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Macro Lens

Posted by: Nature's Details on 07/15/2013 - 5:17 PM

I am in the market for a macro lens. Looking for one compatible with my Pentax K-Mount.

I have had my eyes on the Tamron 90mm/2.8 and the Tamron 60mm/2.0.

Any of the photographers here have any feedback on these two lenses? If not these two, any other suggestions?

I have an M42 adapter for my Pentax, so I am not against an older manual lens, if there is a good macro one out there. Any suggestions for older lenses?

I am using manual focus 95% of the time anyways, so if I can save money by going with an older lens it would be great, as long as I am not sacrificing image quality.


EDIT - some image examples would be great as well.


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Priya Ghose on 07/15/2013 - 6:06 PM

I have a Pentax K-5, and I shoot the vast majority of my macro photos with either the Pentax 100mm f/2.8 or the Pentax 35mm f/2.8 limited macro. The 35mm is great for getting up close in tight spaces (like gardens) and practically sticking my lens into a flower, and the very small size and light weight makes it great as a carry around lens. I usually take this lens and the 15mm f/4 with me as my kit while I'm hiking or out for extended periods of time.

I went back and forth a lot while deciding between the Tamron 90mm and the Pentax 100mm. I tried out both lenses, and was happy with both of them. I eventually decided on the Pentax 100mm due to the quick shift focus (I find this feature helpful while photographing fast moving insects), and also because it is weather resistant and I wanted a weather resistant lens that wasn't just the kit lens. That being said, Pentax has raised its lens prices significantly, and I'd probably get the Tamron 90mm if I had the same choice to make today.


Posted by: Rich Franco on 07/15/2013 - 6:23 PM


The 90 over the shorter 60, any day,



Posted by: Murray Bloom on 07/15/2013 - 6:39 PM

As often happens, I feel opposite to Rich. A shorter macro allows you to get much more intimate with your subject, to get into its world; and it shows in the images. Longer macros tend to flatten things and provide standoff-looking images. Just an opinion, and you know what those are worth.


Posted by: Nature's Details on 07/15/2013 - 6:44 PM

@ Rich,

Is that just for the extra working distance?

@ Pryia,

I will be using this with my K-01. I have read good things about the D-FA 100mm macro. I will do a little research on the 35mm macro.

I have also read good things about the FA-31mm, but not a macro.


Posted by: Rich Franco on 07/15/2013 - 6:55 PM



Here are the numbers!

Murray, intimate and spiders and bees, shouldn't be used un the same sentence!!! LOL!



Posted by: Nature's Details on 07/15/2013 - 6:56 PM

@ Murray,

I agree with you in a way as well, but only because that is what I am used to with macro. I use tubes on a 50mm lens with my Canon and it means having to get VERY close. I am not sure what I would do with all the space, if using a 90 or 100mm focal length macro lens. :)

Also a 35mm lens is great for handheld shots, which most of my macros are. (90% of them anyways).

Things is, I am looking for macro, but would also like to use it for other purposes as well. I have read that the 90mm Tamron doubles as a great portrait lens and even mid zoom.

The 35mm would be ok for portraits (especially close ups) and would maybe make a good street lens.

I have been reading though that macro lenses are not as good image quality wise, outside of what they are meant to be. Used as a macro lens (1:1) they can be extremely sharp, but used for say landscape, they lose a lot of resolution at distances.

@ Pryia,

Do you have much success with the 35mm macro, outside of macro photography? If so, what else do you use it for?


Posted by: Paul Ward on 07/15/2013 - 7:17 PM

Also consider the thread size, because you may want to add a ring flash on day. This will give you some really nice effects.


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 07/15/2013 - 7:58 PM

Yes, a ring flash or something like this can give you a lot of control over your lighting. Also, because of the short flash duration, worrying about camera and subject movement is almost a thing of the past. And no tripod needed!

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A couple of examples with this setup and a 60mm Micro lens:

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Posted by: Priya Ghose on 07/15/2013 - 8:34 PM

Have you checked out the user reviews and sample images on the Pentax Forum? There are also a few 90mm tamron vs. 100mm pentax threads kicking around somewhere on the main forum.

