Sunday, September 16, 2012

Macro Photography 2

Macro Photography (#2)

Last post I talked a lot about some less expensive methods for creating some macro photography. Today I want to talk about the set-up that I use most of all. There are extension bellows that can be purchased. They range in price just like all things do, from around $50 to somewhere in the range of $500 and up (Yes, and up, I love that expression, especially when stores use that as a sales pitch. “You will at least spend $60 on anything here”). As with most things, the more expensive something is, the more features it will typically have. I had an “Extra” fifty bucks so I thought I would give it a try. I purchased a little extension bellows from eBay and when it came in the mail, I was a little disappointed, not in the quality of the product, but the size of it. It was just tiny.  Keep in mind though, I had come from using a large format view camera for my bellows, so anything smaller than that was bound to be a size disappointment.

Here is the bellows that I use. It's just a Chinese made knock-off that I picked up on eBay for about $50. You can find similar stuff on, ,  and
in different range of prices as well. This one is about as basic as you can get.

Since my bellows was on the cheap side, it basically had two things that it could do, attach a lens and a body, and extend. That’s about it, but that’s really all that I needed.
One more thing, there is literally no electronics in this piece of hardware. Because of that, it severely limited the type of lenses I could use and still maintain some degree of control.
I tried using my Sigma 400mm f4 manual focus lens, and it worked, but I was still about 3 feet away from my subject and it was very difficult to compose my subject. So I opted for a manual focus Nikon zoom film lens (43-86 mm, don’t ask me why such random numbers, that’s just how it came from This was a completely manual lens, and I was able to use it with my new extension bellows.

I like this set-up the most for one main reason, speed. The extension bellows was the quickest set-up with the best results. I was able to change my focus quickly and compose with ease. 

You may recognize this little guy from the movie Cars, it's Guido. My son loves squinkies and he just had a birthday and got a ton of them. So naturally after he goes to bed, I play with them. But they also make an excellent subject for Macro photography. This little dude is close to a centimeter high, and you can see the scale compared to my index finger tip.

 Yet another squinky, this time using a AA battery for scale. Here I have my lens set to f22 and a shutter around 1/4 second to get the right exposure. It's a little more difficult to compose at the smaller apertures because it's like composing in the dark. Using brighter focusing lights is a good idea at this point. Here I just used a shop light to help light Yoda. I also like the addition of the sinister Sith Lord in the back.

Reverse Lens Macro Set-up

There is one last set-up and believe me it’s about as ghetto cheap as you can get.  Here are the parts and tools required

-An old lens
-a body cap
- a lens filter (not important what kind, just as cheap as you can get it)
-dremel tool

So here’s the idea, if you reverse a lens to where the mounting of the lens is in the front instead of coupled to the camera body, you can essentially create a macro lens. If you do it right, you can use this lens in regular mode, and macro without ruining your lens.
For your first try at doing this, grab just any lens. You can pick up a cheap used lens on for less than $30 and give this a shot.

So here is the set up. Read all the directions before proceeding:

1.     Take the body cap, and the dremel tool and clear out all the plastic in the middle, so that you just have a circle to attach to your camera body.
2.     Grab your lens filter (fit to the size of your lens) and remove any and all glass. The only part of the filter that we need is the screw mount. That’s why it’s not important to buy a very expensive filter.
3.     Epoxy the lens filter and the dremelled body cap together making sure that the threaded edge is facing out. Allow the epoxy to dry for the recommended time (and then some, it can’t hurt to give it as much time to harden)
4.     Screw the lens in to the lens filter.
5.     Attach the lens to your camera body using the body cap.
6.     Ta da, you now have a macro lens.

Things to remember
 A: It is important in this set up to pick a lens that allows full manual controls, especially focus and aperture.
 B: Be Careful of weight distribution. Just because something is epoxied does not mean it will not fail (I know from experience). This is especially important if you are using a heavy lens that might add considerable strain to either the lens mount or the plastic body cap.
C: If you can come up with a better solution, I’m all for it, just let me know.

I hope this has proved informative and will lead to some amazing photography. Like I said, Macro photography is one of my passions and I love the miniature world. If any of you have questions, feel free to comment on this or any post.


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