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02-11-2011, 07:43 AM   #1
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Macro or not?

I've noticed that on my new K-x's 18-55 and 55-300 lenses, there is no "macro" designation. I'd never really thought about it on my old Pentax K1000's lenses, but they do have red "macro" indications, on both my Sigma 35-70 and my 70-210.

OTOH, I've seen some gorgeous closeup/macro shots done with the K-x kit lenses.

Can one of the oh-so-knowledgeable gurus here enlighten me about the difference in optics and performance between a "macro" lens and a non-macro-indicated lens?

Thanks,
hray

PS: just saw about a dozen vultures sunning themselves on a fence near home, so I quick nipped in, got the camera and took a bunch of shots. When I download and sort through I'll post them. I LOVE retirement!!

02-11-2011, 08:12 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I'm under the impression that a lens must be capable of at least 0.5x / 1:2 magnification (the image on the sensor is 50% of live size) to be considered a 'real macro'. Fixed focal length lenses seem to follow this rule as far as naming / marking goes, but with zoom lenses it is common to mark them 'macro' even well below this (say, x0.25 / 1:4). For a particular focal length the maximum magnification obtainable depends on the closest focus distance: 'real' fixed focal length macro lenses have what amounts to an extension tube integrated with the regular focus mechanism to achieve this. Hence, the cheap way to get high quality macro at the price of some convenience in use would be using extension tubes with a high quality lens: the <$10 El-Cheapo tube sets work fine as long as the lens used with them has an aperture ring; the cheap ones do not have the aperture coupling so body cannot control this, there are tubes with this, but they are pricey and hard to find. Another, more convenient way to use regular lenses for macro would be using an achromat such as the Raynox 150 or 250 (the 150 would seem to be especially nice with the 55-300 DA(L)).

Last edited by jolepp; 02-11-2011 at 09:02 AM. Reason: typo fix
02-11-2011, 08:24 AM   #3
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macro is a very loosely used term with respect to lenses.

many zooms use this term to describe the ability to close focus or any time the magnification ratio gets beyond 1:5

You are correct that "macro" really should only be used for 1:2 and above, but lens makers have always used the term loosely to describe close focus.
02-11-2011, 08:46 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by hray Quote
PS: just saw about a dozen vultures sunning themselves on a fence near home, so I quick nipped in, got the camera and took a bunch of shots. When I download and sort through I'll post them. I LOVE retirement!!
Oh how I wish I could be retired, I am so jealous! I always see what could be great shots when I am running late dropping my personal basketball team off at their various schools rushing to work! I have a feeling my bossman would look at me like I was nuts if I tried to tell him "Well I would have only been about 10 minutes late this morning but I saw this awesome shot on the side of the road that I just could NOT resist" Ah well one day... for now I will just keep snapping away at the kiddos, it's gotten to the point that even the babies turn and toddle the other direction when they see my camera bag come out!


Oh and I have nothing important to add about the macros, I just stopped in to see what the powers that be have to say about the subject, just a newbie myself

02-11-2011, 09:23 AM   #5
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A "true" macro lens is normally designed for a flat field of focus, rather than the curved field of focus as with most lenses.

As mentioned, the term "macro" is loosely used as a marketing term for relatively close-focusing with zooms. The 55-300, however, does not focus closely, and in fact has a fairly long minimum focusing distance (MFD).
02-11-2011, 10:06 AM   #6
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for information the DA (L or not) 18-55 gives a 1:3 ratio at 55mm, with a MFD of 30cm.
02-11-2011, 10:46 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
macro is a very loosely used term with respect to lenses.

many zooms use this term to describe the ability to close focus or any time the magnification ratio gets beyond 1:5