I frequently use the 35mm macro as a walk around lens when I am out and about, leave my tripod at home, and want something light. I am very petite, and cannot drag around a ton of heavy gear when hiking long distances, out with non-photogs with little patience for me stopping to set up, etc. I have photographed people, domestic animals, plenty of nature images that aren't true macros, garden scenes, urban images, and even a few landscapes with it (I usually use the 15mm f/4 for landscape work). I am a firm believer in the best camera/lens is the one you have with you, and there are many instances when I am not going to drag out all of my gear, and instead just want to strap on my camera and go. While there are some really great walk around lenses that aren't macros, chances are I'm going to want to take a macro photo of something (I just can't help myself), so the 35mm is the most versatile lens for me. Whether this is the case for you, I do not know. In terms of sharpness...I've read the same thing about zooms vs. primes. I haven't done any lens tests myself, but that information is definitely out there, as you know. Deciding on lenses is always a weighing of pros and cons...


Posted by: Nature's Details on 07/15/2013 - 8:41 PM

@ Priya,

I understand what you mean "I'm going to want to take a macro photo of something (I just can't help myself)"

I am the same way! :)

I can see it being great to have the flexibility of the wider 35mm lens and the option to shoot 1:1 macro when something interesting pops up. I look for macro / close-up no matter where I am. I worked with tiny measurements most of my adult life and now I see the small things, when I am out walking around. My wife will ask me about whether or not I got some great photo opportunity she sees and I will have totally missed it, because my eyes are looking down for tiny things. :)

Thanks for the links to the Pentax forum. I do check those out as well. I just thought here at FAA, I might get some more "honest" responses and images. I never know what to trust on brand name forums.


Posted by: Murray Bloom on 07/15/2013 - 8:43 PM

"FAA, the Brand-X forum"



Posted by: Fraida Gutovich on 07/15/2013 - 8:46 PM

I have the Tamron 90mm 2.8 macro and I have been very satisfied with the images it produces. I have not yet had it on a tripod.....all my images are handheld.

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Posted by: Priya Ghose on 07/15/2013 - 8:57 PM

Ha! Yes, there are some people who can be rabidly pro-pentax on that forum. The tamron did get good reviews on there though, and as I said above I think I'd go with the Tamron if I was buying a macro at today's prices in the 90-100 focal length range (I think the Pentax price hikes are not good for the brand at all).

I see you are in Canada. Are there any opportunities to rent or try out Pentax mount lenses there? Sometimes it's a matter of what feels right to you, no matter what the tests say.


Posted by: Priya Ghose on 07/15/2013 - 9:14 PM

Here are a few non-macro 35mm macro lens shots. I have many more, but I'm not sure which ones they are without looking at the files.
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100mm macro "portraits" of the feathered variety: Photography PrintsPhotography Prints

I'm happy to post some macro images from each lens if that would be helpful, but I need to wait until I get home and have access to the actual files.


Posted by: Crystal Wightman on 07/15/2013 - 10:17 PM

I have Sigma 105mm macro lens. It's a really nice lens. Shots are nice and crisp, crystal clear etc.. And I do 98% of my macro hand held. I have used the lens to shoot portraits, and a couple of landscapes, but I don't think any of those photos are in my gallery to show examples.

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Posted by: Les Palenik on 07/15/2013 - 11:37 PM

Tamron 90/2.8 is pretty good, very versatile and relatively inexpensive lens.
If you are working in a tight space, 50-60mm macro lens may be more appropriate than the longer 90-105mm lenses.


Posted by: Christopher Edmunds on 07/16/2013 - 12:25 AM

The 90mm will get your camera a little further away from the subject - a good thing with wildlife.
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Posted by: Dave Bosse on 08/06/2013 - 2:57 PM

PLEASE HELP... I AM STUMPED. Got a new 90mm Tamron Macro 1:1 lens for Canon 60D and I can seem to get ANYTHING in focus or the depth of field is minor that it's not useable. I read in the lens instructions (which are VERY sparse) that the "minimum focus distance is .3m (little less than 12") but then I also read "the working distance is about 6"). IS THE FOCUS DISTANCE MEASURED FROM THE FOCAL PLANE OF THE CAMERA or from the end of the lens? IF from end of lens the two above statements make more sense as the lens is about 6" long. BUT trying multiple distances from subject of 4-5 inches to 20" I can't seem to get enough depth of field or enough of the subject in focus to make it useable. I've even tried using f-stops of F11, 16 & 22 and still can't get enough depth of field.

