Best macro lens: 8 tested

Get close-up with these macro lenses for DSLRs

Best macro lenses

The Zeiss Makro-Planar T* F2 100mm ZE is by far the best macro lens performer, with stunningly low aberration and superb, consistent sharpness. But even if it were cheaper, its maximum magnification and lack of autofocus may still be enough to put many off.

At almost £1,000 less, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM optic does a remarkable job to offer similar performance, recording high detail throughout its aperture range and keeping aberrations at bay, as well as providing the benefits of optical stabilisation and a near-silent autofocus system.

Hopefully, Sigma will provide the lens in a wider range of mounts. In the meantime, Canon and Nikon DSLR users should start saving up for it, because it really is an impressive macro lens.

The Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 lens can safely maintain the brand's reputation as a good alternative to the big four names. Even so, a bargain lens is often a bargain for a reason, and the noisy, slow focusing motor and lack of internal focusing are its biggest shortfalls.

Its 90mm focal length gives it a shorter working distance than most of the others here. Along with its extending inner barrel, this makes it less than ideal for shooting living subjects.

The Pentax smc D-FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR and Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses occupy similar mid-range performance territory, each providing weak wide-open but respectable mid-range results, and neither having the luxury of an internal focusing system, nor a quiet AF motor.

Despite this, the Pentax has a number of advantages that are particularly welcome at its sub-£500 price point, such as its sturdy metal body and compact form, as well as its weather seals and Super Protect coating.

The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro does little to excite with its poor wide-open results, distortion, and 1:2 reproduction ratio, but its good mid-range sharpness, as well as its control over chromatic aberration, go some way to justifying its £580 price tag.

Verdict

The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM takes top honours, despite a strong performance from the Zeiss Makro-Planar T* F2 100mm ZE. With excellent sharpness and superb control over aberration, the Sigma macro lens isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Best for Canon APS-C format users

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Best macro lenses

What's good: excellent sharpness and superb control over aberration.
What's bad: inconsistent when wide-open.

Our verdict: it's not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Best for Nikon DX format users

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Best macro lenses

What's good: excellent sharpness and superb control over aberration.
What's bad: inconsistent when wide-open.
Our verdict: it's not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Best for Olympus Four Thirds users

Olympus Zuiko digitAl ED 50mm 1:2.0 Macro

Best macro lenses

What's good: small and capable of excellent image quality at narrower apertures.
What's bad: Weak wide-open performance.

Our verdict: it's not cheap, but it's a good four thirds option.

Best for Pentax users

Pentax SMC D-FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR

Best macro lenses

What's good: good overall sharpness and excellent control over distortion.
What's bad: no internal focusing.

Our verdict: A small, solid optic with good mid-aperture results.

Best for Sony APS-C format users

Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro 1:1

Best macro lenses

What's good: lightweight and sharp, and a bargain price.
What's bad: inconsistent performance.

Our verdict: A good budget option that exceeds expectations.

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