Wild Ass, it really depends on the lens.

On 35 mm -- not what you asked about -- most f/1.7 - f/2 50 mm lenses do fairly well closeup on tubes or bellows. Telephoto lenses, and by telephoto I mean lenses with rear node out front, not long focus lenses, are another matter.

There are two significant differences between "macro" lenses and "regular" lenses made for shooting at distance.

A lens' corrections can be optimized for only one distance/magnification. "Macro" lenses made to be mounted in focusing helicals are typically optimized for a magnification in the range 1:1 to 1:10; "regular" lenses are typically optimized for 1:20 or smaller. So a macro lens will give better image quality in the closeup range (1:1 - 1:10) than will a "regular" lens. And a macro lens may be somewhat worse than a regular lens at distance.

The other difference applies only to lenses mounted in focusing helicals. Macro lenses helicals will let them focus close. "Regular" lenses' helicals won't.

I mentioned that f/1.7 - f/2 normal lenses for 35 mm cameras usually do pretty well closeup. So will f/2.0 - f/3.5 normal lenses for MF cameras, highly asymmetrical lenses like f/2.8 and f/3.5 Tessars excepted.

So what to do? It depends on budget, goals, and strength of back. I used to carry a 50/1.4 Nikkor and a 55/3.5 MicroNikkor. After a time I decided that that was dumb and used the 50/1.4 as a down payment on something else.

So what do I do? On 35 mm -- NOT what you asked about -- my kit contains 55, 105, and 200 MicroNikkors and nothing else at/near those focal lengths. I also shoot 2x3 Graphics, with them I shoot closeup mainly with a 100/6.3 Reichert Neupolar. This is a bigod real macro lens from a microscope manufacturer, works well from 1:8 to 8:1 but the highest I can easily go on a 2x3 Graphic is ~ 2.2:1. I'm trying out a 105/5.6 Componon as a replacement for the Neupolar, for a variety of reasons the Neupolar is hard to use. I also have longer process lenses that I use at lower magnifications, especially when getting close to the subject is difficult.

There are other ways to get the magnification. For a deeper discussion -- you'll have to abstract away from the gear mentioned to yours -- see A. A. Blaker's book Field Photography or Lester Lefkowitz' book The Manual of Closeup Photography. Both are out of print, can be found through on-line book finding services like abebooks.com, addall.com, amazon.com.

FWIW, if I were you I'd get the macro lens. But its your money, not mine.

Good luck, have fun,