Subject coverage by macro lenses


Mu-43 All-Pro
Mar 13, 2010
East Charleton, near Kingsbridge, south Devon (UK)
Real Name
I was asked a question on one of my nature threads about the subject coverage of the macro lens that I was using. I thought a posting here might be of interest and possibly reach a wider number of the members rather than being buried within another thread. My response was as follows:-

Originally posted under “A Red Admiral butterfly awakes" as a response to your question about working distances for the 105mm macro lens

Hi Adrian,
It's a little difficult to say what working distance I shot at, it obviously depends on the size of the subject and it's become a bit instinctive for me. I tend to start shooting on shy subjects like dragonflies from further away than I hope to finally obtain, then if the insect flies at least I've got something. I then move slowly forwards adjusting the focus manually as I go. You'll get a far greater number of well focused shots using manual focus for this sort of activity, auto focus is just not accurate enough. Sometimes it's easier to slightly rock the camera backwards and forwards to obtain accurate focus than it is to try and adjust focus on the lens.
I've used 50mm, 55mm and 105mm macro lenses and have now settled on the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens in a 4/3 fitting with an adapter which does mean I retain the auto stop down facility. Most shots are taken at f/8 or f/11 particularly for hand held ones and it's important to try and get the majority of the insect parallel to the camera sensor to make the most of the limited depth of field.
My moth shots are almost always of moths extracted from a light trap, certain species will readily pose if placed somewhere where they feel comfortable, although they might move after a minute or two, but often as not there is time to obtain suitable photographs. These shots are invariably taken with the camera mounted on a tripod, often in lower level light conditions since the trap should be emptied early in the morning.
Part of the secret is to know your subject, so I'm probably a naturalist first and a photographer second.
It's dark now but what I'll try and do tomorrow is set up the camera on some known sized targets and measure the target size and the subject to camera distance, then I can message you with a better answer to your question on actual working distance.

I've now been able to do some measurements using a 105mm Sigma macro lens and they are as follows:-

The figures are subject size followed by distance from the front element of the lens to the subject

225mm x 150mm--------------1270mm
150mm x 100mm---------------890mm
90mm x 60mm----------------510mm
60mm x 45mm----------------350mm

I hope this information is of interest to some members


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