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Test A Lens’s Closest Focusing Distance

Before you decide to go out and purchase macro-specific camera gear, test the photograph equipment you already own to see just how effective it is for macro and close-up photography.

Most ordinary lenses enable you to focus on a subject at infinity, meaning there’s no limit as to how far away a subject can be. On the other side of the focusing ring, however, is an end point marked with a number. This is your minimum focusing distance, and it’s based on how far the lens can move away from the digital sensor.

With the lens focused at its minimal focusing distance, you can move the camera toward a subject until it appears in sharp focus. The distance between your lens and subject at this point is literally your minimal focusing distance. If you move any closer to the subject, it’ll fall out of focus and become blurred.

For the test, position your camera and lens at the minimal focusing distance and capture a sharp image of the subject. For best results, choose a subject that’s no larger than a couple inches in size. A small subject gives you an idea of how much detail you can get with that lens/camera combo when you review it later on the computer monitor.

Choose a still subject that will remain consistent throughout your lens and camera tests. Doing so enables you to compare images directly to one another.

If you have more than one lens, then you need to test each individually. If you have multiple camera bodies (especially if one has a full-frame sensor and the other doesn’t), test them independently as well. Test a zoom lens at various focal lengths, as the minimal focusing distance varies at each and so provides different results.

The figures were photographed at the minimal focusing distance with the same 28mm to 135mm zoom lens.

Photographed with the widest angle (28mm). A wide focal length causes your subject to appear small
Photographed with the widest angle (28mm). A wide focal length causes your subject to appear small in your frame, even at the nearest focusing distance.

28mm, 1/80, f/5.6, 400

Photographed with a normal angle of view (50mm). Zooming in, and shooting with a normal focal lengt
Photographed with a normal angle of view (50mm). Zooming in, and shooting with a normal focal length helps to create a larger depiction of the subject when using the nearest focusing distance.

50mm, 1/80, f/5.6, 400

Photographed with the longest angle (135mm). Maximizing your focal length (when using a zoom lens)
Photographed with the longest angle (135mm). Maximizing your focal length (when using a zoom lens) enables you to maximize the level of magnification in your subject.

135mm, 1/80, f/5.6, 400

At 28mm, the lens produces a wider angle of view. The normal angle of view, 50mm, narrows the angle of view and the 135mm focal length provides the narrowest angle of view. Your minimal focusing distance changes only slightly between each of these focal lengths, but the style of the composition changes drastically.

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