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Is the Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM a good lens to be used for Macro photography? I mostly try to photograph flowers and also insects sometimes. I will be using it with a Canon EOS 800D and will be shooting predominantly handheld shots.

Any general opinions of the lens are also appreciated, (build quality, stabilisation etc).

I am a beginner at macro photography and am currently experimenting with a standard 55-250 Canon Zoom lens and I'm looking to upgrade to a macro-specific lens to get more detailed and close-up shots.

  • I had this lens and found it quite mediocre. I sold it as quick ad possible. Much better a dedicated one as the Tamron 90mm – roetnig Jan 7 at 11:33
  • What about it made it mediocre? – O Bhavsar Jan 7 at 11:38
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    Didn't you state you already have a 100mm macro lens? What do you want the 18-250 to do that you are unable to do with your current macro lens? – xiota Jan 7 at 11:44
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    Poor image quality. Also, the name "macro" is misleading, you won't get true macro images. If you are into macro photography, then go for a true macro lens. – roetnig Jan 7 at 11:50
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    I recommend renting or borrowing lenses you are considering buying. That way, you can see if it matches your personal needs and preferences. – Alexandra Jan 7 at 11:55
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Technically you need a true macro lens (Sigma calls "Macro" lenses that can focus pretty close, but still not allow 1:1 real-life:sensor ratio). For static objects you can use short lenses, but for insects you need a longer lens (90-100mm)(and a 2000mm one for spiders).

There are more economic alternatives, though, that can give acceptable results:

A close-up lens

A close-up lens is a converging lens that is added to the lens like a filter. On your 55-250 you can use a 2 diopters (500mm) or 4 diopters (250mm) lens. The stronger one requires more skill...

Before I invested in a real macro lens (the "basic" Canon 100m 2.8) I did macro shooting with the 55-250mm, using a close-up lens (a good one...):

enter image description here

A good close up lens has at least two elements: Canon has good (and expensive) ones, other good manufacturers are Raynox and Kenko.

The drawback is that this makes your lens myopic: instead of focusing from 3" to infinity, it focuses from 1" to 1', so it's hard to use in nature.

Extension rings:

Possibly the cheapest way. These are rings that are inserted between the lens and the camera. The thicker the rings, the closer you can focus. You usually get a set of a various thickness, and you can stack them. They are more effective on short lenses. They also make your camera myopic. The very cheap ones may not allow lens control (focus and aperture) and some may have too much slack (lens not centered, especially when rings are stacked).

  • ..... 2000 mm ? – xiota Jan 7 at 19:10
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    You want to be very, very far :) – xenoid Jan 7 at 20:46
  • Haha... understood. – xiota Jan 8 at 9:57
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Sigma lists the maximum reproduction ratio of that lens as 1:2.9, or 0.34X maximum magnification (MM). That's about one third of the 1:1 reproduction ratio that most photographers consider to be a true macro lens.

If you have the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM or EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II, they both have a maximum magnification of 0.31X, which is nearly identical to the Sigma lens. The older Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS has a slightly smaller MM of 0.29X.

Your current Canon 55-250mm lens (any of the the versions) is also a better overall lens optically in the focal lengths they share in common with the Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM. You would really be gaining nothing with regard to macro photography by swapping from your EF-S 55-250mm to the Sigma 18-250mm.

If you really want to do macro photography, you need to consider a true macro lens with a 1:1 reproduction ratio/1.0X MM. Such lenses are almost always prime lenses. That is, they are lenses with a single focal length that does not "zoom". This allows them to be optimized for that single focal length. Additionally, true macro lenses tend to be optimized to perform best at the closest focus distance or minimum focus distance (MFD).

In the Canon system, you could consider anything from the new EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM that has an innovative light built in to the front of the lens, a used (discontinued) EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro, an EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro, two different 100mm f/2.8 macros lenses (one is in the "luxury grade" "L" series), or even an EF 180mm f/3.5 L Macro.

Then there's the unique Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5X Macro. It has a variable MM of 1.0X to 5.0X. It also only has a single focus distance for each reproduction ratio and can not focus further than 100mm in front of the lens at 1.0X. At 5.0X it can only focus 41mm in front of the lens and no further!

Note that your Canon EOS Rebel T7i/800D can use either EF-S or EF lenses. If you ever move to a full frame Canon camera, you will only be able to use EF lenses. Also note that the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro has an MM of 0.5X (1:2), rather than an MM of 1.0X (1:1).

There are also some great third party macro lenses made for the Canon EF mount. Tamron has released a series of 90mm macros that are very well regarded by many. The current lens in that series is the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD (Model F017). The name is very similar to previous Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro lenses, so be sure you are getting the one you think you are!

For some related questions here at Photography.SE, please see:

Variable focal length for macro lenses?
How do focal length, minimum focus distance, and magnification interact on a lens?
What does "magnification" mean?
What kind of lens to photograph a 1 mm object?
Variable focal length for macro lenses?
Why is the Tamron 90mm 2.8 marketed as Macro and not as a "portrait" lens?
How to choose lens for macro photography?
How can I take a macro shot without a macro lens?

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Super Zooms

The Sigma 18-250/3.5-6.3 is a superzoom. Superzooms often have design compromises to be able to obtain the impressive zoom ratio. However, lenses should be considered on their own merits, and you may find it helpful to consult comparison images.

Macro Zooms

"Macro" zooms are not "true" macro lenses.

  • They do focus more closely than their non-macro siblings, so they are useful for taking flower photos.

  • They cannot achieve 1:1 reproduction ratios, so may not be suitable for smaller insects.

  • They may have distortion that macro primes would be corrected for.

  • Their ability to focus closely may be limited to certain focal lengths. My current walkabout lens has macro mode at the short end. I do not know whether the Sigma 18-250/3.5-6.3 has such limitations.

Inexpensive Macro

Since a lot of macro is manually focused, you can consider vintage lenses. Your choices for the EF/EF-S mount will be limited mainly to M42, Nikon F, and Tamron Adaptall.

You can then divert money saved to getting a higher quality general-purpose optic than the Sigma 18-250/3.5-6.3 would have provided. For instance, you could consider the Canon EF 18-105/4L.

For more macro options, see What macro techniques offer an alternative to expensive optics?

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