What’s the Best Macro Lens?
Whether you want to film tiny things or want to capture more detail on larger things, you need the right lens, and the right lighting. Macro lenses enable you to shoot close up, allowing the viewers perspective to be altered.
Macro lenses can focus from infinity to 1:1 magnification. This means that the real-life size of the image is that same as the image the camera’s sensor reproduces.
What is Macro?
Macro filmmaking, like macro photography opens up a whole new visual world, by taking things that are small and presenting them in close-up detail, much larger than life.
Popular macro filmmaking subjects include wildlife and the natural world, but you could also apply it to subjects like technology, manufacturing science and arts and crafts, where highlighting intricate details provides lots of possibilities for intriguing and dynamic visual content.
Macro shooting depends on several critical factors that are fundamental to its success:
- Depth of field
Depth of field is the first issue you encounter with macro. When filming very small details, the depth of field is extremely small creating challenges with focus.
If you focus on the detail on a butterfly’s wing, for example, you may end up with only part of this in focus. Blurred edges can, of course, look good artistically speaking, but they may not be your intended effect.
What your aim should therefore be, is to achieve the largest depth of field you can at the smallest scale.
This brings in the creative element of filmmaking, as you will need to also bring light and composition into the equation.
To increase your depth of field, you’ll have to decrease the aperture on your lens by increasing your camera’s f-stop or t-stop.
Of course by doing this you will need more light. There are lenses that will help with this considerably.
The ultra-compact Laowa 25mm lens will work in very confined spaces, but without compromising surrounding light. It is capable of capturing images from 2.5 to 5 times life-size. It’s also relatively fast for a macro lens at f2.8.
Resolution can also be an issue when reproducing tiny images. Again, this is where a specialist macro lens will help. The Sony Macro FE 90mm can capture the finest detail, maintaining resolution up to 1:1 magnification.
The Infiniprobe TS-160 Robusto is specialist lens allows you to focus from infinity to mere millimetres from the object you’re filming.
The TS-160 comes in both EF and PL mounts and allows multiple configurations depending on your desired shot and angle of view.
Some helpful tips;
If you’re filming an organism in macro, focus on its eyes, because people tend to look at the eyes of an animal first. For flowers, it makes sense to focus on the centre of the flower.
However, when filming in macro, you have the potential to focus on a wide range of detail, so let this guide you, rather than conventional notions of what should, or shouldn’t, be in focus.
Using a wide angle lens can help you film in macro. Strictly speaking, a wide angle lens isn’t macro at all, but it can help achieve the same effect, enabling you to capture close-up, impactful images but with a wide angle of view.
This is to do with technique as much as it is about technology.
For example, the established method for achieving superior wide-angle shots is to include foreground interest that will lead the viewer’s eye into the frame.
You can intensify this method for macro filming by positioning your camera low, to create a perspective that highlights the subject of the shot to dramatic effect.
But you should also consider how the background of your shot will work with the foreground detail. You could, therefore, let the foreground interest dominate, moving in as close as your wide-angle lens will allow. At the same time, the background provides secondary information to the viewer, making the whole shot that much more informative.
With a wide-angle lens you can also distort perspective, exaggerating the parts of the subject closest to your lens. This too adds impact to your close-up filming.
Although shooting in wide-angle macro doesn’t have to mean using a dedicated macro lens, there is now the option to combine wide angle and macro in one.
The Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle Macro is a lens that combines an ultra-wide angle, DSLR full-frame lens with a true 1:1 macro reproduction capability.
This is a wide-angle lens with a unique optic for capturing really interesting images in tiny detail. The lens is compact and lightweight and entirely mechanical.
It has a built-in shift adjustment feature, which enables you to correct the vertical distortion you can get with extreme wide-angle focal lengths.
Composing Your Shot in Macro
Composition has the potential to make or break your macro shoot. For a start, everything will show up in your shot, including unwanted dust, dirt, hair and other particles. So you must try and keep your shoot as clean as possible.
Try to fine-tune your composition rather than relying on post-production.
Experiment with your point of focus, because the smallest changes can give the subject you’re shooting a whole new look.
In fact, maintaining the correct perspective while maximising your focus area is a key challenge of macro composition in filmmaking. If the subject is moving towards you, for instance, then only part of it will remain in focus at any one time.
Alternatively, a sideways view of the same movement would involve keeping the entire subject in focus.
Lighting for Macro
Good lighting is essential for macro filmmaking. You need light to focus on your subject, but many small organisms will be sensitive to heat generated by halogen lamps.
You need to use a type of lighting that will work technically, but also be appropriate, and non-harmful, to the subject you’re filming.
LED lights are a highly versatile solution, which don’t emit potentially damaging levels of heat. For macro videography, you require continuous light, and LEDs are the best answer for this.
They provide a bright, intense light that is directional, and they’re highly energy-efficient. Important for when you are increasing your depth of field to see more detail.
Other Macro Accessories
Besides using specialist, lightweight lenses, there are tools to help with the extreme levels of precision required in macro filmmaking.
The Manfrotto 454 Micro Positioning Plate Base gives you fingertip control of micro-adjustments, to make sure of precise positioning of your camera.
You’ll also need a sturdy tripod to ensure you stabilise your shots. At macro scale, even the slightest wobble or unintended movement will be glaringly obvious.
Macro film making can be fun and challenging, allowing the viewer to see the previously unseen. For more information about our macro lenses and equipment please get in touch.