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02-12-2016, 11:39 AM   #1
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Help chosing starter macro zoom


I am very much a beginner, but wanted to get a zoom that is longer than my (kit lens) DA 50-200 and add macro capability.

There are two reasonably priced options available locally (both around the 80 mark) and both come reasonably well out of the reviews on this forum, but has anyone done a side by side comparison, or even just used both?

They are:

Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO DG Macro (reviews say sharp at 200, but not beyond)

Tamron 70-300mm F4-5.6 AF Di LD Macro (sharper at 300, but purple fringing)

Both have comments about the fiddly nature of the macro.

Anyone have any preferences / comments?

Any other suggestions in terms of a budget macro zoom for my K100D?


02-12-2016, 11:50 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Just FYI but those macro zooms really are not macro lenses. More closer focusing. That works, just do not expect true macro magnification.
02-12-2016, 12:21 PM - 1 Like   #3

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As above. Good macro lenses tend to be primes, and tend to be in the 35 to 100mm range. Macro zooms usually mean that instead of the minimum focussing distance being 1m away, it's only 70cm away (slight exaggeration, but not enough to be untrue)

If it's a macro lens you want, then look for a 50mm f2.8 lens (sigma/Pentax/whatever). It will most likely be 50% more than your budget, but it would be worth the expense in the long run.

If you want a longer zoom reach, then the da55-300 is hard to beat (but will only offer 50% more zoom at the top end). A macro zoom just ends up being a bit of a compromise (the Pentax F35-70 macro zoom is cheap and cheerful, and not too shabby)
02-12-2016, 12:33 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Robin CB Quote
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO DG Macro (reviews say sharp at 200, but not beyond)
This is 1:2 "macro" at the longest focal length. Not a bad budget lens, though mine suffered an aperture-blade death between the last shot with it and when I went to sell it...

02-12-2016, 12:37 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Macro is somewhat fiddly no matter what. When you are really close up to something, the depth of field (amount of the photo that's in perfect focus) is only millimeters wide. If the camera moves a couple of mm, your shot is not good. Focusing and keeping the camera still are important. Both these zooms are very large/long at their macro settings, so they are harder to handle than a dedicated macro lens.

The lenses are OK in a pinch and cheap for a lens. A lot of people will suggest getting two lenses instead: a version of the DA 55-300mm because it's better at the 300mm stuff, and a dedicated macro lens for the closeup stuff. You can save a lot by getting a used DA-L 55-300mm and a used manual focus macro, maybe a 1:2 macro (same magnification as the zooms) instead of 1:1. The dedicated macro lenses will give you much more detail than the zooms would. But once you start adding features like autofocus or 1:1 magnification, they can cost a lot.
02-12-2016, 01:00 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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I think you'll be disappointed in those zooms. I'd get one of the DA55-300's (any version), and add a Raynox macro adapter to your 50-200. The Raynox delivers some amazing results and is not too expensive. Check out the Raynox Club here in the Forums.
02-12-2016, 01:17 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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I took some images this morning with my Sigma 70-300 on a K20D, and that was my travelling kit for years. I still use the 70-300 for mushrooms occasionally. And for insects, the macro from 7 feet away may sound like a bad thing, but in many situations, it's a good thing.

I don't use it much anymore, the DA* 60-250 with the 1.4 TC and Sigma 70 macro has for the most part replaced it, but, if it is what you can afford all these images are much better than no images, while you wait for something better.

See the slide show here.

Last edited by normhead; 02-12-2016 at 01:24 PM.
02-12-2016, 01:19 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I have the Tamron 70-300 LD DI Macro.

At 300mm, it's a 1:2 close focus lens, and it's not very good. I've never taken a shot at that focal length, that I was happy with.

I found out that at 180mm it's good. You can even tell in the viewfinder that pictures are much sharper and contrastier than at 300mm. Then it quickly loses definition, and I wouldn't use it at the closest focus at over 200mm. At infinity I can go a bit more, probably 250mm, before the IQ getting bad, and even 300mm at f8 can be used, as it's not great but not terrible.

