Macro lens sharpness - a test of 3 macro lenses

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Overread, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yep I finally redid the test!
    This time using an angled setup so that even if the focus was off (the floorboards they move!) the shot would still be able to show the full area in focus for detailed comparison.

    This is a test done between the Canon MPE65mm macro, Sigma 150mm macro and the Sigma 70mm macro. Results from the test can be found here:
    Triple Macro lens test - a set on Flickr

    Thoughts on the results:
    Sigma 150mm macro: wide open at f2.8 is clearly not it sharpest, but that is common for many lenses; stopped down to f4 and things make a dramatic improvement. From f4 through to f8 things appear quite solid, then there is a slight degradation around f10, but the real drop starts to occur at f13 where things take a far more noticeable dip in overall sharpness.

    Sigma 70mm macro: starting to understand where this lens gets its title as one of sigma's sharpest, even wide open at f2.8 it gives impressive results. Stopped down to f4 and things become even sharper still. Rather like the 150mm from f4 through to f10 the performance is very similar, however between f10 and f13 there is again a noticeable drop in overall performance of the lens sharpness.

    Canon 65mm macro: wide open at f2.8 we start to see why this lens is a pure macro only, sharpness at this aperture is far ahead of the other two and would be more comparable to their performances when stopped down to around f4. Again we see the same pattern as with the other glass, prime optimal performance before f10, slight degradation at f10 followed by a little more loss at f13.

    Overall views:
    f2.8 - wide open - the 65mm is clearly standing out as the strongest here and is far ahead of the other regular macro lenses.

    f4-f10 - quite similar overall performance from each of the lenses in this range. Peek optimal performance, followed by a slight dip at f10. f10 performance overall seems quite stable, though the 70mm appears a little sharper, though the flash angle and contrast increase as a result might be affecting this result.

    f13 - The 70mm and 65mm appear to be leading the way at this setting, with the 150mm dropping a little behind (though again I repeat that contrast differences might be giving a slight bias toward the 70mm over the 150mm in this respect).


    Overall - the MPE65mm is clearly standing up as the best overall macro performer, from wide open through to even closed down to f13. It really goes to show the level of performance that can come from a purely macro dedicated lens, I just wish (again) that it could get down to 1:2 macro it would then be an easy lens to sit with all day for a day spent doing macro work.
    Coming next the Sigma 70mm is earning its name as one of sigma's best performers and just manages to beat the 150mm optically speaking when at the more extreme ends of its aperture range. In the middle areas performance is very similar.
    And finally the 150mm - the longest focal range by more than double that of the other two, but whilst its not standing quite as high its performance, even down to f13 is still very impressive and certainly usable.

    I remind readers that this test is done with no sharpening applied to any of the shots so this is a pure test of the lenses performance rather than showing any differences in sharpening amounts. Further there might be some bias toward the 70mm in the latter test areas because of the angle/power of the flash and the slight contrast increase these shots appear to have over those produced from the 150mm.
     
  2. TJ K

    TJ K No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nice write up. I got to get myself a macro sometime when I have extra cash for that. Seems like it would be something really fun, I might rent one soon just to play around :D
    TJ
     
  3. pbelarge

    pbelarge TPF Noob!

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    Overread
    I really enjoyed the small comparison article. I went to your flickr and have a request.

    Is it possible to have the comparison of the different f/stops to come up one after the other, so as to examine them closely?

    Thanks
     
  4. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    i've heard that the sigma 70mm is just unreal on FF, a totally flat field, and almost as sharp in the corners as it is in the center.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    TJ K macro is certainly loads of fun - but if you rent make sure you have a tripod (at least)and some flash lighting setup since good lighting makes such a difference. Tripods and long exposures work well if you can setup for the shot otherwise its reflectors and flash time

    pbelarge - flickr does have a showreel option, but it only shows resized versions not fullsize - and having just looked through you really can't use it to compare. I did it myself by opening up tabs for each shot in my browser and viewing them to compare. You could save the images to your computer and view them that way (though make sure they have fully loaded before you start - often fullsized images can take a while to load the full res version - which leaves you looking at blurred slightly loaded ones)

    Sw1tchFX - when I got the 70mm I was a little aprehensive, I had an idea and a use for it but honestly didn't think I would come to use it quite as much as I do. Its not just its sharpness, but the fact that its so light and short makes it good for onehanded macro shooting (one hand on the camera the other on the flash). It's af is about the only real downside to the lens and to be honest I find I hardly use that so its no limitation
     
  6. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the detailed test! I do wish you were able to compare the Canon 100mm with these just to get an idea. Are you able to handhold the MPE65? I find it very dificult to use a tripod with insects in the woods but would love to have the greater magnification.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Honestly I would expect the 100mm canon to perform very similar to the two sigma lenses with the new 100mm L IS only showing better performance when the IS is engaged for handheld work (and even then at 1/200sec with flash you would probably not notice - now shooting handheld with more ambient light dominance and you would start to see the IS kicking in and making a noticable difference).

    As for the MPE65mm the key to handholding this lens is your lighting setup. Don't kid youself if you are after bugs with this lens you are going to be needing flash (or a 5DM2 and a lot of ISO). I'm currently using this slightly half way between handheld and tripod mounted - handheld is far easier to shoot with I find, but myflash is currently not an ideal setup and thus holds me back. I't can't work from the hotshoe as the MPE extends far to far - so its got to be off camera flash or on a bracket - still kind of working on an ideal solution for this.
    The perfect lighting is the twinflash from canon - very expensive (overpriced if you ask me its only just cheaper than two 580EX2 in UK pricing.....) but very much worth getting for letting you have the flash in a good postion and being light enough to use handheld.

    It takes practice but its certainly possible
     
  8. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yah I'm only really tripod using at the moment because I want to try stacking shots with it a bit more and also because you can't shoot it one handed (with one hand holding the flash) which means most of my handheld work has to occur at ground level with rather limited flash angles
    eg:
    [​IMG]
    As you can see flash light very much coming from the left side only
     
  10. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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    I have been thinking about making a v bracket that attaches to the bottom of the camera and will hold 2 flashes (your choice of flash) one on each side using wireless transmitters. But Im worried about weight and portability. For the most part my 430EXII works well but would like a little more flash power. Even on a bright sunny day I sometimes have a hard time getting enough light and maintaining a hand holdable shutter speed. I couldn't imagine trying to hold the flash with one hand and camera with other. But I guess thats what makes macro so mush fun is the challange of getting everthing just perfect for the shot.
     
  11. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ahh you've seen Bucksters macro flash holder - I am of the mind that (for myself at least) its far to heavy a setup (esp as all the weight is out front) for handheld macro use. Certainly brings a lot of power to the fore and combined with a few laser triggers would be a fantastic starting point for a mobile insect in flight setup!

    However your 430EX should have more than enough power for macro and if you can bring it a little closer to the subect (or using a diffuser/snoot setup bring that closer) you need even less light. With a snoot on the popup flash of most cameras you can get enough light for 1:1 macro
     
  12. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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    Actually I have not seen Bucksteers macro flash holder. Is there pictures I can see? Sometimes in the shade and evenings at 1:1 and F8-f13 the shudder speed drops quite low. I try to stay above 1/100th to reduce camera shake. I probally should look into a snoot and/or raise the flash power.
     

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