Macro Photography

Lenses for Macro Photography

Making the most out of Macro

Macro lenses allow close-up photography of very small subjects, revealing details that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are used for images of insects and flowers, as well as by those shooting still-life images in the studio.

Macro lenses are used by wildlife and nature photographers for images of insects and flowers. However, with their excellent image quality and large maximum apertures, macro lenses are a great option for portraits too. To ensure you are selecting the right lens for your shoot, you need to consider what your subject is as well as what you're trying to achieve.

Macro Photography

Pick up the finer details

If you want to get closer to your subject and pick up the finer detail then macro lenses will give you the edge, allowing you to take close-up shots with extreme detail. The unique advantage of the macro lens is that they allow you to magnify the subject so that it appears from 0.5x life-size or ideally 1.0x life-size or greater, on the camera sensor.

Raspberry Photography

Get close, without getting close

When you want to capture a close-up shot of a nervous animal or insect and pick up the finer details, you want to do so without disturbing the subject. A lens with a longer focal length, from 100mm to 180mm, will ensure that you have enough working distance between you and your subject not to disturb it or the light around it.

Green Insect Photography

Life-sized detail

The unique feature of a macro lens is its ability to magnify an object to ideally life-size (or greater). This is defined through the lenses magnification ratio between the physical size of an image on your camera sensor and the physical size of the object being photographed. For example, a ratio of 1:1 (or 1.0x life-size) means the object you are photographing is the same size on your camera sensor as is in real life. Specialist macro lenses, such as the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens, allows for a magnification ratio of up to 1:5, meaning the subject is 5x bigger on your sensor than in real life.

Life-Sized Detail Photography

How your camera can influence your lens choice

Canon's EF-S lenses are designed exclusively for APS-C sensor cameras such as the EOS 760D and are not compatible with full-frame models such as the EOS 5D series of cameras.

EF lenses can be used with any EOS camera, but when an EF lens is used on an APS-C type EOS, it will give an angle view equivalent to a lens with a focal length 1.6x longer than on a full-frame camera. For example, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM used on an EOS 760D gives an angle of view equivalent to a 160mm lens on a full-frame camera. The comparison below shows the real world effect of this when shooting macro photography.

Bee Macro Photography
Macro Photography

How focal length affects working distance

Focal length for macro isn't always about getting closer to your subject. A higher focal length (i.e. higher number) enables you to have the same magnification ratio whilst being able to stand further away. For example, using a 180mm lens to capture butterflies gives you the distance you need so as not to disturb your subject, whilst still retaining the macro magnification.

As you increase your focal length, your working distance will also increase, so you will still be able to achieve the same magnification ratio. Your working distance is the distance from your subject to your focal plane.

The diagram on the right shows the distance from the end of the lens to the subject.

How focal length affects working distance

How focal length changes perspective

Selecting the right focal length is something to seriously consider in macro photography, as any changes can affect your shot. As you increase the focal length the background and foreground appear to get closer together, allowing you to change the look of your shot.

Flower 180Mm Photography


Flower 100Mm Photography


Flower 50Mm Photography


Choosing the right lens

After taking these things into consideration, you need to think about what is important for your shoot.

  • Do you want to capture close-up shots of a nervous animal or insect? Then you will need a lens with a longer focal length such as the RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM / EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, or even the EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM, to give you a longer working distance.
  • Do you require the ability to magnify your subjects beyond life size? Then the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens with a magnification ratio of up to 1:5, is an ideal choice for you.

Flower Macro Photography

Getting the best results from your macro lens

Guarding against camera shake

Longer focal lengths in the macro lens genre may cause higher levels of camera shake making it harder to capture a sharp, crisp image. The Image Stabilizer in the lens helps to eliminate most hand-held camera shake, if you select a lens without IS you can use a tripod to stabilise the camera and lens but your camera and lens are not as easy to move around.

Chameleon Photography

Lighting your subject

The right lighting set-up will allow you to use a higher shutter speed, giving you crisp shots of moving objects. Canon's Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX Il and Twin Lite MT-24EX provide specialised lighting systems, that help to illuminate your subject, either with more even light, as with the Ring Lite or more directional light, for texture, with the Twin Lite. While the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM comes with two built-in, controllable, LED (Macro Lite) to provide extra illumination and eliminate shadows cast.

Butterfly Photography

Extreme macro photography

Most dedicated macro lenses allow you to achieve a 1:1 magnification ratio, however, you can easily get closer and achieve a 1:2 ratio (meaning your subject appears twice its size on your cameras sensor), by using extension tubes, if your camera and lens support one. If you're looking to get as close as possible to your subject, the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo can achieve a ratio of 1:5, this level of magnification is capable of showing air bubbles in water droplets.

Extreme Macro Photography

The professional choice for macro photography


RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM

A professional RF macro lens, the RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM is perfect for handheld 1.4x life size images and stunning portraits, with L-series quality.

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RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM on the EOS R5

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