Tele macro lenses serve the dual purpose of being a standard tele lens as well as offering some degree of macro shooting capabilities. A majority of these lenses are not true macro. i.e., they don’t give 1:1 perspective when shooting from their minimum focusing distance. Nevertheless, they are handy. In this discussion, we look at the best Nikon tele macro lenses that you can currently buy.
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In the future, we shall also look at a similar listing for the Canon EF and EF-S mounts. This discussion will prioritize lenses which are telephoto. As such we shall exclude lenses which are shorter than 150mm (at the long end). We all also include a few compatible lenses as well. This is because there are a bunch of third party lens manufacturers who produce great quality lenses for the Nikon f-mount.
1. Tamron 70-300 f/4 – 5.6 Di LD Macro Auto-focus
Let me clarify this by saying that this is not a true macro lens. Why? Because it does not give 1:1 magnification when focusing from its minimum working distance. But it is a telelens and has been designed for the full-frame Nikon DSLR. That means it will work with both 35mm film cameras, FX-format cameras as well as DX format cameras.
On a DX format camera, it will have a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 105 – 450mm. The minimum focusing distance (working distance) of the lens is 4.92′ or 1.5m which produces a 0.5x magnification when working from that distance. This is in the macro mode and specifically when you flip a switch to transform it from a normal telephoto lens to a tele macro lens.
The internal construction of the lens includes 13 elements arranged in 9 groups. It is light, too, considering that it is a tele lens. At just 435 grams the lens is just a bit heavier than a well-made standard prime.
Is there a catch to this lens? Anything that you should watch out for? Well, the lens does not have image stabilization, that’s one thing. Sans image stabilization you will have a trying time hand-holding the lens and shooting from a distance without image blur.
A tripod is mandatory when shooting at its longest focal length. The second thing is this is not a weather sealed lens. So, though you will be able to focus from a considerable distance, in situations of inclement weather this lens will fail you.
- 9 Groups, 13 Elements Lens Construction
- Rotation Type of Zooming
- 9 Diaphragm Blade Number
- F/32 Minimum Aperture
- 59 inch Minimum Focus Distance (1.5m) in normal setting, 37.4 inch (0.95m) in macro mode f=180mm-300mm range
2. Sigma 18-300 f/3.5 – 6.3 DC Macro OS HSM
This lens is yet another tele-macro designed for the Nikon F-mount. However, this particular lens is optimized for the smaller image circle of DX format cameras. The focal length is 18-300mm. That is the equivalent of a 27 – 450mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera.
Unlike the Tamron that we just finished reading above the Sigma comes with optical image stabilization (Sigma calls there stabilization technology as OS or Optical Stabilization). The superb focal length range allows you to go really close to where the action is.
That said, this lens, yet again, is not a true macro lens. It has macro properties because it is able to focus very close (15.3″ or 38.86 cm), but it does not give you true macro perspective. i.e., the magnification is only 1:3. There is an optional AML72-01 close-up lens that you can use with this lens. The lens will then be able to produce a magnification ratio of 1:2. Good enough for some decent macro work.
Construction-wise the lens is made up of 17 elements arranged in 13 groups. These include SLD units (one), FLD units (four) and the lens also comes with Super Multi-Layer coating as well. The multi-layer coating will ensure suppression of ghosting and flares, especially when working in backlit situations.
FLD units mimic the natural fluorite in terms of dispersion suppression capabilities, but the overall price for manufacturing FLD elements is a lot less than using naturally available fluorite. Additionally, normal glass elements which are used to suppress dispersion is not that great in terms of weight. FLD element is a lot lighter which translates into lighter lenses. Speaking of weight this lens weighs just 584 grams.
- Maximum Aperture Range: f/3.5-6.3
- Focal Length : 18-300 mm, Minimum focusing distance -39cm/15.3 inch
- One SLD and Four FLD Elements, Super Multi-Layer Coating
- Hyper Sonic Motor AF System
- Optical Stabilization
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3. Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
The Tamron 70-200mm is a telephoto zoom lens with a few macro capabilities. This lens is designed for the full-frame Nikon camera. It will work with 35mm film cameras as well as Nikon DX-format cameras as well.
The fast f/2.8 maximum aperture is constant across the focal length range and that makes it ideally suitable for the purpose of creating nice background separation. Also, you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the tiniest of movements and therefore create very sharp photos.
