Tag Archives: Macro Nikkor 60mm F2.8

Why do macro lenses come in several different focal lengths?

Which one do I need?

TX Bluebonnet-3560-Sm

Texas Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis. This flower was photographed  at half life size on the sensor (0.5X) with a Nikon macro lens. Which focal length was used?

True macro (or Micro) lenses allow subjects to be photographed much closer than normal minimum focusing distance, thus greatly magnifying the image size. Often, these are prime lenses of single focal length with various focal lengths available from each manufacturer. And macro lenses produce high quality images. Because these are complete lenses that focus to infinity, many other uses of high quality are possible.

Macro lenses are the more expensive of the alternatives to focusing close. Most retain all automatic features, but have limited magnification range, frequently up to 1:1, or life size. With accessories they can produce magnifications from 1.0 X to 40.0 X life size. Because no lens extension is required per se, little exposure compensation required.

Most manufacturers make more than one macro lens. Canon, Nikon, Olympus and others produce high quality macro lenses. True macro (or micro by Nikon) lenses are produced in various focal lengths, commonly from 40mm upwards to 200mm. And they may all focus very close; most focus to life-size or 1.0X. (Also called 1:1.) Essentially, they all do the same thing.


Three Nikon macro optics (clockwise, from near left) 60 mm F 2.8 AF Micro Nikkor, 200 mm F 4.0 AF Micro Nikkor, and 105 mm F 2.8 AF VR Micro Nikkor.

So if that is true, why would there be a variety if they all do the same thing? The answer is simple: working distance. Working distance is the actual distance between the subject and the camera’s sensor when the lens is focused. As the focal length of the lens increases, the working distance also increases at the same image magnification.

Let’s look at the working distances provided by three popular focal lengths above: the 60mm, 105mm and 200mm macro lenses. All these lenses below are accurately focused at life size or 1.0X and the reproductions are at the same scale. Canon has lenses in similar focal lengths; the 60mm F2.8, 100mm F2.8 and the 180mm F 3.5 lens trio. All are magnificent optics to be sure.

Nikon Macro Lens

This lens is the 60mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor focused on a small portion of the flower at life-size. It focuses to 1:1 at 8.6 inches.

Nikon Macro Lens

The second is the 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor. It focused to 1:1 at 12 inches.

Nikon Macro Lens

This last lens is the 200mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor. It will focus at 1:1 at a distance of 19.2 inches.

Working distance is important to macro photography. Greater working distance allows several advantages. These include the freedom from making a shadow on the subject, the ability to get ample light or lighting fixtures onto the subject, the ability not to frighten or run off a live subject and the ability to work at a safer distance from a dangerous subject.

One additional attribute to remember is that the angle of view of any lens gets smaller as the focal length increases. So as a result, a 200mm lens focused at 1:1 will have an area of coverage of one half that of a 100mm macro lens at the same magnification.Three Focal Lengths-Sm

These three images were made with the macro lenses described above.  In making the photographs, emphasis was given to producing the flowers at the same size in each frame in the camera when shot. To do so the image with the 60mm lens is made from fairly close; the 200 mm lens much farther away.

The resultant images look the same, but upon close inspection there are notable differences. First, the longest lens tends to compress the image more than the other two. The distant flower looks closer to the close one. This is an example how the focal length of the lenses affects perspective. The second difference is an apparent difference in angle of view. Notice the black form in the upper right of the images. We see less of it in the 60 mm view and it tends to move and get larger as the lens focal length gets longer. Otherwise, there is little difference perceived in the three images. Because the subject size is the same in the three images, the Depth of Field is also the same. All images were shot at the same F5.6 aperture.

So, to answer the question: The lens that’s right for you depends upon your most common use. If you need a lot of accessory lighting like flashes, diffusers and other modifiers in your set up, you may enjoy the freedom of the longer focal length/longer working distance. If you want a real compact lens, then the shorter lens may be perfect. A good compromise and my recommendation is the 105 mm F2.8 AF VR Micro Nikkor.

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.




Where’s the aperture ring?


Modern Nikkor lenses: 60mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor with manual aperture ring (left) and 18-200mm F3.5 – 5.6 VR zoom. Notice the absence of the aperture ring on the zoom. Image made with Nikon D2Xs and 200 mm F4.0 Micro Nikkor and flash.

With today’s electronic technology-driven cameras, many of our exposure controls are as convenient as a finger push on the camera body. And with experience, we never have to remove our eye from the viewfinder.

The shutter speed and aperture selection is controlled electronically through the selector wheel on the camera body. However, in natural science photography there are cases where electronic aperture selection is not possible because the electronic connections between the lens and the camera body are not workable.

