What Is a Macro Lens?
Put simply, macro photography is capturing a subject at life-size or larger. A macro lens helps us achieve this, and a photographer interested in flowers or insects might use one in order to pick up more detail than the human eye can normally see.
For more information, check out 40 Remarkable Examples of Macro Photography.
The word ‘macro’ has become synonymous with close-up photography. Most compact cameras having a macro shooting mode, and a large number of zoom lenses feature the word ‘macro’ in their title.
Typically, these lenses can reproduce small objects at up to 0.5x life size on a camera’s imaging sensor. In most cases, dedicated macro prime lenses go further still, enabling full 1.0x or 1:1 magnification at their closest focusing distances.
That might not sound particularly impressive but bear in mind that an APS-C format image sensor is only about the size of a standard postage stamp. You’re therefore filling the entire image frame with something very small and, once the captured image is displayed on a screen or printed on paper, the degree of *** is enormous – a macro lens can reveal almost microscopic levels of detail, and make tiny bugs look like giant alien invaders.
While macro lenses are often used to take photos of things to close up, how they’re used isn’t actually what defines them. A macro lens has the ability to focus from infinity to 1:1 magnification, meaning that the size of the image in real life is the same size as it’s reproduced on the sensor. The magnification ratio tells you how the image projected on the camera’s sensor compares with the subject’s actual size, so a lens with a 1:2 ratio can project an image on its sensor up to half the size of the subject while a lens with a 5:1 ratio can project an image five times the size of the subject. Macro lenses also allow for closer focusing distances than normal lenses