Options For Shooting Macro!
Macro photography can be done with dedicated macro lenses, diopters that attach to the front of a lens or extension tubes. Dedicated macro lenses will produce the best results with edge-to-edge sharpness that you can't get any other way. They are the most expensive option, but certainly the best of the options available to us. Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina all make wonderful macro lenses. (Nikon's designated macro lenses are called Micro).
Diopters are available as single element or two element. The two element diopters produce much better results and are more expensive than the single element design diopters but you will be much happier with the results. Nikon and Canon both make wonderful two element diopters in a variety of diameters for your lenses. All you have to do is screw this lens to the front of your lens just like a filter. It magnifies the image and allows you to get closer to the subject than you could with the lens alone. Canon's lenses are designated 500D and 250D. The numbers represent the focal length of the diopter. With the 500D you are 500mm from the subject and with the 250D you are 250mm from the subject. Thus the 250D gives you twice the magnification. Both of these work well on any manufactures lens or camera as well as on camcorders.
Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Extension tubes are "free" magnification. By placing an extension tube between the camera and
the lens you allow the lens to focus closer than it can on its own. However, you will lose the ability to focus to infinity but, when was the last time you were doing macro photography where you were focused at infinity? Canon's extension tubes retain all of the automatic functions of the lens as well as auto focus. Nikon's extension tubes retain all but the ability to auto focus. Kenko makes extension tubes for Nikon camera and lenses that retain all of the auto functions as well as auto focus.
Typically, when doing macro photography you will want to use manual focus. This gives you precise control of the plane of focus on your subject and you don't need to have an auto focus sensor right over you subject allowing for more thoughtful compositions.