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08-18-2010, 09:40 AM   #1
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Which Macro lens?

Hi everyone, I am currently saving for a new lens, this lens will really only be used for macro photography either with bellows or extension tubes. Just wondering if any of you had any recommendations? My budget will be around the 200 GBP mark but obviously if I do this cheaper I will. I will also be using this lens out in the woods etc for photographing bugs and spiders. I want to make the right choice before committing myself. Thanks for reading this
Steve

08-18-2010, 10:03 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spiderman Quote
Hi everyone, I am currently saving for a new lens, this lens will really only be used for macro photography either with bellows or extension tubes. Just wondering if any of you had any recommendations? My budget will be around the 200 GBP mark but obviously if I do this cheaper I will. I will also be using this lens out in the woods etc for photographing bugs and spiders. I want to make the right choice before committing myself. Thanks for reading this
Steve
You want to use the macro lens on bellows/extension tubes? i.e. 1:1 wont be enough for you? If so, I suggest just skipping a macro lens all together.

Buy old 28mm and 50mm primes and some old extension tubes (shouldn't cost more than $150 together) and spend the rest on getting your lighting down.
08-18-2010, 10:32 AM   #3
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I use a range of inexpensive enlarging lenses on a pentax auto bellows. You can also mount them on extension tubes. Enlarging lenses are optimized for close focus and are cost effective (less than $45 / lens). I have an article on the setup in case you have an interest.

https://sites.google.com/site/inexpensivemacrophotography/



08-18-2010, 10:49 AM   #4
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fetch a reversing adaptor and play with the 18-55 zoom reversed. Invest more in lighting setup.

08-18-2010, 01:44 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by stover98074 Quote
I use a range of inexpensive enlarging lenses on a pentax auto bellows. You can also mount them on extension tubes. Enlarging lenses are optimized for close focus and are cost effective (less than $45 / lens). I have an article on the setup in case you have an interest.

https://sites.google.com/site/inexpensivemacrophotography/


I know you post this in every macro thread, but in this specific case i'd say the much smarter choice would be to get a couple cheap primes. Than he can use them for normal photo's and macro's. Much more bang for your buck IMO.
08-18-2010, 02:40 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
I know you post this in every macro thread, but in this specific case i'd say the much smarter choice would be to get a couple cheap primes. Than he can use them for normal photo's and macro's. Much more bang for your buck IMO.
Yup,

I like the old primes as well and agree they can serve a dual purpose for macro (when on tubes/bellows or reversed) and especially for non macro work. I also like prime manual focus macro lenses, but find it easier and less expensive to use enlarging lenses. For macro use only, I like enlarging lenses because they are very sharp at close focus (they have been optimized for close focus just as dedicated prime macro lenses have been).

While I enjoy working with enlarging lenses, two of my favorite lenses are a Takumar SMC 200 f4 and a Takumar 135 f3.5 preset from the early 1960's. I have not gotten around to mounting a 50mm lens on the 200 but am looking forward to trying that combination. John Shaw has written about reverse mounting enlarging lenses on a 200mm prime. (John Shaw's Closeups in Nature (Practical Photography Books) or it might be in this book - Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. I was able to get his books at our city library and no longer have a copy to reference.)

There are many paths and tools for macro and I am not trying to advocate a best tool. My hope is to share an alternative approach that is inexpensive and may not be apparent for new viewers to this forum.

Last edited by stover98074; 08-20-2010 at 09:13 AM.
08-18-2010, 08:12 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stover98074 Quote
Yup,

I like the old primes as well and agree they can serve a dual purpose for macro (when on tubes/bellows or reversed) and especially for non macro work. I also like prime manual focus macro lenses, but find it easier and less expensive to use enlarging lenses. For macro use only, I like enlarging lenses because they are very sharp at close focus (they have been optimized for close focus just as dedicated prime macro lenses have been).

While I enjoy working with enlarging lenses, two of my favorite lenses are a Takumar SMC 200 f4 and a Takumar 135 f3.5 preset from 1961. I have not gotten around to mounting a 50mm lens on the 200 but am looking forward to trying that combination. John Shaw has written about reverse mounting enlarging lenses on a 200mm prime. (John Shaw's Closeups in Nature (Practical Photography Books) or it might be in this book - Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. I was able to get his books at our city library and no longer have a copy to reference.)

There are many paths and tools for macro and I am not trying to advocate a best tool. My hope is to share an alternative approach that is inexpensive and may not be apparent for new viewers to this forum.
It is on pages 119 to 121 in The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. He recommends one's normal lens reversed or enlarging lenses.
08-18-2010, 08:45 PM   #8
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Modern expensive AF macro lenses are quite sharp, easy to use, good for portraits and general photography as well as macros. But for serious macro work, automation isn't necessary. I have two old manual M42 macros, a Macro-Takumar 50/4, and a Vivitar 90/2.8 macro, that together cost me under US$60 -- but I was lucky. An AF macro lens *IS* good to have when using flash.

