The macro lens should be called a versatile lens, here's why...

Canon
This crested gecko was photographed at f/11 to give enough depth of field when working close to the subject (Image credit: Brian Worley)

Macro lenses (opens in new tab) are one of the more popular purchases for photographers building their kit bag up. After the telephoto zoom that brings distant subjects closer, the humble macro lens makes small things appear much larger. The first time you see details in your photos that you’ve never captured before is rather special. 

As a short telephoto lens (opens in new tab), the macro lens is also ideal to make flattering portrait photos. More than just the close-up of an eyeball, you can capture great-looking pictures of the whole face or person. The telephoto has the effect of pleasingly compressing the facial features for flattering results. Being a prime lens (opens in new tab), you’ll find the need to zoom with your feet, instead of a zoom ring. Since the field of view is constant, you’ll soon learn how far you need to be from the subject for your composition. 

Macro lenses are often the fastest lenses that many photographers own; the f/2.8 aperture lets in plenty of light, and gives a great-looking shallow depth of field. Use the lens wide-open for great separation between the subject, foreground and background. 

In low light, the fast aperture will capture more light than most telephoto zoom lenses. This gives sharper shots thanks to faster shutter speeds, and or, less noise.

At f/2.8 our 100mm macro lens creates flattering portraits with smooth backgrounds (Image credit: Brian Worley)

Looking at the side of many macro lenses you’ll find a focus range limit switch, that restricts the subject distance. Since there’s a lot of movement required for super close-up work, if you don’t need this select one of the limited ranges to speed up focus operation. When shooting super close-up, you’ll appreciate the extra travel on the focus ring as you select the exact point of interest on your subject by focussing manually.

For macro shots, where the subject is captured life-size on the image sensor, you’ll often need to stop down the aperture to f/11, f/16 or more, as depth of field is minimal at short subject distances. Macro lenses are designed to have image quality, even with the aperture stopped down. 

A fast aperture telephoto lens is also good for indoor sports such as gymnastics and martial arts. EOS cameras focus systems have an automatic high precision capability when f/2.8 or faster lenses are used. So give a macro lens another look.

About Canon Pro: Brian Worley

Brian Worley headshot

(Image credit: Brian Worley)

Brian is a freelance photographer and photo tutor, based in Oxfordshire. He has unrivaled EOS DSLR knowledge, after working for Canon for over 15 years, and is on hand to answer all the EOS and photographic queries in Canon-centric magazine PhotoPlus (opens in new tab).
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You might also like the best Canon lenses (opens in new tab) and the Canon EOS R10 review (opens in new tab).

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Brian Worley

Brian is a freelance photographer and photo tutor, based in Oxfordshire. He has unrivaled EOS DSLR knowledge, after working for Canon for over 15 years, and is on hand to answer all the EOS and photographic queries in Canon-centric magazine PhotoPlus (opens in new tab).