How much are Macro Lenses and What are Macro Lenses - for DSLR Cameras?

How much are Macro Lenses and What are Macro Lenses - for DSLR Cameras?

Brian Mathers

You are most likely someone that is familiar with photography or on the newer end of the photography journey and heard the words or phrase ‘Macro Lens’ or ‘Macro Photography’. We have to admit the first time we heard that phrase we immediately thought, “ahaaa it's taking a photograph of tiny things!!!!!”....but that is not necessarily correct…in this blog we will go over the cost of Macro Lenses (which is a large range by the way!), as well as the basics of what makes a Macro lens…you guessed it, a “Macro Lens!” :)

Ok, cost. How much are macro lenses…the answer is that it depends! To provide you with rough figures you can expect to pay between $275.00 and $1800.00+ for a DSLR Macro Lens depending on brand, size, quality ect! 

If you are to go with a Macro Lens adapter, you can expect to pay between $30.00 and $150.00 for an adapter that fits on the end of your standard lens, more on this later! :)

So now that we have briefly covered the general costs, let’s jump into what are macro lenses. Once we have covered this then we will dive a little deeper into what influences the costs up and down.

What are Macro Lenses? For a lens to be classified as “macro” it has to have a magnification of 1:1 or higher. What a 1:1 magnification ratio means is that what the camera has on the inside or on the sensor is the same size as real life. To give a little bit of context around these ratios the first number being less than the second number makes the image reproduce smaller than real life. For example: if you have a 1:2 ratio macro lens, it will reproduce the image at half the size (think division). Now when the first number is higher than the second number it multiplies. For example you have a 3:1 ratio macro lens. That macro lens will reproduce the image 3 times larger than real life (think multiplication). What sets macro lenses apart from other lenses is that they are only used for up close photography. A good macro lens will bring out details that no other lens can if used correctly. 

Let’s jump into how much are macro lenses. There are a few points that we see making a large impact on how much you will pay for your macro lens. They are:

  1. Brand
  2. Focal Length
  3. Magnification Ratio

Starting with the brand, we won't go into too much detail here, but you are most likely aware that products with a brand name on them such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus ect are going to be more expensive than a knock off or lesser known brand. This is true across most markets. This is just the way things are unfortunately. These large brands have to put a lot of effort, time, and resources into coming up with the latest and greatest as well as maintaining their brand image so quality is often a large factor in the cost. Large brands spend a lot of money on quality to ensure their is consistency with their products. This costs money…who pays for it? The end user. The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ strikes again. We are not for a moment saying that there are not lesser known or knock off brands that don’t have good quality, not for a moment. You will just need to be careful and ensure you are reading reviews on the products you are purchasing before buying. 

We can see from the market that the focal length affects costs drastically. As with all DSLR camera lenses, macro lenses come in a large selection of focal lengths. Focal length is normally referred to in millimeters. So you will see 50mm, or 90-120mm, or 105mm for some examples. This number represents the focal length which is the distance from the thing or subject that you are shooting = taking a photo of…ok!!!). We are not going down that road…:) Let’s quickly look at how the focal length of a macro lens affects the cost. You can pick up a 50mm f/2.8 for $600.00 - $800.00+. An 80mm f/2.8 jumps up over $1000.00 to $2000.00. Moving onto a 100mm f/2.8 you are in the same range as the 80mm. So you can see how increasing the focal length adds to the price, this is due to the inside of the lens changing as well as the outside of the lens having to be larger. More material, more curved glass inside = more money. The above lenses we were discussing are single focal point lenses or prime lenses. When you start looking at adjusting or changing lenses these are called zoom lenses. Yes, you can get macro lenses that zoom and change the focal point. These have a large range similar to those in the prime price range. As there are so many different combinations we are not going to dive into that right now but they are as low as $200.00 and up depending on the items we have discussed thus far. 

The last item we are going to discuss that affects the price is the magnification ratio. We have not been able to find a hard and fast range for each magnification ratio, but what we have found is that the further you stray from 1:1, or 1:2/2:1 the harder the lenses are to find and not necessarily meaning an increase in price which we find interesting. We are only throwing this out there but this may be due to the lack of demand for lenses that have an odd ball magnification ratio. There seem to be more DSLR lens adapters available on the market for these types of magnification ratios. 

Perfect segue into lens adapters! :) Now that we have covered how much are macro lenses and what are macro lenses we are going to touch on DSLR lens adapters. The reason we are bringing this up is that you can spend a lot of money on a macro lens that does have limited use unless you are a wedding photographer, portrait photographer or love taking pictures of items up close and that is all you do. If you are an exploratory photographer as many are, carrying an extra lens may not be an issue. Forking out that sum of dough may not be an issue…but for those of you (including me!) that are more price conscious and are more experimental photographers…man adapters are where it is at! You have to admit they do have their limitations when it comes to impeccable quality ect but they do a pretty darn good job for a fraction of the price. By no means are we saying to never look at a proper macro lens, we are simply suggesting that you could start or experiment with a DSLR lens adapter first to see what you enjoy and what works for you before making the full commitment to the macro lens investment.  

With that, we will back off and let you decide what is the best path to take for you!