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07-05-2010, 07:19 AM   #1
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Macro Q&A

So, I've been itching to get into Macro end of things. So far what I've soaked up is the general majority of Macro lenses are setting at an f stop of f2.8 and there is basically 3 major sizes giver or take a few mm's.

50mm, 70mm and 100mm. From what I understand, as long as its 1:1 your getting your ideal focus but the focal length is how far away you can be from your subject (like insects). Am I understanding that right?

I'm looking at some of the modern ones, sitting at the $550-$799 range of price. Which they probably produce some amazing shots, I know that having got a Pentax, I can use manual lenses as well. (Love it).

So I'm considering getting an old, heavy manual macro lens to play with for far cheaper until I can save up for the good stuff. Normally I'm a specs junkie, but this is a new territory for me and I get lost pretty quick with some of the details in these lenses. So I was hoping for a bit of help in terms of hunting out an older but still respectable macro lens to work with.

I suppose it wouldn't hurt to hunt down a few nice manual wide angles or telephoto's as well to 'test the waters' since some of my lenses in my old 35mm setup (K mount) are contaminated (?). They have a bit of fog and the filters are a bit tarnished.

Apologies if this isn't well researched enough but, my head just hurts after looking at too many numbers. I've been digging quite a while but...big body of water to play in when it comes to picking out a lens.

07-05-2010, 07:39 AM   #2
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So why not just get the Tamron 90 f2.8? I think you will find ample evidence here that it has superlative qualities and is certainly in the lower sector of your price range. I personally would not mutz with fogged lenses.
07-05-2010, 07:58 AM   #3
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The Super-Takumar 50 1:4 Macro (and note that's 1:4, not 1:1.4) goes for a bit above a hundred bucks these days. More like $125, but you might get lucky, but then again, Tak prices are going nuts these days.

You'll need the M42 to K adapter, but that's one hell of a classic macro lens for the money.

If I didn't have the Tammy 90, I would go for one--but I just don't need it.

Besides, I hate disgusting little bugs.
07-05-2010, 08:06 AM   #4
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Thanks for that, learning so much so fast.

Love it!


Last edited by taxihamster; 07-05-2010 at 08:29 AM.
07-05-2010, 08:34 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by taxihamster Quote
Thanks for that.

So, what is the deal with the 1:1, 1:4 and the like.
It's 1:1 macro, having to do with magnification--but the maximum aperture on the one I'm talking about is F4--not F1.4.

This really isn't a negative because for macro, you want reasonable depth of field. So even on my Tammy, I never really shoot it wide open.

The other thing is, unless you plan on photographing an ant's testicles, there's a ton of macro-type stuff you can do without a macro lens. Through creative cropping and such and shooting at maximum resolution/best quality, there are tons of shots on this site that look macro but weren't shot with a macro lens.

This shot below is far from one of my favorites, but I shot it with a regular 85:

07-05-2010, 08:41 AM   #6
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Well I'll be. I think I just need to get out there and really start experimenting with how far I can push macro 'style' pictures without the macro lens.

Very inspiring. Thank you.
07-05-2010, 09:16 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by taxihamster Quote
So, I've been itching to get into Macro end of things. So far what I've soaked up is the general majority of Macro lenses are setting at an f stop of f2.8
Just to clarify: f/2.8 (or whatever is quoted on the lens) is the *maximum* aperture of the lens. But you'd almost never shoot at the maximum, as the DOF would be tiny (occasionally that might be the effect you want, of course). most macro photography is done stopped down to *at least* f/8, and often more.

QuoteQuote:
there is basically 3 major sizes giver or take a few mm's.
50mm, 70mm and 100mm.
Don't forget the DA35! There are also longer macro lenses (in the 150mm - 200mm range), but not that I know of in current production for Pentax.

BTW, do also check out the Raynox Club thread in the Lens forum for examples of what an ordinary (not macro) telephoto lens can do with a $40 attachment. And since you mention shooting with manual lenses, also research extension tubes and reversing rings to see other inexpensive ways to get great results while saving for a "real" macro lens.
07-06-2010, 04:46 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Just to clarify: f/2.8 (or whatever is quoted on the lens) is the *maximum* aperture of the lens. But you'd almost never shoot at the maximum, as the DOF would be tiny (occasionally that might be the effect you want, of course). most macro photography is done stopped down to *at least* f/8.....
That's as may-be, but the benefit of a fast lens is the ability to focus more easily wide-open. So much light is lost at 1:1 that a F/4 lens is quite difficult to use in the field, hand-held. F/4 macro lenses have their place but are more suitable for use on a tripod. Just my 0.02P YMMV

07-19-2010, 12:45 AM   #9
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Macro basics

Some tools for shooting itsy bitsy stuff include: dedicated macro lenses; ordinary or special lenses mounted on extensions (tubes or bellows); a couple of lens reversal schemes; and putting a magnifier in front of an ordinary lens.

