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Nikon Macro Lenses

Updated on October 28, 2014

Nikon Lenses for Macro Photography

I'm a Nikon user. It started with film. It has evolved into digital. Making the switch to digital has actually allowed me to explore different kinds of photography more easily. With digital, I can now get into macro photography which has always been an interest of mine. While I was looking into how to get started, I found out that there are quite a few lenses and setups to choose from. High quality Nikon lenses, and their counterparts by different manufacturers, are the easiest way to get started. So below, I have listed some of the great options for Nikon macro lenses as well as some info on alternative setups for macro photography. Have fun!

Macro Lenses

photo credit: Thomas Shahan

Using a lens specifically designed for close work and with a long barrel for close focusing, called a macro lens. A macro lens might be optimized to provide its best performance at a magnification of 1:1, meaning the image on the film/sensor is the same size as the object being photographed.

There are different categories of macro lenses, depending on the focal length:

  • 50-60mm (standard) range typically used for product photography and small objects

  • 90-105mm (short telephoto) range the standard focal range used for insects, flowers, small objects

  • 150-200mm (moderate telephoto) range gives more working distance - typically used for insects and other small animals

  • a few zooms provide a macro option, but they generally do not allow a 1:1 magnification

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Medium Telephoto Macro Lens for Nikon SLR Cameras - This is a terrific option at a lower cost.

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Medium Telephoto Macro Lens for Nikon SLR Cameras
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Medium Telephoto Macro Lens for Nikon SLR Cameras

Optimized for Nikon digital SLR cameras but also compatible with film SLR cameras, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 medium telephoto lens allows a greater working distance between the lens and the subject, helping it excel in all shooting ranges. The increased working distance of the lens is ideal when taking the picture of a flower among several branches, or an insect on a leaf. The narrow angle of view helps simplify the background, while the shallow depth of field makes it easier to handle the composition. The lens also offers a super multi coating that reduces the flare and ghosting that tends to occur when using digital SLR cameras, helping create crisper, sharper photos. And thanks to the Dual Focus (DF) system, the lens is easy to hold during autofocusing, but also offers smooth and positive action should you choose to focus manually on images. Other features include a minimum aperture of f/32, a screw-in lens hood that supports the use of circular polarizing filters, and a minimum focusing distance of 12.3 inches. Offering a 35mm equivalent field of view of 178mm on a digital SLR camera, the lens carries a one-year warranty.


Extension Tubes

Extension tubes are designed to enable a lens to focus closer than its normal set minimum focusing distance. Getting closer has the effect of magnifying your subject (making it appear larger in the viewfinder and in your pictures). They are exceptionally useful for macro photography, enabling you to convert almost any lens into a macro lens at a fraction of the cost while maintaining its original optical quality.The extension tubes have no optics. They are mounted in between the camera body and lens to create more distance between the lens and film plane. By moving the lens father away from the film or CCD sensor in the camera, the lens is forced to focus much closer than normal. The greater the length of the extension tube, the closer the lens can focus.

Kenko Auto Extension Tube Set DG 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm Tubes for Nikon AF Digital and Film Cameras - AEXRUBEDGN
Kenko Auto Extension Tube Set DG 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm Tubes for Nikon AF Digital and Film Cameras - AEXRUBEDGN

The Kenko Auto Extension Tube Set contains three tubes of different length, a 12 mm, 20 mm, and 36 mm, which can be used individually or in any combination to obtain the desired magnification.Kenko's Auto Focus extension tubes are designed with all the circuitry and mechanical coupling to maintain auto focus and TTL auto exposure.



Teleconverters can be mounted between select lenses and the camera body to increase focal length by 1.4x or 2x. This is a great way to increase magnification without having to carry the weight.

Reversing Rings

A reversing ring is simply an adaptor with the fitting to go on the camera on one side, and a male thread to screw into the filter thread of the lens on the other. If you reverse mount the lens directly onto the camera body, the optical centre of the lens is displaced from the film, introducing a short extension. This causes the lens to focus close, and gives a fixed high magnification, and a fixed working distance. The magnification depends on the focal length of the lens, and the displacement from the film.

Bellows Units

The unit consists of an accordion-like bellows with a camera mount on one end and a lens mount on the other, and a support rod to hold the mounts. The camera body attaches to the camera mount. The lens attaches to the bellows' lens mount. The entire bellows assembly attaches to a focusing rail, which in turn attaches the assembly to a tripod. The knob on the focusing rail gradually moves the whole assembly forward or backward for precise control of focusing.

Studiohut Lens Macro Fold Bellows Mount System for Nikon Cameras
Studiohut Lens Macro Fold Bellows Mount System for Nikon Cameras

This macro bellow is compatible with Nikon traditional film and digital SLR cameras. The macro bellow is inserted between the lens and the camera body. Bellows are best used with a tripod for stability and ease of use - allowing you to smoothly and constantly adjust the distance between your camera and the object you want to photograph. There is a UNC 1/4 screw at the bottom allowing the bellow to be mounted on top of a tripod. This product is a step up from the macro extension ring and is invaluable for anyone wishing to take extremely close-up pictures, particularly those of plants and flowers. The rail can be extended up to 150mm. Magnify ratio is 0.74-2.86:1 while using an f50 lens, and is 1.32-5.1:1 that of f28 lens.


Closeup Lenses

These filter-like devices are actually plus-diopter elements similar to those used in eyeglasses to correct farsightedness. Close-up lenses enable the camera lens to focus on closer objects than it normally can. Like filters, close-up lenses screw into the front of the camera lens.

