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11-09-2010, 06:53 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Binocular Lens Macro Rig

This will be a bit long, but maybe it will be worth the read.

I've been checking out a macro rig using simply a binocular lens and a regular 50mm lens, and have posted a number of shots using it. After a few comments here and there and at least one other one already made up and taking pictures, I decided to post a decent description if anyone else would like to try it out.

Parts required - 50mm lens with 49mm filter threads. Removed objective lens barrel from 10x50 binoculars (that's the end that points toward what you're looking at.)

Check first to make sure the lens barrel will wiggle onto your 50mm lens snugly, if so it will work.

Ummm...use a junk pair of binoculars...

Grab a hacksaw and cut the barrel back about halfway, otherwise you wind up with a dark ring around the outside of your pictures, the threaded opening is too small. Clean it up with a file and some sandpaper. The threads are usually coated with a clear grease similar to petroleum jelly, it can be removed with acetone, it can take several cleanings with microfiber cloth, q-tips and acetone. Acetone is used as fingernail polish remover, it can be found in the cosmetics aisle but ONLY use it when labeled 100% acetone. Otherwise check with a hardware store.

Using it - Pretty much standard photography if you keep a couple of things in mind.

1. Movement - Anything that magnifies the image also magnifies motion. Practice can help you be more steady, finding something to brace against is highly recommended but a tripod can actually be a hindrance. Shooting a few inches away is not often possible with a tripod, and many of my favorite subjects are long gone before I even pick it up...like jumping spiders...

2. Focusing distance - A few inches. Break a new pencil in half, that should be about the maximum focusing distance. Maximum...So, if you move 1/8 inch, (about 2-3 millimeters maybe?) your focus is gone bye bye. But as little as a thumb bracing the lens with a finger on a handrail can be enough.

3. Depth of field - Practically nothing. At f8 a fly's tail is getting blurry if the head is in focus. At f4 you might see the middle legs good...

Getting that close - Happens two ways. Chance and intent. Chance is easy, just be there. Intent is not easy. Slow. Very slow. Slow is required, no sudden movements or noises. And hope for luck. Practice on flowers. They don't move much. Flowers in a light breeze can help you "see" your focus better too, and see what to look for. Shoot if you want, but occasionally also just look for a few seconds.

Now for the pictures...here's the rig, ready to shoot.



I didn't add the large picture intentionally, that should give you the idea.

Here is a grasshopper I shot yesterday, about 2 1/2 inches long. I had enough light to shoot at f16, and still had to underexpose it by raising the shutter speed. First the plain, everyday 50mm lens, this is a 1600x1200 crop from the full size picture, resized to 1024x768. (same 1600x1200 crop as the binocular lens head crop below for comparison) No other editing done on any of these shots, all are exactly as they came off the camera except for crop and resize.



Click image to view larger size.

Now a 3584x2688 crop of the next shot with the binocular lens attached. That's around 70-80% of the full picture, the largest size I can resize to 1024x768 and keep the ratio intact. Not a lot of difference when compared to the 1600x1200 crop above, but just wait...



Click image to view larger size.

This one is a 1600x1200 crop of the binocular lens close up. This guy let me get really close, but it took about 15 minutes of slowly edging closer, and he moved 3 or 4 times before deciding I wasn't going away so he sat here and put up with me for a while. Once you get accustomed to the focus, this is what this rig can do.



Click image to view larger size.

Notice the depth of field. This was shot at f16, and the antenna to the rear is starting to blur. That's less than 1/4 inch. In the full picture you can see the leg on the back side is blurring too, less than 1/2 inch.

Here's a backlit Aster I shot a few minutes after the grasshopper, focused on the hairs in the center, shot at f16 also. This flower is a bit over an inch, about the size of a quarter.




Click on image to view larger size.

There you have it. The macro rig I've been using and what it can do. If you decide to try it, have fun, I hope you get some nice shots..

11-09-2010, 05:32 PM   #2
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Very cool! What's the working distance with this rig?
11-10-2010, 07:47 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Super A-wesome Quote
Very cool! What's the working distance with this rig?
According to the text above, about half a pencil's length.
11-10-2010, 07:56 AM   #4
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Yep, 5 inches maybe 6 maximum. (sorry guys, I don't have my calipers with me so I can't translate that to metric.) Very close...the grasshopper was about 4 inches away. The Aster about the same.

