Macro lenses don’t just allow photographers to capture exquisite close-ups. They’re also superbly corrected lenses that can be pressed into service for shooting crisp, compelling, detailed images at “normal” distances.
Indeed, their dual personality makes them an ideal choice for everyone from enthusiasts to pros. Consequently, they comprise a dependable high-profit niche in the expanding lens market.
A true macro lens is specifically designed to deliver exceptional image quality at close focusing distances. In most cases, this means a prime (single focal length) lens that can get down to a 1:1 magnification (life-size on sensor). Conversely, “macro zooms” only get down to a near-macro 1:4 or 1:3.
Many of the most popular true macro lenses are moderate telephoto primes in the 90–105mm range. That’s because they provide a longer working distance (the distance between the front of the lens to the subject) when shooting at close distances. This makes it easier to arrange lighting and less likely that photographers will spook skittish critters.
“Macro” literally means larger than life. Technically, a true macro lens is defined as one that can focus continuously down to 1:1 or greater magnification. However, to enhance your selling options, we’ve included a couple of fine examples that “only” get down to 1:2 without optional accessories.
Acquiring a high-quality macro lens can open up a whole new world of picture-taking possibilities for your customers. And because they’re so sharp and well corrected, many enthusiasts and pros use medium and longer telephoto macros for shooting portraits, architecture and a variety of nature subjects.
Displaying and promoting macro lenses in your store is a great way to establish enduring relationships with your customers. Moreover, it conveys the message that your establishment is a knowledgeable source of the kind of expertise that savvy consumers want.
While there are literally dozens of worthy choices, we’ve selected the following macro lenses as a good starting point.
A Selection of Top-Notch Macro Lenses
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Nikon upgraded its long-running 105mm moderate telephoto macro lens for full-frame (FX) and DX-format Nikon DSLRs. It employs one extra-low dispersion (ED) element that minimizes chromatic aberration and enhances clarity. Nano Crystal and Super Integrated coatings are also applied to all elements to suppress flare and ghosting. Moreover, it incorporates built-in VR (vibration reduction) image stabilization to provide a 3-stop anti-shake-effect advantage that’s essential when shooting handheld high-magnification close-ups and HD video.
The lens focuses down to 12 inches (equivalent to 1:1 magnification) and delivers exceptional image quality at all apertures and focusing distances. Other features include: a silent wave motor AF system for fast, precise, quiet autofocusing; apertures to f/32; and a rounded 9-blade diaphragm for smooth, natural-looking bokeh. $899.95.
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Art Macro
Sigma’s original 70mm f/2.8 was renowned for its outstanding sharpness and superb image quality. This latest Art macro version of the iconic full-frame short telephoto lens focuses down to 1:1 (life-size on sensor) at its minimum focusing distance of 10.2 inches. It employs two FLD (fluorite equivalent),
two SLD (special low dispersion), two aspheric elements, plus one anomalous high-dispersion/high-refractive index element. The result is impressive clarity and an exemplary degree of optical correction at all apertures.
Furthermore, Super Multilayer coating throughout ensures optimum light transmission and flare control. A rounded 9-blade diaphragm also contributes to beautiful bokeh.
Moreover, a coreless DC AF motor provides fast, quiet, accurate autofocus along with full-time manual focus override. In addition, the barrel is made of thermally stable composite (TSC) material to maintain high performance over a wide temperature range. It also features weather-sealed construction and a solid brass bayonet mount. In Canon EF, Sony E and Sigma SA mounts, $569.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
This pro-caliber L-series mid-telephoto macro for Canon DSLRs covers the full-frame format. It has a minimum focusing distance of 11.8 inches that corresponds to its maximum magnification ratio of 1:1 (life-size on sensor). The lens employs one ultra-low dispersion (UD) element to control color fringing and chromatic aberrations. It also uses Super Spectra coating to suppress flare and ghosting as well as enhance contrast and clarity. Moreover, it provides a 160mm-equivalent focal length when used on APS-C-format Canon DSLRs. Its ring-type ultrasonic motor (USM) and internal focus (IF) also afford quick, quiet, accurate AF.
