If you have dived deeper into photography, you have started exploring different ways to photographs subjects. One of the most interesting and popular ways is macro photography. The quality and detail that comes from an excellent macro photograph, is simply priceless. However, the term macro photography is used pretty uselessly these days, mostly for all kinds of photography that are used in close up shots.
To do macro photography you have to shoot the subject from a very close range with a lens that is made specifically for this kind of photography and offers a true 1:1 magnification.
Other lenses can be used for close up photographs, however, for it to be macro photography you will need a proper macro lens. This kind of lens will allow you to focus on your subject from a very close distance to reach a 1:1 magnification without any problem. One of the most popular camera manufacturers in the market is Nikon, and if you are looking solely for lenses that fit into Nikon lens mounts, you are in the right place.
I will today provide a buying guide to the best Nikon macro lens in the market, as we will take a look at the top picks, check the features and qualities about what makes them good and much more. Now without further ado, let’s take a deeper look.
Best Photo Quality
|Nikon AF FX Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D|
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Best For Portraits
|Sigma 258306 105mm F2.8 EX DG|
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The Sharpest Lens
|Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm|
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Best For Outdoors
|Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 2177|
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|Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G|
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The Top 5 Best Macro Lenses For Nikon
5. Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm
We are going to start this list with a fairly inexpensive but super popular option, the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm. I should mention that you won’t find a more affordable macro lens with a 1:1 magnification out there and the consistency of this lens is up there with the best despite being pretty cheap.
This lens has a M/A mode, which means that you can switch between manual focus and auto focus easily. Most professional prefer manual focus because it gives them more control over the shots, so having that is nice.
This lens is designed for the DX cameras which are the equivalent of the APS-C system cameras, that are made for cameras with an effective focal length of 60mm, which is a bit longer than your prime lens. I can say that this lens weighs about 235 grams in total with a great build quality that is pretty standard but will hold up.
4. Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 2177 60mm
Coming up next we have the Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 2177 60mm which is one of the most impressive models overall both in terms of quality and popularity. This lens has a pretty good and long reach allowing you to focus closer and achieve better working distances. As the name suggests, this lens has a 60mm focal length.
Just like the previous model we mentioned in this list, this lens too has a switch that can be used to switch between auto and manual focus.
This amazing lens has 12 elements that are divided into 9 different groups, which include both aspherical and extra-low dispersion elements that make this lens a powerhouse despite being pretty inexpensive.
They can get rid of any aberration and distortion to deliver a super sharp image overall. I also found out that the blur was perfect in both background and foreground which impressed everybody in the studio. It also has the Nanocrystal plus Super Integrated coating that eliminates flares and such other problems. Install this lens in a full-frame camera, and you will get stunning image quality.
3. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm
Next up I have my favorite lens out there for Nikon, the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm. This one is the autofocusing version of the already excellent Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 without autofocus. So if you need autofocusing than this is your best bet. The max focal length is 105mm on this lens.
This lens is one of the better well-built lenses I have ever tried, and it works with all the Nikon’s new autofocusing DSLR models and most of the 35mm film cameras of the company. You should know that this beast weighs about 720grams and it has a metal frame.
The lens has 14 elements inside that are divided into 12 groups, and there are a total of 9 rounded aperture diaphragm blades, that deliver a pleasing bokeh effect. The Silent Wave Motor of the company delivers a great autofocusing performance and it is super quiet as its name implies.
2. Sigma 258306 105mm F2.8 Ex Dg Os Hsm
We will continue with a third party manufacturer, Sigma and the 258306 105mm F2.8 Ex Dg Os Hsm. This lens is one of the most interesting lenses out there that can shoot 1:1 life-sized reflections of small subjects with a super short focusing distance of 31cm, magical overall. It has a focal length of od 105 millimeters.
The interior of this lens consists of a total of 16 elements which are divided into 9 distinct groups. These elements also consist of a special low dispersion element and an interesting high refractive index SLD, which are responsible for eliminating aberrations and disturbances.
One of my favorite features of this lens is that the focusing mechanism doesn’t allow the front element to rotate when autofocusing, delivering a perfect performance. I should also state that the image stabilization feature works rather well and it will let you capture clelar and sharp images.
This lens also took the number 1 spot on our jewelry photography lens roundup post.
1. Nikon AF FX Micro-NIKKOR 200mm
Coming up to the top of the list we have the Nikon AF FX Micro-NIKKOR 200mm, which is a telephoto lens that can focus from a super short distance of just 48cm and reproduces a 1:1 perspective of smaller subjects. It is also optimized for FX or full-frame cameras of Nikon and will make them just perfect. It has a max focal length of 200 millimeters.
I should mention though that this lens is a D model, meaning that it doesn’t have an autofocusing motor in it. This isn’t an issue if you use it with full-frame or FX-format cameras, but if you use it with a DX-format APS-C Nikon camera it will not autofocus at all.
The aperture of this beast opens up to f/4 meaning that it is not the fastest in the range but it is the sharpest macro lens you can buy for a macro camera. I should state that it is a bit heavy and it is not the best for beginners, but in the hands of a pro, it is a true powerhouse. Definitely one of the best nikon macro lenses out there.
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What is a Macro Lens?
