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Author Topic: Macro Lens Comparison (for Wildlife Photography)  (Read 40891 times)

John Koerner

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Macro Lens Comparison (for Wildlife Photography)
« on: January 07, 2016, 01:09:01 pm »

MACRO CHAMP: The Most Bang for the Buck


The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens


I just completed a blog entry about macro lenses, from the perspective of a nature photographer (not studio photographer). One fellow here (Michael Erlewine) wrote a wonderful piece about some exotic macro lenses, which article I still have bookmarked, as it was really quite informative.

However, Mr. Erlewine's perspective came from a studio photographer, where you have all the time in the world to set up, get the light right, and focus ... whereas mine comes from the perspective of selecting a macro lens for out in the field, trying to photograph live subjects, where your window of opportunity is fleeting, and your subjects may be moving.

I have shot 4 different Canon macro lenses (100 f/2.8, 100 f/2.8L, 180 f/3.5L, and the MPE-65) over the last 8 years.

I have typically held the belief that moving to a 3rd party macro lens was a step down (if not in image quality, in build quality).

However, all of that changed after reading enough reviews on the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO macro lens, and after purchasing it, I can honestly say it's the best macro lens I have ever put at the end of my camera.

So I thought I would create a blog post, giving a detailed breakdown + list of important features (comparing 10 different macro lenses) that I hope proves both interesting and useful to those who are rubbing their chin about their next macro lens purchase :)

Hope it proves useful to some,

Jack
« Last Edit: January 28, 2016, 02:56:15 pm by John Koerner »
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NancyP

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2016, 01:19:15 pm »

Link broken
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2016, 01:31:13 pm »

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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2016, 05:21:19 pm »

MACRO CHAMP: The Most Bang for the Buck


The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens


I just completed a blog entry about macro lenses, from the perspective of a nature photographer (not studio photographer). One fellow here (Michael Erlewine) wrote a wonderful piece about some exotic macro lenses, which article I still have bookmarked, as it was really quite informative.

However, Mr. Erlewine's perspective came from a studio photographer, where you have all the time in the world to set up, get the light right, and focus ... whereas mine comes from the perspective of selecting a macro lens for out in the field, trying to photograph live subjects, where your window of opportunity is fleeting, and your subjects may be moving.

I have shot 4 different Canon macro lenses (100 f/2.8, 100 f/2.8L, 180 f/3.5L, and the MPE-65) over the last 8 years.

I have typically held the belief that moving to a 3rd party macro lens was a step down (if not in image quality, in build quality).

However, all of that changed after reading enough reviews on the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO macro lens, and after purchasing it, I can honestly say it's the best macro lens I have ever put at the end of my camera.

So I thought I would create a blog post, giving a detailed breakdown + list of important features (comparing 10 different macro lenses) that I hope proves both interesting and useful to those who are rubbing their chin about their next macro lens purchase :)

Hope it proves useful to some,

Jack

Jack,

Thanks for posting you evaluations. I have the Sigma 180 f/2.8 and the Nikon 105 f/2.8 AFS and have been quite pleased with them and agree with your findings. The Sigma 180 is a beast, but it handles well. Glad that you confirmed that the Nikon 105 performs well. I was a bit uneasy about it's being made in China.

Regards,

Bill
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2016, 06:33:23 pm »

Jack,

Thanks for posting you evaluations. I have the Sigma 180 f/2.8 and the Nikon 105 f/2.8 AFS and have been quite pleased with them and agree with your findings. The Sigma 180 is a beast, but it handles well. Glad that you confirmed that the Nikon 105 performs well. I was a bit uneasy about it's being made in China.

Regards,

Bill


Nice one-two punch combo :)

What do you shoot mostly, Bill?

When do you prefer to use the one, rather than the other?

Jack
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Sean H

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2016, 06:40:22 pm »

Hi John, your review was very useful. I also shoot macro, but not exclusively. I found your review comments and descriptions helpful because I was wondering about the Canon ultra macro (if that is the right term) and I only know one person who used the Canon 1:1 - 1:5 and he didn't mention the reality that if it is purchased, one will likely have to get the specialized light to accompany it. Sometimes I like to shoot very close up shots of plant and/or insect materials to get unusual colours and textures and your review has given me more to think about. Also appreciated your discussion of the weights of the lenses.

Sean
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2016, 08:21:31 pm »

Hi John, your review was very useful. I also shoot macro, but not exclusively.

Hi Sean, thanks for taking the time to read it.



I found your review comments and descriptions helpful because I was wondering about the Canon ultra macro (if that is the right term) and I only know one person who used the Canon 1:1 - 1:5 and he didn't mention the reality that if it is purchased, one will likely have to get the specialized light to accompany it.

The Canon MPE-65 is essentially a paperweight ... unless you purchase macro rails and/or a flash.

I prefer the less-expensive option of macro rails and have been able to get shots like this with natural light:



You must keep in mind this is a camouflaged creature, that holds perfectly still, and that this is an 8-shot stack taken from a tripod/macro rail combo.

There is no way I could hand-hold and get this kind of shot ... unless I had a flash.

