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06-18-2011, 11:43 AM   #1
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Macro Query

Hello, Just joined and I'm loving the KR but I would like to buy a macro lens but I'm not sure what I'm looking for. They seem pretty expensive but what makes them different from say the Kit lens 18-55mm? When some have fixed lengths of 50mm or 100mm? How can they achieve much better results?
I'm used to having to put the lens about a centimeter away from the object with Bridge cameras, starting to get the impression you don't have to be that close to the object with these lenses?
Would be much appreciated if someone could clear this up for me (:

06-18-2011, 12:38 PM   #2
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First, fixed focal length lenses, usually called "prime" lenses, almost always have a better image quality than a zoom because the lens design does not need to allow for changing focal lengths. And the kit lens, while the Pentax one is acknowlwdged to be fairly good compared to other brands, is just not a high quality lens.

Second, true macro lenses, not the zooms that offer a "macro" setting, have optics that are designed for focusing closer with a flatter depth of field.

Third, comparing something like the D FA 100mm macro to the 18-55 kit lens is like comparing a corvette to a mini-van. They both take pictures but the kit lens is designed to cheaply take reasonable pictures in almost any situation. The D FA 100mm f/2.8 is designed to take superb macro pictures.

Fourth, if you are really looking to explore macro cheaply look into getting a set of extension tubes first and see what they can do. It will not be anything like the results from a dedicated macro lens, especially when used on the kit lens but it will let you see a little about what macro is all about and whether you want to invest the money for an all out macro setup.
06-18-2011, 12:52 PM   #3
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Ah, where to start? Macro lenses differ from non-macros by 1) close focus and 2) edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness. Modern AF camera-macro lenses are fine tools with more (expensive) features that you really need for quality macro work. AF is NOT your friend when shooting macro; but many such lenses are also used for portraits and other general work, where AF is useful.

[NOTE: Camera-macro lenses have built-in focusing mechanisms; bellows-macro and enlarger lenses depend on bellows or other external focusing mechanisms.]

So, the decision: a costly modern AF camera-macro lens that you'll use for other stuff, or a much cheaper mostly-macro solution? As it turns out, even used manual (non-AF) camera-macro lenses ain't cheap (unless you get lucky). I prefer cheap enlarger lenses on extension (bellows and/or tubes). But I'm a cheap bastard.

Some basics of macro shooting:

* Shorter lenses let you work close; this is great for studio shooting.
* Longer lenses allow (or force) you to work further; good for field work.
* Non-macro lenses can be reversed for flatfield sharpness and close work.
* No non-reversed single lens can focus closer than its focal length.
* Magnification results from 1) supplemental optics, or 2) extension.
* Supplemental optics and extension cost much less than macro lenses.
* If you use flash, you're best with an A-type or AF camera-macro lens.

Fleshing-out those basics: 28-35-50-75mm lenses, or any reversed prime lenses, are best for close (studio) work, within 2-4in of a subject. 90-100-110mm lenses are better for much field work, about 4-6in away. 150-200-300mm put you 6-15in away but their length can get clumsy. The cheapest way to explore macro is buy an old A-type teleconverter, remove the glass, and use it as an extension tube on your kit lens. And the easiest way to do pretty good macro work is with a Raynox DCR-150 or -250 close-up adapter.

There is much much more. Stay tuned.

Last edited by RioRico; 06-18-2011 at 01:28 PM.
06-18-2011, 12:56 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info, that has cleared up some confusion. I think I could also buy second hand Pentax high quality manual Macro lenses? Would most of these be a direct fit or would you need an adapter for older Pentax lenses?

EDIT: I didnt see RioRicos post until after i replied. Thanks for the information it has cleared things up much more now, basically ill probably have a go at getting an older manual prime macro lens (:
Ill be checking ebay out a lot haha. I have heard people say that a 90mm is a good balance between magnification and distance.
Hmm the possibilities are endless with an DSLR it seems

Last edited by monotok; 06-18-2011 at 01:03 PM. Reason: More info
06-18-2011, 12:57 PM   #5
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this is what you get for doing macro.

06-18-2011, 01:03 PM   #6
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Older Pentax lenses, provided the are K or KA fit (i.e bayonet fit) need no adapter at all and will fit no problem.

However, if the lens is a M42 lens (i.e. screw fit) then you do need an adapter to fit to your KR camera, in fact any Pentax dslr. Many of us use these lens quite successfully.

If purchasing older lenses be very sure you are aware of which fitting the lens is.
06-18-2011, 01:06 PM   #7
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I would love to get an image like that! I think ill be looking at ebay tonight XD
06-18-2011, 01:56 PM   #8
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* Using flash is tricky with manual-focus non-A-type lenses, and reversed lenses, and lenses on cheap (non-A-type) extension. Flash is much easier with A-type or AF camera-macro lenses, either directly on the camera, or mounted on A-type extension. Flash is also easy using supplemental optics such as a Raynox-type closeup adapter.

* Non-flash macro work generally requires a tripod. A good STURDY tripod. Studio work often demands fairly well-controlled lighting, like with a light box/tent, mini-studio, etc. Critical studio work may be helped with focusing rails and all sorts of gear. But don't worry about those now.

* Not all subjects require edge-to-edge flatfield sharpness. Flat subjects like postage stamps etc do need that but they can be grabbed with a flatbed scanner instead. With many 3D objects, you want the subject sharp and centered, and you don't care too much about the edges. The kit.lens on A-type extension, or with a Raynox-type adapter, works just fine then, and costs much less than a 'dedicated' camera-macro lens.

* Cheap non-DA zooms can do wonders when reversed. (DA's don't have aperture rings, which are pretty necessary when shooting macro.) I have an A35-80, arguably one of the worst lenses Pentax ever sold. But when I put it on a cheap mount-reversal ring on my K20D, something amazing happens: it gets sharp! At 35mm it reaches ~2:1 magnification at ~4cm working distance; at 80mm it reaches ~1:2 magnification at ~15cm distance, or it can focus past infinity. Mount-reversal is non-A-type so it's not for easy flash use, but it sure is cheap!

I'll probably think of more stuff. Keep asking questions!

06-18-2011, 01:58 PM   #9
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Feel free to check out my flickr link below for examples taken with reversed primes. Also feel free to ask anymore questions, there's a wealth of knowledgeable people here who want to help
06-19-2011, 05:35 PM   #10
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Must say a very welcoming and helpful forum!
Thinking I may bid on this however the maximum f4 is concerning, although the price currently is nice!
SMC Pentax-K 50mm f/4 Macro Prime Lens near MINT Rare! | eBay UK
What you think and what kind of price would be right?
06-19-2011, 05:52 PM   #11
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The biggest bang for the beginner's kit is probably adding the DA L 55-300mm zoom and the $55 Raynox DCR 150 for a total of about $300USD.

This combination allows about the maximum range of hand-held photography possible; from the smallest critter or flower that can be reasonably photographed hand-held to the smallest bird at the largest distance that can be photographed hand-held.

Close-ups using the Raynox 150 on the 55-300 are at least 8" from the subject and auto flash and focus work flawlessly & image quality is superb.

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