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10-15-2010, 06:15 AM   #1
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Cheap way into macro with decent working distance?

hi all. I was just wondering if anybody had any suggestions of getting into macro photography of static subject on a serious budget. My main concern is having a setup with decent working distance at 1:1 magnification. My other option is plunking down for a 100mm D FA for 270, which i can't really afford right now.

I currently have at my disposal 15mm, 31mm and 77mm lenses. Can anyone think up a budget combination of close-up filters/teleconverters/extension tubes that would give me 1:1 and working distance comparable to using the 100mm Macro lens? Don't mind if it's cumbersome and totally manual. Just want good IQ.

Also wondering if maybe I can pick up an older 50mm 1:1 macro off ebay. But is there any way to increase the working distance (at the same magnification) on that?

thanks a bunch!!

10-15-2010, 06:36 AM   #2
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I had recently purchased a Sigma 50mm macro, and am also interested in increasing its working distance at 1:1. I will probably have to eventually upgrade to the Tamron 90mm.

10-15-2010, 06:36 AM   #3
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what is the budget?

I have a couple of macro sets each in the $125 range, one is a bit of a DIY project the other is not.

Option 1) An Old bellows (origonally miranda mount) modified to accept the flanged M42 to K mount and to accept T mount front lenses, presently fitted with a 135mm enlargenging lens. total cost is 125 plus some time.

option 2) SMC-Macro-Takumar 50mm F4 plus a set of extension tubes, and a 15-30mm macro focusing helix, total cost $101.

the 135mm enlarging lens on the bellows goes beyond 1:1 and has a working distance of 27cm (about 10.5 inches) at 1:1, the 50mm macro with extension tubes and helix also goes beyond 1:1 and reaches 1:1 at 100mm working distance, or about 4 inches
10-15-2010, 07:16 AM   #4
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Here's a cheap set-up that you can use to vary working distance and magnification:

M42 bellows (about 135-150mm of extension possible).
M42 extension tube for the back end (makes going on and off easier).
M42 to K adapter - can be one of the cheap flanged ones.

I would think you could get all that for under $50.

Then for the lens. I have used:

El-Nikkor 63mm f/2.8 enlarging lens (with M39 to M42 adapter)
Takumar 135/3.5 preset
Takumar 200 f/5.6 preset
SMC Takumar 135mm f/2.5

The first three can probably be had for under or around $70 each. A Super Takumar 135 f/3.5 would work as well. The 200mm gives me a little too much working distance handheld, and slightly less than 1:1. The Nikon can be used for bigger magnification.

As a super cheap alternative, you can reverse a shorter lens on a longer one. You can buy a male-male coupler or make one by gluing two cheap UV filters face to face and then smashing out the glass. I have done this with a 52mm and 49mm pair. Not sure what is available commercially. The 15 reversed on the 31 would give you 2:1 macro with a pretty chort working distance, the 31 reversed on the 77 more working distance with similar magnification. Or you could use other lenses - I've had my best luck with a 28mm f/3.5 on a 80-200 f/4.5, keeping the zoom pretty sort. A 100 on a 200 is supposed to give pretty darn good working distance.

10-15-2010, 07:38 AM   #5
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out of curiosity, why are you worrying about working distance when you said you will be shooting static objects?
10-15-2010, 08:14 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by scathontiphat Quote
.... Can anyone think up a budget combination of close-up filters/teleconverters/extension tubes that would give me 1:1 and working distance comparable to using the 100mm Macro lens? ...

Also wondering if maybe I can pick up an older 50mm 1:1 macro off ebay. But is there any way to increase the working distance (at the same magnification) ....
I'm afraid the only practical way to have a working distance like a 100mm lens is to use a 100mm lens.

Your 77mm lens isn't too far from 100mm, so might suffice. If it is a SMCP-FA 77 (magnification 1:7), you'll have to extend it with a bellows an additional 66mm from the camera to get 1:1 magnification.

An inexpensive bellows will do this. If you want to preserve P-TTL flash ability you'll either need a more expensive bellows, or fool the camera into thinking an A type lens is attached.

You might find that buying an A type bellows costs as much as buying a used 100mm macro lens.

