“Poor mans” macro

I frequently tell my macro photography students not to run out and buy a macro lens right off the bat. I believe that after they complete my macro course, students will have a better understanding of the process, of the equipment and what lens may best fit their needs.

In the meantime, I illustrate several alternatives to expensive glass. The first is the one they may already have: their “kit lens”, plus an accessory diopter lens.

To illustrate this arrangement for the class, I made the following image:

This image is of a small pair of poppy buds growing in my garden. To produce the image I went back to very basic equipment. I put the Nikkor 17-70 mm
DX F 3.5-5.6 D “kit lens” on my 10 year-old Nikon D-70 D-SLR. To decrease the minimum focusing distance, I added a Canon 500D accessory diopter lens to the front and carefully composed. Because of the magnification, the camera is mounted on a tripod.

The image is made with natural sunlight as back light at 1/500 sec @ F8.0  and the camera’s pop-up flash for fill. (ISO=320; WB=Daylight “Sunny”) To help the pop-up flash a bit, I used a sheet of plain white copier paper as a reflector, directing more of the light to the subject. For fill, I generally dial the flash intensity down to -0.7 F stop (sometimes a little more reduction)  so as not to burn out the highlights. The image is shot as a JPEG, Large, Fine on that camera which produces a file of about 2.6 Mb.

The image above is almost full-frame from the camera and final magnification in the camera is just about half-life size ( o.5X ).

There are many inexpensive solutions to achieving close up  images in addition to this one that may be accomplished prior to purchasing the dream macro lens.  The Canon 500D diopter, at $150.00, is not the least expensive out there; yet it is a very good one. It is a compound, multi-element accessory lens that produces edge-to-edge sharpness. It simply screws on the front of your lens and, because it is optically clear, there is no light loss to deal with. These characteristics should be sought when purchasing a diopter close-up accessory lens.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

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