The lens incorporates Canon’s Hybrid Image Stabilizer technology, which compensates for up to 2 stops of camera shake at 1:1, 3 stops at 1:2 and 4 stops at greater focusing distances. Other features include: a focus range limiter for quicker AF when shooting close-ups; a rounded 9-blade diaphragm that enhances its pleasing natural bokeh; and weather-sealed construction. $899.99.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro
This ultracompact macro prime provides a 120mm-equivalent short telephoto focal length on Olympus OM-D and other Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. It has a minimum focusing distance of 7.5 inches, which corresponds to a maximum magnification of 1:1. The fine-performing lens employs one ED element and three high-refractive index elements to minimize chromatic aberrations and achieve exceptional image quality at all apertures.
In addition, ZERO (Zuiko extra-low reflection optical) coating maximizes light transmission and suppresses flare and ghosting. A Movie and Still Compatible (MSC) AF system delivers rapid, precise, quiet AF when shooting stills or video. Furthermore, a focus limit switch provides faster AF when working at close distances. And an internal focusing system won’t change the length of the lens when focusing. With weather-resistant construction, it has a rounded 7-blade diaphragm to produce artistic bokeh. $399.99.
Sigma 70–300mm f/4–5.6 APO DG Macro
With a compact, lightweight APO design, this long ranger from Sigma provides a maximum magnification of 1:2 (half life-size) at the 300mm setting. It also covers magnifications of 1:2.9 to 1:2 in macro mode at settings in the 200–300mm range.
In addition, it incorporates two SLD elements in the front lens group and one SLD element in the rear group to minimize chromatic aberrations and achieve apochromatic (APO) color correction.
Its flexible DG optical design is optimized to minimize reflections from digital imaging sensors. Moreover, the lens has a 9-blade diaphragm to enhance its smooth natural bokeh. It also comes with a lens hood to minimize flare and ghosting when shooting under adverse lighting conditions. In Canon EF, Pentax K, Sony A and Sigma SA mounts, $199; in Nikon F mount, $169.
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD
The current iteration of Tamron’s classic full-frame 90mm macro lens incorporates the latest optical and mechanical technology to achieve even better performance in the field. The lens focuses down to 11.8 inches, providing a maximum magnification of 1:1. It employs one LD and two XLD (eXtra-low dispersion) elements to minimize aberrations and enhance sharpness.
In addition, eBAND (extended bandwidth & angular-dependency) coating layered on top of BBAR (broadband antireflection) coating optimize light transmission and minimize flare. Also, a fluorine coating repels dust and facilitates cleaning. The lens uses a ring-type ultrasonic silent drive motor (USM) to deliver fast, precise, quiet AF with full-time manual focus override.
In addition, built-in VC (vibration compensation) IS provides a 3.5-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting. A rounded 9-blade diaphragm enhances its natural bokeh, and the lens features moisture-resistant construction. It’s compatible with Tamron’s TAP-in console for updating its firmware. In Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony A mounts, $649.
Fujifilm Fujinon GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro
This outstanding high-performance macro prime for Fujifilm’s GFX system provides a 95mm-equivalent focal length on its impressive GFX professional medium-format mirrorless cameras. As a result, it is an excellent choice for portraiture as well as capturing compelling close-ups at magnifications up to 1:2 and distances as close as 18 inches. Moreover, it can handle resolutions up to 100MP.
The G-mount lens’s advanced optical design incorporates three ED elements to correct color fringing and chromatic aberrations, as well as enhance clarity. It also employs a floating element design to deliver consistently high sharpness over the entire focusing range. Moreover, optimized to render smooth, natural out-of-focus images in front of and behind the plane of focus, the lens has a rounded 9-blade diaphragm to enhance bokeh. In addition, two linear motors provide fast, quiet AF.
