what is a macro lens

What is a Macro Lens?

Hello guys, welcome to my blog. Our article is about what is a macro lens?
I know most of you have many questions about this topic. I will try to answer most of those questions and guide you to get a closer look.
So macro lenses are not that important, but it’s very important to differentiate your work and make it special, so I think most professional photographers use them in a way or another because it enables them to get up close to the objects and shoot very detailed and sharp photos and because their focal length is always large. Of course, there are some other lenses called macro lenses, but they are not true macro, meaning the magnification is not 1:1 but it is for the full frame.
And in order to get closer, first I should briefly talk about macro photography and explain the main role that the macro lens plays in each term or point in this field. This is the door that we will break through to answer this question: what is a macro lens?
Of course it will be brief because it’s a large topic and it’s no problem to talk in depth about it later, but for the sake of this article I will just briefly talk about it.

What is Macro Photography?

So macro photography simply means shooting small or tiny objects and showing them as their size or as large objects by close-up on them, like bees or bugs.
So in order to take good macro shots, it’s not as simple as it seems, but you must have extensive knowledge of a lot of things, such as:

Magnification Ratio

Well, magnification ratio, and it’s the ratio between the original size of the object and its reflection on the camera sensor and therefore its size in the image. Let’s explain with an example.
Let’s assume the following scenarios:
Scenario 1
You are shooting at a small Bug (12 mm x 12 mm).
Lens Magnification Ratio:  You are using a camera Lens with magnification ratio 1:5.
The camera type is a full-frame.
Result: 2.6mm Bug reflection on the sensor. It’s small.

magnification ratio


Scenario 2
You are shooting at a small Bug (12 mm x 12 mm).
Lens Magnification Ratio: You are using a camera Lens with magnification ratio 1:3.
The camera type is a full-frame.
Result: 4mm Bug reflection on the sensor. It’s still small but larger than the previous example.

magnification ratio scenario 2


Scenario 3
You are shooting at a small Bug (12 mm x 12 mm).
Lens Magnification Ratio: You are using a camera Lens with magnification ratio 1:1.
The camera type is a full-frame.
Result: 12mm Bug reflection on the sensor. It’s the same size as the original Bug.

magnification ratio

Most macro lenses today have a magnification ratio of 1:1 or any ratio less than that, I don’t believe it’s a true macro lens.
The most important thing that you should know is that the magnification ratio differs according to the distance of the object we shoot from the lens.

Minimum Focus Distance

Simply, it’s the closest distance that the lens can focus on the subject.
For example, if the lens’s minimum focusing distance is 30 cm, it means that the lens can shoot an object far away from 30 cm. Here it’s important to know that this distance is not the distance between the object and the lens from front, but it’s the distance between the object and the sensor.
It’s not complicated. I know it’s a little bit confusing, but to make it simpler, you have a camera, you have a lens, and you have an object, right?
Let’s assume that the lens length is 12 cm.
And the camera, and by camera I mean the sensor, which has a mark that indicates its place by this sign ⦵ (plimsoll mark)
And the object: bug or flower, any object you need.
By making simple subtraction to get the minimum focusing distance:
An example to make it clearer: the distance between the object and the camera sensor ⦵ (plimsoll mark) is 30 cm and the lens length is 12 cm, so the minimum focusing distance is 30-12 = 18 cm.

minimum focus distance

Macro Lens Focal Length and Depth Of Field (DOF) and Aperture

If you have a camera, this term or definition should be well known to you, but for the sake of this topic I should talk about it, because it’s important to complete all the pieces that answer the main question, which is what is a camera lens?
So, depth of field is the distance between the nearest point and the farthest point that is in focus.
You can imagine that DOF is a 3D box in front of the lens. Everything inside this box is within the focus range, and everything outside this box is out of focus. It’s just an imaginary box. The size of the box is dependent on the lens aperture. If the aperture is small (F22), the DOF is large. If you have a large focus box, of course you need a high lightning condition.
The wider the aperture is (f1.8), the smaller the DOF and you have a small focus box, meaning that a few details will be in focus, but here the lighting conditions needed are less than in the previous scenario.
Why is DOF an important term in macro photography?
Because it’s not affected only by the lens aperture, which is the main object here, but it’s also affected by 2 other things.
The first is focal length. The bigger the focal length, the smaller the DOF. Always remember, we always count on large focal length lenses when it comes to macro photography (90-100+).
The 2nd factor is the closer the object is from the lens. The closer the object is, the smaller the Dof range. Always remember, when it comes to macro photography, we always shoot from a close distance, therefore the Dof is so small.

minimum focus distance

Of course, there are a lot of things to take into consideration to take a great macro photo, like choosing the right camera, shooting techniques, lighting conditions, and accessories, but for the sake of time, I can’t list all of the things and I don’t want to get off the topic, but I think it was a good start to break that door, especially that the lenses are more related to those terms. I have briefly mentioned them, and now let’s continue with breaking the other doors. Of course, I can’t answer what is a macro lens without mentioning macro lens uses.

