Micro vs. Macro Lens

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Photography is one of the most valued skills because it is about capturing the natural beauty of the things that we see around us and it includes the overall essence of reality. Starting as a photographer, it is best to know the basics of photography as well as the different types of lenses, and that includes Macro vs. Micro lenses. If you know what kind of lens, gear, and camera to use, you can start off on the right note.

Micro vs. Macro Lens General Overview

Most photographers, especially the new ones, get confused on the difference between a micro lens and macro lens. Usually, macro and micro on lenses refer to the exact same thing and their difference is the term. Macro means large and micro means small.

Micro lens on black background

The photography style allows the subject to fill all or at least most of the frame so you can get a great amount of detail. That means that you would get a macro image of a subject that is considered micro. Since it takes up the frame, the size of the subject loses its sense.

Micro Lens

Micro, which is synonymous to small, focuses on the small details of the subjects. If you are looking at zooming in on the subject so that its finest details can be seen, then you will need a micro lens.

Since it zooms in on your subject, the object can look 20 times bigger than it actually is. The ratio for the images for micro photography are 20:1.

Macro Lens

Photographers normally confuse macro photography with close-up photography. Macro is synonymous to large, that means you can fill the frame with the subject that you want to take a picture of so you can get the desired details. The ratio of the image is 1:1, and it is also known as life-size magnification or X1 magnification.

Macro lenses create a tight depth of field so it can blur out the background and it allows you to focus on the subject so you can get a great close-up shot. Mostly, brand like Canon has lens with depth of field that you can consider to buy.

Micro vs. Macro Lens

So what is the difference between a micro lens and a macro lens? Most people believe that macro lens is what you use if you are into macro photography while micro lens is what is used to do micro photography.

However, macro and micro lenses can be used for the same thing, which is taking close up photos of subjects, and they both refer to lenses that you can use to do macro photography.

Similarities

Although the micro lens and the macro lens are used for different genres of photography, there are certain aspects that both lenses have. Below are the specifications that you can find in both lenses. 

Close-up Shots

Both the micro lens and the macro lens can be used to take pictures of subjects that you want to appear bigger than they really are in real life.

Both of these lenses zoom in on the subject so you can view the fine details of the subject.

Extension Tubes

Both the micro lens and macro lens are equipped with an extension tube. The extension tube prevents your images from looking blurry when you get closer to a subject. It moves the lenses farther away from the camera’s sensor, so the focal plane lies on the sensor so you can get a sharp image.

The large image taken using extension tubes does not appear bright. It can be a decrease of two or more stops at high magnification. Since they have no optics, the quality is not lost. The extension tubes can be stacked up to get closer focusing distances.

Macro lens kit on white background

Differences

Although both the micro lens and macro lens are used in close-up photography, they have different ranges and selecting the one to use will depend on what you want to take pictures of.

Equipment

Macro lenses need to be attached to a tripod, regardless of camera brand you are using, so you can get a clearer shot. Aside from ensuring a clear shot, it also allows you to steadily zoom in on the subject without being physically close to it.

Meanwhile micro lenses can be used hand held due to the types of subjects that you can use it for. Micro lenses are not often used for live subjects such as animals, so there is no need for you to set it up via a tripod.

Magnification Ratio

Macro lenses have a magnification ratio of 1:1. This means that if you take a picture of a coin which is approximately two centimeters in real life, it will look bigger to your camera’s sensor.

Micro photography, on the other hand, has a magnification ratio of 20:1 or greater. That means that your subject will look at least twenty times bigger on the sensor compared to what it looks like in real life.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The major distinguishing factor between a micro lens and a macro lens is its magnification ratio. A macro lens’ magnification ratio is 1:1, which means the subject appears bigger while the background has a deep depth of field.

The micro lens has a magnification ratio of 20:1, so the subject appears twenty times bigger, allowing you to see the fine detail of the subject.

Close-up photo of camera lens

When to Use Micro Lens

Micro lenses are not used in daily life. It is often used by photographers who are into very specific types of subjects because its magnification ratio is only used in special cases.

The following are the subjects that needs a micro lens:

  • Cells 
  • Hemoglobin
  • Other specimens

When to Use Macro Lens

Macro lenses are the ones that are used by photographers that are into wildlife photography and nature photography because it allows them to zoom in on the subject without having to go near the subject. Nikon lenses such as D300 will be one of the best lenses that can be used for wildlife photography.

The following are the subjects that needs a macro lens:

  • Insects
  • Animals
  • Flowers

Final Verdict

The micro vs. macro lenses have been an ongoing debate for a long time now. It is easier to decide what type of lens to get if you know what type of photography you want to do.

You can go through macro lenses and micro lenses that are available near you or ones that are available online. You can also pair your lenses with flashes, including Sony A6500, that will allow you to work easier and will help enhance the quality of images while shooting in the dark.

Jared Bauman has spent more than twenty years in the professional photography profession. He founded Bauman Photographers in 2001, which is a wedding and commercial photography studio in San Diego, California. The company has been in business for 20 years, and has a stellar reputation in the community. In 2007, Jared co-founded ShootDotEdit, the premium post production company for professional wedding photographers worldwide. The company has edited millions of images for photographers around the world. Jared has spoken and presented at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Conference 9 years in a row. He has also given several multi-day courses on Creative Live, in addition to two national speaking tours.