You are correct that "macro" really should only be used for 1:2 and above, but lens makers have always used the term loosely to describe close focus.
Bit of a nit to pick:
True macro is really defined a life size or greater magnification on the "film plane". 1:2 is not really "macro"...........
What is a real macro lens Canon EF 100mm f/2.8
02-11-2011, 11:28 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by jeffkrol Quote
Bit of a nit to pick:
True macro is really defined a life size or greater magnification on the "film plane". 1:2 is not really "macro"...........
What is a real macro lens Canon EF 100mm f/2.8
OK, go ahead, but with the exception of the Macro-Takumar 50mm, that gave 1:1, using a double helicodial extension, all subsequent moving group focusing macros pentax made were 1:2 without extension tubes.

it wasn;t until you got to internal focus that 1:1 came back.

That is because internal focused lenses are only at the stated focal length at infinity, and focusing is done by reducing the focal length of th elens without changing the placement of the front element.

many IF 100mm macros focus at 1:1 at a working distance of 100mm which implies a 50mm focal length, since 1:1 is when subject distance = 2x focal length

02-11-2011, 01:14 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
OK, go ahead, but with the exception of the Macro-Takumar 50mm, that gave 1:1, using a double helicodial extension, all subsequent moving group focusing macros pentax made were 1:2 without extension tubes.

it wasn;t until you got to internal focus that 1:1 came back.

That is because internal focused lenses are only at the stated focal length at infinity, and focusing is done by reducing the focal length of th elens without changing the placement of the front element.

many IF 100mm macros focus at 1:1 at a working distance of 100mm which implies a 50mm focal length, since 1:1 is when subject distance = 2x focal length
None of which has anything to do w/ "Macro" name.. marketing can call things anything it wants... Macro starts at 1:1 on the film plane......
Nikon has the, arguably, correctist () naming convention (Macro should probably correctly be applied to greater then 1:1).
A Macro Nikkor goes greater than 1:1..
Special Lenses For Nikon 'F' Mount
sorry "macro" is a pet peeve of mine.....
02-11-2011, 06:16 PM   #10
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I don't know if any standards committee has officially defined the parameters and differences amongst macrophotography, photomacrography, microphotography, photomicrography, other close-up shooting, and just general farting around. So the language remains loose. And that's just Anglish. WikiPedia doesn't help. Bother.

I check the bible of serious shooting, FIELD PHOTOGRAPHY by Alfred A. Blaker (still a steal at Amazon). In Chapter 10, Blaker refers to shooting LARGER than 1:1 as Photomacrography, and LESS than 1:1 as Closeup. He refers to macro-type lenses, including Macro-Takumars and Micro- (not Macro-) Nikkors. Without extension tubes, the old 55mm Micro-Nikkor only reached 1:2. So by some definitions, it's not Macro. Ha!

My hunch is that marketing geeks label lenses as Macro-Zooms because MACRO is shorter and uses less ink than CLOSE FOCUSING, a label Vivitar and some others have used with greater honesty.

So we're all free to call stuff whatever we want. We just run the risk of being misunderstood. It's like write-only computer code, impossible to read and understand. Well, here's my taxonomy: If near-focus is 30cm / 1 foot or less, it's closeup. If magnification reaches 1:2, it's macro. If magnification passes 10:1, it's micro. Or something like that. And macro zooms, aren't... except for my Schneider Betavaron 50-125mm enlarger zoom, but it needs to be put on extension.

Hey, that's pretty simple, eh?

As mentioned, lenses intended for macro work should have flatfield edge-to-edge sharpness. Macro and enlarger lenses are so designed. Commercial macro lenses are usually very sharp and usually rather-to-very expensive. Enlarger lenses are necessarily very sharp and often very inexpensive. I'm a cheap bastard, so I like cheap enlarger lenses on cheap tubes and bellows. With some careful shopping, a basic macro kit can be assembled for the price of a large pizza. Many other threads here deal with the how-to, so I won't repeat that now.

Holy macro!
02-11-2011, 06:33 PM   #11
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Thanks, everyone! Very interesting info; much appreciated.
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