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Macro Lens

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Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
18 Apr 2011 - 8:35 PM

Really want a macro lens for my pentax k-x, i am looking at getting those stunning up-close shots of bee's eyes and the pollen on a fly's foot, maybe wont be AS good as i can imagine because of the restricting entry level camera. Which lenses, flashes, and/or extension tubes etc are best for me? I am a 15yr old beginner who will probably get the equipment through saving, birthday and christmas. I am looking at getting good quality gear but i dont think it is essential to have equipment so fine tuned and expensive that only proffesional photographers who spend years taking shots can see a minimal difference. I would also like to know the importance of getting the, lets say, flash so that i can decide where it can go on my priority list Smile

I am already looking at a 100mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens however in time when wanting to expand my 1:1 to possibly a 2:1 or higher magnification and i will need to be carrying 100mm worth of extension tubes. Also will it work have a teleconverter and being the same distance from the "fly" ??

Any help/input/advice will be greatly appreciated Smile

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18 Apr 2011 - 8:35 PM

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18 Apr 2011 - 8:55 PM

When I did real close-up work many years ago, also with a Pentax but this was when the Spotmatic was modern, I used a 50mm enlarging lens mounted on a bellows, sometimes with extension tubes as well.

These days you can get a really good enlarging lens for next to nothing and a manual bellows won't cost much.

18 Apr 2011 - 9:02 PM


The first thing to say is that your Pentax k-x will not restrict you in any way as far as macro photography is concerned. Put the right lens on it and you will have the capability of taking as good photographs as the lens is capable of producing.

As you have already identified, there are a number of options - which vary considerably in price. The lowest cost option tends to be non-auto tubes but I am not sure how easy it would be with your existing lens. Some "modern" lenses don't have an aperture ring which is really necessary if your camera can't communicate with the lens via the tubes.

If you really want to get into macro photography, a lens in the 90-150mm range will, at some time, be on your shopping list but make sure that you do get a good quality one. Anthing by Pentax should be OK and if Sigma do a Pentax fit on their 105mm macro, that should also be OK.

As for flash, I find that ring flash is my most used accessory for macro shots. But you don;t need to go for an expensive option as low power is perfectly adequate when you are only going to be a few feet away from the subject. I use a Marumi which costs about 120. Not sure if theu do a Pentax-compatible version but worth checking out.

Good luck.

Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
18 Apr 2011 - 11:26 PM

Thank you, the current lens i have 70-300mm does have an aperture ring, and i was also looking at ring "lights" so it isnt a flash but a permanent light, this was 40 and people were saying it was perfect for portraits a few feet away, any thoughts on that?

Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
18 Apr 2011 - 11:27 PM

Also, what are the pros and cons of having say a 100mm macro lens compared to a 35mm?

strawman  1022002 forum posts United Kingdom16 Constructive Critique Points
18 Apr 2011 - 11:45 PM

James for macro photography the choice of focal length sets your working distance from the subject as the maths on the depth of field etc all magically comes out the same. Lets give an example.

Suppose you are interested in insects, then generally the further back you are from them the less likely you are to cast a shadow or spook them etc so the 100 to 150mm prime macro lenses are popular for that. But if you are into say still life work then you may be trying to do all your work on a table top so room may be a constraint so a 50mm lens may work better.

And the depth of field being the same? Well if you set up your subject such that with a 50mm lens it fills the frame, then you decide you would rather use the 100mm, to get the subject to the same size in the viewfinder you would need to move the camera further away. So under those conditions f8 on either lens will give the same depth of focus.

but taking into account your desire to go closer than 1:1 then the shorter focal length does have the advantage that you need a shorter tube to get closer in. I first bought a 50mm lens (not macro) then a set of tubes for not much money then a 100mm macro. there is no doubt the macro lens is easier to use, but a 50mm prime works well. And tubes on the macro gets very close. With a long tube on I found it easier to focus by moving the camera backwards or forwards than by using the focusing ring. Also with the maximum tube on I found the focusing direction reversed on the lens, that upset the AF no end.

Last Modified By strawman at 18 Apr 2011 - 11:49 PM
Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 7:44 AM

hmmm, okay thanks Smile how would i get closer to 1:1 with a 100mm macro? what is the "best" technique in my position ( i am more likely to be taking shots of insects and not still life.)

adrian_w e2 Member 63280 forum postsadrian_w vcard Scotland4 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 10:10 AM

I would re-iterate Leftforums comment about flash.
To prevent shadowing you need a ring flash or ring light. I use a Marumi on my canon which I bought from Warehouse Express for 95. If you can get a ring light using LEDs for 40 there's no reason why that shouldn't work as well, but remember the light is on all the time and they do produce a bit of heat so you may find a slight animation problem with insects.
My lens is a 100mm Macro which i find excellent for flower close-ups.

Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 5:11 PM

Thanks adrian but what is an animation problem?

Overread  63746 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 7:32 PM

The animation problem is linked to heat - constant light generally generate heat (LED lights are however pretty cold when running) which means that when used on a cold blooded creature, like insects, it gives them a boost to their metabolism and overall motion. It's a reason many insect photographers start out very early in the day (sunrise) or even after rainstorms/quick cold spots during the day - because many insects will be incredibly lethargic and thus won't mind you getting very close indeed. Further early mornings in most areas tend to also come with a very low level of wind which greatly aids macro photography.

