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04-24-2013, 06:32 PM   #1
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Reverse lens macro question...

I've been playing around a little more with this method of doing macro photography. I'm using a cheaper 50mm prime that I picked up. I'm still wondering about a few things:

1. Does focusing work? Or, is focus only attained by moving closer or further from the subject, or by adjusting the aperture ring?

2. I'm guessing this method is very difficult for outdoor subjects and probably best for indoor?

3. When using a tripod with this method....I probably need one with very short legs, so I can get close enough to my subject, right (e.g.. table
top subjects)?

4. If my aperture is wide open (F1.8)...I find it very difficult to get a sharp in-focus subject. Is that just the way it is, and I should stop down a few
steps for ideal sharpness?

That's all for now, but I may have more as I continue experimenting.

Thanks!

04-24-2013, 06:56 PM   #2
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I know next to nothing about any of this, but when I was a point-and-shooter, macro was my thing, and so I eagerly await the replies as I learn macro with dslr shooting. I will tell you that I often lie on the ground for my macros. A brick on the ground can be a nice support for your camera, or you can just place the camera on the ground. Just a thought.
04-24-2013, 07:03 PM   #3
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1. Generally, focusing works, but isn't very effective. Moving towards/away from the object works best, as you're talking about *maybe* 1CM closer focusing. Best to set to infinity anyways, as that's where most lenses are sharpest.(Supposedly)

2. Doesn't really matter, if you have ample light as a subject that won't move, you'll do fine.

3. Tripods are best in most situations, though you can handhold shots with a flash or direct sunlight.

4. If the lens isn't that sharp wide open in it's normal arrangement, it probably won't be very sharp reversed either. Stop down a bit, and use better lighting to compensate.

It's also worth noting - Reversed lenses work, but you're really risking damage to the rear element doing macro that way. Be careful, and if macro photography really interests you, invest in a dedicated macro lens.(The SMC-A 50/100 F4 lenses are nice, 1:2 reproduction ratio, but that's easy to solve with some(Good) diopters or tubes)
04-24-2013, 07:16 PM   #4
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I've found it best to just move the camera back and forth to get focus when shooting that close. You will need to stop down to get the best DOF needed for macro shots, and you really need to light the subject. Focusing can be really difficult because you need to stop down and there is no aperture control with a reversed lens. Using some type of diffused flash works best. You can use the onboard flash with some type of diffuser on it. You can make a flash tube out of a pringles can that works pretty good. I've tried reversed lens shooting and always go back to just putting a 50mm on a set of 50mm tubes, which gives you 1:1 magnification. Works really well with a set of tubes that also have aperture control.

04-24-2013, 07:29 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
I've been playing around a little more with this method of doing macro photography. I'm using a cheaper 50mm prime that I picked up. I'm still wondering about a few things:

1. Does focusing work? Or, is focus only attained by moving closer or further from the subject, or by adjusting the aperture ring?

2. I'm guessing this method is very difficult for outdoor subjects and probably best for indoor?

3. When using a tripod with this method....I probably need one with very short legs, so I can get close enough to my subject, right (e.g.. table
top subjects)?

4. If my aperture is wide open (F1.8)...I find it very difficult to get a sharp in-focus subject. Is that just the way it is, and I should stop down a few
steps for ideal sharpness?

That's all for now, but I may have more as I continue experimenting.Thanks!
1.If you look care fully while 'focusing' a reverse mounted lens you will see that only the lens barrel moves. The optics don't move in relation to the camera body. So yes, you move the whole camera to focus.The exception is if you also use a bellows, but even there you will mostly move the camera to get the framing right.
2.no it works fine inside or outside.The biggest obstacle is wind.
3.short legs if the subject is low.But the subject isn't always low.A macro focusing rail helps a lot.
4.you almost always have to stop down to obtain adequate depth of field.
04-25-2013, 06:28 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eulogy Quote
It's also worth noting - Reversed lenses work, but you're really risking damage to the rear element doing macro that way.
Could you explain what part of the lens is the "rear element," so I know specifically what to be careful of?
04-25-2013, 06:40 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
Could you explain what part of the lens is the "rear element," so I know specifically what to be careful of?
The glass that is closest to the camera body is the rear element. You should use caution to not damage any of the glass, and damage to the rear element will show more in the images.This is not a big risk if you use normal care.
04-25-2013, 07:54 PM   #8
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This is all very great and useful information - thank you everyone who's replied.

04-26-2013, 08:17 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JimJohnson Quote
The glass that is closest to the camera body is the rear element. You should use caution to not damage any of the glass, and damage to the rear element will show more in the images.This is not a big risk if you use normal care.
Just to clarify: When the lens is mounted normally on a camera, it's the lens element nearest the camera body. When you reverse the lens, it's the lens element furthest from the camera body.

You have already noticed how moving the focus ring extends the barrel away from the camera body. Do this and it may provide a bit of protection for that unprotected element - sort of like a faux lens hood.
04-26-2013, 01:08 PM   #10
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I've been doing macro since the mid 1960s, originally with a Pentax H1a film camera, the standard 55 f2.0 lens, and extension tubes. I've never found reversing a lens to give obvious improvement. I've had best results with a dedicated macro lens, which are usually simple and slow lenses (f4.0 to f2.8) compared to fast 50mm lenses. Pentax has made both 50 and 100mm manual focus macro lenses that give very good results at bargain prices. The 100mm macro keeps back from the subject to avoid shadows from the lens, but requires more extension. On my K-5 I've been using the 50 f2.8 SMC Pentax A macro, and it works very well both for macro and as a "long normal" manual focus lens. It's more expensive now than the Pentax-M macro lenses, which give equally good results, but lets your camera control the aperture. Since you really need to stop-down a LOT for DOF in macro, the slower lenses are not a problem, as you need brighter light anyway. I don't really care for the "artificial" look of ring-flash, but there are a number of good LED lights that work well, and let you have control over shadows. A solid tabletop tripod is also a good macro aid.
Have fun!
... Here's my K-5 with the SMC-A 2.8 macro on a cheap folding tabletop tripod, with an LED "headlight" - just to show a cheap macro setup
Name:  CheapMacroSetup.jpg
Views: 717
Size:  144.0 KB

Last edited by TomB_tx; 04-26-2013 at 01:40 PM.
05-09-2013, 11:04 AM   #11
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A 50mm f/1.8 lens is almost always going to be a Double Gauss design and therefore nearly symmetrical. This means that mounted regularly or reversed, it will give the same magnification. Reversing it is no benefit.
05-09-2013, 07:12 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by desertscape Quote
A 50mm f/1.8 lens is almost always going to be a Double Gauss design and therefore nearly symmetrical. This means that mounted regularly or reversed, it will give the same magnification. Reversing it is no benefit.
You reverse the lens so you can mount it to the front of the other lens using double sided filter rings (or gaffer tape). Kinda hard to mount the K-Mount to the front of a lens.
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