When people speak of a ‘real macro’, they usually mean a lens which can achieve a magnification ratio of at least 1:1. Lenses which cannot do that cannot be called macro lenses – at least according to many self-proclaimed photography experts in forums. Personally, I think that people tend to make the same mistake regarding the magnification ratio that they make with regard to the bokeh. If in doubt, people assume that more is better, which is often not true. In most cases it is a good idea to take a step back in order to be able to capture the context. A high magnification ratio is only useful if you want to take “portraits” of small bugs or replace a weak microscope. Most 6 or 8-legged creatures are large enough not to require a magnification ratio of 1:1. The photography of such subjects has further advantages: a) accurate focusing is easier, b) since stopping down to f/8-16 is usually enough, you do not have to deal with complex shooting and editing processes (buzzword focus stacking) and c) you can shoot out of hand in many cases, while you may have to use a tripod for higher magnification ratios.
The most intriguing question in this context is whether you really need equipment capable of a 1:1 magnification ratio. I’d say no. I have shot the macros I like best with pseudo macro lenses. The ideal range for me is somewhere between 1:1,6 and 1:3. This is just the magnification that my DP3 Merrill achieves with and without the Marumi DHG +5 achromatic lens. Below, I put up the macros that rank among my ten best ones according to Flickriver’s “interestingness algorithm”. Did the lower magnification ratio harm the photos?