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Bargain Basement Macro
Lens: SuperTak 135 or 55 Camera: K5 
Posted By: MSL, 05-12-2012, 10:13 PM

I've debated whether to post some of these photos or not. There are some superb macro shots on the forums from eaglem, charliezap, bluestringer, rense, grzehoofr (wow! check his images out), and many many others (sorry for those not mentioned explicitly). I can't begin to compete with what they can do, and I suspect I'm not the only one who feels a bit overwhelmed.

But at the same time, I'm pretty pleased with what can be accomplished using a dirt cheap setup (neglecting the cost of the K5 of course). All these photos were shot using either a Super Takumar 135/3.5 or 55/2 lens, stuck on some random length of extension tubes. I have two sets of tubes - a cheap K-mount version and a nice vivitar m42 set. I stick an m42-K adapter into the K-mount tubes so that I can switch between macro and non-macro quickly, and so I can hook the two sets together. With the double set I have about 128 mm of extension so I can get a bit better than 1:1 on the 135mm lens. That lens is a lot easier to use than the 55, where you need to get a lot closer to the subject. Price for each lens was $30 or less including shipping, and I got both sets of tubes $30 shipped. Where flash was used it was the built-in flash, occasionally diffused using a handkerchief. Apertures run around f8-f11 for the 135, and usually closer to f16 for the 55. But I typically twist the dial to see what works, especially when flash is used. Depending on the background and metering modes, I've also found you sometimes need to overexpose the image as the metering isn't quite right.

I tried to minimize the post processing. Usually just a bit of contrast and brightness tweaking, and a little sharpening after the resizing. I only cropped in a couple of cases where I felt it helped the composition.

Feedback on any of the shots welcome.

First couple showing different lengths of extension:






This next one was taken using the double set of tubes - the aphid can't be more than about 1-2 mm long or so they seem

















Last edited by MSL; 06-28-2012 at 06:57 AM.
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05-12-2012, 10:37 PM   #2
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WANTED: Cheap Macro for Sale. I really like 1,2, 5 and 7, they are very close to spot on I would say and the rest are off just a little bit it seems to me. I think this is a great overall set and a pleasure to view your efforts. Bob
05-13-2012, 04:56 AM   #3
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Actually not to bad Marc. I like the 5th shot best.Looking forward to seeing more with that setup.--charliezap
05-13-2012, 05:02 AM   #4
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Great effort!

I love the yellow flower - don't know what species it is - and the hoverfly!
You should try to shoot the little critters in the face, that makes - at least for me - better compositions....

Would love to see more!

05-13-2012, 05:38 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rense Quote
Great effort!

I love the yellow flower - don't know what species it is - and the hoverfly!
You should try to shoot the little critters in the face, that makes - at least for me - better compositions....

Would love to see more!
QuoteOriginally posted by charliezap Quote
Actually not to bad Marc. I like the 5th shot best.Looking forward to seeing more with that setup.--charliezap
Thanks guys. I have a few shots of the flies face on and (backside on too) but rarely do I get the entire bug in focus. This shot was fun to take in that the fly didn't move for ages, and it gave me time to take a lot of wrong shots until I got to this one.

Rense - not sure about the flower and when I checked yesterday it was already gone.
05-13-2012, 05:43 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob Harris Quote
WANTED: Cheap Macro for Sale. I really like 1,2, 5 and 7, they are very close to spot on I would say and the rest are off just a little bit it seems to me. I think this is a great overall set and a pleasure to view your efforts. Bob
I agree that many of them are just a tad from being sharp throughout. The butterfly was a pain to shoot - we have lots of them around at the moment, but they don't sit still for long and if you cast a shadow over them as you move, they take off.

Thanks Bob. I'm glad you like #7. It is more an artistic shot. I have a few more like that which I need to process and I hope you'll like them too.

