10 Best Macro Lenses | March 2017

10 Best Macro Lenses
Best Mid-Range
★★★★
Best High-End
★★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★
We spent 36 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. These macro lenses are ideal for taking extreme close-up shots, whether in the great outdoors, in a studio setting, or any indoor environment. Our selection includes models within the range of both amateur and professional photographers, and has been rated by focusing capabilities, image stabilization, sharpness, and durability. Skip to the best macro lens on Amazon.
10
At 60mm on an APS-C body, the Fujifilm Fujinon XF60mm ƒ/2.4 R operates as a 90mm equivalent, placing it in league with the most sought-after focal lengths in its category. Neither its system nor this glass in particular is known for fast autofocusing, however.
  • 10 elements in 8 groups
  • minimum distance under 27cm
  • hunts too much in dark settings
Brand Fujifilm
Model X-Pro1 60mm F2.4 Macro
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
9
The Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm ƒ/2.8 is a favorite among micro four-thirds shooters, thanks to its optical clarity and its portability. It serves the original purpose intended by mirrorless camera manufacturers, shedding size and weight from a photographer's kit.
  • specially treated to resist water
  • large maximum aperture
  • focuses slowly in low light
Brand Olympus
Model V312010BU000
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
8
The Tamron AF 90mm ƒ/2.8 Di takes a piece of older technology in the sliding zoom ring, and repurposes it as a switch between manual and autofocus modes, so you don't have to hunt for a small slider to jump methods, and your hands are already in place to get your shot.
  • focuses quickly
  • performs well in low light
  • doesn't feel durable
Brand Tamron
Model A001-N
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
7
The Sigma 105mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG is made for full frame D-SLR cameras, and it boasts a 1:1 magnification at its nearest focusing distance, which is a mere 12.3 inches. At 105mm, that gets you extraordinarily close to the action for third-party optics.
  • optical stabilization
  • 16 elements in 11 groups
  • desaturated color reproduction
Brand Sigma
Model 258306
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
6
While its size isn't conducive to the smaller overall aesthetic of a mirrorless system, the Sony SEL90M28G FE 90mm ƒ/2.8-22 creates some of the sharpest images in the company's limited, but impressive selection. Its Optical Steady Shot stabilization is very effective.
  • anti-reflective nano ar coating
  • super ed glass suppresses distortion
  • 9-blade aperture
Brand Sony
Model SEL90M28G
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
5
The Pentax 100mm ƒ/2.8 WR has a weather-resistant design, making it great for those more adventurous photographers out there. Not only does it offer durability and performance in one, it also has a budget-friendly price that's sure to please shooters.
  • 1-to-1 magnification ratio
  • rounded aperture blades
  • long focus throw for stills
Brand Pentax 100mm ƒ/2.8 WR
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
4
While most shooters think this category is merely the domain of people crazy about bugs and flowers, the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm ƒ/2.8G has become one of the more highly regarded portrait lenses in the company's lineup, thanks mainly to its great sharpness.
  • vr ii vibration reduction
  • weighs under two pounds
  • silent wave motor
Brand Nikon
Model 2160
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0
3
The Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8L features the company's sophisticated image stabilization technology, which compensates for camera shake whenever you depress the shutter release. Plus, its solid, weather-sealed build keeps dust out.
  • ultrasonic autofocus motor
  • balanced and lightweight
  • range limiter reduces hunting
Brand Canon
Model 3554B002
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
2
The Sigma 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC features the company's hyper-sonic motor, which is whisper quiet and virtually indispensable when you're setting focus on an insect that might flee at the sound of a lens. Its thermally stable composite build adds incredible durability.
  • designed for aps-c sensors
  • excellent skin tones for portraits
  • fluorite-quality elements
Brand Sigma
Model 884306
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0
1
With a manual focusing ring that's about the length of the average photographer's entire hand, the Nikon AF FX Micro-NIKKOR 200mm ƒ/4D makes it incredibly easy to dial in your focal plane on a given subject. It's very well built, and its images bear no distortion.
  • physical aperture settings
  • unparalleled sharpness
  • ideal for capturing wary wildlife
Brand Nikon
Model 1989
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

How Close Is Too Close? A Discussion Of Minimum Focusing Distance

There are certainly people out there to whom complex charts detailing the ins and outs of focal physics make a tremendous amount of sense. I am not one of those people. I'm a photographer; I don't need to know the majority of these tricks and equations.

