I`ve just got hold of a bellows unit on ebay. It worked out cheap enough at £20 and I was eager to try it out. The bellows unit works the same as an extension tube, with the difference being that it is adjustable. One screw on the side allows you to change the extension millimetre by millimetre. The other screw locks the position of the lens.
The bellows unit came in a Minolta MD mount and with my camera being a Sony A mount, I had to use a MD-MA mount adapter to mount it on my Sony A200 camera.I bought this adapter also off ebay. While this adapter is great in that it enables me to use old MD Minolta lenses on my Sony camera, It has glass in it which is not of the best quality which I believe affects image quality. At the other end I attached my MD mount 55mm F1.4 Rokkor lens.
As it was night time and I couldn’t step out I decided to try it out on a Daisy flower I had sitting at home. Firstly, here is the flower taken with a Sony 50mm F1.4 lens.
I then switched to the bellows unit setup, and zoomed in ( moved the lens with bellows outwards) a suitable distance to the centre of the flower to obtain this image. I had the services of my newly acquired Minolta 2500D flash unit to enhance the dim indoor lighting.
but hang on, do I see signs of insect life on the flower? I zoomed out a bit to get this image below. As with normal lenses, images with the aperture wide open (F 1.4)) resulted in very narrow depth of field with only narrow fields in focus. To get more areas in focus in my images, I opened up the aperture dial on my Rokkor Lens between F4 and F11. This is where the external flash really helped out as the aperture so narrow had little light entering and had to be supplemented.
Yes, that’s definitely an insect on the petal. I’m not sure what it is though. I decided to zoom in more. Yes, that’s a fly of some sort. But hey, is there something else on the flower?
Zooming back out again I notice that there’s a horde of life all around the periphery of the centre of the flower.
Zooming back in, I notice that they look like aphids. They seemed to be busy, sucking away on the flower, oblivious of the fact that they were on a half dead flower far removed from its natural environment.
Here`s another pic zoomed in to the maximum (and slightly out of focus) showing the busy bugs.
Exploring further, I caught this slightly different looking aphid/bug walking the petal.
…and around the centre again, there was this longish looking bug along with another aphid.
The bellows unit seemed to have opened up a world unseen with the naked eye. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. In an SLR camera the greatest disadvantage one faces is the ability to zoom in and out (except when using zoom lenses which don’t make for good macro lenses). This fact is further elevated when using extension tubes.
While I like to go with maximum extension and get the greatest magnification, the diversity in sizes of my subjects are huge and I often find myself wishing I could zoom out. The bellows unit while giving me more extension than I could get with the tubes and hence giving several times life size images, also gives me the advantage of being able to zoom in or out accordingly. On the con side I still have to use it in manual mode and guess the right exposure. However it is indeed a step up in macro photography. A highly recommended cheap macro option.
All images are in the original size as they were taken. None were cropped. All images were also obtained handheld.