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Macro Lens Uses

Generally, you can use macro lenses for anything, I think, except astrophotography and other faraway photography. There are other types of lenses specially for this kind of photography, but macro lens is the secret weapon for you to differentiate your work and it’s an essential piece for the art of close-ups. Of course, they are not essential for those types of photography. There are a lot of lenses out there that can do great jobs in most photography sessions, but hey, when it comes to close-ups and sharpness, using a macro lens is definitely your tool.
Of course, I will leave my recommendation for the best macro lenses you can use or buy for each type of photography I will mention, but also depending on your situation. Will you shoot a group of products or people or just individuals? Indoor or outdoor session?

Macro Lens Uses

Product Photography

We all know that macro lenses are sharp and show every tiny detail. They are very good at shooting tiny products like jewelry, earrings, diamonds, accessories, and micro-ships. Generally, any small or tiny products photographed with a macro lens will be unique, and this type of photography is often used for e-commerce.
Yea, I know you can also use standard and wide angle lenses and they will do very well, but with a macro lens your shots will be special and unique, especially for tiny products.

product photography

Wedding Photography

With the very detailed close-ups taken by macro lenses, you will be impressed by the shots taken too close. It could be the wedding ring, decor details, bride veil, bride nails with the ring, the moment she wears the ring, etc. 
In general, any emotional moment needs a close-up. This lens will make it so true and amazing.

wedding photography

Small Creatures Photography

There is a lot to discover when it comes to small creatures, or tiny wildlife animals or insects. You should be prepared.
Do not miss the chance to capture a moment of those tiny creatures with this lens. You will be impressed by how good it is, the quality and sharpness of your photos. There is no doubt it’s the best when it comes to capturing small creatures like bugs, butterflies, ants, or any kind of small creature. This lens is your way to get fabulous shots.

Small creatures photography

Food Blogging Photography

No doubt that the key player in food blogging is the amazing shots that should be speaking about the food quality, how good the food is, and how it triggers the food’s best traits and its inherent deliciousness. The colours and textures of a dish should be highlighted, not muted or hidden, while reviewing the food or drinks in restaurants or hotels. You may also prepare your own recipe and try to photograph it. There are also a lot of commercials that use a macro lens to create those impressive photos with a large number of details.

Food blogging photography

Beauty & Makeup Photography

I can’t talk about close-ups and sharpness without mentioning beauty and makeup. This type of photography, whether it’s commercial or personal, requires a lot of close-up shots highlighting the attractiveness of the makeup on the model or even the featured product itself, like skincare. The photo should reveal an emotion: the emotions of happiness, seduction, cuteness, simplicity, darkness.
Those emotions and details are sensitive and need to appear spontaneously to the viewer.
With the right macro lens, it will be easy for you to send those emotions and highlight them.

beauty photography

Portrait Photography

OK, we may argue about this kind of photography, but hey, macro lenses can do both close-up shots and normal shots.
Don’t forget, portrait shots are a kind of storytelling, capturing emotions and simulating a situation. The subject is the most important factor. Of course, it depends on the shot and your idea and technique, but if you decide to tell a story with a close-up, there is no doubt your macro lens is your weapon and tool to enhance your artistic work.

portrait photography
Macro lenses Advantages
Macro lenses Disadvantages
Can you use a macro lens as a normal lens
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What is a Macro Lens in Mobile?

You might be got excited with the smartphone lenses, here are some recommendations:

Stoon Camera Lens Kit

• The wide spiral frame is designed for 95% cell phones with dual cameras.
• 15X Macro Lens is for capturing clear photos in greater detail at a distance of 0.59-0.98 inches.
• The frame is able to support two lenses at once.
• comes with flexible protection silicone, scratch-resistant and non-slip.

Stoon Camera Lens Kit

ShiftCam 10x Macro lens

• Compatible with ProLens-Compatible Cases.
• Delivers 10x magnification on top of your phone lens’s existing zoom capabilities. Together, they let you zoom in and photograph extremely fine detail of various objects.
• Multilayered anti-reflective coating.
• 0.8 Focal Length.