Other features include: built-in optical image stabilization for a 5-stop advantage; a fluorine-coated front element that resists contamination and facilitates cleaning; and dust-and weather-resistant (WR) construction that’s freezeproof down to 14°F. $2,059.95.
Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
Sony’s superb medium telephoto macro, full-frame E-mount lens has a minimum focus distance of 11 inches. It uses two extra-low dispersion elements, including one super ED element, plus an aspheric element to reduce chromatic aberrations to a minimum. They also provide excellent correction for astigmatism, field curvature and coma. As a result of its advanced optical design and Nano AR coating, the moisture-resistant lens captures crisp, flare-free, high-resolution, high-contrast images at up to 1:1 magnification.
An advanced direct drive SSM system and an internal focus design contribute to its swift, silent, decisive AF. Moreover, built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization can be combined with the in-body stabilization in select Sony cameras to provide an impressive level of shake-effect correction during handheld shooting. Other features include: a focus range limiter for faster AF at close distances; a sliding focusing ring for quick shifting from AF to manual focus; a focus hold button; and a rounded 9-blade diaphragm for beautiful natural bokeh. $1,099.99.
Pentax-D FA Macro 100mm f/2.8 WR
This attractively priced, high-performance moderate telephoto macro lens in the Pentax K mount covers the full-frame format. It has a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches as well as continuous focusing down to 1:1 magnification (life-size on sensor). It also features enhanced weather-resistant (WR) construction with six seals.
All elements are treated with Pentax’s Super Protect multilayer coating to minimize reflections and yield crisp, high-contrast images. In addition, its quick-shift focusing system allows easy switching from AF to manual focus. Other features include: a robust, lightweight aluminum barrel; a rounded 8-blade diaphragm for more pleasing bokeh; and aluminum construction. $549.95.
Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro
This exceptional macro lens for Fujifilm and Sony APS-C-format mirrorless cameras provides 75mm-equivalent short-telephoto coverage. The Zeiss lens achieves 1:1 image magnification at its minimum focus distance of 6 inches. In addition, its Planar optical construction includes two aspheric and two anomalous partial dispersion elements in a unique floating element design to achieve impressive image quality at all apertures.
It also features a nearly circular 9-blade diaphragm to help capture smooth transitions and pleasing natural bokeh. In addition, the lens supports the full range of each camera’s functions.
It also has a robust black metal barrel and ergonomic, rubberized control rings. In Fujifilm X mount and Sony E mount, $999.
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
Just released, this is the first macro lens designed specifically for Canon’s exciting new EOS R full-frame mirrorless ILC. The advanced high-speed, wide-angle macro focuses down to 6.7 inches, which corresponds to 1:2 (half life-size on sensor). Moreover, its built-in image stabilization (IS) system delivers an impressive 5-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting. And an STM stepping AF motor provides very quiet, smooth, precise autofocus plus full-time manual focus override.
In addition, a configurable control ring lets users adjust aperture, ISO and exposure compensation settings via the lens. The RF-mount lens also features Super Spectra coating to minimize flare and enhance image clarity, as well as a rounded 9-blade diaphragm for more attractive bokeh. $499.99.
Voigtlander Macro APO-Lanthar 110mm f/2.5
Voigtlander‘s exciting high-speed, manual focus macro telephoto for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras features an apochromatic (APO) design that virtually eliminates longitudinal chromatic aberrations. It also yields extremely high resolution at all apertures. Furthermore, the lens focuses down to 13.8 inches, equivalent to 1:1 magnification.
In addition, it employs a 10-blade diaphragm for strong, natural bokeh. And its aperture ring has 1/3 click stops from f/2.5–22. Moreover, a full array of electronic contacts enable full data transfer and camera functionality, including focus magnification, 5-axis image stabilization and lens file calibrations. It also features a durable all-metal barrel. In Sony E mount, $1,099.