Moreover, with a flash on this lens, you can't just use it the way it came out of the box either.

Worse, while there are some cheapo diffusers you can buy for it, none of them really work.

Instead, you will have to make some sort of customized macro rig to get the most out of this lens. (Scroll all the way down, because there are some pretty nice ones.)



Sometimes I like to shoot very close up shots of plant and/or insect materials to get unusual colours and textures and your review has given me more to think about. Also appreciated your discussion of the weights of the lenses.
Sean

Thank you, I appreciate yours also.

From 1:1 - 2:1, I can put a set of extension tubes on the end of the Sigma 180 and equal anything out of the MPE 65, and be able to do so from a more comfortable distance away.

However, beyond that, the MPE 65 is the way to go. While there are wonderful reverse-mount + prime combinations that can achieve greater-than-1:1 magnification, nothing allows you the smooth transition from 1:1 to 5:1 than going with the MPE 65.

If you spend a lot of time within that range, and once you tweak your accessories to perfection, you will take mind-boggling macros that cannot be achieved with any other commercial lens.

People are always amazed by such images, because they simply can't see small objects that close with their eyes.

Jack
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2016, 08:43:26 pm »

Thanks for the review, it appears to be a very sweet lens indeed.

Cheers,
Bernard

Leszek Piotrowski

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2016, 10:01:41 pm »

I've taken some "closeup" shots while in the field (never true macro) and have been contemplating if I should explore macro photography at some point in the near future.  Your blog comparison on todays macro lens gear was to me most informative, useful and interesting. I especially appreciate the criteria you decided to use in the comparison. These criteria would also be a good guide to helping me evaluate future lens purchases, not necessarily macro lens gear.  Thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together.
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2016, 11:13:40 pm »

Thanks for the review, it appears to be a very sweet lens indeed.
Cheers,
Bernard

It is ... and I need to upgrade my camera to match it now :-\
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2016, 11:14:59 pm »

I've taken some "closeup" shots while in the field (never true macro) and have been contemplating if I should explore macro photography at some point in the near future.  Your blog comparison on todays macro lens gear was to me most informative, useful and interesting. I especially appreciate the criteria you decided to use in the comparison. These criteria would also be a good guide to helping me evaluate future lens purchases, not necessarily macro lens gear.  Thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together.

You're welcome and thank you for taking the time to read it and comment.

That is exactly what I had hoped it would be :)

Jack
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2016, 11:56:24 pm »

One fellow here (Michael Erlewine) wrote a wonderful piece about some exotic macro lenses, which article I still have bookmarked, as it was really quite informative.

However, Mr. Erlewine's perspective came from a studio photographer, where you have all the time in the world to set up, get the light right, and focus ... whereas mine comes from the perspective of selecting a macro lens for out in the field, trying to photograph live subjects, where your window of opportunity is fleeting, and your subjects may be moving.

Well, just to set the records straight, actually I shoot outdoors all spring and summer and in the studio during the long cold winters here in Michigan. And I shoot all kinds of critters, not just still life.

As for lenses, I use many lenses for my work, which tends to be more close-up than macro. I like the context of close-up rather than the filling-of-the-frame that most macro demands. You may have seen one of my articles on the industrial Nikkors and related lenses and got the idea that I shoot everything on a bellows or rail, but I use many other, more common, lenses as well. I do tend to use APO (highly-corrected) lenses.

I have many free videos on technique here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5xDr8mWUwrzi4bxY978O1DQykUrj-S2I

And free e-books here:

http://spiritgrooves.net/e-Books.aspx#Photography
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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2016, 10:24:49 am »


Nice one-two punch combo :)

What do you shoot mostly, Bill?

When do you prefer to use the one, rather than the other?

Jack

I have been shooting mainly close up (not true macro) shots of flowers in their native habitat. Since getting the Sigma, I have been using it more extensively in order to gain experience with it. The results have been excellent. Since is is now winter in northern Illinois, my outdoor shooting has been curtained recently. The increased working distance with the 180 is invaluable when one can't get close enough to the flower. The orchid show is coming to the Chicago Botanic Garden soon and I will be using the Sigma 180 when obstructions prevent getting close to the flowers. When I can approach the flower, I will likely use the 105 mm since it is easier to operate. The heft of the 180 is a drawback, but like you I would rather have the speed and quality of the Sigma over some of the less capable lenses you reviewed.

Bill
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2016, 10:44:58 am »

Well, just to set the records straight, actually I shoot outdoors all spring and summer and in the studio during the long cold winters here in Michigan. And I shoot all kinds of critters, not just still life.

My mistake then, thanks for the correction.
(All I saw in the article were garden flowers.)



As for lenses, I use many lenses for my work, which tends to be more close-up than macro. I like the context of close-up rather than the filling-of-the-frame that most macro demands. You may have seen one of my articles on the industrial Nikkors and related lenses and got the idea that I shoot everything on a bellows or rail, but I use many other, more common, lenses as well. I do tend to use APO (highly-corrected) lenses.

I tend to do more close-up than extreme myself.

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts of the Sigma 180 APO macro compared to the Voigtlander 135mm macro ...



