Great macro gear ideas

It's great to get up close and personal so we've compiled a list of great gear ideas for macro work.

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Extension tubes
Close-up lenses
Reversing ring
Coupling rings

Nature comes in all sizes and while it's easy to photograph the larger subjects, getting in close needs more specialised equipment. Luckily, as well as the macro lenses, there are a number of accessories available for a smaller budget from manufacturers or third parties to help you get closer to your smaller subjects.

Macro lens
The obvious choice when thinking of close-up photography, the macro lens allows for a much closer focusing distance.

Macro is a loosely banded term that used to mean a lens that produces an image that is 1:1 (lifesize) - this means that the subject will record lifesize on the sensor.

Recently, the term has been used to simply mean close focus so lenses giving half lifesize (1:2) or even one-quarter lifesize (1:4) are often called 'macro'.

Manufacturers base the macro function of a digital compact on whether the camera produces a lifesize image when printed to a 6x4. Because of the smaller size of the sensor, the actual size when taking the picture can be a lot less.

Canon 60mm macro lens Canon 60mm macro test shot
Macro lenses are available from the main camera brands as well as independent suppliers such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.

Extension tubes
The further away the lens from the film plane or sensor, the greater the magnification and extension tubes are basically optic-tubes of varying size that allow you to move the lens away from the camera. There are a number of third party companies around that make extension tubes as well as the manufacturers but you may find it fun to make your own as well. It is possible and there are a few websites online that show you how to do it.

SRB Griturn auto extension tubes fitted to a Canon EOS 50D SRB Griturn auto
            extension tubes
Extension tubes fit between the camera body and lens. They can be used singly in combination to give an even stronger magnifying effect.

You can work out the magnification that the tubes give by dividing the focal length of the lens with the tube that you're using. If you're using the 100mm extension with a 50mm lens, you'll get a 2:1 ratio, upping the focal length of the lens to a 100mm macro lens or using a 50mm extension tube will give 1:1 magnification.

With auto extension tubes, metering will be retained but expect to focus yourself. Manual extension tubes are a good idea for the beginner macro photographer because they're a cheap introduction to using extension tubes. They're not usually more than £20 and you'll lose metering and focusing.

SRB-Griturn sells auto extension tubes for Canon FD (manual), Canon EOS, Nikon, Sony Alpha/Minolta AF and Pentax K. The price is £163.50 except the FD fit which is £79.99. Manual tubes are available in Canon EOS and Nikon fit only priced at £16.45. Kenko also supplies extension tubes.

Close-up lenses
A close-up lens is a good friend of a macro photographer on a budget. It's a simple magnifying glass type filter that screws onto your camera lens and adds magnification to the lens you're using. They usually come in various strengths and are designated with a plus symbol followed by a number that determines the strength. The range is typically +1, +2, +3, +4 & +10. You can use these individually or mix them up to increase the magnification. If you decide to do this, be careful of vignetting that could occur as the edges of the filter begin to come into the peripheral vision of the camera's lens.

SRB Griturn close-up lens
Close-up lenses are sold singly or in sets.
Hoya close-up lens
Buy the right size to fit your lens.
SRB Griturn close-up lens +1
With the lens at minimum focus you might not get close enough.
SRB Griturn close up lens macro
Fit a close-up lens and you get in much closer - and they are easy to use.

Hoya make decent close-up lenses that give a good result while not distorting the image. Prices are usually around the £18 – 20 mark for a 58mm filter thread size with larger filters or the +10 coming in at as much as £40 – 50. Still a lot cheaper than a macro lens so this could be a viable alternative if you're just trying it out or if you only want to dabble in close-up work.

Reversing rings
One of the cheapest ways of increasing the magnification of your pictures is to place a lens backwards onto your camera body. A reversing ring does just this. It's a small ring that has the camera mount on one side and an inverted filter thread on the other. The lens then screws onto the ring using the filter thread. This can provide a larger amount of magnification with near point blank focusing. The great thing is that you can use a standard 50mm lens without having to get the macro version or you could buy an old manual lens second hand and save even more money.

SRB Griturn reversal ring
A reversing ring is very simple. In fact, you might even be able to hold the lens in place.
SRB Griturn reversal ring image results
With something like a 50mm lens, you can get in really close.

Kood can supply reversing rings or try SRB Griturn which make all their adapters themselves. Reversing ring prices vary depending on the make of your camera with the cheapest being the M42 screw thread type while the cheapest bayonet will fit Pentax cameras at £10.34. The most expensive is Olympus at a weighty £25.85. It is also worth a search on eBay because many outlets in the Far East offering these accessories.

Coupling rings
Coupling rings are similar to reversing rings in which they allow a lens to be reversed onto a camera but the difference is that instead of a bayonet camera mount, the other side of the ring as another screw thread that fits to a lens attached to the camera body.

SRB Griturn coupling ring
A coupling ring lets you link two lenses together using the filter thread.
SRB Griturn coupling ring image results
The degree of magnification varies according to the focal lengths of the lenses used.

Attaching two lenses of the same focal length will provide a 1:1 life size magnification, but using a reversed lens with a shorter focal length than the lens on the camera body will increase the ratio. For example, a 50mm reversed lens on a 100mm lens will provide 2:1 magnification while an 35mm lens on a 300mm lens will give a magnification of just over 8:1. The math formula is relatively simple for working out the magnification, simply divide the larger focal length by the smaller one to get the result. SRB also sell these types of rings for £21.95. They go from one size to the same size. Different sizes can be attached but you'd need a stepping ring for this.

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8 Jun 2011 1:05PM
A great and helpful article

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