Total range is 4 to maybe 6 inches max at infinity focus. Your focus ring will still work, I usually preset it for either infinity or minimum distance, then lean in or out to get good focus, and sometimes I use the focus ring too. It varies according to the situation, but if I have to brace the lens, I usually lean and don't tinker with the focus ring.

11-14-2010, 11:20 AM   #5
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Hello Paleo Pete, so am I understanding this correctly. The barrel from the binoculars has glass on it that will help you get that close to the subject with a 50mm lens?

Thanks
Jim Browning
11-14-2010, 04:12 PM   #6
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jbrowning - Yep, that's about the size of it. The binocular lens (10x50 binoculars in this case, see first picture) provides magnification, fits great on a 50mm lens or any other lens with 49mm filter threads and...well you see the resulting pictures here. I haven't tried to get accurate measurements, but it's about 4 to 6 inches working distance.
11-14-2010, 10:28 PM   #7
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very innovative!
11-15-2010, 08:24 AM - 1 Like   #8
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yeatzee - thanks, I wish I could claim it but it was actually a friend's idea. He's been using it with his Nikon for a while and told me about it. I happened to have a junk pair of binocs lying around, the rest is history. I also happen to be a machinist and have a friend with a full machine shop, so I was able to use his lathe to turn mine down a bit shorter, most people will have to rely on a hacksaw.

I know these probably won't match your macros, yours are usually just amazing, but this rig does turn out some nice shots I think.

11-15-2010, 10:51 AM   #9
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Very very cool idea. If there was a thumbs up smilie, I would attach it here.

Jim
11-15-2010, 02:51 PM   #10
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I like it. In the photographic world, the discipline that seems to spawn the most home-spun ideas is Macro, and this one looks like it works beautifully.

One question: Does it change your effective F/stop in terms of exposure?
11-15-2010, 03:58 PM   #11
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I can vouch for Pete. Met him at the Lake last Friday and he showed me the binocular rig. It is really pretty amazing and simple.
11-16-2010, 09:19 AM   #12
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Thanks GaryH, enjoyed meeting you, had a great time. Looking forward to doing it again soon. Glad you liked the binocular lens rig. By the way, the flower picture I took to show you how it works turned out really nice. Didn't post it mainly because I've posted enough of them already. Very few turned out well that day, my vision was a bit off and I had trouble getting clear focus. Didn't get even one keeper of the hawk at the pier...one half decent shot, but not good enough to show off. I posted a waterbirds thread from that day, if youi want to, feel free to add some of youor shots too, Here.

QuoteQuote:
One question: Does it change your effective F/stop in terms of exposure?
unixrevolution - I don't think so. I've taken pictures at, say f4, with the plain 50mm then put on the binocular lens, the camera's exposure meter never changes the shutter speed, except in those cases where clouds are moving and ambient lighting changes every few seconds. On a clear day, I've never seen it change at all. I shoot all manual, so the +/- EV button sets the shutter speed, it always stays the same as with just the 50mm so I don't think it changes exposure. That was one of my worries. With the barrel cut back it also acts as a lens hood but doesn't block light. I was also concerned about distortion, but it doesn't seem to introduce much, if any.

In the pictures posted above, the grasshopper was shot with and without the binocular lens, the settings were never touched, everything was at the exact same f stop and shutter speed.

I also found out yesterday the onboard flash works quite well. we got a lot of rain, so I shot some water drops and used the flash, it did a great job. I've never used the flash with it before, never needed to.
03-06-2013, 06:56 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Paleo Pete Quote
Yep, 5 inches maybe 6 maximum. (sorry guys, I don't have my calipers with me so I can't translate that to metric.) Very close...the grasshopper was about 4 inches away. The Aster about the same.

Total range is 4 to maybe 6 inches max at infinity focus. Your focus ring will still work, I usually preset it for either infinity or minimum distance, then lean in or out to get good focus, and sometimes I use the focus ring too. It varies according to the situation, but if I have to brace the lens, I usually lean and don't tinker with the focus ring.
Hello Pete,
Nice job!
This is handy for conversions with our European metric: Feet and Inches to Cm Converter
Thanks for your great article and tip.
Regards,
Ant
03-07-2013, 06:16 AM   #14
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The easy to remember conversion factors for Metric lengths to standard are:

1 inch = 25.4mm or 2.54cm
1 meter ~ 39.4 inches
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