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10-19-2009, 03:10 AM   #1
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Fast, Good Macro Lens?

Hi,

I'm keen on adding a good Macro to my collection.
I've just spent a fair bit of time reading through here and I'm struggling to see a consensus of opinion.
Ideally I want a fairly fast lens as I would like to take pictures of things that don't hang around for very long (butterflies, ants, etc...) although I would still want to do tripod shots.
If money was no object then what would be the current pick of the crop?
I'm also hoping to upgrade from my K10D to a K7 in the next few weeks as well...
No, I'm not made of money but I'm selling guitars to finance this...how things change!!

Thanks,
Mark

10-19-2009, 03:45 AM   #2
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First of all: Welcome to our community.

Then for your questions:

1. there is no consencus as to which ist he best macro lens - simply because almost all macro lenses perform to a very high quality level. So the choice of the "best" lens is highly individual and takes other properties into account, not only the optical performance. These other properties could be: price, size and weight, built-quality and brand-awareness, for instance

2. for moving objects, like insects I would always prefer a longer focal length macro lens, because with a 50mm or 35mm lens, you would be so near to the insects, that they try to getaway immediately. So at least 100mm, better something between 150mm and 200mm, would be my(!) choice

3. for many of these insects, you would not need a life-size magnification. Take for instance butterflies or dragonflies. If these are your targets, you could also consider something like a normal 200 telephoto with added extension tube or a good achromatic macro lens. I personally use a Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 180mm for this and the Pentax 200mm Macro would be a dream - but both are hard to get these days and are expensive (especially the Pentax).

4. fast lenses. You do not really need fast macro lenses. The problem is simply: at these macro or close-up distances, the depth of field is so thin, that you need to step down anyway to get your subjects sharp. So a max. Aperture of 2.8 or 4 (depending on focal length) is the standard for a good reason.


Ben
10-19-2009, 03:54 AM   #3
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Thanks for the great reply Ben, lot's of useful information and suggestions there.

Mark
10-19-2009, 04:07 AM   #4
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There seems to be consensus that the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di , Pentax FA 100mm F2.8 and Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG are all very good.

10-19-2009, 04:13 AM   #5
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I think I've narrowed it down to a choice between the Tamron 90mm and the Pentax 100mm. Nearly £200 difference in price though...I don't mind paying the extra if the Pentax really does have the edge...reading lots of reviews at the moment.
Found some less than flattering reviews of the Sigma so I've discounted that one (for now).

Mark
10-19-2009, 04:16 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mark Morb Quote
Hi,

I'm keen on adding a good Macro to my collection.
I've just spent a fair bit of time reading through here and I'm struggling to see a consensus of opinion.
Ideally I want a fairly fast lens as I would like to take pictures of things that don't hang around for very long (butterflies, ants, etc...) although I would still want to do tripod shots.
If money was no object then what would be the current pick of the crop?
I'm also hoping to upgrade from my K10D to a K7 in the next few weeks as well...
No, I'm not made of money but I'm selling guitars to finance this...how things change!!

Thanks,
Mark
Hi Mark

I own three macro lenses (used to be 4 but gave my Sigma 105 to my brother-in-law for his birthday) I have the Pentax A 50mm F2.8 macro, the Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro and the Sigma 180 F3.5 macro.

For your first foray into true macro photography, I'd recommend a 'mid range' macro, something in the 90-105mm range. Generally speaking a lens in this range is still small enough to hand hold while usually giving you enough distance so that you don't scare your subjects away.
There are three highly regarded lenses in this range, the Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro, the Pentax DFA 100mm F2.8 macro and the Sigma 105mm F2.8 macro.
I own the Tamron and love it. It has two features I find especially useful in macro photography, 1) a focus limiter switch, which allows you to narrow the focus range down, very useful when switching from macro mode where you need limited range to 'normal' photography where you would want the full range.
2) a MF/AF clutch: Most macro photographers use MF, the depth of field is simply too narrow to use AF, part of the art of Macro photography is what is left OOF as compared to what is in focus. A MF/AF clutch lets you quickly switch between the two. The Sigma I owned also had these features but I like the ergonomics and color rendition of the Tamron a tiny bit more, tho to be absolutely truthful a mouse could starve on the difference between these two lenses.
I bought the Sigma 180mm for insect photography, but I've found it to be too big to hand hold. Decent results can be had with a monopod, but to be truthful this beast really needs a tripod to get the best from it. For that reason, I will probably be selling it sometime this winter.
The pentax A 50mm macro is a great lens, and very good for product shots and flowers and the like, but you have to get really close to your subject, and most insects will bolt before you can get close enough.