Macro and extended lenses: The shorter the focal length, the closer the working distance; and the longer the FL, the further back you can go. Shooting macro with 28-35-50-58mm lenses means working close, better for studio work. Lenses in the 85-105-135mm range give a bit more elbow room, better for field work. I used to fit a 400mm lens onto extension tubes and bellows, and a shoulder-stock mount, so I could shoot closeups of rattlesnakes from a safe distance.

Dedicated macro lenses: Often have superior, crisp optics. Note that many 'macro' lenses, especially macro zooms, aren't REALLY macro, with magnification nowhere approaching 1:1. Real macro lenses, especially popular glass in the 50-75-105mm range, do quite well as portrait and short-tele lenses too. Newer macro lenses have autofocus and aperture automation, which are great for general work BUT NOT NECESSARY FOR MACROS NOR EVEN PORTRAITS, best done manually. I use two M42 manual lenses, a Macro Takumar 50/4 (US$55, I got lucky) and a Vivitar 90/2.8 (almost Series 1 quality, US$3, I got *real* lucky). A fast lens is good for general and portrait work, but macro shooting is best done stopped-down; macros are rarely shot at f/1.4, eh?

Great macro work can be done with cheap glass. The user must decide whether they want to pay a lot of money for a fully-automated general-purpose lens that focuses close, or very little money for a lens primarily for macro work.

Extended and reversed lenses: Tubes and bellows are cheap and popular, and can mount standard primes and special glass like cheap enlarger-projector lenses. The superb Russian apochromatic Industar 50/3.5 lens (US$25) mounted on tubes (US$8) or bellows (US$50) is popular, but almost any extended lens can give good results. Many primes perform better when reverse-mounted on the extensions. Reversed glass can be FROM ANY LENSMAKER, since you're not using the (proprietary) lens mount, just the front threads. That's one way to recycle excess off-brand lenses, eh? Don't throw away those Konika and Argus lenses!! And just about any optical material can be fitted to a bellows for odd effects.

Stacked-reversed primes: For great magnification, stack (reverse-mount) one lens onto another. Magnification is the focal length of the primary (mounted on the camera) divided by the focal length of the reversed secondary. A 105mm primary with a 35mm secondary gives 105/35 = 3:1 magnification. The secondary can be from any lensmaker but MUST have an aperture ring. Focus with the primary; set aperture with the secondary. Working distance is the register of the secondary, often around 45mm, but using a large- or medium-format lens as the secondary gives you more working room. Old folding cameras can be cannibalized profitably.

Screw-on magnifier: The basis for the reverse-stack method. A simple diopter lens screwed onto a prime or zoom gives some magnification, is cheap and easy, but isn't the cleanest optically, not corrected for aberrations. Diopters often come in sets of +1, +2, +3 or 4, and can be stacked, but stacking degrades the image more. Better (and still fairly cheap) are complex, corrected magnifiers like the popular Raynox DCR-150 and -250. Most macro work is best done with primes, but magnifiers can be attached to zooms also for convenient use.

Serious macro work requires a tripod, lights, and patience and perseverance. Have fun!
07-19-2010, 12:57 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Some tools for shooting itsy bitsy stuff include: dedicated macro lenses; ordinary or special lenses mounted on extensions (tubes or bellows); a couple of lens reversal schemes; and putting a magnifier in front of an ordinary lens.

Macro and extended lenses: The shorter the focal length, the closer the working distance; and the longer the FL, the further back you can go. Shooting macro with 28-35-50-58mm lenses means working close, better for studio work. Lenses in the 85-105-135mm range give a bit more elbow room, better for field work. I used to fit a 400mm lens onto extension tubes and bellows, and a shoulder-stock mount, so I could shoot closeups of rattlesnakes from a safe distance.

