Capture the Micro World

Alpha Tutorial :19 - Capture the Micro World

The best way to magnify small objects and enjoy the perspective of the micro world is by using a "macro lens" dedicated to that purpose. This chapter shows you how to shoot using a macro lens, but it also provides 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: Getting close and shooting on the telephoto side

You can capture the magnified subject even with a zoom lens, although it is no match for a macro lens.

To capture the close-up of the subject and defocus other areas, remember the two golden 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 latter half of this chapter.

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

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

This photograph was shot at 55 mm with 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.

On the other hand, if you shoot with a macro lens, you can magnify a part of the subject like in the photograph below.

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

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 capability to shoot such a photograph is the 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 from 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 a close-up of subjects at close range like a macro lens, like in the photograph below. It is recommended for users who want to try macro shooting but hesitate to buy a dedicated lens.

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

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 to capture 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 compared with other lenses, and allow you to get extremely close to the subject. SEL30M35 for E-mount and SAL30M28 for A-mount are the most suitable for the first macro lenses.

Shooting with a macro lens

Macro lenses can fill the entire frame with the subject, and shoot interesting photographs that cannot be produced with other lenses. In addition, F-numbers of macro lenses are larger than other fixed focal length lenses. However, by getting as close as possible to the subject, 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; therefore, photographs with both the foreground and background defocused can be shot, as in the above photographs.

This is a close-up of small jewellery items with the background defocused. As macro lenses allow you to change shooting angles and composition flexibly, 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. In such cases, use the manual focus (MF) mode to focus manually on the desired point. The method of switching to the MF mode may differ depending on the model of your camera. For details, refer to the Instruction Manual or Handbook of your camera. You should also be careful after focusing. As the subject is magnified with a large defocus level, the focus position is significantly shifted even by a slight movement of your body. If possible, using a tripod to secure the camera is recommended to fix the focus on the desired point.

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

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

Macro lenses recommended for beginners

If you are using 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 cost performance.

SAL30M28
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.

SEL30M35
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.