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Best Inexpensive Macro Lens for Nikon D40?

Adam C , Dec 08, 2008; 11:27 a.m.

I'm just getting started in photography, and would like to get a fairly inexpensive (less than $500, preferable less than $300) lens for my Nikon D40.  I already know that I won't be able to find anything in this price range that will auto focus with my camera body, but that doesn't bother me.
A few specific questions:
I want a lens that will let me take shots of a wide range of subjects - portraits, flowers, as well as bees/bugs... is 90mm a good compromise, or should I get closer to 120mm?
Should I stick with Nikon, or is Tamron/Sigma okay too (I've been looking at the Tamron AF90mm F/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro)?
What's a good lens to get that will 'future proof' me if I decide to get a different camera body in the future that will auto-focus with a vast array of lens (such as a D90, D300, etc.)?
Thanks!

Responses

Tommy Lee , Dec 08, 2008; 11:56 a.m.

I think the most future proof is the Tamron's manual focus adaptall (latest but just before discontinued) version of the 90mm "f2.8" macro. IMHO, it is just as good as the auto focus version but has better mechanical. You can change the mount (via adapter) to all current 35mm format film/digitals, Nikon, Canon, Pentax/Samsung, Sony, Olympus (via OM), Sigma (via M42) and Leica. Should Contax decided to go back to 35mm, it cover that too.

Adam C , Dec 08, 2008; 02:17 p.m.

Tommy Lee - I'm really looking for something that would only need to be future proof on Nikon digital, since my other lenses are currently Nikon, and so is my camera body.  So future proof, but not too future proof... thanks. 

I know there's a whole list of lens that I could get, but am wanting something in my price range and good quality, etc...

Ronald Moravec , Dec 08, 2008; 03:16 p.m.

Few would recommend auto focus for close up work as it has too many limitations.

You made the decision it not use screw drive AF lenses and to meter with the camera for non chipped lenses when you got the D40 model.   A d80/90 would have been a better choice now that you are advancing 

I used a 60 macro on a small sensor camera and it is a great lens for portraits and close work.   If you want something longer,  the 105  2.8 AFD are available.   KEH.com.

Tamron lenses are decent optically, mechanics leave a lot to be desired.  I will not get a third party lens.  That is also the best way not to future proof your purchase.

There is always the possibility of purchasing a hand meter and using  almost any NIkkor lens ever made on the D40.
 I use a Leica bellows & lenses and a Leica/Nikon adapter and a hand meter.  Pictures are perfect.    I don`t necessarily reccommend this to a beginner.  

Stephen Lewis , Dec 08, 2008; 08:31 p.m.

I typically use a Nikon 105/2.8 on my D100 (& other cameras) with fine results. That's the pricy answer. The Tamron you mentioned will do fine, and Tommy Lee's recommendation for the Adaptall mount version is excellent...I used one a couple of years ago and would have saved a bundle if I hadn't already owned the Nikon lens. I also have been using an old Leica 90/2.8 lens head in a Visoflex focus mount and a Leica M-to Nikon F adapter, full manual mode everything, and really like the results - cost  somewhere between $300-500. Another thought, given your budget is to keep an eye on Ebay for a used Lester A Dine 105/2.8 in a Nikon mount. They typically go for around $300 and are fantastic macro lenses. Also, if you haven't already done so...check KEH.com for good deals on used lenses---their bargain grade is often a fantastic lens for a mere pittance.

Matthew Brennan , Dec 09, 2008; 01:49 a.m.

The D40 is very limiting especially considering your pref. budget.  If you are sticking to Nikon mount lenses then go for an inexpensive (but not 'cheap') Kiron 105mm f/2.8.  You will have to estimate the metering yourself on the D40 but focusing the Kiron 105mm (same lens also manufactured as the Lester Dine 105mm f/2.8) is very easy as this lens has a wonderfully long focus throw to allow for the very finest of focusing adjustments.   The Kiron 105mm will magnify all the way to 1:1 on it's own and is increadibly sharp and contrasty. 
Auto focus for true close up macro work is somewhat pointless as minute adjustments in focus on close up subject matter make all the difference between getting a subject in clean focus or only partially in focus.  A dedicated macro lens will allow you to shoot subject matter from great distances to only a few millmetres from the front element.   I sold my expensive Nikon AF 105mm micro lens and kept my relative inexpensive Kiron macro lens under AU $200 (US $125) in mint cond. and have never regretted doing so in the subsequent two years.

Edward Woods , Dec 09, 2008; 09:54 a.m.

Adam,  There are good after market macro lenses that you can get for a little over or under $300 and also used under $200 if you look around.  There are some used manual Nikors for sale at KEH and also at B&H for under $200 in both 55mm and 105mm focal lengths.  With those you get the Nikon build quality albeit used and they retain their value.  As far a new after market lenses I am sure you can't miss with any of those that have been mentioned.  Tamaron seems to be talked about more than most but Sigma and Tokina make equivalent lenses.  Only a few years ago Vivitar made a really nice macro lens for a little over $100.  It was cheap but delivered on the optics.  On the other end there are lenses like the Zeiss 50mm that goes 1:2 and sells for over $1000. It has the same limitation with your camera and most of us would love to get our hands on one.  With manual non electronically linked lenses you can shoot and review the histogram all day long to get good exposure without ever using or viewing the cameras exposure settings.  I have always stayed with Nikon but I think you have plenty of great options.  THere seem to be alot of really good macro lenses to choose from.   Good hunting.  Andy

JDM von Weinberg , Dec 10, 2008; 06:59 p.m.

>>I'm just getting started in photography, and would like to get a fairly inexpensive (less than $500, preferable less than $300) lens for my Nikon D40. I already know that I won't be able to find anything in this price range that will auto focus with my camera body, but that doesn't bother me.<<
Have you looked at the Tamron 90mm AF lens (the new digital version, or even the older AF one)? They should be close to your US $500 range or less.

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