What is a Micro Lens In Photography? 

What is a Micro Lens In Photography featured photo

Do you ever wonder how photographers take pictures of tiny subjects, such as insects? The secret lies in the camera equipment they use. You probably heard of a micro lens before. But what makes it special?

A micro lens in photography is a special type of lens that can capture subjects at extremely close distances. It features a high magnification ratio to make the scene look larger than its real-life size.

A micro lens has other capabilities similar to a popular lens called a macro lens. Below, we will teach you the definition and benefits of the former. We will also cover the differences between micro and macro lenses.

What Is A Micro Lens In Photography? 

what is a micro lens in photography

A micro lens is a specialized type of lens in photography. It has a magnification ratio of 1:1 or higher, such as 5:1. That means it can reproduce the subject at a 1:1 (or greater) scale on the camera sensor. In other words, it ensures the subject in the image is the same size in real life. 

For example, if the object is 20 millimeters in size, the micro lens will capture an image where it has the same 20mm dimension. If the macro lens has a 5:1 magnification range, it can make the subject appear five times larger than its real-life size. 

Besides the life-size reproduction ratio, a macro lens also offers close minimum focusing distances. These vary depending on lens manufacturers. However, most micro lenses have a close focus distance of 30cm, allowing you to capture subjects up close. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Micro Lens?

Micro lenses offer several advantages to photographers.

First and foremost, these special lenses can accurately capture the size of a subject. Using a life-size magnification ratio, they ensure the subject’s scale in the image is the same in reality.

Micro lenses can even go further by offering larger reproduction ratios. They can make tiny objects appear large in the photo. They are also ideal for capturing intricate details of the subject.

Another benefit of a micro lens is its high-quality glass elements. It can minimize optical aberrations such as purple fringing and distortion. At the same time, it produces sharper and more accurate macro images.

Finally, micro lenses usually have built-in image stabilizers. These systems can reduce camera shake and ensure sharpness throughout the frame.

How Is A Micro Lens Different From A Regular Lens?

A micro lens differs from a standard lens in various ways.

First, it has higher magnification capabilities than a regular lens. This special lens can depict subjects larger than they are in real life.

A micro lens also features specialized optics designed to reduce optical aberrations. It offers better image quality than a traditional lens.

Moreover, a micro lens is usually smaller and lighter compared to a standard lens. That is because it typically has a single focal length, which means fewer glass elements.

Finally, a micro lens has different uses than a regular lens. While it can be used for general photography, it shines the best when capturing small subjects or fine details.

Macro vs. Micro vs. Close-up Photography: What Are The Differences?

If you are a new photographer, you probably confuse micro photography with macro and close-up photography. Despite their similarities, they are different types of photography that serve unique purposes. Below is a brief overview of their definitions.

Macro Photography

Macro photography is a form of close-up photography that ensures the subject’s size is close to real life or larger than life. In other words, it makes a tiny object seem bigger in the image.

Macro photography requires the use of a macro lens, which has a magnification ratio of 1:1. Some camera lenses have the word “macro” on them. However, they are not true macro lenses unless they have a 1:1 reproduction ratio and a close minimum focusing distance of 30cm.

Macro photographs often involve insects, flowers, food, jewelry, fine details, and other small objects.

Micro Photography

Micro photography is similar to macro photography, in which it magnifies a small subject. However, it can take the magnification to the next level. It captures an image where the object is reproduced to a ratio between 10:1 and 20:1 or larger. Hence, it can showcase details at a microscopic level.

Microphotos are challenging to achieve with traditional photography equipment. They typically require a microscope or similar magnifying glass to capture and view tiny subjects. 

Macro photography comprises images of bacteria, cells, and other scientific organisms. It is also helpful in espionage and the simple act of capturing tiny everyday objects.

Close-up Photography

Close-up photography is the art of capturing objects up close to showcase details. In this case, the subject usually fills the entire frame. 

Close-up photographs can be taken even without a macro lens. All you need to do is get in close range to the subject. For example, you can use a telephoto lens to be near a human subject in portraiture or an animal in wildlife photography.

As previously mentioned, macro photography is essentially close-up photography because it involves capturing small subjects at close distances. However, close-up photography is not always macro photography. 

Micro vs. Macro Lens: How Are They Different?

After learning about macro, micro, and close-up differences in photography, you may wonder about the equipment they use. Are micro and macro lenses different? As confusing as it may sound, they are actually the same thing!

Both lenses offer a life-size reproduction ratio and a close minimum focusing distance. These features allow them to photograph tiny subjects at extremely close distances. 

Nikon uses the word “micro” to refer to their range of macro lenses. Meanwhile, Canon and other camera manufacturers simply call them macro lenses.

Let us compare popular macro lenses from both manufacturing giants. The AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens is a high-quality lens from Nikon. Take note of the “micro” designation. On the other hand, Canon has the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. As you can see, it uses the term “macro” instead to indicate it has macro capabilities. 

So, why does Nikon use a “micro” label on their lenses? Well, the answer is quite simple. They take a photograph of a micro or small subject and make it look larger in the image than its real-life size.

When Is The Best Time To Use A Micro Lens?

Now that you know that micro and macro lenses are the same, you might be curious to know where to use them. Here are some popular uses of these special lenses.

You can use these special lenses when photographing insects. The life-size magnification ratio and close focusing distance make it easier to capture details.

Another application of the micro lens is in nature photography. Think of flowers, leaves, and water. It can highlight specific parts of these subjects.

Moreover, you will find micro lenses useful in product photography. They can reproduce the item’s real-life size in the sensor, ensuring accuracy. They are particularly handy when comparing the dimensions of one product to another. Popular objects in this photography genre include jewelry and watches.

Finally, micro or macro lenses can take portrait shots. They enable you to emphasize facial features, such as the eyes or lips. They even produce stunning bokeh or background blur that can add an artistic effect to the portraiture. 

How To Use A Micro Lens?

Using a micro lens is relatively easy. However, you must fully understand the features and capabilities of this lens to enjoy its benefits.

First, know the minimum focusing distance of the lens. A true macro lens has a focusing distance of 30cm or less. If you get closer than this range, you end up with an out-of-focus image. So avoid getting too close to the subject unless your lens allows it.

Another tip when using a dedicated macro lens is to turn on image stabilization. Doing so can reduce camera shake and vibrations, which are emphasized when shooting up close. Or better yet, invest in a tripod to ensure steady shots and sharp details across the frame.

You might also want to consider attaching a ring light to your lens. Capturing the subjects at extremely close distances means you can block the light source. So if you want to avoid underexposed shots or shadows appearing in the image, get a ring light. Make sure to choose one that matches your lens diameter.

Finally, use manual focusing mode. While most macro lenses have built-in autofocus capabilities, they can be unreliable in some instances. Manual focus gives you more flexibility as it lets you choose the exact focal point. Hence, it results in sharper images.


If you want to take pictures of small subjects, you know how important it is to get the right equipment. You cannot rely on a standard lens, so you look into your other options.  

A micro lens is a special lens with a life-size magnification ratio and close minimum focusing distances. It can capture an image where the subject’s size on the sensor is the same as its real-life size. It is great for photographing insects, nature, food, jewelry, and other tiny objects.

Do you have more questions about micro lenses in photography? Let us know by dropping a message via our contact page!