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Macro lens

What is a good reasonable marco lens for my D5500?


  • edited January 2017
    It depends a little on what distances are suitable. Macro of inanimate objects is less demanding in some ways than that of things like bugs that get scared and fly away. If you're not worried about having to get up close to your subject, look at the 40mm f/2.8 DX macro. True macro will require you to get very close, and will make lighting trickier, but you can focus very close with this one, and from what I've heard it makes a very good normal lens too. If you don't already have a normal prime lens such as the 35mm, this has considerable appeal.

    If you're routinely after insects and the like, the longer the focal length the better. An extension tube on a plain old 200mm might get you better results than a fine dedicate macro that requires you to get on top of your subject.

    If you're willing to manually focus, one of the nicest lenses around is the old 105mm f/2.8 Nikkor. This has come in various forms, including a manual one that will not meter on the D5500, and an AFD that will meter but not AF on the D5500, and a more modern G that is very expensive. They're all pretty expensive, but give good results. The one issue here is that at magnifications between 1:2 and 1:1 the focal length changes, and ends up closer to 60mm than to 105mm, and this makes close focusing on a tripod or macro rail difficult, as both focus and distance change at once.

    I'm not familiar with all the third party lenses, but there are various things available in addition to the Nikon offerings. Your main issue will be to decide how far from your subject you need to be, to determine what focal length works best. Do make sure that you read carefully what the actual magnification is, as different manufacturers may use the term "macro" differently.

    Since the D5500 is a DX camera, and has a dense sensor, remember that to fill the frame takes a bit less magnification than it would in full frame, and a sharp shot can be cropped with little loss too. Although true "macro" is often defined as 1:1 (that is, a centimeter of subject will occupy a centimeter of the sensor or film), you may find that 1:2 or even more is enough magnification to get you where you need to be.

    My usual disclaimer here: I don't have any of the usual choices myself. I tend to play with odd optics, and for macro work I have tried a variety of things, including typesetting lenses in a microscope adapter, which, though slow and difficult to focus, turn out to be pretty sharp and deliver decent bokeh.

    For longer macro work, I've had good luck with an ancient 200mm lens on extension tubes. Completely manual and unmetered, but with the advantage that it can catch bugs from a distance. For larger subjects such as butterflies and flowers, a plain tele zoom such as the 55-300mm may give better results than you'd expect. A butterfly will fill the frame of that at 300mm.

  • Thanks much Bruto for your help. Have you tried the lens reversal method? Did you good results?
  • edited January 2017
    Yes, lens reversal works well if you have a lens whose aperture works manually. Remember that a G lens will always stop down completely when reversed, and an E electronic lens will always shoot wide open. If all you have is a G lens it is possible to mechanically jam the aperture lever open, but aside from the danger, you can't adjust the aperture on the fly. You won't get any meaningful difference in distance from the focus, so as with the unfocusing macros you'll need to move the whole camera or the subject within a fairly narrow range. The focus ring will give you fine tuning only.

    But one of the advantages of reversal is that you can use basically any old lens that comes your way, as long as it has filter threads that match whatever reversing ring you use, and old prime lenses are ideal for this. As with any macro lens, they tend to require you to get pretty close, but the results can be very crisp. If you're willing to take a little trouble going manual, reversed lenses can be a cheap way to get very good macro. Short lenses can go very macro, and long lenses don't work very well, so you're best off in the normal range, between about 28mm and 50mm.
  • Thanks. This is very helpful.
  • Hi.I have a Nikon macro dx 40mm f 2.8, for taking close ups of jewellery. I have a lighting set up & light tent. Use a tripod & remote shutter release. I am a beginner and not getting good results. Can you suggest what setting i should be using. Thanks
  • It would help to know what about the result is not good, and how you are doing it now.

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