1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Macro Lens Comparison Test

Discussion in 'Macro, Flowers, Insects, and Greenery' started by Flew, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    As many of you know, I've been looking for the right set-up for a macro lens. I've posted several images shot with the 70-200VR + 500D, and had good results. The problem with this combo is that it has a very limited working distance range (about 10 - 18 inches). Last week, I got a set of Kenko extension tubes (12, 20, 36), but was not totally thrilled with the results of using these with the 70-200VR.

    I have been extremely fortunate to gain access to three true macro lenses, courtesy of fellow Cafe members Patrick Bramlett and Muril Robertson, including the Tamron 90, the Nikon 70-180, and the Nikon 200 AF. I ran these through a series of evaluation shots tonight, just to get an idea of how they might perform in the field. NOTE: These are nowhere near scientific tests!! They are just my effort to compare the lenses in the way that I might use them. I think that the results might be interesting to others that are also looking for the best deal in a macro lens.

    These shots were all taken with my D2H, using two floods and my SB-800, all but the Tamron 90 on my tripod and Wimberley head (the 90 has no lens foot). My simple methodology was to position each combination at the closest lens focusing distance. With the 70-200VR combinations, this was about 10 - 12 inches. With the Tamron 90, it was about 4 - 6 inches. The 200 micro distance was about 8 - 12 inches. The cool thing about the macro lenses was that I could have backed off as much as necessary to frame a larger subject. This is much less an option with the 70-200VR combos.

    I have arranged them in the order that I think I would rank them in. See what you think. Note that these are shots of the flowers of what I call monkey grass. Each of the little purple balls is between 1 and 2 mm (0.04 to 0.08 inches). Each of these shots is a 900 x 600 crop from the original image.

    70-200VR + 36mm Extension Tube:

    70-200VR + 500D:

    70-200VR + 1.7 TC + 500D:

    Nikon 70-180:

    Tamron 90:

    These next images were all from the Nikon 200 micro. They are all great, just with either no extension tube, or with one or more tubes.

    Nikon 200 Micro:

    With 12mm Tube:

    With 20mm Tube:

    With 36mm Tube:

    With all 3 Tubes:

    IMHO, the Nikon 200 micro just blows away the competition. This is no surprise, and is just confirmation of what several Cafe members have already told me based on their experience with this lens. In addition to having the greatest working distance, giving a 1:1 reproduction ratio at 19.5 inches, it was by far the easiest to focus. I had trouble getting a good focus with several of the other combinations, especially with the 70-200VR combos.

    The real surprise to me was the Tamron 90 macro lens. It was closest to the 200 micro, and is about 35 - 40% the cost. The only real drawback of this lens is the working distance which is about 1/3 that of the 200 micro. If you are on a limited budget, it certainly bears consideration.

    Again, this is certainly not a scientific test. Camera shake, poor technique, and other factors are certainly involved, but hopefully this gives some useful information to those of you that are struggling with this decision.
  2. Very helpful comparison, Frank. I'd agree that the 200 produces the nicest images, at least in this series. It's important, for me anyways, the ease in which the lens will manually focus. With the limited number of lenses I own, I certainly can tell the difference. Thanks for posting these! Maybe it could become a sticky?
  3. Frank,

    Thank you for all of your hard work. I should have sent you my Tamron 180mm macro lens so that it could be included in your study. :D  I agree with Kevin, this warrants a sticky. Guess I will have to stick with my little old 70-180 until my poor credit card cools off! :lol:
  4. Neil


    Jul 8, 2005
    Douglasville, GA
    Frank thanks for the post

  5. Great work...!! Now for the big decision.... :wink: :wink: :wink:
  6. Frank very good post, I will try to make test with the 2 lens that I have using the 500D with crayola pencils.
  7. Very interesting Frank. The Tamron did exremely well but I suspect the working distance is a major benefit and should be seriouly taken into consideration. I loved my 105 micro but failed to get the pleasure out of macro work until I got the 200. I could get high quality, just took huge effort.
  8. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I hope this was helpful.

    Crystall, I PM'ed you to see if you were just kidding about the 180 Tamron. I don't see it in your list of lenses. If you do have one, and are interested in selling it, I'm interested. I know about melted credit cards. :roll:

    Dave, I'm finding the exact same thing. I think Patrick is interested in selling the Tamron 90, and it is obviously a very capable lens, but I just would like to have more working length, and I'd like to have more focal length for shooting 'near macro' subjects like butterflies and possibly hummers.

    Gilles, I look forward to your results.

    Kevin, Sounds like you reached the same conclusion that I did. 8)

    Neil, you are welcome. ;-)

    Mike, I'd still like to try the Tamron 180, but there is no doubt that the 200 is top notch.
  9. JMartin

    JMartin Guest

    Wow, thank you for the effort Frank! As you know, I would love to get a macro lens as well, just not sure which one I want. I am wanting to do closeups of dragonflies, other bugs, as well as some flower stuff and short of getting a divorce... WTB Nikon 200! :twisted:

    I would love to have seen the Sigma 150 in that comparison too, as that is the lens I think I am leaning toward, just due to focal length and price, as well of the photos Anthony has posted using that lens. I really know I can't afford a 200.

    Very awesome photos Frank.

  10. Frank,

    I sent you a PM. I do have a Tamron 180mm macro lens, new, unregistered in the box. I forgot to list it. :oops:  Its due to that Nikonmania LLD. :lol:
  11. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    With any "macro", i.e. Micro, lens, technique is the most important parameter of all. This includes the lighting setup, scene contrast, tripod technique and tripod/head quality, accuracy of focusing, and selecting the optimal aperture(s) for any given subject and reproduction ratio. Besides such obvious considerations, you can only compare when lenses give the identical magnification and the aperture is equal . This is not the case here.

    I can see serious diffraction (visible Airy discs) in some of the 200AF shots. Except for that, it is quite difficult to draw any conclusions from the published images.

    My tests with 200AF on D2X shows it is a fine performer, but not much better than the 70-180. In fact, the 70-180 is better at small apertures. The Tamron 90 is reputed to have high quality and the few shots I've obtained with this lens support that impression.

    If I should rank Micro lenses, the 85 PC, 105/4 and 105/2.8 MF Micro-Nikkors are ahead of all of these above when they are used at wide or medium apertures (85 PC is better at smaller apertures than the other two, however). The 105/4 is absolutely amazing at f/5.6. The 105 UV is even better, but cannot really be compared aqainst the others since it is very much a special-purpose item. I have yet to run the 55 Micro Nikkors on a D2X and probably won't do this because I find their focal length is too short to be of practical use for my line of photography. I would not be surprised to find that they were top performers, though.

    Regard the above not as a criticism of your test, just a reminder to indicate that lens testing is not a simple task and there are lots of issues you have to take into account.
  12. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I don't take your comments as anything but knowledgeable feedback from someone that is much, much better at this than I'll ever be. I totally agree with all of your points. As I said in my post, this wasn't meant to be a controlled test. I should have called it an evaluation, not a test. I was really just trying to get a first order look at each of these lenses, to help me decide whether a long FL macro lens would be better for my purposes than something like the Tamron 90 or the Nikkor 105.

    I greatly appreciate your feedback. Jump back in with more any time. We will all benefit from your expertise. :wink:
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.