My introduction/question

N E Williams

TPF Noob!
Sep 17, 2010
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South Gloucestershire, England
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Hi, my name is Nathan and I'm 26 years old from Bristol, England and I have just joined up here and it's the first and will probably be the only photography forum I'll be on. I am pretty much a beginner in photography, I have had a Nikon D3000 for a short while now but already want to make this hobby quite serious as I plan to buy a macro lens at some point. I need some guidance to which will be the best for me, I have seen a few which I think are good but not 100% sure what one will do the job I want it too. I am interested in taking pictures of insects, very close up so that you can see a dragonfly's eye for example or if I had to show a picture of the kind of thing I want to achieve it would be some where along the lines of this:

Fly Head | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
What you are looking at is an extreme macro. The best lens in the Canon line is the MPE 65 and I'm not sure what the Nikon equivalent is. You might consider a more versitile macro with extension tubes so you can use it for things other than macro. I would get something in the 150-180mm range (Sigma makes an excellent one) so you don't have to breathe down your bug's neck to get a good image.

As much as the lens, you are going to want good lighting such as a ringlight or twin-light for extreme macro such as that.

You may also need to learn something about photo stacking to get the DOF you want.

Did you see LordV's description of his gear for that shot?

By the way -- welcome to TPF!
Wow, that's quite a long description of what he uses. Thanks for the link though. Okay I think I should ask my question again because I'm still confused to what lens to get, I looked at the Sigma 150mm on a camera website and it seems quite expensive, too expensive for me anyway. Something I just want to know is if I get a macro lens that is 1:1 is that better than a 1:2?
Also will any macro 1:1 lens get me good close up insect shots? Sorry if I'm not making myself clear but I am quite the newbie and don't want to buy a lens and find out it doesn't do me the job I want. I found a lens on a website earlier and just wondering if I bought this, plus extention tubes, as you mentioned helps will I be able to get good results for what I want?

Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX DG Macro Lens - Nikon Fit (257944) - Warehouse Express
First off welcome to TPF - glad to know I'm not the only nightowl in the uk! ;)

As for your intents first off I will say that if you are looking at getting a macro lens you will find it hard to go wrong with choosing one. The true macro lenses on the market are all very sharp and whilst there is some variation between them, optically speaking its marginal - what does vary is the focal lengths and the features of the lens itself as well as the price of the unit.

Currently on the market you've got the following to choose from:
Nikon 60mm macro
Tokina 60mm macro (crop sensor only)
Sigma 70mm macro
Nikon 85mm macro (pretty sure its 85mm)
Tamron 90 mm macro (often the shortest focal length macro lens recomended if you have an interest in insects)
Nikon 105mm macro VR (the only macro lens for nikon camera bodies that has image stabalizeation build into the lens)
Sigma 105mm macro
Tokina 100mm macro
Sigma 150mm macro
Sigma 180mm macro (discontinued now but some stock/second hand copies might be around)
Nikon 200mm macro (I think this is still on the market)

Do some reading about the prices and features of those lenses and see which ones fit into your budget and ideas the best. My recomendation is to ensure that you get a macro lens that will take teleconverters (The sigma 150mm, 180mm and 70mm will take sigma teleconverters (yes they do fit the 70mm even though its not listed as being able to take them)) I am unsure of the nikons and if they will take nikon (or sigma) teleconverters.

Other things to consider:
Working distance - this is the distance from the front of the lens itself to the subject when at the closest possible focusing distance. Longer focal length lenses will have more working distance whilst those that internally focus (eg sigma 150mm and 180mm) will often have more still over those lenses that have external focusing (the lens barrel extends as you focus).
Having a longer distance between subject and lens helps as with insects it reduces the chances of the insect being spooked and fleeing. Furthermore with increased focal length you also get increased blurring of the background areas of a shot.

All of those lenses above will also achieve the exact same image frame when focused to their closest focusing point, regardless of their focal length. So at the closest point the 60mm and 200mm will give you the exactly the same framing of the shot. This is because macro (true macro) is defined by a ratio of
1:1 which is "size of the subject as reflected on the sensor" : "size of the subject in real life"

As an idea the above shot you link of a fly is somewhere between 3:1 and 4:1 I would guess, and most likely is a 4:1 shot.

Now of course you're going to ask how you get to those higher magnifications if all the macro lenses on the market for Nikon only go as far as 1:1. First of the Canon MPE 65mm is a lens capable of going between 1:1 and 5:1 magnifications - however it is a lens unique to canon alone (its pretty much the only thing canon can do that nikon can't from their basic lens range). However don't dispare as you don't have to rush out to get a Canon to get these high levels of magnifiaction.

In fact there are a great many methods you can use to achieve this result and as a first resource I recomend you have a look at and read through John Hallmens flickr page - he does a lot of highmagnification work without using the MPE lens and he often puts up good detailed explinations of his various setups
Flickr: johnhallmen's Photostream

Infact he has even shown that the MPE is not always the sharpest method for high magnification
My thoughts on MP-E 65mm | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

So what about some methods - well you can enhance the magnification of a basic macro lens with a few methods:
Extension tubes - generally for 100mm or under these give the best results since the magnification you gain with them decreases as you increase the focal length of the lens you are using them with.

