Macro photography refers to close-up photography; the classical definition that the image projected on the "film plane" (i.e film or a digital sensor) is close to the same size as the subject. On 35mm film (for example), the lens is typically optimized to focus sharply on a small area approaching the size of the film frame. Most 35mm format macro lenses achieve at least 1:2, that is to say, the image on the film is 1/2 the size of the object being photographed. Many 35mm macro lenses are 1:1, meaning the image on the film is the same size as the object being photographed. Another important distinction is that lenses designed for macro are usually at their sharpest at macro focus distances and are not quite as sharp at other focus distances.

In recent years, the term macro has been used in marketing material to mean being able to focus on a subject close enough so that when a regular 4×6 inch (102×152 mm) print is made, the image is life-size or larger. This requires a magnification ratio of only approximately 1:4, more easily attainable by lens makers.



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