Any suggestions or can you help?


Posted by: Dave Bosse on 08/06/2013 - 2:59 PM

Here is a photo I took yesterday at F11. Admittedly it's not real bad but the best I've been able to get so far. Would have preferred another 1/16th of an inch of focus.
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Posted by: Jeff Lee on 08/06/2013 - 3:16 PM

I use several combinations (I use a Canon 500D on my Nikkors 300 and 80-200 a lot) but I also LOVE my Tamron 90 (newer version has a built-in focus motor BTW).


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Posted by: Billy Griffis Jr on 08/06/2013 - 3:32 PM

OK ... Dave... you actually need to do a thread on that, rather than tacking it on here. but..depth of field is practically out the window with macro. I use a couple of different rigs, no matter what I do at f11 I can't get many insects completely in focus, or a Clover flower the size of a dime. If you check the depth of field scale on an older lens you'll see that the closer you focus, the less the depth of field is. With macro, you're looking at fractions of an inch no matter how you go about it. That's the most irritating thing about macro, depth of field is almost nonexistant. So welcome to the club...

Focusing distance should be from the front of the lens.

Tiny - I don't have a macro lens, I use a couple of other options. I shoot a Pentax K30, and also have a M42 adapter, so I can use a wide range of lenses, ranging from any new Pentax or third party lens all the way back to M42 glass 40 years old. I have a couple of sets of M42 extension tubes, those work well in various combinations with a Lentar 135mm M42 lens, I also have a couple of old teleconverters for K mount that i use with 135mm and 50mm K mount lenses. Take the glass out and it's a great extension tube, with the glass in I never used them because they tended to degrade image quality. I also use a binocular lens setup, I put the objective lens from a junk pair of binoculars on a 50mm lens, it wiggles right onto the 49mm filter ring and stays put pretty well, and does a good job. If you have a 50mm Pentax lens with 49mm filter ring, that's the cheapest way to go, but working distance is about 5 inches max. Ditto for the 50mm and extension tubes, working distance is about 4 or 5 inches. The 135 and extension tubes gets me away from the subject as bit more, from 1 to 1 1/2 feet, depending on what combination of tubes I use.

I also use a standard flash, a Vivitar that has variable power, and when using the 50mm rigs I hold a folded envelope at an angle to reflect it downward since it shoots over the subject. I would like to get another lens in about the 100mm range, but can't afford it right now.

If you look around a bit, the M42 and extension tubes option might be the least expensive, but if you already have a lens in the 100 to 135mm range, extension tubes for either M42 or k mount are not too expensive. With M42 the camera can't hold the aperture open so you can focus, so most of the time I have to open it up to focus, then close it down to around f11, which is where I usually shoot, then take the picture. It's a bit of a nuisance, especially hand held, but I manage to get quite a few nice shots that way.

Don't be too hesitant to trust the opinions of the guys on Pentax Forums about 3rd party lenses, I've been a member there for around 3 or 4 years, and many of them have lenses from every manufacturer you can think of, many also prefer some of the Tamrons and Sigmas to Pentax glass. Plenty of them also shoot Canon and Nikon cameras as well. Yeah most are very biased toward Pentax, but they will also give you the straight dope about other equipment, good bad or indifferent. But where lenses are concerned, some of those folks have a lot of bucks tied up in glass, and use every brand you can think of. Sigma and Tamron are both well respected, and the lens reviews are really good and very helpful. My user name is Paleo Pete by the way...

I just started to use the binocular lens rig a little again, here's what it can do...

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that was taken with a 50mm Pentax A series lens and a binocular lens for magnification.

This was taken with the same rig


This is with the 135mm and extension tubes, with flash


This one was the 135mm and extension tubes too


Those are all hand held, I don't remember what was done with the 50mm and extension tubes, but the results are comparable to those. I Can't set up a tripod for most of my shots, that dragonfly barely sat still long enough for 2 or 3 shots...

That's what can be done, I think I might have $50 tied up in both lenses and all the extension tubes put together...I got the flash free when an online auction goofed and sent me the wrong item, they never did find the 28-80 Sigma that I actually bought...$22 bucks...which was refunded...

