I've recently found a passion for macro photography and have purchased a Nikon D3200 which is a great starter DSLR.

I have a macro setting on my DSLR and am currently using a VR lens.

Will i benefit from buying a new macro lens? If so how do I know which one to buy?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: What is a macro lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 5, 2014 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ VR stands for Vibration Reduction. It has no bearing on how close or how much magnification is available. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 5, 2014 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jay - what is your current macro lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – fubo
    Aug 8, 2014 at 9:16

1 Answer 1


There are various general considerations when buying a macro lens.

What is compatible with my camera? Nikon's macro lenses include the word Micro in their name and their current line up can be found here. From those you would need an AF-S lens or you will not be able to use autofocus.

What level of magnification are you looking achieve? The smaller the object you wish to capture, the larger the focal length (mm) you will need to fill the frame.

How close do you want to get? Again, to fill the frame you'll want to be able to alter position, the minimum focus distance (MFD) will determine how close do you can get.

How much are you willing to spend? That is a question only you can answer. Macro photography is a relatively small market and so macro lenses are rarely cheap. Like anything in photography, detail in production counts for a lot and if you want good equipment you will need deep pockets.

There are some ways to slim down the costs. You can:-

  • look at other lens makers like Sigma and Tamron. Both produce some good lenses.
  • buy a cheap (2nd hand) fully manual (or AF-D) lens in combination with a reverse ring or mount. This can be fiddly to begin with, but as this example shows, can be highly effective with practice.
  • add extension tubes between your existing camera body and lens.

You can also get additional elements (similar to filters) which attach to the front of your existing lens, however these are usually of very poor quality and should be avoided.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth saying that none of the "big 3" third-party lens makers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) has ever made a "stinker" macro lens in the 90-100mm range; the only complaint you can have is with the AF speed, and AF is almost completely useless at high magnification anyway. Otherwise, they're optically very good to excellent and mechanically sound — and can be relatively cheap on the used market (around the $300 mark in "8+" condition). \$\endgroup\$
    – user28116
    Aug 5, 2014 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, I have an old Nikon 55 3.5 micro. It was updated by Nikon with an F-mount decades before I purchased it. If you can find one, it's a great lens, and often very cheap (around 100-200). \$\endgroup\$
    – moorej
    Aug 5, 2014 at 17:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "The smaller the object you wish to capture, the larger the focal length (mm) you will need to fill the frame." Not exactly. With Macro the crucial number is Maximum Magnification which is determined by the combination of (sometimes purely theoretical if the lens isn't designed to focus light to infinity at the registration distance of the camera for which it is designed) focal length and the minimum focus distance. A 100mm lens with an MFD of 12.2" (the Canon 100mm Macros) yields an MM of 1.0x but an EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens w/MFD of 235" only has an MM of 0.14x! \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Aug 6, 2014 at 1:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark - last time I checked Canon didn't mark the EF 800mm as a macro lens. :) I'll do an edit for the MFD though. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6, 2014 at 9:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamesSnell ^^ Which is my entire point. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Aug 6, 2014 at 22:11

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