I have to also say that both the Pentax A and the Tamron 90 make excellent "normal" primes. The Tamron is especially versitile, being a very good torso portrait lens and an excellent short tele. I've found the Sigma 180 to be an OK performer as a normal lens, but nothing to write home to mom about.

NaCl(hope that helps)H2O
10-19-2009, 04:22 AM   #7
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Sigma 105mm EX.
I'd be suprised to see a negative review of the Sigma from a credible source. Great rendering/sharpness, better build than the Pentax, better focus than the Tamron and longer.
Ive owned the Tamron.
10-19-2009, 04:33 AM   #8
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Thanks again for the very helpful posts...I'm learning a lot just by reading this thread.
The very first review I read of the Sigma (on digitalpicture.com) was not great, the focus seems to be the main issue (it's apparently slow) although as NaClH2O points out I would in all likelihood be using MF a lot anyway. There doesn't seem to be a lot in it between all three..
There does seem to be a lot of love for the Tamron in nearly all quarters though...
The Sigma sits in the middle price wise....
I have been so impressed with the two FA Pentax lenses I own (77mm and 31mm) that I was leaning towards the Pentax 100mm..but if there really is very little between these lenses then I might as well save my money and go for the Tamron or Sigma..maybe...I hate/love buying new things for this exact reason...

10-19-2009, 04:40 AM   #9
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How could there be a discussion about great macro lenses without mentioning the Kiron 105mm - also sold as Vivitar Series 1 and Lester A Dine.

Superb lens!

PentaxForums.com Third-Party Pentax Lens Review Database - 105mm f2.5 Macro

They don't come up for sale all that often, but when they do, they're worth every cent of the US$400-500 they go for (even better if you can snap them up for a bargain!)
10-19-2009, 04:50 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bonovox Quote
How could there be a discussion about great macro lenses without mentioning the Kiron 105mm - also sold as Vivitar Series 1 and Lester A Dine.
Superb lens!
PentaxForums.com Third-Party Pentax Lens Review Database - 105mm f2.5 Macro
They don't come up for sale all that often, but when they do, they're worth every cent of the US$400-500 they go for (even better if you can snap them up for a bargain!)
Certainly looks like a contender...cannot find one anywhere for sale though under any of it's pseudonyms!
10-19-2009, 04:57 AM   #11
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I have a Tamron 90MM macro. It is from just before they started with the digital coatings. It is sharper than my DA*300.
10-19-2009, 05:02 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mark Morb Quote
Certainly looks like a contender...cannot find one anywhere for sale though under any of it's pseudonyms!
Patience grasshopper!

The last one in the marketplace was only last month, and they do pop up on ebay too. I would think there is a good chance you would be able to find one within a month if you posted a "wanted" on this forum and also searched ebay every week for all 3 names.

I personally think it's worth it, but the easier to come by alternatives are also very good.
10-19-2009, 05:34 AM   #13
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I have had the Tamron 90mm (before I switched to Nikon/Oly for a while).. I have it on my list to buy again now I am back with Pentax, far too good value.

I have also owned a few other macros including the Voigtlander 125mm, Sigma 150mm, Sigma 50mm, Nikon 105mm VR and Olympus 50mm... The Tamron has no problems at all to justify its lower price, it is just great value in my opinion.
10-19-2009, 07:50 AM   #14
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I think any macro will make you happy. I have the Sigma 180mm. It is a beast, but it is AWESOME. For macro, a tri-pod is recommended, but for regular shots it is perfectly hand holdable. I shot a 2 bike races with it and I had no problems getting sharp results.

I had a Sigma 105mm no-DG version and it seemed very nice, but I returned it because I meant to order the DG version. Oops...
10-19-2009, 10:26 AM   #15
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An often overlooked aspect of macro lenses is that the difficulty in hand-holding increases with the focal length...a rule similar to the 1/f rule still holds (f is replaced by f*(1+m).

A good compromise is around 90 mm for me.

While that 50mm is easier to hand hold, bugs fly away and it is more difficult to compose the shot avoiding distracting background clutter. Here's an example of what I mean... (same background both photos):


Dave in Iowa
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