The macro lens is the Swiss Army knife of lenses, and this is why you should own one

Sep 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The macro lens is the Swiss Army knife of lenses, and this is why you should own one

Sep 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Macro lenses are often seen as this weird special purpose thing, that only those interested in shooting bugs should buy. But they’re so much more than that. Photographer Peter McKinnon believes everybody should own one. In this video, Peter talks about the versatility of a macro lens. That it can be used for so much more than typical “macro” use.

YouTube video

As Peter mentions, the biggest misconception with macro lenses is the name. It suggests that this is its only real purpose in life. In reality, it just means that it has a specialist function on top of being a regular lens. Peter mentions two specific macro lenses that he uses. There’s the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro, and its half-the-price predecessor, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM.

I can’t say that I disagree with Peter’s commentary. My Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor has become one of my most used lenses, even for portraits. In fact, especially for portraits. Even at non-macro focusing distance, it still provides a depth of field plenty shallow enough for separation of subject and background. I originally picked up the lens for shooting small animals in the studio. The more I try to shoot with it, though, the more I realise just how versatile it actually is.

I also own old manual focus Sigma 24mm f/2.8 macro lens, too. I didn’t get this lens for its macro feature, I got it simply because I needed a wide lens with a relatively quick aperture (quicker than an f/slow kit zoom). I’ve never even used it for macro purposes. Typically it’s just the wide lens I use for video.

If you haven’t put much thought into getting a macro lens yet, maybe it’s time you did. And if you do have a macro lens, try pointing it at something further than a few inches away.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “The macro lens is the Swiss Army knife of lenses, and this is why you should own one”

  1. Matt Nicki Lautemann Avatar
    Matt Nicki Lautemann

    I love macro! But I like to use the reverse lens technique…Anyone else? I know professionals probably cringe at the notion, but it’s super effective for macro shots. Love the info here though. Maybe I’ll finally save up for a macro lens now. ?

    1. Jyi Offer Avatar
      Jyi Offer

      It’s THE best way to do it
      If your lens is further than 10mm off the subject it ain’t macro??

  2. Liam Avatar
    Liam

    The 105 Micro-Nikkor is one of the best portrait lenses available for the Nikon, pin sharp, and great bokeh. Already having the 85mm ƒ1.4 in my bag, I saw no practical reason to also get the new 105 ‘E’…

  3. Paul Willy Brown Avatar
    Paul Willy Brown

    Sold both my micro/macro lenses recenly. Realized I really don’t like bugs and closeups of flower blossoms.

  4. Jimmy Harris Avatar
    Jimmy Harris

    It all depends on the lens. Some “macro” lenses are good at multiple things. Some aren’t. Some are called “macro” but aren’t really, and some aren’t called “macro”, but make good macro lenses. Some are just close focusing lenses without a flat field of focus.

    My old Pre-AI Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 is a great macro lens and not all that great at anything else. I would probably sell it if it wasn’t so good at DSLR scanning film.

    1. Marcel Mikolášik Avatar
      Marcel Mikolášik

      I scan film with that same lens! yeah, it is sharp