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OK, but not for real macro photography
on 9 July 2012
I have always loved macro photography. Since I purchased my first digital 'point and shoot' camera, I have enjoyed exploring the minute detail, often overlooked, that is present in everyday life. So when I eventually upgraded to an SLR, this was one feature that I was keen to explore.
I initially had 2 lenses for my Nikon D90; the versatile Nikon 18-200mm VRII for most situations and the excellent Nikon 35mm f1.8 for portraiture and low-light photography. While both are excellent lenses in their own right, neither are suitable for the extreme macro close-ups that I was hoping for.
I was therefore excited to read the glowing reviews from 2 professional photographers about this 'Close-Up Lens' from Canon, which, at 72mm, would fit on the front of the 18-200mm VRII. There were also several favorable reviews online from people who had used this combination. The general consensus was that, while this is by no means a dedicated macro, it was an alternative at a fraction of the cost that would achieve 'macro' results, while not taking up much room in a camera bag. After a prolonged and frustrating search, (this lens was not easy to find at the time!), I was delighted to eventually acquire one.
Unfortunately, my delight was short-lived. After trying out the lens for some time, I realised that while it does get you closer than the native lens, this was only by a modest amount. For example, if shooting the face of a 50mm diameter watch, with the 18-200mm lens alone, the watch face would fill approximately 75% of the frame. With the close-up attachment, the watch face would fit 100% of the frame, but one certainly could not zoom in any closer, for example, to make a number on the watch face fill the frame.
Disappointed, I re-sold the lens in favour of a true macro. Even the modest cost of the close-up lens couldn't really be justified as similar results could be achieved simply by cropping in post-production.
I knew a macro, while probably the most exciting type of lens for me, would still be very much a 'third' lens for occasional use only. I could not therefore justify the substantial cost of a Nikon macro (or 'Micro'!). However, after much research, I opted for the £260 Tamron 272 SP AF 90mm F/2.8. Although this lens is slightly trickier to use than the equivalent Nikon, it really does achieve the amazing results I was looking for. Photos of insects, for example, are shockingly good, revealing detailed structures in a way that is commonly seen in professional macro photography. Photos of flowers are particularly satisfying as a quarter of even a small flower head will easily fill the frame. The lens is tack-sharp. Haven't looked back since (mainly because I am usually looking through this lens to see other details that are invisible to the human eye!).