Whether you’re a professional product photographer or just starting out, there’s no doubt that a macro lens can be a valuable asset in your product photography equipment.
But do you really need one for product photography?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some factors to consider when deciding whether or not you need a macro lens for product photography. We’ll also give you some tips on how to get great results without one!
Related article: Do You Need a Graphic Tablet for Product Photography Retouching?
What Is a Macro Lens?
A macro lens is a camera lens that allows you to take close-up photographs of small objects. In product photography, a macro lens is used to take photos of small products such as jewelry, watches, luxury pens, and other products. Macro lenses are designed to handle very close focusing distances (12-inches or less) and take very sharp and highly detailed images.
With a typical camera lens, you can only get so close to an object while keeping it in focus. This restricts the ability to zoom in on finer details of the subject.
Quick note: Macro lenses are not limited only to macro photography, you can use a macro lens to take photos of much larger products and it can also be used for portrait photography and even landscape photography.
Macro Lens for Product Photography – Do You Need One?
As with many things in life, the answer is – it depends. If you’re just starting out in product photography, having a macro lens is probably not essential. But if you’re serious about taking high-quality product photos, then a macro lens will give you the ability to capture incredible close-up detail that simply isn’t possible with a standard camera lens.
Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not you need a macro lens for product photography:
- The type of products you’re photographing
- The level of detail you want to capture
- Your budget
The Type of Products You’re Photographing
One of the main factors to consider when deciding whether or not you need a macro lens is the type of products you’ll be photographing. If you’re shooting large products such as furniture or appliances, then a macro lens probably isn’t necessary. But if you’re shooting small objects such as jewelry or watches, then a macro lens will give you the ability to capture incredible detail that simply wouldn’t be possible with a standard camera lens.
The Level of Detail You Want to Capture
Another factor to consider is the level of detail you want to capture in your photos. If you’re simply taking product photos for a website or catalog, then a standard camera lens will probably suffice. But if you’re trying to capture every last detail of a small product, then a macro lens is essential.
Of course, your budget is also a factor to consider when deciding whether or not you need a macro lens. Macro lenses can be expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget you may want to use an extension tube to convert your standard lens into a macro lens.
What Is an Extension Tube?
An extension tube (sometimes also called a closeup tube or an extension ring) is an attachment that goes between your camera body and your lens. Extension tubes don’t have any glass elements inside; all they do is get your lens farther away from your camera body. The farther away the lens is from the camera body, the closer the focus distance and also the greater the magnification. Extension tubes essentially allow you to convert any standard lens into a macro lens for a fairly cheap price (~$20-40).
Because extension tubes do not have optics, they do not affect the optical quality of a lens. However, there are also negative effects of using extension tubes:
- Decrease of light – The farther away the lens is from the camera body, the less light that hits the sensor. This can be a problem when shooting in low-light conditions.
- Extension tubes will have a significant impact on your depth of field (making it too shallow). Shallow depth of field (also called “small” or “narrow”) means that only a part of the image is in focus.
- Loss of ability to focus at infinity – this means that you won’t be able to focus on distant objects.
- A cheaper extension tube that does not include electrical contacts will not allow you to control the focus of your camera. Extension tubes with electrical connections can be used for autofocus and electronically adjusting the lens aperture.
- Extension Tube for Sony E-Mount Cameras: MEIKE MK-S-AF3A Extension Tube Adapter Ring for Sony Mirrorless E-Mount
- Extension Tube for Canon EOS Digital Cameras: Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube Set Compatible with Canon EOS EF/EF-S Cameras
- Extension Tube for Nikon F Mount Cameras: Fotodiox Macro Extension Tube Set Compatible with Nikon F Mount Cameras
Product Photography Examples Taken With a Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G Lens
Below are four photos that were taken by my wife with a Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G (SEL90M28G) macro lens.
You can download the original files of these photos here.
As you can see, a macro lens can be used not only for tiny products but for any type of product. From my personal experience, I can tell that Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G (SEL90M28G) is a very versatile and high-quality lens for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. If you are interested to learn more about this particular macro lens, you can read our guide on the best Sony lenses for product photography.
What Is The Best Macro Lens for Product Photography?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a macro lens, such as:
- The type of camera you have (Mirrorless, DSRL, etc.)
- The brand of your camera (Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.)
- Your budget
- The focal length you need
- The maximum aperture you need
Below you will find a list of the best macro lenses for Sony, Canon, and Nikon mirrorless cameras.
The Best Native Sony Macro Lens for Product Photography
Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G (SEL90M28G)
Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens is our top pick for the best Sony macro lens for product photography and it is also one of the most popular options among professional product photographers.
The Sony 90mm Macro G lens produces very sharp and detailed photos. It is a prime lens, meaning that it has a fixed focal length of 90mm. Generally speaking, prime lenses have a better optical quality compared to zoom lenses. 90mm is also a preferred focal length for product photography as it best describes the item in terms of how humans perceive it.
