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My Unconventional Macro Setup

dark_lord

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My Unconventional Macro Setup

24 May 2020 10:27PM   Views : 433 Unique : 211

Proper macro lenses give a reproduction ratio of 1:1 which is fine for many subjects but sometimes I want to get closer and this is my approach.

First, I'll expand on what I mean by proper macro lenses. Some of you will know this, so I apologise for that but I want to make sure everyone understands. True macro is where the reproduction ratio is life size, where the lens forms an image on the sensor that is exactly the same size as the subject in real life. The ratio is the size of the image on the sensor compared to the subject. 1:1 means they are the same size. So if an insect is 20 mm long it will appear as 20 mm long on the sensor. If it appeared as only 10 mm long on the sensor it would be hald life size, or a ratio of 1:2.

Lenses that cannot do this are not macro but close focus. The worst offenders are the lens makers themselves and their marketing teans. When zoom lenses became popular they had close focus ability, often to one quarter life size, which is paltry. Not to mention the higher image quality of fixed focal length true macro lenses. A generation of photographers has been misled. Many years ago I had a Tamron 90 mm which allowed half life size images. It was a great performer but not true macro. That said, with some extension tubes it would get there, and it was designed for close work so image quality was maintained.

18034_1590354777.jpg

Taken with a 100 mm macro lens at its closest focus giving a 1:1 reproduction (life size) on the sensor


Of course, for larger subects this is fine if you want to include them in their entirety. And if you want to show them in their environment, such as a red admiral on a buddleia then you don't need to go in so close.

Attention will soon turn to smaller subjects be they flowers, insects, delicate mechanical systems such as watches, you get the idea. Thinking about practical considerationss inanimate objects may be worth practicing on first.

My Canon 100 mm macro focuses down to give me life size images. To get closer I can add an extension tube or two. No real surprise there as extension tubes can be used on most lenses to allow closer focusing. They're even useful on telephotos to be able to reduce the minimum focus distance so that you can focus on a nearby perch when photographing birds or dragonflies for example.

18034_1590354787.jpg

Taken with a 100 mm macro lens at its closest focus together with a 31 mm extension tube giving a larger than life size reproduction on the sensor


Extenders are typically used to enable you to get closer to the action in sport or wildlife. They are not, on the whole, used for macro work. Indeed, the two are not designed to work together. In normal use my Canon Extenders are only compatible with a few lenses because of a protruding front element they won't physically fit. So re-enter the extension tubes. Put one between the Extender and the macro lens as a spacer and now there's room for that protruding front element.

18034_1590354794.jpg

Taken with a 100 mm macro lens at its closest focus together with a 1.4x Extender III separated from the lens by a 12 mm extension tube giving a larger than life size reproduction on the sensor


This combination is limited to a small focus range, but hey, you're only going to do that. I've found diffraction effects can soften the image a little below f/11, but you aren't going to get much benefit in depth of field from stopping down further (you can always focus stack images of non-mobile subjects). You are using gear beyond its design parameters so it's good that you get results at all.

18034_1590354807.jpg

Taken with a 100 mm macro lens at its closest focus together with a 2x Extender separated from the lens by a 12 mm extension tube giving a larger than life size reproduction on the sensor


It's a technique I've used for many years, with an image of this same test subject being published in EOS Magazine around the beginning of the century.

Just be careful of any nettles as you follow your subjects.

18034_1590354816.jpg


All text and images Keith Rowley 2020

Comments


pink Plus
17 6.5k 8 United Kingdom
26 May 2020 7:51AM
Very interesting Keith, certainly something I am going to try over the next few weeks.
Thank you
Ian

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