Macro Photography

Different perspectives

A wide variety of lenses are suited for capturing even the tiniest subjects with a (digital) SLR camera. Not only those designated as “macro” lenses work for close-up photography.

"Alligator Pear", shot with Makro-Planar T* 2/50  (Photo by Christopher Deutscher).
"Alligator Pear", shot with Makro-Planar T* 2/50  (Photo by Christopher Deutscher).

Macro lenses

Conventionally, the focal lengths of typical full-frame macro lenses are in the normal to minor telephoto range. Normal and telephoto focal distances are suitable for the design of such macro lenses with the demanding imaging characteristics mentioned. Carl Zeiss offers two models in this area: the Makro-Planar T* 2/50 and Makro-Planar T* 2/100.

These lenses are distinguished in each case by a reproduction scale of 1:2 at the close-up limit, outstanding image planarity, uniformly high imaging performance over the entire focusing range starting at maximum aperture and nearly distortionless image reproduction. This enables them to be used very versatilely, making reproduction of two-dimensional subjects and shots of three-dimensional objects superb at any distance.

Makro-Planar T* 2/100; F/4,5; 1/125 Sek.; ISO 1600, (Photo by Rick Sonnemann).
"A hand held close-up of a poppy", shot with Makro-Planar T* 2/100 (Photo by Rick Sonnemann).

Special wide-angle lenses

Small, three-dimensional objects can also be shot from unusual perspectives with wide-angle lenses. Some Carl Zeiss wide-angle SLR lenses are particularly suited for this, offering an unusually short macro limit. The Distagon T* 2,8/25 is particularly noteworthy in this respect. Subjects can be approached up to a distance of 17 cm, with a mere 6 cm working distance from the front of the lens. Its reproduction scale of 1:2.3 offers outstanding macro quality.

"New York pathway”, shot with Distagon T* 2,8/25 ZF (Photo by René Budde).
"New York pathway”, shot with Distagon T* 2,8/25 ZF (Photo by René Budde).
"Old love never dies”, shot with Distagon T* 2,8/25 ZF (Photo by René Budde).
"Old love never dies”, shot with Distagon T* 2,8/25 ZF (Photo by René Budde).
















Of course, with wide-angle retrofocus designs (Distagon models), somewhat higher distortion and less perfect image planarity are to be expected compared to typical macro lenses with normal to telephoto focal ranges.

Thus they are less well suited to shooting flat subjects such as postcards, documents and paintings or at least require considerable stopping down (to f/11, for example) in such applications.

Small objects, on the other hand, can be captured very well in their environment; at large and medium apertures a slight blurring of the background emphasizes the main subject in its surroundings.
This gives a totally different perspective from a macro lens of greater focal length, which only captures a small section of the background.

(Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE; F/4; 1/200 Sek.; ISO 400, Photo by Petri Karvonen)
"Ladybug on the rail" shot with Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE  (Photo by Petri Karvonen).

The Distagon T* 2,8/21 super wide-angle lens with its reproduction scale of 1:5 at the macro limit (22 cm from the sensor plane) also enables unusually close encounters with the subject. Moreover, its floating elements design provides superior imaging performance at such short ranges. Despite its very high 90° field angle (diagonal, at full-frame coverage), the main subject can be set off very well at high apertures.
Such super wide-angle lenses pose considerable artistic challenges for a photographer, but these can often be met by getting very close to the subject.

"Face down on the forest floor", shot with Distagon T* 2/28 ZF.2 (Photo by Einar Soyland).
"Face down on the forest floor", shot with Distagon T* 2/28 ZF.2 (Photo by Einar Soyland).

The Distagon T* 2/28 brings a somewhat more moderate field angle of 74° with it. With a macro limit of just 24 cm and very high light intensity of 1:2, it is also superb for beautiful stand out effects at short distances. Like the Distagon T* 2,8/21, its floating elements design also makes outstanding image quality possible.

(Distagon T* 2/28; F/0; 1/100 Sek.; ISO 320, Photo by Kit Yip)
A beautiful application with the Distagon T* 2/28 (Photo by Kit Yip).


Detail photography for close-ups is not restricted to conventional macro focal lengths. Wide-angle lenses with short minimum focusing distances can also show small subjects in their environment in an unusual way.

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  1. Excellent images. I have the 100/2 Makro Planar in ZF.2.

    Combined with a replacement manual focus screen in my Nikon D3s it really is a beautiful lens and one of my absolute favourites!


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