- E-Mount Sony lens / full-frame format
- 1:1 magnification ratio & internal focus
- Sliding focus ring for AF/MF selection
- Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/22
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.91 ft (27.94 cm)
- Optical SteadyShot image stabilization
- Focus hold button & focus range limiter
- Maximum focal length: 90 mm
- Very sharp photos (corner to corner)
- Perfect focal length for product photography (90mm)
- Internal image stabilization
- 1:1 magnification
- High-quality focusing ring
- Price: ~ $1,098.00, check the latest price on Amazon
The Best Native Canon Macro Lens for Product Photography
Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a great macro lens for product photographers who use Canon mirrorless cameras with RF mount (the new mount from Canon that is used on their lineup of full-frame mirrorless cameras). This macro lens has a focal length of 100mm which is perfect for taking close-up photos of products. This macro lens also has optical image stabilization which is very helpful when taking close-up photos of products as it will reduce any potential handshakes and will keep your product photos sharp and in focus.
- RF-Mount lens (full-frame format)
- 1.4x magnification with autofocus
- Minimum focusing distance: 10.2″
- Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/32
- Optical image stabilization with up to 5 stops of shake correction
- Super Spectra coating to minimize flare when working with reflective and shiny objects
- Excellent sharpness across the frame
- Beautiful color and great contrast
- Well-controlled chromatic aberrations
- Very fast and silent autofocus
- High-quality build
- Some users experience autofocus problems
- Price: ~ $1,299.00, check the latest price on Amazon
The Best Native Nikon Macro Lens for Product Photography
NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S
Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is the best native macro lens for Nikon mirrorless cameras. This is a prime lens with a fixed focal length of 105mm which is perfect for product photography. It also has a fast aperture of f/2.8 which allows you to take sharp photos even in low-light conditions. This macro lens also features optical image stabilization which is very helpful when taking close-up photos of products as it will eliminate any potential handshakes and will keep your product photos in focus.
- Mount: Nikon Z-mount (full-frame format)
- Minimum focusing distance: 11.4″ / 29 cm
- 1:1 Magnification (also known as 1x or “real life size” magnification)
- Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/32
- Optical image stabilization with up to 4.5 stops of shake correction
- Nano Crystal and ARNEO Coatings – Helps reduce glare when shooting shiny objects
- OLED Lens Information Panel
- Produces outstanding image quality (sharp corner to corner)
- Customizable control ring and function button
- Focusing is quick and silent. The lens includes a focus-limiting switch to limit the working distance for close-up work
- Excellent build quality
- Some users experience autofocus issues
5 Things to Consider When Choosing Macro Lens for Product Photography
When choosing a macro lens for product photography, there are several things you need to take into account:
Do You Have a Cropped or Full-frame Sensor Camera?
Before choosing a macro lens, you need to know whether your camera has a cropped or a full-frame sensor. The functionality of your chosen macro lens will vary depending on the type of sensor you have.
A macro lens on a crop sensor camera will function as though it were its original focal length (i.e., 90mm) multiplied by the camera’s crop factor. For example, if your crop sensor has a crop factor of 1.6, a 90mm lens will appear to be about 150mm (90 * 1.6 = 144mm).
The best way to determine if your camera has a crop sensor or a full-frame sensor is to visit the manufacturer’s official website and look up technical specs for your specific model of camera.
The Focal Length of the Macro Lens
The most popular focal lengths for product photography are 90-105mm. These focal lengths will allow you to take sharp photos of products without getting too close to the subject and prevent you from casting a shadow over your subject with the camera. Lenses with a focal length of 90-100mm on a full-frame camera are ideal for product photography since they best represent the item as humans perceive it.
Minimum Focus Distance
The minimum focus distance is the shortest distance between your camera and the subject that you can still take a sharp photo. Most macro lenses have a minimum focus distance of around 12-inches (30cm).
However, there are some macro lenses that have a much shorter minimum focus distance which allows you to get even closer to your subject and take sharper photos.
The maximum magnification of a macro lens is the ratio of the size of the image on your sensor to the actual size of the subject. Most macro lenses have a maximum magnification around life-size 1:1 (i.e., they can reproduce an object at its actual size on your sensor).
However, there are some macro lenses that have a much higher maximum magnification which allows you to take close-up photos of very small subjects.
Image stabilization is a feature that helps to reduce camera shake and keep your photos sharp. It is especially useful when taking close-up photos of products as any movement will be magnified.
Most modern macro lenses have an image stabilization built-in, but I recommend double-checking it before making a purchase.
So, do you need a macro lens for product photography? The answer to that question really depends on what you are shooting and your budget. If you are looking to photograph small objects such as jewelry, then a macro lens is definitely the way to go. However, if money is tight or you are just starting out in product photography, there are ways of achieving similar results by using an extension tube. Thanks for reading and happy snapping!
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