As for what to recommend my advice is going to differ lightly:

1) Lighting: I've never used the constant light options so I can't really say how good they are, save that they are aimed more a portrait work as a fill light rather than macro photography as a main light - so they might lack the power output that you need. In addition even if they have a good power level you'll need to have a fast shutter speed if you are hand holding to counter your bodies own shake (which is greatly aimplified at macro distances). This makes flash light a more suitable artificial light setup than constant lights.

For the flash approach I'd say avoid ringflashes - yes they work but they come with several limitations: Firstly they are quite limited in power output and scope of subjects they can cover. Ringflashes are more than strong enough for macro, but are not as good as main light sources outside of macro and close portraiture photography. Further they clip to the end of the lens which means a bit less distance between insect and the front of the camera. Finally their design means that diffusing and controlling the light becomes much harder since you can't easily attach adaptors to the front of the ringflash.

Myself I would say set your sights on a regular, own brand if possible, speedlite type flash. That coupled with an offcamera flash cord and a flash bracket will get you all the versatility and light you need for macro - whilst being able to fit adaptors to diffuse the light - and (most importantly) giving you a flash unit that will have a real world use in almost every area of your photography.
If you are in any doubt LordV uses a single seedlite flash with a homemade diffuser - his gear page is here LordV and from there you can see the rest of his flickr showing that a single flash and diffuser can really make some very good light when well controlled in the macro world.

2) Lens front - I'm not sure what you have now so I'll give you a few options to consider. Note that the various options will have different challenges and limitations so its good to do some more research and also decide just how much funding you can put toward this and what you longer term plan is:

a) Reverse lens mounting - taking your 70-300mm lens and adding a shorter focal length lens to the front backwards (typically a 50mm 1.8 is a popular choice). This is done via a reversing ring (cheaply found on ebay you just need one that has the same thread sizes as your filter threads on both lenses). The result is that you get a setup capable of just over 1:1 through to 6:1 magnification (for an idea the canon MPE only goes up to 5:1 and that is more than enough for most die-hard macro shooters).
The rough math on this is: Focal length of the lens on the camera - divided by focal length of the reversed lens = magnification:1
so at 70mm its: 70/50 = 1.4:1
at 300mm its 300/50 = 6:1

b) Extension tubes on a shorter lens - eg a 50mm. As stated above this is common approach to macro photography. Like many of the approaches (including the above lens reversing method) you do have a small working distance between subject and the lens and also you lose infinity focus (generally you can only focus a few inches away from the camera at best).

c) close up filter/diopter/close up lens attachment (differing names but all the same thing). These are split, rather like extension tubes, into the cheap and the not so cheap. The cheap options are often sold in kits (+2, +5 +10 types) and are cheap glass. They work, but they do so poorly. The better options are a bit more pricey, (Canon 500D and Raynox DCR 150 and 250 are some popular not too expensive options with very good quality) but deliver a much better result. These work just like extension tubes, but instead of giving more magnification on shorter lenses, these work the other way around and give more on longer focal length lenses.
The rough cutoff is around 100mm in focal length - shorter lenses extension tubes are better; whilst longer its better to go with the close up lenses to get the most magnification gain.

Whichever option you go for you'll have to learn to work with short working distances, tricky but not impossible; and you'll also have to learn about lighting control. In addition you can use any of these methods on regular macro lenses - extension tubes and the diopters being the preferred - to get even more magnification than the lens is natively able to get.

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Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 8:26 PM

Thanks alot 'Overread' for taking the time to post such a helpful bunch of information.

I think that i will purchase a reversing ring and then a prime lens arond 50mm, does the reversed lens have to be prime? and does it have to have an aperture ring? is it difficult to focus because you have to focus both lenses or have to use a tripod to do so? also what is the working distance if my current 70-300mm lens at 1:2 macro is 0.95m working distance and i buy a 50mm prime?

Soo many questions will be very greatful if they are answered by anybody Grin i have just over 200 which i could spend or i could wait until christmas and birthday to get some great kit (october and december)

Overread  63746 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 8:31 PM

I honestly can't give very specific accurate advice on the reversing method - mostly I know of it and theory through the experiences of others, but its never something I've dabbled in myself.

Do some of your own research into this and find more info - but the little I know/have picked up:

1) the reversed lens is the one that controls the aperture, not the lens on the camera body, doing aperture control via the camera body appears to cause vignetting in the shots (the dark shadowed corners). So a lens with manual aperture control for reversing is the ideal approach. Check this part out though as I only know of this from one persons experiences

2) Distance wise I can't say, all I will say is that most of these setups are going to have much shorter distance to work in than the regular options like a 100mm macro lens. In addition once you get into higher magnification photography no matter what approach you're using you'll be working with a small distance between you and the subject.

StrayCat  1014484 forum posts Canada2 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 8:34 PM

If you can find a copy of John Shaw's Close ups in Nature, just about everything is covered. It's a good reference work to have around also.

Btw, you should be able to get as good shots with the K-x as any camera.

Last Modified By StrayCat at 19 Apr 2011 - 8:35 PM
Perry_95  359 forum posts Wales1 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 9:00 PM

Have just looked up some reversing rings and it seems that you put on the reversing ring to the body, then turn 1 lens around and attatch it, not put 1 lens on then attatch another backwards lens, am i looking at something different?

Overread  63746 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
19 Apr 2011 - 9:18 PM

There are both kinds - though I think reversing ring might be the wrong term I'm using - try connection/connecting ring instead. Failing that try searching on the two thread sizes you have (the filter thread size for the 70-300mm and a 50mm) and see if you can find the connection element to fit the two together.

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