Dave
10-15-2010, 08:22 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
out of curiosity, why are you worrying about working distance when you said you will be shooting static objects?
i wanted to play around with macro panoramas of non-flat objects (so panning the camera around wouldn't work due to parallax errors). I figure the longer the working distance, the less angle change i have from shot to shot and the better the results due to less skewing. But like i said, it's all just a bit of playing around, hence not wanting to spend a fortune.
10-15-2010, 08:26 AM   #8
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I went out to try a little reversing, and I would withdraw that from consideration - too much magnification, too little working distance. But fun! (M 50/1.7 on a Tamron 70-150/3.5)

10-15-2010, 08:33 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
out of curiosity, why are you worrying about working distance when you said you will be shooting static objects?
I know the OP has already posted a response to this, but in my opinion there are 2 issues with small working distances,

- one is the ability to approach a live subject, which in this case does not apply,
- and the other is the issue of lighting.

while a 35mm macro might get you to 1:1 easily, you are less than 3 inches from the subject (from the front of the lens) with a traditional lens that focuses by moving all the elements on the focusing helix, and perhaps a hell of a lot closer if the lens focuses internally or has a fixed rear element design because the focal length is changing as you focus.

As a result, and as tomwil posted you can be awfully close and risk shading the subject. Good lighting is key to macro and it is very hard to get good lighting if you are within 2-3 inches of the subject with the lens.
10-15-2010, 03:55 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
I know the OP has already posted a response to this, but in my opinion there are 2 issues with small working distances,

- one is the ability to approach a live subject, which in this case does not apply,
- and the other is the issue of lighting.

while a 35mm macro might get you to 1:1 easily, you are less than 3 inches from the subject (from the front of the lens) with a traditional lens that focuses by moving all the elements on the focusing helix, and perhaps a hell of a lot closer if the lens focuses internally or has a fixed rear element design because the focal length is changing as you focus.

As a result, and as tomwil posted you can be awfully close and risk shading the subject. Good lighting is key to macro and it is very hard to get good lighting if you are within 2-3 inches of the subject with the lens.
I know that just as well as anyone here My macro setup gives me like less than 2 inches of working distance
10-15-2010, 04:57 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nick Siebers Quote
I went out to try a little reversing, and I would withdraw that from consideration - too much magnification, too little working distance. But fun! (M 50/1.7 on a Tamron 70-150/3.5)
Fun indeed! And too close, indeed! A couple of the rules of camera optics are:

1) A non-reversed single lens can never focus closer than its focal length.
2) A reversed lens (single or stacked) works at the lens' register distance.

(1) tells us that a single 100mm lens can't focus closer than 100mm. I often use a 162mm enlarger lens on bellows for a working distance over 6 inches. And (2) tells us that the working distance of a reversed Pentax lens, whether singly on tubes and/or bellows, or stacked onto another lens, is 45.46mm, under two inches.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Cheapest good macro: One or two sets of PK tubes (~US$7 each) under a manual 135mm lens, for ~5.5 inches working distance.

Cheapest quick-and-dirty macro: A set of +dioptre ('close-up') filter-lenses (~US$10-20). IQ suffers, mostly around the edges. Oy.

Cheapest flexible macro: A M42 or PK bellows (usually under US$50), a cheap safe flanged M42-PK adapter (US$5), a cheaper M39-M42 adapter ring (US$2), and a choice of enlarger lenses (most EL's are M39 thread). I bought three EL's this week for ~US$5 each, and I missed an EL-Nikkor for US$7. EL's are generally VERY sharp. EL's longer than 80mm can usually focus to infinity on bellows, for non-macro shoots.

Easiest pseudo-macro: A Raynox DCR-250 (~US$60) snapped onto any mounted lens. If the host lens is A-type, you can use flash or ringlite easily.
10-15-2010, 07:21 PM   #12
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Nicely summarized, Senor Rico. And if I had once known about the working distance being the same as the register distance on a reversed lens, I had forgotten it, although it seems obvious once pointed out.
10-15-2010, 07:24 PM   #13
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I meant to include a picture above. Oops! Well, here it is. Shadows of Grass.


Last edited by Nick Siebers; 10-18-2010 at 05:36 PM.
10-15-2010, 09:13 PM   #14
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Macro on a budget:
  • Extension tubes
  • Reverse adapter(s) 49mm and 52mm
  • Reversing ring(s) (male-male thread)
  • Stepping ring(s) to fit the reversing gear to your lenses.
$100 should get you quite a versatile kit.

Working distance is all about focal length.

Macro lighting can cost quite a bit, but if your subject is static, you may prefer just to go for a longer exposure.
10-15-2010, 11:14 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by openyourap Quote

Macro lighting can cost quite a bit, but if your subject is static, you may prefer just to go for a longer exposure.
Or take a lot of thinking and DIY work
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