So I decided on the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM for shooting the artwork. It is really nice and takes great shots with little distortion if any (haven't test it much yet). But I'm surprised how far away I have to be from the work. Even small work I'm set well back.

What would be the difference with the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro? It also has flat optics but shoots at 1:2. So does that mean the camera would be closer physically? Or should I be looking at the 100m Macro instead?

The reason I'm asking is I found a heavy duty tripod that can mount the camera upside down, so for a lot of the work I can set it up as a large copy stand. But with EF-S 60mm it would limit to mostly the smaller subjects, so perhaps the compact macro would be a better option?

That being said the EF-S 60mm Macro would be great for standard tripod shooting because it'll give me a bit more room front of the camera for when I have to maneuver and adjust lighting, etc..

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    If you are, e.g., 6 feet from the work with a 60mm lens, you would have to be 5 feet from the work with a 50mm lens and 10 feet from the work with a 100mm lens. Feb 11 '11 at 22:55
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    Typically a 60mm macro will be less than 12" from its subject to be in the "macro" range. Beyond that and you're not really taking advantage of the lenses' close-focus capability. Are you sure you need a macro? A standard 50mm will save you a lot of money in comparison.
    – Greg
    Feb 12 '11 at 2:35
  • @jukka you should add that as an answer...
    – Matt Grum
    Feb 12 '11 at 3:34
  • Greg, Everyone in my other questions suggested a macro lens. Not for their macro function but for their flat optics that will have much less distortion at the edges; no bulging edges. However, you're right, when I set the stock lens at a similar zoom I also had little distortion in the edges. But I guess I can loose something optically as the zoom function means they might not be balanced right for something. I'm not really sure?
    – kelly
    Feb 12 '11 at 20:28

Unless you artwork is minuscule, such as postage stamps, then the difference in magnification does not matter. It has to do with how small you can photograph.

In your case the artwork has a fixed size, so you have to set your distance according to the focal length. As Jukka points out in his comment, you have to be 20% further with the 60mm than with the 50mm.

That relation is fixed. To get closer to cover the same work, you need a short focal-length but keep in mind that shorter focal-lengths tend to show more distortion.


Macro lenses are intended to get close. Thus, you won't find many macro lenses with wide or normal focal lengths. If 60mm is too long for you, you might not need a macro.

Also, notice that while 50mm is a normal focal length on a full-frame camera like the 5D, it is slight telephoto on an APS-C camera like the 550D due to the crop factor of 1.6. A normal focal length on an APS-C camera would be 30mm.


If you are looking to (almost) halve your distance to the subject, you might be interested in the little known Tokina 35mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Macro. I don't own it, but there is a review at Lenstip. At $279 from B&H its a steal.

  • that is of interest fmark. thanks for letting me know. That may change thing for me...
    – kelly
    Feb 12 '11 at 20:37

If you're shooting 'mostly prints up to 24"x30", and oil paintings on canvas and board up to 30"x40",' then the "1:1" and "1:2" maximum magnification ratings are completely irrelevant for your purposes, since you're not remotely approaching those limits.

As others note, the 50mm lens would allow you to place the camera very slightly closer to the subject. The 100mm lens would require the camera to be much further from the subject.

The 60mm you have, and sufficient space in which to work, is probably just about ideal.

  • yeah that makes sense. I think I'm going to have to go with the standard tripod set up and forget the copy stand. This will work fine for when I can hold everything parallel, but some work I might have to photograph at an angle (drawings on paper). Here not only will I be moving the tripod back and forth but I'll be having to set things up inline with the angle of the shot. I think it'll work out though...
    – kelly
    Feb 12 '11 at 20:33

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