Day 197 – What is Macro?

What is “Macro photography”? I am asking that question, as I was talking to someone the other day who tried to convince me that Macro photography was on a photo taken with a macro lens, and I was 99% sure he was wrong, but he was determined for me to agree with him… so in the end I left him thinking that was the definition of macro and I came away to research my argument. I was sure macro photography was about getting close up, so that the finished image is viewed the same size or bigger than the object photographed.

Technically speaking, macro photography means shooting at a magnification ratio of at least 1:1. Therefore, a ‘true’ macro lens has the ability to produce a magnification ratio of 1:1, or higher. Source

I thought macro photography could be taken on any lens, you can use a prime, a macro, a zoom lens of even your camera phone, it was about the content of the image and what it showed rather than the equipment you brought with it … yes I have a couple of lenses with the word “macro” on them, yes I can take macro shots on them but I can also take portraits, landscapes, and other photos too. It does not limit my creativity.  Macro lens instead aid my creativity by allowing me to focus much closer than a regular lens.

A more specific definition of a macro lens, is one whose minimal focus distance is short enough to allow photography of a focused subject in 1:1 magnification.

The article goes on to explain that not all macro lens are true macro lens, as they do not produce 1:1 magnification, and it is a marketing gimmick!

There is another article here, talking about focal distances – suggesting an image the size of a postage stamp, filling the whole sensor would be a macro image…In one of the forums, I read that “If 2 inches (5 cm) fits WITHIN the frame it is macro”, and this was a good base line for images… 5 cm is easy for me to visualize… but it is a lot bigger than a postage stamp…  I think I am going to experiment with stamps!

So here are the results… (not the most exciting photos – straight out of camera, but I lesson in understanding macro). I got as close as I could to focus the stamp with each lens, with the camera on a tripod, a 2 second shutter delay and a desk lamp for lighting. I set the ISO to 400 for every image and the aperture to F16… so the only changes were the shutter speed calculated by the camera and the closest focusing distance the lens would allow.

My Experiment

My wide angle lens, although I can get relatively close I can not fill the frame with the stamp. The ruler is 20cm/8 inches long and it is in the shot and more….

Lens 10-20mm, Focal length 10. F16, 0.3 sec ISO 400
Lens 10-20mm, Focal length 10. F16, 0.3 sec ISO 400

50mm prime lens. at the closest focusing distance I have at least 16cm in the image, I guess,

Lens EF50mm prime Focal length 50. F16, 0.3 sec ISO 400
Lens EF50mm prime Focal length 50. F16, 0.3 sec ISO 400

My 100mm prime lens – this one states macro on the side and I can get so close that I could only see part of the stamp – it really is quite poorly printed… and I can probably focus on about 4cm. I also did not need to get quite as close for the closest point to focus.My best lens for macro images – no question!

Lens EF100mm prime, Focal length 100. F16, 1 sec ISO 400
Lens EF100mm prime, Focal length 100. F16, 1 sec ISO 400

This photo was taken on my 17-70mm lens, which does state macro on the side. I can not get fill the frame as much as in the image above, but I did think I have managed to include about 5cm into the frame, which be definition above would indeed make this a macro lens. I had to be a bit closer to the object that in the image above, but I also needed a faster shutter speed for the exposure, and this lens can offer flexibility when using a tripod if the macro object moves.

Lens 17-70mm, Focal length 70. F16, 1/5 sec ISO 400
Lens 17-70mm, Focal length 70. F16, 1/5 sec ISO 400

This is the 18-250 mm lens, which use to be my favourite lens until I got the one below. This one zoomed in is able to capture about 7cm to fill the frame. Not a macro lens, but it does enable you to get close to the detail.

Lens 18-250mm, Focal length 250. F16, 1/6 sec ISO 400
Lens 18-250mm, Focal length 250. F16, 1/6 sec ISO 400

My final image is with my 28-300mm lens,  I don’t think I an quite as close as the shot above, so again around 7cm to fill the frame but the image is significantly sharper and more in focus.

Lens EF28-300mm, Focal length 300. F16, 1/15 sec ISO 400
Lens EF28-300mm, Focal length 300. F16, 1/15 sec ISO 400
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