Macro Photography without Macro Lens is possible with some ways that let you to tackle macro photography reducing the spending acceptable compromise on quality. Of course, if you are serious about producing macro photo of better quality and you want to do in the most practical way possible, you need to purchase specialized lens (as we have written in the article on lens for macro photography). One of the way for reducing the cost for Macro Photography is using Tamron 60mm Macro Lens, which costs significantly lesser than the camera manufacturer’s pricing.
However, we must surrender the fact that we need to shell out a lot of money. For example, to buy a 105 mm macro lens, a focal length that is very suitable in this field, regardless of the brand of the camera, at least we would spend about $ 400 for a Sigma lens. Wanting to go on a target brand can cost over double, there lens which starts from the price range of $ 1,000.
It is such an investment, for someone who wants to experiment with this photographic genre, the pricing is too much exaggerated. A first way to save is always to seek in the second hand market. Not always, though, you can find what you wanted to use. Fortunately, there are some solutions that let you to tackle macro photography greatly reducing the spending, with very acceptable compromise on quality. We will talk about the extension tubes, macro lenses and inversion of the lens. Let us see in detail what they are in the rest of the article.
Before We Begin Macro Photography without Macro Lens
We highly recommend to read the following articles specifically on Macro Photography, as not only they have the informative text and links but also the graphics will help you a lot :
- Tips and Tricks for DSLR Macro Photography – Important for setup
- Macro Photography Studio on the Table – Setup, again
- Close-up Lens in Digital Photography – As an alternative option
Macro Photography without Macro Lens
Extension tubes for macro photography
The extension tubes, are simply the rings of variable length that are interposed between the camera body and the lens. What is their utility? Removing the lens from the camera body, it reduces the minimum distance of focus and in this way, you can increase the magnification factor.
Using the extension tubes is very simple : the tube is screwed to the body and then the lens to the tube. Usually, the tubes are sold as kits containing three tubes of different lengths : increasing the length of the tube decreases the minimum distance of focus and the tubing can also be mounted on each other to maximize the magnification. The use of extension tubes adds almost no loss of photo quality. Keep in mind, however, that specialized macro lenses capture more details than the other lens.
The main aspect to pay attention when buying extension tubes is the maintenance of the automatic functions, i.e. the auto-focus and exposure metering. The cheapest models are simply metal rings or plastics that sits between the lens and the camera and do not send information necessary to to the camera to monitor the focus and aperture. In this case, then we will be forced to focus on approaching or moving away from the subject and we will have no control over the opening. The only option will be is to remove the lens while holding down the button to preview depth of field, which by the way is not present on all cameras. Personally, as this option is extremely economical, do not the pick it.
A much more comfortable extension tubes, however, retain the automatic functions. The brand more widespread, is called Kenko. A set of three Kenko tubes for Canon or Nikon costs around $200. On eBay there are also cheaper extension tubes that promise to keep the automatic function, but we have no information about them.
Finally, even the camera manufacturers catalog usually have a set of extension tubes. Obviously, this is the more expensive alternative. What you want to gain is the certainty of maintaining all the automatic functions. However, if you do not trust the third-party products, simply search the internet for the opinions of people who have tried non-branded extension tubes with their own camera to see if the functions are maintained.
Close-up Lens as an alternative option already has been discussed. This solution definitely is more economical and also more practical to use the appropriate lenses that can be screwed on the lens (like filters) and that serve as real magnifying lenses. There are various factors of magnification: +1, +2, +4, etc. With these lenses you lose a little in quality, especially at the edges of the picture, the edges goes softer. Furthermore, close up lens involves a loss of about one stop of light and then we need to increase the exposure time. These defects are compensated by relatively low prices. You can buy sets of close up lenses with different magnification factors from $40. Disregarding the economic aspect, extension tubes provide results that are qualitatively better than macro lenses, but, as a cheaper alternative to dedicated objectives, the lenses are the second best choice. Be careful, when purchased, to choose those which are compatible with the diameter of the front lens on which you want to mount them.
Reversing the lens
The last possibility that we see has the flavor of a dangerous geeky trick. Realize that, however, it is also extremely simple and economic way. The first way is to reverse the lens is even at no cost : it is sufficient to take an lens on the camera body (without lens attached). The lens will be turned upside down so attachment means securing it to the camera body with a piece of tape or hand. Of course, we will lose all the automatic functions. The worst thing is that, with the most modern lenses, lacking the ring for aperture control, we can not in any way change the opening. It will therefore is very difficult to get the shots we want. If you want to try this technique, it is best to use a fixed focal length lens, possibly the ring to control the aperture will be there. Be careful especially not to damage the rear lens (which now will be in the front) and the contacts on the back of the lens.
A safer alternative is to buy a reversal ring or Reverse Macro Ring. It is a simple metal ring that is screwed to the body, which in turn screw the lens reversed. In this way we will not have to keep the lens in hand but still the technique will remain quite dangerous for the lens, as the part that usually would be protected inside the machine body, will be with the contacts outside and the rear lens will risk to take shots and accumulate dirt which can hamper more functions in future.
Finally, to maximize the magnification, it is possible to mount the lens reversed in front of another lens. In this way we will have a lens mounted on the body and a second lens mounted on the former. To do this it will be necessary to use a Reverse Macro Ring and a ring which is called step up, to allow the connection between the two objectives.
The quality of the photos obtained by reversing a lens depends on the quality of the lens itself, as the setup is without anything between the lens and the camera body. Using a good prime lens, probably will get very sharp photos. Personally, however, this technique does not attract us a lot, especially for the loss of automation and secondly the added danger when used by a newbie.