Some Theory The Difference

Whilst it's appropriate to discuss close-up and macro in the same context there are some differences, and it's helpful to agree some mutual terms of explanation. The difference is all to do with magnification and scale. Think of magnification as being the actual size of the subject in reality compared to the size at which the subject is recorded on sensor. Macro is when a subject is the same size (or greater) in reality than it appears on sensor. When it is the same size, we often refer to this as being 'life-size', or as having scale 1:1 magnification rate (pronounced 1 to 1). A magnification rate of 2:1 gives an image twice life-size, i.e. twice as large on the sensor as it is in reality. Anything less than macro is technically called close-up, but both terms are often discussed in the same context. Close-up is when a subject is smaller than life-size. A 1:3 magnification rate image appears at one-third of the size on the sensor as it is in reality.

I myself struggle to clearly see subjects much larger than life size and concede that super-macro may just be beyond me. See Keri Wilk's section on Super Macro Photography later in this chapter.

fig. 8.2 I shot this boxer crab with eggs at Scuba Seraya in Tulamben, Bali. It's difficult to tell what size this was in reality as there is nothing to give it scale. Additionally, it's impossible to tell what focal length lens I used. The facts: this must be the smallest boxer crabs I've ever seen. I shot it using a 105 mm macro lens and focused near to 1:2 life-size. Could I have used a 60 mm macro rather than a 105 mm? Yes, but my 60 mm would have been so very close to the crab! It was luck that I had my 105 mm macro lens fitted when it was pointed out to me. I didn't enter the water for this purpose. The 105 mm lens provided a little more working distance for me to compose and position my flash. Nikon D300, f22 at 1/90th sec, ISO 200 with one Inon flashgun, the other I turned off.

fig. 8.2 I shot this boxer crab with eggs at Scuba Seraya in Tulamben, Bali. It's difficult to tell what size this was in reality as there is nothing to give it scale. Additionally, it's impossible to tell what focal length lens I used. The facts: this must be the smallest boxer crabs I've ever seen. I shot it using a 105 mm macro lens and focused near to 1:2 life-size. Could I have used a 60 mm macro rather than a 105 mm? Yes, but my 60 mm would have been so very close to the crab! It was luck that I had my 105 mm macro lens fitted when it was pointed out to me. I didn't enter the water for this purpose. The 105 mm lens provided a little more working distance for me to compose and position my flash. Nikon D300, f22 at 1/90th sec, ISO 200 with one Inon flashgun, the other I turned off.

My own choice of lens is a dedicated macro lens in the region of between 50 mm and 60 mm. Why do I advocate this range? Well, the majority of SLRs have an effect of multiplying the focal length of a lens. (Canon by 1.6x and Nikon by 1.5x). The effect is that a Canon 50 mm macro lens has an equivalent focal length of 80 mm and a Nikon 60 mm of 90 mm. Some retailers advise a first purchase to be a 70 mm—180 mm macro zoom lens to provide more versatility. I have a problem with this. For the majority of close-up subjects the 70 mm end (x by 1.5 = 105 mm) is often too narrow. On land we can simply 'back off' to get more in the frame but underwater this doesn't work and the water column becomes too much between lens and subject for so many of the close-up, commonplace subjects. That's why I recommend your first choice 'workhorse' lens be a 50 mm or 60 mm macro. If your budget extends that far then also consider the purchase of the 100 mm—105 mm macro from the outset.

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