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08-28-2010, 05:46 AM   #1
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K-x 18-55mm kit lens macro ability

My Samsung Digimax V3, that I've used since January 2004 proudly displays that it can take a macro from 6 cm, right on the camera body via a sticker. I've always been impressed with its macro ability (2 macro settings, Macro and Super Macro). However, I've been unable to find a specification telling me how close I can get a macro with the 18-55mm kit lens with my new K-x. I'm more than curious. It's got me wondering which camera to reach for.


Last edited by Muse; 08-28-2010 at 06:06 AM.
08-28-2010, 05:56 AM   #2
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according to the Pentax website and confirmed by personal experience you can get as close as 25cm from the sensor with the kit lens, which gets you up to 1:3 magnification
08-28-2010, 10:27 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Muse Quote
My Samsung Digimax V3, that I've used since January 2004 proudly displays that it can take a macro from 6 cm, right on the camera body via a sticker. I've always been impressed with its macro ability (2 macro settings, Macro and Super Macro). However, I've been unable to find a specification telling me how close I can get a macro with the 18-55mm kit lens with my new K-x. I'm more than curious. It's got me wondering which camera to reach for.
The kit lenses are pretty decent macro lenses, as long as you can manage the DOF and have good light.

One shot with the 18-55mm:


IMGP0017 por hcarvalhoalves, no Flickr

This is a mini-rose, the size of a thumb. I shot at about 10cm from the subject. So I can confirm they work reasonable well as macro lenses at that distance. Closer than that it won't focus anymore.
08-28-2010, 10:52 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by hcarvalhoalves Quote
The kit lenses are pretty decent macro lenses, as long as you can manage the DOF and have good light.

One shot with the 18-55mm:


IMGP0017 por hcarvalhoalves, no Flickr

This is a mini-rose, the size of a thumb. I shot at about 10cm from the subject. So I can confirm they work reasonable well as macro lenses at that distance. Closer than that it won't focus anymore.
10cm, on a 25cm minimum focus distance lens? How much is cropped from the full photo? It's a nice shot but it isn't macro..

This is a full framed (not cropped) macro shot from a Pentax A 50mm f2.8 macro lens, a 1:2 ratio lens. Yes, I know it's full of dust specs.





08-29-2010, 12:03 AM   #5
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i'm curious about taking macro with kit lens too. Unlike my previous prosumer camera which i could go very near, i have to stay at the minimum focus distance with k-x.

How do you actually take macro with k-x + kit lens? What i did was to focus on the subject first and zoom in, is this wrong?
08-29-2010, 12:24 AM   #6
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Sounds like you lot are having the same issue I did when I switched from P&S to DSLR. You need to think different. Took me forever to get it.

You don't NEED to get close, you use your zoom to do that, and zoom it to the size you would get/want with your other camera, and sometime later, you buy a macro lens: but you still dont get that close.. The optics are different in the dslr lenses than in a point and shoot.
08-29-2010, 12:26 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Xlusionist Quote
i'm curious about taking macro with kit lens too. Unlike my previous prosumer camera which i could go very near, i have to stay at the minimum focus distance with k-x.

How do you actually take macro with k-x + kit lens? What i did was to focus on the subject first and zoom in, is this wrong?
No, thats pretty right. And maybe until you really get the hang of it, use the macro setting on the dial, so you get the light, aperture etc all correct. Then when you look at it and decide that something isnt right (aperture not large enough, too much light, whatever) you can check the EXIF data and make changes, manually, and go do it again.
08-29-2010, 02:48 AM   #8
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I think at 55mm it gets close enough for general use:


(spike ~1cm in diameter)


(flower ~1.5cm at it's widest)

Both images somewhere around F8, at f5.6 (wide open) kit lens gets somewhat "dreamy" when at its closest distance and 55mm.

If that doesn't cut it you can always reverse mount some old, cheap 55/1.8 or buy nice macro filters (+diopter lenses).

08-29-2010, 09:19 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JeffJS Quote
10cm, on a 25cm minimum focus distance lens? How much is cropped from the full photo? It's a nice shot but it isn't macro..

This is a full framed (not cropped) macro shot from a Pentax A 50mm f2.8 macro lens, a 1:2 ratio lens. Yes, I know it's full of dust specs.



The picture is not cropped. You can check the EXIF.

To confirm the information, I took this one now:


IMGP0082 por hcarvalhoalves, no Flickr

Went up to 55mm and got the closest possible with a mini-tripod before the focus indicator started complaining, and measured with a ruler. From the *lenses* to the keyboard, it was 11cm. So it's about what I said: you are able to focus with the kit lenses on 55mm at around 10cm, which gives you some decent macro ability. Of course, if you shoot a lot macros you're better off with dedicated 1:2 or 1:1 lenses. The idea of the kit lenses is giving enough flexibility to play with the camera out of the box, not being good at everything, so there are obvious compromises.
08-29-2010, 12:36 PM   #10
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I don't trust my kit lens. I would never use it for taking macro pics. Any old heavy macro lens will put you in a totally different league. I have one that isn't suitable for the field, but at home when I need macro shots it's the one I use.
08-29-2010, 02:10 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by hcarvalhoalves Quote
The picture is not cropped. You can check the EXIF.

