their macro lenses for other work like portraits (including me).

It may not be useful to you but someone will always find a use for something. Plus, releasing a MF lens in this day and age would be extremely pointless. a lens made in 2009 would be inferior to even the F 100mm macro released however many years ago.
Well, I don't mean for them to be manufactured anymore. I just meant you can get cheaper deals for a MF version, and if you're like me, using 28-50mm range macros, usually on a tripod with stationary subjects, AF is pointless. If you're using a 180mm macro and pretty far from your subject, the AF will definitely come in handy.

Also, some macro lenses aren't always tack sharp at normal distances, so using them for portraits, while getting two for the price of one, may be a little compromise on IQ over a non macro lens.
08-13-2009, 08:38 AM   #4
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Which dedicated macro lenses do you know that aren't sharp at non-macro distances?
A decent AF macro works quite well as a portrait lens, not just in sharpness but in bokeh, colour contrast etc.

One of my favourite lenses is the FA 100/2.8 macro, which is razor sharp at any distance and any aperture. This same lens does not have all the MTF numbers to reflect this esp. f/2.8-4, but real life results are stunning, and one such lens can be bought for <$500.

08-13-2009, 08:39 AM   #5
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I have both the D FA 50 and 100 macros. The 100 is much better for my use. I use the AF to get close and the MF to fine tune. I've also used the AF when shooting portraits with the 100. I've found that AF does get in the way for a lot of macro work but it's still nice to have. I don't think the would be any loss without it but it's nice to have. So if you can get a macro with the lenght you want, if you can get it cheaper with MF so be it. Basically I veiw AF as a helper but not essential in macro work.
08-13-2009, 08:47 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
Also, some macro lenses aren't always tack sharp at normal distances, so using them for portraits, while getting two for the price of one, may be a little compromise on IQ over a non macro lens.
That's an often-made claim, but I've never seen any images that demonstrate this being true in practice. Certainly not at portrait distances, anyhow - most macro lenses I've seen are *cruelly* sharp at that distance, to the point where many people accuse them of being "too sharp" for portraits.

Infinity focus might be a different story with some macro lenses, and on the surface it seems plausible that they might not be be quite as good there as a lens designed as a landscape lens first. But I'd still want to see images before leaping to any conclusions - my guess is that, for instance, the DA35 is better at infinity than all but the the sharpest 35mm lens Pentax has ever produced.
08-13-2009, 09:26 AM   #7
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I had both F's, the 100mm macro and the 50mm and my F 50mm f1.4 is noticeably sharper at shooting people 10-14 feet away. The big kicker was how my FA 85mm blew away the 100mm shooting people at portrait lengths. The sharpness wasn't even close in my slide tests I did back in the 90's. While the F 100 is great for macro, I quickly sold it as it wasn't going to cut it for the sharp portraits I wanted.

The FA, D-FA, and DA may have come along since the F series, but from my experience, normal focal lengths were noticeably better than macros at normal distances. I shot a ton of slides, where the difference is going to be more noticeable than prints.
08-13-2009, 09:50 AM   #8
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i have the tamron 90 f2.8. superb lens.
although for most macro shots, i switchto MF, not that the AF is bad, but it's easier to control in MF

08-13-2009, 11:34 AM   #9
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AF has its uses, especially if you use the lens for others things than macro. But even for macro, AF will sometimes be faster than MF. I think having the option to use both is the best.
08-13-2009, 11:54 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
I had both F's, the 100mm macro and the 50mm and my F 50mm f1.4 is noticeably sharper at shooting people 10-14 feet away.
That could be; I don't have experience with those particular lenses. The newer ones may have addressed whatever issues the F series had. But FWIW, Yoshihiko Takinami's resolution tests show the FA50/2.8 macro to be the sharpest of all the tested 50's, and that does pretty well match what most other people report. And these tests are done at portrait distances, more or less. Similar story when people have compared the FA or D-FA 100 macro against other 100's - the macro usually wins in sharpness by a pretty substantial margin. But it wouldn't surprise me that the FA*85 would be even better - it's a "*", after all, and all else equal, you'll get more sharpness from slightly closer at a slightly shorter focal length than conversely.
08-13-2009, 01:35 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by GLXLR Quote
Plus, releasing a MF lens in this day and age would be extremely pointless. a lens made in 2009 would be inferior to even the F 100mm macro released however many years ago.
I think you should e-mail Carl Zeiss and tell him to stop making lenses immediately

.
08-13-2009, 03:45 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-9 Quote
I had both F's, the 100mm macro and the 50mm and my F 50mm f1.4 is noticeably sharper at shooting people 10-14 feet away. The big kicker was how my FA 85mm blew away the 100mm shooting people at portrait lengths. The sharpness wasn't even close in my slide tests I did back in the 90's. While the F 100 is great for macro, I quickly sold it as it wasn't going to cut it for the sharp portraits I wanted.

The FA, D-FA, and DA may have come along since the F series, but from my experience, normal focal lengths were noticeably better than macros at normal distances. I shot a ton of slides, where the difference is going to be more noticeable than prints.
possibly. as far as my experiences with the FA 100, it is tack sharp at those distances that you've mentioned. maybe you got an inferiorcopy of the F 100 or possibly that the F 100 isn't that as sharp as it's successors are. though I believe that the AF come in handy, especially with constant movers.
08-13-2009, 05:38 PM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
But FWIW, Yoshihiko Takinami's resolution tests show the FA50/2.8 macro to be the sharpest of all the tested 50's
I concur, at least wide open. I have used the M50 f2, A50 f1,4, F50 f1,7, and FA50 f2,8 macro. At f2,8 the macro trumps anything else I have used, be it a 50 or a Vivitar series 1 70-210. Or anything else.

When closing down the aperture, it's impossible to distinguish the macro from the F50. The macro has a nicer bokeh, but not by much. Colours are pretty good in both cases, hard to pick a winner since I do not use them for the same purposes.

If I had to name the sharpest lens I own, it would be the 50 macro, because of the wide open performance. It's the only lens I feel 100% confortable using fully opened.
08-13-2009, 05:57 PM   #14
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AF macros might appear worse at distances because their focus rings need to move very little to shift the focus a lot. However, they are definitely very good; I have the FA50 Macro and have little desire to buy an F1.4.

MF options have somewhat better manual focusing and perhaps better build (however my lens has rolled on the concrete with no problems), but an AF macro might be cheaper if you save the cost of buying the FA50/1.4.
08-13-2009, 06:07 PM   #15
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AF with good MF action, two birds with one stone.

I love love love my Tamron 90mm/2.8. Sharp everywhere wide open.
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