Dedicated macro lenses: Often have superior, crisp optics. Note that many 'macro' lenses, especially macro zooms, aren't REALLY macro, with magnification nowhere approaching 1:1. Real macro lenses, especially popular glass in the 50-75-105mm range, do quite well as portrait and short-tele lenses too. Newer macro lenses have autofocus and aperture automation, which are great for general work BUT NOT NECESSARY FOR MACROS NOR EVEN PORTRAITS, best done manually. I use two M42 manual lenses, a Macro Takumar 50/4 (US$55, I got lucky) and a Vivitar 90/2.8 (almost Series 1 quality, US$3, I got *real* lucky). A fast lens is good for general and portrait work, but macro shooting is best done stopped-down; macros are rarely shot at f/1.4, eh?

Great macro work can be done with cheap glass. The user must decide whether they want to pay a lot of money for a fully-automated general-purpose lens that focuses close, or very little money for a lens primarily for macro work.

Extended and reversed lenses: Tubes and bellows are cheap and popular, and can mount standard primes and special glass like cheap enlarger-projector lenses. The superb Russian apochromatic Industar 50/3.5 lens (US$25) mounted on tubes (US$8) or bellows (US$50) is popular, but almost any extended lens can give good results. Many primes perform better when reverse-mounted on the extensions. Reversed glass can be FROM ANY LENSMAKER, since you're not using the (proprietary) lens mount, just the front threads. That's one way to recycle excess off-brand lenses, eh? Don't throw away those Konika and Argus lenses!! And just about any optical material can be fitted to a bellows for odd effects.

Stacked-reversed primes: For great magnification, stack (reverse-mount) one lens onto another. Magnification is the focal length of the primary (mounted on the camera) divided by the focal length of the reversed secondary. A 105mm primary with a 35mm secondary gives 105/35 = 3:1 magnification. The secondary can be from any lensmaker but MUST have an aperture ring. Focus with the primary; set aperture with the secondary. Working distance is the register of the secondary, often around 45mm, but using a large- or medium-format lens as the secondary gives you more working room. Old folding cameras can be cannibalized profitably.

Screw-on magnifier: The basis for the reverse-stack method. A simple diopter lens screwed onto a prime or zoom gives some magnification, is cheap and easy, but isn't the cleanest optically, not corrected for aberrations. Diopters often come in sets of +1, +2, +3 or 4, and can be stacked, but stacking degrades the image more. Better (and still fairly cheap) are complex, corrected magnifiers like the popular Raynox DCR-150 and -250. Most macro work is best done with primes, but magnifiers can be attached to zooms also for convenient use.

Serious macro work requires a tripod, lights, and patience and perseverance. Have fun!
IMO, and from experience, if you close down the aperture on the secondary, or reversed lens this will lead to vignetting. Better to leave the secondary lens wide-open and select aperture with the primary. This is altogether a simpler way to work and uses the secondary lens as a corrected diopter lens. I dont expect you to just take my word on this, its straightforward to check this for yourself.
07-19-2010, 01:10 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by keithlester Quote
IMO, and from experience, if you close down the aperture on the secondary, or reversed lens this will lead to vignetting. Better to leave the secondary lens wide-open and select aperture with the primary. This is altogether a simpler way to work and uses the secondary lens as a corrected diopter lens. I dont expect you to just take my word on this, its straightforward to check this for yourself.
When I close down my primary, I get vignetting. I generally use a Hanimar 135/3.5 or Meyer Trioplan 100/2.8 (both long lenses, not teles) as the primary, and a Tak 28/2.8 or 35/3.5 or 55/2 as the secondary. I don't know if different lenses of other optical formulae behave differently. But as you say, the proof is in the doing.
07-19-2010, 01:29 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
When I close down my primary, I get vignetting. I generally use a Hanimar 135/3.5 or Meyer Trioplan 100/2.8 (both long lenses, not teles) as the primary, and a Tak 28/2.8 or 35/3.5 or 55/2 as the secondary. I don't know if different lenses of other optical formulae behave differently. But as you say, the proof is in the doing.
I suspect that may be the case. I have done this many years ago with a 55mm helios reversed onto a 200mm simple lens and that was problematical, but in recent years I have reversed a 35mm retrofocus onto a 100mm telephoto and that is the experience I am referring to. I tried to get even more magnification by using the 100mm with my 24mm F/2.8 retrofocus lens and got vignetting even with the secondary wide open. So not all lens combinations will work. The answer is, as always, try it and see.
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