I'm interested to know what benefits there are from using a dedicated macro lens as opposed to a zoom lens with macro ability.

  1. Will a zoom lens be capable of close focus when zoomed in fully?
  2. Will a zoom lens be capable of similar magnification ratios?
  3. Will a zoom lens be as sharp?

As background information, I am interested in 1:1 magnification ratio and above as I want to be able to capture close-ups of insects etc using a DSLR with a APS-C sensor.

  • \$\begingroup\$ All your questions seem to pretty much be answered in the duplicate I've linked; if there's something not covered there, please edit your question to explain precisely what information you're looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't really understand how the answer to that question addresses this one. My question is different and although that answer might contain some of the information I need, it doesn't directly address this question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've never seen a zoom lens that comes close to an MP-E 65 (some examples). \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 22:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There are some who would define the MP-E 65 1-5x Macro as a zoom lens. There is a reason why it is not named the EF 65mm f/2.8-16. When you have a compound lens system (several lenses behaving as one lens) and the front group and rear group change their relative position in such a radical amount that results in a 500% change in the FoV, I think the argument can be made that it is at least a type of zoom lens, although maybe not the most typical kind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've never seen a zoom lens with macro abilities that comes close to the performance of, what most people would consider a dedicated macro lens, the MP-E 65 (some examples) \$\endgroup\$
    – db9dreamer
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 10:57

1 Answer 1

  1. "Close focus" is very vague, but many zooms can focus close. However, the greatest magnification ratio isn't always at the longest focal length.

  2. For almost every zoom, "macro" has been a marketing term. "Real" macro means the ability to get a magnification ratio of at least 1:2. "Macro" zooms get down to ~1:4. The exceptions that I know of are Nikon's 70-180 which is a true macro lens that also happens to be a zoom; and I'm almost certain that at one point some of Sigma's lenses got down to 1:2. Maybe you could get to 1:1 with a zoom lens by using a combination of close up lenses and extension tubes, but quality would be lacking.

  3. Not in the least. Why do you think there are specialized macro lenses? They're designed to perform well close up, not only in terms of sharpness but also distortion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are several zoom "macro" lenses that have an MM in the low .30s range. That is still 1/3 the MM of a a 1:1 Macro lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 2:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't a lens need to have a 1:1 ratio to be called a "Macro" lens ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy M
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 5:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's subjective. I said 1:2 because there have been many true macro lenses that only reach that magnification. \$\endgroup\$
    – JenSCDC
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 6:58

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