wanting to get into Macro


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Nov 23, 2008
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Missoula MT
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im wanting to get into macro photography. I have about a million fish tanks that i want to take pics of. i also want to get into nature photography

is there a good all around macro lens, some of my subjects are as small as 1/4" and some as big as 7"

willing to spend in the $400-$600 range. i want a nice sharp lens if i can get it in that price range. and im open to 3rd party lenses

and I have a cannon EOS XSI with just the kit lens on it
I would suggest the Canon 100mm F/2.8 USM Macro. It's in your price range. Sigma also makes a 105mm and 150mm macro lens that are well rated. [FONT=&quot][/FONT]
*adds his macro adivce*
If your looking to photograph insects then you want at least 90mm worth of focal length or more in a macro lens to get a good working distance (distance from camera sensor to subject) - going shorter makes things harder since you are closer to the insect and thus have a greater chance of spooking it.

After that one has to decide if your going to shoot handheld or from a tripod, tripod macro shooting is best for static and slow subjects where you have time to get into position, for insects early in the morning or late evening are decent times, though during the middle of the day most are too active for tripod shooting. One can use a lure to attract some bugs (like honey on a tree or rotting fruit) and then shoot from a tripod.
Handheld shooting definatly needs a flash nearly all the time (certainly for full magnification) and for moving insects one often has to keep a fast shutter speed, so even on a tripod flash is important - though one can take measure to reduce the glare from a flash.

For canon the macro lens options are:
Canon EFS 60mm macro - good solid lens, its down side is that its only EFS compatable (crop sensor cameras only) and its short focal length.
Canon 100mm macro - very popular choice and a solid performer, it is sold without hood or tripod collar, both of which are important additions. The collar is very important for stable tripod shooting, whilst the hood is - well its a lens hood you should never be without one - though I have read that the hood is not usable when working in macro
Sigma 70mm macro - good solid choice from sigma and one of their sharpest lenses
Sigma 105mm macro - again a good solid choice of lens
Sigma 150mm macro - this and the 180mm macro are sigmas top range macro lenses, both are better builds than the other sigma options; offer HSM focusing motors; teleconverter compatability and are solid performers. The 150mm is light enough to handhold for macro work, whilst the 180mm is generally considered a bit heavy for prolonged macro work
Sigma 180mm macro - often chosen instead of the canon 180mm macro as its optical quality is the same, but its price is much more affordable
Tamron 90mm macro - shortest recomended macro lens for insect shooting. A cheaper but good option

Generally I avoid the 50mm macro options as they are weaker builds than the others - also the canon is not a true 1:1 macro lens unless you combine it with the canon 500D macro filter (its a filter not a camera)

In general all the macro lenses listed are sharp and well built and one would be hardpressed to impossible to tell which was used for a macro shot. Generally macro lenses are poorer AF than nonmacro lenses because of the fact that AF is not used in macro photography (one will set the AF to manual, set the focus to the desired level - often full magnification or 1:2 for larger insects like butterflies - and then focus by moving the camera and lens closer and further away from the subject.

For lighting idealy a ringflash is used, but one can also use speedlites to good effect - even a popup flash on a rebel camera can give usable lighting. For the flash light though I do recomend diffusing the light, I use a 580M2 flash with a lumiquest softbox and I find the softbox to be fantastic at softening the light from the flash. One can also use folds of toiletpaper (white) held infront of the flash (elastic band) as a makeshift diffuser. As your starting out I would say go for a speedlite (430 or 580) since it will be usable in all walks of photography, whilst ringflashes are much more specific to macro only (they don't have the power of a speedlite - though ringflashes can make for good portrate flashes).

RIGHT now that is all said I would also say that for fishtanks you are dealing with glass and reflction problems - there are a few members on site that have experience of shooting into tanks with fish - it requires some different lighting methods and such so I will let them chime in about the specifics of that side.
Also if wildlife photography is an interest the sigma 150mm macro might interest you since its longer focal length lets it be decent for the odd grabshot of passing wildlife if your shooting handheld.

Idealy wildlife lenses start at 300mm focal length - often a 300mm prime lens (idealy the 300mm f2.8 IS L lens, but its very expensive and the 300mm f4 L is a much more affordable alternative). It;s a whole area of lenses separate from macro so - to avoid confusion in this thread - I would say start another thread about it. Sadly good lenses for wildlife are very clostly
A polarizer can be helpful for shooting fish -- and lots of light (try directing the light at an angle, so that the light reflects off the glass somewhere other than into your camera). Also, the background and color of the light is important, I think.

I have, and love, the 100mm 2.8 from Canon -- it's a great, extremely sharp lens. I second davebmck's suggestion on it.
The Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 ATX Pro just got an excellent review in Popular Photography a couple months ago, the review is online. They compared it to the Canon and Nikon equivalents and said it was hard pressed to tell the difference, but the price is obviously way better.
I do not own one but am seriously considering it for my macro choice.

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