Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Macro Photography with Close up lenses

I`ve been getting into macro photography lately and been experimenting with macro options. The best options for macro photography are obviously dedicated macro lenses. Sony makes a SAL-100M28 100mm F2.8 macro lens and a SAL-50M28 50mm F2.8 macro lens ,both these lenses are pretty expensive. The other option for macro is to use extension tubes. However, with normal tubes the camera loses auto metering and auto focus. There are tubes which maintain communication between the camera and lens and thus retain all functions, such as the Kenko DG Teleplus Extension Tube Set , but again these are expensive. Another option is the Raynox DCR-250, which I was considering seriously. However during my search I came across a cheaper option – close up lenses. These are not really lenses in their own right, they are more of lens add ons which screw onto the front of your existing lens. A search on ebay will reveal several listings of different makes. All you have to do is choose the size that fits your camera, and they are cheap as chips. I just had to try it out. After a bit of research to ensure that I wasn't going for total rubbish, I settled on a Camray brand of Close up lenses.

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They arrived soon enough in a neat little package containing four add on lenses - +1. +2, +4 and a macro lens as it was labelled.

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The lenses come with double threading both in front and behind so that it can be screwed into the threading on a normal lens as well as into each other.

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Essentially these lenses are just magnifying lenses of increasing magnification as can be seen by the increase in the magnification produced on the paper behind it in the picture below.

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I decided to carry out some quick and rough tests to figure out what effect the lenses could create. My test setup was as seen below. I placed a piece of paper vertically and then kept my camera mounted with my Sony f1.4 50mm lens in front of it so that the tip of the camera was approx 21cms from the paper (the edge of the table). The first test was to keep the camera at a constant distance from the paper and check the focussing ability with and without the add on lenses.

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The following 5 pictures are for the 50mm lens on its own (a), 50+1 (b), 50+2 (c), 50+4 (d) and 50+macro (e) combinations respectively. As you can see, at 21 cms from the object, the 50mm on its own cannot achieve a focus as the image is inside the minimum focus distance. With the addition of a +1 lens, the image becomes more clearer but it still does not achieve focus. With the +2 lens in place, the lens can now focus within the 21cm distance, and this is true with the +4 lens in place too. With the macro lens however, the minimum focusing distance has become less than the 21cm range (infinity focus is lost with these lenses ) the image again appears out of focus.

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Next I decided to check out how close to the image each attachment would allow, or how much would each combination decrease the minimum focusing distance, and as a result, what magnification could be achieved. Here are the results:

Lens combination

in Cms

Sample image

(In an attempt to maintain homogeneity flash was used for all images, hence the overexposed images, including the extreme close ups, where it was not needed, hence these images appear overexposed)

Sony 50mm lens only


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Its clear that the add on lenses have had a significant effect. It was now time to put it to an actual field test. So here goes.

a) The 50mm on its own:

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b) 50mm+1 combination:

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c) 50mm+2 combination:

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d) 50mm+4 combination:

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e) 50mm+macro combination:

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and finally the 50mm+1+2+4+macro combination:

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I must mention that with the above combination the depth of field is unforgivably narrow as illustrated by the focus on the tips of the stamen and not on the petals. It was only after about 15 shots that I got the above image. A tripod is most definitely required if you use this combination.

All in all, I`m really impressed. I paid only £11 for the whole set and it gives me incredible value, especially when you consider that a macro lens is in excess of £250, AF extension tubes more than £100  and the Raynox add ons around £50. With the Camray lens add ons, AF is retained and aperture is maintained. However, you`ll find yourself shifting to manual focus when getting close to objects. I`d highly reccomend this set to anyone who is looking to enter the macro world…its a great entry point.

I`ll leave you with some images I took with various combinations:

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