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I want to buy a Sony A6000 and a lens for close up photography of small items.

I've looked at photos taken with various lenses and 50mm 1.8f seem to give the kind of photo that I want.

But they were Canon lenses and I don't know whether there are other values to consider other than the mm and f.

Would a Sony E-mount 50mm f/1.8 Telephoto Lens be suitable for my purpose? And what other values are there to consider?

  • Closest focusing distance and magnification matter most for macro. You need to be looking into dedicated macro lenses or the pros and cons of extension tubes and reverse mounting the lens, or bellows systems for that matter. Dedicated macros make life easier, but they're not the only way to go. – Hueco Jun 3 '18 at 20:42
  • Thanks, I'll probably go with the Sony SEL30M35 (E 30mm F3.5 Macro) which has a minimum focus distance of 0.095m – user75760 Jun 3 '18 at 21:31
  • 'small items'... how small is small? 20mm, 2mm? What's your background going to be? A 35mm lens will get a whole lot of background in frame, even if it's out of focus. Are you going to be in the studio, focus-stacking, or in the wild, single shot? – Tetsujin Jun 4 '18 at 7:55
  • 10 cm doesn't seem that close. If you haven't done macro photography before, you might want to first try some other options for taking macro photographs. – xiota Jun 10 '18 at 2:26
  • Factors of import: maximum magnification, flatness of field (if you shoot flat things and want definition to the corners), correction for aberrations, and being designed for close-focus. Stand-off distance is a win for longer focal lengths. Any aberrations a lens has tend to be exaggerated by employing them for macro, which is why most macro lenses have relatively modest open f-values. – Wesley R. Elsberry Jun 18 '18 at 17:46
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The single most important feature on a macro lens is the magnification factor it can reach. A true macro lens is a lens that should get at least a 1:1 reproduction meaning an object can be captured on film/sensor on a true 1:1 scale (that is full size).

Many lenses are "falsely" marketed as being macro. For example the FujiFilm XF 60mm is labeled macro but only reaches 0.5x while the XF 80mm is a true macro lens.

The minimal focus distance is something you can look into. This is how close the lens has to be hold near the subject to reach that magnification factor. Extension tubes will often result in an extreme short minimal focus distance. This is not ideal since that makes it harder to get proper lighting on the subject. Depending on the subject this can also be an issue, thinking of insects here.

If it is an autofocus lens you might want to look for a limiter switch. This limits the focus travel, often in first and second half. This is done to limit the time lost when the lens hunts up and down the focus scale.

Based on your question I would suggest experimenting first with extension tubes. This turns regular lenses into macro lenses. That's a very inexpensive way to get into macro photography. Some have support for autofocus although I wouldn't consider it a big deal if not.

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    The magnification factor can be increased using extension tubes: e.g. my Micro-Nikkor 105mm lens only has a magnification factor of 1:2, but Nikon also manufactures a 52.5mm extension tube (PN-11) to turn it into a "true" macro, and the lens has scale markings for use with and without the extension tube. OTOH extension tubes can't do anything about factors like how flat the field curvature is. – Peter Taylor Aug 2 '18 at 13:43
  • @PeterTaylor you do have to remember that with an extension tube you lose the ability to focus at long distances, you can't just leave them attached all the time. – Mark Ransom Aug 3 '18 at 4:42
  • There are lens adapters that have a built in helicoid, and are infinity focus when fully screwed in. – rackandboneman Aug 3 '18 at 9:46
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    @MarkRansom, focussing at long distances isn't exactly the use case for which people want a macro lens. – Peter Taylor Aug 3 '18 at 10:02
  • @PeterTaylor good point and example. I've only used the older 105mm macro lens which was a an awesome (albeit expensive, heavy and slow) true macro lens without needing any tubes. I can imagine your example is designed for use with extension tubes in the first place resulting in a less extreme close working distance. I have used the more generic FujiFilm adapters for macro and even with the recommended lenses these have to be focused from a < 10cm distance creating difficult lighting. – hcpl Oct 9 '18 at 9:35
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True macro/repro lenses (most "macro" zooms are not, though some are not exactly bad) are defined by exceptionally flat field curvature, and corrections optimized for operation at close focus. These were/are used to do perfect copies or microfilms of printed materials (reprography).

Second best (if sharp reproduction of flat, in focus objects is desirable) would be any prime lenses which are as symmetrical as possible (eg double gauss). The number of lens elements stated can give you a hint there - eg "4 elements in 4 groups" is not likely to be such a design, "6 elements in 4 groups" is.

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I've looked at photos taken with various lenses and 50mm 1.8f seem to give the kind of photo that I want.

On a crop camera or on a full-frame camera? The A6000 is a crop camera and 50mm on crop corresponds to 75-80mm on full frame: in the case of Sony, it corresponds to 77mm. 50mm on full frame corresponds to about 33mm on crop in the case of Sony.

So, if you have seen 50mm crop photos, all is well: just buy the 50mm lens. But if you have seen 50mm full frame photos, you should be looking at a ~33mm lens for your crop camera.

For macro photography, too short lenses can mean your working distance is so small that you could annoy the object (if photographing insects) or at least block the light.

Too long lenses can mean the small aperture needed for useful depth of field requires a long exposure time, so long that you can shake the camera, which is magnified by a long lens. Here, image stabilization can help. However, not all image stabilizers stabilize the camera displacement: they may only stabilize camera rotation. At long distances, camera displacement has no effect and only camera rotation matters in camera shake, but at short distances, both are important.

I would be looking at these features:

  • Maximum magnification -- note that your camera has a 1.53x crop so this doesn't matter so much as it does with full frame because the sensor is already effectively magnifying by 1.53x when compared to a full frame sensor
  • Focal length
  • Working distance (depends on focal length and magnification)
  • Good image stabilization (IBIS can be enough, too) -- try to find out if it's stabilizing only camera rotation or also camera displacement
  • Quality of autofocus system, including focus limiter if you feel you need it (although a camera may have a setting to not aimlessly hunt for focus when it doesn't know which direction to adjust the focus, which may be enough for you)
  • Usefulness as a general purpose lens -- the more uses a lens has, the more likely you have it with you when you happen to need a macro lens
  • If the lens is very long and heavy, tripod mount
  • Size, weight, price, etc. -- all the usual features you're considering when purchasing a lens

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