Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Macro Shots -- On the Cheap

I've been inspired by some of the macro photography seen on Flickr. Years ago I had a Minolta X700 SLR. Being a college student at the time, I had little money for gear. One thing I did have that was relatively cheap was something called a "Reversing Ring"

This little gem threaded onto the front of my 50 mm lens (my *only* lens) and allowed it to be mounted backwards. Flipping the lens around moves the focal point further in front of the film plane of camera which does two things:

  1. It increases the magnification
  2. It decreases the minimum focal distance (allowing you to get really close to your subject)

Essentially, using a reversing ring converts your 50 mm "portrait lens" into a really nice "macro lens" and it does so for less that 20 bucks! There are no additional optics involved. There are some drawbacks to the reversing ring however, is that neither the aperture or the auto-focus works.

Getting a bonafide macro lens will set you back about 500 dollars, but you get full aperture and auto-focus control. Still, the limited utility make this route hard to fathom for the average hobbyist. I mean, with a macro lens, you can only shoot macros, right?

There is another low-cost solution.
Something called an "extension tube" can accomplish the same task as the spendy macro prime lens, but only costs about 90 bucks. Kenko offers a set of three for about $170. An extension tube mounts onto the back of your lens and then onto the front of your camera. They have electrical and mechanical pass-through connections that operate both the aperture and the auto-focus system on some cameras. Tubes come in various lengths (measured in mm) the longer the length, the higher the magnification.

In use,
these tubes expose a whole new world of wonder. In the lead photo at the top, for example, a simple chrome handle becomes something magical, reflecting the entire room. If you look closely, you can see the blades of lens's aperture showing that it was stopped way down to get the maximum depth of field.

So consider
getting a reversing ring or an extension tube to get a new perspective on everyday objects. You'll be glad you did!

Further Reading:

Flickr Group "Closer and Closer"

Reversing Rings

Extension Tubes

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