So if you have the m42 adapter and a K mount 50mm, or a K mount 100-135mm, those options might be worth looking into. Just depends on what you already have...but K mount lens options are amazing, the 50mm I use for the binocular lens rig is over 30 years old, I've had it almost that long...and I got it on a camera I bought at a pawn shop for $30. The 200mm I use daily for birds was $35, the 135mm M42 I use for macro was $21 or so...inexpensive options are out there, you just have to look around. None of my extension tube sets for M42 cost more than $15, same for the K mount teleconverters, I just pulled the glass out and still have the aperture working properly. I shoot all manual focus...

Several other good macro shots on my Flickr page, done wit the various rigs if you want to look at more of what they can do it's


Posted by: Kim Henderson on 08/06/2013 - 3:46 PM

Wow Billy Griffis! You've given me much to think about..I'll never think of macro in the same way. Now just got to figure out what to add to my canon equip to get results similar to these! I saw your images and instantly wanted to sell my 100 macro..but, guess it will still have it's purpose.


Posted by: Gary Whitton on 08/06/2013 - 3:58 PM


Another lens to think about is the 100mm 2.8 Tokina. So far its been a very sharp lens, and had good reviews which is why i got it.

As for the depth of field issue, there are ways to solve that with multiple shots. But obviously your subject can't be moving around while you're doing it.


Posted by: Dave Bosse on 08/06/2013 - 10:03 PM

Tiny, I tried multriple shots thinking I could focus at different points in a flower and it would work like tonemaping. I don't know what I did wrong but this is what I got with different leaf sizes. I called it "growing" and presented it as a time lapse photo... LOL. Doesn't changing the focus change the size of the subject slightly?
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Posted by: Rich Franco on 08/06/2013 - 10:17 PM


What I think you are seeing, is a change in depth of field in the shot. When you alter the focal point and the depth of field changes, you will get an image like this. So a rule is always keep the f-stop and the focal point the same, when doing multiple exposures, just change the shutter speed.

Also, of course, over this entire time, the plant is moving chasing the sun too!



Posted by: Jim Hughes on 08/06/2013 - 10:22 PM

@Murray Bloom,

I like that crazy gooseneck/clip/diffuser thing. Make or buy?


Posted by: Dave Bosse on 08/06/2013 - 10:48 PM

Fraida Gutovich and Jeff Lee... beautiful macro work. What is you "normal" F stop for photos like these. Even at F11 and a tripod I can't get the depth of field you are getting with the 90mm Tamron. Tamron says the "minimum focus distance is .3cm" which is about 12 inches, then later in the literature it says the "working distance is about 6"". What's the difference in the
"minimum focus distance" and the "working distance"? I'm GUESSING the minimum focus distance is from the focal plane of the shutter? Then the lens is about 6" long which leaves about 6" from the front of the lens to the subject which would be the "working distance"? I'm using the switch setting for distance of .3cm to .5cm which should mean I'm good in the 12-20" range but again wonder if that is from the front of the lens or the camera body? Why do I care? I maybe getting too close or not close enough to my subject which is effecting my depth of field??? I'm stumped... unless something is wrong with the lens I just can't get enough depth of field and certainly not as much as Fraida and Jeff show in their photos above.


Posted by: Rich Franco on 08/07/2013 - 10:58 AM


I looked for it at B&H, but there are millions of items to look through, but they certainly sell them there. Best is to call somebody there and describe what you are looking for, a gooseneck device that holds a diffuser in front of the on camera flash. This might be it:

I think it would be easy to make, something that attaches to the flash. I used to use 2-3 pieces of the gallon milk jug, about 4" square and attach that, with rubber bands right on the flash head. So I would bend the plastic around the flash and do a test to see how much"diffuser" material I needed for the object I was shooting,



Posted by: Murray Bloom on 08/07/2013 - 2:39 PM

The diffuser and gooseneck was part of Nikon's macro/ring flash kit.


Posted by: Jim Zablotny on 08/07/2013 - 3:00 PM

The 90mm Tamron f2.8 is very sharp. If you can find a Sigma 180mm f3.5 macro, then go with that. I have both of these lenses and they work well with my Pentax equipment. I prefer the 180--it provides more working distance and as an EX lens, it produces tack sharp images plus its built like a tank..................Jim


This discussion is closed.