The purest (and almost cheapest) way to do macro is to put a prime lens on tubes or bellows, called 'extension'. Example: Industar-50/3.5 lens (US$25), flanged M42-PK adapter (US$5), and M42 tube set (US$8). Many prime lenses are sharper for closeups when reversed, so a mount-reversal ring (US$5) and a cheap PK tube set (US$8) are called for. Multiple tube sets are handy. Magnification is a function of focal length and extension -- the further-out the lens hangs, the more it magnifies, and the less light it sees. Yes, lighting is critical.

Greatest magnification requires 'stacking' lenses. Mount a longish lens (the primary) on the camera; put a thread-reversal ring (US$5) on it; then add a shorter lens (the secondary), reversed. A 105mm primary with a 35mm secondary gives 105/35 = 3:1 magnification. A 150mm primary with a 25mm secondary gives 150/25 = 6:1 magnification, which is a LOT. In a pinch, primary and secondary can just be taped together.

There's a lot more to macro, but those are some basic options. Have fun!

08-18-2010, 09:16 PM   #9
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An enlarger lens on bellows is not a bad idea if you don't mind manual stop down. I use a Nikor 105mm on helicoid entension tube with Pentax 6x7 and get great results. A 50mm enlarger lens would be good for APS digital. The Apo-Grandagon is excellent for this.

As others have written, auto-focus is often not an advantage. A manual focus 90mm Vivitar or Tamron, or 50mm or 100mm Pentax macro are all excellent lenses good for macro and larger. Tests show the A 50mm f2.8 to be sharper than the f1.4, f1.7, or f2, and they are all quite sharp lenses.

Reversing a lens does work for greater than 1:1 magnification, though, as with the enlarging lens, you will lose auto stop down. Results will vary with lens, so experimentation is in order.
08-18-2010, 09:28 PM   #10
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extension tubes are a good place to start. I macro filters are useful in a pinch, due to the fact that they don't lose as much light and keep the viewfinder nice and bright, but they degrade optical quality.
08-18-2010, 10:57 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by civiletti Quote
An enlarger lens on bellows is not a bad idea if you don't mind manual stop down. I use a Nikor 105mm on helicoid entension tube with Pentax 6x7 and get great results. A 50mm enlarger lens would be good for APS digital.
A short (<80mm) enlarger lens on bellows on an APS-C camera is good for macro ONLY, ie a bellows usually has a minimum thickness such that a short lens can't reach infinity focus. I prefer enlarger glass in the 100-150mm range, long enough for a good working distance for macro shots, also long enough to be used for general photography.

With a bellows and the right adapter rings, almost ANY lens can be used for macros. That's one way to recycle one's otherwise unusable glass, eh?

For a totally weird experience, macro or not, try a Schneider Betavaron fixed-focus enlarger zoom. Originally several thousand bucks, they're now available for well under US$100. Like many enlarger lenses it has an M39 mount, so cheap M39-M42 and flanged M42-PK adapters are needed. I put it on about 30mm extension for general use, or a bellows for macros. The optics are brutally sharp. Using it for non-macro work is disconcerting, since zooming changes both the focus point and the framed area, resulting in a bit of dancing around for the hapless photographer. It is heavy (820g) and the numbers on it are meaningless outside a printing studio. Sure is fun, though!

Last edited by RioRico; 08-18-2010 at 11:05 PM.
08-19-2010, 01:47 AM   #12
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Thank you all!

Thanks everyone for your valued input, I was looking at some bellows yesterday as I have several lenses from my older P30 and ME Super, I've purchased a set of extension rings and will look to invest in a set of bellows as it will be easier and more cost effective to improve lighting as I'm about to build an indoor "bug" studio! The one thing I have been disapointed with was the sacrifice of my close ups with the kit lens on my k100d, the results havent been too bad but its a step up in weight, planning and execution with the k100d compared to my nikon p80. I will be posting the results here, I'm going to go macromental when I get this set up, and every bug in a 5 mile radius will be on guard for fear of kidnapping I have the pentax 50mm 1:1.7 kit lens that came with the P30, and a sigma 28 -70mm zoom 1:3.5 - 4.5. I'll see how I get on with those first. thanks again Very helpful!
08-19-2010, 01:56 AM   #13
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Thats what I've noticed with the macro filters, the focal point tends to be too small and theres a marked loss of detail especially with the subjects I take as detail is paramount. I tend to take pictures of Insects, mostly moths, flies... anything with more than two legs really. Spiders are my thing though. With a close up filter I lose all the detail in such a small subject, definatly being swayed towards a static set up indoors with a homemade bug studio, big increase of the risk of having to chase a 6inch spider across my floor and up the walls but it's a risk worth taking, just hope the old ticker holds up...damn those spiders can move
08-19-2010, 03:31 AM   #14
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Magnification increases with the shorter focal lengths. I really like my M 50mm macro. If you get a 50mm auto extension tube, you can meter with the lens wide open still, which will aid with focussing. The only thing is its a pain without a macro rail, which I think is automatically included on the belows set up.

M50f4, f8
08-19-2010, 03:51 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stover98074 Quote
John Shaw has written about reverse mounting enlarging lenses on a 200mm prime. (John Shaw's Closeups in Nature (Practical Photography Books) or it might be in this book - Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. I was able to get his books at our city library and no longer have a copy to reference.)
Shaw's books ought to be required reading for nature photographers.
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