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Saturday, October 17, 2009

How-To: Macro On A Budget

by Mel Beus

Macro photography can be as difficult as it is beautiful. And specialty macro lenses can be very expensive. There are however, a few inexpensive gadgets that can give great macro results with lenses you already own, and cost very little. For about $10-15 you can purchase lens to lens coupling rings, or reverse mount rings, and turn virtually any lens into a macro lens.

The Lens to lens coupler uses the filter threads on the front of the lens to mount two lenses face to face. Different combinations give differing results. For maximum closeness with minimum vignetting, use a telephoto mounted to the camera, with a wide angle mounted face to face with the telephoto. If both lenses are wide open, the depth of field will be paper thin. Stopping down one or both lenses will increase the dof, but can also cause significant, hard edged vignetting. But this is still a viable option if the subject matter will allow for cropping. Just keep it in mind when composing the shot. Accurate focusing often involves moving physically closer and further from the subject as it does focusing with the rings.

Reverse mounting adaptors are rings that attach to the filter thread on the front of the lens, but allow you to mount them directly onto the camera in a backward position, to shoot through the rear of the lens, again, allowing you to focus extremely close to the subject. This works best on wide angle primes as it not only lets you move in closer, but it reverses the wide angle effect, turning it into a telephoto. They are available in various thread widths and camera mounts. If manual prime is not available, these mount adaptors can also be used successfully with zooms. An 18-55 zoom lens, mounted backwards, will produce the opposite affect in focal length as is stated on the lens (the wider angle end will increase magnification). If the lens used does not have an aperture ring, aperture can be controlled by manually moving the aperture lever on the mount end of the camera.

Both of these items are available from various sources (those illustrated were purchased from b&h photo,) and are an inexpensive way to explore macro possibilities without spending a small to medium sized fortune.

For complex Macro calculations and some of the science behind everything check out

by Mel Beus for P3 N&R

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