Magnify without a macro lens
Don’t want to fork out for a macro lens? Try one of these affordable alternatives
If you’ve ever longed to take macro photos but can’t justify buying more kit, we’re going to tell you how to do it on the cheap. Getting a close-up of a flower or insect is achievable to some degree with a standard lens, but the most straightforward method of getting a 1:1 (life-size) reproduction is to use a macro lens. These lenses are fairly expensive, though, and if you’re only dabbling in macro photography, buying one may be hard to justify.
There are several options which achieve a similar end result to a macro
There are several options which achieve a similar end result to a macro lens
lens, only by allowing you to use existing lenses and so for far less cost. Both methods require a lens with a degree of manual control, so a Nikon D-type lens is preferable as it will have a manual aperture ring. Otherwise you can use a G-type lens, but you’ll need to secure the spring-loaded lens aperture arm (which you’ll find at the base of the lens) in place using tape.
The first method is to use a lens reversal ring, which will set you back around £15/$20. This attaches to the D-SLR mount, then you screw the front of the lens on to it. This reverses the usual behaviour of the lens: normally it magnifies objects that are far away and makes them appear smaller on the sensor than they are in real life, whereas reversed it makes small subjects appear larger and reduces the focus distance accordingly. The down side to using a reversing ring is that the lens contacts are no longer accessible, so there’s no electronic control over focus or aperture.
The other option worth exploring is extension tubes (£55/$75 for a set with contacts). These sit between the camera and lens. This reduces focal distance, so you can get closer to the subject, achieving a similar result to a macro lens. If the tube has contacts between the mount and lens then both aperture and focus can be controlled. If not, both will need to be set manually. Many thanks to SRB Photographic for supplying the reversal rings, extension tubes and close-up filter.