Macro lens – US $400.
Macro shots by reversing a lens – US $7.95.
Leading others to believe a mustard seed is an avocado – Priceless.
Macro photography refers to taking close up pictures (really close up pictures!). The classical definition according to wikipedia is:
..that the image projected on the “film plane” (i.e film or a digital sensor) is the same size as the subject. On 35 mm film (for example), the lens must have the ability to focus on an area at least as small as 24×36 mm, as this is the size of the image on the film. This is known as “life-size magnification” or simply 1:1.
The other day, totally out the blue, B said “Can we buy a macro lens?”. I had shown her some excellent macro pix from here and here, but still I pinched myself, because that’s the last thing I’d have expected from her. The time that I spend capturing the picture in any situation is a much debated (hotly if I may add) topic in our household.
In comes food blogging into our life, and all of a sudden I see a window of opportunity , fussing over every picture, finding the best lighting conditions, altering the staging ever so slightly, changing the myriad settings in the camera (at least I haven’t started taking pix in RAW…yet) all in the pursuit of the elusive good one. No complaints from B… as she also wants to have the best possible pix for the blog. More importantly, she is the de facto artistic director. Then B started taking more and more of these food pix, and realized that one doesn’t have to spend a long time to take a good pic! I needed something new.
I had read somewhere that prior to macro lenses, photographers (as early as a century ago!) used to tape their lenses in reverse to get very close to a subject. Many links had references to reversing lenses, but I had not paid much attention to it before. So I did what any self-respecting netizen would do and found a very practical and excellent exposition of the technique here.
There are several ways to creating a macro by reversing a lens, such as using an adapter ring or using two lenses back to back, or using a bellows arrangement. The common denominator is that the lens used as the macro should have high aperture (low f-stop) and the mounting assembly should have a male thread to screw the lens. Since I already have two lenses, I assembled them back to back using a macro coupler that I bought from here for $7.95.
These are some of the pix that I have taken in the past few weeks. At the beginning of the post is the solution to last week’s quiz – BROWN MUSTARD. Below are Kalonji and Ajwain. I also posted watercress sprouts here.
These pictures were taken with a 18-55 mm on the camera body (set at 55mm) reversed with a 50mm f/1.4 (focus set at infinity). The DOF is very shallow and to mitigate that I used a f/36 and increased the exposure time accordingly.
I might consider buying a bellows and macro rail arrangement to give better control over the focus. Additionally, it is possible to take multiple exposures at varying focal planes and make a composite image. Haven’t experimented with that yet.
Considerations such as lighting, working distance, subject nature, and budget (as these things can be quite pricey!) among other things, weigh into the choice of the lens. There are dedicated macro lenses at different focal lengths available. Since the subject is very close, getting enough light into the lens is always tricky, consequently 100-200 mm focal lengths are becoming popular.
Some claim that it is hard to make a poor macro lens, probably because typically they are fixed focus single element lenses. I’ll keep that in mind when I shop for a dedicated lens. But in the mean time I am going to continue my experimentation with lens-reversal. Will post pics, trials and travails with my experiments. Stay tuned.