On DX format sensors the lens will have a 35mm format effective focal length of 105 – 300mm. This will thus, become a telephoto lens. Thanks to its design it comes with a few macro capabilities as well.
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The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 3.12′ or 95cm. At that close focusing distance, the lens will provide a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:3.
The internal construction of the lens consists of 18 elements arranged in 13 groups. This includes an LD glass element.
The lens also has a built-in auto-focusing motor. This means it will auto-focus on even the cheapest Nikon DSLRs (including the likes of D3300 and the D5500). Speaking of focusing the lens focuses internally. That means the barrel length does not change.
Despite the focal length reach and all the other goodies. The lens has a serious drawback and that is it does not have image stabilization. The second thing is the weight of the lens. It is slightly on the higher side. At 1150 grams you will probably feel it after about an hour of shooting.
- 70-200mm focal length
- Diaphragm Blades: 9.105-300mm equivalent focal length on APS-C cameras, 112-320mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C...
- F28 constant maximum aperture; F32 minimum
- Micromotor-type AF motor without full-time manual focusing
- 77mm filtersMaximum Magnification Ratio :1:3,1 (f=200mm, MFD 0,95m)
4. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM Lens
This is probably one lens that you would seriously want to check out. The focal length is 180mm. This lens is designed for the Nikon F mount and would work for both full-frame as well as DX format lenses. The effective focal length when mounted on a DX-format camera is 270mm. Pretty long when compared to a traditional macro lens but is perfect for our purpose as we are looking for the best Nikon tele macro lenses.
As a matter of fact, this is a true macro lens. This lens is able to produce 1:1 magnification ratio when working at its closest working distance. That would be 18.5″ (46.99 cm). A small subject will fill up the entire sensor.
The internal construction of the lens includes a total of 14 elements arranged in 19 groups. This includes an FLD glass element and an inner focusing mechanism. Another important aspect of the lens is that it has a multi-layer coating as well. Multi-layer coating ensures that the lens is able to shoot in bright situations, especially in backlit situations and still be able to produce a decent amount of contrast and sharpness. In other words, ghosting and flares are suppressed.
Inner focusing mechanism ensures that the lens’ barrel length remains the same even when focusing. And it includes 9 aperture diaphragm blades. Thanks to it, the lens is able to capture nice bokeh when the lens is used wide open (f/2.8).
HSM is the acronym that Sigma uses for its focusing motor. This lens has it and that means focusing is quick and reliable.
The lens has image stabilization which ensures that it is able to produce blur-free images when you are shooting hand-held. Up to four stops of shutter speed compensation are possible using the OS which means you can use up to four stops slower shutter speed when using this lens. In low light that is a huge advantage.
The weight of the lens is 1.63 kilos. Probably the only aspect that does not work in case you are looking for something that is light and looking to use it for extended periods of time.
- Focusing distance of 47cm/18.5-Inch
- Equipped with Sigma's own propriety OS (Optical Stabilizer) system, this lens offers the use of shutter speeds...
- This lens incorporates Sigma's floating inner focusing system. This minimizes aberrations which occur as shooting...
5. Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4 D IF-ED Lens
Nikon’s D lenses are designed without an auto-focusing motor inside them and that makes them lighter compared to comparable G lenses. But that is also the reason why these lenses are not perfect for the cheaper entry-level Nikon cameras. On the other hand, the G lenses are those which have built-in auto-focusing motor inside them. G lenses will auto-focus without issues even on all cheaper cameras such as the D5200 and the D3200.
This particular lens is designed for the f-mount Nikon cameras. This will work on all full-frame and 35mm film cameras. It will also work on all DX system cameras as well, but will not auto-focus on the cheaper DX cameras that don’t have a built-in AF motor.
Also, on DX system cameras the focal length will become slightly longer (crop factor of 1.5x). The effective focal length of the lens becomes 300mm. This makes it a medium range telephoto lens. Because of the optical quality of these lenses (macro), they are good enough for other purposes such as portrait and wildlife. Wildlife would be perfect if you use a DX camera (because of the extended effective focal length).
Plus, the lens is compatible with some teleconverters giving it an extended focal length, albeit, with a drop in maximum aperture.
The maximum aperture of f/4 is probably not the quickest compared to some dedicated fast aperture macro lenses. There are plenty of lenses which are faster. But in good light, this lens will produce excellent images.
