Optical Quality in Macro Lenses - dummies

By Thomas Clark

Not all macro lenses were created equal, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money to get great quality. You simply have to know what to look for.

The optical quality of a lens refers to how sharp a resulting image is displayed on your camera’s digital sensor. Light waves are refracted through the lens and refocused onto the sensor in order to create an image, and any flaws in the lens’s design can cause some of the waves of light to miss their mark. This causes blurry results.

Notice the difference between the images in the figure. The one on the left was photographed with a high-quality lens, providing sharp results. The other image was photographed with a lower quality lens, which provided blurrier results.

Higher quality lenses are made with higher grades of glass and therefore cost more. If your preferred camera gear brand offers two macro lenses with identical focal lengths, but at different prices, the more expensive one likely has higher quality and more features.

The optical quality of a lens determines how sharp its images will be.
The optical quality of a lens determines how sharp its images will be.

50mm, 1/500, f/8, 400 50mm, 1/500, f/8, 400

Read customer reviews online to find out which lenses meet your needs. You can find these reviews on product sites, provided by customers who have recently purchased and used the product, or on photography forums, such as dpreview.com. After you narrow your choices down to a few products, type their names into an online search engine and you may find discussions in which photographers directly compare the products.

Most macro and close-up lenses are made with high quality glass and provide precise sharpness. If you notice that both lenses are being praised for their sharpness, then the cheaper one is the way to go — as long as it has the features that you want.