To confirm the information, I took this one now:


IMGP0082 por hcarvalhoalves, no Flickr

Went up to 55mm and got the closest possible with a mini-tripod before the focus indicator started complaining, and measured with a ruler. From the *lenses* to the keyboard, it was 11cm. So it's about what I said: you are able to focus with the kit lenses on 55mm at around 10cm, which gives you some decent macro ability. Of course, if you shoot a lot macros you're better off with dedicated 1:2 or 1:1 lenses. The idea of the kit lenses is giving enough flexibility to play with the camera out of the box, not being good at everything, so there are obvious compromises.
afaik focusing distance is measured from the sensor. 25cm sounds pretty reliable to me.
08-29-2010, 02:48 PM   #12
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Muse, focussing distance won't tell you what kind of magnification you're getting. The D FA 100mm macro lens has a focus distance of about 8" for 1:1 macro. The kit lens is pretty good for flower heads at 1:3 macro, not so good for insects. The K-x has a lot more pixels than your Samsung, so you can crop in to 3mp and still get a pretty decent photo. If you need to get closer, add a Raynox 250, or extension tubes, or buy a true macro lens.

Last edited by audiobomber; 08-29-2010 at 06:36 PM.
08-29-2010, 02:57 PM   #13
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For what its worth, the kit lens close focuses but does not do macro.

Just about everyone agrees that macro constitutes 1:2 minimum.

08-29-2010, 03:23 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablom Quote
afaik focusing distance is measured from the sensor. 25cm sounds pretty reliable to me.
Working / focusing distance is measured from the lens objective (front), not from the sensor. And minimum focusing distance for ANY non-reversed lens is its focal length. If I put a 50mm lens on 250mm extension, the focusing distance is NOT 250-300mm, but a minimum of 50mm.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The OP's question was, how to shoot macro with the 18-55. Several ways exist.

* Cheap/fast/dirty: Use +diopter lenses that screw into the lens' front threads. These typically come in sets of +1 and +2, and +3 or +4. A set of 52mm-diameter diopters to fit the 18-55 can usually be found on eBay for well under US$20. These are easy to use and don't consume light; but their magnification is limited, and they distort, especially towards the edges. These are the cheap way to get a taste of close work.
NOTE: 'Macro' is usually defined by magnification, where 1:1 means the image on the sensor is the same size as the actual subject. 1:2 is half-size, 2:1 is double-size, etc. Usually, anything less magnified than 1:2 is considered close, not macro.
* Costlier, cleaner, fast: Use an adapter lens that is optically corrected, such as the Raynox DCR-150 (+6.66 diopters) or DSC-250 (+4 diopters). These adapters cost ~US$50 and give much less distorted results than simple +diopter lenses, and their universal mount will fit onto many lenses including the 18-55. See the RAYNOX CLUB here for fine examples.
NOTE: For either the simple or corrected adapters, working distance varies with both diopter and focal length; so, experiment.
* Better, closer: Get the cheapest manual 24mm lens you can, with 52mm threads and an aperture ring; and get a 52mm thread-reversal ring, ~US$5. Screw the reversal ring into the front threads of the 18-55 (the primary), and screw the 24mm lens (the secondary) onto that, reversed. This is called "stacking" and can achieve great magnification (M). Stacked like that, if the 18-55 is at 24mm, M= 1:1; if the 18-55 is at 48mm, M= 48/24 = 2:1 (double-size). Great magnification reduces the light that raches the sensor. No free lunch here, eh?
NOTE: If any Pentax-compatible lens is the secondary, your working distance is about 45mm.
* Cleanest: I forget who makes them, but you can buy macro extension tubes that send signals between camera and lens, so the lens still works automatically. Such tubes aren't cheap, but they're cheaper than an AF macro lens, and they give the cleanest magnification, since there's no extra glass between subject and sensor. If you have 50mm of extension and the 18-55 is set to 25mm, you reach 2:1; if the 18-55 is set to 50mm, you get 1:1 (full-size) magnification.
NOTE: Cheap non-auto macro tubes ARE NOT suitable for the 18-55 kit lens.
* Warning: Don't try to use the reduction ray from HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. It doesn't work.

Of course there are many other ways to shoot macro, but what I've mentioned are suitable for the 18-55 kit lens. Have fun!
08-30-2010, 04:24 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by yeatzee Quote
For what its worth, the kit lens close focuses but does not do macro.

Just about everyone agrees that macro constitutes 1:2 minimum.

Sigma and Tamron don't agree. They label any close focus lens a macro. The 18-55 is a close focus lens, but if it was a Tamron or Sigma instead of Pentax, it would be called an 18-55 Macro.

The Pentax SMC DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL (IF) for example, is only 1:3.6. The Tamron label for the same lens, is AF18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro.

Last edited by audiobomber; 08-30-2010 at 04:35 AM.
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