Surprise, I have a new lens in the bag! I’ve been wondering about this problem of mine when going on hikes and trying to carry light, that I most often have to sacrifice the heavy 150mm macro. Which then leaves me only with the ”macro” function on the 24-105mm lens, and let’s be honest… it doesn’t deserve to be called macro. It has a magnification of 1:4.3 which is nowhere near close enough, especially when the lens is not exactly pin sharp when shooting wide open at 105mm, in order to get some kind of control of the background.
But a few weeks ago it came to me – I should get a 50mm macro! The Sigma 50mm f2.8 lens is very light, about half a kilo lighter than the 150mm lens. And despite the short focal length, this baby can do 1:1 magnification, which shouldn’t be taken for granted – for example, the Canon f2.5 macro can only manage 1:2. It’s a bit funny when shooting at 1:1 though, because this lens has an extending barrel. The closest focusing distance is 19cm, but with the lens extension considered, the front element is just a couple of centimeters from the subject. So you have to be really careful with it, or you’ll bump the lens into things… just as well that Sigma seems to have taken this into consideration, because the front glass is very deep in the barrel, kind of providing a permanent lens hood. And speaking of the lens hood, I came to the conclusion that it’s useless. Because of this massive lens extension, it’s impossible to use a lens hood which attaches to the barrel. The only option is to make a screw-in lens hood, so you use the filter thread for this. Which means that you then can’t put on the lens cap. But like I said, it’s hardly needed anyway so I will leave the hood in the box, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth.
When I got the 150mm macro, it was because it suits my style the best, it gives me very good background control and also makes it possible to use diffused foregrounds. So I know that I can’t expect to shoot in the same way using a 50mm macro with its wider angle of view and bigger DOF, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The biggest difference is that I have to learn to work with the background, I will have to try to make the background a part of the picture. The pictures will tell a different story – instead of highlighting a flower against a unicoloured background, I will now have to put the flower in context. But having said that, I don’t expect to start using the short macro as my main lens, I really only got it for the purpose of being able to carry a macro lens on the long hikes. I’m already thinking about a combination of 16-28mm wideangle and 50mm macro… so completely skip the longer Canon zoom. I have step-up rings so I can easily use filters with the macro. Only sacrifice I have to make is on the long end. Working with 50mm as the longest available focal length sounds scary, but I feel up to the challenge!
Oh, maybe a word about the quality of the lens. For one thing, it’s sharp. I mean, how can anyone do a not-sharp 50mm lens? I don’t even bother to test it, I do what I always do – take the pictures I want to take, and if I like the result then the lens is sure good enough for me. Also the construction of the lens is very solid, I have absolutely no complaints or concerns. Compared to all my other lenses, this new one is quite a baby. When the lens is attached to the camera, it feels a bit strange to hold it… I’m not used to having lenses which are lighter than the camera!