I have many free videos on technique here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5xDr8mWUwrzi4bxY978O1DQykUrj-S2I
And free e-books here:
http://spiritgrooves.net/e-Books.aspx#Photography

What a wonderful and worthwhile collection :)

I have added links to your material to my Resources page.

I can empathize with the amount of work that went into your material ... as I have put about 3 years' worth of work into my own site, which just recently came to life ... and I still feel I have a lifetime of work still left to do on it.

Since my own passion is macro photography, I will go through each one of your macro videos and ebooks with interest, as I can tell I can learn a great deal from you.

Hats off to you for the time, effort, and care that went into such a compilation ... and thank you for making your experiences available

Jack
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NancyP

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2016, 10:46:17 am »

Cute little spider there, nicely camouflaged - well done!

Thanks for the review. The Sigma f/2.8 180 has struck me as being highly desirable as long as you don't mind the bulk and weight. I have the old Canon 180 3.5 macro, a nice lens with attractive bokeh wide open, 20+ year old design, but I bought it before the Sigma came out. Sigma a better deal all around.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2016, 11:24:57 am »


Would be interested in hearing your thoughts of the Sigma 180 APO macro compared to the Voigtlander 135mm macro ...


You mean the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar. I don't have the Sigma, so not sure how it compares. Nothing compares to the Zeiss Otus 55mm and 85mm, and 135mm (just about as good), IMO. I use the Otus 55 with the least extension (5.8mm) a lot.

Voigtland has the 125mm APO Macro, the 90mm APO Macro, and the 180mm APO (not macro), all of which are good.
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2016, 11:53:58 am »

You mean the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar.

Yes.



I don't have the Sigma, so not sure how it compares. Nothing compares to the Zeiss Otus 55mm and 85mm, and 135mm (just about as good), IMO. I use the Otus 55 with the least extension (5.8mm) a lot.

Not macro lenses, however, so outside the topic. (No 1:1)

For nature photography no AF or IS either, and the first two lack the reach to be versatile.



Voigtland has the 125mm APO Macro, the 90mm APO Macro, and the 180mm APO (not macro), all of which are good.

Thanks.

Would be most interested in the 125 APO Macro specs.

The 680 of focusing from 0-to-infinity, while an enhancement for some applications, could be a detriment in others (certain live subjects), with no AF/IS.

For flowers, portraiture, or wildlife that "stays still" this would be ideal.
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NancyP

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2016, 11:56:51 am »

I have the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 1:1 macro no-IS/VR manual focus lens, and I love it for what it is best at - relatively static shots at a medium distance - it is handholdable under certain circumstances at 1/125 or faster, I shoot in burst mode and usually one of the shots is free of motion artifact at 100%. It is a true APO and the resolution is very good. It is a very good lens for traveling light, a lens to take on a 5 or 10 mile wildflower hike (typical complement is the 6D,  125mm V macro, and for possible landscape the 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens, which is darn good stopped down and a decent lens to use for pano, plus my 3 pound tripod/head, polarizer, wired shutter releases, pop-up reflector, and hiking necessaries).

Some insects can benefit from more distance, and the 180 is a great focal length. 180mm is sometimes inconvenient for plant and fungus photography due to the need to sweep intervening stems/leaves out of the way. The Voigtlander optics are so far superior to the old Canon 180 that my 180 leaves home mostly for snake and butterfly expeditions. I slap the 1.4x teleconverter on the 180 for snakes when I expect to be finding timber rattlesnakes or (always grumpy) cottonmouths, distance is good when you are observing venomous snakes. I will take the slight optical degradation of a teleconverter over the possibility of upsetting the snake.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2016, 12:07:06 pm »

Would be most interested in the 125 APO Macro specs.

Here are some 40+ lenses that can be used for close-up and macro work:

http://spiritgrooves.net/pdf/e-books/Lenses%20for%20Close-up%20and%20Macro%20Photography%20V1.1.pdf


« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 02:15:28 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2016, 12:23:20 pm »

You mean the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar. I don't have the Sigma, so not sure how it compares. Nothing compares to the Zeiss Otus 55mm and 85mm, and 135mm (just about as good), IMO. I use the Otus 55 with the least extension (5.8mm) a lot.

Voigtland has the 125mm APO Macro, the 90mm APO Macro, and the 180mm APO (not macro), all of which are good.

Michael,

Thanks for the many posts and articles which you share with the photographic community free of charge. I have found them very informative.

Highly corrected is not well defined, but chromatic aberration seems to be a major component. Some say CA is of little concern, since it can be corrected in post as claimed here. But that is not true as pointed out by Bart and others. What is your take?

Related to longitudinal chromatic aberration is spherochromaticism, the chromatic variant of spherical aberration. In the older Zeiss literature, they reported that their apochromatic microscopic objectives were corrected for chromatic aberration for 3 colors and spherical aberration for 2 colors. This is Abbe's original definition of apochromatic correction. Some current apochromats are corrected for 4-5 colors for chromatic aberration and 3-4 colors for spherical aberration. I don't know how this applies to camera lenses.

Regards,

Bill
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 12:45:49 pm by bjanes »
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