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08-11-2009, 05:14 AM   #1
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What's a good, cheap macro lens?

I started a similar thread when I was looking for a cheap 135 and was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the responses. I'd like to find a macro lens with 1:1 ability under a $100 usd, working distance of 50-90mm is ideal. If I expand the budget slightly I know I could get the Sigma af 50mm F2.8 used. Any ideas?

Last edited by joeyc; 08-11-2009 at 09:05 AM.
08-11-2009, 05:26 AM   #2
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if $$ are a consideration... i've got a pentax fa smc 100mm f3.5 which is only 1:2.... but i added a 1:1 adapter from wolfe camera for less than 25 bucks..... also the cosina/vivitar/promaster 100mm f3.5 version... which comes with the 1:1 adapter... all get pretty darn good reviews...
08-11-2009, 05:53 AM   #3
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If you're looking for a manual focus one, you should find the Pentax 50mm versions relatively cheap but excellent quality. AF, you'll need to invest a little more - but well worth it.
08-11-2009, 05:55 AM   #4
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If you already have an appropriate lens with a manual aperture then you should be able to get a set of manual extension tubes for under $50. You may even be able to get something like an M50mm f/2 plus tubes for $50 or less.

A decent set of bellows should also be doable in the $50 to $100 range (I paid about 80 for bellows with a dedicated 100mm bellows lens, but that set up is only usable for macro and inconvenient for outdoor use). Depending on the lens you use it is possible to get 2:1 or higer magnification.

It should also be possible to find a thread mount 50mm or 100mm Macro Takumar (most of them are 1:2 without extension tubes) for under $100 and an M42 to K adaptor is another $25 or so. M42 extension tubes should be in the $10 to $35 range used, and this setup would be pretty flexible.

I'd guess that a 49mm to K-mount reversing ring would be about $25 and the working distance and magnification would depend on the used manual aperture lens with a 49mm filter thread you buy to go with it. This is another setup that is a bit inconvenient to use but can give good results.

08-11-2009, 06:04 AM   #5
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If you have a 50 mm lens, a reversing ring will get you to 1:1. Hard to focus, a focusing rail could be useful, but it does work.

If you have a 28 mm lens, magnification gets to around 2:1, actually double the enlargment of 1:1! It's really hard to use a lens this way, but the results are very impressive.

Older macro lenses from Pentax are usually 1:2, more recent (AF) lenses will fetch a great price. There's a fellow in Edmonton selling FA 50 macros that he got at a police auction for 150$, I got one from him and love it. He's on Kijiji. I'm not linked to him, I just got a nice lens from the guy.
08-11-2009, 07:33 AM   #6
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The cheapest I've seen recently was a Sigma 50mm 1:1 MF lens going for $99 obo on eBay.

The cheapest I've gotten recently was a Yashinon/Tomioka 60mm 1:1 for $20 at an estate sale. 8-)

Last edited by deadwolfbones; 11-03-2009 at 12:15 AM.
08-11-2009, 07:45 AM   #7
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Look for a Pentax Macro-Takumar 50mm f4 1:1 it is a screw type lens and therefore needs a $15 mount adapter.

This is a superb lens, the only early 1:1 macro by Pentax.

Note there are two aperture rings on the end of the lens.
There's one on eBay now at $85: Asahi Macro Takumar 50mm f/4 Lens M42 for Pentax NR - eBay (item 190326260915 end time Aug-13-09 16:41:12 PDT)

If the ad says anything about SMC or multicoating it is not the right lens. Maybe you can find one for less, but not much less.

Dave in Iowa usually
08-11-2009, 09:31 AM   #8
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If you did get that 135, then a Raynox 150 stuck to the front of that would give it close enough focusing ability to make it 1:1 for under $50.

08-11-2009, 10:19 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
If you did get that 135, then a Raynox 150 stuck to the front of that would give it close enough focusing ability to make it 1:1 for under $50.
I don't own the Raynox, but from what I have seen on this site, it is a great option for macro on the cheap.

In regards to the other options:
  • I want to second the extension tube option. Light and compact, they are much easier to use than bellows.
  • Reversing adapter is probably the least expensive route, though as noted above, focusing is difficult without a tripod and focus rail.
  • You can do real high quality work with a bellows, but they are cumbersome to use.
  • Auto-focus works great as you get down to about 1:3, but does not work very well as you approach 1:1...hunt, hunt, hunt...There is also the issue of just what the AF locks on. My experience has been that with AF and bugs, I tend to get an in-focus thorax and OOF head.

08-11-2009, 12:27 PM   #10
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The advantages the Raynox has over reversing rings, extension tubes and bellows is that it allows auto operation and has much nicer working distances. The IQ penalty is slight to non-existant.
08-11-2009, 01:44 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by deadwolfbones Quote
The cheapest I've seen recently was a Sigma 50mm 1:1 MF lens going for $99 obo on eBay.

The cheapest I've gotten recently was a Yashinon/Tomioka 60mm 1:1 for $20 at an estate sale.
I got the Sigma 50mm 1:1 MF through the marketplace here, and it's by far my favorite lens, great IQ but needs lots of light when shooting 1:1. (LOTS!)
I am tempted to buy the Raynox (DCR-250) just to see what magnification beyond 1:1 is like...
08-11-2009, 02:40 PM   #12
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First of all, I do apologize for not responding to each individually. As I am typing on the iPhone on the train, on the way home, it's not the easiest. Lots of great info. I should have clarified my use. Lately, I have taken on some jobs at some vineyards. While my 24-70 macro gets me close, if I want to single out a grape, I can't get close enough. I will be using a tripod.

The Raynox is a great suggestion. I have never use one, but have always seen great examples. Probably not too interested in bellows or reversing ring.

Manual focus is OK, as I prefer mf when working close.

Thanks to all that responded. When I get home, I will look at the responses more closely.

08-11-2009, 04:23 PM   #13
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If it is just individual grapes then Raynox DCR-150 or the Raynox DCR-250 should do fine.
I took a picture of our grape on our yard sometime ago with the DA 18-55mm AL II with an attached Raynox DCR-250 and it singled out a particular grape.
I think I deleted the photo as I was just trying it with the kit lens to see if it would work.
I wish I had saved the image as I can post it here for you to see.
You must have a tripod though as DOF was pretty narrow and if you close-up the aperture opening (to widen DOF), then the speed goes down also needing more of a steady shot.
Don't forget to turn-off the SR when using the tripod.
08-11-2009, 05:08 PM   #14
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I am a Raynox DCR 150 user and proponent.

It is a handy adjunct to your kit and will do high quality images if you don'tcare about the edges.

IQ is good within a circlular area in the frame's center. This is most often not a problem as items photographed will be in the frame center, but it will fail on an image that requires edge-to-edge sharpness. It is not a complete replacement for a good macro lens.

However it is pretty useful; I am now on a two-week vacation - I brought my Raynox but not a real macro lens.
08-11-2009, 06:12 PM   #15
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Here are a few extension tube examples. I used an SMC-M 50mm f1.4 in these photos.

These were shot with the Sigma 35 - 70mm lens that I got with the extension tubes.


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