Of all the different things I photograph here in Hawaii, I probably have the most fun shooting flora macros. Shooting gingers, heliconias, jades and proteas with a normal lens can capture the beauty of the whole flower or plant, but bayonetting a good fixed focal length macro to a camera really takes me into the inner workings of the bloom.
I gave a workshop to a couple a few days ago at Kula Botanical Gardens. The Gardens showcase a little bit of everything, from a full selection of protea, to a well-represented orchid house, Amau ferns, Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and a lot more. It’s the perfect place to teach the macro photography, and the use of selective depth of field.
Their cameras were vastly different. He had a brand spankin’ new Canon Rebel T5i, and she was borrowing my trusty G10 (she had left her G12 at home). Part way through the workshop, I pulled out my 50mm f/2.5 macro with the Lifesize Converter or him to try. After a few setups, we changed back to his all-in-one Tamron lens, and I dropped the lens into my camera bag, though not in its usual spot.
Several hours and a couple hundred images later, we climbed back into my SUV and headed to Makena, where we finished up the day with a spectacular sunset and twilight shoot. I tossed my gear in the back, and brought them back to their hotel. Back home, tired and hungry, I opened the back hatch and grabbed my bag.
Clink, clank, clunk… BANG!
In my haste to get my gear back into my truck, I neglected to close the zipper to the main compartment of my camera bag. The 50mm lens that I had tossed inside earlier had fallen out, bounced on the bumper, hit the hitch step and fell onto the concrete. I picked it up, gave it a good once over and thought it had fared well on its four-foot journey to an immovable object.
That was until I attached it to my 5D MARK III…
Autofocus is kaput. Sharpness is, well, not so sharp anymore. Heck, at least there’s no broken glass! But a call to the Canon Service Center in Irvine is a bit more telling, especially when the agent mentioned, “…It might be cheaper to get a good, used one on eBay…”
While I really like the lens, with its ability to literally shove the end of the lens into a flower, and I can readily find good, used examples on the Net in the $200 range, there are some times where a little distance between the camera and subject are needed. Say a foot or so. Here’s where the 100mm – 105mm macros come into play. Canon’s latest entry, the EF 100mm f/2.8 IS USM Macro, is just what the doctor ordered, with a minimum focusing distance of one foot, Image Stabilization and a magnification of 1X. Retailing for $1049.00, it’s a pro-level, L-series lens that I’ll have in my bag forever, but won’t be used very often. So it begs the question, “Is it worth melting the credit card for a tool that spends a significant portion of its life in the toolbox?”
One lens I’m highly considering is Sigma’s 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro. Minimum focus distance is three-inches longer, has optical stabilization, and 1X magnification. The kicker is that it costs $280 less, yet exhibits similar optical qualities to its Canon counterpart.
So now my inner debate begins: Should I just replace Old Faithful, or upgrade to a longer focal length (and better made) macro? Do I melt the card, spending (with shipping) $1127.00 for the Canon or breathe a little easier, spending $843.00 for the Sigma?
While I crunch the options in my noggin, there’s one definite thing I will be doing: Making darn sure my camera bag is zipped closed before I ever pick it up!