Digital Concepts 52mm +1 +2 +4 +10 Close-Up Macro Filter Set with Pouch For Specific Nikon Lenses (Models Specified In Description)
Digital Concepts 52mm +1 +2 +4 +10 Close-Up Macro Filter Set with Pouch For Specific Nikon Lenses (Models Specified In Description)

The Digital Concepts Macro Filter Kit includes four close-up diopters at +1, +2, +4 and +10 magnification, and a durable carrying case. These filters simply screw onto the lens, and will maintain resolution and picture clarity while magnifying image size. Plus, these filters are double-threaded, which means you can combine them to achieve increased magnification, or you can attach additional optics such as polarizers or skylight filters. These macro filters are ideal for photographing small items and focusing in on details of coins, flowers, jewelry and insects, as well as industrial photos of miniaturized components, medical and dental laboratory work and other scientific photography.


Macro Photography Tips

photo credit: Chris Willis

When you move in close, you magnify everything - the subject, and the effects of camera and subject movement. To minimize camera movement, it's a good idea to attach the camera to a sturdy tripod whenever possible for close-up work. And trip the shutter with a cable release (or the camera's self-timer, if precise timing of the moment of exposure isn't essential)-the mere act of pushing the shutter button with your finger can introduce enough camera movement to reduce sharpness.

A mirror prelock (if your camera has this feature) will lock the mirror in the up position before shooting, so you can let the vibration caused by the mirror flipping up out of the film path to settle down before you make the exposure. This vibration, although minimal, can reduce image quality when working at high magnifications, especially at shutter speeds in the one second to 1/30 range. Of course, you won't be able to see through the viewfinder while the mirror is locked up, but for most close-up work, you'll have your composition and focus locked in with the tripod before you make the exposure, so that won't matter.

For hand-held close-up work it's easier to move the camera slowly toward the subject until it comes into focus, rather than trying to adjust focus via the lens' focusing ring. If a specific magnification is desired, set focus for that, then move in on the subject until it comes into focus.

When using extension tubes or bellows, you'll find the image in the viewfinder quite dark because of the extension. To make focusing easier, don't use the central split-image-it will black out. Instead, use the plain ground glass area of the viewfinder. You might carry a small flashlight to help illuminate your subjects for easier focusing.

To minimize blur due to subject movement, use the fastest shutter speed the light level will permit. And since depth of field is extremely limited at close-up shooting distances, you'll generally want to shoot at the smallest aperture possible to maximize it. Of course, short shutter speeds require larger apertures, and vice versa. One answer is fast film-today's ISO 400 films are by and large excellent.

If there's a breeze, you can use a sheet of poster board to shield your subject from it. White poster board makes a good reflector. Dark poster board can be used to block harsh sunlight from the subject.

If you want to use slower, finer-grain (and richer-color) films, there is a way around the fast shutter speed/small lens aperture dilemma: electronic flash. Used at close range, a simple electronic flash unit provides enough light to permit stopping the lens way down to maximize depth of field, while its brief flash duration minimizes the effects of camera and subject movement. An off-camera sync cord lets you move the flash unit off the camera's hot-shoe for more lighting flexibility.

A ringlight flash literally surrounds the lens with light, providing soft, even, shadowless lighting on the subject when such lighting is desired.

[via Shutterbug: Macro Photography]

John Shaw's Closeups in Nature - Practical Photography Books

John Shaw's Closeups in Nature
John Shaw's Closeups in Nature

There's more than one way to shoot a frog, as Shaw demonstrates in this splendid book, a thorough course in practical field techniques for closeup photography using a 35mm single-lens reflex camera. Although hobbyists who want to capture the flowers in their garden can glean ideas for composition or the best time of day to photograph, this detailed work is intended primarily for the serious amateur or professional. Success in closeup photography, Shaw maintains, depends on control, and he advocates meticulous experimenting and testing of equipment and supplies before one attempts to photograph in the quickly changing, unpredictable conditions of the field. Shaw (The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques) is an excellent teacher, establishing a common vocabulary with the reader, presenting lavishly illustrated new material that builds on previous knowledge, repeating important concepts and techniques for emphasis. He believes that technical competence frees the photographer to concentrate on esthetics, and his inspiring pictures are beautiful artworkfields of flowers that evoke impressionist paintings, delicate dogwood blossoms reminiscent of Oriental designs, rare glimpses of snowflakes or raindrops on a yew needle.


Macro Photography Tutorial - From Nikon Help Hotline

Do you do any macro photography?

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    • infoweekly profile image

      infoweekly 3 years ago from South Africa

      I can say that extension tubes are a great low cost alternative for macro photography. Just love macro photography. And great video

    • Mckinney Michael profile image

      Mckinney Michael 3 years ago

      I do quite a bit of macro, I started with extension tubes then eventually picked up a Nikon 105mm.

    • Infohouse profile image

      Infohouse 5 years ago

      I love macro photography. Thanks to better point and shots with great macro, I don't have to spend too much money or carry around heavy equipment.

    • kindoak profile image

      kindoak 6 years ago

      Tamron 90 has always been my favorite. Pretty lightweight lens considering the image quality it delivers. Nice lens!

    • poissonenciel profile image

      poissonenciel 6 years ago

      I love macro. Last time i use mostly 60 mm.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love macro photography, and really enjoyed this Lens, thank you for sharing!

    • caffimages profile image

      caffimages 6 years ago

      Hello from another Nikon user. I can vouch for the quality of the extension tubes from Kenko. The quality of images from them is superb. I love the photographs on here, especially the spider! Here's a link to ONE of my photography lenses.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Awesome lens! I am blessing it and putting it on my Photography Tips angel lens!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      I don't have the equipment, but I love the pics

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 7 years ago

      nice lens

    • alesxandrea profile image

      alesxandrea 7 years ago

      I have bought my first DSLR (Nikon D5000) from my Squidoo earnings. :) I'm starting with this new hobby.. thanks to my bf for urging me to try photography. I like your lenses! I was lens hopping and found your account.