I have been using a 14mp point and shoot for a couple of years. I like to take macros of flowers, frost and bugs. I want to keep zooming in on my PC to see deeper into the flower, so I bought a 18mp Canon EOS Rebel t4i with two kit lenses.

I am very disappointed, because the macro pictures from the $150 camera and the $1100 camera look the same.

A 5:1 magnification macro lens from cannon is $1000. Should i get the Nikon 24mp for $650 or save up for the Canon lens? Would tubes help? should i return the canon?


3 Answers 3


Small sensors can be better for macro images, the standard definition of macro means a 1:1 size ratio between subject and film, so you could project an image of a 35mm object onto a single piece of 35mm film.

Because compacts (usually) have smaller sensors a true 1:1 macro lens on a compact would be capable of filling the frame with smaller objects. A DSLR ought to be capable of sharper images, but to match the reproduction ratio you'll have to go past 1:1 and look at something like the MPE-65. A reversed wide-angle is a good budget alternative. This site provides reviews of various lenses reversed for macro work:


Things do get difficult once you get into super-macro territory though. Subject motion is a killer, depth of field is next to nothing, so focus stacking is often required and light losses and tiny apertures require lots of light, usually an external source.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps I'm being dense, but I don't understand this. Say a compact sensor, for the sake of argument, is 1cm, then you can reproduce a 1cm object at 1:1 on it; great. But surely you can image that same object at 1:1 on a 3.5cm DSLR too, you'd just have more extraneous stuff around it? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2012 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ElendilTheTall I've corrected the answer to make it more clear what I meant. You can always photograph objects, no matter how small they are with any camera/lens, the difference is how much of the frame is filled. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Oct 8, 2012 at 15:44

Fancy macro lenses are the easy way to do macro. However, you can accomplish similar feats with cheaper methods. Mostly, extension tubes. The farther the lens is from the sensor the more magnification you'll get, but at the expense of depth of field and the focal point/range may be difficult to work with. However, it's a lot cheaper. A cheap set of extension tubes will cost about $12 and give you a lot of flexibility with how much extension you want, but you'll have to deal with losing aperture control and autofocus. More expensive tubes will give those features back.

It's worth pointing out that if you don't have a sufficiently sharp lens then having more MP won't help much. Here's a video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=SVKcY4IZ5Ag#t=321s ) where they're comparing two similar lenses on the same camera body. Notice that when they zoom in one is better than the other. This is a result of the lens and more MP won't help that.

I'd look around for some cheap macro solutions (mostly lens reversal and extension tubes) before you decide you need to spend a bunch of money on the super-duper 5:1 lens.


First, return the kit lenses. One of them is already too much :)

You can buy a macro lens and - if you are serious about macro photography - you should. A 5X lens is expensive but 1X ones exist too and have more magnification than most point and shoots. This means that you will be able to image something smaller than what you could with your point-and-shoot. Tubes help but so far I found that they do not push the limit much before image quality drops and they are difficult to handle and focus gets harder.

However, if you are doing macro for product and documentary photography, what I recommend more is to buy an ultra-zoom with manual controls such as Canon SX-series or Fuji S-series cameras. Look for models which can focus to 0cm (zero) from Canon or 1cm from Fuji.

The difference is that the depth-of-field in macros from an ultra-zoom is much greater than a DSLR with macro lens (or other macro contraption) and therefore much easier to focus and show an entire subject (similar to your P&S except that with manual-controls you can make sure the depth-of-field is truly extensive by stopping down the aperture to F/8 on Canon or F/11 on Fuji.

Your passing question to buy a Nikon is truly about of the blue. It is still a DSLR and you still wont have a macro lens for that price, so there will be no improvement regarding macro photography.

What you need to do is decide the kind of macro photography you want. If that is extreme closeups and shallow depth-of-field is part of the look, then upgrade your lenses one way or another (extension tubes, reversal, macro lens, etc). If you want to show something small completely in focus with ease, then get an ultra-zoom. Both the Fuji HS30 EXR and Canon SX40 are great choices.


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