I will again stress that not every-lens that can shoot close up photographs is a macro lens, this is a very popular misconception that many up and coming photographers fall for. But that is not very far from the truth, as macro photographs are shot at a very close distance from the subject or object, however, the magnification specification is what makes it a macro lens.
To be adequate for macro shots, a true macro lens should offer 1:1 life-sized magnification or larger than that. With this macro lens you can photograph a lot of subjects ranging from small flora and fauna, insects, small animal species, close up details of details such as carvings and so much more. It is all left to your imagination.
There are hundreds of macro lenses out there varying in price and quality, and I think that all of us can find a macro lens that is perfect for our needs.
Regular vs Macro Lenses
The difference between these lenses is quite easy to spot. For example, the macro lens can focus from infinity to 1:1 magnification, this results in the image of the subject being reflected in its true to life-size of what is captured in the sensor, meaning that there is no magnification at all.
The magnification ratio is something you should check out here as it will show you how the image is reproduced on the sensor of your camera, compared to its actual size. Meaning that a lens with a magnification ratio of 1:2 will reflect the image on the sensor that is about half the size that is, it is a bit complicated but it is better to learn from the start.
What you need to know first is that macro lenses allow you to focus in closer distances and deliver the truth to the life-size of the subject.
You should also keep in mind that macro lenses will not be useful for just macro shots, as many photographers utilize them for portrait photography as well. They are a very handy tool for those that work with wedding photography, for example at taking shots of the groom and bride or taking photographs of the wedding rings. Macro lenses overall deliver more contrast and they are pretty pleasing overall. Not for everyone in portrait photography but very worth experimenting with.
Qualities and Features to Consider on a Macro Lens
There are a lot of macro lenses available these days for Nikon cameras or otherwise, but there are some qualities that you should consider before buying one so you don’t make any mistake and get the most value out of your hard-earned money.
True zoom term is thrown around very loosely these days and I have to say that there is no true zoom macro lens. This is because the whole point of macro photography is capturing the subject at a 1:1 magnification, whereas a zoom lens will deliver you about one-third of a life-sized subject in the majority of the cases, which is no-Bueno here.
While having a zoom lens is pretty nice and handy as you can close up to the subject, it won’t be lifesized, resulting in unsatisfactory macro shots. Basically, for macro shots, you need a macro lens, not a zoom one. Know this and be careful about what the manufacturers offer.
If you are not planning to do macro photography, i recommend you get a normal lens instead, because you won’t have good results with a zoom lens if you aren’t constantly doing macro photography.
For example, if you want to photograph real estate, a zoom/macro lens is completely unnecessary.
The focal length of macro lenses comes in three distinct categories, which are short that range from 35 to 60mm, mid which ranges from 90 to 105mm and long which range from 150 to 200mm. Let’s get a bit deeper into each one of them so you can determine which one is better for you.
- Short lenses are the lightest of the bunch and cost a lot less compared to the other two. However, they come at a disadvantage which makes them a bit unreliable as you can only shoot with them at super short distances meaning that photographing subjects that move a bit difficult overall. However, I always suggest these for users that start with macro, so you can see if a macro is good for you. Experimenting with these will allow you to see if you like macro, and whether or not you should opt for more expensive lenses.
- Mid-range lenses are the best of both worlds, delivering a great working distance while still keeping the price low overall. These are the best pick for shooting fauna since when you get close enough to the subject the background and foreground will get out of focus completely resulting in some excellent photographs. Definitely, excellent options for enthusiasts, as everyone should have one of these.
- Long macro lenses, on the other hand, can be very expensive overall and tend to pack quite a bit of weight, which means that they will be a little hard to operate. But then again the performance of these lenses is the best overall as they deliver the best working distance and superb image quality. These are perfect for all kinds of macro shots, but will deliver superior performance for insects or small animals that are on the move, staying in focus at all times. But like I said they are super expensive and are feasible mostly for professionals, but if you are feeling fancy why not opt for one of these.
Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilization
While vibration reduction and image stabilization are an important factor in every kind of photography, it is especially important for macro lenses since you need to eliminate every shudder and shake off the camera and lens.
In the past, vibration reduction and image stabilization technology was super expensive and not very feasible overall, as only professionals used it. However, today Nikon has image stabilization in most of its lenses, and some manufacturers such as Sony and Pentax have in-body image stabilization systems that make things better.
Manual focus is also something that is worth mentioning. Autofocus can seem to make everything much easier at first, but when you start to get better with photography, you will want to take full control of the shots, and that’s where the manual focus will come in handy. Most modern lenses have a switch which you can use to switch between auto and manual focus, so definitely go with one that has that.
Now I think that you are more than ready on pulling the trigger on your first or next macro lens. With the information above you will be confident when you are shopping and will get the most value for your hard-earned cash, which I always recommend doing.
Also never buy an expensive lens that you won’t use as you will end up selling it later for a much lower price, buy it when you are confident that you like it. Don’t forget to check the top picks as they are the fail-safe options in different categories. Have fun with your new lens.
Photo & Videographer
A photographer with a passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the human form. My work has been featured in galleries and publications around the world, and I strive to create images that evoke emotion and tell a story.