Part of my reason for posting this was to encourage others to give macro a try even if they don't have a dedicated macro lens or a flash. It can be tricky to get the settings right, and the biggest frustration is that you are very limited in your range of distance from the subject, but it can also be fun. It also gives me the chance to take photos of nearby objects as I don't have the opportunity to go scenery shooting, for example.
05-13-2012, 05:46 AM   #7
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You have shown great skills and ingenuity with that set up - well done.
05-13-2012, 06:45 AM   #8
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Thanks for the plug MSL. I think these are excellent. Really like number two. I've tried tubes and could not get decent shots with them, you have done well. The only way I started getting anything decent was with my 100 macro lens and a ring flash. I've tried shooting with available light and just can't a good sharp image without the flash. Well done.

05-13-2012, 06:48 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by bluestringer Quote
Thanks for the plug MSL. I think these are excellent. Really like number two. I've tried tubes and could not get decent shots with them, you have done well. The only way I started getting anything decent was with my 100 macro lens and a ring flash. I've tried shooting with available light and just can't a good sharp image without the flash. Well done.
I resisted using flash, but found it helpful in a lot of situations. I find I often need to iterate to get the right aperture for a given shot. The other big factor is the nature of the object being photographed - is it reflective or is there a reflective background behind it. If so, I generally need to diffuse the flash. But for the first two photos, since I was shooting into a lot of empty space, I was able to use the onboard flash as is.

Thanks for stopping by and for the feedback.
05-13-2012, 06:50 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by daacon Quote
You have shown great skills and ingenuity with that set up - well done.
Thanks Dave. Not all of us can shoot mountains and creeks all the time, so I've tried to what I can. My biggest limitation is finding time and topics to shoot, and so shooting macro give lets me explore my local "playground" and still find new things to photograph. Also, at this time of year, things change so fast - the same flower or bud can be quite different from day to day.
05-16-2012, 06:11 AM   #11
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Thanks for posting Marc! I've just begun stalking the tiny critters in my yard too. If only they would stay put for 10 minutes while I try 100 different things :-) Your pics look great... I really like the little bee.
05-16-2012, 06:35 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by HockeyDad Quote
Thanks for posting Marc! I've just begun stalking the tiny critters in my yard too. If only they would stay put for 10 minutes while I try 100 different things :-) Your pics look great... I really like the little bee.
Thanks for stopping by. I agree that chasing critters can be frustrating. I sometimes find it much more effective to stand still and wait for them to land somewhere nearby, and then move slowly into shooting position. The bee was fun because it stayed put for so long that I was able to fine tune my camera settings (I may have even changed lenses).

I had a lot of fun shooting the neighbors tulips and blossoms, and aside from issues with wind, it was easier to learn more about the macro process than from chasing bugs. My first attempts (and second and third) at shooting ants proved to be an exercise in futility.
05-16-2012, 07:09 AM   #13
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"... I suspect I'm not the only one who feels a bit overwhelmed..."

Me too, Marc! The masters of macro on this forum leave me in awe, but macro is fun to explore, and I'm glad you posted these. I enjoyed your series, especially the painted admiral butterfly, the hoverfly, and the yellow flower (don't know what it is).
05-16-2012, 07:31 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tamia Quote
Me too, Marc! The masters of macro on this forum leave me in awe, but macro is fun to explore, and I'm glad you posted these. I enjoyed your series, especially the painted admiral butterfly, the hoverfly, and the yellow flower (don't know what it is).
Thanks for stopping by. I admire a lot of your photos, so I'm pleased to have your feedback. I have to say my views on the master macro shots is mixed. I have an appreciation of the technical achievement of both the photography and of getting the bug in the right place and having it hold still, but I'm finding that a lot of these shots have a sameness or sterility to them, due to the intense lighting conditions. So I guess my own goal isn't to capture all the details, but to bring a new eye to ordinary objects.
05-16-2012, 07:49 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by MSL Quote
...I have an appreciation of the technical achievement of both the photography and of getting the bug in the right place and having it hold still, but I'm finding that a lot of these shots have a sameness or sterility to them, due to the intense lighting conditions. So I guess my own goal isn't to capture all the details, but to bring a new eye to ordinary objects.
Agreed. I enjoy trying to capture the abstract beauty of the small world, as well as some of its mysteries. It's not to everyone's taste, of course.
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