ShiftCam 10x Macro lens

Xenvo Pro Kit

• Compatible with all smartphones, tablets and laptops including ALL iPhone models, Samsung Galaxy and Note, Google Pixel, Huawei and more.
• Clarus 15x macro lens. Magnify nearby objects for breathtaking, superclose photos: Capture all the intricacies and details with precision-focus for razor crisp macro photos every time.
• Quick-release lanyard and travel case – transport and protect your lens kit: Perfect for taking your Xenvo lenses with you on the fly.

Xenvo Pro Kit

Moment 10x Macro Lens

• For iPhone, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus.
• Features a 10x magnification and 25mm focal length.
• This lens works less than an inch away from the subject to capture rich textures, materials, and living things that our phones were never before capable of seeing.
• Includes a removable diffuser hood that creates even, soft light when shooting tiny details.
• You can attach the lens with either our non-electronic Case or our Battery Case.

Moment 10x Macro Lens

Apexel 4K HD Mobile Phone 5-in-1 Camera Lens Kit

• These lenses are compatible with iPhone XS Max, XR, X, 8, 7, and 6 Plus, as well as Samsung phones.
• Includes 10x Macro Lens.
• This lens is suitable for group selfies, travel, landscapes, and more.

Apexel 4K HD Mobile Phone 5-in-1 Camera Lens Kit

Macro lens Alternatives?

So I will briefly talk about macro lens alternatives, so people on a low budget can enjoy shooting close-ups. Of course, it’s not like having a real macro lens, but those alternatives can be very handy and can give you satisfying results.
You may face some hard times with setting up the focus, aperture, and adjusting manual settings, but due to the low budget, you can experiment with those alternatives, and with time you will get used to the settings.

Extension Tubes

It’s an extension tube to extend the lens focal length. It’s an empty tube. Its main purpose is to move the lens further away from the camera sensor ⦵ (plimsoll mark) to lower the minimum focus distance.
It has two types:
Auto: it connects the camera with the main lens to adjust the lens aperture and focus when you are shooting.
Manual: it has no connections; it’s an empty tube with a lens mount on one of its ends, and the other end has the attachment that is installed on the camera.
So how to choose between them?
I recommend the manual. Why? Because the auto is expensive, you could buy a used macro lens in its price range. Secondly, you may accidentally buy a bad product and this will cause lens disconnection or disconnect the camera. This is too bad, you know.
So why do I recommend the manual? Because it’s too cheap and this is the goal. But your life isn’t as easy as it seems. Firstly, it disconnects the connection between the camera and the lens. Oops. You will be on your own and you will do manual focus adjusting, lens aperture, your standing position get closer or far from the object etc.
Secondly, those rings have no calculated magnification ratio, so you will do your own experiments to get your magnification ratio results for each ring.
Supposedly you have bought the manual one, how to use them properly?
• You have to install the lens on the camera without the tubes.
• You should adjust the camera aperture.
• Change the lens autofocus to manual autofocus.
• Close the camera and remove the lens, then install the extension tube on the lens.
• Now your lens aperture is fixed at the same aperture you have adjusted.
• For the focus, you can control it from the front ring, then start experimenting.

Macro lens Extension Tubes

Macro filters / Close-Up Lenses

So I have told you that the extension tube disconnects the camera from the lens, so you will manually control everything. The alternative is the macro filters.
A macro filter is installed in front of the camera lens in the filter attachments, and it gives you a magnification ratio depending on the lens you are using.
Macro filters allow you to easily adjust the focus and are also inexpensive.
It has a downside: after installing it on the lens, color abrasion happens and the edge softens.
Those downsides can be solved by buying a larger macro filter than the lens diameter and buying a lens adapter step down. This is because you need to install a larger macro lens filter diameter on a smaller lens so the soft edges won’t appear.
I highly recommend this alternative.

Macro lens Close-Up Filters

Lastly, I just want to say you can add both alternatives together and experiment with the results.
And of course, there are some other cheap alternatives, like reverse lens and other techniques.

Best Macro Lenses

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

• 1:1 maximum magnification along with a minimum focusing distance of 11.8.
• EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format, however can also be used with APS-C models.
• Optical Image Stabilizer helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake to better enable working in low-light conditions and with slower shutter speeds.
• This lens is sealed against dust and moisture for working in inclement environmental conditions.
• 100 millimeter focal length and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32.
• Near-silent Ultrasonic focusing.
• Lens weight is 1.38 pounds.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L USM Macro Lens

• 1:1 maximum magnification along with a 1.6 minimum focusing distance.
• EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format, however can also be used with APS-C models.
• Focus Limiter switch lets you constrain the focusing to two different ranges for faster focusing performance: 1.6′-infinity and 4.9-infinity.
• 180mm macro lens and Aperture Range: f/3.5 to f/32.
• This lens is sealed against dust and moisture for working in inclement environmental conditions.
• Advanced ultrasonic monitor (USM) for high-speed, quiet autofocusing.
• Lens weight is 2.40 lbs.