Do I mean the camera malfunctions? No, not at all. What I mean is that, through the addition of some components between the camera body and lens, the electronic circuitry is interrupted. This happens with some extension tubes and bellows (below), as well as microscope adapters. This is not uncommon, nor does it really pose a problem when you are aware of what’s really happening.



So without electronic aperture selection, apertures need to be selected manually with the aperture selector ring and the exposures made in Aperture Priority (or Av) shooting mode. The camera will measure the light that falls on the internal metering sensor and set the shutter speed appropriately.

There may be one problem, however. Some lenses do not have a manual aperture selection ring on the lens barrel. Nikon calls these lenses “G” lenses. We fondly call them “gelded” lenses. Many Canon lenses are without the ring as well. So, it ends up that these are not really appropriate for this type of photography. We need to look for those lenses with aperture rings available. There a number of current Nikkor optics with the aperture ring. The 60 mm, 105 mm, and 200 mm macro lenses still have the aperture selector ring. Also the series of manual Nikkor lenses from 20 mm to 105 mm also retain the aperture selector ring.

Fortunately, under the correct circumstances, many older lenses (Canon and Nikon, too) may be used on modern D-SLR cameras. These lenses frequently have the aperture selector ring. And with adapters, Nikkor lenses may be used on Canon EOS series camera bodies. This is a nice option due to the great selection available  of Nikkor optics.

Six great tools for photography

How many times have you been asked the question, “What kind of camera do you use?” Or, “Is that made with a prime lens?” I hear that all the time. Many of my students are always focused on the cameras and lenses. And sometimes, not much else.

While the image capture apparatus is certainly important, how you make the picture is even more so. And as a follow-on to that statement, the little regarded accessories often save the day.

While it is true that we need a variety of tools that may be specialized or single- purpose, I have several basic tools in my armamentarium I would not like to do without. Each one is very inexpensive, quite handy and readily available through most hardware stores.

Nikon D2Xs, 60 mm, F2.8 Micro Nikkor lens, electronic flash with softbox and reflector.

These six tools include “A” style spring clamps, ball bungees, blocks of wood cut to a variety of dimensions,  bungee cords of various lengths, carabiners with a rope loop, and spring-style wooden clothespins.

The “A” clamps will hold a lot of things like backgrounds, reflectors and flags and are useful for making tents from foam core boards.  Ball bungees tie up extension cords, secure lighting cables to overheads and booms and of course, to stretch tarps, silks and butterflies to frames. One photographer claims to mount his speedlights on furniture with them.

Blocks of wood in a variety of sizes make their home propping up or elevating objects in still life or table top arrangements. I have a large bucket of pre-cut pieces from 1/2 x 1 x 1 inch to 2 x 4 x 8 inch material.

In my outdoor photography of plants and flowers, bungee cords work well to pull back vegetation and other unwanted material from the subject area. These are also great for stretching as a clothes line to support fabric backgrounds and diffuser material. I also use them to make light stands behave in their closet.

Carabiners are exceptionally handy, spring closing, safety clamps originally designed for mountain climbing. But, small light weight “beeners”, when married to a short loop of rope, are handy for hanging set weights, corralling coils of extension cords and safely securing lighting fixtures when in use.

And of course, the wooden spring clothes pin has many magical uses. More commonly, close pins are used for clamping gels and sheets of diffusion material to barn doors of lighting fixtures. Called C-47s in the movie industry, it is thought they received this highly technical nomenclature because they were once located in Row C-Bin 47 in the lighting department’s grip storage.

So remember, when you admire nice photography there may be just a few dollars worth of these special tools holding a very expensive set together in front of the camera and lens.

© Copyright 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.


Ento-What? Well, let me explain. Last weekend I had the pleasure to participate in a large, insect-based biological survey and specimen collection. Hosted jointly by the Texas A&M University Entomology Graduate Student Organization and the University of Oklahoma Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the long-standing Red River rivalry was put aside for 45 entomology specialists to gather at the OU Biology Station on Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma.

The purpose of the activity is to provide a rapid assessment of the insects found in the selected habitats over the three day weekend. Insects are collected by a wide variety of techniques during the day and at night. After collection, they are properly identified, labeled and curated for continuing study and research. And to a lesser degree, to compare with populations during previous periods.

These entomology specialists collected specimens from pin-head sized mites to much larger wasps, butterflies and moths. Because the weather in the region has been warm with ample rain throughout this year the insects were very abundant. While the collection data is still undergoing processing, the group collected some very unique species records that will be of value for future research.

During the event, many interesting collection techniques were utilized like light-trapping at night.

Here an entomologist uses a mercury-vapor light and a white fabric background to attract insects after dark. Naturally attracted to the light’s wave length, the insects land on the white fabric where they may be visualized and collected.

An entomologist uses a pair of fine-tipped forceps to collect tiny beetles for further identification, examination and study.

