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Lens FAQ: What Images Can I Get with 0.25x or 0.5x Magnification?

2022-11-17
4
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An increasing number of macro lenses have a maximum magnification of 0.5x, also known as “half-macro”. On the other hand, that lens without “macro” in its name may have better close-up capabilities than you expect, offering at least 0.25x magnification or “quarter macro”. What’s the difference, especially compared to a lens that’s capable of at least 1.0x life-size magnification? How close can you get with them? This article will give you an idea, using flower photography examples. (Reported by: Chikako Yagi, Digital Camera Magazine)

In this article:

 

How much of the frame can I fill at each magnification?

First of all, let’s take a look at a dandelion shot at different magnifications:

0.25x (Quarter macro)

At 0.25x magnification, the dandelion looks a little small. But this should be enough to capture larger flowers.

0.5x (Half macro)

0.5x magnification is sufficient to capture a close-up of the entire dandelion head.

0.25x (Quarter macro)

1.0x magnification is just enough to achieve a close-up of the fluffy dandelion seeds.

Larger than life size (1.4x macro)

1.4x magnification gets you so close, you can see each fine hair on the seeds.

As you can see from the above examples, the larger the magnification, the more the subject fills up the frame. However, depending on the size of your subject and your intentions, 0.5x might be more than sufficient!

What does maximum magnification mean? Find out more in:
Lenses FAQ: What Does “Magnification Ratio” Mean?

Next, let’s explore the different kinds of flower images that we can get with different magnifications.

 

0.25x magnification: Captures larger flowers and plants fully in frame

On a lens with 0.25x maximum magnification, small subjects won’t fill up much of the frame even when shooting at closest focusing distance. (Remember: on most lenses, the maximum magnification is achieved at closest focusing distance.) However, you can get a rather impactful close-up of larger subjects, such the flower cluster and stalks of wheat in the images below.


Shot on the RF50mm f/1.8 STM (max. magnification: 0.25x)

EOS R5 + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/2.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 200

This was shot at the lens’ closest focusing distance. However, there was still space between the subject and my lens, and another flower cluster was in between. I turned the flower cluster in front into foreground bokeh. It completes the “bokeh sandwich” that draws attention to the main subject.


EOS R5 + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/3.2, 1/8000 sec, ISO 500 (EV -1.3)

I shot as close as I could to the ear of wheat in the foreground. With the 50mm angle of view, shooting at the lens’ closest focusing distance won’t give you a close crop—here, you can see the wheat field behind.

Also try:
- RF16mm f/2.8 STM (max. magnification: 0.26x)

Depending on the subject, the shooting distance, and the lens you’re using, the subject might still appear smaller than you’d like. What composition techniques can you use to ensure that it still draws attention? Here’s a case study:
Effective Composition: Drawing Attention to a Tiny Frog in a Flower

 

0.5x magnification: Provides images that showcase flowers and insects

At half macro (0.5x magnification), you can create images that are closer to most people’s idea of a macro photograph. As it allows you to get rather close to your subject, you can fill more of the frame with the parts that draw your attention and showcase them in your image.


Shot on the RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM (max. magnification: 0.5x)

EOS R5 + RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM @ f/4, 1/160 sec, ISO 100 (EV -1.7)

Soaked in water, the tiny petals on these flowers of an umbrella leaf plant appear translucent. The 0.5x maximum magnification of the RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM allowed me to fill the frame with the flowers and create an impactful shot.


EOS R5 + RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM @ f/2.5, 1/500 sec, ISO 100 (EV -0.7)

At 0.5x magnification, I was also able to capture a decent close-up of this honeybee sucking nectar from a flower. I could shoot tight enough to make framing and composition easy.

Also try:
- RF24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM (max. magnification: 0.5x)
- RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM (max. magnification: 0.5x)
- RF15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM (max. magnification: 0.5x at 15mm during MF)

0.5x magnification is enough to capture the textures of food. See:
What’s a Simple Way to Capture the Texture of Food?

 

1.0x magnification and above: Showcase details of stamens, water droplets, and other tiny subjects

On macro lenses that offer life-size (1.0x) magnification or larger, you can get even closer to specific parts of your subjects. This lets you discover things that you would not have been able to see with the naked eye. You may even start to notice the abstract beauty in the forms and structures present in those details.


Shot on the RF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (max. magnification: 1.4x)

EOS R5 + RF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM @ f/2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO 800 (EV -0.3)

This close-up draws our attention to the delicate hairlike structures on the dandelion seeds. The shallow depth-of-field helps to evoke a sense of their softness.


EOS R5 + RF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM @ f/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 400 (EV -1.0)

Tiny droplets of water created by the rain. Shot at over life-size magnification, they look like elaborate beads of jewels.

Also see how 1.0x macro works in food photography in:
Mouth-watering Macro: The Art of Close-up Food Photography


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As you can see, there are lots of close-up possibilities even if your lens doesn’t shoot life-size macro. Why not go out, move as close as you can, and see what you can achieve?

For more macro and close-up photography tips, check out these articles:
The Art Behind the Shot: Dreamy Macro Flower Portraits
How to Shoot Macro Portraits That Tell a Story
Macro Photography Technique: Creating the Illusion of Space and Depth

About the Author

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Chikako Yagi

Chikako Yagi was twenty when she started teaching herself photography using a film SLR camera. She left regular employment to become a full-time landscape photographer in 2016. An apprentice of renown photographers such as Kiyoshi Tatsuno and Tomotaro Ema, she is a member of the Shizensou Club, which was founded by the former and is one of Japan’s most famous landscape photographers’ clubs. In 2013, she was selected as one of the Top 10 Photographers of Tokyo Camera Club.

www.chikakoyagi.com
Instagram: @chikako_yagi

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