Canon EF 180mm f3.5L USM Macro Lens

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

• 1:1 magnification ratio along with an 11 minimum focusing distance.
• EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format, however can also be used with APS-C models.
• Optical Steady Shot image stabilization for handheld shooting, Instant manual/auto focus selection.
• Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
• 90mm Macro and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22.
• Direct Drive SSM system, along with the internal focusing design, promotes responsive and precise autofocus performance that’s also quiet to suit video recording applications.
• Lens weight is 602 g.

Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS

Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro Lens

• Characterized by its 1.2x maximum magnification and 3.7 minimum focusing distance.
• This macro lens is designed for EF-M-mount APS-C-format mirrorless cameras.
• Hybrid IS image stabilization minimizes the appearance of camera shake.
• STM helps provide smooth and quiet operation when taking photos, and near-silence when shooting videos.
• Full-time manual focus mode (AF+MF) lets you instantly switch to manual focus control in AF mode.
• 28mm Macro and Aperture Range: f/3.5 to f/22.
• Maximum Magnification: 1.2x.
• Lens weight is 4.6 ounces.

Canon EF-M 28mm f3.5 Macro Lens

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8

• 1:1 maximum magnification ratio along with an 11.8 minimum focusing distance.
• Lens is designed for full-frame Canon EF-mount DSLRs, and is also compatible with APS-C models.
• Vibration Compensation (VR) image stabilization is incorporated into the lens’ design to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to 3.5 stops.
• Ring-type USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) motor and an optimized USD actuator are employed for fast, precise, and quiet autofocus performance.
• 90mm Macro and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32.
• Moisture-Resistant Construction.
• Lens weight is 0.89 lbs.

Tamron SP 90mm F2.8

Nikon AF-S 40mm f/2.8G Micro

• 1:1 maximum magnification along with a minimum focusing distance of 6.4.
• Is designed for DX-format F-mount cameras.
• 40mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22.
• Silent Wave Motor affords quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance.
• Super Integrated Coating.

Nikon AF-S 40mm f2.8G Micro

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

• 1:1 maximum magnification and a 5.1 minimum focusing distance.
• Is designed for APS-C-format EF-S-mount Canon cameras.
• 35mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32.
• Hybrid IS Image Stabilization.
• STM Stepping AF Motor.
• Lens weight is 6.70 ounces.

Canon EF-S 35mm f2.8 Macro IS STM

Tokina ATX-I 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

• 1:1 maximum magnification along with an 11.8 minimum focusing distance.
• Designed for full-frame Canon EF-mount cameras, however can also be used with APS-C models.
• Multilayered coating helps to alleviate lens flare and ghosting when working in strong lighting conditions.
• 100mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32.
• Autofocus system offers fast, precise focusing capabilities.
• Compact and lightweight design and Extremely high corner to corner resolving performance and almost zero distortion.
• Lens weight is 1.14 lbs.

Tokina ATX-I 100mm f2.8 Macro Lens

Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens

• This lens has a 9.4 minimum focusing distance along with a 1:1 to 5:1 magnification range.
• Designed for full-frame Canon EF-mount DSLRs, however can also be used with APS-C models.
• Super Spectra coating has been applied to individual elements to minimize ghosting and flare for greater contrast.
• Manual focus operation for precise control over focusing distance.
• 65mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/16.
• Lens weight is 1.57 lbs.

Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens

Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM

• 1:1 magnification ratio along with a 9.8 minimum focusing distance.
• Designed for APS-C-format FUJIFILM X-mount mirrorless cameras.
• 80mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22.
• Floating Focus System employs two distinct groups of focusing elements for faster performance.
• A five stop-effective optical image stabilization system minimizes the appearance of camera shake.
• Super EBC coating has been applied to individual elements to reduce lens flare and ghosting.
• Lens weight is 2.60 lbs.

Fujifilm XF 80mm f2.8 R LM

Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8

• 1:1 maximum magnification along with a minimum focusing distance of 11.4.
• Designed for FX-format Nikon Z-mount cameras, however, can also be used with DX models.
• 105mm and Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32.
• Dual-Motor Multi-Focus STM System with manual focus override for fast and responsive autofocus.
• Vibration Reduction image stabilization minimizes the appearance of camera shake.
• Nano Crystal Coating eliminates internal lens element reflections and effectively reduces ghosting and flare.
• Lens weight is 1.39 lbs.

Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8