At 180mm it will give you, by my calculations, about 1:3.3 magnification. Not macro, just close focus. The kit lens (Pentax 18-55mm) performs similarly - at 55mm and closest focus it's about 1:2.9, but the images are just not great. They're quite a bit better at 45mm, but then you're also at around the same magnification as the Tamron at 180mm. So if you have a kit lens, you might use that as well, and know how much magnification it will give you.

So here is the Tamron 70-300 at 180mm, closest focus distance...

I haven't used the Sigma so I don't know how it performs.

02-12-2016, 01:27 PM   #9
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Have done that for years with really good results, but looking at the D FA 100 F2.8 WR Macro for $342.82 really good buy! Great images Norm!
02-12-2016, 01:41 PM - 1 Like   #10

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What the others seems to be missing somewhat, is that while the 70-300 zooms are not that good at 300mm, the DA 50-200 performs similarly badly at 200, so you're gaining reach anyway.
The pseudo-macro ability is a good starting point until you can afford (and are prepared to bother with) a proper macro setup.
See Norm's point about being very far away at "macro" ranges? (see his excellent pictures as well ) Using a 50mm macro as someone recommended above you'd need to be mere centimeters from the thing you are photographing.
02-12-2016, 01:42 PM   #11
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Many thanks for all the feedback so far.

I must admit, that I hadn't understood the distinction between macro and close focus. Life us a learning curve.

@Normhead - terrific photos. If I could produce them with the Sigma, or any lens, I would be very happy.

@ChristianRock - very helpful comments re the Tamron - and stunning shot.

QuoteOriginally posted by paulh Quote
I think you'll be disappointed in those zooms. I'd get one of the DA55-300's (any version), and add a Raynox macro adapter to your 50-200. The Raynox delivers some amazing results and is not too expensive. Check out the Raynox Club here in the Forums.
This is something I wasn't aware of, so will have a look. Hopefully there is a UK supplier.

02-12-2016, 02:46 PM - 2 Likes   #12
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I find this B+H tutorial very helpful.

02-12-2016, 04:48 PM - 1 Like   #13
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I was about to write how those two zooms are not very great, but then I saw the photos. They reminded me that macro requires a lot of skill, first and foremost. You need to know about light, DoF, minimum focus distance, use tripod and triggers, and so on.
While I would heartily recommend you get something like an older 100mm macro (like this or this), I guess you can have fun with those 70-300mm and build skills with them.
Just one thing - get your 50-200, zoom to 200mm, select MF on camera, and twist the focus ring away from infinity, all the way to nearest possible focus. This gives you 0,24x magnification, which is already approaching macro range. Those 70-300 will give you a little more, but not as much more as macro primes.
02-12-2016, 04:54 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Robin CB Quote
@Normhead - terrific photos. If I could produce them with the Sigma, or any lens, I would be very happy.
Between Sigma and Tamron I vote for Sigma. I have two copies, one old Apo Macro (around $40 plus shipping on ebay) was my joy, but AF died. I bought another copy, DG, and still have it, but now use mostly DA*300. I tried Tamron, but opted it out for Sigma, and sold Tamron (compare to Sigma fringing was too much to edit). I also tried Raynox 250 with Sigma, it's fun, but a pain at the same time if hand held.

My Sigma is sharp, I'd say, to 250mm, and still not bad at 300mm in good light. It also will depend on your focusing skills with long zoom. You can get used copy under $100.
Here is my old album
02-13-2016, 11:02 AM   #15
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More excellent feedback - than you.

It is looking like the Sigma gets the vote, however before I plunge in I am going to have a look at the pre-owned manual 100 and also at the Raynox - which seems an interesting and (reasonably) affordable option. Diopters may be the poor relation (see below), but the Raynox looks to produce as good a result as I am likely to at the moment.

@MicroMacro - superb. Shots like this highlight the fact that (in my case) the limitation is my skill, not the kit.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bruce Clark Quote
I find this B+H tutorial very helpful.
Thanks Bruce - really helpful. I am about a third of the way in and will finish it tonight.

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