Shooting tips > Capture the Micro World

Level: Beginner

LESSON 8Capture the Micro World

Focal length: 50 mm / F-number: 3.5 / Shutter speed: 1/20 sec

The best way to magnify small objects and enjoy the perspective of the micro world is to use a "macro lens," designed specifically for this purpose. This chapter explains how to shoot using a macro lens, and it also includes some techniques for users who don't have a macro lens. Set the camera to the A-mode so that you can adjust the level of defocus.

Basic rule: Get close and shoot on the telephoto side

You can capture a magnified subject even with a zoom lens, although it is no match for a macro lens.
To capture a close-up of a subject and defocus other areas, remember the two key rules: "Get as close as possible to the subject" and “Shoot on the telephoto side (with longer focal lengths) of the lens." This advice is also used for "1. Shoot Impressive Portraits with People Highlighted," "2. Give a Soft Touch to Flower Shots," etc. However, a lens has a minimum focusing distance, which limits how close you can get to the subject, and if you get closer to the subject than this distance, the subject will be out of focus. Lenses with a very short minimum focusing distance, allowing you to get extremely close to the subject, are called "macro lenses." Shooting techniques with a macro lens are explained in the second half of this chapter.

Lens: SEL1855 / Focal length: 55 mm / F-number: 5.6 / Shutter speed: 1/100 sec

This photograph was shot at 55 mm of the zoom lens "SEL1855" included in the NEX-F3 zoom lens kit. With a normal zoom lens, this is the largest possible level of magnification.
When shooting with a macro lens, on the other hand, you can magnify a part of the subject, as in the photograph below.

Lens: SEL30M35 / Focal length: 30 mm / F-number: 3.5 / Shutter speed: 1/160 sec

This close-up of the flower's pistil and stamens was shot with the E-mount macro lens "SEL30M35." The ability to shoot such a photograph is the key feature of a macro lens.

You can also shoot a close-up of a part of the subject using a zoom lens with a high magnification ratio, although it is not comparable to a macro lens. The photograph below was shot at 200 mm, the telephoto end of the E-mount zoom lens "SEL18200," after getting as close as possible to the subject. A high-magnification zoom lens allows you to enjoy various photographic expressions, not only shooting subjects in the distance but also capturing close-ups of subjects at close range, like a macro lens, as in the photograph below. This kind of lens is recommended for users who want to try macro shooting but hesitate to have a dedicated lens.

Lens: SEL18200 / Focal length: 200 mm / F-number: 6.3 / Shutter speed: 1/640 sec

Shooting with a macro lens

This section shows you some techniques using a macro lens.
For "macro shooting," or capturing a magnified image of a small item, there is nothing better than using a dedicated macro lens. Macro lenses have a very short minimum focusing distance, so you can get very close to the subject. The most suitable first-time macro lenses are the SEL30M35 for E-mount and SAL30M28 for A-mount.

Shot with the macro lens SAL30M28 Focal length: 30 mm / F-number: 2.8 Shot with the macro lens SAL50M28 Focal length: 50 mm / F-number: 4.0

Macro lenses can fill the entire frame with the subject, shooting interesting photographs that cannot be produced with other lenses.
Also, F-numbers of macro lenses are larger than other fixed focal length lenses. By getting as close as possible to the subject, however, they can create great background defocus, comparable to fixed focal length lenses with small F-numbers. For details, refer to Factors of Defocus. The amount of defocus becomes larger as you get closer to the subject. As a result, you can shoot a photograph with both the foreground and background defocused, as in the above photographs.

This is a close-up of small jewelry with the background defocused. Because macro lenses allow you great flexibility in changing shooting angles and composition, they are perfect for shooting small items.

If you fill the entire frame with the subject using a macro lens, it may be difficult to focus on the desired point. If this happens, use the manual focus (MF) mode to focus manually on the desired point. The steps for switching to the MF mode vary depending on the camera model. For details, refer to the Instruction Manual or Handbook for your camera. Take care after focusing. Because the subject is magnified with a large defocus level, even a slight movement of your body will significantly shift the focus position. If possible, it is recommended that a tripod be used to secure the camera, in order to fix the focus on the desired point.

Lens: SEL30M35 / Focal length: 30 mm / F-number: 3.5 / Shutter speed: 1/100 sec

Macro lenses recommended for beginners

If you are trying a macro lens for the first time, "SAL30M28" for A-mount and "SEL30M35" for E-mount are recommended. They have a convenient angle of view and provide excellent performance for the cost.

Focal length: 30 mm / F-number: 6.3 / Shutter speed: 1/13 sec

SAL30M28

This lens allows you to move in as close as 2 cm from your subject to capture macro images with up to 1:1 magnification. The details you focus on will be astonishingly sharp, while the out-of-focus background dissolves into a creamy blur that can really make the details stand out.

Focal length: 30 mm / F-number: 4.0 / Shutter speed: 1/500 sec

SEL30M35

This lens offers versatile, high-performance macro capabilities in a compact, lightweight body. It is a true 1:1 macro lens with a 2.4 cm minimum working distance that allows tiny subjects and details to be rendered with excellent resolution and contrast.