What Is the Magnification on a True Macro Lens?

What Is the Magnification on a True Macro Lens featured photo

If you have used a macro lens before, you probably encountered the term “magnification.” But beyond macro photography, you have likely come across different lenses that list their maximum magnification. It is expressed in a ratio or a decimal format.

The magnification of a true macro lens is 1:1, also known as 1x or life-size magnification. That means the size of the subject in the sensor is the same in real life. It can capture fine details of small objects, such as insects, nature, and food.

However, you will find some macro lenses with 1:2 or another magnification ratio. This article will teach you how different magnification ratios affect the final image. We will also cover the unique features of a macro lens below.

What Is Magnification in Photography?

Magnification, also called the reproduction ratio, describes how close the subject appears in the camera sensor. In scientific terms, it is the ratio of the image’s size (in height) to the subject’s height.

Magnification is usually expressed in a ratio, such as 1:1 or 1:2. However, it can also be written in decimals. For example, a 1:2 ratio is also known as 0.5x magnification. You can find the decimal counterpart by dividing the first number by the second figure.

The larger the magnification, the closer you can focus. That means you can photograph the details of small subjects in extreme close-up.

In a one-to-one magnification (1:1), the subject’s size in the sensor is the same scale in real life. For example, if shooting an object with an actual length of 14mm, you can capture it at the same ratio in the sensor. Hence, you can emphasize the tiny details of the subject.

Larger magnification ratios are usually common in macro lenses. In fact, they are the defining characteristic of these types of lenses.

What Is A Macro Lens?

A macro lens, also known as a close-up lens, is a special type of lens. It can capture small subjects and tiny details at extremely close distances, owing to its high magnification ratio.

Macro lenses have a magnification ratio of 1:1, 2:1, or more. They also offer a minimum focus distance of around 30 cm. 

These unique features enable macro lenses to capture fine details of objects. In some instances, they even make small subjects appear larger in the sensor than in reality. For example, a dedicated macro lens with a 2:1 magnification ratio can reproduce objects at double-life size. That means a 25mm subject will appear larger (50mm) in the image.

Modern macro lenses come in either prime (fixed focal length) or zoom (multiple focal length) versions. They are also available in different focal ranges to suit several photography genres. The most common focal lengths are 50mm, 100mm, and 150mm. However, super telephoto macro lenses with longer focal lengths also exist.

What Is a Macro Lens Used For?

What Is a Macro Lens Used For

A macro lens is mainly used for close-up or macro photography. It can capture sharp images of tiny subjects. It is ideal for taking pictures of food, nature, and insects. 

A dedicated macro lens is also suitable for newborn photography. It lets you get close to the baby and record small details, such as the lips, eyes, and fingers.

Another use of this particular lens is in product photography. It can separate the object from the background. It also emphasizes the features of the product.

Finally, a macro lens can function as a portrait lens. It captures incredible detail, which lets the subject stand out in the frame.

What Is the Magnification on a True Macro Lens?

As previously mentioned, a macro lens has no consistent magnification ratio. It varies depending on the specific lens type and manufacturer. That is why you can encounter a macro lens with higher magnification ratios of 2:1 or 3:1. Some models also come in smaller magnification ratios like 1:2, which project the image at half life-size. They can still get close enough to the subject, though.

However, a true macro lens has a magnification rate of 1:1 or 1x. It delivers a true-to-life reproduction of the subject. For example, if you have a 24mm object, you can capture it at the same size. You can ultimately get a sharper and highly detailed image.

So if you want true macro lenses, buy one with a magnification ratio of 1:1 for life-size subject reproduction. You may also want to consider the minimum focusing distance of macro camera lenses. Choose a macro camera lens with a minimum focus distance of 30 cm or less to suit macro photography.

Does Sensor Size Change the Magnification?

Does Sensor Size Change the Magnification

The image sensor size does not affect the magnification ratio of the lens. That is because magnification is a fixed feature of the macro lens alone.

However, you may wonder why some macro lenses capture a more magnified image than other lenses.

Well, the answer lies in the camera sensor. While it does not change the camera lens’ magnification ratio, it affects the image composition.

For example, you have two cameras with different sensor sizes. One has a full-frame sensor, while the other has an APS-C or micro four-thirds format. The former makes everything in the frame appear smaller because of the larger frame size. Meanwhile, the latter is a “zoomed-in” version of the full-frame sensor, which makes subjects appear larger and closer. 

So when using a macro lens on a crop sensor camera, you will get a seemingly larger subject than on a full-frame sensor. The opposite is true when you connect a macro lens to a full-frame camera. 

Overall, the magnification ratio of the lens and the physical projection size remain the same. The composition and perspective are the factors that changed.

Can You Use a Macro Lens as a Normal Lens?

Although a macro lens is designed for close-up photography, it can also act as a regular lens. Feel free to use it for everyday shooting and general photography needs. You can enjoy ultra-sharp focus and shallow depth of field because of the advanced glass elements. You can also use it the macro lens for low-light or night photography, owing to its wide maximum aperture.

What Is The Difference Between Macro Lens And Normal Lens?

A macro lens is different from a standard lens in two ways.

First, a macro lens offers a higher magnification ratio compared to a normal lens. It lets you capture small subjects with fine details.

Second, a macro lens has a shorter minimum focusing distance than a regular lens. It allows you to capture images at extremely close distances.

Due to their unique features, macro lenses are ideal for food, nature, and other close-up photography. Meanwhile, normal lenses suit street, travel, and everyday photography.

How Do You Use a Macro Lens?

Using a macro lens is easy when you understand how it works. Below are some tips on how to use a macro lens for close-up photography.

  • Use a shallow depth of field to further emphasize the small subject in the frame. DoF describes how much of the scene is in focus. The larger the aperture setting, the shallower the depth of field. Set it to f/2.8, f/1.8, or any wide aperture (low f-stop number).
  • Shoot in manual focus to have complete control over the plane of focus within an image. Doing so gives you a sharper and more detailed subject when using macro lenses.
  • Mount the camera on a tripod. Using a macro lens can emphasize any small movement, which can lead to motion blur or missed focus. Having a sturdy tripod minimizes camera shake.
  • Consider a ring light to get the best lighting, no matter the situation. Shooting the subject at close distances can increase the chances of the camera blocking the light source. Get a ring light to prevent this problem.


A macro lens is a special lens for close-up photography. It comes in different focal lengths and magnification ratios.

The magnification of a true macro lens is 1:1 or 1x. That means the sensor projects an image that is the same size as the object in real life.

Do you have other questions about lens magnification? Visit our contact page to send your queries.