This is a macro lens and is able to produce 1:1 magnification of a subject when working at its closest working distance. That would be 1.6′ or 48 cm. The extended working distance ensures that you will have a safe distance without the chance of blocking light nor will you be scaring any small creepy crawlies you try to photograph. Plus, it has internal focusing system which ensures that the barrel length does not change.
The lens constitutes a total of 13 elements arranged in 8 groups. The lens diaphragm consists of a total of 9 aperture blades. 9 aperture blades produce a nice bokeh (quality of the background blur).
The overall weight of the lens is 1.18 kilos. Overall one of the best Nikon tele macro lenses in the business.
- 200mm; F/4.0; Micro lens
- D-Series; Uses 62mm filter
- Lens not zoomable
- An optical glass developed by Nikon that is used with normal optical glass in telephoto lenses to obtain optimum...
6. Sigma 18-200mm f.3.5 – 6.3 DC Macro OS HSM Lens
This is an all-purpose lens, works as an everyday lens for shooting group shots, weddings, portraits and everything in between. But it also works as a macro lens for shooting small subjects. That said, this is not a true macro lens. It can capture a magnification of 1:3. So, no life-size reproduction of creepy crawlies.
This lens is designed for the DX format cameras. Resultantly, you would get a slightly extended focal length (35mm effective focal length of 27-300mm). That means this lens becomes a decent all-purpose lens.
A good thing about this lens is that there is image stabilization. The lens has a built-in auto-focusing motor. That means it will auto-focus with even the cheapest Nikon DSLRs.
The lens construction includes 16 elements arranged in 13 groups. These include a Special Low Dispersion glass element which suppresses color fringing (chromatic aberrations). Additionally, the lens also incorporates Super Multi-layer coating which ensures that the lens is able to suppress ghosting and flares which tend to happen especially when the lens is used in backlit situations.
The lens aperture diaphragm is constituted by 7 rounded aperture blades. Bokeh quality you can expect is decent. An interesting aspect of the lens’ construction is the use of TSC or Thermally Stable Composite materials. This item is capable of handling changes in temperature better than traditional materials.
As such in extreme temperatures, the barrel length remains constant. There is no deviations nor expansions nor contractions and therefore there is no change in the optical quality of the lens even when working under the sun or in very cold temperatures.
The thing that we don’t like, however, is the relatively low and variable aperture of f/3.5 to 6.3. When working at its longest focal length the ‘maximum’ aperture drops down to only f/6.3. You would likely struggle in low light. But in good light, the lens will produce good images.
Finally, about the weight of the lens. Even with the relatively long focal length of the lens, you are able to hand hold the lens without any issues. The lens weighs only 431 grams sans the lens hood.
- The Sigma 18-200mm lens was designed for APS-C sensors and features a new matte black finish, thermally stable composite...
- Having the ability to shoot from wide angle to telephoto is highly useful particularly for travel photography, landscape...
- A Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensures quiet, accurate and fast autofocus and an optical Stabilizer (OS) helps compensate for...
7. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro
We had recently reviewed the Sigma 180mm macro. A 180mm is usually considered to be slightly longer than what you would normally use to shoot macro photos with. Most people are content shooting with a 60mm or a 105mm. But longer tele macro lenses do offer dual utility. Work as a macro lens and a normal telephoto lens.
This particular lens is quite a good one. At 150mm this lens takes you closer to the action than any other lens. The lens is designed for Nikon’s full-frame cameras. But it will also work with 35mm film cameras just as well. Additionally, the lens will also work with Nikon’s DX-format DSLRs. The smaller crop sensor of the DX format DSLRs will extend the effective focal length of the lens to 225mm making it a medium telephoto lens.
The good thing about this lens is that it is a true macro lens. I.e., it gives you 1:1 perspective of a subject when shooting from its closest focusing distance. That happens to be 15″ or 38cm.
The lens construction constitutes a total of 19 elements in 13 groups. This includes three SLD elements (Special Low Dispersion). These elements take care of suppressing chromatic aberrations. Additionally, the lens has been coated which ensures that the lens is able to handle ghosting and flares (beneficial when working in backlit situations).
The diaphragm blades are 9 in number. A 9 number aperture diaphragm is the industry standard when it comes to fine bokeh quality. It produces rounded background blur which is very beautiful to look at.
