What is a Macro Lens?

Written by 90 Seconds
Last updated: October 4, 2023
What is a Macro Lens?

A macro lens can be defined as a camera lens that is designed to take photographs of small items from a close distance.

It usually focuses nearer than normal lenses hence allowing the photographer to fill the frame with their subject.

The lens allows for sharper, detailed and close up photos of small subjects. The macro lens is used for photographing subjects such as plants and insects. They are however versatile and can be used in different situations.

Every subject has some interesting details that can make fascinating close-up photos. Most macro lenses have a magnification ratio or a reproduction ratio of 1:1.

This means that if the camera has been positioned such that it is at the closest focusing distance, the image that is formed on its sensor is the same size as that of the subject.

The magnification ratio of the lens determines how large the object will appear on the final shoot.

Primary uses

Flowers, insects and plants

These lenses have been optimized so to take close up pictures of rather small objects. Many professionals and beginners use them to take pictures of flowers, insects, and other plants.

The reproduction properties of the lens allow you to take life-size images of the subjects. Zooming in and getting closer to the subject does not make a difference and the photographer has to rely solely on the properties of the lens.

Coins, stamps and pins

The lens can also be used for small everyday objects such as coins, stamps, and pins. Even the most mundane day to day objects have details that can bring out their beauty. The size and the reflective nature of coins present challenges for the photographer.

The optics of these lenses have been computed and they have been specifically designed to ensure excellent performance even at close distances.

With a little creativity, great angles and great lighting, a photographer can capture amazing details on different small sized subjects.

Secondary uses


Many photographers use these lenses for portraiture. The choice to use macro lenses in shooting portraits is mostly influenced by personal preference.

They have been designed to capture the tiniest details and they give the sharpest details. The captured images are razor sharp and clean making great prints.

They focus close and therefore the photographer can push their limits on how near the lens can focus as they shoot portraits.


The lenses are also used for micro landscape pictures. The close focusing ability of the lens can be used to get you into a scene.

You can explore patterns of leaves, flowers of lichens. With these types of lens, the depth of field available is very limited.

Therefore, the photographer must focus on certain subjects on the landscape and not the entire landscape.