Diopters (incorrectly, though often called, macro filters) These work in a similar manner to extension tubes, but are a lens element attached to the front of the lens. Raynox make a very good series of these diopters (proof of this is in the article linked above) as do canon (called the 500D)- I would strongly avoid the cheap 3 in 1 sets on ebay as many of these are made with lowgrade glass and will degrade your image quality.
Each diopter has a power rating and the higher the power the more it will magnify your image. Also as extension tubes give more magnification with shorter focal length lenses; diopters work the other way and give more magnification on longer focal length lenses.

Teleconverters - magnify the image by their magnifiaction factor - so a 1.4 gives a 1.4:1 and a 2* gives 2:1.

Myself I use a 1.4 teleconverter on both my macro lenses almost all the time since the magnification gain is noticeable, but it has hardly any effect on image quality and ease of shooting.
When looking to do more in the past I have had good results with a Raynox DCR 250 (an 8 power diopter), a 1.4 teleconverter and my 150mm macro lens in getting a shot like this:

Note that you might notice that the depth of my shot looks less than the shot you link to and this is the result of 2 factors.
1) is the angle of shooting - its key to learn to maximise the little depth we have to work with so that it best covers the area of the insect we are taking a shot of.
2) is focus stacking (a method LordV uses a lot to very good effect) which lets you stack shots ontop of each other to give a deeper depth of field without having to use smaller apertures (which after a set point will start to soften your shots through diffraction).

The result is that no matter the route you take with current technology you will lose depth of field as you boost the magnification. I've never seen any data that states if you get any bonus with one method over another, but I suspect that if there is any difference its highly marginal and not going to make any difference outside of a controlled studio test situation.
Oh damn, Overread has already put his 2¢ in. And it's worth every penny. However, he shoots Canon, whereas you shoot Nikon.

I digress. Read what Overread posted. I'm pissed and can't make these keey work proberly
hehe thanks kundalini!
Just hope I haven't scared him off with the long mountain of words - I didn't intend it to be that long - it just sorta came out that long!
Sorry for asking so many questions, Overread your reply was greatly appreciated but I am a bit slow and still am slightly confused, I was looking at some lenses and you said that if I want to improve the magnification I can use extension tubes and they work with macro lenses under 100mm so I narrowed it down to two lenses which I am to go for, I need your opinion please :biggrin: either the Nikon 60mm f2.8 G AF-S ED Micro Lens OR Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro Lens? Also I was on a Yahoo Answers page and someone else posted a question similar to mine and someone recommended that if they can't afford a macro lens first they should buy Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Nikon AF Mount, are these the extension tubes I need for my camera?

Also what teleconverter lens would you recommend for the Sigma 70mm? I have been thinking about what to buy for my camera for hours now, haha. I am thinking of taking a loan out so I can afford a few things.
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I think you might need a Nikon shooter in to give more info on the nikon 60mm, I just don't know enough about its features and compatibilities to compare it to the Sigma 70mm.

Extension tube wise the Kenko tubes you mention are the kind you want; nikon ones are overpriced and the kenko are well built and retain electrical contact between lens and camera - important so that you retain AF, aperture and other controls over the lens. And remember they will work on any lens, but its my impression that under 100mm ones are better as you get a more meaningful increase of magnification.

If you go for the sigma 70mm macro I would strongly recommend a Sigma 1.4 teleconverter, the are good quality (optically speaking they are equal to cannon's TC performance so should match up to Nikon just as well) and mine is pretty much always on my macro lenses. The 2*TC I use far less often and I honestly find that from 2:1 and beyond having less working distance actually helps since the closer you are the less your vibrations affect the shot and further it means that you can often use the "lefthand brace technique" which is simply holding or resting your hand on the ground/plant and then resting the end of the lens on your hand - which gives fantastic stability for higher magnifiaction shots.
Oops sorry just noticed you replied, thanks again Overread I think the Sigma 70mm is the one I will choose and will look around for a Sigma 1.4 teleconverter too :)
I had a look at your Flickr page and you have some great shots, I love the ones of the hornet, amazing!
2) is focus stacking (a method LordV uses a lot to very good effect) which lets you stack shots ontop of each other to give a deeper depth of field without having to use smaller apertures (which after a set point will start to soften your shots through diffraction).
FYI: Lord Vetinari can be found on Dgrin. I've seen him elsewhere, but Dgrin is for sure. His macro shots are truely amazing.
2) is focus stacking (a method LordV uses a lot to very good effect) which lets you stack shots ontop of each other to give a deeper depth of field without having to use smaller apertures (which after a set point will start to soften your shots through diffraction).
FYI: Lord Vetinari can be found on Dgrin. I've seen him elsewhere, but Dgrin is for sure. His macro shots are truely amazing.

He also appears a lot on the POTN boards Canon Digital Photography Forums - Powered by vBulletin
its a canon focused forum, but he's written afew good articles in the macro section that you can read through.

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