Macro lenses need some sort of image stabilization because you need the ability to produce blur-free images even when hand holding the lens – camera setup. The image stabilization on the lens is rated at 4 stops. In other words, you can shoot at up to four stops slower shutter speed other than the one the camera’s metering system recommends.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Sigma’s HSM motor. It enables the lens to auto-focus on even the cheapest of Nikon DSLRs.
The only thing that probably is not what we like is the weight of the lens. This is a well-built lens and is definitely on the heavier side. It weighs 1.18 kilos. You would definitely feel the weight of the lens after about half an hours of handheld shooting.
- Macro Lens With 1:1 Magnification
- Focuses to 15"
- Optical Image Stabilization
- Hyper-Sonic Motor for Fast, Quiet AF
- 3 SLD Elements Correct Aberrations
8. Sigma 70-300 f/4 – 5.6 APO DG Macro Lens
Sigma’s DG lenses are designed for the digital system (and thus the DG acronym). APO lenses denote the use of Apochromatic lens technology that drastically reduces aberrations (color fringing) in photography lenses. These include two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements in the front of the lens and one Special Low Dispersion towards the end of the lens.
The focal length range of the lens is 70-300. Designed for the FX format DSLR, this lens also works on DX cameras as well as film cameras. Therefore, with a DX-format camera, the effective focal length becomes 105 – 450mm. That gives it the ability to get in really tight and close to where the action is.
The lens features an auto-focusing lens which means it will work without issues with all Nikon cameras, including the cheaper DX-format cameras. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override. This technology, as you are aware, allows precise manual fine-tuning of focus.
Related Post: The 8 Best Mid-Range Zoom Lenses for Your DX DSLR
The maximum magnification of the lens is a variable one from 70 – 200mm the lens gives 1:2 magnification (not a true macro lens). At 300mm the lens gives a magnification of 1:3. But overall this is a good enough all-purpose lens that works as both a macro and a general purpose shooter. The number of aperture diaphragm blades on the lens is 9. Ideally, that should produce some decent enough bokeh.
Finally, the weight factor. At 550 grams this is a lightweight lens which gives you a decent reach and macro properties.
- Designed for use with full frame digital SLR cameras. May also be used with smaller APS-c size sensors with a...
- Minimum focusing distance of 59 inches & allows macro photography with a maximum magnification of 1 to 2
- Extremely compact design weighing only 19.4 ounces & measures only 4.8 inches in length
- A lens hood, front & rear lens caps and carrying case are included with the lensSpecifications
- Lens Construction - 14 Elements in 10 Groups
9. Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5 – 6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
This Dii lens is designed for the smaller DX format Nikon cameras (1.5x crop factor). Don’t bother mounting this on an FX camera as it makes no sense to use a full-frame camera in DX crop mode. The focal length of the lens is 16-300mm. On a DX-format camera, the crop factor makes the focal length the equivalent of a 24 – 450mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera.
The lens has a maximum aperture ratio of f/3.5 – 6.3. On the slower side no doubt, as this lens will not be able to use a fast shutter speed when working fully zoomed in, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions. You will need to up the ISO number to be able to use a fast shutter speed.
There are a total of 16 elements that are arranged in 12 groups. The construction of the lens includes a UXR element and four aspherical elements. It also has one XR element and two low dispersion elements. Together, both UXR and XR elements help produce a more compact and lightweight design. A total of 7 aperture blades make up the lens diaphragm. Speaking of which the weight of the lens is just 539 grams.
Since we are discussing macro properties, let’s take a look at the capabilities of this lens to produce macro photography. The Tamron 16 – 300mm has a magnification ratio of 1:2.9.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Tamron’s Piezo Drive auto-focusing technology. This technology uses a special material known as Piezoceramic which displays piezoelectric properties. It produces a refined movement of the focusing motor ensuring that the lens is able to produce silent and yet very smooth auto-focusing performance. Talking about auto-focusing this lens also has full-time manual focusing abilities.
The lens comes with VC. That is the abbreviation for Vibration Compensation. VC is important as it takes care of unintentional hand movement and the resulting blurry image.
A noteworthy feature on the lens is its moisture-resistant construction. Though it is pertinent to note that the lens is not completely weather sealed. So, if you plan on using this lens outdoors and in inclement weather, you might be risking your equipment.
- 16-300mm zoom range for the perfect all around lens
- Lens hood included
- Piezo Drive autofocusing
- multiple layers of coating to produce clear, sharp images
- Vibration Compensation for crisp shots. Please refer the User Manual before use.
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