What is a macro lens? Magnification and minimum focus distance explained

Using macro lenses: how much magnification do you need?

What is a macro lens’ minimum focus distance?

The minimum focus distance of macro lenses with the same magnification factor of 1.0x increases with longer focal lengths.

For example, it’s around 20cm for a 60mm lens, and as much as 48cm for a 180mm lens. These distances aren’t measured between the object being photographed and the front of the lens, but rather between the object and the focal plane; this is marked on the camera body towards its rear, in line with the image sensor.

Some macro lenses also have internal focusing, which can be a bonus as the front element doesn’t extend when you shorten the focus distance.

In other lenses, the overall length can almost double at the shortest focus setting.

For macro lenses that have shorter focal lengths, this movement can put the front element of the lens uncomfortably close to the object that’s being photographed.

In our chart below we’ve noted some of the typical focal lengths of different types of macro lenses and suggested the best distance from your subject at which to use them.

What is a macro lens' minimum focus distance? (free cheat sheet)

PAGE 1: How much magnification do you need in a macro lens?
PAGE 2: What is a macro lens’ minimum focus distance?
PAGE 3: Coping with shallow depth of field

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