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Best for Macro of Coral & Flowers: 50mm & a6400 or 90mm & a7III?


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So my main focus is to get the absolute best macro shots I can of coral and flowers

I don't know which way to go, but I do know that the 50mm macro & 6400 is literally half the price of the 90mm macro & a7III and saving $1500 is a lot of money.

I watched this video:

 

From what I can understand, because of the smaller sensor size on the 6400, and it's zoomed in/cropped side effect of being a smaller sensor, I will get the same macro shots with the 50mm Macro and a6400 that I would with the 90mm Macro & a7III

Is this true?

Is there any quality difference in macro shots between these two paired setups?

What combo would give me the absolute BEST macro shots possible?

Obviously if I can save $1500 and get 95%+ of the quality macro shots I would get with the 90mm & a7III, I would rather save the money.

But if there's going to be a significant difference in quality of macro shots, I'll buy once and cry once lol

There is so much detail in coral and flowers and I want to be able to capture them at their best.

I realize there's some features on each of the lenses and bodies that are different from one another and offer a better experience, but I'm technically not a pro.

My main objective is just the getting the best macro shots in the end.

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In macro shooting, autofocus is often not required as you want to have absolute control over the plane of focus. Especially so with still subjects. Best to put your camera+lens in manual focus mode on a macro rail, do a coarse manual focus on the lens, then do fine focussing on the macro rail.

That being said, if I were in the market for a macro lens, I'd primarily care about absolute image quality over any other features (such as autofocus) on the lens. There are quite a few great manual options out there which can best the Sony 90mm G in terms of image quality, such as the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 ultra-macro. Have a read here:

https://dustinabbott.net/2020/02/laowa-65mm-f2-8-ultra-2x-macro-review/

https://www.opticallimits.com/fuji_x/1081-laowa65f28?start=2

What's more, the Sony 50mm macro is a (budget) fullframe lens, which usually means that it's not designed to resolve well on a (high pixel density) APS-C sensor such as in the A6400. The Laowa 65mm is designed for APS-C and resolves exceptionally well on a 24MP sensor.

When it comes to fullframe versus APS-C in macro shooting: I don't think there's a big difference when both are shot at 24MP. A 60mm lens shot at F/8 on an A6400 will yield pretty much identical images to a 90mm lens shot at F/11 on an A7iii, assuming optical quality of the lens is identical. The aperture is closed as far as diffraction allows anyway for maximum depth of field, so the usual notion of 'fullframe has 1 stop advantage over APS-C' is irrelevant here. There's only a real advantage if you were considering a high-res camera such as an A7Riii/iv.

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Posted (edited)

Ok great, thank you for that excellent explanation and advice!  It seems you've picked the perfect combo lens and body for my use and budget.

I was trying to go all Sony, but that Laowa lens sounds like a great option for an amazing price!

I don't know much about lens, but have never heard of that company.  I'll trust your knowledge that it's a high quality lens lol  (Based on that article and videos within it, this clearly is a very high quality lens and perfect for my application, with an amazing price!)

Is this lens really an "ultra" macro compared to other macros, or is that just a marketing label?  (According to the video in that article it is an "Ultra" macro because of it's 2:1 ratio)

That $400 lens paired with the $900 A6400 seems to be a sweet spot with affordability & top-tier performance.

That A7IV is insanely expensive lol A6400 for me!

Thank you!

 

Edited by thegreywizard
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Laowa is a brand mostly known for their unusual and daring lens designs, such as their 24mm f/14 probe macro lens or the 15mm f/4 ultra-wide macro. Their lenses are usually of great optical quality, but also fully manual (no electronic contacts): you'll have to set focus and aperture on the lens and there's no EXIF-info on the lens used.

Part of their design philosophy is also their lineup of 'ultra macro' lenses, which indeed allow up to 2× magnification. Some remarks on such extreme magnifications:

 - working distance from lens to subject is extremely close, so you'll have to make sure you don't drop shadows on the subject

 - depth of field is razor thin, even when shooting at smaller apertures like f/11. You'll have to do focus stacking or make the thin depth of field work artistically to your advantage

 - the image circle is magnified, which causes a lot of light loss. Even when shooting at f/2.8, you'll find that shutter speeds are much longer for correct exposure than when shooting at normal distances, or 1:1 magnification even. You'll have to shoot from a tripod to allow long shutter times.

Likely you'll only use the lens at around 1× magnification, with the added benefit that you can go a bit closer should the opportunity arise.

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I have a couple of Laowa lenses and I find them very good. My Macro is the 100mm Laowa on a second hand A7Rii. I can get right down into the stamens of flowers with excellent resolution.

As yet I haven't used a macro rail, but a good, solid tripod.

If you hand hold for macro, try gently rocking backwards and forwards whilst using burst mode on your shutter control, most of the photos will not be in sharp focus, but one should be perfect.

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The terms "macro", "ultra macro", etc. are meaningless.  There is no legal definition, and companies use these terms to sell you their stuff.

You need to think about "magnification".  How much do you want.  If you want to photograph things that are 1.5" in size, that's 1X.  If you want to photograph things that are 1/4" in size, that 10X.

