When we take macro photography pictures, we have three choices of optical solution: special macro lenses, intermediate rings (extension tubes) or bellows, and macro filters, which are screwed to the lens, just like a typical photographic filter. And please remember about a tripod. It seems essential to use the SLR, because even though compact cameras usually have the macro mode, it usually doesn’t allow taking pictures of smaller flowers or insects (not to mention overall quality of the photos).
How does it work? To have your photographic subject accurately mapped on a 1:1 scale (so the actual size of the photographed subject and its image on the sensor or film frame will be the same), its distance from the very center of the optical set must be equal to the two focal lengths of a lens. While, for example, photographing with a lens of 55mm focal length, the subject should be located at a distance of 110mm from the optical center of the lens, and if it is a lens of 105mm focal length, this item should be removed from it by 210mm. And here doesn’t count the size of the digital camera sensor or the size of a film frame. This is a general principle – applies to all lenses and to all cameras.
Using lenses designed specifically to carry out macro-photography pictures you can take advantage of the full range of automatic light metering and focusing. The most popular macro lenses have focal lengths that are in the range from 50mm to 105mm. Also, some zooms provide focus range in a macro mode – but usually this is not really a 1:1 reproduction ratio. For example, photographers who are using lenses of fixed focal length may use a macro lens of 50mm or 55mm focal length as a standard lens as well (this applies only to holders of digital SLR cameras with a sensor size corresponding to the 24x36mm large film frame). For photographers using other digital SLRs with smaller sensors, this focal length is a bit too long for a standard lens.
If you want to do a lot of macro photography and it will be your important theme of photos, it is definitely worth to invest in a macro lens. Prices of very good quality macro lenses (e.g. Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di, Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro, Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro D macro) fluctuate around 400 euro. We can’t say that they are visibly worse than the more expensive 1:1 macro lenses from brands such us Canon, Nikon or Olympus. While the photographers who want to buy a macro lens with a longer focal length (e.g. 180mm or 300mm) which allows them to take pictures on a 1:1 scale from a larger distance from the photographic subjects, will have to spend around 1000 euro or more. It is worth to find a second hand lens on the Internet – it will be cheaper and probably in good condition.