Advice for what to look for in Macro lenses

First, this forum is great!! I am gathering materials to set up a DSLR scanning set up to give to my Father for Christmas (and I’ll help him) to scan old family negatives and slides. I have already ordered the Essential Film Holder. But I’d like advice for getting a macro lense.

He has a Canon T3i (18 mp, APS-C I believe) and I have a Sony A7C (24 mp/ full frame).

  1. Would the Sony be MUCH better than the Canon for scanning? If there isn’t going to be a huge difference, I’d rather set up the Canon. But if I need to spend more than $300 for the lense, I’d rather invest in the Sony.

  2. What should I look for in a macro lens for the Canon?

  3. Focal Length: It seems like a longer focal length is preferred, but what range is suggested?" 50? 100?

  4. Auto Focus: Does it need to have auto focus, or is a manual focus lens fine? I saw some talking about controlling focus via tethering…which I’m guessing wouldn’t work with a manual lens (he he).

  5. Used glass: Is there a reason I shouldn’t buy a used macro lens from B&H or someone?

Thank you for your time and help!


I scan 645 and 35mm negatives with a Canon EF 100 USM Macro (the old model and used with EOS M6 and EOS 5DIII cameras) which you can still buy new for USD 600. Getting a Canon EF lens opens the door to using the lens on the Sony with an adapter.

Other than that, I propose you look for a lens with

  • close-up magnification (reproduction ratio) allowing to use the lens without extension tubes
    (“Macro” in a lens name does not necessarily mean that the lens is good for close up work)
  • tripod mount ring (less strain on the bayonet mount, easy use of the camera for other shots)
  • qualities that let you use the the lens comfortably

Thanks Digitizer!!! I hadn’t thought about the adapters. Two birds, one stone.

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Sigma 105mm f2.8 1:1 macro DG DN

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I’ll start the ball rolling then - oops, much too late for that - somehow I thought this was a new post!

The Canon 3Ti (600D in the UK) was introduced around 2011 whereas the Sony A7C is a modern sensor and will be markedly better in terms of dynamic range. I don’t think that the 18MP APS-C v. 24MP Full Frame will make very much difference but that is of course a subjective statement which will depend upon your father’s expectations. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that I don’t think he would see a difference between two A3 (16" x 11") prints.

Would your father be happy using a lens that had manual focus and manual aperture? If so then I’d be inclined to recommend a good s/h 55mm. f2.8 Micro-Nikkor mounted via the appropriate (manual) adapter and extension tube(s), it’s well proven for this application and should be well within the budget you mention. You can still tether the camera but of course you can’t change the aperture from the camera but you wouldn’t need to really, and normally you settle on the optimum aperture (f5.6/8) anyway.

You haven’t mentioned how he is going to support the camera though and that is also very important. Solid copy stands are pretty thin on the ground unless you pay a lot of money. If you look through the ‘Show us your setup’ thread you’ll see many different approaches.