The 1:4 Ratio and Macro Photography - dummies

By Thomas Clark

In more recent years, the term macro photography has been modified to help manufacturers sell equipment that doesn’t have true macro capabilities. By doing so, companies can now sell cameras and lenses (in the 35mm format) that enable you to capture a 1:4 magnification ratio — one quarter the magnification of a 1:1 —but refer to it as macro equipment.

The argument for a 1:4 ratio providing macro results is that when making a typical 4×6 inch print, your subject will appear life-size, or close to it.

This theory was put to the test in these figures. As you can see in the 4×6 inch print, the subject appears close to its actual size; but when compared with the 1:1 ratio example, you can easily see that true macro photography provides a much more detailed depiction of a subject this size. Notice how much less of the frame’s space is dedicated to the subject when using a 1:4 ratio.

The difference between a 1:4 and a 1:1 ratio provides a much different representation of your subject, although each may be referred to as macro, depending on whom you’re talking to. To keep things simple, anything with a magnification ratio of 1:1 or greater is referred to as macro photography, and anything less to as close-up photography.

A penny at 1:4 ratio, printed in a 4x6 print
A penny at 1:4 ratio, printed in a 4×6 print
A penny photographed at 1:1 ratio, or true macro
A penny photographed at 1:1 ratio, or true macro

100mm, 1/8, f/16, 640