An adult antlion lands among a myriad variety of beetles, flies, moths and other insects on the light trap. Most widely seen as larvae in funnels in sandy soils, the adults are weak fliers and often resemble damselflies.

An unusual ichneumon wasp is also attracted by the light. These wasps are in a family with well over 3,000 known species north of Mexico. These wasps are parasites of the pupae of moths and butterflies.

A senior entomologist and student discuss insects that have landed on a beat-sheet. Insects fall to these fabric devices after being dislodged from trees, limbs, and bushes by beating the foliage with a stick or shaking branches and leaves.

Blister beetles are often common and generally consume nectar, pollen or flowers of plants. Some eat the leaves and may damage crops. Their common name comes from the fact that when threatened they exude a harmful skin-blistering irritant.

Field biologists often endure hardships like rain, heat or other environmental discomforts. However this weekend in southern Oklahoma most participants had to watch for poison ivy. In some areas as above, the plants were dense and often head-high.

An entomologist specializing in butterflies and moths, puts on the finishing touches of spreading the wings of freshly collected specimens for his mounted collection.

Insect images: Nikon D2Xs, 200mm F 4.0 Micro Nikkor lens, SB-800 flash. Others: 60mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor, SB-800 Flash.

Copyright © 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights protected.

The details are in the lighting

“Beauty is in the details.” If that be true, then the beauty is revealed BY the lighting. I have always said, “You can’t get a great image without great lighting.” So here we are.

I have previously stated the characteristics of lighting include Quantity, Quality, Color, and Direction. When we consider these qualities, we normally think of subjects that are three dimensional and opaque. Like the natsuke in the previous posting.

Sometimes in nature and through our detail-revealing macro techniques, another concept is revealed. Many materials are translucent, or semi-transparent. Here, lighting can create another characteristic through the technique of trans-illumination. This can be thought of as pushing light through the subject to reveal characteristics of its inner structures.

This technique is relatively simple. It’s another form of back lighting, the lively light. Sunlight can work, but I find that a secondary light source like a dedicated flash works perfectly and with more control.

In the example photos below of a Morning glory leaf, the upper image is made in the normal manner. Lighting is only from the lens side of the leaf. This is a revealing image. We can visualize the color, texture and some of the smaller details of the leaf, including the veins.

In the second image below, the sun exposure is still there. But in addition, I have added a second light source directly behind and close to the leaf and aimed right through the leaf toward the lens. This is a dedicated SB-800 flash triggered from the camera with a dedicated SC-28 sync cable. Care must be exercised to prevent unwanted flare from the flash entering the lens. Cardboard, matte board or a variety of other materials can be used to mask off the unwanted light. The intensity of this light source must be somewhat greater than the top light source in order to punch through the leaf substance. This is dependent upon the thickness and quality of the leaf material itself.

In the new, lower image we can now visualize much more. The color and “feel” of the leaf is still there. This comes from the front light. But we can now visualize many more veins with greater clarity. And smaller structures, called stomata, or small pores on the leaf surface used for transpiration, can now be easily seen.

Nikon D2Xs, Micro Nikkor 60mm F2.8 macro lens, SB-800 Speedlight.
Image size: 1.0X.

This technique of trans-illumination is valuable in macro photography. From a diagnostic or demonstrative standpoint, this technique as an adjunct to top, or front lighting and cross lighting for texture can be a very valuable tool. But considering all the possibilities, the technique can take us to ways to reveal information not possible in other manners of traditional lighting.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Macro panorama

Most frequently macro photographers have learned to align the long dimension of the subject with the long dimension of the image frame and to move in as close as possible to get a frame filling composition. In macro imaging that means the magnification ratio of the resulting image is limited by the maximum angle of view of the lens used.

Today, with the advent of digital imaging, a method has been devised to increase magnification by turning the camera axis with the long dimension across the subject long dimension centerline. Then, a series of overlapping images can be made and stitched together seamlessly in the computer, increasing the magnification by a factor equal to the aspect ratio of the camera sensor or about 1.5 to 2.0 times (or more) the original. This will produce additional subject detail often required in macro reproductions. Multiple rows of stitched images can increase the magnification even more substantially.

Let’s look at the images below:

In image 1 above this fossil fish has been recorded at a magnification of 0.18 X in one shot with a Nikon D2Xs and a 60mm F2.8Micro Nikkor lens. In image 2 the reproduction is 0.68X using five overlapping images stitched in Photoshop CS-5. (In this blog the two images are reproduced at the same width. In actuality, the larger image is nearly twice a large.)

Image 3 illustrates the setup used. Camera is mounted on a heavy vertical stand and the specimen is on a X-Y mechanical stage as seen in detail in image 4. Lighting is with two SB-800 speedlights in Nikon Advanced Wireless i-TTL mode. Notice the master flash is connected to the camera via a dedicated SC-29  remote cord.

© Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.