Figure out how much magnification you want, and then look for gear that does it.  Better yet, read a book, such as:

Manual of Close-Up Photography, 1979 by Lester Lefkowitz 

And Pieter is correct, you don't need auto-focus for high magnification situations.  I use Minolta Rokkor-X and Tomioka Tominon bellows lenses -- on a bellows, of course -- and get superb results.

You can spend an arm and a leg if you want -- and still get crappy results.  It's more important to focus on technique. Check out:

http://photocornucopia.com/1061.html

Edited by XKAES
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@thebeardedgroundsman, could you please post a picture of the lens  mount on your Laowa 100/2.8 lens?  The lens brochure on Laowa Canada website is showing contacts on the lens mount of the lens but I am not certain if the picture is indeed a picture of and E-mount lens or not.  AF is unneeded on a macro lens but proper recording of EXIF information is immensely helpful to have.

Thanks,

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Hi Tadwil

I'm just off to work so I don't have time to take a photo of the lens, but I can confirm that the Laowa 100/2.8 does NOT have electrical contacts - a shame, particularly because it means that view magnification doesn't work.

I believe the Laowa have seen the light and their latest lenses are having the contacts fitted - but that doesn't help us with this lens :-((

Edited by thebeardedgroundsman
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3 hours ago, thebeardedgroundsman said:

a shame, particularly because it means that view magnification doesn't work.

I never understood the benefit of automatic view magnification so I disabled it even with electronic lenses. Instead, I assigned a custom button to magnify. I find that the automatic magnification completely destroys your composition and often zooms into a part of your view that is totally irrelevant, taking precious time to work your magnified view toward the relevant subject.

The way I MF is to first do a coarse focussing using the unmagnified view and focus peaking. Once focus is at my subject, I press the magnify button, position the zoom box over my subject, and only then zoom into the relevant area for precise focussing.

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Is this the new Laowa lens with the electronic contacts:

https://www.venuslens.net/product/laowa-85mm-f-5-6-2x-ultra-macro-apo/

I'm not too worried about the autofocus feature, as this will be primarily a macro lens.  But having the EXIF data would be a nice upgrade I think

It seems the new one is only $100 more

Would the 85mm also be better for macro than the 65mm?

Either way I would be content with the $400 65mm without EXIF data I think though.

 

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Opticallimits also tested the 85mm f/5.6:

https://opticallimits.com/sonyalphaff/1130-laowa85f56?start=1

This lens does not have electronic contacts. Overall, the image quality is not quite as good as the 65mm f/2.8 either so on an APS-C camera, I'd definately stick to that one. The 85mm f/5.6 has mostly been developed as a compact alternative to the fullframe 100mm f/2.8 macro.

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@thegreywizard,

Let me ask one simple question, do you intend to shoot macro and only macro?  If so, getting a Laowa macro lens is a fine idea, in fact the Laowa 100/2.8 macro lens is on my short list to be hopefully acquired in the near future but I won't miss it if I don't get it because I have many other macro lenses to shoot with, both AF and MF.

When I first acquired a Pentax K10D long time ago, I was out shooting flowers planted by homeowners on a dead-end street with a Tamron 90/2.8 macro lens.  It was a manual focus lens and while I was shooting, a cute little boy came with his dad to train riding on a 2 wheel, pedal-less bicycle.  I wanted to get some shots of this little guy running towards me then coasting while sitting on the seat and repeating it over when he started to slow down but with a manual focus lens, it was just impossible to confirm focus and I was only had manual focus lenses with at the time.

My point is 90-105/2.8 AF macro lenses becomes super sharp short telephoto lenses for portraits, candid shots of life around you and so on.  You can take advantage of the A6400 AF capabilities to expand your photographic experiences if you have an AF macro lens.

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Or just swap lenses if such an opportunity arises. 100mm focal length on an APS-C camera is pretty tough to work with anyway for general photography. In the 50-85mm range there are some AF macro lenses but these are generally more expensive that the Laowa 65, of less optical quality and the whole manual focussing experience is just way better with a true manual lens than with a 'fly-by-wire' lens. Horses for courses.

Edited by Pieter
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On 4/17/2022 at 7:36 PM, tadwil said:

@thegreywizard,

Let me ask one simple question, do you intend to shoot macro and only macro?  If so, getting a Laowa macro lens is a fine idea, in fact the Laowa 100/2.8 macro lens is on my short list to be hopefully acquired in the near future but I won't miss it if I don't get it because I have many other macro lenses to shoot with, both AF and MF.

When I first acquired a Pentax K10D long time ago, I was out shooting flowers planted by homeowners on a dead-end street with a Tamron 90/2.8 macro lens.  It was a manual focus lens and while I was shooting, a cute little boy came with his dad to train riding on a 2 wheel, pedal-less bicycle.  I wanted to get some shots of this little guy running towards me then coasting while sitting on the seat and repeating it over when he started to slow down but with a manual focus lens, it was just impossible to confirm focus and I was only had manual focus lenses with at the time.

My point is 90-105/2.8 AF macro lenses becomes super sharp short telephoto lenses for portraits, candid shots of life around you and so on.  You can take advantage of the A6400 AF capabilities to expand your photographic experiences if you have an AF macro lens.

Yes I'm looking for a dedicated macro lens for flowers and coral.

The Sony A6400 & Laowa 65mm ultra macro lens are a perfect combo for my budget and getting the highest quality glass for the best macro images I can get.

Thanks to everyone for your help and advice!

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