I just need to know how to make these tools work, and that's going to be a lot easier to learn by getting your hands on a good macro lens than it will be by sitting around and weeping over images like this all day.

Let's do what good physicists always seem ready to do, and let's have ourselves a simple, real world experiment that will illustrate our point.

Go ahead close one eye. Either one is fine. Now, hold your index finger about a foot and a half away from your face, and focus on it. Next, slowly begin to move your finger toward your eye, maintaining focus on it as best you can throughout.

At a certain point, hopefully before you poke yourself in the eye, you'll lose the ability to keep your finger in focus. That's because, like camera lenses, the human eye has a minimum focusing distance specific to its build.

In humans, this is going to be a different distance from person to person, and your focal plane is liable to change and narrow as you age. This is why you see your parents moving a piece of paper back and forth while trying to read it: their focal plane has become more limited.

One of the things that macro lenses do is to drastically reduce their minimum focusing distance so that the front element of the lens can get much closer to the subject than with another kind of lens.

This, combined with the 1:1 imaging ratio created by most macro lenses, ensures that the largest possible magnification of your subject occurs by the time the light hits the camera sensor, or–if you're a hold out with a lot of money to burn–before it hits the film.

These Things Aren't Toys (They're Totally Toys)

There's something I want everybody to remember while shopping around for a new macro lens, and that's to enjoy yourself.

Sure, these are precision instruments designed to perform under adverse conditions and provide you with stunning images for your business, or your website, or just for posterity.

But photography is so much fun! And if you're reading around on the web for information about the gear involved with the art, then it's pretty likely that you have that gene which helps you salivate over the comparison of minute differences from one lens to the next. It's all part of the pleasure.

With that disclaimer out of the way, we can get down to it. You need to know which of these lenses is right for you.

Well, it starts out pretty easily if you're already invested in one brand's system. Nikon shooters probably aren't going to buy Canon lenses and the necessary adapters to mount them when Nikon makes macro lenses of their own, and when third parties are making such killer lenses for so many different brand systems.

Start with the body you've got and work from there.

If you're building an outfit from scratch, but you know you want a macro lens, then the field is a little more open to you. Questions of size and weight come up, especially if you plan on traveling with your gear.

If it's a home studio you're building, and size and weight don't matter, you can opt for optical quality over all other considerations, even at the apparent expense of reason.

The point is that if you start with what you have, codify what you want, and work your way through our list with that in mind, then something will jump out at you, and when it does, take its picture.

Manipulating The Plane

Macro photography isn't anything new to the photographic world. As lenses developed to contain multiple elements in the middle of the 19th century, that combination altered the minimum focusing distance of each lens, some of which could be used much more closely to the subject than others.

Today, with that desire qualified by 150 years of experimentation, macro lenses are sharper and faster, letting in more light and operating more quietly than every before.

But there have been developments of other techniques and products to substitute for the purchase of a macro lens in that time. There are adapters that allow you to put the lens on your camera backwards, which performs a kind of trick of the light and creates decent macro images. There are also devices known as extension tubes that change the position of the focal plane, creating a similar effect.

The downside to the use of such technologies is often a loss of light, or a loss of sharpness. Sometimes it's both.

Your best bet for the highest quality image is to start with the lens that was designed to shoot macro photography, and if you want to rig something up using that, you'll at least have a clean head start.



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Last updated on March 10, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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